Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Review: The Last Unicorn


Book Review: The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle 

Goodreads Description: The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician—whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended—when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.


My Review: When it comes to classics, The Last Unicorn is the quintessential fairy tale. Beagle is thrown up there with other classic heavyweights like Tolkien, Lewis Carrol, or EB White, and it's clear why. Beagle crafted a world rich with wisdom, where fact and fiction twist until they call into question the objectivity of perception. 

The Last Unicorn features a typical fantasy setting modelled after medieval Europe - full of kings and knights, peasant villages, and royal courts. Yet the familiar mythical beasts of classic fantasy are oddly lacking - the colour feels zapped out of the world, much like the unicorn's coat fading from sea-green to a snow white. Magic has been drawn to the edges of the map, leaving some to question its existence at all, yet the unicorn, the harpy of the Midnight Carnival, even Schmendrick's magic, as underwhelming as it may be at times, points to the existence of something greater. The text makes a convincing argument for the existence of magic in our own world, as some characters, even when faced with magic and myth, are unable to see it. Sometimes this is due to magical interference, but usually it's the characters' closed-mindedness that prevents them from seeing outside of their own perception, leading them to see only what they expect to. The entire book plays with themes of reality and illusions, myth and fact, all funneled through an individual's ultimately malleable perception. Since this book was published in 1968, it's highly likely that Beagle shaped modern fantasy with this concept of magic existing just outside our periphery, and it's exciting to see this concept executed so well and thoughtfully. The Last Unicorn doesn't just throw in some cheap "veil" explanation, but dives deep into concepts of seeing and recognition that will make you re-evaluate what might be lurking in the corner of your own vision.

The book is written as a fable, like the ones Molly Grue is so enamored with, and while this approach allows for an easy dispense of wisdom, it keeps the reader at a distance and doesn't allow for easy self-insertion. Many times while reading, I wondered what was really going on with Schmendrick and if his intentions were actually what they seemed. Beagle achieves this through an omniscient narrator that gives us glimpses into each character's head before pulling back out again. The audience therefore never fully knows each character, making it difficult for readers to identify with them. This likely led to my lower rating, as I love identifying with characters while reading as a form of escapism, though I acknowledge this would have dealt a blow to the fable atmosphere and prevented the characters from reaching a more 'legend-esque' status. 

The writing throughout the book is breathtaking and creates many quotable lines heavy with meaning. While Beagle's world stands on its own, there are many allusions to real life plays, poetry, books, and more that connects The Last Unicorn to a sense of 'real' life and history. This connection to our world, combined with the way the text harmonizes various ideas of what a 'traditional fantasy fable' constitutes, creates a seamless mythical story that feels far older than it is, since it resonates with so many intangible cultural conceptions of medieval fantasy. It's filled with whimsy that feels directionless at first, but hums with thematic meaning. The lyrical language alone carries readers into a world of wonder and draws together the fable-like aspects, soft magic system, and distant characters to create a fairy tale truly deserving of the name. 

You can't go wrong with this classic. It feels like the wellspring from which much of modern fantasy has erupted from. 

TL;DR: 3/5 stars. A classic modern fairy tale employing all the wit and whimsy language has to offer. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Review: Binti


Book Review: Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor 

Goodreads Description: In her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family's concerns, Binti's talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.

But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti's spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.

There is more to the history of the Medusae--and their war with the Khoush--than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.


My Review: Okay, I'll be the one to say it. You know what's wrong with sci-fi? Not enough magic in it. 

Okorafor took on the challenge to blend the two genres in her space opera novellas about a human woman accepted into an intergalactic university - the first of her tribe to leave her humble Himba home and sharpen her skills alongside multiple races in an intergalactic university. For Binti, her math skills aren't just about numbers, they're a type of magic that allows her to understand other life forms and influence the universe. The novellas employ a soft magic system that's purposefully vague on its limitations, but appears to mainly facilitate communication between Binti and the wider universe. Math, as they say, is the universal language. 

