Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nimona: A Review

Nimona graphic novelI grew up thinking of cartoons as the tempting but sinful fruit that kept my neighborhood friends inside when I wanted them to be outside playing. As I grew older, various friends tried to point out the merits of cartoons, video games, graphic novels and the like. I persisted in my disregard for such genres, even after professors assigned award-winning graphic novels like Spiegelman’s Maus and Gene LuenYang’s American-Born Chinese to me during undergrad.

Next came Ender’s Game in graphic novel format, which I bought and cherished. By the time I got my hands on the Avatar comics, I was finally ready to admit that there is something enchanting and gleefully fun about reading a graphic novel. And so:

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

The audience: People who like to laugh. People who like good stories and heartwarming, budding friendship. People who will get a kick out of the name “Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin” and a bloodthirsty, shapeshifting young woman who teams up with a villainous scientist with a soul of gold named Lord Blackheart.

The content: Goldenloin and Blackheart were great friends during their time at the academy for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. But after a “training accident” that left him maimed, Blackheart was labeled a villain and cast away from the academy. Ambrosius was knighted, and an arch-rivalry was born. Nimona, a feisty young woman with the ability to shapeshift, appoints herself Blackheart’s sidekick, and together they fight to expose the Institution’s corrupt practices.


My analysis: Nimona reads like a fairy-tale bed-time story for modern readers. Stevenson’s characters are whimsical but deep, her plot fast-paced and fleshed-out. Modern elements pepper the dialogue and drawing style. Classic tropes of good and evil, knights and villainy give Nimona its lighthearted tone, but the institutional corruption driving the plot hints at deeper meaning.

Nimona shark
Yesssssssss, it's a girl-shark.
A confession: I’m only on chapter 8! I try to limit my reading of this book in order to stretch it out as long as possible. Perhaps I should wait to judge Nimona until I have read the entire thing, but I couldn’t wait to write about how full of delight this book has been for me.

Useful for: Reading together.

We share movies and TV shows with our friends and family, YouTube videos and Vines. We view and share pictures with one another. In middle and high school we were forced to read books that few of us actually enjoyed and then, for a torturous half hour, discuss them. By the time I finished school, I realized how precious that activity would be with books I actually loved and friends I wanted to spend hours with. But how many people have time to read full books? How many people—after working a full shift, getting the kids fed, or slogging through chemistry homework—have the energy to discuss a novel?
Nimona graphic novel review

Graphic novels like Nimona are the perfect compromise. A chapter is perhaps ten minutes: 30 pages with an average of only 50 words to a page (and 6-7 pictures). The reading level is low and the content is engaging. Read this with a friend, a spouse, a child, or a grandparent. Or simply read it and drop me a message; I promise you won’t be disappointed (at least with the first eight chapters).

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. $10 on Amazon Prime, $13 at Barnes and Noble, $7 as a kindle (but I would highly recommend the physical copy; it is a beautiful book.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Pursuit of God (by A. W. Tozer): A Review

I once wrote a blog about how I was going to blog about books. For roughly two months I did not do that thing. Now I shall do that thing, starting with a lovely little book by A. W. Tozer entitled The Pursuit of God.

The audience: Tozer writes for Christians of any age or level of spiritual maturity, but The Pursuit of God will directly appeal to the men and women who find themselves in a pew week after week hoping to be fed. They have prayed for a convicting sermon, words that reignite their passion for Christ’s mission in the world and force them to rethink their approach to faith. For those who have ever ditched church on Easter Sunday because the sermon will be a fluff piece of an altar call for the ChrEaster church-goers, this book is for you.

The layout: Each chapter stands alone, and yet read in order, each builds off the previous. Tozer’s discussion of “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing” (chapter 2) informs the next chapter about “Removing the Veil.” At the beginning of each chapter is a Bible verse that encapsulates the chapter to come: “O Taste and see” from Psalm 34:8 heads up chapter four on “Apprehending God.” Ten pages (or 15-20 minutes) later, at the end of each chapter, stands a simple prayer.  “Apprehending God” ends with “O God and Father . . . the world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me.”

The content: Grounded in simple Biblical truths, Tozer’s writing doesn’t feel mind-blowing. His words are comfortable and familiar, reminding me of a thousand accessible sermons I’ve heard before. And yet each chapter prodded me to focus in on what faith mean to my daily life. In chapter six Tozer writes of God’s “speaking voice” admonishing the rationalists among us: “The Bible will never be a living book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in his universe.” In chapter seven he defines faith as “the gaze of the soul upon a saving God” and gives a practical outline of how to get your soul pointed in the right direction.

My takeaway (adapted from Tozer’s 9th chapter: “Meekness and Rest”): Pride is the burden born by man, and it is a crushing thing. The labor of self-love is wearisome. The meek woman of God knows that she is a little speck on a pale blue dot, but recognizes that she is somehow higher than the angels in God’s regard. A man of God knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him, and he has stopped caring. This is the rest that Christ offers. He calls it a yoke, but it looks a lot like freedom.

Useful for: small group (3-8 people) discussion or a private quiet-time devotional. Each chapter is roughly 10 pages and can be read in less than a half hour. $7 on Amazon; free on Kindle for Prime users.