#FridayReads: The Sea Beast Takes a Lover

cover for The Sea Beast Takes a Lover

Today I’ve a got a book review of Michael Andreasen’s The Sea Beast Takes a Lover up at the Ploughshares blog! I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this delightfully weird short story collection, which comes out this Tuesday (but I wasn’t paid or given anything else by the author or publisher to write this review). Check it out!

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover is the debut short story collection from Michael Andreasen. Through a mix of absurdism, hyperbole, science fiction, history, and fantasy, the author draws a map of washed-up American dreams and fears. His stories chart the plains of abandonment, the futility of love, and vague hopes that never solidify. From the titular lonely sea monster to the King of Retired Amusements to time-traveling third graders, Andreasen’s characters explore this map of disappointment and hardship, learning again and again what we already know but are too afraid to speak aloud: Everything comes to an end. Everything.

Keep reading at Ploughshares!

#FridayReads: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

cover for Annihilation, showing an alien-looking flowerWhen Annihilation came out in 2014, the cover caught my eye. It’s pretty and creepy! The trailer for the movie (starring Natalie Portman) ran before The Last Jedi, so I thought what the hell and put the audiobook on hold at the library.

The book is short (only six hours long), but I’m not sure that’s an asset in this case. I didn’t hate Annihilation, but I certainly didn’t love it, either.

The concept is interesting enough. A small team of female scientists is heading into Area X to do research on a supposed “environmental disaster.” Of course weird shit happens almost immediately and the expedition falls apart within days of arriving in Area X. Personally, I’d have preferred a little more buildup and actual discovery before things fall apart.

For most of the novel, I did want to know what was going to happen next, but I never felt satisfied with the answers–when answers were provided at all. Normally I love ambiguity in literature, but this time I was frustrated. The ambiguity didn’t feel like mystery to me. It felt more like the author was purposefully hiding things to get me to keep reading. That gets on my nerves, but I guess it worked, because I kept reading.

The point of view character (who is unnamed and referred to only as “The Biologist”) is a scientist, and yet does almost no science during the expedition. She relies on what she sees and feels to draw her conclusions, which is very un-scientist-like.

(But, you could argue that the weird, apparently sentient fungi in Area X make science hard, if not impossible, and you might be right, so that’s not a total deal breaker.)

The writing itself is functional and leans to the sparse side, but VanderMeer has a tendency to overuse certain words. I think “brackish” appeared 20 times in the first hour (that’s an exaggeration, but it was a lot!).

This is part one in a trilogy, so it’s possible some of my frustrations will be addressed in future volumes. And ultimately, the concept is probably strong enough to carry most people through the trilogy. Despite my lukewarm reaction to the book as a whole, I’ve already put the second volume on hold, because I really do want to know what happens.

New Year’s resolution: Read a bazillion comic books

I was looking some old posts from an earlier incarnation of this blog and found this New Year’s resolution post from January 23, 2018. This is basically my resolution every year, so? Still relevant. Today is not a great day for me, so instead of writing something new, here’s what I was reading in 2013!

Drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog

Witness my awesome drawing skills circa 1998.

I started 2013 out by reading a comic book every day for the first seven days. After that I dug into some thicker comics and broke my streak, but I’m still pretty much reading comics every day.

And it is freaking awesome.

Not to get all nostalgic, but when I was a kid my brother and I had a ton of Sonic the Hedgehog comics, and we read them over and over again. I still have all of them, but some of them are so well read the covers are falling off. Others are a little stained.

Those marks aren’t a sign of carelessness, but a sign of love. I took issues into school with me and “perfected” my Sonic drawing abilities (as you can well see!). My friend A. and I would play Sonic and Knuckles at recess and during sleepovers (where we also made it our missions to make as big a mess as possible and perhaps get into some minor trouble along the way).

I was never one of those kids who grew out of reading comics, I just switched from Sonic to Star Wars and a few select superhero titles (Batman and Catwoman, mostly), and then eventually to DC Vertigo titles like Sandman and Hellblazer. I read lots of manga as a teenager, too (and yes, I still do read lots of manga).

My current favorite series is far and away Bill Willingham’s Fables. I’m waiting for the next trades to come out, and in the meantime, sinking my eyeballs into Hellboy, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Frank Miller’s the Life and Times of Martha Washington, and more. (Note from 2018: Fables is over now and I AM SO SO SAD, but now D.J. is reading it which is so exciting because I know things that he doesn’t yet! And his guesses are so very wrong! I am a mean partner!)

Despite my nearly paralyzing fear of zombies (seriously, no joke, I am fucking terrified of zombies), I think I’m even going to try reading The Walking Dead. I keep hearing such great things about it, but we’ll see if I can read it. Ugh. Zombies. (Note from 2018: I tried. I lasted ten pages. NOPE NOPE NOPE)

But Hellboy? The Deadenders? Kill Shakespear? The Unwritten? Now those are some titles I can get behind (as in my face behind the book, reading it) without running away screaming or having awful nightmares as a consequence of a single glimpse. (Like, don’t even ask me how I reacted to reading a few pages of Marvel Zombies. Just don’t even.)