Transmetropolitan is a Cyberpunk Technicolor Fever Dream and Why We Need It Now More Than Ever

Synopsis

After years of self-imposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city that he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd Century surroundings. Combining black humor, life-threatening situations, and moral ambiguity, this book is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy.


Stats

  • 5 out of 5. I mean c’mon this is a classic.
  • Paperback
  • 144 pages
  • Published February 1st 1998 by Vertigo (first published January 1998)
  • Original Title Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street
  • ISBN1563894459 (ISBN13: 9781563894459)
  • Edition Language English
  • URL http://www.dccomics.com/vertigo/graphic_novels/?gn=1719
  • Series Transmetropolitan (Collected Editions) #1, Transmetropolitan (BR) #1
  • CharactersSpider Jerusalem, Channon Yarrow, Mitchell Royce, Fred Christ
  • Setting United States of America

A side note. This is a reread for me that I had the utmost fun doing it with Paul at Paul’s Picks. It was terrific to see Spider through the eyes of someone else, and I want to thank Paul for taking a chance on one of my favorite books.

My Thoughts

“TRUTH comes easier when you’re nine years old, too. Everything’s a lot less complicated. This or that. Us or them. Truth or lie.” 

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street

Spider is the hero you did not know that you needed. Brash and deranged, Spider yells at the top of his lungs things that make you uncomfortable. And, if you are nervous? Good. Scared to exams painful truths? Good. Because the truth is coming for you, and Spider is going to bringing it with the fervor and intensity of a bulldog on crystal meth.

Transmetropolitan was written twenty-one years ago, published by DC Comics between 1997 – 2002, but it might as well been written yesterday for how current and prescient it is. The story is built around the antics of our protagonist and antihero, an investigative journalist named Spider Jerusalem. He is tattooed, brash, brilliant, sarcastic, caustic, drug addicted, and a wild man of journalists fervor. Often drawn wearing a pair of stereoscopic sunglasses, one red lens, and the other green while streams of smoke curl out of his nostrils and usually sporting a scowl of discontent while gesticulating wildly at the idiocy of passers-by. Describing him, he sounds like a lunatic when in actuality he is the reincarnation of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson dropped into the 23rd century.

The first six issues of the 60 issue story make up Vol. 1 Back in The Streets. It is written as Spider is getting his feet under him after a five-year voluntary sabbatical. Called back to finish his book deal with his editor, lovingly known as Whorehopper, he unwillingly reenters The City and society and is equal parts horrified and fascinated by it. The City, as it is referred to, is Id and hedonism run amok puked out in a cyberpunk Technicolor fever dream. If you can dream it, and have the money, you can do it. All of which sounds impressive when tempered with wisdom and ethics. However, The City is neither of those things. Spider is constantly reminded of why he hid in the wilderness and eschewed all human contact.

Issue three of Volume 1 talks about Spider’s first story back into the throes of journalism. He is covering a pseudo-alien messiah named Fred Christ, as he represents the Transcience movement. The Transience movement being a subculture of body modification fetishists who use technology to change themselves to something resembling a new species. In this case, adapting aspects of an alien species. Fred Christ’s base is located in the Angel 8 district of The City. After Spider burns a transient guard in the eye with a cigarette, Spider notices how tense the Transient population is. It is a powder keg ready to blow. Spider finds Fred Christ and has a brief interview with him where Spider basically eludes that Fred is puffed up with fake power and that the government is going to come down and stomp out this little movement of Freds.


“There’s one hole in every

revolution, large or small.

And it’s one word long— PEOPLE.

No matter how big

the idea they all stand under,

people are small and weak

and cheap and frightened.

It’s people that kill every revolution.” 


Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

Here is where the writing shines. Eventually, the government does get with the stomping, and Spider gets right in the middle of it and live blogs. He brings the gritty moment to moment of the brutal beating of the Transient population by an uncaring police authority to the people. Eventually, this sways the audience gawking at this display via Spider’s writing and causes a public outcry shutting down the beating. Spider helped. I don’t think he intended to help but to speak the truth as he saw it; however, his truth saved some transient people.

God, I love Spider Jerusalem. He is everything I wish Journalists still were. Raw, uncut assholes who search for the truth as they see it no matter what they have to go through. In the politically charged climate of now, it seems that those who speak truth to power are not the journalists as we used to know them, but bloggers and users of Twitter.


“- You know what this is?
– Nope
– It’s a bowel disruptor.

And you are just full of shit.”


