RIP Update

It’s been a bit quiet around here this week, as I only managed to schedule posts for the first week of my two-week vacation and decided to have fun in Australia rather than worrying about writing anything. Or even reading anything… I read a total of two books on the trip and neither were RIP-related, which is a shame because it’s spring in Australia and that’s closer to fall than I’m going to get here in Florida until, like, January. Pants and a sweatshirt?? My poor cold bones.

Even the penguins are freezing!

On the plus side, my vacation required a total of eleven flights (four out, four back, and three between cities), and there were free movies and TV shows to be had on almost all of them. Suuuper helpful for jetlagged eyes, and for getting in my RIP watches for the week.

Hannibal, episodes 1 and 2
HannibalI had heard about this show through a couple of friends who enjoy it, but I just knew that it was supposed to be good and it had Hannibal Lecter in it. So when it turned out to be about some probably unnecessarily autistic-ish FBI dude I was like, whaaaat. (I have only seen Silence of the Lambs.) But I was still intrigued. It’s a crime procedural with weirdly dead bodies (impaled by antlers in one and used to grow mushrooms in the other); what am I gonna do, say no? And eventually Lecter shows up, of course, and he is more than sufficiently creep-tastic, so I’m sure I’ll be catching up with this series soon.

Oculus
OculusI didn’t intend to watch this movie, and my husband actually picked it to watch without me because he knows I’m not a fan of horror movies, but my eyes wandered over to his screen and saw Amy Pond buying a creepy mirror and I was like, well, I could read these subtitles for a while. And in fact it turns out that horror movies are way less horrifying with the sound off. (#lifehacks) I’m not sure how far into the movie I started watching, but I think it was pretty early on, and the gist of it is that Amy Pond buys a creepy mirror that her dad used to own before he brutally murdered her mother and was murdered by her brother and then Amy Pond went off to foster care and the brother to jail. Now the brother is out of jail and Amy Pond wants to prove that the mirror is haunted so she sets up a bunch of cameras and non-electric lanterns in the house and obtains a dog and some plants to power the mirror or whatever and her brother is like, you crazy, lady. But of course she’s not crazy, or she is crazy, but also the mirror is totes haunted and creeeeeeeepy things are happening in the house in the present that are dovetailed in with scenes from the past leading up to the horrible murders. The movie even almost sticks the landing, but it’s a horror film and really only has a couple of options for endings, so it’s not as awesome as it could have been. I think it would make a really intriguingly creepy book, but apparently this is one of the few movies not based on a book in some way, so I’m gonna need someone to go write that novelization for me, ‘kay?

Weekend Shorts: Rocket Girl and FBP

Woo comics! I had some spare time last week where I needed something to read but didn’t particularly want to start a new book, so I picked up a couple of trades that I had lying around and had a nice time catching up. I’ve actually already read the first three issues of Rocket Girl, so I’m very glad it’s easy to distinguish issues in the trades! Let me know what y’all are reading this weekend in the comments!

Rocket Girl #4, “Nowhere Fast” and #5, “Time Will Tell”
Rocket Girl #4Issue 4 is basically a giant action sequence, as Dayoung tries to outmaneuver the Future Cops who are following her for les-than-well explained reasons. She zooms left and right and up and finally down into the subway, where she and the FCs evade riders and trains until they… can’t, I guess?… and then there’s a big explosion. Meanwhile, the present Quintum Mechanics gang tries to rebuild the machine that Dayoung broke way back at the beginning of all this, though one of the scientists is not thrilled with the idea.

Rocket Girl 5Issue 5 is better, because paradoxes! Certain doubles meet again, for the first time, for the last time, and the future version is like, huh, that’s weird that I don’t remember this. DUN DUN! Meanwhile in the future, the Teen Police Department is disbanded due to time travel antics, and Protocol Joshua (or “J0$#UA_” but seriously, I know what’s up here) is initiated and things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile in the present, Dayoung and her new scientist friend are BAMFs and you can’t stop them.

This is one of those series that just asks question after question and never answers a darn one, but I’m just so in love with it (for now, I guess) that it doesn’t matter. I am sooooo intrigued by this story and its paradoxes and and its awesome protagonist. Why did Dayoung have to go back? What would it take to change the future? What would it take to keep it the same? When will we know which one happens? How many more of these 80s outfits am I going to see on people coming into my library in 2014?

Federal Bureau of Physics, Vol. 1
Federal Bureau of PhysicsI had stopped into my comic shop a while back to pick up other comics, but there was a long line so I spent a few minutes wandering the store. This bright pink cover caught my eye, and then the title — yay physics! Sold.

