Ah, my local library strikes again, this time with a title that’s been long in coming: Shin Godzilla, probably the best inheritor of the Godzilla name to come along since the original film. The Guardian got it pretty right with their review, so I’ll just link you to it. But for me, this was a spectacular return to form with one of my favorite film directors in the world, Hideaki Anno, so here’s a little input of my own.
I woke up this morning to find out that a white supremacy rally had gotten violent and how one of the Nazis decided to run over the other side even after the group was dispersed by the Charlottesville authorities. @JuliusGoat voiced the communal outrage over this farce as eloquently as is humanly possible, and I was just feeling a little cathartic when I read about a hospital in India whose oxygen provider shut off the flow for an unpaid bill and killed more than 30 children who were relying on the stuff to live. Even for the news, that’s pretty damn depressing for a Sunday morning.
On the surface, these two events being reported in the same weekend seem completely unconnected. They’re on different sides of the planet, they involve two different regional groups. One is culturally motivated and the other is an issue of bureaucracy gone horribly wrong. But through a red haze of rage and sorrow, I’m motivated to write about how they’re the same many-headed monster. Once we know that, we can stop cutting off the heads and kill it once and for all.
There is a very specific group of comics that exists in the world as sort of an ode to superheroism as a genre. I am, of course, talking about books like Tom Strong, Hellboy, and Atomic Robo, which I recently picked up with the handy “The Everything Explodes Collection” and do not regret reading at all. There’s a thread of commonality between them with an obvious charm. Each story works with a long-lived hero who starts as an innocent. He accrues experience and a grim sort of wisdom as the decades pile on, almost like they’re embodying the gradual cynicism that settles on the world with the years. And I think in the best ones, they offer a wonderful example of how we can come to terms with the things their heroes represent: acts we wish they had never committed, ways to attone, and the irreducible truth that without them, the world as we know it would not be here today.
This is an entry about a group of these books, which have existed in an underground capacity for many years and have finally found recognition in recent years.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Chuck Palahniuk fan, and I am really a little annoyed that my library still hasn’t recovered from the Great Move of 2015 and I can’t establish my epic shelf of cred in this regard. But hey, that might be a good thing, as Chuck apparently has a weird following of young white Americans who think he’s actually supporting their entitled subculture of race elitism. It doesn’t help that Palahniuk actually encourages this by owning the “snowflake” moniker or making it easy for conservative papers to wildly skew his edgy statements. Here he is choking a porn star. I wouldn’t call it misogyny when the lady is enjoying it that much though.
Palahniuk is easily misunderstood because of his outrageous style and throbbing, wet finger pressed shamelessly to the pulse of American culture. He isn’t afraid to write people who are racist or misogynist or who feel oppressed in their everyday life. Palaniuk says things in this book like “By the time you turn thirty, your life is about escaping the person you’ve become in order to escape the person you’ve become in order to escape the person you started as.” Come on. How can a middle-income snowflake who grew up thinking they would be raised above the browns and the blacks only to find themselves in their 30s working in a Dairy Barn NOT get behind that? Snowflakes are white, people. Palahniuk is a master of symbolism.
There, I hope I’ve defended him sufficiently for you to give “Make Something Up” a fair shot.
Let me just say that I don’t pick up books to review for tactical marketing reasons. Sure I support indie authors and fellow Asian authors, but in a rare fit of traditionalism my Chinese father named me for the concepts of steadfastness (read: stubborn) and belief. I like to think I have some integrity when it comes to delivering the goods on what I really think about books, and for reading books that drifted into my orbit organically. My usual fare is a sprinkling of Chuck Palahniuk, Haruki Murakami, Douglas Adams, Felix Gilman, et al. I don’t go looking for stuff that is calculated to match my reader demographic or would encourage people to check out my work. It seems a little dishonest.
My reluctance to delve too deeply into author marketing may be why Heroine Complex was both a pleasant surprise and a mixed bag for me to read. From Asian-American author Sarah Kuhn, the 384-page offering from DAW (affiliated with our favorite distributor Random Penguin) joins the ranks of Monstress in a niche of material created by Asian-American women that have been steadily building a delightful community of fans. In Heroine Complex, you’ll find demon karaoke, drama up to your eyeballs, and a complicated relationship with food, all cultural aspects that I recognize too well as a part of the culture I grew up with. Despite the flowering of anime and other Asian cultures in America, I found Heroine Complex to be a rare illustration of Asian American culture, where we’ve evolved a completely different lifestyle and values from our brethren across the pond. Continue reading “Book Review: Heroine Complex”
Judging from io9’s review of the book, I would say most fans would get into Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End because they’re looking for nerdy tidbits, are confused about the new triology’s canon, or want to immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe just for a little while. As advertised by the magnificent Random Penguin jacket, readers can finally know why there was an Imperial Star Destroyer getting eaten by the sands of Jakku in TFA.
I did not do this. I did not seek out the book for righteously geeky reasons. Yes, I am a casual fan. I do own a Boba Fett action figure. I have a Lego Millennium Falcon. I’m a Jedi in the streets and a Sith in the sheets. But no, I’m not that much of a fan that I have to pore through the literature and know about all the background characters’ histories. That’s what Rogue One was for. But, I still feel strongly enough about this to review EE, so really, I’m going with the Force on this one. Continue reading “Review: Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End”
The silver screen goes dark, digital Earthlight fills the theatre, and the first notes of something familiar pierce the brilliant night. What song is that? I wonder, as spacecraft intrude upon the peaceful scene and offer scale to the awesome planetary drama. The song teases at my memory. It’s something I should know, something I used to listen to religiously. An old friend who invites a feeling of hope and wistfulness. Now we see the inside of the craft, the airlocks connecting, hands reaching across a gulf bigger than the emptiness of space. Human beings clasping each other proudly despite decades of geographic and political history, and suddenly I know what the song is, and I nearly slap myself for forgetting Valerian is a Luc Besson film. The song! It’s David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and with that knowledge comes a sudden wave of catharsis as more and more humans join the scene, building up the space station that will become the seed of the city of a thousand planets.
“Are you crying?” my wife asks. I snort back some errant moisture.
“No!” I squeak, but my voice breaks.
Yes, I’m dramatizing what actually happened. One does not weep in the first few minutes of a breakfast matinee. One does not go into a science fiction film expecting to be moved by something minutes into the movie. Even Leon the Professional had to set up that New York family and the pitiful waif to make that insane Gary Oldman massacre work. I suppose my excuse is that I just had a surprisingly lovely chicken waffle sandwich before the scene opened, and the curly fries were also delicious. But I assure you, there is a reason for my silliness. Please, do read on.