In the west, science fiction and fantasy genres seem to inhabit opposite ends of the spectrum - mimicking the divide between religion and science outside of fiction. Religion and science are seen as dissonant forces, like oil and water, fascists and freedom, or the gays and a monochrome color scheme. Okorafor, however, takes a very different approach. The Binti novellas showcase a more African perspective by representing science and magic as two heads of the same coin. These novellas don't seek to separate and categorize, but to harmonize the various pieces of our world into one complete image. Math is a language. Science is only a technical definition of magic. The currents that run through machines also run through humans. We are made of stardust. This fusion of ideas unleashes a torrent of new opportunities for a genre that, like science itself, isolates pieces from the whole -- making itself smaller in an attempt to isolate truth. The Binti novellas are antithesis to that, and therefore a breath of fresh air for the genre. These novellas tackle the whole of human experience, yet lean on soft magic and vague technological explanations to enhance the mysticism of life -- that not everything can be known or seen, even when taking in the whole picture. 

Okorafor has stated that the Binti novellas are not young adult, but the novellas very much read like YA works -- coming of age narratives, leaving home/parents to exert independence, a school setting, the focus on action over introspection, the flavour of 'chosen one' that follows Binti throughout her adventures, etc. There's an innocence to these books that is incredibly heart-warming and makes these works accessible to both the young and young at heart. The way conflict is resolved over the works also adds to a more innocent/YA style, as each problem is resolved with relatively few complications. This is likely due to the novella format, as if these stories were combined into a single novel, it would prompt more escalation before resolution. This trend breaks by the end, as the conflict from Home and The Night Masquerade bleed into one another to make for a more triumphant climax. 

These stories tackle a variety of very human topics while taking us beyond the stars - racism, xenophobia, diaspora, transhumanism, trauma, etc. Binti spends most of the text reeling from the traumatic massacre that takes place in the first novella, which forces her to dig deep into her identity to create an internal stability and find resiliency. Several characters remark on Binti's unstoppable tenacity, yet Binti's healing remains at the forefront of the story, creating a balance between strength and pain that felt true to the human experience. The interactions between human and alien cultures also felt true to human psychology, as opposed to sci-fi's tendency to view culture clashing only through a militaristic lens. The first novella leans in that direction, as the Meduse at first appear quite militaristic in their willingness to complete a suicide mission for honor, their formidable war history, hive-mind structure, etc., yet the Meduse culture is rounded out as the novellas progress, creating a more nuanced picture of their reactions to other cultures. The university offers the perfect setting to explore xenophobia, as characters from very different races and backgrounds have to co-operate with each other, creating a setting that closely mirrors our own western society. Instead of the savage environment that sci-fi loves, where racism and xenophobia are expressed in kill-or-be-killed scenarios, a setting where different creatures have to co-operate and learn from one another or risk expulsion or jail, opens opportunities to show the nuances of our own experience reflected back under a fantastical metaphor. It's easy to see why these stories collected their share of Hugo and Nebulas. 

The only reason why I couldn't give the book full stars was I found a weird number of plot holes or confusing choices throughout, but particularly in the first novella. Some things are lightly contradicted later, and some moments felt weak without a proper explanation. Binti is used as a translator for the Meduse, yet when they arrive at the University, it's discovered Meduse is commonly-spoken. She knows what forests smell like, despite only reading about them. Okwu begins the story happy to die for a mission it knows it cannot win, yet in subsequent novellas, says it wouldn't fight a war it couldn't win. Little inconsistencies like this that may be due to the novellas being written at different times and them compiled into this book at a later date. 

All in all, what an amazing story. The only other complaint I have is there isn't more, and I hope Okorafor will write more novellas in Binti's world, should the ideas be there. I highly suggest picking up a copy, especially if you're a fan of science fiction, young adult, or just a damn good story. 

TL;DR: 4/5 stars. A beautifully human space opera that carries readers to the stars and then back home again. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Book Review: Magical Boy


Book Review: Magical Boy by The Kao

Goodreads Description: Although he was assigned female at birth, Max is your average trans man trying to get through high school as himself. But on top of classes, crushes, and coming out, Max's life is turned upside down when his mom reveals an eons old family secret: he's descended from a long line of Magical Girls tasked with defending humanity from a dark, ancient evil! With a sassy feline sidekick and loyal gang of friends by his side, can Max take on his destiny, save the world, and become the next Magical Boy? A hilarious and heartfelt riff on the magical girl genre made popular by teen manga series, Magical Boy is a one-of-a-kind fantasy series that comic readers of all ages will love.


