You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the sDear Ursula Le Guin,
You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the same name. I know it is not the favourite of many of my friends who love your work too, and I don't know if I can even call it a favourite, but I accepted Gifts from you at the perfect time, much as I've accepted your other works.
When all my fantasy worlds were filled with too obvious expressions of god vs. evil, and I was struggling with the binary world view I was being fed, you gave me Sparrowhawk, showing me a manifestation of the contradictions I felt in myself. Sparrowhawk was neither good nor evil. He was. And there was no character like Sparrowhawk or book like A Wizard of Earthsea that I could find when I accepted your gift.
When I was struggling with my sexuality and fighting off indoctrinated prejudices that betrayed my core and made me a homophobe despite my bisexuality, you painted a picture of gender I couldn't have imagined until you revealed it to me on the cold landscapes of Gethen, teaching me a tolerance on an ice planet so like my own. And I learned that tolerance not just for others, but above all for myself.
When I needed to aspire to something better, you gave me the only character in literature I wished (and still wish) I could be. Yes, many would pick Jesus, or Buddha or Muhammed, but for me the character was(is) Shevek. I can imagine a future where the only surviving book is The Dispossessed and a new religion forms around the scientist from Annares. But before that happens I will simply strive to live as Shevek lived, strive to be like Shevek was. I will approach our world with eyes open to its inequities and refuse to be silenced -- even when no one can hear my voice for the din.
Those gifts you bestowed are more than I could ever hope to gain from any author, and here you've given me another. Gifts may be the most emotionally satisfying gift you've given me, Ursula. It didn't make me cry, or reduce me to deep depression, or lift me to places of unfettered joy, or fill me with spiritual uplift, but it was a place of quiet peace, wherein Orrec's telling of his story was perfectly suited to the simplicity of the betrayals and sacrifices that shaped his life -- deep and personal and true and satisfying. I have heard that Voices is even better, but I find that hard to believe because I have not read a better book than Gifts in a good, long time.
So thank you, Ursula, for being the author of my heart. I hope I get to stand in your presence some day. You are one of my heroes, and I love you.
I'm rereading my Taltos books these days, and my reread of Yendi didn't do it any kindness. It was an okay way to spend a few sleepless nights, but II'm rereading my Taltos books these days, and my reread of Yendi didn't do it any kindness. It was an okay way to spend a few sleepless nights, but I very nearly set it down. I suppose I kept going out of nostalgia, but it made me sad.
Now I knew, I know, going into these books that they are readable and fun, but they are also fairly light weight. Yendi is too light weight, however. Sure we get to see the coming together of Cawti and Vlad, but it didn't come anywhere near satisfying me this time, and it felt way too rushed. Sure there was plenty of Loiosh and Vlad wit in their psionic conversations, but the banter has already entered the precious (which is particularly annoying considering this is a prequel to Jhereg). Sure there was lots of intrigue, but the intrigue was way too forced, and if I had been faced with just one more Vlad-speaking-his-thoughts-aloud-while-his-friends-listen-attentively figuring it out scenes I would have screamed my house awake.
Some things are better left alone. So do I stop now? Or do I press on in my plan to reread with the belief that most of the books really are better than this one?
I am going to regret my decision, I think. ...more
I refuse to look at what I said about this book the last time I read it for fear of influencing what I have to say this time around, but I will certaiI refuse to look at what I said about this book the last time I read it for fear of influencing what I have to say this time around, but I will certainly do so once I have posted my thoughts.
My thoughts: total bafflement that my second time through Jhereg was like the first time through. The only two things I remembered about the story were Vlad Taltos, our first-person narrating criminal mastermind/assassin and his Lockheed-like dragon, Loiosh. Other than that I didn't remember a thing. It was like reading it for the first time, and I have to say the experience was a touch off-putting.
It is rare for me to reread a book without the entire plot, most of the characterization and even some of the dialogue flooding back, but so little of Jhereg stuck with me that it all felt new. It makes me wonder about the authorial skill of Steven Brust. I have introduced countless friends to his work, specifically his collaboration Freedom and Necessity, but to the Taltos books too, yet I found myself wondering all the way through this if he is as sustaining as a bowl of fried rice at an MSG-laden Chinese Food restaurant. Is he just hollow calories? Perhaps.
