Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ghost World: A Supposed Voice for My Generation That I Just Couldn’t Stand

A Review By: Amelia
Do you ever read something just because other people say it’s great? Enlightening? The voice of a generation? Well, I normally don’t. I don’t buy into hype but with Ghost World I did. It’s a graphic novel that’s been on the market for years and years, and people keep reading it and telling everyone who hasn’t read it how wonderful it is and I decided that I would finally read it so I could be one of the people who love it… unfortunately, I don’t love it. I don’t even like it! And here’s the review to tell you why.

Ghost World is a graphic novel about two unlikely best friends that live in a small town and face growing up and growing apart. They speak like real teenagers do (at least according to the thirty somethings from major magazines that originally reviewed it), they act like real teenagers do, and they bored me half to death… just like real teenagers do!

The author of this rather non-entertaining comic is Daniel Gillespie Clowes. He’s an American cartoonist and screenwriter. Much of Clowes's work first appeared in his comic book Eightball, which anthologized self-contained serialized narratives. These stories have been collected and published as graphic novels, such as Ghost World and David Boring.

There are two main characters in Ghost World: Becky and Enid, and neither one are really all that likely. They’re two disillusioned, bitter, miss-matched, constantly complaining/bitching/judging friends who live in a small town and hate pretty much everyone and everything. Think Daria and Jane from MTV’s cartoon Daria, but without the humour, passion, intelligence, and all-around charm that the television show presented us with. Becky and Enid don’t really show any character growth and by the end of the comic (which comes fairly quickly thanks to only having eighty pages) you’ll be more than happy to have these two characters done and over with.

I wish I could say something nice about the art style here since I can’t say anything nice about the plot
or characters of the piece, but I just can’t. The art style is drab with black and white lineart with light blue for any shadowing. It has unappealing character design, locations without any detail, and facial expressions that make you cringe and laugh all at the same time.

Ghost World is a graphic novel I guess I just didn’t get. There wasn’t one thing I liked about this comic. There was little to no plot, the dialogue was painful to read, there was no character development, and the art wasn’t anything sensational.

My final thoughts on Ghost World are not kind thoughts. I didn’t think it was funny, insightful, or the quote-unquote voice of a generation. The comic is only 80 pages long, and only takes about forty minutes to read, but honestly, don’t waste your time. I know a lot of people will disagree about everything I’ve just said, but this is how I feel–Ghost World isn’t that great! It’s not even good!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Escape from Camp 14: A Chilling Memoir From A Hardened Survivor

A Review By: Amelia
In the year 2013 it seems almost unthinkable that human cruelty to other humans could be at such an all-time high. There’s constant strife in the Middle East and Africa, senseless gun violence in America, homophobic riots in Russia–the list goes on and on. In the last few years, North Korea has moved progressively higher up the list of human rights violations as we learn more about the mysterious, closed border country. Much of this is in due to journalist sneaking into the country or by defectors writing about their lives there. Escape from Camp 14 is one of those books.

The plot of Escape from Camp 14 is two thirds a biography about Shin Dong-hyuk and one third brief summaries on North Korean culture, politics, prisons, work camps, international and pretty much everything else about North Korea, which–for me at least–was brand new information. The author does an astounding job presenting it all and it’s obvious he knows what he’s talking about.

Blaine Harden is an author and journalist who reports for PBS Frontline and contributes to The Economist. He worked for The Washington Post as a correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. He was also a national correspondent for The New York Times and writer for the Times Magazine. All in all, he’s got some impressive news reporting experience under his belt. He was in South Korea trying to enter North Korea when he met the man whose story this book tells: Shin Dong-hyuk.

Shin Dong-hyuk is the boy soul who this book revolves around. He was born into Camp 14–the harshest and cruellest prisoner camp in North Korea–after having been bred between two other prisoners by the guards. He lived a hard life of forced labour, too little food, and untrusting of all those around him. He knew so little of everything that he didn’t realize there was a world outside the electric fences of the camp. Only when he met a prisoner that had lived outside the camp did he begin to dream of the outside world and of his escape.

Harden created a very compelling book. Shin’s story is really an ingenious way to inform the Western world about the mysterious, secretive, politically backwards, harsh, and dangerous country of North Korea. It’s a biography of misery that seeks to enlighten and teach and show the world that something needs to be done.

My final thoughts on Escape from Camp 14 are that it is a very eye opening book. I knew North Korea was trouble before reading this piece, but I wasn’t aware to what extent. They’re working their citizens to death in forced labour camps. They’re even going to the extreme of breeding prison camp babies for more labour and more poor souls to beat and abuse for ‘the sins of their parents’. If the upper class of North Korea is willing to do the things they did to Shin to hundreds of thousands of their own people, imagine what they’d do to everyone else if war ever broke out. It’s a truly scary, eye opening book about the state of the country and their place in the world.