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The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel Hardcover – December 3, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2013: If The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is to be believed, the primitive days of our planet were icy landscapes drawn with thick, stark lines and highlighted with the careful use of bold colors. This beautiful comic, Isabel Greenberg's first, pulls on stories from cultural and religious traditions--Genesis, Nordic legends, Greek myths--as well as the work of other influential cartoonists--Kate Beaton, Seth, Jason--to create something unique and timeless. The stories here are imbued with such wit and heart: Two lovers--one from the North Pole, the other from the South--cannot come within two feet of each other because of their polar magnetization; an old woman defeats a giant with her storytelling; a cartographer is aided by three "genius monkeys from the Island of What." Greenberg uses our familiarity with archetypes to play with our expectations, bending these layered stories into something strange and delightful. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a journey that takes us from one end of the Earth to the other--just perhaps in the direction you'd least expect. --Kevin Nguyen

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*Starred Review* A loving homage to storytelling itself, Greenberg’s first graphic novel isn’t an encyclopedia at all but an intricately crafted mythology told from within a young man’s grand adventure. Split into three beings as a baby, the boy(s) find his (their) way back into one, though he is missing a tiny but crucial piece of his soul. In search of that tiny piece, he journeys farther from the snowy northern lands of his home than anyone before and encounters Greenberg’s powerfully realized imaginary cultures. Along the way, he shares and accumulates tales that encompass creation, cataclysm, war, jealousy, and compassion, even as the overarching story follows him and his great love to their own poignant end. Sewing in her own sly humor, Greenberg deeply immerses readers in the themes and lessons of world mythology, but she remarkably never merely apes classic myths—the way each of Early Earth’s cultures tweaks the same ideas and characters for their own myths is a veritable lesson in comparative theology. Just as essentially evocative is her art, which uses simple, childlike illustrations to channel the power of ancient cave paintings and archetypal images from our own imaginations. A unique, compelling stunner from one to watch. --Jesse Karp
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (December 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316225819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316225816
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Isabel Greenberg came out of nowhere for me, and I'm so glad I found her. It's hard to believe this is her first graphic novel. "The Encyclopedia of Early Earth" is unique in a lot of ways. It pulls off a text-heavy format better than many comics I've seen, with really snappy prose. The artwork is simple, with a measured use of color that really makes it pop off the page. The story is full of love and magic and all the things that make a really good fable. That said, in keeping with that fable-esque tone, the characters sometimes lack depth. However, they're always interesting to read about.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Encyclopedia of Early Earth" written by Isabel Greenberg is intriguing book that combines the comic format and interesting story about the ancient civilization that existed before our own, on this planet.

Inside this graphic novel reader can found many stories that are told by boy who is member of fictional culture while he's on an expedition from North to South Pole where he'll meet his love, though their love won't be completely happy.
Reason being our planet has provided them different fate than the one they want, while Earth magnetic field will prevent them to ever touch again.

And while his life is passing, full of solitude and longing for a distant love, a man from North will tell us many stories, to fulfill the emptiness because he cannot be with his beloved...

The stories author delivered in his Encyclopedia fit perfectly into each other, while author delivers one myth after the other, many times bringing smile on reader's lips.
The novel illustrations have been made in an interesting way, usually in black and white technique, sometimes combining them with other colors when author wants to point out something, producing innocent looking pictures even in situations when the story will be bitter.

Although many myths that can be found inside will be known to reader, the author combined them with some unknown stories, and using above mentioned humor all together results in compilation that looks interesting and modern.

Therefore, this unusual experiment that made good use of graphical novel form in a literary way can be both recommend to young and older readers; given its genre is difficult to determine I recommend you to give it a chance if you like comics, mythology or drama because a bit of everything of these you can find inside.
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By Debbie Fong on September 8, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was my introduction to indie comics and years later I still go back to it from time to time. The woodblock-style artwork is so lovely and works perfectly to tell these 'olden tales', which are so incredibly creative in themselves. These are all-ages stories that I personally thoroughly enjoyed (as a 25-year-old). Can't get enough of Isabel Greenberg's work. Props to Jonathan Cape and their short graphic story contest for helping artists like her get their start.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The art is simple but visually powerful, more impactful than typically assembly-line-looking superhero stuff. The stories are adaptations of Biblical tales (Noah, Babel, etc) but fun in this new context. I enjoyed it a lot as a heartful, romantic yarn.
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Format: Hardcover
Books like this is the main reason why I don't read everything on Kindle: the large format is magical! It will probably take no more than 2 hours to read every story of the book, but you could look at pictures for days and ponder the archetypes used in the book for years. The quality of writing is excellent: ancient myths (also biblical) are reimagined in new circumstances and retold in a contemporary film language, There are also some myths that probably are invented by the author but have that ancient feel. In a way this is similar to Michael Ende's "Neverending Story" which is the highest compliment I could give to a book (warning: the Encyclopeadia is wonderful but not THAT exceptional). Writing is non-linear, in places - encyclopedic, but somehow, having read the whole book, there is an impression of an almost coherent whole.
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Format: Hardcover
In The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Isabel Greenberg has crafted an inviting chronicle consisting of the fantastic and the familiar. It's the story of a Nord man discovering his soul mate on the other side of the world, and is also the story of everything that ever came before including the beginning of time itself. Some of the origin stories you'll be accustomed to since many of them mirror what's written in various religious texts. And being able to recognize where humanity's collective stories intersect with Greenberg's imagination assuredly adds to the enjoyment.
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Format: Hardcover
This is such a strange book. It's an interlinked set of fanciful stories based on various ancient mythologies, from Greek to Scandinavian to First Nations, wrapped within a story about the journey of a boy to find the missing piece of his soul. It's hilarious and quirky (two gods named Kid and Kiddo, really?!) but without being one note, as Greenberg pulls together so many tales that you think you're going to recognize, then find something fresh.

My guy couldn't read the hand lettering, but if your eyes will work with it, try the first 20-30 pages and see what you think. These days, it's rare that I read a graphic novel which strikes me as completely unique, and this one did.
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