Hey guys, I’m going to try to make the review thing a more regular feature – let me know if you like it. Today I’ve got a novel and a fairly new graphic novel up on the table.

PERFUME
by Patrick Suskind

The deal: Perfume is the novel on which the recent 2006 movie was based. I actually haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. This review’s going to be about the book in and of itself.

The summary: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is about a serial killer named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. It is a work of fiction, but it’s written as a biography, following Grenouille from birth onwards. There are two things unique about our murderous protagonist: he has a superhuman sense of smell, and he possesses no smell of his own. It’s this second property that sees a nursemaid reject him – she rails on that he’s unnatural, he has no smell, all babies have smell. He eventually apprentices himself to the master of a tannery, and then to a perfumer. This is where the story really begins. Always a little strange, now madness grips him. The rest of the novel is about the unbelievable up and down spiral of his life as his quest leads him on a quiet murderous rampage.

The review: This book is really good. I don’t honestly know if the movie did it justice, but it’s an easy read – I did it in an evening – and it’s gripping. Before I get into the good stuff, I’ll go ahead and say that there is a period of a chapter or two where the story unfortunately drags – the only thing pulling the story along is the knowledge that something HAS to happen next. That aside … Suskind does a good job of immersing us in the period, and even his writing style helps us to feel that we’re in Grenouille’s era. His understanding of industries – earlier, tanning hides, and later on the perfume industry, lends itself to fascinating passages about how one takes the smells from things. His description of smell, a sense often overlooked in writing, is unparalleled as far as I’m concerned. All of these are merely gems fixed in the crown of the story, though – which is, in all honesty, the story of a very disturbed man and the very unusual way in which he kills people. As important as the how of the murders is the why – it is an undercurrent that slowly rises to the surface and eventually builds into a brilliant climax at the end of the book.

The recommendation: Man, read it. That’s all I can say. Definitely worth it. I will say that people who are squeamish about the weird probably shouldn’t bother, although really they should shelve the squeamishness and read it anyway, haha.

From Vintage, novel, $13.95

AMULET
by Kazu Kibuishi

The deal: Amulet is a fantasy story in the spirit of Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia and all the other fantasy stories of our youth. This book is actually Volume 1 of an ongoing series, with this installment titled The Stonekeeper – I read Yuko’s copy. Thanks Yuko!

The summary: Amulet is the story of Em and Navin, two kids who have recently moved into a new house with their mother. Em stumbles upon her great grandfather’s study, where she finds a mysterious amulet. Soon after, their mother is kidnapped and taken through a door to another world, where – guided by the amulet – the siblings begin their adventure.

The review: There’s a lot to say about Amulet. It is an all-ages book aimed at children, which is why the dark opening was a little jarring. Em witnesses to the death of her father, and I won’t say much more than that – the scene speaks for itself. I actually do have some gripes about the book, but it’s the hesitant sort – mostly, it’s about the stock use of fantasy mores. Looking at movies coming out now and in the past few years, combined with the types of fantasy books that have enjoyed a resurgence, it’s clear what the demographic for this book is. At the same time, the book is aimed largely at children, and the use of the same fantasy mores I’m complaining about is actually rather deft – it’s just not surprising. The story (after the Prologue, which really did throw me – MAN is it tragic) follows a fairly logical chain of events. (I should say that something interesting regarding the nature of the amulet begins to surface towards the end of the book, but you’ll have to find out for yourself – on that point, I do find myself very curious.)

But enough about what I didn’t like – let’s talk about the rest.

The first thing to know about one of Kazu Kibuishi’s books is that you are going to be reading a very pretty book. It’s just a pleasure to look at, especially the use of color (the book is full-color, beautifully so). The second thing to know about Kibuishi is that his creature and machine designs are always fresh, surprising, and inventive. There’s certain things you learn about over the course of the book that, if you flip backwards, you’ll realize were always there – just very well hidden. That attention to detail goes a long way. Also – my complaints about the content of the story aside – the storytelling itself is really very good. The panels flow nicely.