My Review: This will be another review in my series of, "I don't usually review this genre, but..." Magical Boy is a beautifully drawn, full colour graphic novel with an anime inspired art style. The story originally debuted on the comic website Tapas, which is where I first stumbled upon it. I was thrilled to see it was picked up for print publication by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic. This story holds a special place in my heart, so I'm thrilled for the opportunity to share my thoughts and help connect it to more readers. 

To begin, the art! This book is drop-dead gorgeous. The cover gives you a glimpse of what's in store, but the art inside takes it a step further, from small intimate panels to gorgeously detailed fight scenes that convey a tremendous sense of movement and action. The colours pop, backgrounds are detailed, the linework is clean, and the art blends an eastern and western comic style that is refreshingly original. Traditional anime/manga facial expressions and expressive reactions are mixed with a western action style of large, detailed panels and classic comic sound effects, like 'whoosh, pow, smack.' Unfortunately, the panels were originally drawn for a vertical setup on a webpage, where readers could scroll infinitely, so at times, the panel spacing on the page is cramped and the flow is disjointed. While the panels and speech bubbles are usually arranged in a way that takes your eye smoothly through the scene, some pages failed to achieve a flow and became messy and confusing. Even though I had already read the comic, I struggled on some pages to figure out in what order some panels and speech bubbles were supposed to be read. This confusion was overall minor and didn't take away from the story. 

As for the story, have you ever been bouncing around the internet and stumbled across a story prompt idea that you would die to see happen? Magical Boy is one of those. The world we live in is incredibly gendered, though many cis people fail to realize how deep the gendered expectations go, as many have never resisted or took issue with them. Magical girl stories are often hyper-feminine, and when you toss a transman into the mix, who is trying to assert his own masculinity through stereotypically masculine behaviours, you've got an excellent environment to play with and parody gendered expectations in western society. The magic that gives Max his feminine battle outfit also works as an excellent metaphor for cisnormative expectations - as he attempts to transition, the magic pushes Max towards a femme presentation, until he's able to assert his will and the magic adapts to an outfit that matches his identity. One major change I noticed from the online version was Max's deadname has been censored in dialogue, but left untouched if it's part of the background/scene. This sort of bothered me, as I felt it was silly to censor the name when the book tackles some of the realities of transitioning, which includes misgendering and deadnaming. I understand that the target audience, however, is younger and probably far more sensitive about seeing beloved characters misgendered than my old, jaded soul, so I can understand why the change was made. 

At times, the story can be a bit cheesy, but more in a wholesome way than overtly cringy. Then again, I do enjoy a nice helping of cheese now again, it keeps my soul from becoming too black and crispy. The story is mostly focused on Max, his transition, and trying to get his mom to accept and understand him, so some part of the narrative can fall a little flat. The villains were very one-dimensional, as if they were trying to hit every square on the Classic and Stereotypical Villain Bingo card, but as the fantasy is mere metaphorical dressing for the interpersonal drama, it didn't take away from the story that much. However, if the antagonists and magic system had more depth put into them, it could have reinforced the interpersonal themes and scaffolded this story up into something really cool. Max's friends also come across as a little one-dimensional, as they don't seem to have lives outside of Max and focus entirely on him and his issues. While this turns them into a wholesome cheerleading squad, it constricts the story into something small and simple, which has its own set of pros and cons. 

All in all, Magical Boy is an adorable, heartwarming, gorgeously drawn trans story that makes a great addition to any child's library. I can't wait to get my hands on volume 2, the finale, if only so I can flip through and admire all the beautiful artwork. 

TL;DR: 4/5 stars. A hyperbolic trans metaphor using the magical girl trope to highlight the absurdities of gender. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Book Review: The Book Thief

 

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

Goodreads Description: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.


My Review: There will be mild spoilers for Max's arc in this review. 

I have... many conflicting feelings about this book. The one I can't shake is this work is problematic AS HELL. It reminds me of the politically correct mentality that was in its relative infancy in the mid 2000s, when our understanding of feminism was 'girl power' marketed by men, when allyship was enveloped by white saviour mentalities, when minorities were fetishized for their pain and their stories commodified by privileged folk. 

I mean, we still have all that going on, but at least we're somewhat more aware of it happening these days.

Before we dig our digits in the dirt, let's take a walk on the brighter side and focus on the book's positives. The Book Thief's use of language is gorgeous and evocative, its diction thick with richness and flavour that oozes off the page. Death's preoccupation with colour lends an extra edge to emotional scenes as colour is used as metaphor for individuals and feelings, as well as pathetic fallacy. Because of this, the colour descriptions infuse deep emotionality into the mundane, which reinforces the hollowness of experiencing an apocalyptic moment in history while you still have to buy milk and go to work. Zusak also uses creative verbs and descriptors to imbue life into his scenes, from "the sound of the turning page carved them in half" to "the conversation of bullets." While some of his descriptions  could be considered flowery, it's kept to a minimum so it doesn't drag down the pacing. A lot of careful thought was placed into the use of words throughout, both as a theme and a practical application. 

I wish the book's beautiful language could carry it alone, yet some of that early 00s thinking held it back from what it could have been. As my creative writing teacher would say, death is a source of instant drama that immediately cranks up the tension and intensity of the story, and when your novel is narrated by Death himself, taking place in one of the most genocidal periods in modern history, you're responsible for depicting the nuance of all that drama. Zusak juggles a boatload of suffering, death, grief, hope, and resiliency in The Book Thief, but centers the narrative around the day-to-day life of the Germans. By focusing on the German perspective, Zusak inserts a lot of domestic normalcy that readers can relate to, and contrasts it against the most dramatic and harrowing events in modern memory. 

I understand that focusing specifically on the Jewish experience -- hiding, life in the ghettos, or surviving concentration camps-- would make it harder for average readers to relate. I also understand the appeal to feature a story about the Germans who resisted, as that's a narrative with a lot of potential that isn't usually addressed when talking about WW2. The problem comes in when understanding that the story of the Holocaust, which this and most WW2 stories center back on, is a Jewish story to tell. Jews were dehumanized and their stories were de-emphasized so much that it took decades to re-center the narrative back onto the Jewish experience. At the time this book was written, white saviour mentality was still ripe in mainstream culture i.e., white people pleading the case for what black Africans needed, Indigenous history taught by and through the perspective of white people, etc. The Book Thief manages the major missteps of any white saviour narrative: focusing the story away from the marginalized minority and onto the privileged majority, while also objectifying the minority characters and fetishizing their pain in order to prop up the virtues of the privileged group. While I think a story that looks at the Germans who resisted Nazi ideology can be good, that's not what this book is about. It's about Max's suffering and how good Lisel's family is for caring about his well-being, instead of focusing on what a life of resistance would really look like. Where are the narratives about Sophie Scholl and her resistance efforts? Books that seek to tell the stories of Germans who resisted should focus on that experience, and not the suffering of Jews. The closest the Book Thief gets to depicting what it would be like living two lives was the scene where Hans smacks Liesel for speaking out against the Nazis, and yet this scene is undermined by the threat that Max may be discovered if they do not behave like proper Nazis, bringing the focus again back onto Jewish suffering. 

Before starting the book, I knew that Max, a Jewish man, comes to live in Liesel's basement, as it's part of the back cover blurb, but I was surprised how little the story featured his perspective or gave him any opportunities to demonstrate autonomy. While there are some scenes from his perspective when he lives with Lisel's family, they focus on his suffering with brief moments of joy thrown in to enhance the drama of his pain later. He has dreams about boxing Hitler and laments about being a burden, but again these only highlight his helplessness and misery. Even when he eventually leaves Liesel's house, we don't see how he survives on his own - instead we are left in the dark until it's revealed he was picked up by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. He becomes a lamp in the narrative after he leaves the house, as once Liesel sees him marching with Jewish prisoners through the city to the concentration camp, he's merely an object for her to demonstrate her virtue around. There were plenty of opportunities to give him some autonomy over his circumstance - show his wit, resilience, and ingenuity as he's surviving on his own - and it might have mitigated some of the narrative's exploitative feel. I understand this may have taken away from the day-to-day mundane perspective that Zusak was going for, to which I will argue: then Max should have been removed from the story. At the very least, it may have lessened the blow since seeing Max the Sympathy Lamp up close only highlighted how the narrative sidelined Jewish voices in a story about a major event in Jewish history. 

It's been a couple weeks between finishing the book and writing this review, and in that time my feelings on the book have only soured. Despite its critical acclaim, the book's attempts at allyship have aged considerably in the 17 years since it was published. Instead of diving into the psychology and real experience of Germans resisting Nazi rule, Zusak took the lazy way and focused on the suffering of a marginalized group to squeeze out easy drama for his narrative. 

TL;DR: 3/5 stars. Sideling Jewish voices in a Holocaust narrative? Bold move, Captain. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Sneak Peak: The Man or the Monster

Today, I've got a sneak peak at Aamna Qureshi's THE MAN OR THE MONSTER, provided by Rockstar Book Tours. This is the sequel to Qureshi's THE LADY OR THE LION, and features the continuation of Durkhanai's epic fantasy tale. 

 

About The Book:

Title: THE MAN OR THE MONSTER (The Marghazar Trials #2)

Author: Aamna Qureshi

Pub. Date: August 30, 2022

Publisher: CamCat Books

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 320

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, Audible, B&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org

Order a signed copy directly from Aamna!

She made her decision. Now she has to live with it.

Durkhanai Miangul sealed her lover’s fate when she sent him through a door where either a lady or a lion awaited him. But her decision was only the beginning of her troubles. Durkhanai worries that she might not be the queen her people need or deserve when conflict threatens her kingdom.

Her presumed-dead father comes back with a vengeance and wishes she join him in his cause. But her family’s denial of his revenge forces Durkhanai to take matters into her own hands and she must decide whether to follow the traditions of her forefathers or forge a new path on her own.

Excerpt from THE MAN OR THE MONSTER: 

Weeks passed. No one came to visit her, and she stopped waiting. As the weather around her chilled, she felt her heart frosting over. Faintly, she felt she had rid her system of him. Perhaps she would never feel a thing again.

But then, he came to her, while she was curled up in bed, crying. 

She didn’t know how he came to be there, just that one moment she was pushing tears back into her eyes, and the next there was a body beside hers. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know that it was him.

“Come, sit up,” he coaxed, and she did as she was told. He kneaded the tension from her shoulders with the hard curves of his palms.

“What worries you?” he asked. She sighed in response.

“I can’t bear it anymore.”

“You can,” he told her. “And you will.”

She turned to look at him and instantly fell into a hug against his chest. She was safe.

They stayed like that for some time. She strained her ear in search of his heartbeat. But he was calm. Sure. Solid.

She pulled back, looked up at him. Gently, his fingers cupped her face like wine—he tipped her chin forward to drink, but paused at the last whisper before skin met skin.

He waited.

And so, soft as sin, she pressed her warm lips against his. He tasted like a thousand stars bursting in her mouth. His fingers murmured across her skin, cold as ice, but everywhere he touched her felt like fire.

She kissed his cold cheek. He tasted like winter: pine-needle and frost, everything that freezes your nose but warms your soul. She was inexplicably warm and closed her eyes in comfort.

Instinctively, she reached for his lips once more—only to find they were not there. He was gone.


When she awoke from the dream, she felt unaligned. As though her soul had been roughly shoved back into her body. She was paralyzed, as she was when she awoke from nightmares, her body frozen with fear—yet this was the opposite, for when she awoke, her reality was the nightmare.

Slowly, the ice burned away. The pain was sudden and swift, knocking the breath from her lungs. Durkhanai began to cry. She loved him. The realization struck her.

She loved him. 

And there was nothing to be done.


 

About Aamna Qureshi:

Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity. When she's not writing, she loves to travel to new places where she can explore different cultures or to Pakistan where she can revitalize her roots. She also loves baking complicated desserts, drinking fancy teas and coffees, watching sappy rom-coms, and going for walks about the estate (her backyard). She currently lives in New York. Look for her on IG @aamna_qureshi and Twitter @aamnaqureshi_ and at her website aamnaqureshi.com

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE MAN OR THE MONSTER, US Only.

Ends September 20th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

8/22/2022

BookHounds YA

Guest Post/IG Post

8/23/2022

A Dream Within A Dream

GuestPost

8/24/2022

Sadie's Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post

8/25/2022

Lisa-Queen of Random

Excerpt/IG Post

8/26/2022

Ya Books Central

Guest Post/IG Post

8/27/2022

Author Z. Knight’s Guild

Excerpt

Week Two:

8/28/2022

The Erudite Labyrinth

Review

8/29/2022

Epic Book Society

Review/IG Post

8/30/2022

Books and Kats

Excerpt

8/31/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

9/1/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

IG Spotlight

9/2/2022

Writer of Wrongs

Excerpt

9/3/2022

The Reading Life

Review/IG Post

Week Three:

