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Merry

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                Eve                                                                                                            To be continued…

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#BestReads2018: Mindhunting!

Lists from previous years:

Best Reads 2012

Best Reads 2013

Best Reads 2014

Best Reads 2015

Best Reads 2016

Best Reads 2017

2018 rolled by bizarrely fast but if you managed to squeeze in some good reads (or even bad ones) and they made you shriek or cry or laugh or had any impressive impact on you – then it was a good year! If you also have a list of your #BestReads2018, please feel free to share it in the comments! Book suggestions are always welcomed.

CRIME

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Edward Douglas

Image result for Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

When Mindhunter came out on TV at the end of last year my Twitter feed was full of constant feedback on how amazing the show is, how chillingly creepy and precise it is, and true enough the show was phenomenal! But in all the back and forth talk hardly anyone mentioned the source of it, but nevertheless a quick Google search gave the desired results – a spectacular true crime novel that delves deep into the brutal realism of some of the most sadistic criminals of our time.

Obviously the book isn’t up to anyone’s taste – it does get graphic and even without photographic leads it is descriptive enough to allow a very detailed reconstruction to appear in one’s head if one’s imagination is… vivid enough I should say. John Douglas being the special agent who was central in implementing behavioral science and criminal profiling in the FBI’s work process propelling it to a new age of crime fighting has a surprisingly solid storytelling skills – no wonder he was I believe the model for Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris works.

In this nearly 400-page novel the reader gets to not only follow through on more notorious serial crime cases in the US, but more importantly it allows a frightening gaze into a vast reasearch spanning multiple interviews and “confrontations” with serial killers of various capacities. In that sense “Mindhunter” is a remarkable study that aims to understand their motives, to showcase them to the general public – us the readers.  If you are in any way interested into these behavioral patterns in subjects such as Ed Kemper, Richard Speck and even Manson, I highly recommend this book as a starting point. It gets real.

 

FANTASY/SCI-FI/HORROR/HUMOR

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

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*swirls wine in glass, takes a sip, smacks lips loudly.* “The strange lights in the sky over the desert are mysterious in their bluish glow. What strange lights? I see no lights and therefore I am undisturbed.”

And what a strange introduction. But this is charm in the “Welcome to Night Vale” fashion. It’s without question a novel worth reviewing and a podcast worth listening to, or vice versa. However you feel like. But it’s worth your time, your mental state and your erm…dreams and questioning of life and reality and all.

It’s a novel rich in characters, healthy on the weird and scary and chockfull of delicious mindbending scenarios all of which are wrapped in a bubble about to burst, written in a delightful easy-going language that tickles you in places you like but feel weird about. It’s damned good!

Be not mistaken – the novel has a plot that concerns two very special, very different and yet somehow similar women – Jackie Fierro and Diane Crayton. Between the two of them is…well its a very unending desert which has no name but in which Night Vale, a small town of weird proportions and happenings is situated. Between its streets and walls are angels called Erika, some aliens with their strange night lights, a pinch of ghosts, some overly creepy librarians and a shit ton of government conspiracies. Those are everyday normal things that occur and exist. What is not normal is another place called King City and a piece of paper that you just can’t seem to get rid of no matter what you do. Oh and time-bending, reality-reshaping plastic flamingoes. Oh boy.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is unlike any novel I’ve ever read which is both disappointing and not, because otherwise I believe I wouldn’t have been so amazed by it instantly. I easily took it to heart, embraced all the ‘what the heck’ moments and plot twists and radio intrusions into the narrative by Cecil, the voice of Night Vale.  For me it was insanely refreshing being well-humored but also weird and dark where it needed to be. The added fantasy and sci-fi elements mainly concerning time-travel and reality reshaping were an absolute joy. There are even many great quotes that stand out and can be taken out of context and applied to life and such:

“Remember that misuse of language can lead to miscommunication, and that miscommunication leads to everything that has ever happened in the whole of the world.” 

