I’ve now got quite a backlog of things I’ve been meaning to review here in some detail, but I also am more than capable of accepting when I’m in over my head. So here, all at once, with mini reviews too perfunctory to reflect accurately the merits of the works, is most of what I’ve recently enjoyed reading:
Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender, art by Greg Tocchini (graphic story)
In a distant future, humanity has fled the surface of an Earth irradiated by a growing sun, and built massive radiation-shielded cities far below the ocean’s surface. Although Low is set on earth, it feels much more like space opera in the tradition of Dune or Star Wars (complete with plucky underdogs and evil tyrants). But against all that complicated backdrop, it’s really the story of a broken family doing what they can to pull the pieces together. Some of the best world building I’ve seen in a graphic novel in recent years .
The Divine by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf and Tomer Hanuka (graphic story)
A supernatural adaptation of a real-world story of child soldiers in East Burma, The Divine takes place in the fictional country of Quanlom, where America explosives experts Mark and Jason are fulfilling a lucrative contract to blow up a volcano for its mineral content. The pair soon discover, however, that the volcano is protected by a group of child soldiers, one of whom wields uncanny supernatural powers. The two American characters, unfortunately, are awkwardly one-dimensional, but an ambitious and memorable concept despite the flaws.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris (related work)
Jon Morris’ survey of “half-baked heroes” features a selection of the most cringeworthy superheroes from comic book history. There are plenty of laughs to be had here at the expense of the goofy superheroes of the past, like Fatman the Human Flying Saucer or The Eye (who is, quite literally, a giant floating eyeball), and Morris’ commentary is largely focused on poking fun. But on a more timely note, a number of these superheroes remind us that superhero comics have never been apolitical, and it’s interesting to read these in the context of current debates about representation in comics.
And, now, a quick list of short-fiction: I found the novella Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds a solid, entertaining read, albeit a bit predictable in parts. I also thoroughly enjoyed the novella “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Pakistani author Usman Malik and the novelette “An Evolutionary Myth” by Korean author Bo-Young Kim. Besides being fine stories in their own right, both were vivid reminders of one reason diversity is vital for the future of fantasy fiction: Because, frankly, rehashing and remixing the same inbred set of mythologies makes for damn boring reading, and it’s refreshing to have something different, especially if it’s as well crafted as these two are.
And finally, the short story “When Your Child Strays from God” by Sam J. Miller is a clever first-person account of an Evangelical mother who begins to question some of her assumptions when the use of an experimental drug opens her heart to empathy. Not likely to be on any puppy ballots, I’m sure, but for me, a story that manages both to be light-hearted and profoundly affecting, which I imagine isn’t easy to do.
Anyway, that at least makes a dent in the backlog. Onward!