Books, Thoughts

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.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Brown Girl in the Ring

Brown Girl in the RingBrown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Ti-Jeanne has a baby she doesn’t always want, visions that she can’t control, & a life in a destroyed city that didn’t welcome her. Her grandmother Gros-Jeanne tries to lead her into accepting her reality & making it better. But it isn’t until Ti-Jeanne’s spurned lover knocks at her door with a plea to escape Toronto that she has to decide whether or not to face her hard circumstances & rise above them or escape with him.

This book was on a recent NPR list that focused on Afro-Futurism & mentioned this book so I thought I’d pick it up. I was drawn in by the tension between the traditions that define Ti-Jeanne’s life & how the city of Toronto doesn’t seem to nurture them. (I feel like some of this push-and-pull is what was missing from The Galaxy Game.) The book is also written with just enough dialect to keep me captivated, instead of blocked out. Fans of Sacred Games, you’ll appreciate the language work here. There were times that the everyday moments of Ti-Jeanne’s life dragged, but it is possible that this was a result of reading the book in an electronic format. I’ve found that it can be a lot easier to skim/skip parts that don’t interest me when I’m not holding a physical book. Ultimately, the beautiful parts of this book are in the atmosphere & the paranormal insights that Ti-Jeanne has when her faith & her adopted land come together in her mind. Everything else in the plot seems to dull in comparison.

Also, content warning: there is a graphic clinical description of a heart transplant. If you are squeamish, like me, you’d do best to skip that section. There are other body horror elements, but not as terrible as the described surgery.

View all my reviews

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft CountryLovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A novel presented in short stories/novellas, Lovecraft Country follows the Green/Turner families as they become entangled in their American heritage as descendants of slaves & whites who worshiped Lovecraftian tentacle monsters.

Right up front, I will say that I did not finish this book–I had two chapters until the end & I gave up. Not because there is really anything bad in the book; the narrative never elevated itself beyond the big ideas it sketches out. What if a black man was heir to a coven of racist old white dudes? What if a black woman could live out their fantasies of social freedom (whatever that looks like) if only for a limited time? What if you swapped stories about your painful past with a ghost who was trapped in a painful present? These are all good, interesting ideas but there was some heart or substance missing out of exploring them. Ultimately, I think when Jordan Peele adapts this into a movie or miniseries, the stories will fit into his directorial interests, so read the book now as prep & wait with anticipation.

View all my reviews

Books, Thoughts

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.

View all my reviews

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

The Complete Fiction of H.P. LovecraftThe Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are two reasons to read Lovecraft:

1.) To understand the mechanics of his universe & how it has enticed other (better) writers to explore it.

2.) To better appreciate other (better) writers writing in response/reaction to Lovecraft’s obsessions.

So glad to be even partially done with this book.

View all my reviews