Off the Shelf: Differently Morphous

Differently MorphousDifferently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Honestly, after my mixed feelings about Will Save the Galaxy for Food & the preceding hype for this book being “Yahtzee takes on SJWs,” I was a little reluctant to pick this one up. (Ended up compromising & checking it out from my library.) But I was pleasantly surprised. First, the plot of Differently Morphous seems like a natural extension of Croshaw’s game The Consuming Shadow & revisiting his version of cursed England felt like a way to get reacquainted with the things I like about his writing. Second, while there are certainly plenty of satirical jabs about the different facets of outrage culture, I think the thing that kept these moments from being hollow or mean was the consistent background idea that the world is a large, chaotic, ever-confusing place & every character was just trying to figure out how to best deal with it.

I even felt sympathetic for a character like Chris, the conspiracy-theory spouting loony, or even Nita, who is set-up to be the most sensitive character with the least amount of common sense or inquisitive ability regarding the Ancient Ones & their spooky manifestations. She’s out of her depth, but then really, they all are. And even with the running arguments between each of the character’s POVs, the only thing that any of them really have to hold onto are their experiences & the ways they’ve come up with to cope or have some measure of control over their lives which may not matter all that much in the cosmic scale of things. So, at the very least, I was glad to see that Croshaw found a way to humanize these characters, even if their characterization was thin sometimes. (Perhaps its the change in perspective? This is the first of his novels not written in first-person & the first to not have other characters “react” to the protagonist & his choices.)

Also, sorry Chzo Mythos fans, but I love Poacher so I was super-happy to see (a version of) the Badgers & Archibald come back.

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Off the Shelf: Dread Nation

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t wander over to the YA section that often, but when I do, I always keep my eye out for something interesting. Simply reading the jacket copy that mentions an alternate Civil War history with zombies & race exploitation screams “Pick me up!” Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation takes something like Guns of the South & turns it completely on it’s head. Jane is a biracial girl who’s sent to a school that specifically trains non-white Americans to protect white citizens against the overwhelming zombie menace. While helping a friend try to find his sister, she stumbles upon a plot to create settlements in the West that will recreate antebellum laws & norms & is shipped off unwillingly as a recruit for the new border wall. A harsh reality becomes grimmer as she attempts to survive & take advantage of the various alliances buried beneath the new “City On A Hill”.

The above premise takes a while to explain & there is a fair amount of world-building. Ireland takes her time showing some of the different fascets of this new America, but things really get moving once Jane gets shipped off to the West. Everything that’s been introduced takes on new stakes & new meaning, so readers would benefit being patient through the first section. Ireland also clearly has many ideas & hopefully more books on the way to explore them, but I was so ready to keep going! Once the action started, I was transfixed & didn’t realize just how quickly the end came. Definitely a recommendation simply because its story ambitions pay off.

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Off the Shelf: Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me

Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases MeFatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Recommended to me by the awesome staff at Velocity Comics. Fatale mixes together tentacle monsters & gun-toting flatfoots in an adventure that flips back & forth through contemporary America. Picture a yellow-eyed creepy-crawly hoisting a tommy gun & if that doesn’t interest you, then skip the rest of the review.

The story follows a dark-haired dame who’s nothing but trouble as she seduces man after man to protect her & keep her from the crazy Cthulu-worshipping cultists that made her what she is. Fatale, so far, is a total pulp mash-up & as a result, the characters rarely become more than what they are meant to be. But that’s ok, I get the sense that this is really more about what cool things come out when mixing these two genres, not necessarily any deep characterization or story-telling. It’s ambitious, dramatic, & full of geeky genre fun.

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Off the Shelf: Fight Club 2, issue #10

Fight Club 2 #10Fight Club 2 #10 by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The world ends, but it really doesn’t. Chuck Palahniuk’s story ends but it doesn’t. Tyler dies, but he really doesn’t. In the most meta issue of the series yet, author-character Chuck Palahniuk gets to have all the endings. He writes the destruction of Rize or Die & the death of Tyler but the readers of the series show up on the stoop & demand a rewrite. The crowd (including Palahniuk & his writer friends) retrieve Marla, Sebastian & co. from a tomb with Robert Paulson’s help. Tyler & Palahniuk go off to talk about what happens next & Mr. Durden kills his creator in hopes to live another day.

First, to Palahniuk’s in-universe statement that the book ended differently, I’d like to say, NO. DUH. Some of us have been uncomfortable with all the changes since issue #0.

That said, all I can say is well, that’s over. That was certainly a story. It was interesting seeing Palahniuk take on a new medium to tell his story, although I’m not sure how well the serial format allowed him room to write. But perhaps it works in the sense that there’s plenty of fourth wall breaking & allows Palahniuk to vent his authorial frustrations. I think the idea of cultural memory & its short-sightedness is not fully explored here. Also, the final premise that Palahniuk’s readers have no idea that there’s a Fight Club book is weird to me both as a reader & as someone who once worked in a bookstore & knew Palahniuk’s readers on sight as a specific, intense & completest set of customers. I know that there are probably people who know the movie more familiarly than the book, but the idea that it’s totally unknown? Noooooooo. . . At least my various frustrations with this series did bear out & were shared by the Palahniuk character. Overall, this collection is ok but other than being a public confession of struggling with one’s own success–I don’t know. Not something I’ll be revisiting.

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