Holy shitballs. I haven't felt this emotionally wrung out by a graphic novel since I read Blankets, but I liked this one soooo much more. I'm not sureHoly shitballs. I haven't felt this emotionally wrung out by a graphic novel since I read Blankets, but I liked this one soooo much more. I'm not sure The Sculptor is going to be for everyone, but oh man, if it hits you, it's going to straight up MURDER YOU.
The main character is David, a frustrated sculptor. It's more complicated and lovely than this, but essentially he makes a deal with Death. He will trade his life for the ability to create the art he can see in his mind and the chance to be remembered as much as one human being can be remembered among billions. He has two hundred days to live if he takes the deal. The alternative, Death tells him, is to walk away from his art, meet a woman, start a family and live a long life. David chooses his art.
What follows is part meditation on life and the role of art in life and memory and identity. And it all feels really, really personal. The story is part of it. We learn a lot about David as he creates his art, as he continues to fail, as he meets a girl he falls in love with. And all the while he's got this ticking clock of 200 days. A lot of it is also the artwork itself. This is actually one of my favorite things about graphic novels, the way that the whole medium works together to create an experience. It's not just the words or the characters or the story, it's also the colors and the lines and the way panels overlap and how fast you move between them and so many other things. In my opinion, this book uses all of those things perfectly to present its story.
I'm so glad I read it, and I need to get my own copy ASAP for eventual multiple readings. ...more
I would be dishonest if I said this volume wasn’t a bit of a letdown after how much I loved Higher, Faster, Further, More. I still love the art. I stiI would be dishonest if I said this volume wasn’t a bit of a letdown after how much I loved Higher, Faster, Further, More. I still love the art. I still love the characters. I still love the sense of humor. But the three stories that make up this particular volume were just so lightweight. Almost bordering on the absurd. One of these would probably have been okay, but three in a row knocked this down a star. I need a little bit of pathos with my absurdity, thank you very much.
The first story was my favorite. Following up on Rocket and Carol’s argument from the first volume over whether or not Carol’s beloved cat Chewie was in fact not a cat, but a flerken, we find out that, yes, Chewie is a flerken. In fact, she’s THE flerken. As in, the only one left. Well, for now. Not even a bunch of space pirates trying to kidnap Chewie convinces Carol of her flerkenness. It’s only after Chewie lays one bazillion eggs in a storage locker that Carol gets it.
Turns out flerkens carry pocket universes inside of them, and also act as some sort of inter-dimensional gateway?
Anyway, Rocket digs it.
The second story was weird, but not in a very fun way. It involved Carol and her new sidekick tag-along Tic (wait, was that her name?) following an intergalactic mutant pop-star to her home planet where all the people speak in rhyming couplets. It was weird in a mostly kind of boring way, sad to say.
The third and final story involved Carol returning briefly to New York to take care of some business, including visiting her dying friend, whom I had no context for at the time because I hadn’t yet read the initial Captain Marvel volumes of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run. Now I have, and this story retroactively makes a little more sense, but it also illustrates a general problem I have with superhero comics. They are really, really dependent on each other, and I don’t really like how unless you’ve read EVERY COMIC EVER, you’re not really going to get everything. Granted, it’s all understandable via context clues, but it still makes me feel not great when I don’t fully appreciate a character interaction or piece of dialogue that only people who read EVERY COMIC EVER will get. Also . . . Santa Claus? Really?
Anyway, I will still be reading this series, but hopefully the next volume is back up to standard, bringing a better balance of serious and ridiculous so I can get back to my adoration of Carol Danvers....more
Well, it's a first for me to give anything Neil Gaiman has written less than four stars, but I'm reminding myself that according to Goodreads' ratingWell, it's a first for me to give anything Neil Gaiman has written less than four stars, but I'm reminding myself that according to Goodreads' rating system, that means "I liked it." And I did! Some of the stories were delightful and magical, and terrifying. But some of them didn't really work for me, for one reason or another, and overall, it was actually harder to pay attention to the stories, or work up enough energy to dive back into the book, knowing I'd have to start all over again with my level of engagement each time there was a new story.
