Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: Brahma Dreaming

Namaste readers - as promised, here is my book review of Brahma Dreaming, the new graphic novel (of sorts) by author John Jackson and illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, published by JJ Books.

First off, to better explain the book: it is a collection of Hindu mythology, interpreted through the lens of the author, John Jackson. Therefore the tales within the book are not original creations, as they are mythological tales as old as Hinduism. They are, however, original interpretations, though at this time I couldn't find what Mr. Jackson used as his original source. Being interpreted through a Western lens such as Mr. Jackson's indeed makes these tales easier reading for a Western audience (such as myself). However, as is almost always the case with when tales cross cultures in this manner, some of the authenticity is lost. For many Western readers this won't be that big of an issue, but the reason why it is an issue in the first place is because interpretations can be inconsistent across sources - the events told in Mr. Jackson's versions of the tales here may have things happen differently than the original mythological tales, for one, but it can differ also across different versions of the retelling.

If you're just getting started reading Hindu mythology, however, you could do far worse than Mr. Jackson's versions in Brahma Dreaming. The tales are told with lively prose, great pacing, and a method of organization that warrants reading the book from cover to cover. The organization of the tales is of note here because they are sorted into three categories, "Tales of Creation," "Tales of Destruction," and "Tales of Preservation." These are concurrent with the three main gods of Hinduism, Lords Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, so the tales being sorted into these categories does a lot to help newcomers to Hindu mythology understand not only the chronology of these tales, but their importance. One thing some readers learned in Hindu mythology may gripe over, however, is the length of some of these tales in the book; some of the tales covered in Brahma Dreaming, most notably the tales based on the great Hindu epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are covered only briefly. However, the most important parts of the two aforementioned epics are covered, for rest assured those two epics are long, and a book like Brahma Dreaming couldn't do those epics justice without devoting multiple volumes to it. Think of the tales of Brahma Dreaming as trailers for movies - their purpose is to get readers interested in Hindu mythology, not be exact replicas of the original tales. If you read Brahma Dreaming, you will be interested to find out more about Hindu mythology.

Of course, part of what makes Brahma Dreaming so special as an introduction to Hindu mythology are the illustrations by Ms. Terrazzini. These illustrations are meant to be interpretations of Hindu mythological scenes rendered in the style of the "Golden Age" of graphic printing in Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To say these are striking illustrations is an understatement, and in this case it's a good thing. The illustrations are definitely a unique spin on what pictorial interpretations of scenes in Hindu mythology have traditionally been like, and they are quite beautiful. It's important to note that these illustrations are black and white, with the occasional splash or highlight of color - those who have read Frank Miller's Sin City comic book series may find parallels.

Overall, Brahma Dreaming serves as a great introduction to Hindu mythology for those interested in it. While it's not comprehensive by any stretch, it does enough to stoke curiosity in its readers to uncover more about these great stories. Brahma Dreaming is available in both hardback and eBook editions.

Brahma Dreaming
By John Jackson 
Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Published by JJ Books
RRP: UK £3.99/US $5.99 

ISBN: 978-0-9569212-8-4

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