Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore [Book-to-Movie Staring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson]

This is the cover image for the graphic novel,
Hercules: The Thracian Wars by
Steve Moore [cardstock ed.]. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     He had seduced the woman through trickery, taking on the likeness of her husband; he slowed time...to further enjoy his debauchery with her. Then, the woman's husband returned catching the two in the act. The seducer, Zeus, fled, leaving the hapless woman, Alcmene, pregnant and alone, to face the wrath of her husband. Hera, Zeus's wife, became furious at Zeus's infidelity, and she took her revenge out on Hercules, the son born from Zeus's trickery with Alcmene, when Hercules had grown into a man.  

     Hera caused all manner of trouble for Hercules while he was yet a mortal. Probably the worst thing she did was to make Hercules crazy for a while--confused and angry, Hercules killed his own wife and children. After he awoke from the "temporary insanity," Hercules was devastated and prayed to Apollo for guidance. Apollo's oracle told Hercules to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years, which included the twelve labors he would have to perform.

These twelve impossible tasks
were appointed to Hercules by
King Eurystheus. [3]
     Hercules was first tasked with bringing back the pelt of the lion of Nemea that was wrecking havoc on the population of the area. He tracked the lion and shot at it with arrows, but the arrows only bounced off the lion. Regrouping, Hercules considered another approach: he blocked one entrance to the lion's cave and then came at the lion through the other entrance. 

     Grappling with the lion, Hercules used his great strength in his arms to first grab and then choke the lion until it died. Hercules skinned the lion and returned to King Eurystheus, but the king wouldn't see him, opting instead to communicate with Hercules through a herald. Hercules thereafter wore the skin of the lion, the pelt protecting him; thus, the lion skin became one of his trademark images as you can see on the book's cover. [2] 

One of Hercules many adventures:
Hercules: The Knives of Kush
by Steve Moore. [4]
    The legends surrounding Hercules abound. Stories tell of him sailing with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece, and numerous other adventures and military campaigns. This book, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, tells one of those stories.

SHORT BOOK SYNOPSIS
(The Sword & Sandle Comeback):

     Hercules and his seven companions [(1) Amphiaraus (a Seer from Argos); (2) the woman, Atalanta, from Arcadia; (3) Tydeus of Calydon, The Brutal; (4) Iolaus; (5) Meleager; (6) Meneus; and (7) Autolycus (son of Hermes)] receive a request from King Cotys of the Odrysae Tribe in Thrace to provide mercenary services for gold. Hercules and his comrades hire on to train King Cotys' soldiers to be the greatest fighting force of all time. To achieve this goal, Hercules and his band must train Cotys' soldiers to be as bloodthirsty, fierce and ruthless as Hercules' band.

Hercules and his companions. I'm sorry the photo is not
better, as you can see, my book is falling apart. But at
least you can get an idea of how his companions appear.
Amphiaraus the Seer,  is far right, Atalanta next to him
and Hercules in the middle (right), Tydeus The Brutal
[who, by the way, eats human flesh--yucch!] (center,
straddling both pages), Iolaus (with the beard) stands
left of Tydeus in the center, next to him is Meleager
[with blond hair and a spear] (he has a big crush on
Atalanta),  Meneus with a short sword, and Autolycus
in a white cloak and hood far left.
     But nothing is as simple as it seems. Hercules and his band's only desire is to work and earn their money, but others have hidden agendas and secret plans that may well, indeed, interfere with Hercules' plans.

     Greece, his beloved country, may, well be at risk as well as his life and the lives of his companions. Who is working behind the scenes to cause such devastating consequences? What do they hope to accomplish? It seems blood will flow and men will die, but whose blood and whose lives?

THIS BOOK AND WHAT I THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK:
     Several different editions of the Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore exist. The edition I am reviewing today is the paperback edition (cardstock cover); the two other editions are (1) the Kindle edition and (2) the hardcover edition. I want to make clear that I am NOT reviewing all three of these editions, only the one that I purchased, the paperback edition.


