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The Book Blog

profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

In a world teeming with literary works, the graphic novel "Watchmen" stands as an unparalleled masterpiece. Crafted by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, this groundbreaking piece of sequential art revolutionized the comic book landscape. In this essay, I will present compelling reasons why you should embark on the captivating journey that is "Watchmen."

  1. A Unique Blend of Art and Literature: "Watchmen" seamlessly merges the visual prowess of graphic art with the depth and complexity of literary storytelling. Through Dave Gibbons' meticulous illustrations, every panel comes alive, meticulously capturing the essence of the characters and their world. This fusion of art and literature elevates the reading experience to a whole new level, immersing you in a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating narrative.
  2. Complex Characters and Nuanced Morality: At the heart of "Watchmen" lie its multifaceted characters, each defying conventional superhero stereotypes. Alan Moore's masterful character development presents a morally gray universe where heroes struggle with their inner demons, making choices that challenge traditional notions of right and wrong. From the enigmatic and psychologically tormented Rorschach to the morally conflicted Ozymandias, each character is a compelling study in complexity, igniting introspection and debate.
  3. Thought-Provoking Themes and Social Commentary: Beneath its intricate plot lies a rich tapestry of themes that resonate deeply with the human condition. "Watchmen" explores power, vigilantism, politics, existentialism, and the fragile nature of humanity itself. Through its intricate layers of storytelling, it poses essential questions about the nature of morality, the balance between order and chaos, and the consequences of our actions. The narrative serves as a social commentary, inviting readers to reflect on the complexities of society, power dynamics, and the ethics of heroism.
  4. Narrative Structure and Intricate Storytelling: "Watchmen" exhibits an innovative narrative structure that subverts traditional linear storytelling. Moore's non-linear approach weaves multiple storylines, employing flashbacks, interludes, and excerpts from in-world documents. This intricate web of storytelling adds depth and texture, engaging readers in a labyrinthine plot that demands their attention and rewards their investment. The gradual revelation of the story's intricacies fosters an immersive reading experience, leaving readers eagerly turning each page.
  5. Influence and Legacy: "Watchmen" holds an esteemed position in the pantheon of literary works, garnering critical acclaim and influencing subsequent generations of writers and artists. Its thematic depth, complex characters, and subversion of genre conventions have inspired countless works in both comic books and mainstream literature. Exploring "Watchmen" allows readers to appreciate its significant contributions to the medium and witness the enduring impact it has had on contemporary storytelling.

Conclusion: "Watchmen" transcends the boundaries of traditional comic books, offering a captivating and thought-provoking reading experience. Through its unique blend of art and literature, complex characters, thematic richness, and innovative storytelling, this graphic novel demands attention and rewards it in abundance. Delving into the world of "Watchmen" is an invitation to explore the profound complexities of the human condition and witness the enduring brilliance that has made it an undeniable classic.


Cover ArtWatchmen by Alan Moore; Dave Gibbons (Illustrator)
Call Number: PN6737.M66 W38 2005
ISBN: 9780930289232
Publication Date: 1995-04-01
A "New York Times" Best Seller This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin. One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial bestseller, WATCHMEN has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V FOR VENDETTA, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE SANDMAN series.

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profile-icon Michael Ramey

In his book The Rise and Fall of Royal America, Brendan McConville argues that the American colonies were not simply rebellious subjects of the British crown, but rather loyal subjects who were deeply attached to the king. He draws on a wide range of sources to support his arguments, including newspapers, pamphlets, and court records.

McConville's book is a well-researched and engaging read. He provides a detailed account of the political and social developments that took place in the colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. He also discusses the role of the king in colonial politics and the development of royal ideology in the colonies.

Overall, The Rise and Fall of Royal America is an important book that offers a new perspective on the early history of the United States. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the American Revolution and the development of American political thought.

I really enjoyed reading The Rise and Fall of Royal America. It was a well-written and informative book that gave me a new understanding of the early history of the United States. I was particularly interested in McConville's discussion of the role of the king in colonial politics. I had never thought about the king in that way before, and it was fascinating to see how his decisions could have such a profound impact on the colonies.