But I can't help thinking, "Who cares?" I love fried rice at bad Chinese food restaurants. Sure it isn't real Chinese food. It doesn't stick with me. But I fucking love it while I am eating it, and I find myself craving it again and again. The same holds true for me with Vlad Taltos and his machinations in Adrilankha.
I am going to go out on a limb here, though, and say something potentially inciting to super-Brust-fans: I get a feeling good old Steve writes his Taltos books as hollow reading calories on purpose. I think he wants us to forget what happened beyond our fondness for the books so we can read them fresh every time. I think his hack-i-ness, for want of a better term, is absolutely intentional. So he isn't an author of hollow calories, but a Chef who knows when to make an airy special for the night in the hopes of packing the booths with bums.
Be offended if you like, but keep this in mind: if what I have said is true I love him for it even more than I already did. And if you read Freedom and Necessity you'll see where that true love comes from. ...more
I found myself back in Paris this winter because my 10 year old son, the indomitable Miloš, took on The Three Musketeers for his essay, and I read itI found myself back in Paris this winter because my 10 year old son, the indomitable Miloš, took on The Three Musketeers for his essay, and I read it in support. It is my sixth or seventh reading, but I haven't read it in a while so I honestly can't remember which reading it is, not that it matters. I had quite the experience this time through.
In the past I have been obsessed with the treatment of Milady de Winter -- both Dumas' treatment of her and the Musketeers' treatment of her -- but this time I was much more focused on the Musketeers themselves. Most if not all of that can be chalked up to Miloš' essay topic. About half way through he was zeroing in on the fact that the Musketeers, particularly Athos and D'Artagnan (who begins the tale unattached then turns Guard then turns Musketeer) are vastly less than heroic. So my reading went down the same path, and damn are they an ugly bunch.
I've spoken and written of their iniquities in the past, so I'll leave the listing of their bad behaviours aside, but I will say that I was struck most profoundly -- once again -- by the way pop culture has twisted the Inseparables.
I am sure that Dumas' didn't conceive of them as humorous, sexy, devil-may-care, lily white, honourable or even upstanding heroes. He conceived of them as flawed men living in a flawed society, busy taking advantage of whatever they could to get ahead, get in a bed, get rich or richer or forget their pasts. Sure they are fun to read when they have a rare sword or musket fight (and there are precious few when you consider the page count of this book), but so much of who they are is so unsavoury that, as Miloš said to me, "they can't be heroes." No. They really can't.
I wonder if we started a petition of literary fans if we could get HBO to produce a version of the Musketeers that makes them appear as they truly are, though I doubt it. BBC has succeeded in making their time dirtier and grungier, and even made Cardinal Richelieu vastly more nasty than Dumas intended, but their Musketeers are as charming as ever Hollywood made them. I, for one, would rather see the nasty Musketeers. I want to see them as they were conceived by Dumas. That would be something. ...more
I went through most of my life not knowing that The Moon is Down even existed. I haven't been the most fervent fan of John Steinbeck, so that could beI went through most of my life not knowing that The Moon is Down even existed. I haven't been the most fervent fan of John Steinbeck, so that could be the explanation, but in all the classes I've been in, in all the discussions of Steinbeck's work or dicussions of stories of WWII, I've never heard of this book.
When I stumbled upon it in my local used book shop I couldn't help wondering why it was new to me. I figured it must just be a terrible book, unworthy of attention, a rare Steinbeck failure, but I went ahead and bought it anyway (it was only a buck and a quarter). Then it sat on my shelf for a couple of years.
I dragged it along with me to the Caribbean (where we're staying for 2014-2015), determined to give it a crack on the beach sometime. That time was over the Christmas break, and within about twenty pages I was trying to figure out the real reason for my ignorance of this book because it isn't a failure on the part of Steinbeck.