[5]
THE GRAPHIC NOVEL
     As I have indicated in other blog posts, but it bears repeating, a graphic novel is, in form, a book bound with material similar to full novels. Also, graphic novels can also be viewed on e-readers. They can be hardcover or card stock paper and may include topics of non-fiction as well as fiction, or even anthologies. The graphic novel is distinguished from comics or comic books even though the bulk of material consists of drawings.

[6]
     Comic books are published on inexpensive bulk paper whereas graphic novels paper quality is much higher, some are truly beautiful with glossy pages and beautiful illustrations. Moreover, comics contain advertising whereas graphic novels do not. Also, graphic novels invariably contain a story line that has a beginning, middle, and end, a complete story arc. Comic books, on the other hand, tend to be episodic in nature. Comic books are much, much shorter than graphic novels (some graphic novels I've seen approach 150 pages and one I have is over 200 pages).


[7]
     Some graphic novels merely call themselves graphic novels but are nothing more than bound comics with an inflated price. It is so disappointing when a title is described and billed as a graphic novel and you spend your money expecting to get a graphic novel, but end up with a glorified comic book. One example of this is All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I reviewed the novel in May of this year (2014). As a Bonus part of that review, I also reviewed the graphic novel (click here to see that review). On the other hand, Vampire Academy, A Graphic Novel is a perfect example of what a great graphic novel can be (click here to see that review).

     Hercules: The Thracian Wars has a complete story arc with a beginning, middle and end; it is not episodic like a comic book. It is a bound book, with a card stock cover (see the image at top of page.) So far, so good. The paper is a nice quality paper with a glossy finish and beautiful illustrations; again, not the pulp paper of comic books. The pages number 144, so it is far larger than a comic book; the quantity of pages, here, also put it in the graphic novel category. Unfortunately, the back of the book contains seven pages of advertising; still, this alone, since it is placed in the back of the book and no advertising is in the middle of the book, would not, of itself, prevent it from being a graphic novel. So, my CONCLUSION is that it meets the elements of being a graphic novel. To find out whether or not it is a good graphic novel, let's continue.

     CONTENT: I've already given you the short synopsis, above, but there is a bit more to say about the story. First, the reason I purchased the book was because I had learned that the book was being made into a movie. Dwayne, "The Rock" Johnson, has been cast in the leading role. The adaptation of a book to a movie is a very interesting process--it can have widely unpredictable results. Sometimes the story bears little semblance to the book, other times a real effort has been made to be true to the book. Let's take a look at the YouTube trailer to see just what we are in for. [8]

     

     Joining Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the movie is John Hurt as King Cotys, Irina Shayk as Megara, Rufus Sewell as Autolycus, Ingrid Bolso Berdal as Atalanta, Ian McShane as Amphiaraus, Reece Ritchie as Iolaus, Aksell Hennie as Tydeus, Adrian Bouchet as Zeus and Rebecca Fergueson as Ergenia. Writing credits go to Steve Moore (book), Ryan Condal (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay), with Brett Ratner doing the directing.

     The story is action-packed, full of twists and turns and "Crazy Ivans." No. No submarines in this story. But it is full of intrigue and hang-on-to-your-seat suspense, betrayal, cannibalism, ill-fated love, death-wishes, tragic deaths, deserved punishments, psychotic killers, monsters, heroes, prophecy and sex. It literally, has it all. Most of all, it has gratuitous violence of every sort: blood, guts, and brains, everywhere. To me it seemed to be more like Conan the Barbarian than Hercules Son of Zeus. If the movie follows the book, be ready for a bloodfest.  As of today (06-27-14), the movie does not have an MPAA rating. According to IMDb, it most likely will be rated PG-13 due to "violent fantasy action, frightening images, some sexuality, and brief nudity." [9]

WHAT I REALLY LIKED:
     Really, there is only one thing that I really LOVED. It is the beautiful art of Admira Wijaya (Artist). Don't judge the artwork by the book's cover, because I just don't think the cover does it justice. Here is a close up from my book showing a face on one side and on the other clouds and sun in a backdrop. Just look at the subtlety in the art. I think it is really beautiful. It really is a shame, because, as I said, the art is about the only thing I liked about the book.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:
     The most horrible part of the book is the poor workmanship in constructing the book. Here are several photos showing how the book fell apart after reading it once. And for those of you who don't believe me, go to amazon.com and look up the reviews of the paperback (or card stock) edition of this book. It has happened to others.