“Comfort was the answer to all life’s problems. It didn’t solve them, but it made them more distant for a bit as they quietly worsened.” 

“It was a fair question, although the problem with fair questions is that they are asked about an unfair world.” 

And just so you could get a snipped of how wording goes in Night Vale:

“Librarians are hideous creatures of unimaginable power. And even if you could imagine their power, it would be illegal. It is absolutely illegal to even try to picture what such a being would be like.” 

My recommendation: go check out the podcasts and read the novel. You’ll get a weird sensation. But it spreads warmth, I promise.

*All quotes belong to Joseph Fink

 

COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Arrival (2007) By Shaun Tan

Back in May I did a more detailed review of “The Arrival” and without a doubt it scores a place in this year’s Best Reads list without actually having any written words inside its pages.

“The Arrival” explores the struggles of immigration through the heartbreaking story of a man parting from his wife and daughter as he boards a steamship across the ocean to find a better future for the three of them.

Very intimately through Shaun Tan’s brilliant imagination and gorgeous pencil art we are invited to observe the man’s exploration, his experience and struggles as he arrives in an unknown land of impossible proportions and architecture without the knowledge of the language and understanding of the local customs.

And the protagonist cannot communicate with the symbol language of the megalopolis, so can’t  we as the reader. We are forbidden that luxury and so understand the isolation that builds for the man so far away from home. We begin learning with him, growing in this world and slowly becoming part of it. We are left with wordless art that speaks volumes.

You can read the full review of “The Arrival” and get quick access to some useful links and to Shaun Tan’s website here.

 

Descender (2015 – 2018) By Jeff Lemire Dustin Nguyen

Descender invites you to enter a universe where androids are a common element in people’s daily lives, from companions to worker bots and so on. Of nine core planets that are under the rule of the United Galactic Council or UGC for short our attention is placed on Niyarata, the technological and cultural hub of the UGC, populated with over 5 billion people. Then, right from the get go an attack of colossal proportions takes place – a space invasion from gigantic robots called Harvesters, an unknown and unpredictable force.

Naturally people blame the androids for the death, destruction and anihilation that follows the massive attack. There’s an open hunting invitation for all humans against the remaining numbers of robots. A young boy bot companion called TIM-21 is far away from the troubles of the planets. He has been asleep for the past 10 years on a small mining colony. And once he wakes up only to find everyone dead and the mines abandoned, the journey begins.

The art style is fucking amazing – the watercolor layer makes everything pop out and is really gorgeous to look at; the character models and world building, these huge, desolate landscapes and vast patches of space are simply beautiful – Dustin Nguyen has done and is doing an outstanding job of bringing to life visually pleasing faces and places  in a kind of old school way, it often just reminds me of older SF comics.

I highly recommend Descender. It is as I said a refreshing and of the times SF story inhabited by wonderful characters via a strong storytelling and a mystery still unfolding plus the cherry on top – its gorgeous to look at.

For my full review click here

 

The Books of Magic 1-4 (1990-1991)  By Neil Gaiman 

The Books of Magic give the starting point to Timothy Hunter’s adventure in becoming, if he choses so, one of the greatest if not the greatest magician of his generation. As he is quite young and unaware of that possibility, four practitioners of magic take it upon themselves to introduce Tim to the capabilities, promises, dangers, opportunities and costs of magic.

If you are keen on magic but in its philosophical, transcendental, esoteric, ancient, powerful and dark visage and admire smart and elegant and through and through brilliant writing that’s syphoning life-lessons on the backdrop of angels cascading flaming to earth, or Atlantis crumbling in the distance, or the universe and the stars being birthed, led by hierophant’s and jackasses and occult figures without true names, then this is absolutely the mini-series for you. You even get Death telling you about that appointment in Samara. Well not with so many words. You know the one, right? There was a merchant in Bagdad…

Read the full review here!

