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book review: you

YOU: A Fiction is a second-person narrator story about you, a guy named Leo Evans who does your best to be a good servant. A necessary one. The story starts with you getting a library book stolen from you and then things escalate. There are weapons and photographers that use film (ptui digital!) to stop time and destroy bodies, love is commodified and there’s a weird doppelganger made of mint. It’s full of weirdness and relationships and weird relationships. I liked it.

Greg Stolze is one of the creators of my favourite roleplaying game, Unknown Armies and You is set in that world. That gives the reader a bit of a grounding in the thoughts motivating some of the characters, but I think as a story it works better for a person who doesn’t know the universe (I found some of the explanations a bit on the nose and would have appreciated a bit more vagueness about how things work since I know the rules, but whatevs).

Good weird book. If you read it and like it let me know, ’cause it’s been years since I’ve run a game.

book review: into you (dial h vol. 1)

Dial H: Into You is the first trade paperback I own from DC’s New 52 initiative (though not the first I read). The New 52 was DC’s superhero universe reboot that happened in 2011 in an effort to get new readers. I’m not a huge fan of being reminded how crassly commercial the literature I consume can be, so I haven’t been reading a lot of mainstream superhero stuff recently.

Dial H is not a normal superhero book.

I mean, sure there are cosmic problems which are solved by punching, but China Miéville is writing this book so those problems get weird. Plus the superhero at the centre of it is a Colorado schlub named Nelson Jent who, when he dials H-E-R-O on a payphone, taps into some other universe to become a random superhero for a while. Random superheroes like Boy Chimney (powers of smoke-control and telepathy through pollution), the Iron Snail (heavily armed and power-armoured snail shell and tracks dragged by a ‘roided-out soldier-type), and the Cock-a-Hoop (a giant metal hula-hoop with the head of a rooster).

I like how the book makes a ridiculous concept into a kind of exploration of the universes of weirdness and how they’d intersect with DC’s own universe of “normal weirdness” (with its aliens, magic, unnatural disasters and high-technology). The main story is about learning how to deal with the powers of the dial (which does get disconnected from the payphone) and coming to terms with weirdness. I also really like that his superheroing partner is in actuality a woman in her 60s.

I bought this one because it’s China Miéville doing superheroes. While it’s not as good as a Miéville novel, there’s enough good stuff in here to let me forget that it’s part of a stupid comics event. At least while I’m reading it.

book review: bible camp bloodbath

I want to be Joey Comeau. I will just say that. His writing is probably the stuff in the world that gets to my emotional core the best. There’s a Murakami story about a really good letter writer who makes you feel like you’re eating the hamburger steak she’s writing about, or so the narrator says. If I could do the stuff Comeau does, I would be a hell of a writer. His weird funny tales just dig into you and take your fucking heart and break it. In Bible Camp Bloodbath that’s almost not a metaphor. The ad copy for the book is “Child Murder: Anything this fun should be illegal.”

The book’s about a weird quiet kid named Martin. His mom works in horror movies and he goes to Bible Camp. At this Bible Camp nearly everyone is murdered in fantastically escalating gory ways. This is not a spoiler. The book is saved from being a self-conscious “Dude, we’re in a horror movie” wank-fest (note that there is some wanking in the book) by the refusal to really engage in the cliches of the “reflexive about horror tropes” sub-genre. Instead of winking and nodding at the reader the book revels in gory description that is painful, terrifying, ludicrous and oh so fucking graphic.

The terror of the victims plays into it, sure, but that’s not where the book’s heart is, at least, not for me. It’s almost a novel about the joy of being a weirdo, which is a common Joey Comeau theme, and one I’m happy to embrace. The victory condition achieved in the end of Bible Camp Bloodbath is beautiful. It’s not sentimental. It doesn’t fuck around with the novel’s rules. It just makes you cry. Made me cry. Although I did read it on the plane going to a funeral, so I may have been in a weird emotional state.

Anyway. If you want, you can read the whole thing for free here (at the bottom of each chapter just click Newer Post to read it in order from there). I bought it because it’s cheap and Joey Comeau deserves encouragement to keep on making these weird heartwrenching things. (Also, it has an index of murders which is a hilarious summary of the book.)

book review: the caryatids

Interestingly enough, a Caryatid is not some Cicada-like insect. I did not know this until I told people it was, then thought “Wait. Am I just making things up?” I looked it up and found I was just making it up. It’s a carving of a female figure designed as a pillar. Now you know.

Bruce Sterling’s book The Caryatids is about a future, less about characters. There are these women (the titular caryatids) who are clones of a war-criminal and they hate each other and have scattered among the political factions of the globe. There are three main parts to the book, each with a different one of these clones. But there is no real story here beyond “How people deal with this future.” Which is fascinating, but without a point. I’ve had a hard time describing this book to people. There is no problem to be solved. You know how in Neal Stephenson books the characters are all hypercompetent and there’s no feeling of danger as the problems get solved? This takes that even further by making the problems almost irrelevant too. A satisfying page-turner yarn this book is not.

Yet. I liked it. I liked it for its exploration of this future. It was abstract or conceptual most of the time. Lots of stuff happens off-camera between sections. But there was a feeling that this is how life actually is. Without all of the story arcs or solutions to anything. There are some action sequences, which are pretty good, but generally it felt like a book by someone explaining his homebrew D&D setting (set in 2060 with ubiquitous computing). Now, I love that kind of stuff, but this probably isn’t a book for everyone. Or anyone who wants a story.