9/4/2022

The Underground

Excerpt 

9/5/2022

Rajiv's Reviews

Review/IG Post

9/6/2022

@jodieangell_author

IG Review

9/7/2022

Laurenreads._

Review/IG Post

9/8/2022

@meetcuteromancebooks

IG Review

9/9/2022

Locks, Hooks and Books

Review

9/10/2022

Nagma | TakeALookAtMyBookshelf

IG Review

Week Four:

9/11/2022

One More Exclamation

Review/IG Post

9/12/2022

Book-Keeping

Review/IG Post

9/13/2022

@jacleomik33

IG Review

9/14/2022

The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post

9/15/2022

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

9/16/2022

GryffindorBookishNerd

IG Review

9/17/2022

@jypsylynn

IG Review


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway: The Rush

Today on the blog, a review and giveaway for THE RUSH by Si Spurrier & Nathan C. Gooden. Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my review below and then enter to win a copy of this beautifully horrific graphic novel. (Sorry, internat(ional) friends, it's US only.) 

About The Book:

Author: Si Spurrier, Addison Duke (Colorist), Nathan C. Gooden (Illustrations), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Letterer), Adrian F. Wassel (Editor)

Pub. Date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Vault Comics

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org

Historical horror that chills to the bone, The RUSH. is for fans of Dan Simmons’, The Terror mined with a Northwestern Yukon gold rush edge. Answer the call of the wild north and stampede to the Klondike…

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD. ALL THAT HUNGERS IS NOT HOLY. ALL THAT LIVE ARE NOT ALIVE.

This Hungry Earth Reddens Under Snowclad Hills.

1899, Yukon Territory. A frozen frontier, bloodied and bruised by the last great Gold Rush. But in the lawless wastes to the North, something whispers in the hindbrains of men, drawing them to a blighted valley, where giant spidertracks mark the snow and impossible guns roar in the night.

To Brokehoof, where gold and blood are mined alike. Now, stumbling towards its haunted forests comes a woman gripped not by greed -- but the snarling rage of a mother in search of her child...

From Si Spurrier (Way of X, Hellblazer) and Nathan C. Gooden (Barbaric, Dark One) comes THE RUSH, a dark, lyrical delve into the horror and madness of the wild Yukon. 


Collects the entire series. For fans of The TerrorFortitudeCoda, and Moonshine.

Reviews:

"The book strikes a wealthy mixed vein of sophisticated psychological chills and monstrous horror."― Publishers Weekly

"Gritty historical drama meets supernatural horror in this sumptuously drawn tale set during the Yukon Gold Rush." ― PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"The Rush is a chilling bit of historical horror. Rugged and raw and thoroughly researched. It's got such a wonderfully creepy sense of menace but most of all it's the moving story of a mother searching for her child, that's its beating heart. Wonderful work."  -- Victor Lavalle (best-selling and award-winning author of he anthology, Slapboxing with Jesus and four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling, the fantasy-horror novella The Ballad of Black Tom, and the comics series Destroyer and Eve)

"The Rush is a splendidly savage tale of frontier scum and the doom they’ve brought down upon themselves, and the innocents cursed to suffer alongside them. I for one can’t wait to see more."  -- Garth Ennis (best-selling and award-winning writer, Preacher, and writer/co-creator of The Boys)

 

My Review: For men seeking fortune, there lies a town called Brokehoof deep in the wilds of the Yukon, where blood and gold run like rivers beneath the snowclad hills. For Nettie Bridger, the town's gold is worthless, merely a means to track down her missing son, who may have been carried through Brokehoof by the same greedy impulse that drove so many men up through the frozen frontier. Along with her hired bodyguard M.P., Nettie dives straight into the town's convoluted history and finds herself facing the devils that lurk both outside and within the town's borders. But Hell's fury ain't got nothing on a mother's rage...

The Rush compiles Spurrier and Gooden's six issue graphic novel series into a single book that tackles the horrors within -- from obsession to madness -- against the isolationist backdrop of the Yukon during one of the last gold rushes. The book captures a mysterious and gripping atmosphere that helps propel readers through its slow opening. The beginning's slower pacing helps set the stage for the town of Brokehoof and its mysterious curse, the culture and fanaticism of the gold rush, as well as introduce and build terror towards the monsters that metaphorically represent the darker parts of the human soul. Nettie's emotional turmoil as she struggles to gather any information on her son steadily raises the tension over the first several chapters. This not only hooks readers into the story's stakes before the mystery surrounding the town's monsters is really set in motion, but also ties into the overall themes of the story -- that true monsters are born from human emotion, whether rage or greed or passion. 

