I do these Quick Takes for books for which I won’t be doing a full review but might still have something to say – this is the 4th 2021 Quick Takes page; for the first, go here and for the second, go here. Go here for the third. Search Blogger on Books Quick Takes or go to the main page of the respective year for previous Quick Takes.
Take us to a Better Place is a collection produced by the Robert Johnson Foundation and Melcher Media. It features environment themed, speculative stories by various writers. I liked – in as much as one can like the end of the world – most of what I read. ‘The Flotilla at Bird Island; by Mike McClelland meets the dire climate future with a hopeful Noah-esque option. In this future, masks are required (much like our current present – circa 2020/2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic). It was very relatable in that sense. Only thing, and this may be projection, but I kept expecting a darker turn that never came and as such the ending felt oddly anti-climatic to me. Perhaps a reflection of how difficult it is to believe in hopeful futures right now. I really liked the slow second story ‘Paradise’ by Hannah Lillith Assadi re the immigrant experience. It was heartbreaking with a tinge of hope. Isa and Louise in Achy Obejas’ ‘The Sweet Spot’ made me so sad. I ached for Isa especially. The only uncertain aspect for me in this human drama, the hearing aid tech being the only really sci fi aspect, was the ending. I liked ‘Reclamation’ by David A. Robertson/Selena Goulding which used the comic/graphic novel genre to speak on indigenous culture and reconnection. Martha Wells’ ‘Obsolence’ – a space mystery – hooked me right away and didn’t let up. “The lights were on, and the air hissed through the vents, and everything seemed normal, but the back of her neck itched, and her teeth hurt, and some primal part of her brain was hissing quietly, ‘bad idea.'” Tension high. ‘Viral Content’ by Madeline Ashby felt all too real (“It was possible, Glory thought, that the only reason she herself wasn’t sick was because she worked mostly from home and mostly alone.”) and realer still Karen Lord’s story ‘The Plague Doctors’, about the desperate stakes involved in trying to find a cure in the midst of a pandemic. The intricate way it touches on the medical, scientific, personal, and political fallout feels downright prescient of everything-2020. Not every story is mentioned here and, full disclosure, I didn’t finish the last story (but having finished most of the 170 page book, I decided 30 or so pages wasn’t enough to count it as a DNF). Especially when the not finishing was more about me and my current emotional struggles than the quality of the writing. Which was good. And I definitely still rec this collection as a whole. You can read it here.
The Old Guard Tales Through Time anthology series 3. It’s been a while since I read something serialized before the series was finished. Even when I read the X-Men comics back in the day, it was the novelization years after an arc had run its course. I didn’t have to practice the kind of patience it’s taking to wait for the rollout of installments of this anthology series – and the way I run out to read a new one when it drops and then run through it entirely too quickly, like fast food when you’re hungry. I don’t know if I’m really taking time to absorb the nuance. But, yeah, this third installment of the anthology series of takes on the original characters at different points in time by other authors served up the sharpest reminder that in a way this is fanfic, professional fanfic to be sure but fanfic nonetheless. These aren’t quite the same characters I met in the original series – and this is, at best, something to pass the time while I wait for the third mini arc in the original (planned) trilogy. The characters are drawn different – and I haven’t been happy with the drawing of Joe, my favourite, yet. It’s the Marwan Kenzari from the movie for me. The writing of the women and of team leader Andy in particular has been the strongest throughout in my view. This third TTT is no exception with its heartwarming story of her reuniting with a child she rescued during World War 1 (the title of the story referring to a campaign of the first world war), and raised, her son, who now in appearance is several decades older than her. And there’s a poignancy in their reconnection (which I don’t believe is accidental). It’s barely a story and yet it feels complete and emotionally satisfying thanks in part to the flashback scenes and the expression of love through food.*SPOILER ALERT*
Love this panel:
So while Nicky and Joe are my favourite dynamic in the original comic, in TTT once again their writing isn’t the hook for me. In this edition, they are apart not just physically but in terms of their mission and what they need (from each other) when we land in their world – which this time is 1960s on the occasion of the moon landing. Joe is in a bar drinking with Andy and watching the broadcast on TV (like the behind the scenes in the bar by the way) and Nicky is off on a vigilante punish the sinners mission with Booker – a morally ambiguous quest that doesn’t feel quite right, not just because of the rift it suggests in Nicky and Joe’s relationship, but because it feels somewhat inconsistent with the established characterization of Nicky. I don’t know, I suppose the sword wielding man who sniped lookouts and raided a bunker in South Sudan where school girls were supposedly being held might go after a potbellied middle aged cop (just one name on an Aria Stark type kill list) whose inaction allowed a serial sociopath to murder many more children…but it doesn’t feel quite the same. But I’m writing about it because I am still in to this world and if this is what I get for now, I’ll take it. In TTT3, the Andy story, ‘Passchendaele’, was written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Michael Avon Oeming and colours by Taki Soma; the boys’ arc, ‘Lacus Solitudinis’, was written by Robert McKenzie and Dave Walker, with art by Justin Greenwood and colours by Daniel Miwa; writing in a world originally created by writer Greg Rucka with artist Leandro Fernandez, which I was introduced to through a Netflix movie directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. And I would very much like a sequel directed by her, please.
The Old Guard Tales Through Time anthology series 2 has two stories – one, ‘Bonsai Shokunin’ by Kelly Sue DeConnick with artist and colourist respectively Valentine De Landro and Rebecca McConnell, featuring Noriko (who was reconned into to Quinh in the The Old Guard movie on Netflix) and one, ‘Strong Medicine’ by Eric Trautmann with Mike Henderson and Daniela Miwa, a western featuring French immortal Booker. This one was more action packed than the first and, the violence is graphic (see what I did there?). Despite the violence, this graphic novel, was somehow quieter, considering all the violence. Can’t wait to read more.