Jun 24 2020

Paper Girls Vol. 1-5 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson & Jared K. Fletcher

Imagine if the D&D-playing nerds of Stranger Things were four badass girls with paper routes, and you’ll get a decent idea of where this comic book series begins. Tho, tbf, this setting feels less Stranger Things than (at least the roleplaying version of) Tales From The Loop, as its 80s setting is of a decidedly more sci-fi bent than fantasy horror.

Anyway, the first book begins the morning after Halloween, when 12 year-old Erin Tieng has to get up at the crack of dawn to deliver newspapers in her small Ohio town of Stony Stream. An unpleasant run-in with entitled teenage jerks still running around from the night before is mercifully brought to a close by the three other female paper girls of their community: tough girl and pioneering paper girl Mac; field hockey stick-wielding KJ, and brainy Tiffany. They adopt Erin into their circle just as things go completely sideways and upside down.

Vol Two finds the girls unsure of whom to trust after KJ disappears and multiple Erins abound. While we learn a little more about the mysterious entities chasing down the Paper Girls, this volume focuses on 12 year-old Erin’s relationship with grown-up Erin, making for both compelling and heart-warming reading.

Vol Three finds the girls thrown back millenia to accidentally encounter the very first time traveler, as we dive into KJ’s psyche. While trying to help a girl from the ancient past, they discover what might be a way to solve the entire problem from the get-go, only to have everything go very wrong in the end.

In Vol 4, the girls are lost in the year 2000, and run into future Tiffany as well as a comic creator who might be one panel short of a strip. The war between the Old Timers and their descendants gets even more heated, as one casualty causes the man in charge to go ballistic. The girls escape Y2K only to find themselves in a far future Cleveland, Ohio in Vol 5, when I finally connect the dots and have a miniature freak out as to whom some of the most important characters actually are.

This is an extremely lively, fast-paced jaunt through space and time, folding scientific concepts and conundrums seamlessly into a whip smart narrative featuring four strong female leads who always read like authentic people. The art is relentlessly terrific, with Cliff Chiang’s clean, muscular lines and impeccable ability to differentiate between even minor characters given room to strut and play. The action is as strong as the emotion, and both perfectly match the scripting. Matthew Wilson’s colors are also superb, bringing to mind the best of Glynis Oliver’s work, tho with much more color blocking to suit the needs/aesthetics of the story. I also haven’t been this impressed by lettering since I was first introduce to Nate Piekos and Blambot via the X-Statix books! I kinda want to take the time to decode Jared K Fletcher’s ciphered script but also I’m lazy and have so much reading to do, so look forward to having it all eventually laid out for me.

This is such a great team putting out a really terrific title and I can’t wait to start the Hugo nominated 6th volume, which will be getting a review page all its own. I’m only sad that it looks as though the sixth might well be the final, but I can totally appreciate choosing a finite number of issues in which to tell a complete story. Given the amount of thought put into these volumes so far, it’s no surprise that the whole thing has been carefully planned from the start, with terrific callbacks in each volume to what might have seemed a throwaway detail in preceding ones. If you can remember living through the 1980s, or if you remember what it was like to be a 12 year-old girl, or even if you just enjoy a kick-ass, intelligent story about time travel, you should absolutely read these books.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/24/paper-girls-vol-1-5-by-brian-k-vaughan-cliff-chiang-matthew-wilson-jared-k-fletcher/

Jun 23 2020

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

Oh, that was a hot mess.

One reason that the rest of the books in the Wayward Children series have worked for me, despite my misgivings regarding certain of Seanan McGuire’s narrative choices (e.g. the blanket disdain for parents in Every Heart A Doorway, the idolization of The Baker in Beneath The Sugar Sky, the occasional need to soapbox instead of work issues cleverly into the narrative in both. Down Among The Sticks And Bones is perfect tho,) is that the portal worlds the children escape to are fantasy worlds that don’t operate on the logic that ours does. Granted there’s a Virtue-Logic dichotomy to track the scale of exactly how each realm differs, but each has their own internal consistency that rules all doings while on it. Well, had. Because the Goblin Market world introduced in this novella makes absolutely no damn sense at all, which was highly ironic given that it’s supposed to be one of the Logical worlds.