The Moon is Down is sparing, as are all of Steinbeck's novellas, and there is a beauty in his chosen simplicity. The cast of scantily drawn characters seems to be a deliberate part of that simplicity. It is as though Steinbeck wants us to find ourselves in any or all of the men and women who inhabit this little world of Conquerors and (Un-)Conquered, Vanquished and (Un-)Vanquished, so he spares us too much detail that could get in the way of our ability to relate. And herein may lie the reason why The Moon is Down has been pushed to the fringes of Steinbeck's work, because the characters (at least two thirds of them) that Steinbeck wants us to relate to are Nazis inhabiting a town in the midst of WWII.
We all know the discomfort that comes with being able to empathize with or relate to Nazi characters, but that discomfort can only be intensified by the fact that Steinbeck himself never gives his occupiers the name Nazi. The only place the word Nazi appears on my book, in fact, is on the back cover. I imagine anyone reading this book when it was released, or even folks who might read the book now without a back cover-spoiler, would be angered when they realized that the Nazis of Steinbeck's novella are not so different from they themselves or from their troops that might this very second be occupying another place somewhere in the world. Occupiers as hated by the Occupied as Steinbeck's Nazis in The Moon is Down.
I'd be willing to wager a pay cheque (don't get excited, that's practically nothing these days), that Steinbeck's book has been quietly set aside because of that very discomfort, which is a shame because it is telling an important story that I am better for having read. ...more
I am going to start with the big reveal at the end of the book. As some friends of mine around here have pointed out it was not much of a reveal; moreI am going to start with the big reveal at the end of the book. As some friends of mine around here have pointed out it was not much of a reveal; moreover, it didn't have the power of inevitability, of being a driving force or a shaper of things, nor did it really impact what had come before in any way. Yet its very presence, the attempt made by Maria V. Snyder was a distinct positive, so for all its clumsiness I am going to call it a success (for me at least).
Whew! Now that I've handled that, I can talk about Yelena and Valek. Yelena first: there was almost nothing to dislike about her. She was an immensely capable heroine, smart (and I thought there was just enough thickness of thought, just enough blurring of the things she should have been able to see but couldn't because of her own flaws to make her intelligence realistic), she's capable, she's strong and strong-willed, and she's likable. Even better, the way she deals with what's put before her -- from killing Reyad to becoming the Commander's taster to dealing with Valek -- rings true emotionally. Snyder clearly loves her heroine, and it makes it easy for us to fall in love (or at least like) with her too.
Valek is a different matter. We're trained in literature and film to love characters like Valek. The utterly capable, inflappable, unstoppable, perfectly loyal, sexy-as-hell, damn near perfect hero figure with just enough of an edge (he's an assassin, you know) to make us call him flawed (though in Valek's case that is a stretch) and make us love him even more. I have to admit that in the midst of the story I did fall in love with him (and a threesome with him, Yelena and myself may have crossed my mind in the quiet of the night), but once I stepped back from the story for a while, once I was out from under its spell, I found myself annoyed with Valek. Of all the fantasy elements in Poison Study his perfection might be the most fantastic and the most unbelievable. I still like him, but my love dissipated with the closing of the pages, and I will approach him with much more wariness next time around.
And there will definitely be a next time because Magic Study is sitting in my bhig tupperware box of soon to be read. ...more
I needed a new series to make me fall in love with a clever detective (informer) all over again, and I really wanted it to be the M Didius Falco serieI needed a new series to make me fall in love with a clever detective (informer) all over again, and I really wanted it to be the M Didius Falco series. The long and short of it is that Lindsey Davis failed to make me fall in love. It was more like a mild like. I can't see myself coming back for more of this series.
I came looking for a genuine mystery. I was hoping for some Raymond Chandler style Roman detection, or some brooding Henning Mankell style Roman detection, or even some frustrating Ian Rankin style Roman detection. What I got was Moonlighting meets Remington Steele meets Hollywood-sword-and-sandal-romantic-mystery-lightness.
It's not horrible (I bet it would make a cracking and very watchable TV series), but not for me. ...more
Like most everyone, I am hoping that J.J. Abrams Episode VII will return some of the joy and wonder to the Star Wars Galaxy, but I am afraid the hopeLike most everyone, I am hoping that J.J. Abrams Episode VII will return some of the joy and wonder to the Star Wars Galaxy, but I am afraid the hope is more -less than -ful. I think, though, that my hopelessness is connected to my sadness over the loss of Timothy Zahn's fantastic work in the Star Wars milieu.
