Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Let It Snow (2008)

Authors: Maureen Johnson / John Green / Lauren Myracle  |  Page Count: 368

It’s such a disaster, whenever, in the course of human relationships, someone begins to chisel away at the wall of separation...’

A collection of three novellas, one from each of the authors mentioned above, with a different take on the theme of 'holiday romance'.  The holiday, if you hadn't guessed, is Christmas.  The individual stories are linked by location and certain events overlap more than once, so it's more like a novel with changing authors as opposed to a traditional anthology collection.

Appropriately, snow covered the ground on the days I read the book.  The windows were closed and curtains purposefully pulled to hide it, but I knew it was there and I'd been caught in it a few times while out.  It’ll sound ridiculous, but I believe that being cold helped me appreciate more the situations the characters found themselves in.  I’d hoped for some emotional warmth from the text to counteract the chilly settings, and in all three cases it was delivered; although the levels at which it was apparent did vary from one to the next.

It would be easy to single out a favourite, but the preference would be based on an empathetic response only and that's not a solid basis upon which to lay a criticism.  None of the three stories was badly written.  Each author had a clear vision that was communicated intelligently but in a slightly different way.  One thing that's consistent throughout is the use of a first-person narrative, making the best of what the technique offers and skipping easily around the limitations.

I admit my instinct upon seeing the words 'holiday' and 'romance' together was urging me to snub it in favour of something more manly, but instinct was wrong on this occasion.  It isn't chick-fic.  It's suitable for all, or at the very least anyone who's ever been in an emotionally-challenging relationship.

If you’re attracted to the collection because you’re a fan of one specific author, try to resist the temptation to go directly to his/her story first.  They’re arranged like they are for a reason and work better when read in that order.

3½ pigs of fate out of 5

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Dream (c.1595-96)

Author: William Shakespeare  |  Page Count: 120

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."

AMND is a confusing first read for a lot of people; it certainly was for me many years ago. It seems as if there are too many characters to keep track of, but there really isn't. A common hurdle is that a large portion of the play focuses on two men and two women. The two men are both in love with the same woman, a woman who loves just one of the men. There's a second woman in love with one of the men that loves the first woman. You follow?

That, believe it or not, isn't the confusing part. The real head-fuck comes when the King of Faerie, Oberon, or more precisely his loyal aide, the pernicious fairy Puck, gets involved. There's a mix-up with a love potion and then everything goes tits-up. If you can see it performed on stage do so, because it really helps.

Leaving that aside, it's a comedy, so there's laughs, right? Oh, yes; most of which spring from the staging of a play within the play. Things are getting puzzling again. Sorry. The short version: there's a level of unnecessary self-censorship and second-guessing that reaches absurdist levels, many unlucky coincidences, a clingy lover or two, much innuendo, and a butt-load of ass jokes.

It's set in Athens but it's believed that Shakespeare wasn't particularly well-travelled, so his exotic locations can feel more like they're just down the road from Stratford-upon-Avon. But that, I guess, just adds to the comedic value.

4 love-shafts out of 5

Friday, February 6, 2015

Judge Dredd: America (2008)

Author: John Wagner  |  Illustrator: Colin MacNeil  |  Page Count: 144

'Somewhere along the way childhood ended. Ami and I were drifting apart. I watched it happening, hating it. Powerless to prevent it.'

America is regarded by many Dredd fans as one of the best Big Meg stories ever written, and with good reason. It’s a mature telling of a small but significant event in the Megacity’s history. If you join the dots over a longer period of time it can even be seen as a precursor to an eventual re-evaluation of the system itself.

From the first page it’s clear that what we’re getting is a deeply personal confession suffused with tragedy and a sharp, painful remorse that even time hasn't dulled. It puts us on the alert and reminds us that notions of hope and change are a dangerous combination when paired.

It débuted with the launch of Rebellion’s monthly Judge Dredd Megazine (1990), a title that offered their regular writers the freedom needed to explore more hard-hitting, adult themes than the long-running weekly 2000 AD magazine was able to do. In an unexpected reversal of reader expectations the first issue had Dredd be an antagonist, not the hero of his own title.

At its most basic level it’s about two childhood friends who take different paths in life. Bennett Beeny lives peacefully under the controlling gaze of a judicial system that he hates and fears, whereas the strong-willed America Jara, the woman that Beeny loves, chooses the opposite, America takes a stand, putting herself between a merciless green boot and a seemingly hopeless belief.

Placed strategically are brief scenes that on the surface may seem to affect just one or two of the secondary characters, but each instance has a cumulative, emotional impact on the reader. When stacked, they further characterise the world. The glimpse inside of Resyk, for example, chillingly highlights how the human need for warmth has been replaced by a heartless practicality.

The sequels, Fading of the Light (1996) and Cadet (2006), are included in the collection but they aren't in the same league as the main feature. I would even say that while they’re decent stories, overall they have a diluting effect. The writing isn't as good and the digital colouring is abominable. The original story gets full marks, easily, but the others bring the average down a little.

4 kinds of victim out of 5

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Sandman Presents: Bast: Eternity Game (2003)

Author: Caitlin R. Kiernan  |  Illustrator: Joe Bennett  |  Page Count: 66

Sleep, child.  Sleep and follow me.

Gods aren't flesh and blood.  Gods don’t die.  They simply fade away when no one remembers their name or what they represented.  Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, isn't willing to go quietly into the neglected nothingness, so she attempts a comeback.  What she craves (sincere belief and a sustained worship in the waking world) is still possible, but in her diminished state reaching out across the realms for a second chance will take every last reserve of power she has.

Who better to latch onto than another female who is herself on the fringes, who doesn't fit comfortably in her environment?  Lucy McCuller’s troubles make her susceptible to Bast’s influences, but Lucy’s problems are bigger than her.  What's more is that ambition, in any form, has a tendency to take on a life of its own.

Eternity Game is a three issue miniseries that as far as I know hasn't been collected in a TPB or included in any of the post-Sandman anthologies, mores the pity.  It’s a brief but extremely satisfying glimpse into the mind of a deity on the verge of extinction.  It hinges on a truth that only those who've lived it can see and appreciate fully: something that would ordinarily be easily forgotten can be elevated in status and etched permanently into memory in the wake of tragedy.  If your intent is to manipulate someone, you can use that same elevation to your advantage.  It’s a horrible thing to do but desperation is a great motivator.

3½ slipping sands out of 5