book review: the girl in the road

One of my coworkers recently did a display in our library called “The One With The Girl” which was full of all these books with Girl in the title (The Girl on the Train, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, stuff like that). Weirdly enough, she missed Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road. But when I spotted it on a non-display shelf the Girl display had been replaced for World Water Day, so I was standing there with a book in my hand and nothing to do but read it. Oh woe. I had to read a book.

I really liked it.

There are two storylines, set in the mid-late 21st century. One is about a woman, Meena, who is fleeing her hometown in southern India because of a snake in her bed, which she is sure was an Ethiopian terror attack targeting her.

The other story is about a little girl, Mariama, in West Africa who stows away on a transport truck taking oil to Ethiopia. She’s looked after by the drivers and by the goddess they meet on the road.

Meena goes to Mumbai to start walking to Djibouti to find the person who killed her parents before she was born. Walking to Djibouti from Mumbai is a thing that might be possible because of the Trail: a multi-thousand kilometre long chain of solar- and wave-energy collector buoys strung across the Arabian Sea. Parts of Meena’s story really reminded me of Life of Pi, but she’s way more prepared, technologically speaking than Piscine Patel ever was.

This is very much a road novel, with the protagonists having encounters and moving along. I really liked it, and the pacing between the continent-crossing and the sea-crossing worked really well for me.

The biggest problem I had with the book is that it is a story about India and Africa written by a white woman from the U.S. Byrne thanks people with names that sound like they come from appropriate parts of the world in the acknowledgements, but I haven’t read reviews of the book by people of the cultures being portrayed. It didn’t seem objectifying or exoticizing to me, but I’m a white dude. I thought it was pretty good with the hijra character from a cultural perspective. But if you are sensitive to the “bad things happen to lgbtq characters” and “lgbtq characters are haunted by loads of trauma” this may be one to avoid.

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book review: y: the last man (complete series)

I read the first couple of trade paperback collections of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerrera’s Y: The Last Man years ago, and I think the only reason I didn’t continue reading it was the usual library dance of the next volume not being on the shelf when I wanted it and blah blah blah laziness. At my new library, all five volumes of the omnibus edition were just sitting on the shelf when I was wandering by and I decided it was time to fill in that gap.

Y: The Last Man is pretty good!

I knew I liked the premise but in my head since I’d never completed the series it was just a cool premise. I didn’t remember much else about it. I was a little worried it was going to feel very heavy-handed or that it was going to devolve into bullshit (which is my impression of what happened with Fables, though I may be wrong about that). But Vaughan writes really good dialogue (and you can totally hear how Saga is by the same writer). There’s a lot of good weirdness and I like how the story isn’t a slave to its premise. Other males are born; there’s acknowledgement that all sorts of species will go extinct; there’s jokiness through the action scenes. It gets a bit more globe-trotty than I expected in the later volumes and I like the eventual sidelining of Yorick as the key to everything and focusing on how he’s dealing with his very changed life as the object of humanity’s quest. I’d also say it stuck the landing.

book review: dark inside

Dark Inside is Jeyn Roberts’ multi-perspective YA novel about a kind of apocalyptic event that happens after a huge earthquake hits North America’s west coast. Cities are destroyed, yes, but a kind of evil is unleashed, not just at the earthquake site but in everyone’s souls. The book follows a scattered bunch of teenagers as they try to deal with the end of the world.

The book feels like a zombie book, since everyone aside from our protagonists has changed into bloodthirsty terrible murderers, but they haven’t gone brainless, just embraced their inner evil. This evil inside everyone is left pretty nebulous, as is the reason why the characters we’re following are spared it. The people who have turned (so most of the population) are terrible and terrifying, and some of the scenes are pretty intense. It would make for the kind of movie I couldn’t really watch, myself.

The teens are all eventually converging on Vancouver for various reasons (looking for a lost brother, keeping a promise to someone met on the road from Saskatoon, that kind of thing) and there are plenty of good scenes on the way. People feel survivor guilt and show survival skills and all in all it’s pretty good. And props to the book having interesting First Nations characters who didn’t feel like stereotypes. They weren’t the main characters but they were there, doing stuff like the rest of the kids with their own specific problems and issues.

book review: the city of ember

I’d known the storyline of Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember from my time working in the children’s department, but I hadn’t read it till now. There’s a lot less to it than I imagined.

Lina and Doon are twelve, so they’re assigned jobs in their underground city called Ember, which is all the world anyone knows exists. Lina gets to be a messenger and Doon is working in the Pipeworks. The thing is that the city is undergoing a crisis: they’re running out of supplies and things are breaking down more and more. Doon wants to save the city by figuring out how to fix the generator. Lina keeps dreaming of another city out beyond the darkness. The story follows these two kids dealing with the growing crisis that no one else seems to be handling.

It’s a simple story with much less urgency than you would think. There’s a chewed up message the kids are trying to interpret so they can be the saviours of everyone, but it’s more difficult than they’d first thought. There’s a none-too-subtle environmental message to the story, and kids rebelling against terrible authority, which is always fun. Good book with an easy straight-forward storyline. There are (necessary) sequels.

book review: the walking dead (books 3, 4, 5 and 6)

I recently went through a binge of reading The Walking Dead, getting books three, four, five and six from the library.

There’s a lot of good stuff to these books. Books Three and Four deal with Woodbury and the Governor, who’s made a town subject to his will near the prison where our main characters had holed up. Book Five sends them out on the road looking for safety again after the prison is compromised, and in Six they find a new community to help.

I do like the character turnover Kirkman pushes through in these books. People die, including mothers and babies, and the characters get all fucked up because of it, even though there are more people in the world. I loved the flashback scenes where Shane was still talking about being rescued. The idea that someone somewhere will be able to help them is so alluring, but it just keeps getting dashed. It’s a great story, even as everyone is dealing with cannibals and murder and generally being scary people.

book review: what we become (walking dead vol 10)

I haven’t been watching the HBO version of The Walking Dead, but I have read some of the comics before now. I really like the idea of them, being about the longterm survivors in a zombie apocalypse. When I spotted this volume at the library the other day I decided to just read it and catch up a bit.

What We Become is about guilt and the things these survivors have had to do and sacrifice to still be around. There are zombies and people pointing guns at each other. It’s fine, but I like the fact that these people are still trying to survive more compelling than reading their stories, you know? Maybe if I was reading each issue as it came out I’d be more invested in their struggles, but for now I’m fine without knowing all the details.