While George Lucas was kicking me in the balls with Jar Jar Binks and pissy Anakin, Timothy Zahn was rubbing and tugging me with Grand Admiral Thrawn and the marvelous Mara Jade. I much preferred the latter treatment, and I am terribly sad to see Zahn's work de-canonized by Star Wars-Disney.
Allegiance is a fun little side trip into Zahn's Star Wars backwater, and it was a nice reminder of what it is I am going to be missing when the movie machine takes over the Galaxy again.
Allegiance is smack in between Star Wars (you may call it "New Hope." I will not) and Empire Strikes Back, with a group of Stormtroopers (who are suddenly as talented with their blasters as Obi-Wan led us to believe all those years ago) who go rogue -- though not rebellious -- when they witness a massacre led by the Empire's nasty intelligence services.
Meanwhile, Han and Leia and Luke and Chewie are busy doing a bunch of Rebellious stuff.
While elsewhere, Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand (and Luke's-future-wife-who-will-now-never-be) gets herself mixed up with the Rogue Stormtroopers, and they get busy doing a bunch of justice seeking for the Emperor kind of stuff. Corrupt officials and all that.
The meanwhile and the elsewhere come together, as they must, and the adventure is pure Timothy Zahn, Star Wars fun. Allegiance is nowhere near Zahn's best Star Wars work -- the Heir to the Empire trilogy is that -- but it is good, and plenty of guilty fun. At least for me.
I sure am going to miss Mara Jade, though. Damn she was a great character, and such a wonderful match for Luke. All I can hope for now is a glorious Easter Egg with red hair somewhere in the background. But I'm guessing that is going to be a parsec too far....more
In 1932 the United States' Communist leader William Z. Foster wrote his book about the inevitability of the fall of capitalism and the rise of communiIn 1932 the United States' Communist leader William Z. Foster wrote his book about the inevitability of the fall of capitalism and the rise of communism, and how that would and must occur in the United States before leading to the worldwide Soviet. We all know how that turned out, so reading Foster's Marxist prophecies of a glorious Soviet world are kind of funny. Not nearly as funny, however, as the moronic commentary provided in this book by Dr. Maurice Ries of Tulane University and House of Un-American Activities Congressman Francis E. Walter. I'll let those American gentleman speak for themselves in their final proof of the insidiousness and evil that is Soviet Communism:
But not all of the conspirators' [meaning Foster and his fellow communists] working hours are devoted directly to revolution. Many of those hours are expended upon subversion of other sorts. ...They include: agitating for the release of "political prisoners"; demonstrating against "imperialist war"; taking control of various non-political disagreements and turning them into "broad class struggles" having a "political character"; defending the Soviet Union, Red China, and other Communist countries; demanding more and more unemployment insurance; fomenting racial trouble [specifically aiding African-Americans in their fight against "the man"]; pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy; insisting upon shorter working hours with pay for a full day's work; pressing for rent reduction; claiming the right for people on relief to operate the relief agency that is supporting them; urging steadily increasing trade with the USSR; calling for larger relief payments; trying to force the withdrawal of American armed forces from areas of Communist aggression; proposing old-age benefits from the Government; clamoring for cash payments to farmers; ordering dock workers and longshoremen not to handle military shipments; proclaiming solidarity with the "masses in Latin-America in their fight against American imperialism"; opposing the deportation of foreign-born agitators and law violators; struggling to oust Conservatives from all positions of leadership; making "special demands" for women in industry, in order to obligate working women to the Communist Party; organizing students in Young Communist groups; resisting the finger-printing of foreign-born workers; forming "mass organizations" (Communist fronts) as needed; combating injunctions and court decisions by "a policy of mass violation"; carrying on agitation for "rights of free speech, free assembly"; working inside labor unions to split labor from management; striving to elect pro-Communist candidates to public office; creating Communist cells in mines, mills, factories, and other locations; maintaining an extensive party press; and ranting for the right of US Negroes to set up their own nation in the South's "Black Belt."
