roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (PRESS (Octopus Pie))
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Oh hey, it’s a long-belated bookpost. Featuring:

  • Bryan Lee O’Malley – Lost at Sea
  • Jen Van Meter and Bryan Lee O’Malley – Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero
  • Kate Griffin – A Madness of Angels
  • Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber – Underground
  • Victor Pelevin – The Helmet of Horror
  • Maureen Waller – 1700: Scenes from London Life
  • Leonard Richardson – Constellation Games
  • Martha Wells – City of Bones
  • Bonus Level: Christine Love – Analogue: A Hate Story
  • Bonus Level: Christine Love – don’t take it personally babe, it just ain’t your story
  • S. Bear Bergman – The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

Bryan Lee O’Malley – Lost at Sea

(June 29)


It is emo and maudlin as all get-out, it’s kinda silly, and the cartooning in it is eons behind O’Malley’s later work (where by “later” I mean as early as Scott Pilgrim vol. 2). I love this comic absolutely to death and will defend it to all comers. It would have been the perfect medicine for whatever was wrong with me at age 21, and for that I can’t hold any of its flaws against it. And what can I say, I just have a major soft spot for these kids’ banter. They’re adorable.

Jen Van Meter and Bryan Lee O’Malley – Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero

(July 7)

Repeat After Me, And This Shall Be Our Code:


Other than that, though, this was okay. Not great, not bad. It’s on par with the good-bad kind of ’80s movie, the kind that’s hokey but has some charm.

This was also the first full book O’Malley drew, and it looks more like the ancient stuff he used to post on his website than like the stuff that got him famous. It’s kind of rough and it’s actually really hard to tell everyone apart (unlike Scott Pilgrim where a lot of people said it was hard to tell everyone apart but it really wasn’t), but you can still see the seeds of what makes his later work so fun. (More visual/stylistic rough edges: the font is way too small most of the time, and oh god, it does that superhero thing where every sixth word is in boldface??! Who on earth started that stupid tic anyway, it’s fucking deranged.)

I also was really not into the interludes drawn by other artists! It ought to be possible to use that effect well, but the tone was just way off in all of them.

Kate Griffin – A Madness of Angels


This was strongly recommended, but didn’t really live up to my expectations. It did pretty well with the sensory experience of magic, where it hewed to a convincingly disorganized aesthetic; I liked that about it. And the section after the beginning, once Griffin drained a bit of the purple out of the prose and presented us with the mystery of a botched resurrection and a swath of murdered sorcerers, that was pretty cool. But it gradually disappointed me and ended with a sigh. Too many urban fantasy tropes I wasn’t eager to see again, and once I understood the rules of the game, the revenge plot just became repetitive and uninteresting.

Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber – Underground

(July 22)

Insert something here about compressors and the radio loudness war, and how action movies (and this comic is an action movie) have a similar inflationary scale. This is kind of the equivalent of putting on an old Sabbath record and having to crank the knob a bit.

Anyway, I liked it.

Victor Pelevin – The Helmet of Horror

(Aug. 4-ish)


Okay, I think I have a better idea of what’s going on here. It eludes simple analysis — it’s a legit labyrinth, and not the kind with just one way through it. (The dwarfs. Just… what are they even doing in there.) But I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the emergence of consciousness from non-conscious components. Right? Someone else read this and kibbitz about it, please.

Maureen Waller – 1700: Scenes from London Life

(Aug. 10)

Frances Hardinge mentioned this one in the acknowledgements for Fly by Night, so I grabbed it from the library. It’s exactly what it says it is — there’s no underlying narrative here, just a series of themed chapters that each explore some aspect of London life at the time. I liked it a lot, but it was harder to read than something like The Ghost Map, which also makes an effort to immerse the reader in the technology and society and zeitgeist of another time but does so in the context of a guiding narrative. This one is all infodump.