Except that in this book, the conceit is that the physics of the world is broken, to the point of setting up a Federal Bureau of Physics that is similar enough to a fire department as to be available by calling 911. When school kids start playing in an zero-gravity area and your TV show is over before it even started, the FBP is on the case!

I would totally read just that book, but if you’re not quite so nerdy, there’s some intrigue and subterfuge that you might be interested in. Early on in this volume an FBP operation goes wrong due to some unprovable subterfuge, and they end up with huge funding cuts and new competition in the form of private physics insurers, so there’s that to contend with, and also our protagonist has a dead (although my money’s on disappeared) dad whose work has gone missing and also also there’s another agent whose sense of time is… questionable. Intriguing! I will definitely be checking out the second volume in the future.

Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes

Broken MonstersThe other day we got this huge pile of YA and children’s fantasy books in at my library, and I told my coworker that I expected her to take home at least half of them, because that kind of book is totally her thing. Then I said, hey, speaking of things that are totally your thing, I am reading this amazing book right now that you would absolutely hate! That book? Broken Monsters.

If you’ve ever read Lauren Beukes before, you will understand. She does not do cute, fun, adorable stories with magic and/or dragons; her books are far more bleak and gory and weird, and this one is no exception.

We start right off in this novel with the gory; there’s a detective and a dead body, or more accurately half of a dead human body attached to half of a dead deer body. That’s… great… so as a palate cleanser we meet another one of our protagonists, a thirty-something dude in the midst of finding himself and his muse and whatever. He is soon to become the bane of our detective’s existence when he decides to become the “journalist” who reveals everything about this dead kid case.

Then we meet a guy who’s made a career out of looting abandoned houses, of which there are many in Detroit, and after that the detective’s daughter, who gets caught up in an extremely effed-up internet “prank” that leads me to preemptively take the internet away from my hypothetical children until they’re 30. Then we finally meet the guy who turns out to be the killer, whose chapters are all supremely creepy but fascinating in their own special way.

All of the protagonists’ stories connect to each other in some way, which is my favorite thing, with people and places intersecting in foreboding ways until the end where Beukes just throws everyone into an abandoned plant and lets the batshit crazy flow, kind of literally. That’s the weird part, where this strange magical-realism conceit that’s been brewing throughout the novel becomes way less realistic and way more scary as what.

Adding to the creepy factor is the fact that the book is set in Detroit and focuses a lot on the idea of abandoned buildings and neighborhoods and the strange fascination that people have with the city and its deterioration or rebuilding, depending on the person. It’s hard to tell if Detroit is creepy on its own or if it’s creepy because people really really want it to be. I like it.

I was completely entranced by this book, alternately worried about certain characters and whether they would be okay after doing not-terribly-smart things (spoiler: not everyone is okay) and really curious to see how all of this insanity could possibly come together at the end. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending, which is just too weird for the tone of the rest of the book, but it was definitely exciting. I continue to fangirl for Lauren Beukes, and am glad there’s still some backlist of hers I haven’t gotten to yet so that I can go find it and devour it when I am in a mood for a book that is nothing like any other book.

Recommendation: For lovers of the strange and anyone with an affinity for Detroit.

Rating: 9/10

The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the TreesI love my online book club and the fact that it forces me to stay in contact with people I love and who love books. And even though my last selection for this book club was a total slam dunk, I still feel like I have to make up for the selection before that, which was a… um… thing that is bad in basketball (this metaphor would be better if I actually watched basketball).

I knew I couldn’t drop the ball (is that a basketball reference I HOPE SO) on this one, so I got some help from the good folks at The Morning News and their Tournament of Books. Two books that I loved, The Goldfinch and Life After Life, both went up against The People in the Trees, and in both matchups this book sounded absolutely fascinating. Three point shot! (I have no idea what I’m talking about.) (I’ll lay up off the basketball metaphors now.) (I am so sorry.)

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway. This book. Fascinating.

What I remembered from the writeups, aside from the fact that my books kept losing, was that the story revolved around this scientist dude who went off and explored a little-known island and studied the people and found out that some of them were living almost literally forever and something something ethics something. I may have skimmed a bit.

I thought this would be a book about anthropology and the effect of an outside world on an insular world and the ethics of science and what it means to do research, and it absolutely is that book. Yanagihara makes note of the line between studying and respecting people and judging the heck out of them early on, and makes it really easy to do both throughout the story — to the U’ivuans and to our scientist Norton Perina himself.