I frequently have that kind of reaction to short story collections, so I suppose I shouldn't really have been surprised, but I had hoped that by listening to the audiobook, I'd be able to overcome that reaction. And maybe I actually did, who knows. Maybe I would have had an even harder time getting through it reading via hard copy.
Maybe it's just that a lot of the stories that I found it difficult to motivate myself to listen to were of the more ethereal variety, where language and stylistic experimentation were the forefront, rather than the storytelling or cheeky wit that is my favorite part of Neil Gaiman's writing. (This is perhaps also why American Gods is my least favorite of his novels.) It's harder to pay attention to language via audiobook, but the more straightforward stories were just like I hoped they'd be via audio, like someone telling you a story just before bedtime in a lovely, gravelly British voice.
Standouts for me were "Orange" (a funny story in the form of answers to a questionnaire), "The Case of Death and Honey" (Gaiman does Sherlock Holmes), "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" (a short, horrifying story that is simple and wonderfully scary, with a truly excellent title), "An Invocation of Incuriosity" (a longer story about some strange stuff that just really worked for me), "Nothing O'Clock" (a Doctor Who story that I'd read before as part of the Eleven Doctors, Eleven Stories 50th Anniversary collection), and "The Sleeper and the Spindle" (a sort of fairy-tale mash-up with a Gaiman twist). I enjoyed "Black Dog," the American Gods follow up novella, and also the only original piece of fiction to the collection, but it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.
All in all, the experience of reading this was a success, but I think I might check out future Gaiman short story collections in hard copy....more
When I did my Abhorsen re-read this summer, I ended my review of the last book by saying this:
"My only real complaint is that there wasn't enough of a
When I did my Abhorsen re-read this summer, I ended my review of the last book by saying this:
"My only real complaint is that there wasn't enough of a coda to the events of the series. We only get the smallest inkling of the fates that befall these characters, although I suppose it is rather easy to guess. This is why I was so excited to learn he'd written a novella that takes place after the events in these books and that I'd somehow missed. It doesn't take place in the Old Kingdom, but we do get to check in with a couple of the characters. It filled a need. But also, I have more need. I'm very excited for Clariel in a couple of months, but seeing as how that's a prequel . . . look, Garth Nix. What I'm saying is I want more stories in this world.
Give them to me.
Give them to me now."
When I finished Clariel this afternoon and learned (via the afterword) that he was working on an Abhorsen book featuring the further adventures of Lirael and Nicholas, it was like my demands had been answered. Obviously, I am magical.
I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I’m so glad I did. I even used up one of my coveted ‘not-on-my-to-read-list’ freebie books to readI don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I’m so glad I did. I even used up one of my coveted ‘not-on-my-to-read-list’ freebie books to read it. This book was a capital ‘E’ Experience.
*I’m only allowing myself twenty-five freebie books this year–books that aren’t on my 2015 TBR–because last year half the books I read were impulse reads and I barely made a dent in the books I meant to read. I’m sure this is a problem you’re all familiar with.
I’m a big sci-fi fan, but I’ve pretty much only read American sci-fi. Some British and Canadian authors have snuck in there, but that’s about it. It was a super interesting and jarring experience (in a good way) to read a science fiction book from a culture so unlike my own in history and values. Not just about a culture, but FROM IT. Since one of the main things science fiction does is to ingest culture and spit it back out in a form that allows us to interrogate our own beliefs, it was really, really fascinating to see what kinds of concerns Cixin Liu was interested in exploring about Chinese values (and world values as Chinese culture sees them).
Cixin Liu is China’s most popular bestselling science fiction author, and The Three-Body Problem is the first book in his most popular trilogy, ‘Remembrance of Earth’s Past’ (which is being called Three-Body in English). The book begins just as China’s Cultural Revolution was getting started, and if you’re not familiar with that piece of history, you really need to read up on it at least a little bit before you read this book. It’s central to understanding a lot of the between the lines stuff, and why characters act the way they do that might seem really foreign to Westerners specifically. It would be like trying to understand American behavior without knowing anything about the history of slavery and the Civil War, or trying to understand Scottish history without knowing about the Jacobite Rebellion, just two pull two examples off the top of my head.
From the blurb:
“. . . a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.”
