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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Reader's Diary #1120- James Turner: Rex Libris/ I, Librarian



I, Librarian is the first in James Turner's Rex Libris graphic novel series. Though set in modern times, Rex has been a librarian since the days of ancient Egypt. As were many of the other immortal characters in the book.

It's eccentric as hell, though the main plot really isn't more complicated than Rex tracking down an overdue book. It's on the other side of the galaxy sure, but that doesn't pose much of a problem for Rex. Nor do the weird robot/alien/snowmen he encounters. In all honesty, I kind of wish there had been more difficult-to-overcome obstacles in the book. There was a lot of build up for some pretty mild action.

That being said, I did appreciate Turner's brand of quirk. A talking, sarcastic, trouble-making songbird as a mascot is always a nice touch. As are frequent breaks of the fourth wall courtesy of Rex's editor, Barry, who Rex debates with about certain unreliable and questionable details.

The toying with librarian stereotypes (they all wear thick-rimmed glasses, of course) may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's all harmless and clearly in jest. Plus, the real library trivia (Ranganathan's 5 Laws of Library Science, anyone?) should be enough to satisfy at least some in the profession.

The artwork is also not run of the mill. The pictures are blocky, highly stylized, thickly inked, and it reminded me of 1940s propaganda art. I don't have any art background, so I'm sure I'm doing a poor job of explaining it, but you might get a sense of what I mean by checking out Turner's website.

4 comments:

Nicola Mansfield said...

Now, this is something I haven't heard of before! Sounds cool! Love the art.

John Mutford said...

Nicola: Well, now I guess I've returned the favour, because it was you I first learned of that other library graphic novel (manga) series, Library Wars.

Eric P said...

I read this one and the follow-up Book of Monsters. I wasn't quite satisfied with them. Maybe too many meta-levels (I found the editor's rantings kind of tedious). However, there is a pretty cool figurine of Rex Libris, but of course it is difficult to find in Canada.

Eric P said...

I thought I would follow up with a comment on Ajvaz's The Other City, which reads a bit like Rex Libris if it were a novel written by a continental philosopher. Personally, I find there is no dramatic tension in a novel that lacks intelligible ground rules -- apparently anything can happen in this novel, including being attacked by land-sharks. But you might find it interesting try to extend Borges' impossible libraries with a large helping of structuralism.

I posted about it in the second half of this post: http://erics-hangout.blogspot.ca/2014/06/literary-disappointments-part-ii.html
However, the short formulation is this: The Other City = Borges + The Never-Ending Story + Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 + Cronenberg's take on Naked Lunch + a sprinkling of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos