22. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness (245 p.)
23. Sakai, Stan. Senso (Usago Yojimbo) (167 p.)
November total: 412 pages
2015 YTD total: 6,816 pages
Heart of Darkness would've been best paired with Things Fall Apart, as they tell opposite sides of the European colonization of Africa, with similar time frames & locations. Neither is all that sympathetic to the Europeans, but Things Fall Apart is clearly more accurate & nuanced in its portrayals of native culture, as Heart of Darkness is written through the lens of the "white man's burden" to civilize the uncivilized natives still being accepted dogma, even when satirizing some of the worst excesses of the colonists and colonial bureaucracy. The point of Heart of Darkness also isn't its portrayal of the culture, but rather delving into the human psyche and how far it can bend in tough conditions. I was surprised to learn that Heart of Darkness is not-so-loosely based on Conrad's personal travels in Africa and stories of other white travelers he heard about while there. It's shorter than I though it'd be, too; this particular copy (edited by D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke) is half appendices containing contemporary reviews of Conrad in general & Heart of Darkness in particular, as well as contemporary essays about colonial efforts in Africa. It's a little slow in spots, and condensed in others, but it is a solidly good read. Recommended
Senso is built from the premise "What if the events of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds were preceded a couple centuries by a scouting mission that landed in the medieval Japan of Usagi Yojimbo?" The main difference is that Wells is making a point about the futility of war, with the end result being completely out of the protagonist's control, while Sakai is more telling an adventure story that involves the heroes personally winning the day in the end, even if they suffer some setbacks & deaths along the way. It's billed as the last (chronologically) Usagi Yojimbo story, but even if it's officially in-canon it isn't really the last story, because it also directly bridges the gap between Usagi proper and the Space Usagi story. I'd prefer for it to be non-canon--not because of who lives & who dies, primarily but because I don't think a science fiction alien invasion story (complete with a giant Gundam-like robot in an otherwise mostly period-accurate medieval Japan--which is fun, but also more than a bit tongue-in-cheek silly) really works in the overall story of Usagi Yojimbo, though it's fun & enjoyable as a "What if?"-style side story. (I also don't like having any further adventures of Usagi in the main series have to be limited to building towards all of the characters turning out as they did here.) Recommended, as Sakai always writes good stuff, and I liked this story quite a bit, but if you aren't already a fan of War of the Worlds or invasion-style or monster-fighting robots anime/manga like Attack on Titan or the actual Gundam series, you may want to give this one a pass.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf