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Monday, September 16, 2019

Reader's Diary #2083- Rachael Dunlop: Without Parallel


Rachael Dunlop's world in Without Parallel seems to be some sort of dystopia where people are born as twins, but one is selected to die shortly after their 19th birthday. The specifics, perhaps due to this being a flash fiction story, aren't exactly clear (is everyone born a twin? Was this a human created condition?) but it's still enjoyable nonetheless.

I particularly liked how in the head of one twin the story is. It leaves the impression that the other twin is not thinking such things, but a twist at the end reveals that's not necessarily the case.


Monday, September 09, 2019

Reader's Diary #2082- Russell Waterman: A Price Too High


Russell Waterman's short story "A Price Too High" takes the old urban legend about blues legend Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil and combines it with the "pass it on" trope of such horror movies as It Follows. It's clear that a love of music and of the supernatural could only add to your enjoyment of this story.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the setting. I've never lived in a place that could ever be described as humid and Waterman made me really feel it. It was also well tied into the stifling nature of the curse.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Reader's Diary #2081- Wendy Pini and Richard Pini: The Complete ElfQuest Volume One

I was recently participating in a local reading Bingo challenge where one of the squares required me having to get a recommendation from a staff member at the local book store, the Book Cellar. I was pleased at first to see that she'd recommended a graphic novel. I was then less pleased to discover that it was fantasy (not that I hate fantasy, but not particularly excited by it either) and it was 700 pages (I know comics are quicker reads than novels, but that's still a lot).

But I did enjoy it. The fantasy world building was quite good and I was especially impressed by Wendy Pini's art. I'm not surprised that she was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Her characters are ridiculously good, despite sometimes looking like Bratz dolls (a style that has rubbed me the wrong way before) with their big, bright eyes and oddly sexual bodies. Her line work was bold and defined, with hatching, cross-hatching, and thickly inked almost like wood-cuts.

The plots were fine, but there were annoying moments. The love triangle in the first volume went on for way too long. The fairy character in the last volume was the JarJar Binks of the series.

Still, I can definitely see why the staff member at the Book Cellar was such a fan.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Reader's Diary #2080- Stephanie Dickinson: Big-Headed Anna Watches Over


Stephanie Dickinson's short story "Big-Headed Anna Watches Over" opens on a scene where a 14 year old has just given birth. It's gut-wrenching and doesn't let up from there.

I'm reminded of the recent news story about the teenager girl who just got out of prison for killing her rapist. Though Dickinson's story is set in 1922, it's hard sometimes to think society has gotten any better.

This is a flash fiction piece, but in a short space, Dickinson has developed Angéle into a real character; something the males in Angéle's life never did.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Reader's Diary #2079- Anthony Foliot Snowking: Tales of An Old Town Versifier

When someone says they're going to write poetry in the style of Robert Service, I'm usually skeptical. I'd consider myself a fan of Service, but usually when people say that what they really mean is they don't read poetry but they remember "The Cremation of Sam McGee" from elementary school and find rhymes fun.

In Anthony Foliot's (aka the Snowking) Tales of an Old Town Versifier, one particular poem ("Looks Like My Job is on the Line") describes how this isn't necessarily the case for him. He intentionally studies other poetry but decides (based largely on the enthusiasm, or lack thereof, of his peers) to stick to "versifiying" (aka writing like Service) rather than "poetry."Of course, there's some tongue-in-cheek here, implying that "poetry" is pretentious compared to "versifying," a word which in actuality sounds even more pretentious.

I'd be lying if I said that Foliot was as good as Service, but as he's a fan himself, I'd venture to say he'd agree. The poems don't scan as well and sometimes when trying to find the rhythm I got a little too distracted to catch the stories. However, when they did work, I found them to be amusing blue-collar tales mostly with northern flair.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reader's Diary #2078- Nicolas Michaud and Jessica Watkins (editors): Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy

I should clear up the title before beginning, Iron Man is not taking on both Captain America and Philosophy. Instead, philosophers are debating who is the better superhero, mostly in the context of the Civil War story line.

It's hard to declare who's the ultimate winner, but for my money I think those who championed Iron Man made the stronger case. That's not so much the point though as I suspect the real purpose behind these books is to make philosophy fun and show how it can be used to make convincing arguments. Others in this series include Twin Peaks and Philosophy, David Bowie and Philosophy, and The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy. I'm particularly keen to read Black Mirror and Philosophy which is set to be published early next year.

It's definitely a good intro to some famous philosophical ideas, though on the debate side of things, I sometimes wished they'd had more ground rules. With Marvel stories and characters being told any number of times by any number of writers, some canon, some not, some in comics, some on the big screen, I felt sometimes that the philosophers were cherry-picking details to make their cases.

And of course, as with any compilation, I enjoyed some more than others. Most at least seemed to appreciate that the book was to be light in tone, even if they took philosophy itself seriously.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reader's Diary #2077- Whit Fraser: True North Rising

In the preface to Whit Fraser's northern memoir True North Rising, he says he's flattered that his colleagues refer to him as a "natural storyteller" and says it is now "time to put that to the test."

He passed.

I know this because despite the book being riddled with typos⁠— and I mean riddled, perhaps one of the worst books I've read in that aspect— they were not enough to keep me from being wholly engaged.

Perhaps it's Fraser's affable tone, perhaps it's his ability to drop in and out of flashbacks with ease, perhaps it's his keen sense of who and what is important, but most likely it's a combination of all of these things that makes his storytelling reputation so well earned.

Fraser first came to northern Canada as a young, relatively inexperienced reporter. It happened to be during some of the most critical points in recent history: specifically the Berger Inquiry and the creation of Nunavut. These events, and the people involved, would have a profound affect on Fraser and the book is as much about them as the writer himself.

I wonder if those not from, or never having experienced, the north would have the same interest. I suspect that they would and I also believe they'd get a better sense of life here. Typos there may be, but I believe he's still captured it accurately.

I'm encouraged to read on Sarah Minogue's NorthReads blog that a second edition is planned and free of typos. I'd suggest waiting for that one.