Book Reviews, Short Stories

Jirel of Joiry and the uncomfortable roots of feminist fantasy

Jirel of Joiry, an honorable, red-haired, female clone of Conan the Barbarian, could be considered the foundation for all ‘strong female characters’ in genre fiction today, but only in the most shallow sense of the term.

I appreciate that C.L. Moore broke ground in 1930s sword and sorcery, a hyper-masculine genre full of hyper-masculine (read: shitty) men, but any attempt to combat the intense sexism of the genre only goes as far: C.L. Moore was objectively a woman, and Jirel objectively a female character who sometimes swung a sword and killed things.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Cyberpunk Roots: Sleaze and cyberwarfare in Dr. Adder (1972)

about what you'd expect, tbqh
This is a book about a ‘glove’ that fires lasers and sexual deviancy.

Dr. Adder is as trashy, stupid and fun as you’d expect from a book deemed too controversial to publish for 12 years.

On one hand, Dr. Adder‘s importance as an early cyberpunk dystopia exceeds its entertainment value. K.W. Jeter wrote it in 1972 while attending college, but it wouldn’t be published until the cyberpunk explosion in ’84. Because of this, the obsession with technology, the casual violence, the Interface-as-Sprawl et al., are all prescient forebears of some of the themes dominating contemporary sci-fi.

But is it a great novel? Not really.

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Book Reviews, Novels, YA

C.S. Lewis & the Space Trilogy, Pt. 1 of an Impossible Project

The Chronicles of Narnia, outside of the Last Battle, never quite sacrifices its plot for religious didacticism. Despite my own atheism, I adore the Narnia series as one of the most important pieces of my childhood. Out of the Silent Planet is, unfortunately, more on par with the Last Battle than with the rest of the Narnia series: Its plot nonexistent next to its dated, shallow, stupid, and hateful didacticism.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Cyberpunk Roots: P.K.D. & the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

Philip K. Dick’s best-known stories are teaming with creativity, implementing psychedelia and paranoia into the narratives years before Robert Anton Wilson dared. Of his stories I’ve read, including the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, the stories’ ideas and outlines have left a lasting impression, but the writing itself often feels turgid and dry, his characterization marred by dated misogyny and fantasies for young boys.

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Book Reviews, Short Stories

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream about how absolutely terrible Harlan Ellison’s stories are

It’s not possible to read Harlan Ellison’s stories without thinking about Harlan Ellison the personality — he’s made a reputation marketing that personality as an unstoppable mixture of pretension and insincerity.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

The problem with Preacher (1995 – 2000)

a maxiseries of 75 issues
art by Steve Dillon

The more I read of this series, the more I found hard to enjoy. Ennis’ writing style carries a lot of frustration with it, and a lot of it is born of the series’ time. It ain’t as timeless as the classics of similar length (e.g., the Sandman), and part of why is Ennis spent too much of the ’90s channeling the voice of a million other snarky 20-somethings channeling the voice of Bill Hicks. The series repeatedly pays homage to Bill Hicks, and literally ends with a quote meant to convey the topics the series never had time to explore.

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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.

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