I’ve been travelling for the last month and change, but am momentarily stationary enough to mention that the following reviews have gone live at NPR Books:
Landline, by Rainbow Rowell.
All of Rowell’s books thus far have paid some homage to geeky interests — superhero comics in Eleanor & Park, Harry Potter (ish) fanfic communities in Fangirl, Dungeons & Dragons inAttachments — but this is the first to feature an outright science fiction element in the time-blurring phone. It’s a deliciously clever device: Using the increasingly obsolete landline as an anchor, foothold or portal into the past is a great idea, especially when the past in question isn’t yet distant enough to be alien. As a metaphor for returning to a root-deep connection in the face of signal noise and distortion, it’s excellent — but ultimately, it works better as meta commentary than effective storytelling tool.
A double-review of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds and Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero.
Two remarkable graphic novels being released this week are themed around shadow-selves, legacies and second chances:
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds is about a woman given the opportunity to magically undo past mistakes, while Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero revises a mysterious golden-age superhero called the Green Turtle by fleshing out his Asian-American origins.
Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll.
In these five graphic tales (meaning comics, not stories told in Grand Guignol fashion — although that linguistic line is definitely blurred here), Carroll’s sinuous prose and emphatic art blend seamlessly into a path through the stories she tells. If there is a key to this collection, it is the phrase, “It came from the woods. (Most strange things do),” which recurs in “His Face All Red,” the story of a man who murders his brother only to see him emerge from the woods whole, happy and unscathed. These are tales of strange things that come from or go into the woods — and what they did to people, or had done to them, along the way.
I’m so delighted I get to review comics for NPR now! Particular kudos are due to Stu West for making me pay attention to lettering (even if I’ll never share his particular antipathy towards that of Order of the Stick).