Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Farewell to Fables, the smoldering mess of mostly bad ideas

This final Fables volume ended much more nicely than its sister series, Fairest, did. Like most of the Fables-verse, however, it’s still a mixed bag.

Half of this volume — an extra-long 150th issue numbering over 150 pages — is devoted to resolving the looming battle between sisters Snow and Rose, and the latter half is made up of short stories (1-5 pgs. each) giving farewells to as many of the cast as they could squeeze in.

Continue reading “Farewell to Fables, the smoldering mess of mostly bad ideas”

Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Farewell to Fairest, the dumpster-fire of misogyny and naive political diatribes

series supervised by Bill Willingham

Bill Willingham’s Fables universe is incredibly addictive, yet only seems to make me grumpier and grumpier with every page.

The final Fairest arc follows in the footsteps of the two prior collections: The Return of the Maharaja (2013) and Cinderella: Of Men and Mice (2014), meaning it’s barely relevant to the universe set-up by Fables and even less relevant to the advertised purpose of the Fairest spin-off — i.e., “The women of Fables in a series all their own!”.

Continue reading “Farewell to Fairest, the dumpster-fire of misogyny and naive political diatribes”

Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Marc Andreyko’s Fairest, vol. 4: Cinderella — Of Men and Mice (2014)

series supervised by Bill Willingham

This story arc in the Fables-verse illustrates too many of the issues inherent in the Willingham’s universe. To start, Fairest is a series meant to give character to the oft-underdeveloped women of Fables, and the advertising gives the suggestion they’re going for an outdated “Girl Power!” approach.

Continue reading “Marc Andreyko’s Fairest, vol. 4: Cinderella — Of Men and Mice (2014)”

Book Reviews, Novels

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s the Difference Engine (1990)

I feel obligated to like the Difference Engine a whole lot less than I did. People really dislike it, and the usual round of complaints makes a long, valid list. It’s a dense 450 pages — most of it spends time on world-building chit-chat and important ideas rather than a coherent plot.

While the reader questions if the story’s going anywhere, the world itself is fascinating, so complete in its details and sense of accuracy that it’s difficult to leave the polluted, industrial-analytical world. The Difference Engine is cut into three sections following the lives of Gerard, Mallory, and Oliphant on the trail of Gibson’s usual macguffin — a collection of programming punch cards: The explanation and importance of which is buried so deeply that many readers never understand why they’re important. All three heroes only spend a fraction of their pages worrying about punch cards and social turmoil — mostly we follow paleontologist Edward Mallory in his day-to-day business as he bumbles into characters and conspiracies that are vaguely associated with the plot.

Continue reading “William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s the Difference Engine (1990)”

Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: Overture (2013 – 2015)

a limited series of six issues

It took nearly 20 years for Morpheus to return with a proper follow-up to his final farewell. Overture‘s is a six-issue tale bridging the gap between issue one’s ambitious, faulty start and the present-day doings of Daniel. Just as well, Overture thematically follows in familiar footsteps to long-time readers, delivering a strong sense of closure for the mythos while answering many lingering questions (like, why exactly does Morpheus don that dorky helmet as battle-gear?).

The Dream Hunters (1999) provided a stunningly-beautiful fairy tale that just happened to feature Morpheus, and Endless Nights (2003) gave us a collection of mostly-cute short stories complementing the Endless’ original run rather than building upon it. Overture is more successful in connecting the loose threads that have hung over the series ever since we first spent those 72 years locked in an occultist’s basement. It’s both fitting as a conclusion, and a posthumous introduction for Morpheus’ maxiseries.

Continue reading “Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: Overture (2013 – 2015)”

Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Short Stories

Transgressive poetry in Yuri Kageyama’s the New and Selected Yuri (2011)

Why hadn’t I heard of Yuri Kageyama before? She’s been quietly publishing poetry, essays, and short stories for over 30 years. Her style ranges between transgressive and journalistic, channeling similar frustrations as writers like Kathy Acker, but with a style devoid of flourish or absurdity. She’s published in journals and magazines, and had her one and only poetry collection, Peeling, published by her close friend and fellow author, Ishmael Reed, in 1988. The New and Selected Yuri, published in 2011, contains 41 short works of poetry and prose dating from 1978 to 2011. It contains short stories, essays, anecdotes, conversations, cultural explanations, and a wealth of poems.

Continue reading “Transgressive poetry in Yuri Kageyama’s the New and Selected Yuri (2011)”

Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Short Stories

Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: Endless Nights (2003)

Like Gaiman’s other short story collections, Endless Nights has its share of ups and downs. Each of its seven stories are quick snapshots into the Endless’ everyday, and each one sticks around just long enough to give some insight into individual personalities. Some are connected, most aren’t. Some aren’t even stories, but descriptions, ideas, atmospheres. It’s a nice idea, but certain members of the Endless aren’t exactly known for their character, and some of these stories subsequently don’t do much to change that.

Continue reading “Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: Endless Nights (2003)”

Book Reviews, Novels

William Eastlake’s the Checkerboard Trilogy, or, Lyric of the Circle Heart (1956 – 1963)


Go in Beauty (1956)

Eastlake_GIB_cov.pngWrite what you know. Golden advice, and Eastlake devotes his first novel to these words, writing deeply of the white-red divide that’d banished the Navajo culture to the ‘Checkerboard’ region, as well as the role of the writer, of art, the relationship shared with the outside world, and, surprisingly, the land itself, devoid of culture except as a current morphological and ecological influence. Unfortunately with Go in Beauty, Eastlake gave too much focus to world of the artist, which doesn’t always mix well in the scheme of things. It helps stress the cultural dead-end meetings, but something indeterminable about this hurts the novel’s impact, especially comparatively with the thematically-similar trilogy closer.

Continue reading “William Eastlake’s the Checkerboard Trilogy, or, Lyric of the Circle Heart (1956 – 1963)”

Book Reviews, Novels

blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blo

Blood and Guts in High School‘s (BAGIHS) narrative is a collage of drama, rough pornographic illustrations, dream geographies, angst- and art-fueled journal entries, a book report reinterpreting (and deconstructing) the Scarlet Letter (1850), language-learning exercises, poetry, &c. Whatever the format — whatever the readability — BAGIHS seems to follow young Janey’s short-lived maturation and self-education in a world that offers her and her sort nothing but condescending, appreciative inequality.

I tend to have trouble with transgressive fiction, but Acker’s work is something special. She was brilliant — really had a knack for both tearing apart literary canon and social injustices; she was delightfully odd; and she was really, really, justifiably grumpy.

Continue reading blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blood and guts in high school blo”

Book Reviews, Novels, Video Games

Game Write: Harvey Smith’s Big Jack is Dead (2013)

Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we look at Harvey Smith’s first novel, Big Jack is Dead, a personal story about a slightly-sociopathic software developer returning to rural Texas to see his abusive father put to rest.

Continue reading “Game Write: Harvey Smith’s Big Jack is Dead (2013)”