 

Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

18310944For some people it has been twenty-five years since The Sandman first altered in ground breaking proportions the bone structure, the cosmic essence, the reality of modern comics. For others time has been more forgiving and the wait a lot shorter, but nevertheless, the mystery behind Dream’s capture in Prelude & Nocturness is finally revealed between the pages of six gorgeous chapters.

Now a quick note: if you go back through the lists linked above you’ll notice hardly a year goes by without some Gaiman in it, and it’s painfully obvious I’m a huge fan. So, the reason behind me putting “The Sandman Overture” in this year’s list is because I had some catching up to do with the original series and all the extra volumes, special editions, spinoff’s before I could allow myself to read this wonderful beginning, original story, called it whatever you will.

My wait has been totally worth it! Not only is the art spectacular – the mix in artstyles, the cosmic explosion of colors and clever implementation of the chapter titles within the environment are just some of the aspects worth mentioning simply because they define the storytelling, the character’s individual experiences, moods, thoughts so much it’s incredible! The new illustrator J.H.Williams III together with Dave Stewart did an outstanding job in bringing to life a complex world by adding so much more life into it than it already had.  Gaiman goes back to his Sandman roots with the easy step of a ballet dancer but with the same heavy decision-making and fate-bearing flawed Dream we know and love since 89′. Although we have a glance at him before the events that lead to his *SPOILER* incarceration, we are allowed the special peek behind the curtain that semi-explains why Dream is who he is or what he is as we get to meet the Mother and Father of the Endless in their stripped of mortal affection relationship to each other and their children.

Photo credit belongs to Neil Gaiman and J.H.Williams III

If you haven’t read the original Sandman series I believe you should before even coming close to Overture – sure, it does kickstart Dream’s journey, but it might tangle you in characters, behavioral patterns and world-view that would make your head spin. So take the long way round, read the original first, come to love or hate or both Dream and the Endless and then when your heart is possibly broken and you’ve attended a funeral or two and have invested yourself into the story so deeply it hurts, then gently crack open the hard covers of “Sandman Overture and bask in its beauty!

 

Honorable mentionesNaomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe;  Plutona By Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox ; Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

This does it for this years BestReads2018 list! I hope you got something new from it or remembered something old. Let me know what you read this year! Stay safe xx

 

 

The Society of Misfit Stories Presents: The Year of the Heddagh

Some of you may remember ‘The Year of the Heddagh’ as Friday blog posts some time ago and even if you don’t or do, I’m happy to announce Bards and Sages Publishing decided it was good enough to put into their anthology of Misfits. So now you can get ‘The Year of the Heddagh’ for only 0.99$ , available at a bunch of places – Apple, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Scribd, Smashwords, Angus & Robertson!

The very helpful link to “The Year of the Heddagh”  in all its splendor!

The cover is also very in tune with the themes of myths, legends, old gods and old folklore…

The Mask Omnibus Vol. 1 [Review]

The Mask

Omnibus Volume 1 

by

John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke

(Dark Horse Comics)

Ever since I saw “The Mask”, unbeknownst that there was a much grander source material I’ve been thinking, why isn’t it R rated? Why aren’t there splashes of blood and over the top murder? And with a somewhat long delay I found my answer, but it wasn’t in the televised Cuban Pete version or the cartoon legend everyone remembers and loves. It was in the Dark Horse comic book series where The Mask, created by Mike Richardson, itself starts off in the hands of dear ol’ familiar Stanley and in the process finds its way in the possession of many other people each following their own agenda that is contorted through the Mask’s inner desires to seed chaos and destruction.