Overall, I highly recommend The Rise and Fall of Royal America to anyone interested in American history. It is a well-researched and engaging book that will give you a new perspective on the early years of the United States.

What do you think of the above review? I ask because I did not write it: a chatbot did.

For the past six months or so, chatbot AI has become more sophisticated and accessible. OpenAI’s ChatGPT has taken the world by storm with its accessible interface and intelligent outputs. With ChatGPT’s release, Pandora’s box has been opened, and other companies are now scrambling to create their own chatbots. For example, Microsoft, which had invested in ChatGPT in 2019, is using OpenAI’s framework to create an AI assistant for its Bing browser, and Google is now testing its own chatbot Bard (the above post used Bard; interestingly, the Bing chatbot refused to provide an output to the prompt while ChatGPT had issues putting “my” reflections in first-person point of view).

Outputs like the review above can be created in seconds and customized to fit whatever parameters users’ desire. While the technology is impressive, the ethical dilemma surrounding AI’s use in academia is very real. Naturally, educators are worried about academic integrity violations since papers can be generated in seconds. Plagiarism detectors are now being designed by companies to root out AI use, but this arms race between technologies is distracting from the real issue. It is not practical to police whether students are going to use this technology to cheat as this presumes guilt upon them. Instead, it is important to realize that AI technology is here to stay, and we must learn how to live and grow with it.

Cover ArtThe King's Three Faces by Brendan McConville
ISBN: 9780807858660
Publication Date: 2007-08-27
Reinterpreting the first century of American history, Brendan McConville argues that colonial society developed a political culture marked by strong attachment to Great Britain's monarchs. This intense allegiance continued almost until the moment of independence, an event defined by an emotional break with the king. By reading American history forward from the seventeenth century rather than backward from the Revolution, McConville shows that political conflicts long assumed to foreshadow the events of 1776 were in fact fought out by factions who invoked competing visions of the king and appropriated royal rites rather than used abstract republican rights or pro-democratic proclamations. The American Revolution, McConville contends, emerged out of the fissure caused by the unstable mix of affective attachments to the king and a weak imperial government. Sure to provoke debate, The King's Three Faces offers a powerful counterthesis to dominant American historiography.
Cover ArtAI Ethics by Mark Coeckelbergh
Call Number: Q334.7 .C64 2020
ISBN: 9780262538190
Publication Date: 2020-04-07
An accessible synthesis of ethical issues raised by artificial intelligence that moves beyond hype and nightmare scenarios to address concrete questions.Artificial intelligence powers Google's search engine, enables Facebook to target advertising, and allows Alexa and Siri to do their jobs. AI is also behind self-driving cars, predictive policing, and autonomous weapons that can kill without human intervention. These and other AI applications raise complex ethical issues that are the subject of ongoing debate. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers an accessible synthesis of these issues. Written by a philosopher of technology, AI Ethics goes beyond the usual hype and nightmare scenarios to address concrete questions. Mark Coeckelbergh describes influential AI narratives, ranging from Frankenstein's monster to transhumanism and the technological singularity. He surveys relevant philosophical discussions- questions about the fundamental differences between humans and machines and debates over the moral status of AI. He explains the technology of AI, describing different approaches and focusing on machine learning and data science. He offers an overview of important ethical issues, including privacy concerns, responsibility and the delegation of decision making, transparency, and bias as it arises at all stages of data science processes. He also considers the future of work in an AI economy. Finally, he analyzes a range of policy proposals and discusses challenges for policymakers. He argues for ethical practices that embed values in design, translate democratic values into practices and include a vision of the good life and the good society.
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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

A while back, I stumbled upon the book Dawn by Octavia Butler in a Kindle sale list. I bought it, having no familiarity with her as an author, only thinking that the premise sounded interesting and the book had good ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. I like to keep several “on-deck” books in my Kindle Library, just in case. During a recent weekend on the couch, I scrolled through my Kindle Library to see what was available and decided on Dawn. I was looking for a fictional break from reality and thought sci-fi sounded fun in the moment.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I was immediately hooked. The writing is inviting yet mysterious. Butler is great at making her science fiction accessible and weirdly relatable. She describes detail, but only the detail you want and truly need at the moment. You aren’t overwhelmed with it- she feeds it to you. She doesn’t leave you feeling frustrated but only thirsty for more.

