Y: The Last Man Book 4, by Brian K. Vaughan

I ended up reading this one pretty quickly after the last because I seem to have gotten Scott interested in the series and thus I didn’t want him stealing this before I got a chance at it. Because I’m territorial like that. But now I think Scott’s going to end up reading them first…

Okay, so, book the first was all exposition-heavy and kind of annoying, but then book the second was a lot better with the action and the plot moving forward, and then book the third was pretty equally okay. But then I got completely squicked out and a little derailed by this book, and I can only hope the squicky stuff NEVER COMES BACK AGAIN.

I’m sure it was at least a little on purpose, but these weird scenes in which repressed sexuality is made unrepressed and some odd form of torture happens really made me cringe. It was just so… weird and awkward and so seemingly completely irrelevant to the story (which is actually how I feel about the Israelis in this series, too, now that I think about it) that I just wanted that half of the book (yes, half) to be over now!

Luckily, once it’s done you can see that there was, in fact, a point to all the awkward and it actually makes me feel a little less annoyed with Yorick because he becomes a slightly less annoying person. So that’s a plus. And the second half of the book is fairly interesting, with yet another set of crazy people and an equally crazy throwdown between them and our heroes (who are still Yorick, Mann, and 355).

So… I think I’m going to put this series away for a little bit and come back to it once I can repress those unrepressing scenes. Makes perfect sense, yes?

Recommendation: Ehhhhhh… let me get back to you on this. If it makes sense in the overall story, I’ll give it a thumbs up.

Rating: 7/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Y: The Last Man Book 3, by Brian K. Vaughan

More Yorick! Good times! Well, good for me. Not Yorick. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Let’s see, who’s a player in this book? We’re still following Yorick, his monkey Ampersand, 355, and Dr. Mann on their journey to California. But there’s a quick detour in Kansas when a terribly accented Russian shows up ready to rescue some male astronauts (well, one is obviously a cosmonaut) on their Houston-unsupported return to Earth. Which would be going fine, except…

The strange Israeli army people are back, apparently following the orders of Yorick’s mother who thinks that 355 is going to do something terrible to Yorick… or something. It’s not terribly clear. What is clear is that the Israelis’ leader is bent on kidnapping Yorick for herself… not like that. Maybe like that? Okay, not as clear as I thought.

Who else, who else… there are some geneticists, which is cool. Oh! Right! And a troupe of actors who stage a play about the last man on Earth, make meta-commentary on this series (“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s crappy works of fiction that try to sound important by stealing names from the Bard”), introduce me to a work by Mary Shelley called The Last Man (which is on my TBR pile effective immediately), and piss off a bunch of Kansas ladies who really just wanted someone to continue their stories (you know, soap operas) for them.

OH. And then there is someone called Toyota who for some reason wants Ampersand. I imagine that will come back again quickly.

So all in all the series remains on a high level of ridiculousness tempered by an intriguing question and some fine illustration.

Recommendation: Yeah, you should probably pick up this series. It’s pretty cool.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
Rhinoa’s Ramblings

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

I haven’t read The Daily Show staff’s other book, America (The Book), but I’ve heard good things about it and also Earth, so when I saw the latter in the library browse area while shelving the other day, and most importantly when it was still there when I was leaving, I felt compelled to snap it up. And, because it was a 7-day loan book, I was even more compelled to read it right away!

Of course, “right away” doesn’t mean “in one sitting,” and so it took me the better part of five days to get through the 240-odd pages of insanity that is Earth. The book and the planet.

Part of that I blame on the conceit of the book — it’s set up as a textbook for use by aliens who come to visit us but find that we’ve already killed ourselves off in some fashion. It’s full of pictures and captions and “educational information” and even, wonderfully and nostalgically, one of those stamps on the inside front cover that we all had to fill out every year for all of our textbooks, with our name and the condition of the book. I had completely forgotten about those. Oh, how wonderful college would have been with free books.

Anyway. The other thing that I was made to remember about my grade-school textbooks is that they can be INTENSELY boring, even if the information is good, because it’s just fact after fact, and in this case joke after joke, and it gets tedious after a while. I might suggest you get this on a 14-day loan, at least. Your brain will thank you.

When taken in the proper dosage, the factoids in this book are delightful and come in several flavors:

Amusing Truths
“This is Barb. She’s the best. If you need to know where anything is, just ask her. Or call or IM her, or just email or send a text. Barb’s great. Oh, but don’t fuck with her yogurt in the shared fridge or she will cut you.”