Brilliantly showcased with vibrant art that bounces back and forth along the pages in explosions and car crashes and chainsaw extravaganza at its most mundane, the comic series paints the pros and cons of using the Mask and its ricocheted effect on all involved bystander-wise or direct participant. The item, ancient and mysterious and highly dangerous, feeds on the need for revenge, protection, security. It allows the execution of actions unimaginable prior and seemingly asks no price so it ultimately feels like the best and most insane option in succeeding, in prevailing. In that way it transforms mostly noble causes, or noble and explanatory to the self, into dark and grandiose happenings that result in people’s deaths, a result which remains somewhat dampened by the Mask like it’s a periphery occurrence that the user being ecstatic doesn’t register until it becomes too often, too vivid and violent. And while that “blood sacrifice” and hyped state of being probably pleases the Mask itself, the person wearing it however weak in control over its actions does understand at some point that this auto-pilot is too violent and evil to be trusted in a prolonged way.

So they muster enough control to remove it and bury it somewhere before it destroys them and others completely. It however always manages to find its way to a new user, a new person with some desire that he or she cannot complete because of personal weakness and inability to fight. The Mask then shows a fraction of its potential and the person is hooked. It grants immortality, immense power, bends reality and with a pun, a laugh, a jest empowers its user to do the killing while having fun.

Even in the first issue that starts off with Stanley buying the Mask as a gift for his girlfriend Kath, we get where this is going. He’s the little man, the one who gets punched around and he desperately wants to punch back but he is unable. He is weak. The mask sensing that is an enabler, granting that imperviousness to its user to do whatever he or she pleases. The first time he puts it on, Stanley gets that it’s powerful, that he is now powerful as a result. He quickly forgets that the Mask is on him, that it truthfully is in control but he’s fine with that, because to him his actions are his own even being stripped of consciousness or guilt or fear of God even. He is able to take it off but the obsession has already started and he is making plans, writing down lists with names of all the people who’ve hurt him or wronged him in any way. And he even says sarcastically or not about saving the world, about becoming a superhero, but first he goes on down that list of names and he murders those people in a number of fascinating ways. When the Mask gets taken away from him, he panics. Without it he is no one.

What’s cool about this series is that regardless of all the brutal and often graphic violence it depicts, it maintains the cartoony look, vibrant and caricature-like, and the dark humor most people loved from the movie and the cartoon is there, the comedy gut-punching is there and it even has it up a notch or two so it translates as even louder and more maniacal which ultimately is what should be expected and wanted from The Mask. Each representation of the Mask showcases a little bit of its user, so it feels tailored to the person. We get a Mask that is equal parts high-heeled and leather-clad sporting mini-skirts and spikes and suave suits as the boss of the mafia. It’s never righteous, it’s psychopathic but with a pie hiding a bomb so it entertains. The art is on par with the actions and the narrative itself transforming itself to fit the shape-shifting skills of the Mask and for me it is by far the best way to enjoy the story not via one character but through many which allows a grander understanding and viewing of its capabilities.

The omnibus version which I read for vol. 1 is a hefty 370 pages but that gives a better flow to the story in my opinion. It’s easier to read it all at once without missing a beat but if you prefer it separated it appears as a trilogy.

If you’re a fan of The Mask and have somehow missed this comic book series, I highly recommended it. The original is pretty much always the best.

 

*Images used here belong to their sole creators.

The Books of Magic 1-4 by Neil Gaiman [Review]

The Books of Magic 1-4 (1990-1991) DC Comics, Vertigo

By Neil Gaiman 

As an avid fan of Neil Gaiman’s work I was super surprised to find out I totally missed out on The Books of Magic. I think I knew of the four issues in the back of my head but completely forgot they were a huge thing as time went by. And the weird thing is I was reminded of them due to a semi-recent tweet that addressed more or less people complaining Gaiman stole the idea of a boy “wizard” in his starting steps from J.K. Rowling. What sparked that conversation on Twitter I have no idea (was it the owl? Because Tim has an owl called Yo-Yo? People did read the comics before going on a Twitter rant, right? They know an actual yo-yo was turned into an owl just for Tim to know magic is real?), but it resulted in people and even Neil Gaiman himself having to explain to other users how fiction writing works and how inspiration works and also that 1990 comes before 1997. Yep, the Philosopher’s Stone came out in 1997 and The Books of Magic were written between 1990 and 1991. I think that’s pretty much a discussion ender there. Anyways…

Aside from that, as always I was really happy to explore another piece of Gaiman fiction in a universe I am familiar and comfortable with.