From there, all you really need to know is aliens are coming, and they are prepping us for their arrival. Weird shit starts happening. Scientists start killing themselves. A countdown appears in a man’s field of vision. The universe flickers. The central question the novel asks is whether the threat of alien invasion will unite us as a species, or whether it will tear us apart even faster.
The only ‘issue’ (for lack of a better word) I had with this book is that one of the main characters was so thinly drawn. He was essentially a pair of eyes for us to see the story through. It also didn’t help that every character around him were exactly the opposite: rich, complicated characters with arcs and faults and personalities, especially the character of Ye Wenjie, a politically ostracized scientist who is deep into the alien happenings. Her arc is the perfect example of personal, emotionally affecting character work expanded large onto a scope of terrifying science fiction ideas.
“Is it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.… It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race. This thought determined the entire direction of Ye’s life.”
Every sci-fi fan should read this. It is terrifying and thought-provoking and unsettling, and really, really interesting. Can’t wait for the translations of books two and three....more
Let's get one thing straight: if I were only going off my love of Firefly and these characters, this would just straight up get five stars. And as itLet's get one thing straight: if I were only going off my love of Firefly and these characters, this would just straight up get five stars. And as it is, it was a really, really fun visit back to the 'verse, but it wasn't perfect. Georges Jeanty's art was gorgeous and really captured the characters in some panels, and in others they just looked . . . wonky.
Part of me also ate up every character or reference that popped up again from the series or the movie, particularly (view spoiler)[The Operative. Gosh I love that guy. (hide spoiler)] But on the other hand, some of it felt like blatant fanservice. Not that I don't love a good fanservice every once in a while, but I also like to feel like the world the characters inhabit is authentic, and fanservice usually messes with that. But also, I squeed when I saw Jayne was wearing his hat? Basically I'm a big fat hypocrite.
My other main complaint was that I liked what story was there, it just felt too rushed. I wanted it to take it's time, get some good character work in. For example, (view spoiler)[ with The Operative, I would have liked some meaty dialogue scenes, maybe more interactions with him and the other characters . . . and for god's sake, some resolution on the confrontation between him and Zoe. (hide spoiler)] And there just wasn't time for that sort of thing in these six issues.
But again, I can't really complain when this book gives me things like (view spoiler)[ Baby Emma:
I really need to get myself a copy, though. Vols. 1-3 are looking lonely up there on my bookshelf . . . plus I'm sure Barnes & Noble would appreciate me actually buying their merchandise, instead of sitting on their floor for an hour and consuming it for free.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I admire Jenny Lawson so much, even more now that I've read this book. She's frequently very open on her blog about her mental illness, but she's neveI admire Jenny Lawson so much, even more now that I've read this book. She's frequently very open on her blog about her mental illness, but she's never been this open before. It must have taken a great deal of courage to talk so freely about such personal things. Then again, maybe it didn't. Jenny herself admits in the book there's a kind of freedom that you can only achieve once you stop caring what other people think and truly accept yourself, flaws and all. She lays it bare, and we her readers not only accept her, but we say, "Us, too!" And then her oversharing habit becomes an extended sort of internet-based therapy.
And also, in between talking seriously (and not so seriously) about "her crazy," Jenny is also frequently just funny, whether it's in recounting conversations (or fights) with her beleaguered husband, Victor, or talking about her trip to Australia where she dresses as a kangaroo while meeting a kangaroo, or going on extended rants about things like the function of appendices (both the organ type and book type). It's a very entertaining read. I got this book in audio, after reading her first in hardcover, and I can't decide which I like better.
Both are best consumed in small doses, as Jenny does have a very specific style that holds for the entire book, and there isn't any narrative arc to provide tension or relief of tension (this can be said of any memoir/essay book I've read, which is why I've never given any memoir/essay book five stars. I need an arc, people).
But this book was a joy from beginning to end, and it's probably a must read for people living with mental illnesses of all kinds, and for people whose loved ones are living with mental illness. ...more
Meet Carol Danvers. She used to be a pilot, but after the explosion of a Kree device gifted her with alien powers, now she's an Avenger who lives in tMeet Carol Danvers. She used to be a pilot, but after the explosion of a Kree device gifted her with alien powers, now she's an Avenger who lives in the top of the Statue of Liberty and makes out with Iron Patriot on the side. She's the kind of gal who takes her cat into space. She loves Star Wars and punching people. We have only just met, but I love her.
