Yup. More brief thoughts on what I've read recently.
Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama
Now this is an unusual manga. Considering some of the manga out there, that's really saying something. It's probably best to approach this as more of a conceptual art book than a comic telling a story.
The plot is very simple. A group of friends go to visit the eponymous garden only to find it's closed, so they go around the side and sneak in over the fence. The rest of the book follows them as they explore the garden.
The characters are basically a hive mind cipher. They all have a unique look, but no personalities to speak of. Their dialogue has a lot of annoying "no shit" moments. Things like a book falling followed by a character saying, "The book fell."
That said, it would miss the point to talk about the plot and characters. The garden itself is the real focus of the comic and makes it worth reading. The garden is a surreal landscape with things like cars used for planters, a river made of rubber balls, buildings on wheels and seemingly pointless but fascinating Rube Goldberg contraptions. The complexity of the garden as well as the artwork makes the book almost overwhelming at times.
If you want a pleasant mindfuck, this manga is worth a read.
Buy it here.
Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas
Ever read a book you know was written by a good author, but the book was just not their best work? That's how I feel about this novel.
The premise is intriguing, but at the same time a little fanficish. Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation versus Cthulhu. The book is written as a pastiche of Kerouac's prose and does a pretty good job at imitating his voice. I think this is probably part of my problem with this book. I'm just not that big on Kerouac. That may seem hypocritical considering I have a couple works on this site that are directly inspired by On the Road, but I wrote those both while and directly after I read it. Frankly, once I finished that book it didn't stick with me for long. Compared to the other major Beat works, Naked Lunch and "Howl", I'd rank it as the one that had the least effect on me.
Move Under Ground has some very hilarious and inspired moments. One of my favorites is when William S. Burroughs and Kerouac are trying to hop on a train, but Burroughs is too out of shape. This results in Kerouac trying to throw him on a train car, and throwing him against the side of one on accident. The epilogue (which I won't describe in order to avoid spoilers) was also a great way to end the novel.
All that said, this book just wasn't as interesting to me as the premise would imply. For the most part, it just read as a pulpy, though somewhat weird, adventure novel. I'm sure Mamatas has done better than this, so I'm still willing to check out his other works.
This one? It's available for free online, so if the premise sounds interesting to you, read it here: MoveUnderGround.org or you can buy it here.