Sunday, 21 December 2014

Book #55

Y the Last Man: Girl on Girl by Brian K Vaughn & Pia Guerra

After two years spent warily crossing the U.S., Yorick Brown and his escorts, agent 355 and biochemist Alison Mann, have gone to sea. Mann has determined that the key to understanding what kept Yorick from dying when all the other men did lies within the body of Yorick's pet monkey, Ampersand, who has been abducted by a Japanese mercenary. 

Well, I tried. I think six volumes of this is plenty, so I won't be continuing Yorick's adventure with him. With another four volumes to go,  I don't think I can sacrifice precious reading time.

This time around, we're treated to adventure on the high seas, as Yorick and friends board a boat loaded with heroin. As expected, they run into a load of violence (this time with swords) and narrowly escape death once again, with Yorick getting tangled up with another woman. Vaughn also seemed to run out of shock factor plot twists (because let's face it, he's used everything in his arsenal more than four times) and to combat this, writes Mann and 355 into bed together. Hence the frat boy, homophobic, and frankly misogynistic volume title.

I must admit I was glad to see an older woman in this volume as every single woman here looks the same; epically proportioned and gorgeous. 

And we're still no further forward with the plot. I'm done. I'm fed up reading about characters in sticky situations, only to see them get out of the mess seconds later. I already have Blyton books I can read; give me something I don't expect. I've ranted enough about this series, so it's time to leave it behind with the other insipid stories I've read in my time. Goodbye, Yorick; I wouldn't come near you again if you were the last man on earth.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Book #54

Y the Last Man: Ring of Truth by Brian K Vaughn & Pia Guerra

Yorick Brown, the last man on Earth, finally makes it to San Francisco where his unbalanced sister, Hero, finds him seemingly succumbing to the male-killing plague after losing his still-unused engagement ring to the burqa-clad agents of the Setauket Ring. But is the ring really the key to his survival? And what does it have to do with the mysterious Amulet of Helene, which the Setauket leader is determined to take from Agent 355 by any means necessary. 

Much more of the same. People are still trying to kill them, the number of ‘secret societies’ following the trio is growing, and I’m losing track of everyone’s motives. There’s a great deal of violence, and I don’t care who gets hurt as long as it’s not Ampersand, because he’s a cute little monkey.

We marginally find out why Yorick and Ampersand survived the plague. Dr Mann’s explanation of this, to the non-scientific mind, is incredibly confusing and mediocre. And although she positioned this as a guess, if that really is the reason then I’m not sure there’s much incentive to read on. 

Yorick spends the majority of this volume advising other characters of his extreme uselessness. Although I was glad he’d noticed, the extent of his self-deprecating outburst was just a bit much. 

When the trio arrive in San Francisco, they find it far less chaotic than where they’ve come from. Things are more peaceful and organised than places we’ve previously seen, however rather than look into this further, and show us some women who have adapted well to change, and how they managed this, Vaughn chooses to introduce us to more crazy, violent ladies who are looking to kill Yorick. Rather than show us three billion women in a world without men, we focus on one drippy pain in the arse who, let’s face it, can’t reinstate the patriarchy on his own anyway.

I’m still dragging my heels with this. One more volume and then I’m going to have to cut my losses and give up.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Book #53

Y the Last Man: Safeword by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra

In the care of a fellow Culper Ring member, Yorick Brown is forced to confront his tremendous feelings of survivor guilt that lead him to constantly put his life in danger. Once on the road again, the group runs up against a literal roadblock in Arizona, where the female remains of the Sons of Arizona militia have cut the interstate to keep out any vestiges of the U.S. government.

In my review of the previous installment, I lamented that I was only continuing with this series because I had a desire to see what happened. and that I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, both seeing this through to the end and Yorick's fate are not high on my priority list after this volume.

This one wasn't even as strong as the previous three volumes, with lots of recurring events. The trio run into trouble, get involved in violence, narrowly escape, meet some woman who wants to fuck the last man on earth, etc. Very static. I'm bored of the plot, bored of the characters, and apparently the phrase "not if you were the last man on earth" means nothing to Vaughn's 'feminist' characters. 

As an apparent feminist comic, Vaughn continues to fail, portraying the majority of women as feminazis, and having them comment that another must be PMSing because she had a shouty moment. No other plausible explanation for feminine anger, so it must be her period.

Yorick still has no personality, and it transpires here that he has some sort of survivor guilt which is why he keeps jumping in front of gun-toting hordes, so why anyone would want to fuck him is beyond me.

I also have absolutely no concept of how much time has passed with each volume. One character made a comment that they'd been trying to get to California for eighteen months. Oh, okay.

Persevering with another two volumes as a very trusted friend has let me borrow them, but I'm starting to think this really isn't my thing. I've just ended this one on the "Oh shit, Hero's turned up" cliffhanger, which has been used for what feels like the fourth time.