Perina is an interesting subject of study; you find out at the very beginning of the story that he has been convicted of sexual abuse and statutory rape of some of his many (many many) adopted children. He never directly addresses these charges in the text but that knowledge hangs over his actual writings, which focus on his work with the U’ivuans and later with the turtles that make them live forever (poor turtles). Not in focus is the fact that Perina is a strange, awful, hurtful, self-obsessed person, but that part is pretty obvious anyway.

Y’all know how I love an unreliable narrator, so reading Perina’s memoirs of his life while knowing the “truth” behind them is totally fascinating to me. But this book is even better — these are Perina’s memoirs as edited and footnoted by a close personal friend, who at the end of his introduction notes that he has “cut—judiciously—passages that [he] felt did not enrich the narrative or were not otherwise of any particular relevance.” Oh, DID you now.

I said earlier that Perina never addresses the pedophilia in the room, but [spoilers?] it turns out that this is just one of the things that his friend judiciously edited, and this part of the narrative is included after the epilogue because it “should not make a difference” to the story, but of course it does, and really, even if you’re expecting the gist of this entry, it’s going to give you way more feelings that you anticipate. One of them may be the “I must throw this book across the room” feeling. (Seriously, what the fuck, Norton Perina?)

But with some time to process my emotions, it turns out that I really liked this book. Enjoyed, maybe not? But it is a really great work of fiction that is going on my “to be read again someday” pile.

This is probably a really great pick in general for a book club, because anyone who gets to the end is going to have SO MUCH to talk about. I don’t think my book club appreciated it quite as much as I did, but I can guarantee it was better received than that LeBron James book. I can guarantee that about a lot of books, actually.

Recommendation: For people who haven’t been uncomfortable or angry enough recently, and those who want to practice being nonjudgmental. (Good luck.)

Rating: 9/10

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenI have been hearing so many good things about this book lately, well deserved good things, but back when I picked it out of the advance copy lineup all I knew was that it had a neat cover and was written by Emily St. John Mandel, who, like Jo Walton, I should have started reading ages ago. And I think that’s a pretty good way to go into the book, because it is so hard to describe the book well and I think whatever you hear about what the book is about is necessarily not going to be the whole story. All you really need to know going in is that it’s not going to be a page-turner, but if you’re in the mood for something you can sit and savor and that will make you think about life, this is just the ticket.

But if you need to know more, I’m happy to oblige. Station Eleven fits primarily in that genre called post-apocalyptic that I know gives people hissy fits, but in a world where literally can mean figuratively I think that’s not the worst name we could have for a book that takes place after a big, world-changing event. In this case, the world-changing event is a flu that takes out something like 90 percent of the world’s population along with all of the important services like electricity, water, gas, and the Internet. How does anyone survive??

But of course people do, as people have always done, and the primary story line we follow is that of Kirsten Raymonde, a member of the Traveling Symphony, whose slogan is “Because survival is insufficient.” The Symphony, still going twenty years after the flu, puts on Shakespeare’s plays and performs concerts for various settlements on a circuit in the northern Michigan area, and those settlements seem generally glad to see them until the Symphony rolls in to a town where they dropped off two members a couple years back. The members are nowhere to be found, no one wants to talk about it, and things are generally creeptastic in the area. When the Symphony leaves, they decide to wander off their usual circuit to see if they can’t find their friends and maybe explore some new territory, but of course it’s not as easy as that.

Meanwhile, we get to know some other people who are all connected through this one fellow called Arthur we meet at the beginning of the book (Kirsten was in a play with him). We meet Arthur’s ex-wife Miranda and learn about her relationship with him and his relationship with fame, we meet a paparazzo turned entertainment journalist turned paramedic called Jeevan who once documented Arthur and later worked to save his life, and we meet Clark, Arthur’s old friend who just manages to avoid the flu and who lives in probably the nicest settlement in northern Michigan.

I love the way the stories interconnect at different points, allowing you to learn about these people and their lives before and after the flu in little pieces spread throughout all the narratives. I also like that although Mandel connects all these characters together through Arthur, none are close enough in relationship or location for it to feel contrived that they’ve survived this flu.

I appreciate that although this story falls into that post-apocalyptic category, it seems so much more realistic — it’s twenty years later, so the characters are past any looting, panicking, killing stage that might have happened, and no one crazy person has stepped in to realize his utopian vision or whatever. Instead it’s just regular people living out a pioneer life with a few minor altercations here and there but generally just trying to live, or in the case of the Traveling Symphony, trying to increase awesome. I can only hope our future post-apocalyptic world is as nice as this one.

Recommendation: For people who are tired of plot-driven apocalypses and those who want to know that everything’s going to be okay, ish.

