Book: Manila Noir

"Manila Noir"

Manila’s a city of survivors, schemers, and dreamers… A city of extremes. Where the rich live in posh enclaves, guarded by men with guns. Where the poor improvise homes out of wood, tin, and cardboard and live by their wits. Where five-star hotels and luxury malls selling Prada and Louis Vuitton coexist with toxic garbage dumps and sprawling ‘informal settlements’ (a.k.a. squatter settlements), where religious zeal coexists with superstition, where ‘hospitality’ might be another word for prostitution, where sports and show business can be the first step to politics, where politics can be synonymous with nepotism, cronyism, and corruption, where violence is nothing out of the ordinary, and pretty much anything can be had for a price–if you have the money and/or the connection, that is…

To be perfectly honest, I have a very vague notion of what noir is. So whatever I was expecting Manila Noir to be, it definitely wasn’t what I got when I read the stories contained in the anthology. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Except when it is.

I liked some of the stories. I loved the Trese short. And a couple of the stories bored me to the point of putting me to sleep. Thrice. Yes, three times. In the span of a dozen pages. More or less.

And at the end of the day, I have nothing to take away from reading said book. Except, maybe a question.

How do editors decide on which writers to invite for collections such as Manila Noir?

There’s usually a foreword written by the editor to introduce the writers included in the anthology. I don’t remember if this had one. Not that it should matter. Right? But there’s a couple of writers who I have already read outside of this book… And I was surprised that I didn’t care much for the stories they wrote for Manila Noir, when I enjoyed their separate work.

Maybe the collection was limiting? Or maybe it was too expansive? I don’t know. All I know is that, while reading the book, my enjoyment levels fluctuated. I would enjoy one story, only for it to be followed by one I wouldn’t enjoy as much, before it would be followed by another I wouldn’t like at all.

Maybe I should stop reading books like this, since you never really know what you’re going to get. And I actually wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for the Trese short.

It’s a good thing that the Trese story alone was worth the price of the book.

Movie: Veronica Mars

"Veronica Mars"

Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown – just in time for her high school reunion – in order to help her old flame Logan Echolls, who’s embroiled in a murder mystery.

If you weren’t a fan of the television series while it was on the air, I don’t know how you’re going to like the film. Because, as a fan, it’s everything I wanted–but that might not be what casual viewers are looking for.

See, Veronica Mars is a series built on nostalgia. Not just for us fans, but for the characters as well. Events unfold in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business–where one character’s history ties in very much with another character’s. And the film even capitalizes on this, bringing back characters from the television series for one last victory lap, bring the characters back for a mystery that hinges quite strongly on events that have happened almost a decade ago.

Veronica has turned her back on the life of a private investigator. At the end of the series, Veronica cast her vote for Keith Mars to be the replacement Sheriff after the death of Don Lamb. But her dad lost. And she flew off the coop. She got out of Neptune to become a resident in a house of lies.

But a call from Logan changes everything.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

As a fan of the series, I know that Veronica wouldn’t have been able to stay away. Although, I must admit at being impressed she was able to stay away for nine years. For casual viewers though? Veronica looks like she’s doing something half-assed.

And she is. The difference between fans and non-fans is that we’re actually expecting this.

And Veronica falls right into step when she comes back to Neptune. Even picking the phone up at her dad’s private investigator’s office.

I missed this. While I love Veronica Mars, and while I thought Piz was a great addition to the show, I wasn’t a big fan of the final season. As I said, Veronica Mars is built on nostalgia. The third season of the program introduced too many new things. It wasn’t the same. And the film learned from this.

And so we see Veronica and the characters we love grow, mature, and be different people–and yet have that familiarity permeate their existence. Regardless of the years that had passed, these characters remain the same at their core.

Let’s face the facts: Veronica Mars is no Nancy Drew. Sure she can solve a mystery like the best of them, but it’s Veronica’s resourcefulness in the Neptune setting that actually elevates her to become something more than Nancy Drew could ever be: Veronica is as real a person as you can get in the world of television…and video-on-demand.

Which is why I think the film succeeded–even if reports of the weekend box-office say otherwise. Veronica Mars came back, delivered a doozy of a story, and kicked ass.

And she did it her way.

Whether or not we get another film, or if we’re just going to continue her adventures in the novels that were announced…I don’t really care. I will continue to support. I will continue to be a fan.

Because I don’t want to sing the lyrics of the Veronica Mars theme song and actually mean the words.

Book: Deadly Storm

Richard Castle's "Deadly Storm"While tracking down a missing husband for a desperate wife, private investigator Derrick Storm discovers there’s a lot more to the job than he’s been led to believe when he discovers the missing husband is actually a rogue CIA operative involved in selling national security secrets to enemy forces. He soon finds himself knee deep in international intrigue when he’s recruited by the lovely and dangerous Clara Strike, a CIA agent with a penchant for trouble and adventure.

So I picked up the Castle graphic novel. Yeah. I haven’t even gotten around to finishing the third season yet, and here I am reading. Granted, it took me less time to read the book than it would take me to finish the episodes I’ve yet to watch. And why am I explaining this anyway?

Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm is anything but deadly. It reads like the first (really) published Richard Castle book: Heat Wave. It has a servicable story, but it’s mostly a set-up to what seems to be a series of graphic novels–much like what they are doing with the Nikki Heat books. That said, there’s nothing bad about the title. It’s just very ordinary. Of course, once we move past this first issue and delve into the stories without the need for set-up and introductions, my guess is things would start to pick up. That’s assuming Marvel will greenlight another one.

The art though isn’t very ordinary. It’s very well done. Especially how they likened Derrick Storm’s features to Nathan Fillion’s. Unless that wasn’t the intent. In that case, the art was still very well done. But what were they thinking?!

Okay, so that indignation was completely fake. Let’s move on.

What I really liked about the Deadly Storm title was the extra in the end. Castle the show has mentioned time and again the other novels Richard Castle has written. Except, aside from the Nikki Heat novels and, now, Deadly Storm, we don’t really know much about the other books aside from their titles. The extra in this book had summaries for the other Derrick Storm books, and the supernatural-thrillers our titular author has supposedly written. Some of them read like the usual supernatural-thriller books I enjoy, so I am looking forward to those–if ABC decides to license them too.

Hey, maybe Christopher Golden can ghost-write a few!

Overall, I enjoyed the extras more than I did the graphic novel of Deadly Storm. But when Marvel does come out with another title, I’m sure I’ll be picking that one up too.

Check out what other people are saying about the graphic novel:
Geek Dad (@Wired)
YA Book Nerd
Multiversity Comics