I presume more eloquent men that Ries and Walter could have done a better job of counteracting William Z. Foster's call for Soviet Revolution in the US, and made slightly smaller asses of themselves. But their jingoism and un-American opinions aside, there was one area of discussion in Toward Soviet America that was well researched, well thought out, and thoroughly convincing: when William Z. Foster was talking about what was wrong with Capitalism and how its influence would destroy American from the Thirties into the future, he was spot on. His criticism is as relevant today as it must have been on the verge of the Great Depression, with the First World War still a fresh wound and the Second World War looking large. Much of what he says could be stripped of its Communist bent and replanted in Occupy pamphlet or an Anonymous manifesto, and the evidence is staying fresh and renewing itself all the time.
This is worth a read if you are curious what the America Soviets really made of the country they were living in back the day. ...more
I love the people involved. I loved the book. I only wish I had been part of it all, but ... alas ... I had already drifted off to the fringes and awaI love the people involved. I loved the book. I only wish I had been part of it all, but ... alas ... I had already drifted off to the fringes and away before the shit hit the fan. The internet and the companies that run it and the folks that populate it constitute a funny little metaphysical land don't they? I would vote for Manny as dictator for life. ...more
Is it just me, or have we reached a point where it has become cool (perhaps hipster cool?) to hold Alan Moore at arms length and dismiss his work? I dIs it just me, or have we reached a point where it has become cool (perhaps hipster cool?) to hold Alan Moore at arms length and dismiss his work? I don’t think it is just me. It certainly feels like that was the everyreader (if not the critical) reception to Alan Moore’s Fashion Beast.
Travelling around to the comic book stores in my region (my decidedly rural Canadian region, it should be stated), I have not found anyone but myself who has actually read this entire series. Two people I know read a couple of issues then stopped, and a few read the first issue but no more. Only I have read the entire series in my less than immediate vicinity.And when I’ve brought up Fashion Beast it has been to a universal cool. Even those who’ve read some of the series responded with little more than a shrug and a “meh.”
This is a shame because Fashion Beast is as accomplished a piece of fiction as anything Moore’s written with (perhaps) the exception of From Hell (yes. I am actually saying it is as accomplished as Watchmen). It is a tormented and tortured retelling of Beauty and the Beast characterised by sexual ambiguity, abuse, power struggle, dystopia and psychological horror. And that is just the crust of the story. Dig deeper from the crust to the inner core and Fashion Beast is revealed to compress itself into subsurface layers of storytelling, layers we must work hard to uncover but whose uncovering is absolutely rewarding.
There are layers of perception, of reality and hyperreality, of anarchy, of fascism, of evolution and human interference with evolution, of fable, of morbidity, of asexuality, of transexuality, of subjugation and domination, of class and economics, of signs and semiotics, and these are just some of what make up the earth of Fashion Beast.
I have read some criticism of the screenplay structure of the tale, since it does come from an original Moore screenplay written in the eighties, because the screenplay structure doesn’t mimic the issue to issue structure of a comic narrative. I understand that feeling, and perhaps that has something to do with the response of those who’ve only read a couple of issues. This structure does mean that the story takes time to reveal its shape, but if one gives the cinematic orogenesis of Fashion Beast time, if one allows for a different pace of graphic storytelling, one will find the shape as pleasing as the more natural shapes we read everyday.
I suppose it is unfair to suggest that the lack of interest in Moore has to do with hipsterism. I think, in the end, it is simply that he challenges us too much (whether in form or substance).
He is like Orwell of comic book writing. Everyone says his name in hushed tones, everyone has read Animal Farm (Watchmen), and everyone claims to have read 1984 (V for Vendetta), and hard core readers (scholars and activists) have read The Road to Wigan Pier (From Dead), but going any farther is just too damn much work, so we admire Orwell (Moore) from a distance, recognize his importance, claim to be fans, but stay away — always — from the literature on the periphery. It’s easier that way.
