Book Review: The Action Bible (Cariello, Mauss)

November 21, 2010

*ARC Alert*

The Action Bible by Doug Mauss and Sergio Cariello was released on September 1st, 2010 by David Cook Press. (Hardcover, full-color, $24.99, 752 pages).

 

Disappointment.  I’ll lay that out right there for you so that you’re aware of my position on this book from the start. I was disappointed, even angry, with this book. That is not a judgment on the Bible in general; that’s an issue I won’t touch in this blog post. But this specific edition hasn’t won my approval.

First and most immediately annoying to me is the fact that this revolutionary new edition is hardly so.  The idea of the Bible as a graphic novel was, I thought, a brilliant one– until I discovered that there’s nothing particularly new about it.  Doug Mauss, the editor, is evidently no scholar of the holy text.  The stories herein might as well be presented word-for-word as I heard them in Sunday school.  They stick to the familiar plot points and concepts.  They do not present an understanding of moral grey areas. I left the faith when I was ten, and did not learn any new stories in reading this book.  The Apocrypha, which would have been interesting, are inevitably left out.  And the “Bible figures as action heroes” premise falls flat because no one has powers, or any sort of singular trait at all.  All of the good guys do their good by the grace and for the glory of God. The male bad guys are presented as weak-willed, greedy and stupid; the female ones are conniving temptresses.  And most of the Old Testament seems to be that every thirty years or so, the Israelites (they’re not called Jews here, because Jews aren’t Christians) forget the true God and are warned by prophets, then duly punished. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But let’s talk about something I can give good news about. The art!  It’s quite impressive– 744 pages of full-color illustration. Beautifully expressive figures and facial expressions, good pacing that matches the dialogue.  But oh, oh no, what’s this? Something seems off.

It bugged me for about a fifty pages before I realized what it was. Mr. Cariello, I don’t mean to call into question your interpretation of your own holy text, but there are a few things. Actually a lot of things, actually a lot of people. Adam, Eve, Abel (not Cain), Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David (not Goliath)… Mr. Cariello, all of these people, these heroes, are white.  Living in Egypt, Persia, Babylon, they are white. And their enemies are not.

I admit that most of the people listed above are given facial features that imply Jewish heritage.  But they’re also paler, and tend to have lighter hair, than any one of the unbelievers (or, as luck would have it, any of the women).  All of the angels are not only white, but tall, blonde and blue-eyed. Jesus, conceived in Nazareth, then a part of Egypt, is white as well.

Now, Bible figures are traditionally depicted, at least in our culture, as white. But one would think that with 744 pages to think about it, 744 pages otherwise filled with Middle Eastern-ish people, that it would occur to Sergio Cariello that the Bible’s heroes were ordinary men elevated by God, and as such would have been born ordinary. From the same gene pool as all of those around them. In the one case where that doesn’t hold true… well, Jesus was the son of God. I guess God is so absolutely white that it cancels out Mary’s half of the equation.

I’ll say it again–disappointment.  The Action Bible carries many faults, even considering that I tended to forgive the ones transmitted directly from its source material.  It’s useful as an introduction to the major stories of the Bible, but impressionable minds– like say the children this book is aimed at– will pick up a number of unsavory ideas in the reading of it.

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Abbreviated Review: Zeus: King of the Gods (O’Connor)

October 17, 2010

This first volume of what will be a twelve-book series covers a span of time which begins (literally) at the beginning of everything, brings us through the birth of the Titans and other proto-Olympians, then the Olympian gods, ending with Zeus’ war upon and conquerance of his forebears. A wonderful, thorough, and well-researched collection of Greek mythology that can be understood by any age on some level. O’Connor obviously knows what he’s talking about, and presents the gods as they really were– highly flawed characters who stand somewhat apart from concepts of morality. Wonderful, expressive artwork, as well. Highly recommended for interested kids and adults alike.

 


Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Jemisin)

May 28, 2010

I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore.

I must try to remember.

These are the first words of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, book one of the Inheritance Trilogy. From this enigmatic beginning the story unfolds in a way that is both disjointed and arrestingly personal. In most books narrated in the first person, the narrator tells us what happened to them without mentioning any bearing that it has on them now– they relate the events of their story, occasionally offering insight, but never making it clear what has happened since it ended or why they are offering it. Yeine proffers her tale in tantalizing bits and pieces, mixed up and out of order, interrupted by distracted tangents that support the assumption that she is looking back on all of this with regret. She may be talking to the reader, or simply to herself, but from this jumble she draws pieces that she draws together more and more tightly, right up until the dramatic finish. I loved Jemisin’s bizarre but highly effective style.

But I’ve gotten a bit out of order myself– it’s rather essential to mention what it is the story is about, wouldn’t you say? I’ll see if I can do it justice.

Yeine Darr is an outlander from the barbarian north of the empire that is the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. When her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the royal city of Sky, where, to her shock, she is named one of the heirs to the king’s throne. Despite the fact that Yeine would rather go home and deal with the monarchy from afar, ruling her own people as best she can, she is quickly drawn into a tangled web of conspiracy and lies which centers around the relationship between the Arameri (the ruling family) and the gods, who the Arameri long ago pulled down from their pedestals and enslaved, and who are every bit as terrifying as, but in ways more human than, Yeine’s royal relations. What Yeine cannot puzzle out is exactly why the Arameri would be interested in her— let alone the gods. Only two things are certain in the floating city of light and secrets– Yeine is held out of her depth by those around her, and many of them want her dead.

This book contains explicit sexual content.