Short Story Review: “The Coloured Lands” by G.K. Chesterton

A mysterious (and awesomely dressed) man shows a bored young boy a new way of looking at the “mundane” world.

Title: The Coloured Lands
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Format: Short Story
Pages: 5 (in Tales Before Narnia, edited by Douglas A. Anderson)
Published: 1925 (first)
Reason for Beginning: It is in the anthology I have, it is short, and I have heard wonderful things about G.K. Chesterton, who was supposedly one of the wittiest, most intelligent, and most imaginative writers of the early 20th century, and a Christian apologist to boot. This is the first anything of his I have read.
Reason for Finishing: It’d be pretty bad to not finish a story this short, but having it be so interesting is nice too.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A mysterious (and awesomely dressed) man shows a bored young boy a new way of looking at the “mundane” world. Continue reading “Short Story Review: “The Coloured Lands” by G.K. Chesterton”

When We Suddenly Look Up and Realize that Reality is Wondrous

My Tigana review shall be coming shortly, and before it does shall come a review of G.K. Chesterton’s “The Coloured Lands”. To shed light on that review, I am featuring here an excerpt from Chesterton’s essay “The Artistic Side,” in which he ruminates on the startling beauty of colors, and what that might mean. I think what he says is important not just in the genres of fantasy and fiction, but for the way we look at life in general.

Source: “Lecture 75: The Coloured Lands” by Dale Ahlquist for The American Chesterton Society

“I know no better exercise in that art of wonder, which is the life of man and the beginning of the praise of God, than to travel in a train through a long dark almost uninterrupted tunnel: until the traveller has grown almost accustomed to dusk and a dead blank background of brick. At last, after long stretches and at long intervals, the wall will suddenly break in two, and give a glowing glimpse of the land of the living. It may be a chasm of daylight showing a bright and busy street. It may be a similar flash of light on a long lonely road of poplars, with a solitary human figure plodding across the vast countryside. I know not which of the two gives a more startling stab of human vitality. Sometimes the grey facade is broken by the lighted windows of a house, almost overhanging the railway-line; and for an instant we look deep into a domestic interior; chamber within chamber of a glowing and coloured human home. That is the way in which objects ought to be seen; separate; illuminated; and above all, contrasted against blank night or bare walls; as indeed these living creations do stand eternally contrasted with the colourless chaos out of which they came. Travelling in this fashion, the other day, I was continually haunted, and almost tormented, with an impression that I could not disentangle; nor am I at all confident that I can disentangle it here.

Continue reading “When We Suddenly Look Up and Realize that Reality is Wondrous”

Feature: “The Dragon’s Visit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“The Dragon’s Visit”
By J.R.R. Tolkien, published in the Oxford Magazine, 4 February 1937

The dragon lay on the cherry trees
a-simmering and a-dreaming:
Green was he, and the blossom white,
and the yellow sun gleaming.
He came from the land of Finis-Terre,
where dragons live, and the moon shines
on high white fountains.

“Please, Mister Higgins, do you know
what’s a-laying in your garden?
There’s a dragon in your cherry trees!”
“Eh, what? I beg your pardon?”
Mister Higgins fetched the garden hose,
and the dragon woke from dreaming;
he blinked, and cocked his long green ears
when he felt the water streaming.
Continue reading “Feature: “The Dragon’s Visit” by J.R.R. Tolkien”

Book Review: “Lord of the Isles” by David Drake

Not a very attractive cover.

Title: Lord of the Isles
Author: David Drake
Format: Novel; first in series of 9
Pages: 625
Published: 1997, by Tor
Reason for Beginning: I grabbed a used copy for $1 at a university library sale, and wanted to read a fantasy about which I knew nothing. This fit the bill.
Reason for Finishing: Sheer dogged stubbornness.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a world that is essentially a large archipelago, the young, handsome residents of a small seaport find themselves drawn into the struggles and intrigue surrounding the archipelago’s sovereignty, while “the elemental forces that empower magic are rising to a thousand-year peak” (cover jacket). A complicated, but ultimately fairly standard, fantasy quest ensues. Continue reading “Book Review: “Lord of the Isles” by David Drake”

Webcomic Review: Dreamless

[3/14/2011: Added link to another review. Also, since this review is not quite up to my current standard, I intend to rewrite it with more in-depth commentary and accompanying pictures.]

Hm, seems like I’ll be reviewing webcomics on this blog as well. Fancy that. I just jumped 200 years in two posts!

Romantic drama ensues.

Title: Dreamless
Author/Artist: Written by Bobby Crosby; Drawn by Sarah Ellerton
Format: Webcomic
Published: January 4, 2009 – July 25, 2010
Pages: 70
Reason for Beginning: I don’t remember where I heard about it; possibly it was on the TVTropes list of fantasy webcomics. But the premise intrigued me and the art is painterly, so I gave it a go. Plus this was when I was only just discovering webcomics in general, and was exploring.
Reason for Finishing: Short, as webcomics go, and sweetly romantic. The magical element (which remains unexplained) brings up some really interesting ideas.
Synopsis: In the years before WWII, an American girl and a Japanese boy are linked from birth by being able, while sleeping, to literally see through the eyes of the other one.  One will nearly always be awake while the other is asleep.  Both are born bilingual, and since they can often sense each other’s “presence,” they manage to communicate and, soon enough, fall in love.  The difficulty of loving someone on the other side of the world is not lost on them, and much drama ensues.  THEN WWII begins, bringing more pain, more troubles, and, perhaps, a glimmer of hope…
Story Re-readability: Perhaps sometime I will, though I don’t feel the need to right now. It ended in a satisfying manner, but the plot was sometimes handled a bit awkwardly. Artwork is beautiful, though.
Author Re-readability: Maybe; the writing was decent, sometimes very good, just not great. Crosby has written a few other webcomics, I think one about zombies. Reading them would be based on whether or not they individually seem good.
Artist Re-viewability: I’m already a huge fan of Sarah Ellerton’s Phoenix Requiem, which she writes as well as draws. So, yes. She’s my second favorite webcomic artist right now, next to Tracy Butler of Lackadaisy Cats.
Recommendation: Mainly for people who like idealist love stories. The magical realist element does add a fascinating and fairly original twist

Key Thoughts

This is the only complete webcomic I’ve finished so far.  Like I said above, the storytelling is a bit clunky at times, what with some flashbacks and time-skips that are a bit confusing at first.  Everything does manage to sort itself out in good order, but it might briefly cause a headache or two, trying to figure out whether or not one of them is watching the other at a given moment, or why one character assumed something about the other when it isn’t clear to we readers.  Things like that.  But, like I said, it’s all sorted in the end.

However, it also felt like there were a number of missed moments, where the story could have done something unique because of its premise but instead took a more conventional route.  It’d make a good movie, too, if it were skillfully fleshed out.  There’s a lot of potential for grand drama here, not to mention the beautiful theme of interracial romance between a white Californian girl and a Japanese boy in the 1940s.  I liked how each character was treated with equal respect and intelligence, neither succumbing to clichés.  Their love felt organic and believable.  They made you want them to be together.

Sarah Ellerton uses a softer art style than in The Phoenix Requiem, which is very sharply defined and vibrant.  Here, the effect is almost like watercolors, and it complements the theme of romance and dreams.  Very pleasant to look at.

Beyond that, I cannot think of any more to say about it.  It is a pleasant read that will not demand too much of your time.

Other Reviews
El Santo @ The Webcomic Overlook

Book Review: “Undine” (1811) by Friedrich Fouque

Cover of the edition illustrated by Katharine Cameron

Title: Undine
Author: Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué
Format: Novella
Pages: 65 (in the compilation book Tales Before Narnia by Douglas A. Anderson)
Published: Original German: 1811. English translation by F.E. Burnett: 1885.
Reason for Beginning: George MacDonald called it the most beautiful of all fairy tales he knew (and he knew a thing or two about great fairy tales, having written some himself). C.S. Lewis wrote of its “homely beauty” and haunting Northernness.
Reason for Finishing: It intrigued and continually surprised me all to the end. Continue reading “Book Review: “Undine” (1811) by Friedrich Fouque”