Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes: A Book Review



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Chris Lear’s iconic narrative, Running with the Buffaloes, follows the 1998 University of Colorado Cross Country Team. Iconic may not lavish this text with enough praise. Lear writes what one who follows and coaches running would call a perfect text. Running, especially high school and college cross country teams, creates a brotherhood. This bond seems odd to outsiders—something they just don’t get, but distance runners bond together. Their sport offers the unique ability to punish their bodies for long periods of time, but unlike football or wrestling, the runners can hold a full conversation throughout their journey. A two-hour run is a hard, taxing workout, but it is often done with a band of teammates and with the baring of one’s soul.

That said, Lear follows the entire season for Colorado, doing so with unfettered access. He details the difficulties of a team looking to break onto the national stage and claim a national championship. Yet, this is not a team stocked full of Mercedes Benz runners. Outside of a couple guys, most of the runners are homegrown athletes without the championship pedigree of the their top name competitors. Thus, this is a season where Coach Mark Wetmore is forced to push his team to the limits in order to try to achieve both a team and individual championship.

Lear expertly reports on each and every experience. Using his background as a runner himself, he is able to display the hijinks, the workouts, and the scattered path the leads a group of individuals from disparate backgrounds to become a team. Injuries strike, misfortune sneaks in, and the pages turn with a heightened, heartfelt tension that inspires one and all alike.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Naomi Novik’s Empire of Ivory: A Book Review



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Naomi Novik’s Empire of Ivory picks up just after book three, Black Powder War, concludes but holds the urgency. This time the plight rests not in the war with France, but rather with the illnesses of the English dragons. It seems that the cold Temeraire caught on his way to China was in fact a mysterious disease that had swept across Britain and in his absence has been decimating the dragon population. While many of died, others cling to life. While the addition of the feral dragons has helped defend the coast from invasion, with an increasingly zealous force of French dragons, a cure must be found, at any cost. Thus, since Temeraire was cured by eating strange foods concocted by his Chinese chaperons at the time, Laurence and he take off for Africa to discern the source of the cure and recreate the cure.

Thus the journey begins. While Laurence fights with Riley over allowing a black missionary aboard their ship, the novel heads down Novik’s familiar paths. There will be a long wait, then a flurry of action. Scenes of despair—they cannot seem to find the right mushroom, and then when they do they discover a dangerous and growing civilization of African dragons hell-bent on punishing the European interlopers for the slave trade. All of this comes to head as Temeraire and Laurence must make a decision on whether the cure is theirs for the taking or something that should fall into the hands of all dragons, both friend and foe. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade A Review



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Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello combine to create the The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade, the prequel to Miller’s acclaimed series The Dark Knight Returns. In this gritty and dark tale, Batman exists as an aging hero looking to get out of the game. Like in The Dark Knight Returns, he recognizes that age is getting to him and that Father Time wins every time. Starting with the incarceration of The Joker and ending with an ambiguous shot of the villain’s haunting face, the authors portray a world beyond hope. Millionaires are lured into giving up their fortunes for Poison Ivy’s love and Batman’s heir apparent Jason seems to operate under an alternate moral code than his trainer.

In the end, this is a story about morals. If the Joker can convince fellow criminal convicts to rip their eyes out and consume their fingers, do we care? Do we sense the moral fracture afoot or do we move on and ignore the cruel truth of crime? In terms of Batman, can Bruce Wayne give up his crawling through the night much like his lady love Selina Kyle has done? If so, will Jason work out, or will his lack of a code and subsequent inability to embrace the fine line between becoming a hero that everyone loves or a villain that everyone hates do him in? Drawn with gaps, left with holes of ambiguity, one feels the pain, cringes, and the authors leave you wanting, waiting for that moment when Bruce says enough, looking for the fate of Jason and Joker alike.