The Books of Magic give the starting point to Timothy Hunter’s adventure in becoming, if he choses so, one of the greatest if not the greatest magician of his generation. As he is quite young and unaware of that possibility, four practitioners of magic take it upon themselves to introduce Tim to the capabilities, promises, dangers, opportunities and costs of magic. Dubbed the “TrenchCoat Brigade”, its four members are John Constantine, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Occult, and Mister E. Each of them take Tim on a specifically tailored tour of the magical realms that showcases certain aspects set in the distant past, the chaotic present, the dangerous multi-realms and Faerie and the far, far set future.

 

Between these points in time and magic, Tim is introduced to what are essentially Vertigo’s and DC’s greatest magical persons – Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, Dr. Fate, The Spectre, Merlin and many more. A fantastic treat are the appearances of Dream of the Endless and Death of the Endless, Sandman’s perhaps most beloved characters (I know they are mine).

So, in all that Tim has to decide whether he wants to pursue magic or science, science being a life of normality and rationality and safety without a hint of magic. He is given the opportunity to learn about magic and thus decide whether he wants it and also unbeknownst to him passes a sort of test which might help determine whether his affiliation, if he chooses magic, will lie with the forces of good or evil. Though that’s somewhat of a blurry line in that universe as things are neither black nor white. They’re kind of mood indigo, as Mister E knows all too well.

I wouldn’t want to spoil too much for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to read these four issues though it’s been years since they came out and the respected characters appear not only in their own arch’s but in many collaborative issues such as Justice League Dark and even the Sandman series just to name two out of the top of my head.

If you are keen on magic but in its philosophical, transcendental, esoteric, ancient, powerful and dark visage and admire smart and elegant and through and through brilliant writing that’s syphoning life-lessons on the backdrop of angels cascading flaming to earth, or Atlantis crumbling in the distance, or the universe and the stars being birthed, led by hierophant’s and jackasses and occult figures without true names, then this is absolutely the mini-series for you. You even get Death telling you about that appointment in Samara. Well not with so many words. You know the one, right? There was a merchant in Bagdad…

The mini-series is very strong even as a standalone series. Tim Hunter’s adventures do continue after this and the Books of Magic themselves make an appearance in Hellblazer and in Justice League Dark where John Constantine and Zatanna are important if not main characters. So there is a nice tie-in between very familiar characters and places that have been around in print form for a long time like Hellblazer, Sandman, Faerie to name some of the bigger ones. They don’t require an extensive introduction not only because of their pop-culture popularity but also since passing through them we do so as Tim does, our and his interval of introduction is based on the need to acquire knowledge, not to linger. It’s not an exploration mission, it’s one of understanding basics.

The Sphinx claimed that we are not really here at all. That we are an illusion, an oscillation in the final Event Horizon. But we feel like wer are real. We bicker and fight and make love for warmth and for comfort; We huddle together, and distrust one another.

                                                                                                                                             – Issue 4

My point being, even if you are a reader unfamiliar with that universe, you can still enjoy it just as much as avid fans do, because you get to experience these worlds and characters in their possibly most condensed form without losing from their allure and world mechanism. As brief as they come and go you understand what they are meant to be or represent.

Boston Brand aka Deadman even makes an appearance in The Books of Magic jumping from person to person to occupy their bodies and speak to Tim to inform him on who wants to kill him. The Spectre, though very briefly appears in the second issue and he is a huge DC character in its multiverse. Lady Titania, the Queen of Faerie represents a vital part in the third issue but she shares that introduction into Faerie with a famous fairy tale figure Baba Yaga, with a multitude of realms each bearing their own stories told masterfully in one page.