“It was a sad but universal fact of human life that any technology — no matter how incredible — eventually came to be seen as cumbersome. For instance, the first cordless telephone inspired awe. One year later, using the very same phone could only be seen as an ironic tribute to a time when we were forced to lug around comically giant cordless phones.”

Depressing Truths
“[P]igmentation was a quick and convenient way of judging a person. One of us, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once proposed we instead judge people by the content of their character. He was shot.”

“While millions of us died of starvation and thirst, millions of others were so sated they could afford to use pies — round fruit or cream-filled pastries with enough fat content to sustain a human being for several days — as comedic projectiles, and water as giant slide lubricants.”

Flat-out Lies
[On Monopoly money] “While not legal tender, this $100 bill was still widely used by hats, racecars, thimbles and Scottish terriers to buy property, pay taxes and post bail from the jail in which they were sometimes arbitrarily incarcerated.”

“After winning seven gold medals Geraldo Rivera went on to become one of the world’s most prominent reporters.”

So… basically it’s pretty much like The Daily Show. In book form. And without those “special reports” I dislike so much. If you can get through the pop-culture references and the sarcasm, you might even learn something!

Recommendation: If you like The Daily Show and you like reading very short tidbits of information, this is for you. If you are even slightly ambivalent to the comedy stylings of Jon Stewart et al., you should probably skip right over this.

Rating: 7/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

I mentioned on Sunday that I was reading and greatly enjoying this book, and while it took me several days longer than I thought it would to finish it, I did end up retaining that enjoyment throughout. So, yay! Of course, it’s no Fingersmith, but I think I was plenty warned about that going in. 🙂

So this is a creepy little story that I still think is most closely related to The Fall of the House of Usher and The Haunting of Hill House, largely because the house itself is a main character of the book. On the Poe side, you also have a house-going-mad/family-going-mad connection; on the Jackson side you have people being drawn to this house like flies to flypaper (that is, reluctantly at first, but then SMOOSH).

But of course, this isn’t either of those books, so many other things happen. The general plot here is that our intrepid narrator, a Dr. Faraday, finds himself the new family doctor of the Ayreses, who live in an awesome house called Hundreds Hall that Faraday has been attracted to since he was a child. It’s a beauty — or it was until World War II happened and all the money went away and Mrs. Ayres and her two children and her two servants couldn’t keep the thing up properly. Faraday is having fun hanging out in his idolized house and being friends with high society people, right up until things start to go CRAZY. And by CRAZY, I just mean that some bad things start to happen, like dogs biting and war veterans going a little daft, and strange smudges show up and no one who actually lives in Hundreds actually likes being there all that much, but Faraday just thinks that they’re all a little touched in the head, there’s nothing creepy at all about mirrors walking on their own or the telephone ringing in the dead of night with no one on the other end.

Ahem. It’s a little creepy. And the creepiest part of all of it is that you’re never quite sure what’s actually going on. I, at least, was like, “Oh, the house is haunted. Or maybe it’s not. No, it definitely is. No, that’s crazy, everyone else is just haunted,” for pretty much the whole book.

And I thought that everything resolved itself quite appropriately (if not terribly informatively) at the end of chapter 14. But then there is a tiny little epilogue chapter, which is something that I hate, and which is not really especially useful here, so I recommend you just go ahead and skip that and know that nothing really happens after the end of chapter 14. 🙂

Recommendation: For fans of Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, other people who do interesting psychologically scary stories. Not for people who like plots wrapped up with a bow.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge, Chunkster Challenge)

See also:
Book Addiction
Chrisbookarama
things mean a lot

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Y: The Last Man Book 2, by Brian K. Vaughan

This is definitely better than the first collection of the series, mostly because there is nearly 100 percent less exposition. So relaxing to just read a story!

The plot is still generally the same, of course — Yorick is probably the last man on Earth, making him a very hot commodity for many groups who want him in varying levels of alive. A government operative called 355 and a Dr. Mann would like to figure out why he’s still alive and possibly clone him, because that would be useful, but the group farthest to the “dead” end of the aforementioned spectrum is hunting this little group down as they travel from Boston to California. They make it as far as Ohio in this book and stir up quite a bit of trouble in the process.