WARREN ELLIS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN,
VOL. 1: BACK ON THE STREET

The question is “Should you read this?” Should you delve into the gritty world of Spider and meet with the truth on his terms. I am of a resounding yes, there is a reason why he is a classic graphic novel series. I think the world needs Spider Jerusalem’s even if he is just ink and ideas. All Hail Spider Jerusalem!


Paul and Myself’s Running Issue Commentary

Paul – #1. What the hell had Beth got me into?!?! Transma-What?!?! Ok. So there’s this guy who lives in a house on a mountain. Spider Jerusalem been there for 5 years, sorta paranoid, hermit style. He was an author/journalist, but still owes his publisher 2 more books on the contract. He needs money and inspiration.He gets in his car and drives back to the rat race in the big city, and yes, he has a rat as a passenger and bombs his local bar on the way… yet, as he crosses the city line, his journalistic blood starts pumping. Itching for a story.
What a character! I’m not really sure what the story will bring, but I know I will like Spider’s vicious one-liners and outlandish ravings. I can already tell that Ellis and Robertson have created a crazy-clever future world of greed, vice, and dark speculation…

Beth – #1. It’s crazy! Spider is who I think most journalists want to be. He is living on all sorts of edges trying to get the truth, the real story. I think #1 and most of #2 are just giving you background on who he is and where he comes from. Hirsute crazy dude living on a mountain, no human contact because he hates people. Has to come back to “The City” two write two books, plus earn enough money to love. Earning money means finding stories. The one-liners are amazing.

“My household appliance is on drugs.”

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

‘you worthless scrap of frogshit with a pulse and a bit of authority.” I agree this world is greed, and vice run amok. It is if you took the Id of the general population and laid it out on the table for everyone to see. It reminds me a lot of this scene from Fear and Loathing



Paul – #2. Spider’s first story is an investigation into transcience… a body mod movement that has spliced alien genomes into people and created humanoids who are ‘between bodies.’ Not allowed jobs and forced to live in slums, the transcients are two steps away from government annihilation. An interview with their leader, Fred Christ, gives Spider the insight he needs. This is a story arc with mordern-day implications. An ‘other,’ a people who have chosen to have body modification and are deemed different and illegal. I’m wondering what role Spider will play in this as a journalist. And how he will help these people. Lots of thoughts going on. Can’t wait to get read another issue tomorrow night.

Beth – #2. It is current, right? The things spiders sees and the insight he has can be directly laid on top of our current political climate.

“I don’t have to put up with thus shabby crap! I’m a journalist!”

Having read this before, and with the reread I am catching so much more than I did the first go through. It is almost like I am reading a brand new story.


Paul – #3.

‘Journalism is just a gun.

It’s only got one

bullet in it, but if

you aim right,

that’s all you need.’

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

A transient riot has been manufactured and Spider speeds to the neighborhood to report the brutality handed down by the police. The power of Spider’s pen is about to be unleashed!
This is a great issue that really helps the reader see past the image of the main character to what he is actually capable of. His ‘superpower’ of reportage. The ability to expose corruption, and we find that the plot will not be as simple as we maybe first thought. 

Beth – #3. Yes, the power of the written word and of truth. For all of spider’s bluster and screwing up things and people, he has a real gift of getting t the heart of a matter and explaining it to the people. He isn’t all bluster and bravado. I think if he were his publisher would not give two shits about him. I am so glad this is connecting with you. Spider is one of my favorite characters. 

This story is about fist clenching stomach churning anger. Anger at the system that we are all involved in, the mass media, commercialism – but mainly I think this story is outrage and a desire to not just lash out but to make things better. Spider at his venomous little heart wants to use the truth to set people free. Whether that truth is painful or not. It is still the truth, and because of his journalistic integrity and his give no fucks attitude he wants to rip the band-aid off peoples wounds and sally forth. 


Paul – #4. A new assistant and a meeting with the president. Spider has a chance to mentor a young journalist in the art of The Truth. And then during an unexpected chance meeting with the president, he gets a couple shots in.
The entrance of a tutee enables Ellis to open up Spider’s many thoughts on the role of the press… and yes, Beth is correct, even though published 20 years ago, Transmetropolitan is buzzing with current issues. Spider’s accusations of the presidents nefarious behavior is a front page story in many present-day newspapers.
I’m wondering where this will go. What is Jerusalem’s endgame? 

Beth – #4. I really like the young journalist. She makes a perfect counterpoint to Jerusalem’s antics. Where spider is spastic, Channing is more measured. Probably no less nuts, but at least she is more measured in her actions.