The other thing to note is that this book is published by Scholastic. Scholastic is a very respected publisher, so to see them going out on a limb and printing graphic novels (I noticed their graphic novel imprint is called Graphix) is really nice to see.

The recommendation: It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a big fan of the current trend in fantasy, then you don’t want to miss this. Kids with a destiny, monsters, machines, adventure and more – Amulet is pretty packed.

From Scholastic, graphic novel, $9.95

This entry was posted on Monday, March 10th, 2008 at 12:01 AM and is filed under Rant, Review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

55 Comments

Comment by Kismet
2008-03-10 00:19:12

Perfume is one of my very favorite novels — we read it in my sophomore English class. I adored it so much, and I’m glad you got to read it! It took me less than a week to finish it. I haven’t seen the movie, it’s rated R and that is le forbidden in my high school xD

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-10 00:29:08

Hahaha, you read the novel in 10th grade but can’t watch the movie? The book is so graphic.

That’s … hilarious.

Comment by Kismet
2008-03-11 10:51:28

It was my teacher’s first time teaching the class, and he didn’t read any of the books before we did. We figured out all the graphic stuff around the same time he did.

Ooooops.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:26:14

HAHAHA, awesome.

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Comment by ariel
2008-03-11 23:55:16

lol. Oh well. I guess Perfume IS, however, better than some of the regular high school fare. All that existentialist crap made my suicidal tendencies a little harder to ignore…

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Comment by Rachael
2008-03-10 01:16:15

I saw Perfume in theaters. Not one I’d recommend seeing. I thought it was weird, and the ending was definitely the weirdest part out of the whole movie.

Now I haven’t read the book, mainly because I didn’t know there was one. I only saw it because we talked about “Das Parfüm” in my German class which is the same movie, but in German. I think I will check the book out to see if the book it better than the movie. Usually books are. *nod*

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:28:29

From what people have been posting, the book doesn’t seem too different from the movie – it might just not be your cup of tea. If the movie was an ordeal, I’d hate to be the one that put you through a repeat …

Comment by Rachael
2008-03-11 19:29:27

Yeah, maybe not my taste. Everyone who’s posted about the movie loved it except me. haha.

Comment by Qamar
2008-03-14 07:20:37

The book is a lot weirder than the movie but easier to understand. Since the whole book is about smells thats really hard to show in a movie. Plus in the book Grenouille is a cold, fugly psycho, in the movie he seems way to harmless.
Can’t say anything about the english versions though, seen and read both in german.

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2008-03-10 02:15:30

Just commenting that I like the weekly review ordeal.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:28:52

Cool, thanks for letting me know!

 
 
Comment by Rosey175
2008-03-10 03:00:00

I like the reviews~ I don’t think I ever would have found Densha Otoko otherwise, and I absolutely loved it.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-10 04:03:31

Really? Glad to hear it! I’ll keep at these, then.

Comment by Fabs
2008-03-10 10:50:18

Yep. You should definitely keep at the reviews. And I think it’s a good idea that you don’t mention only comic books but also talk about literature.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:29:14

Ahaha, it’s all literature to me. ;)

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Comment by Fabs
2008-03-11 14:18:03

Hah! Saying something like that may come easy to you. I’m German dude, keeping things systematically divided and strictly organized is an ancient caveman instict we’ll never be able to fully let go of. ;o)

 
 
 
 
 
Comment by brew
2008-03-10 03:02:04

I actually enjoyed the movie, it was paced beautifully and flowed really well. Didn’t know it was based on a book, but now I’m going to go check that out as well!

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-10 04:02:38

Hmm, maybe I should catch the movie then!

 
 
Comment by LorienvArden
2008-03-10 03:18:28

I saw the movie first and later enjoyed the book as an audiobook on a long drive.
Inmo. the Movie captured the novel very well. Of course it is not complete but it does a whole lot to convey all the scents that you are supposed to smell. Visually stunning, well narated and true to the book.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-10 04:02:57

You too? I think I’ll have to watch the movie for sure.