This series continues to provide an interesting answer to the “what if we got rid of all those pesky men” question, though the focus on the Daughters of the Amazon in this set got pretty tedious pretty fast — I get it, they’re a cult, they’re quite crazy, can we move on now? But of course we can’t, because Yorick’s sister has gotten herself caught up in the crazy.

With any luck, things will get crazy in a different direction in the next book.

Recommendation: Read the first set; if you like it, read this!

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist

Dudes. This was a really good book. I love me a dystopian novel, and I thought this one was especially effective because I could really, definitely see it happening. The Hunger Games? Eh, maybe. Shades of Grey? Definitely not. The Handmaid’s Tale, which this reminded me strongly of? Not really. This? Oh, I could totally see this.

The “this” I’m talking about is a world where the people we love are no longer dying for stupid reasons like decades-long organ transplant waiting lists… because the older, procreatively-challenged members of society are ready and mostly willing to fork over a kidney, or a cornea, or an auditory bone, or a liver, or a heart whenever there isn’t anyone else around to do it.

See, over in that Scandinavia area (if not everywhere), the population is divided into “needed” people — parents, schoolteachers, nurses — and “dispensable” people, with no one to take care of. These dispensable people are taken away at a ripe old age (50 for ladies; 60 for gents, who can sow their seeds a bit longer) to live in one of the titular Units, where they live wonderful lives of comfort and ease, with no need to earn money or cook for themselves or do anything at all that they don’t want to, except, you know, participate in medical and psychological experiments and donate an organ here or there until it’s time to donate a major organ.

Our dispensable friend is Dorrit, who didn’t try terribly hard to become needed and is rather enjoying her time in the Unit. We follow along as she has a relatively easy time of things, makes friends, makes a “friend,” and then makes a baby, which sort of throws everything out of whack both in the Unit and in Dorrit’s life. And boy, do things get interesting from there.

It’s not ever terribly exciting… the story is fairly slow-paced and the focus is really on the emotions of the people within the Unit, which are quite up and down, as one might imagine. And Holmqvist does a great job of this. She also does an excellent job portraying the whole Unit system as a pretty good idea, really, if not a very easily sustainable one.

There is a whole boatload of intriguing in this novel, and I may have to read it again at some point to really appreciate what Holmqvist has done and to look again at the interactions between the characters in a new light.

Recommendation: Grab it if you like a good dystopian novel or a good psychology-driven narrative.

Rating: 9/10
(Orbis Terrarum: Sweden, A to Z Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
Reading matters
Jules’ Book Reviews
At Home With Books

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

This is a pretty spectacular book, not leastly because it references A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favorite books and also a favorite of the main character, Miranda.

There’s no real way to summarize this book, because it’s largely confusing, but let’s look at a couple paragraphs from the opening pages:

“I check the box under my bed, which is where I’ve kept your notes these past few months. There it is, in your tiny handwriting: April 27th: Studio TV-15, the words all jerky-looking, like you wrote them on the subway. Your last ‘proof.’

“I still think about the letter you asked me to write. It nags at me, even though you’re gone and there’s no one to give it to anymore. Sometimes I work on it in my head, trying to map out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It’s all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never.”

Dude. Love it.

So over the next couple hundred pages, Miranda basically lays out the story that this mysterious note-writer is asking her about, which involves normal everyday 12-year-old things like going to school, falling out with a friend, making new friends, avoiding the homeless guy on the corner, getting a parent ready to compete on The $20,000 Pyramid… okay, maybe not entirely normal, but not abnormal, either. And of course it gets even less normal when Miranda starts getting notes from someone who seems to know a lot more about Miranda’s life than she’s entirely comfortable with.

But the notes and the whole Wrinkle-y sci-fi aspect are practically unimportant for most of the story, which is what I think sells this book to me more than anything. I love a good tesser as much as the next person (or probably more), but I love the time that Stead spends developing Miranda and making me really root for her even when she’s doing some stupid stuff. And she weaves the weird notes and such in extremely well, so that when you find out what’s going on (well, to the extent that you do), you’re like, “Ohhhhhhh, nice!” rather than, “Well, DUH.” Which is probably harder to do than I think it is.

Basically, you should just go read this book. Now. Go.

Recommendation: The last sentence, unless you are really against things that make your head hurt a little bit. Just a little. It’s more like a tingle. And often like a tickle.

Rating: 9.5/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
Stainless Steel Droppings
At Home With Books
Maw Books Blog
Library Queue

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.