Book Reviews: Toads, Titan, and Tokyo

When she ordered the enchiladas with cheesecake, I told her I wasn’t going to kiss her goodnight.
She seemed relieved.

As you can tell from the title, I love alliteration.

Toad Weather
Tiny children’s book where Mom cajoles daughter and grandmother into a walk in the rain; grandma is grumpy the whole way while the little girl jumps in puddles. Eventually they come to a strange sight that even grandma agrees was worth getting wet. And it’s based on a true story!
There really isn’t much you can say about a picture book that runs 32 pages; just a cute simple story for kids. What I did find fascinating were the paintings. At the beginning it says they’re pastels, but they’re so lifelike!

Titan Born
A sci-fi tale where the solar system has been colonized and a lot of people not on Earth are none too happy with the mother planet. In this maelstrom an enforcer for one of the giant corporations gets a new partner and is sent to take care of things.
After a while I realized this was future noir, if that’s really the term; not exactly Philip Marlowe in outer space, but close. There’s a lot of world building, future Earth building, right down to religion, with some moderately well done info drops. I never really understood what Zhaff was—human, android, cyborg?—even with the reveal toward the end of where he came from.
And speaking of the end, there’s a big twist, which I saw coming. It also ends in a cliffhanger, but there’s sure to be a sequel.

Random Body Parts
A small book that’s basically florid rhymes—some forced, some clever—about body parts, followed by more scientific explanations.
For me this was almost a guessing game; anatomy was my worst subject. And some of them are pretty gross. The twist is the whole thing is based on Shakespeare; if the Macbeth opener doesn’t convince you, the “Shall I compare you?” sonnet will. There’s even a rudimentary drawing of Shakespeare later on.
In a book that’s only 48 pages, and a lot of that being graphics, just a little more than half of that is actual book, with a glossary and poetry explanations taking up the rest. And yet I couldn’t say that making it longer would necessarily make it better.

Motions and Moments
This is the third book in a series that features essays about Tokyo, from an American who’s been living there for decades. The first two books were excellent in his examination of the minutiae of Japanese life that everyone else misses, and this third is more of the same sheer joyfulness. For example, it starts with the Japanese take on staring contests, a small everyday thing that was exactly the kind of event the author explained so well in the first two books.
I would have never thought anyone could write so much about futons, or plastic. Every city has kiosks, but only this author writes about them, and seems genuinely fascinated by them. He even manages to find some fundamental truths about jazz, far away from New Orleans or anywhere else the style is famous. There’s even a whole section on the psychological impact of the giant earthquake and aftermath.
But it’s his prose that most gets me. “When someone drops a cell phone, when the little silicon center of the universe clatters to the floor, it is like a young child falling over: everyone looks to see if the child is OK.” Moments like these show we’re not so different after all.



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