Of course that’s partly because I already reviewed the most interesting stuff.
The pick of the week was THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST by Gigi Pandian, the start of a very off-the-wall paranormal cozy. Protagonist Zoe Faust is a 300-year-old alchemist, settling down in Portland. Unfortunately the settling is complicated by a murder on her front doorstep, and by a magically animated gargoyle asking Zoe to help preserve his existence (or he turns back to stone, but with living consciousness). I liked this quite a bit, but not as much as Whispers Beyond the Veil; the weakness for me is that it’s one of those food-centric cozies (yes, that’s a thing) and there’s far too much time spent discussing the details of how Dorian the gargoyle adapts French cooking to Zoe’s vegan ways. Possibly if I liked foodie cozies, I wouldn’t have minded. Cover by Hugh D’Andrade, all rights reside with current holder.
HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING by Tanya Egan Gibson hooked me with the premise — worried helicopter parents hire an author to convince their daughter to love reading for fear she won’t get into a good college — and some nice language (like an ice sculpture dripping water from its ice penis as if it were syphilitic). But this is the kind of Serious Literature where every second of everyone’s inner life gets detailed and micro-analyzed, and that killed it for me. In fairness, I’m not much for serious mainstream stuff anyway, so possibly if you are you’d be fine with it.
Much as life Gene Wolfe’s New Earth stuff, his magical realist stuff like Peace or There Are Doors leaves me cold. And so it was with THE LAND ACROSS, in which a travel writer visiting a small European nation finds himself trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare (“I can’t show you my passport because your border guards confiscated it.”) which leads in turn to his involvement with both a revolutionary cult and the secret police. The Kafka stuff held my attention but it fades as the book goes along and Wolfe offered nothing else to replace it, even when the supernatural appears. It didn’t help that the American narrator sounds almost like he learned English as a second language — I’m sure Wolfe had a reason for the voice he chose, but it didn’t work even a little for me.
UN-MEN: Get Your Freak On by John Whalen and Mike Hawthorne takes the synthetic grotesques introduced in the Bronze Age Swamp Thing and places them in Aberration, a small town founded as a home for freaks. But not everyone’s down with having the Uns in charge, people are turning up dead, and now the government’s coming to check things out … This is readable, but the political struggles in Aberration aren’t well-handled or clear enough to engage me. And I don’t see why people keep talking about fake freaks when it appears everyone in town really is one.
ACTION COMICS: Bulletproof by Grant Morrison is another frustrating example of DC’s inability to make a coherent TPB collection. For example, while the story about the black alt.Earth Superman who’s also president (yes, it’s an Obama tribute) probably worked as a backup in a single issue, stuck in here I found it confusing, wondering why it didn’t play off. And while I like Morrison’s Superman better than most of the New 52 Man of Steel, the stories weren’t A-list. Captain Comet, for example, shows up talking like an ubermensch from some fifties SF film about super-evolved mutants — possibly that was the point, but his dialogue just sounded clunky.