But even before we get to the Goblin Market, I felt both really seen and really irritated by the description of Katharine Lundy, our heroine. Hey, I was that bookish, rule-following child who was perfectly happy alone, but I also had friends who were bookish, rule-following children, and we weren’t boring prigs! We liked each other’s company! I’m still friends with them today! I also had lots of friends who weren’t bookish rule-followers… but this isn’t about me, this is about Ms McGuire writing as if Lundy’s fate was the inevitable one for kids like her. It’s not, and saying so is stupid.

Anyway, poor lonely Lundy finds a portal that leads her to the Goblin Market, a realm with seemingly bizarre rules that were set up in order to maintain Fair Value, the defining characteristic of this world. On the one hand, I thought it was pretty neat that there exists a place with all of five rules to govern your life that winds up being positively utopian. Cheating individuals or not contributing to society means that the realm itself will punish you. Lundy’s dad thinks that this discourages maturity and free will but Lundy’s dad is stupid. Do real world punishments for criminal acts discourage free will, Dad? Fucking hardly.

But the Market isn’t shown to be a good place — despite it being a radically cool concept — but a scary one. Which, yes, but also, what is going on here? Does Ms McGuire want us to like this place? I had zero idea why Lundy, whose grasp on the Fair Value thing often seemed shaky at best, would want to live here. The entire thing with the Wasp Queen and Mockery was ridiculous and unnecessarily off-camera. The bargain Lundy made to restore Moon to humanity made no sense either: if the relationship development the Archivist predicted was “inevitable”, why bother putting it in as a price?! And the way Lundy left Goblin Market at the end was the stupidest thing I’ve ever read in these books. The idea for the Goblin Market was amazing (and also awful in the sense that transactionalist societies always feel one step away from donning jackboots and rounding up the disabled,) but the execution so incredibly nonsensical, for a book about a fantasy realm ruled by logic, that I didn’t know whether this entire thing was supposed to be a weird joke of some kind.

Obviously, this is my least favorite of the series, and at the moment the least favorite of the novellas in contention for the 2020 Hugo Awards. So bad.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/23/in-an-absent-dream-wayward-children-4-by-seanan-mcguire/

Jun 22 2020

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes

Would I have liked this more were we not at a point in time where the news is so saturated in Black pain that reading entertainment that centers that just feels like too much? It’s not that I want to turn my back on the Black experience, but I am definitely at the point where I ache for Black joy, where I want to consume media that celebrates Black people, that shows them as a vibrant multitude of unique individuals instead of merely the walking wounded. I don’t want to pretend that Black people don’t feel pain, but is it too much to ask for a book that shows them feeling more than just pain?

I love that The Deep imagines that the children still in the wombs of the African women thrown overboard during the trans-Atlantic slave trade survived and evolved to become the wajinru, a merfolk who built their own underwater civilization based on forgetting the past. Well, except for The Historian, whose role is to remember the past for everyone else, a role that has been twisted through the centuries till the burden falls upon Yetu to uphold an entire people’s memories and history. That is a fucking huge burden to ask of anyone, particularly a sensitive teenager, but it’s hard to feel sorry for Yetu when she spends the entire book feeling sorry for herself. She is a weirdly one-note character who is hard to sympathize with emotionally, even as I sympathize with her intellectually. I was also deeply annoyed by her relationship with her amaba: how on earth does she expect Amaba to understand what she’s going through when the extent of her explanations come in the form of figurative foot-stomping and cries of “You just don’t get it!” Well, yeah, obviously, and she’s not going to get it because she’s not psychic and you’re the one with the repository of eleventy billion skills so you can’t tap into some past orator to help get your point across?