Even before I really got into the story, I was already sucked into this world. DeConnick's dialogue immediately clues you in to who these characters are, and David Lopez's pencils are pitch perfect. Just the right amount of curves and lightness mixed with utter badassdom. He also does this cool thing with differentiating between Carol as Carol and Carol as Captain Marvel in war-mode. Her costume has a helmet that she pulls her hair through like a mohawk and IT IS SO COOL. Her face is so expressive, like a real person's. The colors in this are gorgeous as well. Every panel is a feast for the eyes. It was a little bit like seeing Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time. Just that riot of alien life in technicolor coming at you, hard and fast and with a sense of humor. Fitting, since the Guardians make a memorable appearance in this book.
More cat action:
She just really likes her cat, okay:
The basic arc of the story is that after an alien girl shows up in a life pod asking for help, Iron Man asks Captain Marvel to be the first emissary from the Avengers into space, job description: "Hanging with the Guardians of the Galaxy, bring intel back, and tag out with the next guy." But bringing the alien girl home soon turns into a diplomatic nightmare, with Emperor J'Son of Spartax being a dick and stuff, and there's this whole thing with a poison planet and Carol has to sass her way into everyone's hearts. It's beautiful.
My only complaint is that the ending was a bit predictable. (view spoiler)[We've all seen that trick-the-bad-guy-into-being-a-douche-while-everyone-can-secretly-hear-him exactly one million times before. But it was only a slight letdown after the fun of the ride getting there. (hide spoiler)]
Also, can I just have at least two of these covers framed and mounted on my wall please? Sooooo pretty. Volume two, due in April, was pre-ordered immediately after finishing this.
First, some things you should know about me, for like, context and stuff:
1. I usually avoid apocalypse books like the plague (or more apropos, the Geo
First, some things you should know about me, for like, context and stuff:
1. I usually avoid apocalypse books like the plague (or more apropos, the Georgia Flu). Most of the time, even thinking about apocalyptic situations makes me panic. 2. I am a Shakespeare nerd. 3. I am a Star Trek nerd. 4. I cannot explain why I loved this book so much, because most of my reaction was completely sub-conscious.
I have gotten gradually more stingy with my five star reviews since I have been writing real reviews for all the books I read and having to justify my feelings with words. That this was my first five star review of the year, I think, is pretty major. And that it came in February also says something. I really liked some of those books I read in January, but none of them were at the level with Station Eleven. This book just worked for me on every level, even despite my apocalypse phobia and the fact that I don’t normally enjoy literary fiction anymore.
Nominally, this book is about what would happen if 99% of the world died because of a flu-like illness and human civilization completely collapsed. But really, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in life. It’s about the purpose of art in human lives, why we create it and why it endures. It’s about the fragility of human memory. It’s an elegy for everything lost that we can no longer remember.
It’s also weirdly optimistic for a book about the end of human civilization, which is in the end why I think I could enjoy it so much. This isn’t a story about how humanity is doomed to fuck itself over. It’s a story about how we make lives worth living no matter what the conditions. As pretty much every review of this book I’ve read has mentioned, there’s a reason the traveling symphony in this book has the words “Survival is insufficient” painted on their wagon, and is tattooed on one of the character’s arms (the quotation is taken from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager–thanks, Seven of Nine).
I’m not going to say more than this because I have too many feelings. Just know that even if you don’t normally go for this kind of book, there’s a chance you will like (or love) this anyway....more
If you’re ever having a bad day, you could do worse than self-medicating with maybe a hot bath or some hot cocoa or ice cream or soft pajamas or episoIf you’re ever having a bad day, you could do worse than self-medicating with maybe a hot bath or some hot cocoa or ice cream or soft pajamas or episodes of Gilmore Girls, but maybe also think about adding Texts From Jane Eyre in there as well. There were parts of this book that made me laugh until tears squeezed out of my eyeholes.
There were also other parts, mostly to do with classics and mythology, that made me glad I have my friendly Google machine at my disposal. (I’m still not quite sure I understand the Dido joke.)