So I get that. It just bums me out because genius tends to go un(der)appreciated....more
This volume in the Death of Captain America suffers a bit from the mid-tale doldrums, but it is still a solid part of one of the best Captain AmericaThis volume in the Death of Captain America suffers a bit from the mid-tale doldrums, but it is still a solid part of one of the best Captain America stories ever told, and I am loathe to be too critical.
My favourite part of this tale, as with so many Captain America tales (especially when Cap himself is missing) is Falcon. Sam Wilson is one of the best men in the Marvel Universe. If Captain America is worthy to carry Thor's hammer, Sam is the only man I can think of who is worthy to carry Cap's shield. But here Ed Brubaker passes the shield on to Bucky, the Winter Soldier, in what is a fairly logical decision on the part of Tony Stark, then director of S*H*I*E*L*D*. It bums me out a bit, the shield passing Sam Wilson by, but the high-flying Falcon gets plenty to do in this volume, and he is the main reason to keep reading.
There's plenty of other good moments scattered throughout this volume too. Hawkeye has a nice moment with Bucky; Sharon is a mess, trapped as she is with Faustus and the Red Skull; and the use of the 24-hour News network is a nice touch for telling a story of government conspiracy and corruption.
Still, it is more a placeholder before the big climax than anything else, even if the slow build is much appreciated by me.
I have great fear that the Death of Cap will play out at the end of Marvel Disney's Civil War in some weird montage or post credit sequence, and that would be a huge kick in the balls. I'd much rather Captain America four, bringing back the big screen Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon and Winter Soldier. That could be so good. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Or maybe Idris Alba would tell if I could get him on the phone ;)...more
Super rich superheroes who are more vigilante than hero (a DC specialty) are tough to enjoy, but their increasing willingness to break l
Green Arrow #1
Super rich superheroes who are more vigilante than hero (a DC specialty) are tough to enjoy, but their increasing willingness to break laws, to employ their riches to behave like a state with a state, to surveille, to torture, to coerce -- all illegally -- all with the breezy justification, "At least we're the good guys," is making their ilk almost unreadable for me.
When Marvel pauses to consider their "privileged" heroes, it feels like there is much more criticism going on, a recognition that they may not be as "good" as they themselves think, but DC's rich boys -- especially Green Arrow, but Batman too -- just seem to be propagandizing for the goodness of the rich, for their moral superiority, for their protection of the capitalist ideal. I need one of these joker's allies, like Naomi Singh or Alfred to do more than tell the hero they're supporting that they are uncomfortable with something they're doing; they need to remove their support and take a stand. I need them to do this if I am going to like these superheroes anymore. I suppose I will have to write a story like that myself, though.
Green Arrow #2
So a pack of jackpot supervillains, beaten up and dispatched by Green Arrow in Issue #1, set a trap for him with a young fan of theirs murdered on the internet as bait for the Emerald Archer. Arrow springs the trap, finds himself surrounded by this pack of super-jackpots, and it's all being live streamed (Ooo! How hip and relevant). It's all set up for Green Arrow to take a beating, and it is all a yawn.
This comic is moving the plot along too quickly and expecting us to follow without earning our commitment. Issue one hurt my brain a touch, but I am entering full migraine zone now.
Green Arrow #3
poor action, a preachy monologue of Ayn Rand proportions. What's to like? In addition, if you're one of those who complains about the way people are inexplicably fooled into missing the fact that Clark Kent is Superman, don't read Green Arrow. Oliver Queen/Green Arrow makes Clark Kent/Superman look like Clayface. There is NO WAY anyone who meets Oliver then seens Green Arrow one second after Oliver disappears should or could ever be fooled. It is fucking idiotic.
Green Arrow #4
Enter Blood Rose and a new arc. She's okay with guns, super strong, in love with a freak, and is yet another moron fooled into missing the Ollie connection by Green Arrow's silly green goggles. The writing has now moved from JT Krul (who did as marvelous a job on Captain Atom as the shitty job he did here) to Keith Giffen, and it is in no way an improvement. Is it the writers? Is it just the nature of Green Arrow? I think it could be the latter. I think Green Arrow, at least outside the Justice League, simply sucks.
