Monday, August 30, 2021

Reader's Diary #2231 - Bobbie Ann Mason: Shiloh

 Poor Leroy. 

The protagonist of Bobbie Ann Mason's short story "Shilo" finds himself at home, permanently, after a work injury cut short his truck driving career. He's trying to refocus, discovering new interests and hobbies, and for the most part, I would say, making the best of a bad situation.

That said, it's also an adjustment for his wife who isn't as used to having him around. 

It's one of those depressing, realistic slice of life stories. Yet, for all that, I see it as having a hint of hope. Finding oneself isn't necessarily bad on its own, it's just unfortunate when others get caught in the wake. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Reader's Diary #2230 - Ed Brisson (writer), Jonas Scharf (artist): Avengers of the Wasteland


I've often complained that Marvel (and DC) don't let superheroes die and yet continually add new characters, leaving the world completely overstuffed and overpowered. So, the Wastelands world (which you may be familiar with through the Old Man Logan comics or Logan movie) is right up my alley. 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Red Skull had won and most superheroes were killed off, there are only a few stragglers left and they're mostly amateurs, descendants of the old guard, folks who found and made use of old superhero tech, and the like. 

But setting and premise are just two (albeit important) components. Fortunately, this particular story also has a great, action filled plot (they have to take on Dr. Doom, who unfortunately was a survivor) and that perfect Marvel blend of humor, flawed heroes, and hints of higher ideals. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Reader's Diary #2229- Jarrad Saul: Bubble Gum

 Jarrad Saul's flash fiction "Bubble Gum" could just as easily be called a prose poem if we're in need of labels, as it takes a surreal look at a person falling for someone, described as being happily consumed by them. It's funny that the narrator states that he knows nothing of poetry when clearly this is not true for the author himself. 

It's quite an artistic, fun story. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Reader's Diary #2228 - Al Ewing and various artists: Loki Agent of Asgard The Complete Collection


After finishing the new Disney+ Loki show, I'd decided I haven't yet had enough of the character and luckily found this collection. 

From characters and plot lines, it's easy to see how true to the comics the series was. There wasn't any particularly long arc ripped off from these particular stories, but the idea of multiple versions of Loki (sadly, no crocodile Loki) was especially prevalent. 

Themes of fate vs free will ring loud here as Loki tries to redeem his past sins despite a future evil version of himself pointing out how pointless are his efforts. As in the series, he's gender-bending, mischievous, and loveable (especially in his new friendship with Verity, a character who can see through any lie). 

So it's a lot of fun with plenty of adventure, decent art, and a lot of heart. Small personal issue, and one I have more with Marvel at large, is that deaths are meaningless. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Reader's Diary #2227- Gaius Coffey: Alone, Not Lonely

 I seem to be stumbling upon more stories written in the 2nd person lately, which is great!

In Gaius Coffey's flash fiction "Alone, Not Lonely" I'm quite enjoying some solitude. As an introvert, I can 100% feel this and it's more about appreciating a time of no pressures or distractions.


Friday, August 13, 2021

Reader's Diary #2226- Sheung-King: You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked.

Sheung-King's You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked. is the 2nd novel I've read lately in which I dislike a character more than the protagonist does. As this one's told in the 2nd person, I guess that means I dislike myself.

It's light on plot, but essentially it's an interracial love story between a Chinese man (the narrator) and a Japanese woman (the reader). I found her to be disrespectful of him, sometimes disappearing without an explanation and being vaguely insulting ("you talk weird"). She eventually seemed to lighten up, but I'm not exactly clear why. Nor am I completely understanding of why he put up with it all except for love. 

This all makes it sound like I didn't enjoy it, which isn't true. In many ways, it's beautifully written. As I've said numerous times, I quite love the 2nd person perspective. Plus, Sheung-King's sentences, like that quirky, but beautiful title, are typically brief but suffice. There's a lot of philosophizing, story-telling, and conversation here, and it reminded me a little of Before Sunrise, which came as no surprise then when that movie was referenced. I'm not sure I'd have had the patience for a longer version of the book, but at slightly over 180 pages it didn't wear out its welcome. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Reader's Diary #2225- Chuck Wendig (writer), Álvaro Sarraseca (artist): Turok Blood Hunt

Recently when I was wearing my Alpha Flight t-shirt a guy came up to me and mistook Shaman for Turok. I pride myself of knowing a lot of comics, but that one was new to me. He explained about how the character began in comics and then took on an resurgence in video games and he was problematic in both cultural appropriation and historical accuracy senses.

I went looking to see what I could find and came across the newer Dynamite series by Chuck Wendig and Álvaro Sarraseca. It was kind of smart how they dealt with the above issues. Humans living with dinosaurs is explained away as a mixup in realities and instead of being Native American, Turok is now black. He's (spoiler) merely taken the name Turok from the old character from comics that his daughter used to read.

I quite enjoyed this. Excellent world building, fast-paced action-filled story, with compelling characters and flashes of humour here and there. Plus, Álvaro Sarraseca's art is great, with a superhero comics style fitting of this universe.

Reader's Diary #2224 - Pik-Shuen Fung: Ghost Forest

Lately I've found myself lacking the interest and stamina for novels. As I always preferred them to nonfiction, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Maybe it's an age thing, but my attention wanders too much or else I fall asleep. 

Fortunately, the format of Pik-Shuen Fung's Ghost Forest made it easier for readers like me. The book is short, the chapters are short, and even the text on individual pages is broken down, arranged almost like poems at times. There wasn't enough time for my mind to grow bored. Of course, it also helped that I enjoyed the characters and plot.

The plot isn't exactly intricate (it's largely about a daughter's relationship with her father) but the circumstances were very unique and compelling to me. They're a modern family of Hong Kong immigrants to Canada, except the father stays behind to work. The family visits one another periodically and it's sometimes strained between father and daughter. At these times, the father attributes it largely due to the Canadian influence on his daughter's personality and values, but perhaps some is just a universal reality between generations, opposite gender parents, etc. I didn't particularly like the father and indeed she forgives him more readily than I probably would, but it nonetheless rings authentic. 

I quite enjoyed this book. 

Monday, August 09, 2021

Reader's Diary #2223 - Gwendolyn Saltzman: Does Your Mother Know What You're Doing?

 Gwendolyn Saltzman's flash fiction "Does Your Mother Know What You're Doing?" is a perfect blend of plot and character building, working simultaneously and in such a short space. It involves two women driving through the mountains who have just noticed that they seem to be being followed. 

As that tension builds, however, we also get glimpses into the women's backgrounds and there's more to them than you first suspect. While this story is wrapped up, their personal stories are not and they leave the imagination, delightfully, running wild. 

Monday, August 02, 2021

Reader's Diary #2222- Carmyn Effa: It Was Better to Be Prepared

Carmyn Effa's "It Was Better to Be Prepared" is wonderfully set around the turn to the 21st Century. The main character (me, I guess, as it's told from the 2nd person perspective) is especially preoccupied with Y2K's potential apocalyptic trigger. But she's also a religious fanatic, or rather from a very evangelic community. I loved this contrast, especially from an outsider mindset, it's a relatively easy culture to mock, and yet, a lot of us nonetheless also got caught up in Y2K mania. We didn't really believe it, but were also vaguely excited in a perverse way for the possibility of something major and bad to happen, to shake things up.