Thursday, June 28, 2018

SCALPED: BOOK ONE by Jason Aaron

Dashiell Bad Horse resentfully returns to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation with a pair of nunchucks and a bad attitude, beginning this dark dive into a tough and gritty crime drama and a new world created by Jason Aaron, and I thought this first installment was great.

This inciting plot isn't the newest thing you've probably read, with a guy returning to his hometown sparking a whole lotta drama. We've seen that before. But this is Jason Aaron we're talking about here, and he paints a complex tapestry the same way he does in his Southern Bastards series. He steadily reveals character and relationships and motivations through flashbacks and shifting POV's, and what you originally think you know about certain characters gets challenged constantly.

The art was a little problematic for me though. It was hard to tell certain characters apart and much of the action was messy and difficult to keep track of. Just like in movies, I feel like the rendering of action in comics should be clear and everytime I paused to try and get a sense of what was happening and who was who, it took me out of the story, and that's a problem. With better art I might've given this a better score. But I'm excited about where this story can go.


Friday, June 15, 2018

SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn

I had pretty high hopes for this one. I was smitten with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, one of the most fascinating examples of modern noir in my opinion. But to my disappointment, Flynn's first novel happens to be a big fat bore in comparison. It's another one of those banal mystery books where most of the story features the "detective" walking around town conducting seemingly endless interviews looking for clues. If these scenes were integral to character development, or worked on a surface level with cool dialogue, I would've been more interested. But all this could've been forgiven if the mystery was interesting, but it's pretty obvious who the killer is almost immediately. And that wouldn't have been a big issue if I was really engaged in the characters and the family story depicted here, but I really just didn't care about any of them, aside from Camille.

The idea of a chronic cutter protagonist could've been really gripping, and Camille was the best part of the book, but I still felt like Flynn should've gone further with her development; it just wasn't enough to make the book fully enjoyable. Crime/mysteries are at their best when character and plot are inseparable and dependent on the other to succeed and I wish that these elements here worked in tandem more with one another. You can tell that Flynn grew and improved as a writer in a big way between this and her third book.


Monday, June 11, 2018

ALEX + ADA by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

I've been increasingly interested in artificial intelligence and the idea of artificial conciousness after watching things like Westworld, Her, and Ex Machina, and Alex + Ada was a great way to continue that exploration. Set in a future where owning robots are an everyday trend, lonely and recently heartbroken Alex is gifted a state-of-the-art X5 model robot for his birthday. At first he wants nothing to do with it but then sees something special within her and decides to do the forbidden: allow her to gain sentience.

The simple, minimalist art works very well with this story, it's stark, digital appearance lends perfectly to this world and the atmosphere. Not only is this a an ambitious, heartfelt romance about true love crossing boundaries most people normally wouldn't think would be possible, it's also a smart,, humorous, thoughtful commentary on tolerance and an allegory that works in many different ways.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

LIKE LIONS by Brian Panowich

Yep, this book does exist. I was a little confused about whether or not that was true at first and I'm not sure what the hell is going with this book's release. It was delayed a couple of times and then out of nowhere and with little fanfare, the book showed up on small online marketplace sellers, not available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or even in libraries, without an book or an audiobook. I actually doubted whether or not the novel was actually available at all, but I saw that some reviews were out there.  And lo and behold,  I ordered it and got an actual, real-life copy!
"This mountain was a circle of tragedy that never stopped rolling."
I'd been meaning to read this for a while as I LOVED Panowich's first novel, Bull Mountain, and I couldn't wait to read the sequel. It takes place a year after the events in the first novel and features Clayton Burroughs struggling to protect his family and his land in the midst of the power vacuum created by the events of the first novel.

This deserves a proper release soon. Once again, Panowich shows real skill with pacing, reveals, and reversals, making for an entertaining, quick-read novel that's never boring. The story itself isn't as riveting and absorbing as Bull Mountain's, and not as well structured; feeling slightly rushed, but dammit, Panowich really knows how to suck you in! I really enjoyed this one and while the stunner of an ending may seem gimmicky to some, but not only does it work perfectly as a whole with Bull Mountain, but I thought it was a very fitting cherry-on-top to a narrative about legacy, consequences, and the cyclical, never-ending nature of violence.