It’s impossible for me to write much about this book without giving too much away (where’s the fun in that). I’m also not sure that I could do it justice. Any approximation of a synopsis of this story provided by me would be a watered-down disappointment. I’ll say this, humans have destroyed Earth (surprise, surprise), and something extraterrestrial has saved or perhaps captured who they could. Ultimately, the plan is to return to earth after it is healed, but at what cost? The story had me questioning what it means to be human and what humanistic qualities are worth preserving.

After devouring this book over a weekend, I am craving more from the author. For some, the name Octavia Butler might be familiar. Her book Kindred was recently adapted to television and premiered on FX on Hulu this past December. The premise is that a young black woman is pulled back and forth in time from the present day (2016) to a nineteenth-century plantation in which she and her family are linked. Will I eventually read the book? More than likely. And, if it’s good, I might eventually watch the show.

What is guaranteed is that I will be reading the next two installments of the Xenogenesis trilogy that follow Dawn. In fact, it’s been a while since I was frustrated at not having immediate access to the next book in a series. I’ve become attached to a few of the characters. I’m so curious about some of the relationships that developed during Dawn. I’m DYING to know what happens next; again, not giving you too many details because I don’t want to ruin anything for potential readers. All I can say is that I’ve not read anything like this. It has all the elements of a book that I would enjoy, including mysterious circumstances, a strong female lead character, complicated relationship dynamics, and a storyline that keeps me guessing. I’ve also been having some fun thinking through what decisions I’d make if I were in the shoes of the main character, Lilith. Would I be attached to the idea of restarting my life back on earth, or would I be seduced by an uncharted territory? Would I long for human relationships, or would I be attracted to something unknown to me? If you see me daydreaming at the reference desk, you’ll know what’s on my mind…ha!

Unfortunately for us, Octavia Butler died at the young age of 58 in 2006, so we will not be getting any new work from her. But there are several published titles for us to enjoy as we revel in her talent. Butler has also influenced many contemporary authors, so her legacy lives on in their work. I also saw a rumor on the internet that Dawn is to be adapted for television. So, hurry, get to reading before then!


George Orwell, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood They Warned Us!

