Watchmen and H2G2 Book 4

May 2, 2005 at 3:24 PM (General)

I finished reading the excellent Watchmen a couple of days back.  It is written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins.

The story takes place in an alternate timeline in the U.S., where superheroes are a reality — costumed adventurers are portrayed as "real" people, who are just as flawed as any other person.  In 1977, the Keene Act outlawed superhero activity except where sanctioned by the Government.  Therefore, most superheroes retired — some just disappeared, while others went public and revealed their identities.  The two still active in the present (1985) are The Comedian, who is sort of a government mercenary, and Dr. Manhattan, a true super-being, who is the U.S.’s primary defense against possible Soviet attacks.

When The Comedian a.k.a. Edward Blake is brutally murdered and thrown out of a building, the masked vigilante Rorschach suspects that someone intends to eliminate masked superheroes one by one.  As he investigates, the world is moving towards WW3, as tensions between the U.S. and the Soviets escalate.

The story gives us an in-depth look at each character’s (Rorschach, The Comedian, The Silk Spectre I and II, Nite Owl I and II, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias) history, which allows us to understand each one of them and their motivations, and proceeds to a superb conclusion that wraps up all the subplots nicely.

Certainly one of the best books I’ve ever read, with amazing writing and artwork.  The story is definitely for mature readers only as some parts are quite disturbing (I found Rorschach’s history especially so).  I found Doug Atkinson’s Annotations and The Internet Companion to Watchmen very fascinating, though the amount of information on those two sites is so extensive that I have just gone through a part of it.

I also managed to read So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (the fourth book in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy" of five).

Arthur Dent is back on Earth, pretty puzzled because the planet was supposed to have been destroyed a long time ago!  Anyway, he meets this woman, Fenchurch, who had the answer to all the world’s problems, but lost the answer somehow.  Since both of them are not your typical humans (Fenny might hold the key to all of Earth’s problems and Arthur has in the recent past been travelling all over space and time), they hit it off rather well, and go on to find the answer.  Ford Prefect shows up multiple times in the book, but he doesn’t actually do anything until the end of the story.

I loved the first two books (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), while I had a sort of lukewarm response to the third, Life, the Universe and Everything.  The fourth book I liked even less than the third — while it was by no means boring to read, I felt that much of it was just dragging along without having any major developments.  For example, the relationship between Arthur and Fenchurch takes the major part of the book to develop, while the actual important bits happen towards the end, and they are also quite rushed.  While the first two books had more subplots and interesting characters, this one doesn’t (Zaphod Beeblebrox doesn’t figure in the story at all), and as a result, I just didn’t think it was as fun to read as the others were.

Anyway, I started reading the fifth book, Mostly Harmless also.  It seems to be more interesting than the fourth.


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