Here’s an interesting thing, though: you already pretty much have your context, because London at the turn of the 18th century is still kind of everywhere you look. I have this half-cocked suspicion that it’s the original devil metropolis in Anglophone literature, and every later one borrows from our collective cultural memory of what an unbelievable hellhole olde London Town was. (For example, I am very gratified to have found Ankh-Morpork’s exact space/time coordinates.)

And it’s good infodump, pretty much gobsmacking on every level at once. Case in point: GRATUITOUS COCK-ALE RECIPE.

Leonard Richardson – Constellation Games


This was great! Funny and with tons of heart and lots of clever bits. I enjoyed it a lot. If I had to say what it was about… it’s about coming to terms with your place in history, I think. With both choosing to be important and accepting that you’ll be small and irrelevant, and how you kind of have to do both.

Martha Wells – City of Bones

August 19 (re-read)

Man I love this book. It’s like, an Indiana Jones-eqsue fantasy noir adventure? It’s pulpy adventure with good characters and a vivid-as-hell setting. And scary ghosts. And the protagonist is an artificial marsupialoid semi-human, and and and. The point is, it’s awesome.

Wells has been self-publishing her backlist back into print, and you can get a DRM-free ebook of CoB for like three bucks, so just do it. Leave it on your phone, and open it up later when you’re stuck waiting for something.

Bonus Level: Christine Love – Analogue: A Hate Story

Hey, remember Digital: A Love Story? (AKA “Nick, it’s 2010, why are there fake modem screams coming from your room?”) Well, the author’s been busy, and this is her newest game. You’re a data-scrapper, sent to recover logs from a derelict colony ship found dead in orbit around some bullshit star. Once you invade the computers, you can’t find the AI you were told to liase with; someone else is in control. She’s very helpful, but she isn’t telling you the whole story. Then you read a bunch of dead peoples’ emails together.

I kid, but I enjoyed this a ton. It’s a grand horror story, which takes its sweet time turning its hand. Check it out.

Bonus Level: Christine Love – don’t take it personally babe, it just ain’t your story

This one wasn’t as good — rough around the edges, unsubtle railroading re: the unread message count, bullshit ending — but it did have its moments. You play John Rook, world’s worst high school teacher. Your mission is to eavesdrop on all of your students’ Facebook posts and private messages, and occasionally dispense questionable advice. Oh, and you also get the option of going straight down the drain and dating one of your 17-year-old students, so that’s… uh… there’s that. (Your avatar is 38.) (Yes, I did a second playthrough and went for it.) (It was horrible.) (For everyone.) (And that includes you.)


  • I actually got pretty invested in getting Kendall and Charlotte back together. D’awwww.
  • 4chan as Greek chorus was brilliant, I don’t care what anyone says.
  • The constant annoying bing of the message alert was kind of poignant. Also, was my intense urge to check my real Facebook and Twitter after reading the new messages an intentional part of the design? (And it was hilarious how barren your email inbox stays for nearly the whole game, while the Fauxbook alerts go off like a Geiger counter.)
  • It would have been cooler to play a character who was similarly base and pathetic but not just straight-up as dumb as a stick.

It’s really odd, it’s free, it’s a genre of game you don’t really ever see in English. Well worth messing with for an evening.

S. Bear Bergman – The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

(August 29)

S. Bear Bergman’s a helluva raconteur. I enjoyed this a lot.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

(Sept 2)

Since I never read it in high school the way everyone else apparently did. (Speaking of which, who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to teach this book in high school? Because it’s really good and deserves the hype, but god damn, there is NOTHING in there for a teenager. I wouldn’t have gotten any of it, and I’m interested to hear how it went over in your classes. [ profile] bobbygalaxy says he liked the atmosphere and style; Raye says it left no particular impression.)

Halfway through, I found myself distractedly grasping around for a word, and the word turned out to be “Eloi.” That probably gives you the gist of my take on the book! EAT THE RICH.