 “Here do many demons make their homes, the twisted geometries conforming with their own dark internal vistas…”

                                                                                                                                                       -Issue 3

John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson deserve more than praise for their work. They did fantastic work on the art of each of the four issues. Building these transitions in magic through realms in colors that stand out, that speak of ethereal and mystical is by far not an easy task as isn’t refreshing known characters and stylizing them according to the topic, the realms, this “TrenchCoat Brigade” but also keeping them consistent throughout the adventure even though each artists gives them different nuances. Each panel is detailed and the pages made such that they don’t feel clustered and obtrusive with colors or text. As always there are a few snapshots here for the viewing pleasure but their main purpose is to show just how amazing the art is and how important to this type of story. It is here to hook you up.

Any of you who know Neil Gaiman or his work know the universes he creates and know how carefully crafted they are, how vast and expanding they are and yet in their heart stands one person and their journey and them meeting all these bizarre and terrifying and amusing characters who offer riddles, or advice, or tales or danger. Trust me, The Books of Magic are a pleasure.

*Images and quotes used here belong to their sole creators. 

Visiting “Naomi’s Room” [Review]

Naomi’s Room

by  Jonathan Aycliffe

*Spoilers, maybe, I don’t know…

 

I can say with ease that I love horror novels. I love spooks, creaking floors and unnatural shadows and all that. I love horror in general, sub-genres and all. I’m a fan. One thing I don’t particularly like is little creepy ghost children. There’s something impossibly horrible about them versus any other ghost. So naturally “Naomi’s Room” was the perfect choice for a late night read.

To keep it short, the novel first introduces us to Dr. Charles Hillenbrand, the narrator of the novel. He’s a Cambridge academic enjoying a fantastic life with his wife Laura and four-year old daughter Naomi. The year is 1970 and as all is idyllic and the season is that of celebration, Charles takes Naomi out to shopping in London for Christmas Eve where the eager little girl wonders and cheers at the splendor of a toy store. Until Charles takes his eyes of her and Naomi disappears. Days later she is found dead in a nearby alley.

Now right off the start I really enjoyed what direction the novel took. It’s eerily atmospheric with a sort of archaic feel and phrasing to it but it settles the reader nicely in and doesn’t fool around with the paranormal aspect. But it can be quickly put aside for a certain amount of the first part of the novel, because it centers more on the grief of two parents who are completely helpless and equal doses of hopeful and devastated and desperate as the hours roll by and their little girl is missing. Ultimately she is found but she has been killed. The novel prepares you for that early on; it’s the story that leads to the reason of that early reveal that’s important.

We’ve all experienced the haunted house trope either through movies or games or novels and there’s a general idea as to how they work and what we can expect, so it’s crucial how the author controls and uses that environment. In “Naomi’s Room”, Aycliffe has the house more as a background character, a stage on which the story develops; it’s not highly interactive, it’s not responsible for the spooks themselves but it does serve a sufficient and important role as it is dimensional. In the true sense of the word, it shifts between time periods within the characters presence, so it not only provides a stage for the ghosts to manifest, but it also helps propel the story and gives it a refreshing touch with these very creepy time shifts happening in real time that feel not only like a gaze foreshadowing the outcome of the novel, but as a trap created by this evil presence and not by the house itself.

Aycliffe dodges the clichés haunted houses tend to run along with; the information he provides to the reader via Charles is compressed and given at a tension infused pace that helps keep you on edge. It’s very present as the memoir Charles is writing is the now of the story but we’re also experiencing the past very gradually at a nice pace that offers chunks of the truth, of the final reveal, filling the puzzle piece by piece. So the novel itself has a sense of time shifting in which the horror is both in the present and in the past; it’s very close and imminent in the present where Charles is 20 years after Naomi’s kidnapping and death, it’s with him in the rooms of the house, behind his back, so he’s very stationary as he tells that but the reader is prompted to understand and feel a lurking evil.

