A Story about Three Other Stories

     Sitting outside in my parent’s backyard, I’ve just finished reading for the second time The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss when I realize it was the first book of a trilogy of books I had completely about twenty days ago with The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
     Along with Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, these three books were all bought at the Smith Haven Mall’s Barnes & Noble. Since about 2007 my friend Keri and I have had a tradition where I pick her up from her house, we go to Barnes & Noble hunting down books to purchase, and then grab a bite to eat. All along the way, except for the moments when we’re hunting down books, we catch up on what’s going on in our lives.
     I can’t say we’re close friends but I also can’t say we’re not. We both have our own group of friends, jobs, and schools that keep our lives busy. I’ve been mulling it over as I drafted this blog entry on a legal pad, and I would compare our friendship to getting to hang out with that cousin at the big family barbecue, that cousin you have the most in common with but don’t get to see that often. You’re relieved to finally be able to talk to someone on a similar wavelength as you. Plus, with the amount of books she reads and the number of years she’s been writing I have always a new book she can recommend to me. Which is exactly what she did in this story.
     The stories goes, in I believe the summer of 2008 when we went on one of the trips to Barnes & Noble I was looking for something new in the genre of Fantasy. This was after I had absorbed The Lord of the Rings into my being, was heavily read in Science Fiction, was too smug with my Literature Major classes to read Harry Potter (I have since read 1-6 and highly enjoyed them) and had yet the foreknowledge to try George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
     So simply, I asked her “I’m looking for some fantasy books, more modern authors, something new.” We were standing in the fantasy section, and without much thought, she pointed out the three books I mentioned earlier, relatively near each other. “Patrick Rothfuss has been getting a lot of buzz, same with that book The Lies of Locke Lamora. Elantris is a good start for Brandon Sanderson.”
     With that, I bought all three of those books that day but I had a bad habit of buying more books than I could read. A habit that has only started slowly waning this year. Those three books sat o the shelves as I pushed them aside for other books I had bought before them.
     It wasn’t until 2011 that I finally said fuck it and picked up my copy of The Name of the Wind. I can’t count on my hands the amount of books that have engrossed me into their world that quickly. The Lord of the Rings is my absolute favorite books but even I struggled with the Tom Bombadil chapters the first time through. This book I couldn’t put down and finished it in a couple days.
     It just so happened at the time that a guy named Nick Fletcher at my job happened to be a big fan of the book. I don’t know if I’m recalling it correctly but I remember asking him if he had read it and he immediately told me it was one of his favorite books, and that the second book had just come out. After the lengthy conversation, we had about the first book, which I do think made us better friends, I took out my phone, opened the Amazon app and order The Wise Man’s Fear as fast as I could.
     I didn’t read it as soon as it came, though. I have this strange habit when reading. Like when you let the wine breathe for a bit I need to give a novel, especially one part of a series, time to breathe. I have enormous difficulty reading a book series back to back. I like coming back to it later when I’ve read some other books in between. When I do come back to the series it’s like a flood of memories comes rushing back like meeting up with an old friend, catching up while you go to Barnes & Noble.
     So in Summer of 2012 after I finished The Wise Man’s Fear I picked up another one of those three books I had bought, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Again, another good book, not a favorite like The Name of the Wind was at that point but I still loved it. I’d later be disappointed by Sanderson’s second Mistborn novel, The Well of Ascension, after highly enjoying Mistborn: The Final Empire. I think partially the reason I didn’t enjoy it was because I forced myself to read the second one right after finishing the first one in a reading competition with my friend, the big The Name of the Wind fan.
     I wouldn’t complete this trilogy of books until July 9th of this year when I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch which almost engrossed me as much as Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.
     Lesson learn. Trust the Keri. Read the books she recommends to you right away as some of them might become one of your favorite books. 
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My Go-To Book Recomendations

     I haven’t posted in awhile, mostly because I was thinking of this exact post. It started off with me writing a legal pad books I would recommend to people, or have recommended, until it was so long I had to break it down into genre. Then breaking it down into genre I gave a detailed paragraph of why I recommended it. 
     All in all, what started off as a fun blog post became more work, and not the fun kind of work writing a novel might be. So here is, straight off the top of the dome as no kids are saying ever, my go-to book recommendations that first come to mind in order of which I say most often. 
     To readers, these may seem obvious but most of the people who ask me for recommendations are non-reader and/or looking to become readers. I tried to limit to one book per author.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
Embassytown by China Mieville
Dune by Frank Herbert
Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

     Since I used to be a huge comic book nerd, I have a choice select comic books/ graphic novels that I recommend as well in same order of how often I recommend them.

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War by Geoff Johns
Planetary by Warren Ellis
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns
Kingdom Come by Grant Morrison
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Gotham Central by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker
Planet Hulk by Greg Pak
100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello

The Problem with Storytelling in Ongoing Comic Books

     This thought has been lumbering around in my head since the announcement of the “Before Watchmen” limited series by DC Comics and was reminded of it again at the end of Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern with issue #20.

     There’s a problem with ongoing superhero comics from a storytelling perspective, they never really end. It’s different with novels and limited series, those have a beginning and an end, then the story is over. Not with ongoing comics, and I find this problematic. The problem is great stories from great writer’s usually sell really well and thus the companies that publish them, usually owning all rights to the characters, want to make more. I am not dismissing the quality of Before Watchmen but The Watchmen didn’t need anymore than what it already was. It has a beginning and an end and everything in between is really fantastic.
     Spoiler alert for issue #20 of Green Lantern. At the end of that Geoff John’s caps off with a glimpse into the future of all the Earthborn Green Lantern but the problem is there is still going to be an issue #21 and that writer is going to want to put his own spin on the mythos, changing what has been established and essentially either relegate that story to meaninglessness or tarnish it with half concocted plots. I am not insult Robert Venditti who is taking over Green Lantern but making an implication of all future writers of an ongoing series that takeover for another writer.
     Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis is another series that ran for a good 60 issues but it had a proper ending that Warren Ellis wanted to tell and then it ended. The same goes for Neil Gaiman’s run on The Sandman for 75 issues. I’m sure with his new Sandman series he has written he has a set limit of issues he needs to tell his story because he knows stories need an end.
     The problem is with writers on runs of company icons like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spider-Man and etc. that no matter how good of a run you have on that series, someone else is eventually going to take over and undo basically everything you’ve done.
     Great characters can be ruining in comic books with oversaturation when they gain popularity. Wolverine had some of best comics in the past but now is in every Marvel book from the Avengers, to the X-Men to his own solo series. For the longest time Green Lantern had only one ongoing, then two, then three, now there are five ongoing comics related to the Green Lantern universe. All because a good writer wrote a good story and that sold a good amount of comics.
     It’s never enough with superhero comics to say that’s the end and be done with it. It’s part of the reason death in comic books has become so meaningless. Killing off a character sells comics, bringing them back from the dead sells comics and new characters are hardly given the chance because we won’t let the old character’s stories be over with. Sometimes it’s okay to say “The end” and move on and as along as comic books keep ongoing the stories of the past will become less and less meaningful.