I did like the hopefulness of the ending, even if I was kinda eh on Yetu and Oori’s relationship, which struck me as relying too heavily on tropes despite it opening the way for a frank and welcome conversation on sexuality. This definitely hasn’t been my favorite of the novellas nominated for the Hugo Awards 2020; I enjoyed the clipping. track that inspired this far better.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/22/the-deep-by-rivers-solomon-daveed-diggs-william-hutson-jonathan-snipes/

Jun 21 2020

Hugo Awards 2020: Short Story Nominees

Because I don’t have a subscription to the OED, I will take Merriam-Webster at their word that the first appearance of “listicle” was in 2007, several eternities ago in internet terms — back when you still had to have a .edu address to get a Facebook account (back when youngish people still thought Facebook was neat) and just a year or so after Google bought YouTube for what seemed an absurd sum at the time. How can you make any money sharing videos? And who would want to do that? Like those two behemoths of the net, listicles are here to stay, and judging from this year’s and last year’s Hugo nominees in the short story category, something like a listicle has become a standard form in short fantasy and science fiction.

Last year’s ballot featured “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” (plus “STET,” whatever you think its form might be, and also “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” in the novelette category). This year brings “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen and, not entirely in list form but structured around lists, “A Catalog of Storms” by Frank Wilde. I find the form aggravating, because it invites authors to just gesture toward a story rather than to actually tell one. At best, I think a listicle story — storycle? — can be a clever conceit, but all too often that’s all that’s really going on: there’s some cleverness, but not much story.

And Now His Lordship is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas is, as Doreen noted, a revenge fantasy, set up with the death of a child who is only in the story to die and motivate the protagonist. The ending is visible from miles away.

The possible death of a child is also the crux of “As the Last I May Know,” by S.L. Huang. There’s a war on (isn’t there always?) and terrible weapons are available. They might prove decisive in the war, but they might also lead to the end of all life. Huang calls them calls them “seres” rather than “atomic” or “thermonuclear,” but they amount to the same thing. The country where the story takes place is the only one on which seres have been used in the past. Now, the codes to use them are not carried by a political aide, but embedded in the body of a ten-year-old. To use the weapons, the codes have to be ripped from the child, killing, in this case, her. Nyma by name. A precocious poet, chosen for her role by lot, committed to its importance but afraid of dying. But if the president can’t kill one person directly, why should he be allowed to kill millions by remote control? As a fable, it’s a decent exercise, but as political commentary, I think it underestimates the seriousness with which presidents take questions of war and peace. At least, presidents who are not raging psychopaths. Presidents who are raging psychopaths would not have a problem extracting the codes from their carrier, so I think there is a clear lesson for democratic polities about what kind of president not to have.

“Do Not Look Back, My Lion” by Alix E. Harrow also turns on how much of a raging psychopath a political leader — in this case an Emperor (who is a woman) rather than a president — is, and what that means for her subjects, even her most exalted ones. There’s a war on (isn’t there always?), and the eastern conquest is going badly. The land of Xot is a fierce matriarchy; the only named male character is Tuvo, almost sixteen, a gentle soul but still keen to be as much a warrior as his older sisters or his mother Talaan, the Lion of Xot. Much of the population of Xot literally worships death. Eefa, Talaan’s husband (though both are women), is a healer and not fully able-bodied. She is not held in the regard that Talaan is, even by their daughters. The story tells of the love between Eefa and Talaan, and how much is too much for a warrior born and true.

I agree with Doreen that the ending of “Blood is Another Word for Hunger,” by Rivers Solomon, feels like more should be coming, rather than turning back inward to something like the beginning. But getting there is full of mythic strangeness that sets this story apart. In the midst of the American Civil War, a slave girl takes a knife and murders her mistress along with the four other women that form her mistress’ family. Instead of relief, though, Sully feels more rage afterward. “It was Sully’s unsoftened anger in the face of what she’d done that cut a path between dominions. The etherworld spat out a teenage girl, full grown, called Ziza into Sully’s womb. Ziza had spent the last two hundred years skulking in the land of the dead, but she rode the fury of Sully’s murders like a river current back to the world of flesh. Ziza felt it all, wind and sky and the breath of wolves against her skin. She spun through the ages looking for the present, time now foreign to her after being in a world where everything was both eternal and nonexistent.” Murder and myth and live and death all mix together on that isolated farmstead, with something new trying to peek around the corner. This story is best when it refuses to stay fixed to earth; because of that, I am not sure that a satisfying ending is possible.