 “She is here now, here with me in the study. I do not have to look round to know, I can feel her presence, I have acquired a sensitivity. She has never come down here before, into this room, I had thought I was safe from her here.”

“Daddy.” Her voice, behind me, at the door. “Daddy.”

“I will not turn, I will not look at her.”

Like that. It spooks you because it comes as interruptions in his storytelling and it sometimes does that unexpectedly, reminding you the horror is not forgotten and this isn’t a novel telling of something that is over. Whereas in the past the horror happens slowly, it comes in waves that suffer proper explanation due to grief and is more inconsistent, the evil is still more of a theory and a sensation than a true happening. Until the novel kicks into full gear. Then it’s straight to hell.

What weirdly enough had me chuckle a bit were the steps of revelation into Naomi’s death. That’s probably my only bicker with the novel. It was like those jokes that keep adding up for the shock factor, black humour-esq. I suppose the author detained the details so the reader could gradually find out the murder wasn’t a regular one, that it meant something or it was the exact opposite, that it served to derail both the characters and the readers as to the nature of the killing. I’m not sure, that’s pretty much open to interpretation.

For me the “shock factor” for a lack of a better word was not in these gory descriptions of mutilations of a child, though I know that would upset most people and it would sit with them for some time. It was the notion the novel first installed, the one in the quotes above, that the child is still present in the house but that she is an apparition between the moments before death and the moments after it, so she appears normal and interactive in that way but at the same time she is a walking demonstration of the aftermath of her killer’s actions.  I suppose that’s how the necessary added details connect with the narrative. Charles also sees both versions and instead of handing them to the reader at once, the author slips in the details here and there to prepare us for how and why the characters act a certain way later on. Also again for the desired shock factor in the end that just keeps on adding and adding mercilessly. It’s a foreshadowing in a way for the finale. Not for the faint-hearted readers I guess.

I did enjoy the way the reveals were done in terms of discovering there are multiple ghosts in the house. It was through photographs taken by a journalist or paparazzi come to film the grieving couple. As all that may seem familiar what’s nice here is that the journalist took it upon himself to understand the logic behind the existence of spirits in the house and their intent, to try to save Charles and Laura by providing them with evidence of multiple shots from different angles and places in and of the house. He is the key figure in the narrative prompting an investigation.

The fact that the novel stays away from doors slamming and nightly whispers most of the time and instead works in a more psychological manner with overwhelming feelings and abnormal behavior infesting their clarity, was very nice. The force of evil that the characters faced was more often present inside them, manifesting through impure thoughts and desires to harm and control and abuse, quite directly sexually abuse even. And that was the uneasy part of the novel, the one you know will escalate tremendously by the end. Again there is a shock factor there to show how merciless and impossible to bypass the situation is – there is no hero of the hour, no escape, no last survivors in that sense of the word. We are weak and corruptible and the thoughts of harm are there in our being just waiting to be unlocked, to be guided perhaps. All it takes is a whisper in your ear, an idea.

Overall “Naomi’s Room” is a great read; it’s proper scary, it’s gory, it’s psychological and intense and for such a short read (somewhere around 200 pages, depends on the copy) it serves a complete story with heart-thumping escalation and reveals that keep you on edge while at the same time takes the readers on an emotional ride through loss and grief and insanity. And if like me you don’t really fancy creepy little ghost children, I recommend reading this late at night, under your bed covers if you’re a Kindle user, or under a fragile light in a quiet room. All alone. 10/10

Descender – Pure Sci-Fi Bliss [Review]

Descender (2015 – ongoing, Image comics)

By  Jeff Lemire Dustin Nguyen

On a long quest to find new and fresh SF comics to read, I stumbled upon Descender and I immediately fell in love with it.

