Raiser of Gales, the second of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D novels, did two things that impressed me: It kept and renewed my interest in the series, and presented me with a story and a set of characters that are that markedly more absorbing than the original installment. In fact, I somewhat regret this not being the first book: it’s, all around, a better story than the series-opener. If it weren’t for the fact that the first book sets up most everything we need to know — everything from the idiosyncrasies of D’s livelihood to the weird being that seems to live symbiotically inside his hand — I’d recommend that people skip directly to Gales. It’s a more rewarding read, even for people who open the D books not expecting anything more than a thrill ride.Read more
The most disconcerting thing about the Ghost in the Shell mythology is something that, oddly enough, parallels Star Wars. The further the material has been taken from its creator (manga artist Masamune Shirow), the more interesting it has become — which implies that Shirow was most interested in the things about it that were least interesting to everyone else. That or he simply hadn’t found a way to make those things interesting to us. George Lucas may have been deeply enamored of the relationship between Amidala and Anakin, but we saw no evidence onscreen of what was so interesting to him.
Masamune Shirow is a fantastically creative visual artist, one of the best in the business. He is not, however, a very engaging storyteller, and almost every time he’s sat down to cull together a story out of his torrent of wild images, the results have been disappointing. Orion, for instance, was essentially one giant shaggy-dog joke — a flood of terminology and ideas and metaphors and references used to support a plot that wouldn’t otherwise have deserved a ten-page short. Appleseed was probably his best moment, but it ultimately worked better as an animated feature (two of them, in fact) than it did on paper.Read more
Tie-ins, or novels that are created to cash in on a particular franchise — like a movie or TV show — are one of my guilty pleasures. Sometimes they’re interesting in a forensic way, because the novels are often prepared from early shooting drafts of the script and cranked out hurriedly to hit the streets just before the film itself appears; as a result, you can sometimes discover things that were dropped from the movie before it hit the screen — something that happened with Alan Dean Foster’s Alien and Jack Martin’s Videodrome tie-ins. Sometimes they’re just pleasant time-wasters, and aren’t meant to be anything more than that. And sometimes, very rarely, they are something like art: Orson Scott Card’s novelization of The Abyss wasn’t just a cash-in, but a real novel about real people, and Card went so far as to get James Cameron’s blessing for the end result.Read more
After the high that was Raiser of Gales, the Vampire Hunter D series plunges to a rather dreary and functional low with Demon Deathchase. This is easily the weakest book in the series so far, not just because it’s a blatant and depressing retread of the basic elements of the D stories but because it has been assembled with such indifference to the possibilities the series brings up. The title fits nicely: it’s a chase, no more and no less, and after the chase is over the story ends like a door being slammed in our faces. The previous two books, even when they were at the most shameless in their determination to entertain, weren’t this callous to the reader.Read more