book review: the gone-away world

Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World is kind of a gonzo post-apocalyptic novel. One of the main characters is, in fact named Gonzo. But it’s also the story of how the world came to be this way, through the use of Go Away bombs that destroyed the world with no pesky fallout. Except for making the planet a place where nightmares become real.

The story starts with the narrator and Gonzo’s company of truckers and general bad-asses being called in to do a job, put out a fire, save the world. There’s a cataloguing of the various kinds of pencil-necks one finds in the world, ranked according to their dangerousness, and the idea that resonates through the book is introduced: being a professional means giving up your personhood to be part of a machine.

Can you see why I liked this one?

But then the first chapter is over and the trucks are rolling towards doom and glory and we drop back to childhood. We learn about being trained to fight ninjas by a daft elderly man, and having lots of sex as a political student, and absurd stupid wars featuring absurd terrible soldiers (and fearsomely brilliant ones) and terror and friendship. It’s awesome. And funny. And there are mimes.

I liked this better than Angelmaker, but that might be because I wasn’t trying to figure out how seriously to take it the whole time. It was the kind of crazy awesome book the world needs more of.

book review: sam & fuzzy fix your problem

I’ve been reading Sam Logan’s comic Sam and Fuzzy for years on the web, but this past weekend I bought the two print volumes at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. Sam & Fuzzy Fix Your Problem doesn’t start at the beginning of the epic, but at the point where Sam and his talking bear friend Fuzzy are the heads of Ninja Mafia Services, an organization that helps with odd problems like Grrbils, Werewolves and Vampires. This book also switches back an forth to ten years previous when Fuzzy woke up without a memory and ended up working with a master thief named Hazel.

I enjoyed this book version of the comics I had already read. Sam & Fuzzy has always been a comic I let lapse when I go off travelling so I can binge read a bunch when I return and I think it works better that way. Logan has done an excellent job laying out the book and making the story feel like a story and not stitched together daily strips. I’m astounded how much more interesting the flashbacks to Fuzzy and Hazel are when I’m not waiting three days between chunks.

So yes, Sam and Fuzzy is pretty great, and Sam & Fuzzy Fix Your Problem is an excellent place to get on board. You can also go back through the archives on the website to fill in the backstory of how Sam became emperor of the Ninja Mafia (and more).

book review: street angel

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s comic Street Angel is about an eighth-grade homeless girl who is a badass ninja skateboarder. The stories are about her beating the hell out of people who underestimate her and saving the city from mad scientists and Aztec gods who’ve brought pirates forward through time. There’s an Irish astronaut who became fluent in Australian for ease of alien contact. There’s a one-armed no-legged skateboarder Jesse (the Street Angel) is friends with, but who won’t do the Fastball Special, no matter how much she wants to.

It’s all kind of insane and hella foul-mouthed and violent. There are some really great spreads of chaos, especially in the Afrodisiac story. I wouldn’t recommend it to every teen, but for the right reader, this’d make an excellent gateway to alternative comics. (Also, this is not a very accurate depiction of being a homeless orphan, just to be clear.)