To keep it short and sweet, Descender invites you to enter a universe where androids are a common element in people’s daily lives, from companions to worker bots and so on. Of nine core planets that are under the rule of the United Galactic Council or UGC for short our attention is placed on Niyarata, the technological and cultural hub of the UGC, populated with over 5 billion people. Then, right from the get go an attack of colossal proportions takes place – a space invasion from gigantic robots called Harvesters, an unknown and unpredictable force.

Ten years later, Niyarata has a population of barely 1 billion and the androids, well they are facing genocide as people blame them for the attack. As humanity, shaken and nearly destroyed rise from the ashes of their demolished cities, only the robots remain to put the blame on and retaliate against. With an outlaw issued and bounty hunters known as Scrappers tracking them for sports or cash or revenge, the remaining androids have only two options – they can either flee, hoping to survive the melting pits, or they can take up arms and start a rebellion.

But the protagonist, a specific advanced type of android built by Dr. Jin Quon (so advanced its on par with Westworld hosts in its vision and mannerisms but like more deadly and yet sweet? ), a young boy bot companion for your child or elderly called TIM-21 is far away from the troubles of the planets. He has been asleep for the past 10 years on a small mining colony. And once he wakes up only to find everyone dead and the mines abandoned, the journey begins.

 

No, not an A.I. Artificial Intelligence type of journey, though both works of fiction feature a child android with built or inherited or learned complex emotions and a strong connection to a family or family member. Tim-21 knows what he is and he knows deep in his core what his purpose was. That however does not stop him from addressing his human “owner” as brother – he cares deeply for Andy, the child he was assigned to and Andy’s mother, who both took him in as a son and a brother. So he feels responsible for them, afraid that they’ve been hurt. Understanding Andy has survived the disaster in the colony he sets of to find him. Find his brother. It is that pure and simple for Tim-21.

What I love about this series is that the art style is fucking amazing – the watercolor layer makes everything pop out and is really gorgeous to look at; the character models and world building, these huge, desolate landscapes and vast patches of space are simply beautiful – Dustin Nguyen has done and is doing an outstanding job of bringing to life visually pleasing faces and places  in a kind of old school way, it often just reminds me of older SF comics.

What I also love about Descender is that it introduces in a comfortable pace new and interesting characters that are complex each in their own way. Tim-21 has his own journey and it stretches beyond that of his want to find Andy and protect his pet-bot Bandit; The worker bot, Driller may seem as just an addition to the team for his “Driller is a Real Killer” puns, but he has a much larger and important role and his own heartfelt story line which develops over time without feeling tedious or a burden to the whole of the narrative.

Captain Telsa ( ok, there was a pun with calling her Tesla by accident, I’ll let that one slide cause it’s inevitable) strong-headed and rule-obeying as she seems, takes a complete turn from fighting robots to helping one. She becomes invested in this bonkers world and war and the secrets of the Descender and what the Harvesters mean.

Andy, all grown-up and a Scrapper himself is torn between the man he thinks he is and the boy he used to be.

And there is this group of people who support the robots and protect their rights by augmenting themselves with robotic parts, becoming cyborgs essentially. It’s a fascinating universe that Jeff Lemire wrote and loves and lives in, or has lived in since his childhood unbeknownst to him even. So you can easily understand and read the passion he’s put into Descender and how much more the story has to offer and evolve. With just 28 issues published there is so much room to expand the universe and understand more behind its nine planets and their purpose and secrets.

The story has a very ancient and mysterious war in its core that opens up to the reader little by little as the narrative progresses and it has very precise twists and turns and pre-history that grows the lore that the first issue barely scratches the surface of.

All of the characters are likable, even the flawed one because they have such strong voices and emotions.

I highly recommend Descender. It is as I said a refreshing and of the times SF story inhabited by wonderful characters via a strong storytelling and a mystery still unfolding plus the cherry on top – its gorgeous to look at art.

 

*Images used here belong to their sole creator. All images taken from Vol. 1: Tin Stars