Rating: 9/10

RIP IX

RIP IXGuys, I just can’t even. RIP IX?? IX?? It is amazing to me that Carl has stuck with this challenge for nine years, let alone that I’ve stuck with it and with this blog for six. I am sooo old, guys. One foot in the grave (see what I did there?).

If you haven’t been around this blog for six years, or one year, or whatever, you can get more info on the event at Carl’s site, but for those who hate clicking links, here’s the deal with RIP: It stands for Readers Imbibing Peril, it takes place in September and October, ish, and it involves reading any story that you feel puts you in a sufficiently mysterious or Gothic or fantastical mood. It’s basically the greatest event ever, is what I’m saying.

Carl offers different “Perils”, or levels of participation, so that everyone can have fun in their own special way, and while in the past I have been perhaps a bit dismissive of Carl’s participation trophies, I am happy for them this year, because the way I read and blog has changed quite a bit since the last RIP.

I will definitely be participating in Peril the First (read four books on the theme), Peril of the Short Story (read short stories on the theme), and Peril on the Screen (watch TV and movies on the theme), because of course I will. But since I don’t know when I’ll get around to reviewing any of these things, my plan is to pop in here on Sundays and let you know what I’ve been up to RIP-wise, with brief thoughts and links to reviews and whatnot.

For instance, this week I reviewed The Secret Place, by Tana French, which you should go read immediately because it is a perfectly suspenseful and creepy and Gothic read and then you should go read her other four books, too, and then you are super done with Peril the First! I also reviewed The Last Child, by John Hart, which I didn’t like as much but would be an appropriate read for RIP if you’re into that sort of thing.

In current reads, I finished The Silkworm, by J.K. Galbraith (Robert Rowling?), which was just as awesome as The Cuckoo’s Calling and which you should see a review of soon.

In current listens, I am still enjoying Welcome to Night Vale, which is just as weird and creepy as ever and which you should totally be listening to, right now.

In current watches, I’ve been mainlining the second and third seasons of Grimm over the last few weeks, and it’s been… an adventure. The first season finale left me kind of angry, which is why it took me so long to get around to the second season, and although the second season is pretty good monster-wise I was pretty ready to kill the writers and Nick over the whole Juliette thing, which dragged on approximately fifteen episodes too long. Luckily things went the way I wanted them to, and this third season has been really entertaining. I’m getting a bit concerned again, this time that the show is starting to veer off into Dresden Files territory with Royals and Councils and whatnot, but it’s hanging on to my interest for now.

What are you all reading/watching/listening to for RIP this year?

The Last Child, by John Hart

The Last ChildOne of the best things about being in a book club, even with the same members coming every month, is that you can never guess how everyone is going to react to a book, even yourself. One of the weirdest things is when you think a book is kind of okay and then everyone else LOVES it, and you’re like, but, seriously? Such was the case with The Last Child. I found myself in a room with ten people who loved the book and I just couldn’t figure out why.

It’s not a bad book, by any means, and it’s got a pretty decent plot going for it. The story takes place in a rural North Carolina town wherein two girls have gone missing about a year apart. One of our protagonists, Johnny, is the twin brother of the first missing girl, Alyssa, and he’s spent the last year trying to figure out what happened to Alyssa and watching his family fall apart around him — his father left, his mother turned to drink and drugs, and a horrible man stepped in to boss Johnny and his mother around. Noooooot fun. Our other main protagonist is Clyde Hunt, the detective who caught Alyssa’s case and didn’t solve it. He is now on the case of the new missing girl and is hoping, mostly for his own sake, that solving it will also bring Alyssa home.

So, interesting. And the mystery itself is pretty cool, with the appropriate twists and turns and oh-I-should-have-seen-thats. But everything else? Not so great. Hart’s characters are pulled straight from the mystery-character vault; there’s the trouble-making but mystery-solving kid, his only partially willing sidekick, the detective with a vested interest in solving a case, the same detective with feelings for a victim, and, possibly worst of all, the giant black man with the mind and temperament of a child but also mystical powers (see: The Green Mile). And the writing is tough to get through, with every sentence about twice as long as it needs to be and a whole prologue that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, really.

So, less interesting. There were lots of pieces of this book that were really fascinating, like the relationship between Hunt and Johnny and the whole discussion of rural life and politics, but the rest of the book just kind of fell down on the job for me. But there are ten other people, just in Jacksonville, even, who completely disagree with me and want to marry this book and have its babies, so clearly your mileage may vary.

Recommendation: I’d recommend a lot of books over this one, but if you like mysteries and have this one handy it’s not the worst choice you could make?

Rating: 5/10