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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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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Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Thanks to NetGalley for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Luckily, I get to rave about what makes this book so great.

Master of Djinn is more than just an extremely fun adventure-romance (in the literary and popular sense)-murder mystery. (There’s also clockwork/steampunk elements, because Clark saw us all coming and threw as many things into this blender as possible.) It puts colonialism and racism, the patriarchy, disenfranchisement, and slavery under a microscope, all while infusing it with humor, sarcasm, and memes. (Clark reminds us that the 21st century didn’t invent that shit, bless him.)

I love Clark’s re-imagining of a Cairo – of an Egypt – independent of British rule, establishing itself as a world player in a critical moment in time. The unmasking of the conspiracy at the tangled heart of the story mirrors the real history of Otto von Bismarck and the complex web of secret deals he brokered amongst world powers that led to the outbreak of World War One. I don’t know how Clark managed to do that so elegantly while including those same world powers on the precipice of their conflict in the story. That’s what makes this book so powerfully good: the use of bombastic adventure tropes to distract you from the reality that you’re reading some sophisticated and subtle storytelling. Layers of misdirection, for the characters and the readers!

Let’s talk about the characters. Fatma is complicated and willful and deeply good. She makes mistakes and does better next time, and does it with style and panache. Siti is funny and sexy and has sharp edges and claws and always shows up when someone she cares about needs her. Hadia is ambitious and smart and skillful and sly. They are all devoted to family in their own way. It shouldn’t be so rare to find a book written by a man with female characters who feel like they were written by a woman, but it is, making this book a rarity twice over.

I highly recommend reading at least “A Dead Djinn in Cairo“, if not also The Haunting of Tram Car 015 , before reading this novel.




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