Recent Books

Notes about some books I read, for me to reminisce over.

Miracleman, books 1, 2 & 3 by Alan Moore, Alan Davies, & John Totleben.

I spent a little time digging out earlier works of Alan Moore. These inter-library loans didn't disappoint.

Originally published as Marvelman by Mick Anglo, from 1954-59. Legal battles rebranded the character as Miracleman in 1985.

The opening pages reprint one of those campy early stories, involving primary-colored moralizing while flying around to punch time-travelling Nazi super-scientists.

They then continue with Alan Moore's postmodern 1980s reboot. This recasts the simplistic tales of the original period as a placating dream, fed to a captured Miracleman by his nemesis. His hokey origins story is similarly re-ploughed. The ensuing tales are dark and introspective.

One thread follows the emotional stresses placed on Miracleman when incarnated as his human alter-ego, the frail and fallible half of a godlike being. He's unable to conceive a child with his wife, although Miracleman can, and succumbs to self-loathing and jealousy, culminating in a touching scene in which he climbs a mountain, leaves a forlorn monument, and changes into Miracleman one last time, never to change back.

Yes, this is more uneven than Moore's later works. Yes, it's unashamedly an underwear-on-the-outside superhero story. But nonetheless I loved it, and scenes like the above have stayed with me for months.

Swamp Thing, Vol 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, John Totleben, & Steve Bissette.

Moore's deconstruction of existing characters continues. Originally Swamp Thing was Alec Holland, miraculously transformed by in infusion of artificially stimulated plant matter. When Alan Moore takes over the writing, Swamp Thing's ostracization and existential dread is compounded by the discovery that this origins story has been a delusion all along. Alec Holland was killed outright in the accident, and an accumulation of plant matter grew around his decaying form, integrating the physical remains of his memories into a creature that yearned to recapture its human form, but was never human in the first place.

Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear.

A smashing hard SF tale, about the existential mystery of life aboard a generation starship that has lost its way. Following in the footsteps of classic variations, such as Non-Stop, Methusalah's Children, and Tau Zero, it centers around the character's revelations as they uncover their situation and origins, being decanted to order by warring factions amongst high technology ruins.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel.

An evocative tale of intertwined lives, before and after the sudden fall of contemporary civilisation due to a global pandemic.

The Atrocity Archive by Charles Stross. The conceit of Lovecraftian horror rationalized to a mathematical or computable topic is appealing to me, and kept the pages turning, but I didn't ultimately find it life-changing.

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg. A fantastical far-future tale of humanity split into occupational castes, guarding the world against prophesied invasion. Not my thing.


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