 
 
Comment by Phishmonger
2008-03-10 06:22:53

I’ve got to say, your reviews are very well written,balanced, and very informative, something I appreciate in this world of butt-hole critics. Keep up the good work!
PS: Love the comic too. Keep doing that as well. ;D

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:30:41

Thanks! I’m trying to take an even keel here – if I come across something really awful then I will probably dismantle it, but lucky for you guys I tend to screen things before I read ’em. XD

 
 
Comment by tayker
2008-03-10 06:31:44

Haven’t read the book, but I really liked the movie “Perfume.” If anyone has a problem following a story, and the attention span of a gnat, then they won’t like the movie.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:31:00

Hahaha! Point taken.

 
 
Comment by Ania
2008-03-10 06:34:16

The movie Perfume was really good, the end like others have said is really quite shocking and not something you should watch with kids around but i think its supposed to be because everything he is is abnormal and different and makes an impact and takes people out of their comfort zones, anyway i am glad you reviewed the book because then more people will take the effort to either read or watch it!

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 11:31:56

That’s actually a great way to put it – it takes people out of their comfort zones. The book does for sure. Thanks for the insight!

 
 
Comment by Eva
2008-03-10 13:22:33

I saw the movie with a group of seven; three of us had read the book, four hadn’t. Those of us who’d read it agreed that it was a beautiful piece of cinematography and the acting was good, but they left one or two few key elements that made the book understandable (in part because it would have been difficult to work them into the narration of the movie). Those who hadn’t read the book… were somewhat confused and weirded out. Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and think it’s worth seeing if you liked the book, but the book itself remains near unparalleled in my life.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:06:19

Thanks! From what you and everyone else has been saying, I should probably give the movie a look.

 
 
Comment by Ben
2008-03-10 15:04:38

I’m glad to see that the film hits well and that the book has traveled from Europe to the US. I read the book in highschool, wich was 10 years ago and it was already (in Belgium and countries around that is) seen as a classic masterpiece and a must read for the students in literature class. I never thought that it would make it to the big screen, seeing how the novel is quite bizarre. I haven’t seen the movie but hearing from other people that its actually quite close to the book, gives me new hope for the film industry :)

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:08:24

Wow, it was part of the reading list!

Has anyone read this as part of curriculum as part of the American school system? I’m curious.

 
 
Comment by Indoolio
2008-03-10 18:15:39

Haha, wow. I honestly loved this book. It’s still one of my favourites to this day. The reviews are cool, and given you pretty much said everything I thought about the book, you seem to have this review thing down.

I’ll be wary about the movie. I’d like to see it, but honestly, it’d have to be an amazing movie to be able to capture the role that scent plays. I dunno. The narration in the book played a huge role, and I don’t know how that can be translated to a movie… I’ll get around to seeing it eventually though.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:10:37

I wondered the same thing, but given visuals like the one on the movie poster,

http://restobiz.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/perfume_poster.jpg

I feel that they’re at least doing something unique to convey the sense of smell that played such a heavy role in the book. I think my curiousity is going to win out on this one …

 
 
Comment by joblank
2008-03-10 19:17:14

I read the book, extremely disturbing, not for the faint of heart. It was very good, I did find the pace in the beginning a little sluggish. Not a beginner book definetly for the advanced reader with a strong stomach.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:12:49

It IS pretty weird, but people ought to read weird books once in a while.

It does start off a little slow, which is why the title is so important – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – lets us know that we there’s a payoff coming.

 
 
Comment by Hoshi
2008-03-11 06:40:54

ohhh, I’ll check out Amulet next time I’m at Borders or something. I definitely love the reviews, and I agree that it’s a good thing to not keep it to one genre or medium. Thanks for the reccommendations!

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:13:28

Cool, hope you like it! The printing is real sexy, the cover is matte and the paper stock for the pages is nice and heavy.