The story is very plot-driven. The first pages set us within Brokehoof, where readers get a glimpse of the madness and magic that haunts the isolated town. From there, we meet Nettie, and join her on the trail of her son, Caleb, that leads her away from civilization and into the frigid north. The mystery twists and turns, building in a roundabout way that doesn't give its secrets away until the finale, where the bigger picture is finally revealed. This roundabout way of adding pieces to the puzzle may frustrate readers who want a more linear progression to the mystery, but Nettie's character, full of flaws and an in-your-face attitude, gives the narrative a foundation that readers can hold onto until the bigger plot elements are revealed. And what a satisfying payoff! The final chapter pulls all the pieces together into an intricate web that flips reader expectations on their head and pushes them to question what's truly monstrous. The thematic and plot elements also very closely mirror Nettie's own internal struggle as a mother, tying everything into a satisfying bow that pleases my analytical brain. 

The characters are all distinct, with their own set of flaws that influence the story's progression. I particularly loved how clear Nettie's opinion of other characters was based on her dialogue and behaviour. Her personality popped off the page and she made some dumb choices based on her flaws that ultimately made the story more interesting. The villain is presented with a fascinating balance of evil and principles, which brought some freshness to the overdone archetype. It would just have been nice if he got a bit more page space in order to flush out his characterization further. 

Finally, the art. I'm not a skilled art critic by any means, but the beautiful intricacies of the pages are eye catching and draws readers into the horror atmosphere. The style is reminiscent of western superhero comics that don't flinch away from depicting the uglier sides of human expression. The sepia-toned colouring with emphasis on reds is not just a subtle nod to the time period, but the reds and browns subtly reinforce the thematic connections between blood and dirt, or internal and external corruption. The panels are thoughtfully used -- wavy borders to signify dreams or fantasies, larger than life characters popping out of panels, birds or landscapes seeping beyond borders to give scale to the natural world, etc. These elements bait re-reads as they add significance to every page and panel. 

All in all, a deliciously dark psychological horror comic that utilizes its northern setting to its full advantage. Full of vivid art that thematically reinforces the narrative, The Rush balances both an internal and external horror as the darker parts of the human soul take monstrous form to seek vengeance. The art will will leave you jumping at leggy shadows and the narrative will leave readers pondering for many nights to come. 

TL;DR: 4/5 stars. Within the greed and vice of a goldrush town, The Rush provides a deliciously dark glimpse into what makes a monster. 

 

About Si Spurrier:

His work in the latter field stretches from award winning creator-owned books such as NumbercruncherSix-Gun Gorilla and The Spire to projects in the U.S. mainstream like HellblazerThe Dreaming, and X-Men. It all began with a series of twist-in-the-tail stories for the UK’s beloved 2000AD, which ignited an enduring love for genre fiction. His latest book, Coda, is being published by Boom! Studios at present.

His prose works range from the beatnik neurosis-noir of Contract to the occult whodunnit A Serpent Uncoiled via various franchise and genre-transgressing titles. In 2016 he took a foray into experimental fiction with the e-novella Unusual Concentrations: a tale of coffee, crime and overhead conversations.

He lives in Margate, regards sushi as part of the plotting process, and has the fluffiest of cats.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

About Nathan C. Gooden:

An award-winning illustrator and sequential artist, Nathan C. Gooden is Art Director at Vault Comics. Nathan studied animation at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and worked in film production, before co-founding Vault Comics. Nathan’s previous works include Brandon Sanderson’s Dark One (Vault), Barbaric (Vault), Zojaqan (Vault), and  Killbox (from American Gothic Press). He lives in Southern California, where he plays a lot of basketball and hikes constantly with his wife. 

Website |  Instagram | Goodreads

 



Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a finished copy of THE RUSH, US Only.

Ends August 23rd, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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7/25/2022

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7/26/2022

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7/27/2022

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7/28/2022

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7/29/2022

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7/30/2022

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7/31/2022

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8/1/2022

Rajiv's Reviews

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The Girl Who Reads

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8/9/2022

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