All of the main actors of this year’s short story nominees are women, whether the authors themselves are or not. The leads of half of the stories are explicitly coded as non-white; as the only country to have city-killing weapons used on it, the setting of “As the Last I May Know” could be read as a stand-in for Japan (though with a president rather than a prime minister) but there is not enough description to declare it a direct analogue.

This year’s Hugos would have been presented in New Zealand, but because of the pandemic the Worldcon organizers have made CoNZealand into a virtual convention. I would have loved to have had the money to travel there, and I am sorry to see the dream of “Worldcon in Middle Earth” derailed. George R.R. Martin will be this year’s presenter, and the ceremonies should be watchable online.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/21/hugo-awards-2020-short-story-nominees-2/

Jun 19 2020

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

Whyyyy did I not know this was set in an alternate universe early 20th century Egypt, where djinn and the supernatural manifest side by side with the rest of society?! I suppose it’s my own fault for not previously familiarizing myself with P Djeli Clark’s work, tho I’m fixing to remedy that with a read of his A Dead Djinn In Cairo shortly. I just assumed The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 was set in America, and I was so pleasantly surprised to be whisked outside of this currently depressing milieu, to enjoy a fantastical tale of ghostly entities and the intrepid agents who keep them from hurting humanity.

THoTC015 follows Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities as he shows the freshly minted Agent Onsi the proverbial ropes. They’ve been assigned to investigate a reported haunting of one of the aerial tram cars that crisscross Cairo on a mix of steampunk and magic, while the city itself is in the throes of protests for woman suffrage.

It feels odd boiling the plot down to just that, when it’s such a rich novella, chock full of ideas and details and action that I felt as satisfied as if I’d read an entire novel’s worth of material. My favorite thing about it, if I had to pick just one, was the author’s ability to show how a society contains multitudes. Each named character we encounter in the book has a vivid, unique personality, and I am panting to read more. THoTC015 is just so good, and so much fun, and definitely my current favorite for the Hugo Awards 2020’s Best Novella category.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/19/the-haunting-of-tram-car-015-by-p-djeli-clark/

Jun 18 2020

Anxiety Is The Dizziness Of Freedom by Ted Chiang

Gosh, it feels kinda weird reviewing this as its own entity, but I’m still only partway through reading Exhalation, the collection it comes from, and won’t be able to finish the whole book for a while. Anxiety Is The Dizziness Of Freedom is the last story in the volume, after the also-Hugo-nominated Omphalos, with both tales providing quite different variations on the theme of alternate realities.

AitDoF follows Nat, a former addict trying to get her life back on track, and Dana, a counselor racked by feelings of guilt, as their paths intersect at a weekly meeting for prism users. Loosely speaking, a prism is a finite device that allows you to communicate with an alternate reality split off from this one — there’s a lot of quantum theorizing on how this technology works, and it makes for an interesting thought experiment, as explored in long interludes in the text. Anyway, Nat joins Dana’s group in order to run a scam dreamed up by the manager at the prism shop she works at, and finds herself in several morally questionable positions that Ted Chiang examines through the prism of, well, prisms.

On the one hand, I greatly enjoyed the tech and the people in this novella. On the other, I don’t have time for the wankery of paralysis based on how successful or otherwise your alternate reality selves are. That’s possibly a personal thing, as I was raised not to compare myself to other people but to do the right thing in the here and now. That said, I did like how the ending showed that no matter what you do, you can’t fix other people, as well as how it neatly avoided the trap of giving rich people things for free, a current societal practice that still rankles. Overall, I preferred this to Omphalos, and thought it on par with Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate, another nominee for the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novella, but I wasn’t blown away.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/18/anxiety-is-the-dizziness-of-freedom-by-ted-chiang/

Jun 17 2020

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Fourteen years after completing his multi-book Witcher Saga with The Lady of the Lake, Andzej Sapkowski returned to the world of Geralt of Rivia, not to continue the story but to add in some adventures from his hero’s early years. It’s an odd way to end the series and, perhaps, his writing career, as I do not see that he has published a book since.