     I love my books and handle them gently. I never over torque a spine and don't fold pages. This book, literally, fell apart in my hands as I carefully turned the pages. It is the worst constructed book I have EVER purchased. I pur- chased mine for $9.99 + 3.99 sh/h, almost a year ago. Amazon.com now lists the books from sellers starting at $34.16 (used) and $34.99 (new). So...even at $9.99 I feel I got ripped off.














OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:
From Amazon.com.  It looks like the four people who got the hardcover
edition were happy with the book, bringing in 4.5 stars avg. [10]
     As I said, above, I am not reviewing the other editions of this graphic novel. Even so, I would like to share with you a couple of things. First, it appears that those who bought the hardcover edition (or the Kindle edition) are quite happy with their book. They do not have the disastrous falling apart problems with which card stock editions seem plagued.

     Second, as you can see from the image (just above, right), the hardcover editions are much cheaper, now, than the paperback edition. Available from second party sellers, they start at $18.89 used, and even new, it still is almost $5.00 cheaper than the paperback. What's up with that? Don't they want anyone to buy the paperback editions, now?

Yes, I can still read the book in this condition, but what happens if I lose
a page or a section of the book because it has fallen out? The extremely
poor quality craftsmanship of assemblage has ruined the book's readability.

    Finally, I'm not sure what prompted the Sword and Sandle comeback this year. We have had Pompeii (Milo played by Kit Harrington); Hercules (starring Kellan Lutz as Hercules); 300: Rise of an Empire, and now we have Hercules, starring "The Rock." It seems that the first two movies did abysmally at the box office and in the ratings while 300: Rise of an Empire received mixed ratings but did well at the box office. We can only guess what will happen with "The Rock's," Hercules. Well, I for one, will be waiting to see it. [11]

MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING:
     The MPAA rating should be at least a PG-13 (or stronger). The book is rife with violence, blood, killing, and horrible images such as cannibalism. Sex is also present, and some quasi-nudity. This book should not be read by children or the sensitive person. I advise the same about the movie. While the movie looks to be very violent, it will probably be more palatable than the book. For adults who like fantasy themes that include violence, this book should be acceptable.

[12]
     For all the reasons I have stated, above, I give this book 2 stars out of 5. I'm sure the rating would be different had I purchased the hardback book for myself. However, I did not. I am rating this card stock edition and find it to be one of the worst books I have ever purchased. I give the 2 stars only for the sake of the beautiful art work of Admira Wijaya. 

Get ready for a Thriller/
Mystery/Suspense
Novel next week! [13]
     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at the graphic novel that is the basis for the upcoming movie, Hercules--Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Please join me again next week when we will look at something very different from a graphic novel. We will look at a thriller/mystery/suspense novel, sure to please the reader in you. You have to wait for the big reveal until next week, but it should be fun. Don't forget to pick up something and read it this week while you're waiting for next week's book review! I send my love to you all!


Until next time...
This is a Double White Rose of Sharon. [14]

...many happy pages of reading!




_________________________________________________________
REFERENCES
[1] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[2] "The Nemean Lion." perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[3] "The Labors of Hercules." perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[4] "Movie News Monday." thefocusedfilmographer.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[5] "Graphic Novels." ipl.org. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[6] "All You Need Is Kill." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[7] "Vampire Academy." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[8] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." youtube.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[9] "Hercules."  imdb.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[10] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[11] "Brett Ratner's 'Hercules' to Hit Theaters in August 2014." radicalpublishing.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[12] "Tee Set Rating." teesetgolf.wordpress.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[13] "Mystery Crime Scene." mysterycrimescene.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.
[14] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 06-27-14.