For those of you who somehow don’t know of her, Mallory Ortberg is the editor of The Toast, and her “Texts From” series is what inspired this book. There are some classic ones from the website in the book, but there is also quite a bit of new material as well, so it’s definitely worth checking out. I also think it’s worth owning a copy just so you can have all this wonderfulness collected together in one place, which is especially handy for aforementioned self-medicating.
Probably my favorite part about this book, aside from the mangled but affectionate way Ortberg translates these characters into text form, is how delightfully eclectic the assortment of characters and stories she’s put together are. We’ve got texts from Dido and Medea and Hamlet and John Keats and Sherlock Holmes right alongside texts from Ron and Hermione, the Babysitters Club and the Hunger Games. Some of the characters get recurring chapters because they just have so much to say (of course Hamlet is one of these, as is a surprisingly hilarious Daisy Miller, which in hindsight I shouldn’t be surprised about because Henry James is THE WORST and of course Ortberg would have a field day with him).
I suppose this book wouldn’t play as well for people who aren’t at least marginally well-read, especially the more esoteric references (the one about John Keats being obsessed with the urn OH MY GOD). But even the ones I didn’t know very well, like Medea for example, were still hilarious because Ortberg makes jokes that are funny even if you don’t necessarily get what she’s referencing.
And now I will close this review by quoting an obscene amount of chapters. Hopefully this still constitutes Fair Use.
there’s only one thing we’re missing only one thing we need that will help us solve this case
we need to question Lady Emily again
oh it’s not . . .
we’re going to need loads of cocaine SCADS of it
JOHN JOHN DID YOU KNOW THEY MAKE COCAINE THAT YOU CAN SMOKE
good god Sherlock where have you been
you can just smoke it it’s incredible
tell me where you are and I’ll come get you
they call it crack and it’s marvelous
just tell me where you are and I’ll come get you
I’M NEVER LEAVING do you have any idea how much cocaine they have here
I imagine quite a lot
QUITE A LOT you can bring me my violin if you want and my hat
do you want anything else?
no just the violin and my hat and a big old mess of cocaine that’s all I need
what about the mystery
hang all mysteries the only mystery I want to solve is how much cocaine I can fit in my face they mystery of how much face cocaine I can have that’s the mystery for me
I wrote a poem today do you want to hear it
Near this Spot are deposited the Remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferosity, and all the virtues of Man without his Vices. This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over human Ashes, is but a just tributeto the memory of BOATSWAIN, a DOG, who was born in Newfoundland May 1803 and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808. hey totally unrelated do you remember how many children i have? i’m trying to do a tax thing right now and i have nooooo idea haha like it’s for sure SOME
fuck i gotta write some letters uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuughhhhh
JANE MY LITTLE SUNBEAM WHERE ARE YOU I NEED YOU BY MY SIDE
I’m taking a walk be back for dinner
AH YES MY CAGED SPRITE COMMUNE WITH NATURE AND UPON YOUR RETURN RELATE TO ME THE VAGRANT GLORIES OF THE RUINED WOODS
do you really want me to describe my walk to you
MORE THAN ANYTHING YOU POCKET WITCH
it is fairly cloudy out looks like rain soon
AHHH TO THINK THAT MY LITTLE STARLING JANE SHOULD RETURN TO PERCH ON MY BROKEN MALFORMED SHOULDER SINGING A SONG OF THE GREY AND WRACKING SKIES MAKES MY HEART SWELL TO BURST
JANE WHERE HAVE YOU GONE I AM BEREFT AND WITHOUT MY JANE I SHALL SINK INTO ROGUERY
i am with my cousins
WHICH COUSIN IS IT THE SEXY ONE
Please don’t try to talk to me again
IT IS YOUR SEXY COUSIN “ST. JOHN” WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS ST. JOHN
I’m not going to answer that
I KNEW IT DID YOU LEAVE BECAUSE OF MY ATTIC WIFE IS THAT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT
BECAUSE MY HOUSE IN FRANCE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE AN ATTIC IF THAT’S WHAT YOU WERE WORRIED ABOUT IT HAS A CELLAR THOUGH SO YOU KNOW DON’T CROSS ME HAHA I’M ONLY JOKING...more