Season of Storms

The alarums and excursion in Season of Storms are perfectly cromulent, but taken together they do not add much to a reader’s understanding of Geralt or the world around him. Toward the end, there are hints that Geralt will become a figure in a myth of eternal return, as was also implied in The Lady of the Lake, but other than that there is little of larger significance going on in the novel. Which is not to say that it isn’t fun — some of the close encounters with gruesome monsters are good outings for Geralt, Dandelion gets to show off both the society connections that Geralt cannot match and his poetic ego nearly getting both of them into trouble. Maybe after the multi-volume saga, Sapkowski wanted to return to simpler tales, with just a little bit of entanglement connecting them to later events.

The novel begins with Geralt rescuing part of a group of travelers from an attack by a particularly vicious lurking beast. Readers soon learn that Geralt knew they would likely be attacked and did not warn them away so that he would have a better chance of luring the monster out of its hiding places and then killing it. The tactic weighs on him; he is a killer, but not without conscience. He also tries to avoid some petty graft when settling up the contract for eliminating this particular beast, but eventually gives in. That bending of his moral code will land him in trouble not long after, although it is clear that the powers-that-be would have probably trumped up something else if they did not have this incident of corruption to harass him with.

Geralt is then in and out of jail, in and out of the employ of the local rulers, in and out of the bed of a sorceress who is not his long-time love Yennefer, in and out of a plot among wizards, and numerous other things as well. If the book does not add up to a significant addition to the Witcher canon, at least it’s enjoyable on its own terms. Season of Storms is the eighth book concerning the Witcher, and definitely not a good place to start.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/17/season-of-storms-by-andrzej-sapkowski/

Jun 16 2020

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I think binge-reading the Monstress comic book series has seriously lowered my tolerance for earnest right now.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate. The earnestness fits the message, which is a meditation on scientific ethics in regard to space travel and exploration. The novella is as uplifting, diverse and thoughtful as the rest of Ms Chambers’ work, if less funny and more science-y. It follows the four crew members of the Merian, who’ve been somatically engineered to withstand extreme differences in atmosphere and gravity as they chart the living species on each of the four extrasolar planets they’ve targeted for research. It’s a very brainy, very detail-oriented look at space, time, evolution, ethics and life itself, as well as an optimistic paean to scientific research and the human spirit.

But it’s not fun. Or at least not the kind of fun I expected after reading Ms Chambers’ excellent The Long Road To A Small, Angry Planet. TBTiF is less an entertainment than a mission statement in the form of fiction, with the occasional textbook-y interlude. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the pulpier bits, as well as the cool survival concepts but the rest of it was too nerdy even for me. YMMV, of course.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/16/to-be-taught-if-fortunate-by-becky-chambers/

Jun 15 2020

Monstress Vol. 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

I chose to review this volume separately from the first three, due to it being nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story 2020, but I feel like I don’t have a lot to say separate from my thoughts on the preceding volumes. I feel like Monstress is a bit of an acquired taste of a series. If you dig manga-inspired tentacle monsters inhabiting a realpolitik world loosely based on early 1900s Asia, with steampunk technology and a fascinating diversity of factions/people, then you may very well enjoy this series. If you’re okay with things not being explained to you but enjoy constant novelty with pretty or grotesque things thrown onto the pages before you, then you’ll probably enjoy this series. Given my high tolerance for deep world-building and fantasy settings, as well as my partiality for diverse representation and feminist interpretations, I thought I’d enjoy this title a lot more than I do. But after Vol 4, I don’t think I’ll bother reading any more of this series, unless forced to next year by Hugo voters.

The main trouble is that as the series progresses, it gets really, really tropey. Maika is a grumpy but attractive anti-hero trying to fight the literal demon/old god inside her. She has a soft spot for Kippa, the pure-hearted and v earnest child Arcanic who’s decided to be her sidekick. In this volume, Maika discovers that her dad is as much a bastard as her mother was, and has to hit the road again as forces continue to amass, threatening war against one another when the real threat is the release of the old gods into the terrestrial realms. There’s a bunch of betrayal, a bunch of ghastly horror stuff, and just enough of Kippa and Ren’s absolutely adorable adventures to make me care about what’s going on while everyone else is V Grumpy and V Serious around them. I get it, it’s a horror/high fantasy comic, it’s not gonna be a laugh a minute, but all this dourness is just exhausting, especially when it no longer feels in service to anything new or fresh story-wise.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/15/monstress-vol-4-the-chosen-by-marjorie-m-liu-sana-takeda/

Jun 15 2020

Monstress Vol. 1-3 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

While reading the first volume of this series, I realized that it was going to be one of those comic book titles where you have to hang on for dear life and just enjoy the ride as events unfold and things maybe get explained along the way. The first volume, Awakening, drops you in media res as our heroine, Maika Halfwolf, goes undercover as a slave in order to infiltrate the Cumaean stronghold of Zamora. Maika is a beautiful, human-passing Arcanic whose left arm ends just below the elbow. She’s also host to a monster with a hunger for… well, honestly, I’m not sure exactly what it hungers for, whether it’s killing or blood or life essence or what. Those are the kinds of questions a comic book can skirt around by showing instead of telling, tho sometimes I feel that this series does a lot more showing than explaining at all. Anyhoo, Maika is after a witch, Yvette, who knows what happened to her mother, Moriko, and by extension herself, as Maika finds herself unable to contain the hunger of the monster within her. She figures that Yvette might have answers as to what Moriko found on a doomed expedition where, Maika believes, the monster was put into her. As Maika battles her way through and from Zamora, she picks up a child Arcanic, the adorable fox-like Kippa, as well as Ren, a cat-like double-tailed Ubasti, and learns more about the monster inside.

Vol Two, The Blood, finds Maika running toward the pirate-controlled city of Thyria in order to set sail to the Island Of Bones where her mother and Yvette had gone on their ill-fated expedition. Her expedition goes little better, as the monster inside her grows in awareness and offers itself almost as a partner to her. Maika realizes that her mom was an abusive jerk who only created her in order to grow a vessel for the monster. The forces of different interests converge in order to capture Maika and her potential for power for themselves.

In the third volume, Haven, Maika, Kippa and Ren have made it to the neutral port city of Pontus. However, if Maika can’t re-energize the shield that her ancestor, the Shaman-Empress, once built to protect the city, it’ll be open season on the inhabitants as Maika’s pursuers tear the place apart in search of her and the monstrum, Zinn, she’s carrying within her skin. To this end, she and Zinn must descend into the bowels of the city to open the Shaman-Empress’ lab, and to fight the safeguards long ago put into place to keep it sealed. Zinn remembers a lot more about himself, but not nearly enough, and as in pretty much every volume to date, horrifying shit happens.

So Monstress is a horror comic filled with grotesque images, drawn in a manga style with Western formatting. My favorite thing about Sana Takeda’s art is her gorgeous use of color, plus also Kippa (her tail hugging is the cutest!) and the way she and Ren interact. But otherwise, it’s not for me. I don’t like looking at elder gods and tentacles and a multiplicity of eyes. I’m not a huge fan of panel after panel of violence and killing. And I often feel that the pacing is off, as rando stuff happens that has me going “wait, what” or “who?!” or “why” or “how?!”

But what, you could say, did I expect from a horror story set in an alternate reality loosely based on early 1900s Asia, with steampunk technology and gods who walk among mortals? It’s definitely a cool idea, putting a neat twist on the standard hero’s quest while different races and city-states clash in bloody conflicts and mystical intrigue around her. The world-building is deep, bringing to life a milieu that is believably chaotic. I did very much enjoy the quietly subversive decision to have this be a world run by the matriarchy, with mostly women characters and leaders.

I think I would have liked the Monstress series a lot more if weren’t so uniformly humorless, tho. There are cute moments and sweet moments, but rarely moments of levity. Again, what you’d expect from a serious horror comic, but awfully hard to sustain over three volumes without making at least this reader fidget with impatience for something other than grimdark. Oh, man, the thought just occurred to me: this is like the feminine version of a Warhammer 40k novel, and not the fun Caiaphas Cain ones either. If that’s your thing, by all means, go for this. I’ve heard so much about the series that I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it (and Vol Two was definitely my favorite of the bunch so far) but it’s definitely not the kind of book I’d pick up by choice ever again. Granted, I still have to read the Hugo nominated 4th volume, and perhaps that’s more my speed. We’ll find out soon enough.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/15/monstress-vol-1-3-by-marjorie-m-liu-sana-takeda/