 
 
Comment by kanirniq
2008-03-11 09:32:53

They did a movie! That is so cool. I read the book back around 97’ish and love to throw it at people. A very good read! I will definitely go looking for the movie now.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:14:16

I actually read it within the past year, but I’ve been lending my copy out to everyone I can ever since.

 
 
Comment by Ro
2008-03-11 12:13:30

Thanks for the review of the book. I keep seeing it at my local comic book store and have been hesitant on buying it. From your review, I think I would enjoy reading it. I’ll definitely pick it up next time I go.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-11 12:14:34

Awesome, glad I could help!

 
 
Comment by ariel
2008-03-11 23:51:12

Warning: spoilers.

Just so you know, the movie Perfume was absolutely amazing. Definitely one of my favorite movies ever (although I’m hesitant to tell you what other movies I loved as much…). Three quarters of the way through is [MAN, that wasn’t a spoiler, that was the end of the book and the movie in it’s entirety. Removed, sorry. -Ananth]

Comment by ariel
2008-03-14 00:41:42

^_^;;; sorry. There’s just no real way to describe the awesomeness without giving it away. I don’t know how critics do it.

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-14 15:28:40

No worries! Just want to let people have a chance to experience it for themselves. :D

 
 
 
Comment by Arcturus
2008-03-12 00:29:25

I believe the song “Scentless Apprentice” from Nirvana’s In Utero album was supposed to be somehow derived from that book.

Arcturus

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-12 17:56:39

Oh wow, thanks! I’ll check the song out.

 
 
Comment by nico
2008-03-12 00:48:18

Oh wow, excellent review for the Perfume! I haven’t read it nor watched the movie, but you’ve successfully convinced me to get the book. ^_^

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-12 17:57:20

Enjoy! :D

 
 
Comment by Yama
2008-03-12 01:43:39

Oh it’s been so long since I last read that book. In school like many others here. I even got the rare chance to talk to the author, a very shy man but highly intelligent and the little work he’s done he’s done great.

I too appreciate those reviews of yours, keep it up!

Comment by Ananth
2008-03-12 17:57:39

WOW! That must have been real cool.

 
 
Comment by Travis Webbwerx
2008-03-12 13:49:59

I loved perfume it has some the best use of descriptive theme ever in a novel. I bought the movie but I have been afraid to watch it. It’s good to know that I am not the only one who read it.

 
Comment by Lindy
2008-03-13 11:22:05

I’ve now read Densha Otoko and seen the movie and watched perfume. I found both very interesting and I wouldn’t have found either if you hadn’t reviewed them, thanks. I need to get the book for perfume sometime, I’d like to see how it differs from the movie.

 
Comment by Kinton
2008-03-13 20:03:56

Perfume is one of my favorite novels (and I’ve got a collection big enough that it warrents its own room in my house). Honestly, you should see the movie. They did a bit of embellishing, but unfortunatly, with American movie audiances, this is somewhat a neccessity. It did the book a fair amount of justice though, and included *the* scene.

 
Comment by Kinton
2008-03-13 20:05:04

Also, look into “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Another absolutely amazing book that rocked my world the first time i read it.

 
Comment by Meister J
2008-04-01 02:28:16

it’s been a while since i’ve commented here, and saddly since i’ve read AG with my computer being dead and all so this wasa happy find, along with all the other reviews i’ve seen whilst perusing the blog history.

So, a month late, but that’s alright, i hope. I enjoyed Perfume. I had to read it back in 11th grade for IB English. It was so much fun to read because of the potential for darkness and horror in the story. The entire concept was disturbing, but everyone in my IB class and the other class[es] that had to read it were gripped by the story. We’d never been assigned such an out there story so this was s fun read. I remember hearing that when the movie came out the majority of the viewers one night were IB English students who all wanted to see if the movie measured up to the book in any form.

 
Comment by Serranos
2008-04-23 12:07:14

Well it seems as Amulet is going to be turned into a Warner Brothers movie.

 

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