So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The Blue Lotus. Hergé

The Blue Lotus is a sequel to Cigars of the Pharaoh, in which Tintin struggled with an international gang of smugglers in north Africa and India. In the current volume, the intrigue with the smugglers takes Tintin from India to Shanghai where his life is constantly in danger as the smugglers try to stop him from finding a cure for their secret poison of madness. There is a racial bias in this volume in favor of the Chinese of Shanghai over the British and Japanese who are portrayed as scheming and self-centered. Hergé must have sympathized with these colonized people who were being threatened by rising Japanese aggression.

Tintin's friendly adversaries, the twin Thompson brothers, detectives, make their appearance in this volume and there is a very funny scene where they try to disguise themselves as Chinese in pre-reform costumes and become the center of attention. However, the heroes of the book are the elderly Wang and young Chang, two remarkably clever and resourceful allies.

This series is great at portraying the world between the two great wars in a way that is simple yet respectful. The adventures are well crafted and the color illustrations are sumptuous in detail. Shanghai really comes to life in this book with its opium dens, busy streets, and tea shops.

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