scattered1 from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Cover ArtParable of the Sower:  a Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler; Damian Duffy (Adapted by); John Jennings (Illustrator)
Call Number: St. Augustine Popular Fiction ; PN6727.D836 O39 2020
ISBN: 9781419731334
Publication Date: 2020-01-28
2021 Hugo Award Winner for Best Graphic Story or Comic The follow-up to #1 New York Times Bestseller Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, comes Octavia E. Butler's groundbreaking dystopian novel In this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award-winning team behind Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, the author portrays a searing vision of America's future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher's daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny . . . and the birth of a new faith.
Cover ArtKindred by Octavia E. Butler
Call Number: St. Augustine Popular Fiction ; PS3552.U827 K5 2003
ISBN: 9780807083697
Publication Date: 2004-02-01
From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur "Genius" Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now. "I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm." Dana's torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner's plantation. She soon realizes the purpose of her summons to the past: protect Rufus to ensure his assault of her Black ancestor so that she may one day be born. As she endures the traumas of slavery and the soul-crushing normalization of savagery, Dana fights to keep her autonomy and return to the present. Blazing the trail for neo-slavery narratives like Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad and Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Water Dancer, Butler takes one of speculative fiction's oldest tropes and infuses it with lasting depth and power. Dana not only experiences the cruelties of slavery on her skin but also grimly learns to accept it as a condition of her own existence in the present. "Where stories about American slavery are often gratuitous, reducing its horror to explicit violence and brutality, Kindred is controlled and precise" (New York Times). "Reading Octavia Butler taught me to dream big, and I think it's absolutely necessary that everybody have that freedom and that willingness to dream."  --N. K. Jemisin  Developed for television by writer/executive producer Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Watchmen), executive producers also include Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields (The Americans, The Patient), and Darren Aronofsky (The Whale). Janicza Bravo (Zola) is director and an executive producer of the pilot. Kindred stars Mallori Johnson, Micah Stock, Ryan Kwanten, and Gayle Rankin.
Cover ArtParable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
Call Number: Palatka Popular Fiction ; PS3552.U827 P38 2000
ISBN: 9781538732199
Publication Date: 2019-08-20
Originally published in 1998, this shockingly prescient novel's timely message of hope and resistance in the face of fanaticism is more relevant than ever. In 2032, Lauren Olamina has survived the destruction of her home and family, and realized her vision of a peaceful community in northern California based on her newly founded faith, Earthseed. The fledgling community provides refuge for outcasts facing persecution after the election of an ultra-conservative president who vows to "make America great again." In an increasingly divided and dangerous nation, Lauren's subversive colony--a minority religious faction led by a young black woman--becomes a target for President Jarret's reign of terror and oppression. Years later, Asha Vere reads the journals of a mother she never knew, Lauren Olamina. As she searches for answers about her own past, she also struggles to reconcile with the legacy of a mother caught between her duty to her chosen family and her calling to lead humankind into a better future.
Cover ArtDawn by Octavia E. Butler
Call Number: Palatka Popular Fiction ; PS3552.U827 X466 bk.1
ISBN: 9781538753712
Publication Date: 2021-04-27
One woman is called upon to rebuild the future of humankind after a nuclear war, in this revelatory post-apocalyptic tale from the award-winning author of Parable of the Sower. When Lilith lyapo wakes from a centuries-long sleep, she finds herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. She discovers that the Oankali--a seemingly benevolent alien race--intervened in the fate of the humanity hundreds of years ago, saving everyone who survived a nuclear war from a dying, ruined Earth and then putting them into a deep sleep. After learning all they could about Earth and its beings, the Oankali healed the planet, cured cancer, increased human strength, and they now want Lilith to lead her people back to Earth--but salvation comes at a price. Hopeful and thought-provoking, this post-apocalyptic narrative deftly explores gender and race through the eyes of characters struggling to adapt during a pivotal time of crisis and change.
Cover ArtOctavia's Brood by Walidah Imarisha (Editor); adrienne maree brown (Editor); Sheree Renee Thomas (Foreword by)
Call Number: Orange Park Circulation ; PN6120.95.S33 O37 2015
ISBN: 9781849352093
Publication Date: 2015-04-07
Whenever we imagine a world without war or injustice, we are engaging in speculative fiction. Radicals and activists devote their lives to envisioning such worlds, and then go about trying to create them. This collection brings together 20 such stories, as well as essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Named for the great Octavia Butler, giant of science fiction and a rare woman of colour in her field, this engaging and enlightening collection is the first book to explore the connections between radical science fiction and movements for social change.
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profile-icon Kayla Cook

The release of Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back over the 2021 Thanksgiving holiday weekend brought about a series of new perspectives on the Beatles. For the first time, the average fan was given a look into the Beatles’ exclusive studio activities. We got to see how the Beatles wrote their songs, what the different interpersonal dynamics were like, what they wore in their everyday lives, how often they apparently showered, what kinds of things they ate and drank, and a number of other quaint, personal behaviors. It was incredibly humanizing and showed that some things were clearly a bit more nuanced than popular history might have us believe, and others were, apparently, blatantly wrong. It also awakened a new avenue for analysis in the study of Beatles history, which was until recently beginning to grow stagnant. 

One popular theory among the older generation of Beatles fans is that Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s eccentric avant-garde artist girlfriend (and later wife) caused the breakup of the band. Get Back, however, paints a different picture of Yoko. Throughout the eight-hour, three-part documentary, she spent much of her time reading, knitting, sewing, eating her lunch, and listening to the band talk and rehearse. When she did speak, it was usually very quietly and politely. Only once or twice did she verge on screaming, and that was in the context of a jam session in which she is a vocalist. Paul McCartney’s fiancée Linda Eastman was also present, and she took on a much more active (though still not antagonistic) role than Yoko, photographing the band in the studio and joining in during conversations about the band’s plans for their January 1969 project. When George Harrison briefly quit the band during the recording of this documentary, it wasn’t because of anything Yoko (or Linda, for that matter) said or did. It was because he was tired of Paul and John talking over him and ignoring his creative input. Yoko was just as taken aback by his departure as the rest of them. 

Also in 2021, two books examining the Beatles through the lens of women’s history were published: A Women’s History of the Beatles by Christine Feldman-Barrett, a professor of sociology at Griffith University in South East Queensland, Australia, and Beatle Wives: The Women the Men We Loved Fell in Love With by Marc Shapiro, author of more than sixty self-published celebrity biographies. 

A Women’s History of the Beatles is a thorough examination of not only the lives of the women in the Beatles’ lives and the ways they inspired the “Fab Four” artistically, but an examination also of the complex interpersonal relationships that developed between the Beatles, the women and girls they knew, and women and girls in fandom spaces. Dr. Barrett’s research is extensive and interdisciplinary. She considers a variety of sources—many of which are by women who were Beatles fans in the 1960s and beyond—and contemplates the historical, social, sociological, and psychological impact of the Beatles on women and women on the Beatles. 

While A Women’s History of the Beatles was more academic, Beatle Wives is just the opposite, focusing more on current pop culture interests. It also isn’t as good in my opinion as both a scholar and a fan of the Beatles and their wives. Much of Shapiro’s information comes from reprintings of reprintings (of reprintings of reprintings of...), often of misinformation or misconstrued information. His citations are often baffling (on more than one occasion, he cited Wattpad, a popular young adult fanfiction website). And while claiming to want to do the women he’s discussing justice by telling their previously untold stories, he frequently speaks about them in minimizing ways and repeats information which other writers have concluded are probably merely rumors based in sexism and, in the cases of Yoko Ono, May Pang, and Olivia Arias-Harrison, also racism. 

Nevertheless, it seems that 2021 and the one-and-a-quarter years since have shown an increase in interest in a new lens through which to view Beatles history: women. As a women’s historian, and as I am writing a book about Maureen Starkey Tigrett (Ringo Starr’s first wife), this is a heartening thought. I look forward to whatever new stories and perspectives may arise as a result. 

Cover ArtThe Beatles: Get Back by The Beatles; Peter Jackson (Foreword by); Hanif Kureishi (Introduction by); Ethan A. Russell (Photographer); Linda McCartney (Photographer)
ISBN: 9780935112962
Publication Date: 2021-10-12
The book opens in January 1969, the beginning of The Beatles' last year as a band. The Beatles (The White Album) is at number one in the charts and the foursome gather in London for a new project. Over 21 days, first at Twickenham Film Studios and then at their own brand-new Apple Studios, with cameras and tape recorders documenting every day's work and conversations, the band rehearse a huge number of songs, culminating in their final concert, which famously takes place on the rooftop of their own office building, bringing central London to a halt. The Beatles: Get Back tells the story of those sessions through transcripts of the band's candid conversations. Drawing on over 120 hours of sound recordings, leading music writer John Harris edits the richly captivating text to give us a fly-on-the-wall experience of being there in the studios. These sessions come vividly to life through hundreds of unpublished, extraordinary images by two photographers who had special access to their sessions-Ethan A. Russell and Linda Eastman (who married Paul McCartney two months later). Also included are many unseen high-resolution film-frames, selected from the 55 hours of restored footage from which Peter Jackson's documentary is also drawn. Legend has it that these sessions were a grim time for a band falling apart. However, as acclaimed novelist Hanif Kureishi writes in his introduction, "In fact this was a productive time for them, when they created some of their best work. And it is here that we have the privilege of witnessing their early drafts, the mistakes, the drift and digressions, the boredom, the excitement, joyous jamming and sudden breakthroughs that led to the work we now know and admire." Half a century after their final performance, this book completes the story of the creative genius, timeless music, and inspiring legacy of The Beatles. "It would be fair to say that today Let It Be symbolizes the breaking-up of The Beatles. That's the mythology, the truth is somewhat different. The real story of Let It Be has been locked in the vaults of Apple Corps for the last 50 years." - Peter Jackson

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