Summer Book Club Week 8: The Saga Series, Vol. 1

Guidelines for the Summer Book Club: if you’ve read this book, what did you think?  If not, what are you reading this week? Please comment, or post on your own blog and link in the comments below.

sagaBrian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man is my favourite graphic novel series; in 2010, one of the installments made my list of top books of the year.  If you like graphic novels at all, even if you’re not a fan of the superhero/dystopia/apocalypse genres, you need to read Y; I’ll wait here while you go do that.

I’ve been meaning to read more of Vaughan’s work, but have feared disappointment.  Recently, some podcast or other mentioned the Saga series (by Vaughan and illustrator Fiona Staples), and this inspired me to order Volume One from the library.

I was not encouraged by the first panel, a close-up of a woman’s sweating face as she says, “Am I shitting?  It feels like I’m shitting!”  However, the next page shows that we are in media puerperio: our heroine, Hazel, is being born, and the face is that of her mother; Hazel’s father is the sole assistant to the delivery.

They aren’t alone for long.  Hazel’s parents are star-crossed in a more-literal-than-usual sense: they are from opposite sides of an intergalactic war, and they met when one was guarding the other in prison.  Their escape, and the discovery that they’ve borne a child, has sparked the outrage of everyone in charge, and soon battalions from their home planets, princes with TV monitors for heads, and the scariest bounty hunters you’ve ever seen (one complete with a sidekick  in the form of a giant cat who knows when you’re lying and says so) are involved.  Hazel’s parents are no longer their own first priority: their main concern now is keeping their baby alive, and fortunately, they seem have the physical, magical and tactical skills to do so, along with the requisite all-conquering love.

Like Y: TLM, Volume 1 of Saga is funny, smart, sexy and action-packed.  I don’t usually care for “comic book serial” style graphic novels (as opposed to “sensitive literary fiction/memoir” style graphic novels, which I love).  I’m not crazy about fantasy, science fiction, or action/adventure stories, no matter what the form.  Yet as soon as I finished Volume 1 of Saga, I went straight to my library’s website and ordered Volume 2.  This is good storytelling.  Even though Hazel’s just a few days old, I love her, and can’t wait to find out what happens to her, and to everyone else who loves her too.


Also read this week:

  • Oishinbo A La Carte: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi by Tetsu Kariya (story) and Akira Hanasaki (art).  This was also a podcast recommendation, by one of my favourite podcasters: Glen Weldon of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.  The Oishinbo  series is a fictional tale about a journalist, Yamaoka Shiro, who has been tasked with developing the “Ultimate Menu” for his newspaper’s 100th anniversary.  This volume is a series of stories about his pan-Japanese search for the absolute best fish dishes.  He is accompanied by his assistant/love interest, and he frequently clashes with his main competitor in the world of food expertise, who also happens to be his father.  It’s a great premise, the individual stories that make up the volume are fun, and it made me both nostalgic for the years I spent living in Japan (and eating Japanese food) and intrigued by how little I still know about the country and its culture.  That said, the characters are, for lack of a better term, cartoonish: I haven’t done a lot of manga reading, but I recognized the types – sour but attractive anti-hero, demure yet steely lady-love, overbearing bullying father figure – a little too easily.  I closed the volume feeling no need to follow these characters further, so I won’t be ordering the rest of the series.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling).  I resisted this book for the first 200 pages, but, despite my summer vow to drop anything that didn’t grip me after 50, I felt an obligation to go on, and was eventually glad I had.  (I had much the same experience with the Harry Potter series, so maybe it’s not surprising.)  I was then a bit disappointed by the ending, but despite all that, I plan to follow P. I. Cormoran Strike and his assistant and sidekick Robin (yes, really) through the rest of the series. Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling can be irritating, not least when she insists on unnecessary phonetic renderings of dialect, renderings that seem appropriate in a fantasy world full of multi-ethnic wizard children, but less so in today’s real London (transcriptions like “lotta”, “outta” and “forra” change nothing for the ear and serve only to suggest class and cultural background in ways that make me suspicious of whoever’s writing.)  Nevertheless, our hero is a human-sized Hagrid, his sidekick is a real-world Hermione, and I am therefore charmed.

Have you read the Saga series, the Oishinbo series, or The Cuckoo’s Calling?  If so, what did you think?  If not, what are you reading this week?


10 thoughts on “Summer Book Club Week 8: The Saga Series, Vol. 1

  1. I missed last week. One partially because I wasn’t done with Life After Life STILL and two because my kids were and STILL. are sick. They are on the mend and now I’ve gotten their strep. Lucky yucky. Anyways I did finish and wrote about it here. Love to hear your thoughts:

    Currently I’m reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m 30% in and loving it. Slow and steady falling into love innocence way back in the late 1980s.

    I’ve not read your books but did have JK Rowlings book there on my list to get to. I sampled it. Came to your same conclusion and shelved it. I guess I’ll have to go back one day!


    1. Congrats on finishing LAL – I left you a comment. I have taken several runs at E&P because every book critic I love seems to adore it, but something about it is leaving me cold. I’m determined to finish it because I suspect my students would love it, so I want to put it on a course, but every time I put it down I feel no desire to pick it up again. What is wrong with me?


    2. Oh, and sorry to hear your kids are still sick and that they’ve passed it on to you! I suffered a lot from strep when I was a child and I know how awful it is – get well soon.


  2. A few years back a friend of mine started an Graphic Novel book club. Each month we read a serious masterwork, a super hero, and a new edition of the serial Saga. Last summer when I was home, he gave me all the editions I had missed. I love this story! I like Sci-Fi to a point, but I loved it. The group I was in loved its storyline, I loved its reference to history and current events. They are still debating on whether or not it is just a story or a metaphor.

    Other graphic novels from that summer that I loved and would love to teach are:

    Asterios Polyp by Mazzucchelli. Gorgeous visuals, excellent characters, college professor on a journey to find himself.

    Essex County by Lemire. History of a small county, love, death, hockey.


    1. Kathleen: I have seen Essex County at one of my libraries – I am going to go put it and Asterios Polyp on my list right now! If you loved Saga and haven’t read Y: The Last Man I VERY STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU to try it; it truly changed my view of what serial graphic speculative storytelling could be.


      1. Ok, I just messaged my suppliers if they had a copy. I forgot one…I Kill Giants-Joe Kelly. I wanted to buy a copy of it an give to all of my middle school teacher friends.


  3. I realize that I am late to the conversation! I am considering Saga for a college fantasy class (at U of Michigan). Does anyone have experience with how it teaches? This is my for attempt at teaching a fantasy class! Thank you!!!


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