Green Arrow #5
Toxic Sludge Freak, who likens himself to Swamp Thing (you're not you douchebag) happens to be the boyfriend (lover?) of Blood Rose, comes to kick Oliver's ass. They fight. There's a banal end twist. Thrilling. Next ....
Green Arrow #6
So the Toxic Sludge Freak is Midas, the titular villain of this volume, and his love affair with Blood Rose turns out to be a somewhat promising storyline -- but that is the only positive I can take away from Green Arrow. I hate this version of Oliver Queen; I hate the corporate machinations; I hate Green Arrow's support team (computer genius girl and tech genius boy); I hate the villains; I hate the action; I hate the book's politics. I pretty much hate this book. I was about to add Green Arrow to my file at Black Bowser. Nope. Not now.
Despite the illogic and contradictions in morality, this is a fun, light, kiddy read. If you give it to your kids, however, make sure you read it withDespite the illogic and contradictions in morality, this is a fun, light, kiddy read. If you give it to your kids, however, make sure you read it with them and talk about it. You may agree with Einfeld's take on the world wholeheartedly, but you also might not, and if you don't you're going to want to discuss the differences between your view of the world and hers while they are reading the book.
There are some interesting characters, though (with caveats). Give it a whirl, especially if you support all the authors out there trying to make a go of it. ...more
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-f
Chapter 1 --
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-faced FDA newbie) are as partners-in-love as they ever were. So they start investigating a piece of shit, which leads to some pee, some more violence, a glimpse of Colby's cyborg powers and some actual detection (Batman Detective Comics could learn a valuable lesson). It is a fun though slight beginning to the second volume.
Chapter 2 --
Chicken is illegal in Tony Chu's world, so it is a black market item, but now, apparently, there is a plant that may taste like chicken, so Chu is off to Micronesia to track the plant (fruit?) down.
I must talk about something more serious, however. It is time to address the fact that the FDA and USDA of Tony Chu's post-Avian Flu world are as nasty, as intrusive, as violent, as powerful, as fascist as any of the genuine US security agencies today. Sadly, John Layman's satire has never once seemed far fetched in its political, governmental, security imaginings. It is scary that the para-militarization of two supposedly benign existent agencies barely registers as odd anymore. In a book packed with oddities and impossibilities, this is the one thing in the book I can see happening, and that is depressing, and I'm going to say it will likely be prescient. Just you wait.
Chapter 3 --
Chew is satire the way Soylent Green is people -- hell, it's reminiscent of Jonathan Swift -- so the powers of Chu and others, the speculative politics, the fowl dystopia, all these elements ease our potential tension in the face of the satire and make it completely palatable -- and believable.
Case in point: the personality of Chu. He started way back in #1 as a reserved man, an anxious man, a hungry man, a man full of self-doubt and nervousness. But when his cibopathy led him to the FDA and cannibalism-for-justice, all his traits morphed; Layman gets that change just right. Chu is becoming more intrepid with each bite of human flesh; he's becoming more aggressive and much angrier too. And this little bit of real world detail, this believable growth of character, makes the satire much more palatable.
Chapter 4 --
Vampires AND a Cibolocutor. Wht's that you ask? That is a guy who can translate any work of art -- like a play or a song -- into a dish, thus transferring the emotion generated by the art into the flavour tasted by the diner. C'mon! That is cool, isn't it? Not as cool as the fact that the Vampire is on the Micronesian Isle to liberate (or eat?) the Cibopath. But Tony Chu is on the case, so look out Vampire.
I don't care how silly this book can be. The moments of mountainous creativity on display, along with the scathing satire, make this one genius book.
Chapter 5 --
Another neatly and quickly wrapped arc is over, and for all the entertainment International Flavour gave me I feel cheated. Things went a little too fast this time, and the plot was a little too big for five short issues.
Still, I am digging the Vampire (not-Vampire?), which should make the future comics fun, but I think Chu's burgeoning romance with Miss Mintz is my favourite ongoing thread of the tale (which surprises the hell out of me). So even if things are moving too quickly for my taste, Chew is still a solid comic, and I must keep going, but International Flavour is definitely a let down from Taster's Choice.