The Complete Pistolwhip by Matt Kindt and Jason Hall

The Complete Pistolwhip by Matt Kindt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the things I love about Matt Kindt’s work, that also appeared in Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crime, is the connections between characters and story threads. These connections are not always deep, and in some cases tangential, but his exploration of the way people in cities are (often unwittingly) connected, lives colliding in strange and small ways, is a wonderfully subtle subversion of the isolation and loneliness that are hallmarks of the noir genre. Mitch Pistolwhip has a small circle of friends and acquaintances, although none of the characters are truly intimate with each other, and hold each other at arm’s length. And yet, they are connected, they seek each other out. Kindt’s art style is so good at expressing the loneliness and sadness these characters feel, and even though they do not end up in positive, hopeful places, they all get answers and closure to their tragedies.

Another intriguing aspect is the backwards storytelling in the first set of Pistolwhip comics/episodes. I really liked the way the narrative unfolded in reverse, each segment walking me back through the timeline to set up the otherwise inexplicable climax at the start.

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The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for a free e-arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’m sorry to say this book did nothing for me.

Jarvis’s plot and ideas sounded thrilling and exciting and intriguing, but the things Jarvis finds interesting about these ideas, the things she focuses on in her writing, are not what I find interesting, or are not delivered in a savvy and interesting way. Her attention to those things is overbearing, with full repetition of ideas and thoughts, as though I would have forgotten what the characters motivations and desires or the themes and point of the story are as I read along. Ideas like “slavery is bad and this creature doesn’t deserve to be enslaved” were fully stated the moment they were dropped into the story, and they didn’t evolve from there, just repeated until the plot resolved them. Her prose style also did not appeal to my sensibilities, frequently falling into metered sentences of similar length that did not draw me in or create a compelling reading experience.

Domek’s desire to use his intelligence instead of his muscle, and his interest in mechanics, feel like window dressing rather than deep character building or driving motivations, because they’re not deeply explored or manifested. He largely solves the problems of the plot through muscle not wit, and his attempts to be smart create blockers instead of solutions in the plot. He also seems to have never pursued his mechanical or intellectual passions outside of his work as a lamplighter. It’s stated he also works part time for his relative’s watchmaking business, but it’s hardly there in the landscape of his life or the story. When he is called naïve, I think we are meant to take that as someone misunderstanding or underestimating him, but his choices and actions as he attempts to do the smart and right thing are truly naïve, his intellect underdeveloped.

I didn’t care about the lore built around the pijavica, or the physical descriptions. The White Lady was far more interesting to me, but had much less presence in the story. I do prefer ghosts and spirits to vampires, so choosing the read a vampire-centric story is my own fault, on this count.

As for intrigue and thrill, it just wasn’t there. The intrigue between the pijavica families fell flat because we had no embedded point of view characters to experience real back and forth. Ora’s agenda was her own, and she only engaged with the intrigue shallowly, and to her own ends and the ends of her human friends. The families’ agendas were kept hidden from the reader so they could be revealed to Ora and Domek as part of the mystery plot, or as surprises, but like so much else in this book, by the time we got the reveal, I didn’t care, or it drowned in discussions. Jarvis has a habit of halting dramatic tension in scene after scene with lengthy conversations. This was not the terse walk-and-talk of The West Wing or the banter-while-fighting of the Princess Bride. Movement in the scenes frequently ground to a halt while the characters had moral and philosophical debates to decide their course of action. It sucked the drama, urgency, and thrill from the story. With a string edit, this book could have been 100 pages shorter and 100% snappier.

I’m sure there’s an audience for this book, more ideal readers who will find a great deal of pleasure in these pages. Alas, I am not one of them.

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So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Straightforward and driven by facts. Oluo presents practical ways to change both your thinking and behavior to dismantle White Supremacy and oppression in favor of social justice and equity. She infuses her facts with personal stories and explores her ideas through the human lens, doesn’t let anyone off the hook for having thoughts and prayers and emotions without critically examining themselves and working toward growth and change, and closes each chapter with a list of approachable ways to take action for real change. A good book for anyone wanting to become more educated about racism, measure and explore their own internalized racism, and become an agent of positive change in the world.

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On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gorgeous and heartbreaking.

I decided to read this novel after enjoying Yu’s short story “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” (Uncanny Magazine, Sept/Oct 2016), and I was expecting more fairy tales, less haunting, and less un-couched trauma. I wasn’t expecting it to be so brutal, but I’m glad it was. The way the world treats migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers is disgusting and should be talked about and changed.

On Fragile Waves is a coming-of-age story, and a migrant story, and a trauma story, and is about storytelling and human rights and the impact of war. Rich with details, and very much in the same vein as Aliette de Bodard, and the way she weaves the lingering, inter-generational impact of war, and the silence of the older generation, into her work. Yu’s work here is not as overtly fantastic as de Bodard’s space operas, but is every it as visceral and powerful and beautifully rendered.

I recommend to readers who like the literary fantastic.

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