Thinking more about it, though, that might point to why I’m skeptical of Gatsby-the-high-school-standard: the core of the story is about how extreme privilege turns you into a helpless stunted teenager destroying everything around you, and how worshipping extreme privilege from afar turns you into a very different kind of stunted teenager, and how there’s a poignant tragedy in both fates. I think maybe when I was a teenager, my thought proceses still, in some ways, resembled Gatsby’s too much, such that I doubt I’d have been able to properly see him. Probably woulda thought he was just noble and devoted or some shit.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-14 01:50 am (UTC)
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Speaking of which, who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to teach this book in high school?

*chokes on tea* lol

Because it’s really good and deserves the hype, but god damn, there is NOTHING in there for a teenager. I wouldn’t have gotten any of it, and I’m interested to hear how it went over in your classes.

I dunno. I think it got covered in both AP and regular English classes in the 10th grade back when I was in high school (and I took both, in that order, after failing AP because I hated my teacher that much - she was no big fan of me, either) but I only recall class reaction to the book in regular English: everyone seemed to more or less enjoy it. We also watched the movie in regular English (the great thing about our teacher was she was All Over It in terms of giving us depth of understanding through films, slides, anything she could get her hands on to re-enforce the material).

To my mind, both were excellent: the book rocked; so did the movie. Growing up fantastically poor (in the projects, to boot, but with a comparatively rich daddy divorced from my mom who gave me a taste of the good life whenever and however he could) I could pretty much only dream of their lifestyles. It was hard to imagine possessing Daisy's vapid coldness and Gatsby's struggling and conflicted emotions toward himself and her: ultimately the book managed to take me out of myself for a while, so I'd rate it an all-around Good Thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-17 03:35 am (UTC)
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Well, I didn't fail AP for lack of reading skills, if that's what you mean, it was more like I deliberately failed because I just did shit like that (and I imagine I would still do shit like that again, given the right set of circumstances).

The problem with AP teach was she was cold, clipped, hurried, and totally stuck-up, and she kept throwing homework at you until you were buried ("Read six chapters tonight, study for three quizzes tomorrow morning", stuff like that) and expected you to understand all of the material without explaining it right or adequately herself. Her attitude was, "You're in AP, aren't you? You should know this so don't ask me."

I thought she was a roaring bitch and I *hate* environments like that. I still remember times my cheeks would burn with pent-in anger because she'd mangle some explanation so badly that I'd raise my hand to correct HER but of course she'd call on someone else, and some ass-kissing "Yes, I agree" answer would ensue that completely overlooked her lack of insight, and yes, over that, I threw a massive gut-wrenching attitude and deliberately failed the whole class. Which got me Ms. L, my greatest English teacher ever. I told her when I started her class (I had Guidance switch me out to her mid-year so I wouldn't have to fail AP English straight through the following June) that my last teacher didn't explain things right. She told me not to worry about that with her (she was a supremely confident soul) and boy she was not kidding. She turned every English class into an event, pure theater, just incredible fun. As for AP teach, she became my Journalism coach the following year and made me the copy editor of the school paper the first week in, so I guess we didn't turn out too bad together, after all. :)

According to my mother, I started reading the newspaper when I was three and by the time I hit kindergarten I could read books. The kids in kindergarten back then weren't even taught how to read until first grade and no, I have no recollection of any of this, but that reading bug was always there, I guess.

As to others being better readers than you or anyone, I don't know: I was in a NY public school with a rather rigorous curriculum even for non-AP students, and standards were high. Many of my regular English classmates were in fact headed for the Ivy League (I sat behind the future class valedictorian in regular English and asked him why he didn't take the AP class himself; he said his study load was so heavy that taking AP English would break him, and I knew firsthand how true that was).

But for what it's worth, I can't stand Faulkner. A typical Southern fop if ever there was one. At least Fitzgerald's writing is crisp, clear, and much more fully immersive. :)
Edited Date: 2012-10-17 03:39 am (UTC)


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