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The Cartoon History of the Universe II, Volumes 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome (Pt.2) Paperback – September 18, 1994

4.4 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Continuing right where the first book left off, The Cartoon History of the Universe II once again combines Gonick's superb cartooning with the lessons of history. Find out what Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better of Worse, calls "a gift to those of us who love to laugh and who love to learn." Part II contains volumes 8 to 13, from the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome (and India, too!).

From Publishers Weekly

Gonick has done it again with a diffuse but deep excavation into early civilizations from ancient China to the Germanic tribes. In some ways, Gonick asks a lot of American readership's occidental training by detailing every dynastic hotshot from the Orient. This also being a fertile time for the development of religious cults, Gonick spends much time on Christ (whom he insists on calling "Jeshua ben Joseph"), Confucius, (not, one might note, Lao Tsu or K'ung fu-tsze), Buddha and the like. Gonick's main focus is not to outline the contributions that allowed their teachings to survive the centuries, but rather to humanize them, and some come across as fanatical seekers simply looking for a following, a good meal, a wicked battle, a girlfriend or a shower. The artist's style is versatile and engaging, and his asides, puns and parenthetical references do much to keep the reader's attention throughout this tome, but that cannot entirely make up for the fact that some of this history is just plain dry. However, aficionados of cartoon blood, backstabbing, sex and history will love this volume, and might find a place for it near their encyclopedias.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385420935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385420938
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.9 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As with Larry Gonick's other guides he manages to pull off the trick of being both amusing and edifying. He also has the artistic flare for painting history in broad yet revealing brush strokes.
The second instalment of his history of the Universe covers ancient India, China's early years and Rome from its mythical founding to its very real collapse.
Gonick is not afraid to offend. His depictions of Jesus, Krisna, Buddha and Confucius are all less than entirely flattering. While he is not the sort to be disrespectful through ignorance, Gonick will not fail to pick out the more obvious weaknesses of any institution or historical figure he comes across. He even takes a swipe at one of Afrocentrisms unjustified claims. Although in the end he pays due recognition to the achievements of each of these figures it is possibly best to avoid this book if you are the sort to yell "Blasphemy!".
Anybody else who has a sense of humour and an interest in history should get their hands on this book immediately.
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Format: Paperback
Every book in this series is both funny and intelligent. Much of the dumb humor comes from getting the facts straight. Even small details like Galba jumping into his boyfriend's arms after learning that he has been declared emporer is from Tacitus.

This is my favorite by virtue of being about Ancient Rome, its rise as a Republic, the height of Empire and its collapse into the dark ages. The fact that he doesn't flinch from the more scandalous details (such as Tiberius' proclivities towards little boys) or skimp over some of the more interesting controversies of the time (Josephus comes off as a wily con artist) makes it that much more entertaining. And I also would have never read The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire had it not been for this book. And trust me, Edward Gibbons rocks.

Besides, the Western History, Gonick also spends a great deal of time with Indian and Chinese history. One of the major crimes of our education system is the fact that this is all probably very basic material, but the best source for it is probably in a cartoon book. Still, it's a great cartoon book and you can't fault the cartoon book for the deficiencies in other educational venues.
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Format: Paperback
Comics have no limits. Anything can get depicted with words and pictures. And, after Larry Gonick completes his "Cartoon History of the Universe" series, most everything will be. Over the past three decades Gonick has stretched modern comics from the purely fictional into the scientific and historic. He has cartoonified esoteric subjects that would bore most medieval scriveners. Snoozers like statistics, genetics, physics, chemistry (and the one exception, that great unmentionable - blush, blush - puritans look away quick!) come alive like golems to terrorize despisers of knowledge. These collections make learning palatable even for those with Beavis and Butthead mentalities. As such, that unobtainable indefatigable unreachable, almost paradoxical, oxymoron of oxymorons, the "educational comic," seems close to fruition and perfection. Somewhere an educator just gagged. Above all, as if turning the comics industry on its head wasn't enough, Gonick has undertaken his magnum opus: a multivolume chronological multicultural history of our known universe in cartoon form. Overachiever detector! Bzzzt! Bzzzzt!

Book I, volumes 1-7, of this pen and paper masterwork started with a BIG BANG and wormed its way to Alexander the Great's voluminous conquests. Book II, volumes 8 - 13, picks up where it left off, but not before taking a dizzying tour through India and China. Volume eight covers India from Harappa to the Bhagavad-Gita (with its eerie page length depiction of Krishna's "revelation" to Arjuna) and Ashoka with the origins of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism tossed into the cultural salad. Gonick also manages a stunning two page summary of the Mahabharata, the 74,000 verse Hindu epic creation poem. Only comics could pull this off. Volumes 9 and 10 grapple with the infinity of Chinese history.
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Format: Paperback
The Cartoon History of the Universe is an excellent series. Volume two covers history from the death of Alexander the Great through the fall of Rome and includes Chinese history up through around 0 AD.

One thing that I really like about this series is the good research that went into it. Although sources are not given in footnotes or interspersed in the text, there is a bibliography, and Gonick includes enough detail to make it possible to verify the facts he states. So basically it is well written and doesn't use being a comic book as an excuse to be sloppy. I wouldn't feel odd about citing it as a reference on a term paper, and I actually did cite this one. Another nice feature is that humor is usually in the form of little anecdotes that actually happened and not slapstick. History is full of colorful characters (Nero anyone?) and so it can be presented interestingly with a bit of effort and research. Gonick does that here.

I recommend The Cartoon History of the Universe to everybody. The humor and visuals are nice to apply to a subject which can seem like a dull stream of names and dates at times. It is a good supplement to a history class, because it covers in depth some things that tend to only be included in history classes for the sake of political correctness. For example, Gonick's history of China is in depth and covered with the same research and humor as the European history. In most history books the sections on China are very stiff and PC. To me this book is valuable if only for the section on Chinese history.
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