Another Two In the Outbox…

June 17, 2008


Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw

Greetings all.
Thanks in large part to a combination of sloth and speed reading I come to you today with not one but two books.
The first is the graphic novel ‘Bottomless Belly Button’ by Dash Shaw.
Oddly enough both of the books I’m writing up today were picked up via mentions on BoingBoing.
The BB plug (for Bottomless Belly Button) sounded so interesting I ordered the book from Amazon forthwith. A few days later I arrived home to a small Amazon box that was shockingly heavy.
“What’s this?” I thought. I didn’t recall ordering an anvil, but I went ahead and opened the box anyway, discovering the graphic novel in question.
“Oh dear…there is no fucking way I’m lugging this thing with me back and forth to work.”
I immediately resolved to hold it in abeyance as a “home” book to be read at night and on weekends.
As it turns out the physical size of the book was deceptive, as I ripped through in in a two day period.
‘Bottomless Belly Button’ is another example of a graphic novel with a drawing style that I found immediately off-putting, which ended up grewing on me over time. I’ve seen other examples of Shaw’s work and realize that not everything he draws looks this way, but I’m from the old school where I’ve come to expect a higher level of craft where drawing is concerned.
I am of course – as is often the case – wrong on that count. The deal with graphic novels is (at least as I see it) that the story is at least as important as the art (or it ought to be) and that sometimes an individualistic, non-traditional drawing style is really a crucial part of the whole presentation.
In the case of ‘Bottomless Belly Button’, Shaw has taken the story of a family coming together to mark the disintegration of their parent’s marriage (after 40 years). The characters are well thought out and the storyline – which contains a fair bit of symbolism – creeps up slowly, enveloping the reader along the way.
Interesting, but in no way crucial reading, though I will be on the lookout for Shaw’s other work.


Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

Though I wouldn’t call myself a sci-fi nut, I will say that over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of excellent writing hiding inside that scorned genre (and many others as well). Great writing that was basically published as disposable paperback pulp, often lost to the ages except where passed on from one generation to another (though H. Beam Piper’s ‘Fuzzy’ novels had been reprinted over the years, so I would hesitate to describe them as ‘forgotten’, but rather lesser-known).
The BoingBoing was written to announce the fact that Piper’s novel ‘Little Fuzzy’, which had – due to copyright neglect – passed on into the public domain, was being released as an audio book. The story sounded interesting, so I looked on-line, found a used omnibus of the three ‘Fuzzy’ books (two published during Piper’s lifetime and one posthumously) on the cheap.
Man, what a great book.
Sure, there are traces of 50s/60’s space opera clichés, but that could be said of almost all sci-fi written during that era. That aside, ‘Little Fuzzy’ sounds like it could have been written this year, with it’s themes of ecological destruction, industrial (and official) espionage and the onrush of corporate hegemony.
The story concerns the discovery of a new race of beings on a corporately owned planet and the threat that presents to the company, and in turn to the Fuzzies themselves.
I had a little trouble at the beginning, mainly because I mistakenly (arrogantly) thought that I had the whole plot figured out. By the time I was a third of the way into the book I was hooked and found several satisfying plot twists (I even got choked up a couple of times…).
I haven’t started the second book (‘Fuzzy Sapiens’) yet, but I plan on digging in tonight at bedtime.
I’ve seen it mentioned that ‘Little Fuzzy’ has been classified by some as “juvenile fiction” but it is definitely a great example of a book of that type that transcends that classification in spades*.
If you are so inclined you can download the public-domain version of the book, or if you’re a book fetishist like me you can grab a used copy very inexpensively.

*Like Philip Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy

Now reading – Fuzzy Sapiens by H. Beam Piper

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