9. Maus: A Survivor's Tale

by Art Spiegelman

This graphic novel is a really impressive work of art and biography. Spiegelman tells the story of his strained relationship with his father as well as his father’s experience during Nazi occupation of Poland and the Holocaust.

For some reason I want to write about the story within the story (or comic book within the comic book) about Spiegelman’s mother’s suicide, and his own subsequent bout with madness. It is a dark and powerful moment in the story, and tells more of the effects such a war has had on generations of family. But it is Vladek’s (Art’s father) story, after all, that is being told here. Interestingly, this is an unsentimental depiction of his father, who, it seems, was quite a bastard. Maybe that’s what such experience does to a man. And, perhaps his son, since Spiegelman’s own depiction of himself is one of a son who is only interested in visiting his father to gather details for his book.

This is a great book. It’s a quick, powerful read that will leave you thinking about the extraordinary pain and suffering endured by those who survived the Holocaust.

How can we humans get to a point where this type genocide is a thing of the past?

8. The Light of Men

by Andrew Salmon

First, this is all the fault of the folks over at Doc's 50.

I don't read much science fiction. I think the closest I've gotten is Vonnegut without feeling like I need more from the genre. I'm not sure I'd categorize Salmon's The Light of Men as such - sci fi is way too narrow for this one -- as it is quite a gripping novel in many ways. Salmon's style is unnervingly straightforward, which, once experienced, is just right for a novel set in a Nazi concentration camp. It's very effective at bringing a sense hunger, brutality, exhaustion and injustice close to the reader. In fact, it turns out that there is another very significant reason for this matter-of-fact style choice once we discover the true nature of the protagonist.

But it bothered me that, considering the setting, the protagonist's purpose was so narrow. Though he does go through a sort of limited transformation and revises his mission. Also, as an escapee from Christianity I found the religious parallels and allusions a bit... distracting. Fortunately Aaron goes through this same transformation in his logic as well. These are the only negatives for me, and they are matters of personal preference. I really like the book.

Damn, it's tough to discuss this without spoiling things.

I was definitely captivated by the question of this mysterious guy's identity and why he is so aloof as he steps off the crowded death-laden train and first encounters the horrors of the camp. I often flinched from the stark presentation of atrocities and at the same time leaned toward reading on to see what might happen next. It's a solid story, and a unique one.

The Light of Men is certainly a bit horror, has a healthy dose of sci fi, but its power is in its overwhelming sense of humanity... which is ironic since... oh, damn, I won't say a thing.

Definitely give this one a read. Hopefully you'll easily find it in bookstores soon because it deserves attention. Until then, you can find it on Amazon. Anyone find it somewhere else?

Other reviews of this book can be found at Mount Benson Report, Olman's Fifty, Doc's 50, and are soon to come at Jar's 50, and Meezy's Blog.