Book #52

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Impish, daring young Tom Sawyer is the bane of the old, the hero of the young. There were some in his dusty old Missippi town who believed he would be President, if he escaped a hanging. For wherever there is mischief or adventure, Tom is at the heart of it. During one hot summer, Tom witnesses a murder, runs away to be a pirate, attends his own funeral, rescues an innocent man from the gallows, searches for treasure in a haunted house, foils a devilish plot and discovers a box of gold. But can he escape his nemesis, the villainous Injun Joe?

I never ever read this book as a child; this was my first time - berate me as you see fit. Despite this oversight, the book is still relevant to me as an adult in 2014, as it would've been had I grown up in the nineteenth century. The pains we go through growing up may have warped into something entirely different (think Becky liking all of Alfred's pictures on Instagram, rather than looking at a picture book with them for all the school to see) but the base emotions are still there, and in a way, still raw.

Tom is a likable protagonist; he's an olden day cheeky chappie, a true comic, constantly getting into mischief and driving his family mental. Tom is quite transparent, however, coming across as mostly selfish, attention seeking, and covetous of leadership positions. I didn't grudge him this; I liked him a lot, and we did see his selfish acts mutate into acts of kindness and chivalry. Tom's flaws, however were a true contrast to my favourite character, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is a gorgeous character, living in severe poverty but appreciative of the freedom it gives him. He takes orders from Tom without questioning him because he's an outcast to the adults of the town, and glad of the company. Being a practical individual, with a heap of common sense, Huck complements Tom's dreamy fantasy worlds perfectly. He's a beautiful character, who I've truly fallen in love with. We didn't see as much of him as I'd have liked, and I'm really excited about reading Twain's novel about him. 

I absolutely loved the small, sleepy town of St Petersburg. It reads like such a relaxing lifestyle, and Twain's satire of their customs and beliefs is as funny as it is enlightening. Add his colloquialisms into a mix, and you're in the blame South. At this time, slave ownership was common, and legal, but the novel doesn't deal with many racial issues, instead only mentioning them subtly. Injun Joe's place in the town was lower than others' due to his mixed race, and the 'n' word does crop up, but Twain doesn't allude to race any more than this. 

An absolutely gorgeous picture of childhood in the 1870s, and based on Twain's own, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a true American classic - one I wish I had read sooner.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Book #51

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator.

Classic horrors have never really been my thing. Having now read Frankenstein for the first time (!) I think more classic horrors will be in the pipeline for me. I wasn't expecting this work to be so beautiful, so breathtaking, and so totally contrasting to my previous perceptions and assumptions surrounding the story. Hollywood has a lot to answer for.

As soon as Frankenstein brings his monster to life, he is immediately repulsed at the sight of him, and by what he's done. The monster is orphaned, and left to make sense of the world on his own. He seeks love and friendship, but finds only hatred. Every single human who comes across the monster rejects him, and his own creator was too disgusted to look at him, Shelley made it so easy to understand his woes, his frustrations, and most of all, his need for companionship. The monster must be one of the greatest literary outcasts ever written - I believe every misunderstood character since will have something in common with him. 

Shelley's writing is incredibly impressive when we consider the character of Frankenstein. At the beginning of the novel, he is easy to respect. He has huge dreams of unlocking the secrets of science, and it seems no one will stand in his way to do so. After the birth of the monster, he becomes an abhorrent character; we see him slowly lose both his mind and his humanity as he comes to terms with the consequences of his actions. His lack of compassion is disgusting, and although I should have hated him, Shelley wouldn't let me. Her writing totally conveyed his position, his reasons for his behaviour, and his deep regrets. So although Frankenstein is the true monster, we are led to sympathise with his plight as he becomes more isolated, and more akin to his creation.

Let's debunk some Hollywood myths. Firstly, the monster teaches himself to read, write, and speak. And not in a fragmented, learning a foreign language way. He is potentially the most articulate character in the novel, and most definitely more eloquent than you or I. Hollywood either shows him as entirely mute, or only capable of a series of grunts. This lack of human communication will straight away convey the sense of the monster being a different species, and our trust in him will sink. Shelley, however, portrays him as entirely human, except in appearance. We sympathise with him, he can express his feelings and thoughts, and in doing so allows us to understand that his rejection is what leads to his murderous capabilities. Without launching into a nature vs. nurture debate, I'm sure things could've ended up just lovely if the monster had been loved by his creator.

Myth two! There is no strike of lightning which brings the monster to life. It wasn't even a dark and stormy night. Electricity is not the secret to bringing sewn together limbs into being. Shelley, very tastefully, never reveals the key to life Frankenstein discovered. This made the whole thing so much more majestic, as readers would have scoffed at anything else. The film version gives us the whole thunder, lightning, evil laugh, and scary music. I know what I'd prefer.

Thirdly - he's not green, he doesn't have bolts in his neck, and he doesn't live in a big castle. I'm amazed at just how much a story (not just a story - a masterpiece) can be distorted by media.

This isn't a horror that will terrify you, or have you up all night expecting an amalgamation of human limbs to knock on your window. The horror here is the danger of playing God, the human instinct to judge upon sight, and most of all, the horror of being alone. I cannot recommend this novel enough, it's so beautifully human, provocative and a true treasure.