Thursday, January 29, 2015

Attack On Titan

Both the anime and manga of Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan have been absurdly popular and widely praised. Last year, five of the books in the series were in the Top 20 graphic novels in the U.S., beating even The Walking Dead;  8.3 million copies sold in just the first half of 2014 to boost its total sales close to 22 million copies in just under five years. 

To give you an idea of the audience being reached, anime and related merchandise was a $4 billion dollar business around the world in 2006. In 2009, anime accounted for 90% of Japan's television exports. And by the time Attack on Titan finally knocked Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” out of its top spot, "One Piece" had already sold 345 million copies around the world. That's the kind of numbers that J.K Rowling, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King move. Anime and manga have been in a slump the last few years (at least in the U.S.), but that is likely a reflection of digital piracy rather than lack of interest.

For those who are new to the anime and manga world, here's a few things to note before looking at Attack on Titan in particular.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

To help us enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping today's culture, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily New Adult/Young Adult audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story.

Maggie Stiefvater’s original Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy left me with mixed emotions. I was
impressed with how well she plumbed the depth of the teenage experience in her characters, and I liked how she used the werewolf genre to explore how people must fight the animal urges within them.

However, I was frustrated with how some of it played out in the end. I noted in my review of the trilogy:“This is a haunting story of one Grace more than a generous grace; of a beautiful Mercy that falls mostly on the deserving; of a woods populated with wolves both lupine and human, and of saints who rise from the ruins of their own lives. I must add the truth I wish could have been embedded more deeply: grace is for all, mercy exists for the underserving, and all of us can transcend the wolf within us and forgive the wolves around us.”

I was pleased when Ms. Stiefvater released Sinner, a follow-up story about Cole (my favorite character from the trilogy) and Isabel. Of all the characters in the original story arc, these were the two in which I had invested the most.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Red Rising: You Must Live For More

“If you led others to freedom. The things you could do, Darrow. The things you could make happen.” She pauses and I see her eyes are glistening. “It chills me. You have been given so, so much, but you set your sights so low.” 
“You repeat the same damn points,” I say bitterly. “You think a dream is worth dying for. I say it isn’t. You say it’s better to die on your feet. I say it’s better to live on your knees… What do you live for?” I ask her suddenly. “Is it for me? Is it for family and love? Or is it for some other dream?” 
“It’s not just some dream, Darrow. I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.” 
“I live for you,” I say sadly. 
She kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Pierce Brown's Red Rising received strong critical reviews after its release in January of 2014.  By February, it had made the New York Times' best-seller list, and Universal Pictures had won a 7-figure bidding war for the movie rights (World War Z’s Marc Forster is slated to be at the helm). The second book in the trilogy, Golden Son, has just been released. So far, it's getting even better reviews than Red Rising. If you are looking for the next big YA dystopia, this is it. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs

James A. Herrick's Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs offers a fascinating look at the interplay between fiction and reality. Sci-fi literature has had far more of an impact on scientific research than one might expect. Rather than being a purely logical endeavor, science is sometimes fueled by- and often distorted by - what scientists want to be true. As a result, scientists sometimes embrace cherished ideas in ways that are remarkably at odds with their claim to be dispassionately pursuing hard, cold facts.

Mr.  Herrick identifies seven of what he calls scientific mythologies that arise when fertile scientific imaginations join with a strictly materialistic view of the world: the myth of the extraterrestrial, the myth of space, the myth of the new humanity, the myth of the future, the myth of the spiritual race, the myth of space religion, and the myth of alien gnosis. I will let Mr. Herrick summarize the dilemma this creates:

“We are the victims of our fictions; for well over a century, our popular stories have argued that the future was pregnant with something beyond the human, something requiring our assistance to be birthed. Speculative science as well has helped to popularize and propagate this myth of the miracle baby, fruit of science and nature, citizen of the future, destined for space. We are no longer the pinnacle of a divine act of creation, the specific flesh in which God chose to clothe himself. We are now instrumental people, no longer flesh, but stepping-stones to something more important, indeed, something divine.