I am not sure at this point Spider has an endgame except to expose the truth from as any nefarious characters as possible. It doesn’t even phase Spider that the president might not be a person who he should screw with. Or the cops as we found out the last issue. Bring them all down!


Paul – #5. This issue doesn’t move the plot forward too much, but it certainly utilized Spider/Ellis’s fangs when it comes to popular culture and media. Jerusalem decides he needs to hunker down and really do some research into the culture of The City. So, he promptly turns on the TV and starts flipping through the channels. Reality TV shows like Cops and the sexualization of advertising are parodied and lampooned to the extreme. He also takes some shots at the talk show circuit. Funny stuff!!!
And I definitely agree with Beth. Spider’s assistant is perfect. She gives it right back to him and then some. He was attacked by angry police a couple issues ago, and she seems to know that his antics will garner only more recourse from the authorities. What protections will he have and will his words be enough to combat the powers that be? 

Beth – #5. This issue is pure holding pattern, very funny but I think it is setting us up for the next issue. It doesn’t move the plot forward as it is for having Spider acclimate back into popular culture via TV. Which is pretty much the cesspool of popular culture. Spider responds in the typical Spider fashion by lashing out and attacking lies that he hears. This time via call-in radio/television shows. My favorite part of this issue is where an advertising bomb exploded in his head so he dreams advertisements. I know that I have gotten jingles stuck in my head for days at a time so I can relate.


Paul – #6. The New Religious Movement Convention! Oh boy. What’s Spider going to do here? ‘Fucking Vampires…’Many ‘truths’ out there and our man has decided to rough up the convention goers. Shake em up and crack some skulls while he’s at it. Whoa!Quick aside. I was very happy that Channon punched Spider in the nose in this issue. Ok, maybe not literally, but she got him to shut up for a minute and listen.

The first six issues have established Spider and Channon’s characters, and given them at goal/ mission. His character develops further while he flings his philosophy around the city, and we are exposed to the currents in society… media, religion, and alien infusion. A mindwarping title that I suspect is only going to get better. And I dare say that as Beth and I have discussed, this comic will hold up for a long, long time.

Beth – #6 This is Spider in his element. Ample opportunity to dissect the masses and fling his philosophy around like he is sprinkling the masses with holy water. It would be preachy if it weren’t so damn good. The writing is fantastic. Ever see that scene on Newsroom where the lead answers a question that generally would be verboten. “Why is American the greatest country in the world?” It would be preachy or awful as if the writers of the series going on a rant, but it isn’t. It is amazingly well written, so good that you are stunned into silence.

That has been this volume for me. It could have gone the preachy, ranty path but instead, we have a crazy character, great journalism, and writing. 

Questions

Do you think there are any gonzo journalists left?

What would a city look like if it was all hedonism and money? How would someone speak truth to power?


Procurement

I checked out a copy of this from the library as a buddy read with Paul.


About the Author

Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels like TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, MINISTRY OF SPACE and PLANETARY, and the author of the NYT-bestselling GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. The movie RED is based on his graphic novel of the same name, its sequel having been released in summer 2013. His graphic novel GLOBAL FREQUENCY is in development at Jerry Bruckheimer TV for the Fox network, and his GRAVEL books are in development for film at Legendary Pictures, with Tim Miller attached to direct. IRON MAN 3 is based on his Marvel Comics graphic novel IRON MAN: EXTREMIS. He’s also written extensively for VICE, WIRED UK and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and is co-writing a video project called WASTELANDERS with Joss Whedon that will appear some time before we both die.. He is serialising a new graphic novel, TREES, with artist Jason Howard, through Image Comics. Warren Ellis is currently working on a non-fiction book about the future of the city for Farrar Giroux Straus. His newest publication is the digital short-story single DEAD PIG COLLECTOR, from FSG Originals. His next book will be the novella NORMAL, also from FSG.

A documentary about his work, CAPTURED GHOSTS, was released in 2012.

Recognitions include the NUIG Literary and Debating Society’s President’s Medal for service to freedom of speech, the EAGLE AWARDS Roll Of Honour for lifetime achievement in the field of comics & graphic novels, the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire 2010, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the International Horror Guild Award for illustrated narrative. He is a Patron of the British Humanist Association, an Associate of the Institute of Atemporal Studies, and the literary editor of EDICT magazine.

Warren Ellis lives outside London, on the south-east coast of England, in case he needs to make a quick getaway.

Mooncop by Tom Gauld

About

“Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.”

The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum of the Moon.


Stats

  • Hardcover 
  • 94 pages
  • Published September 20th 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly
  • Original TitleMooncop
  • ISBN1770462546 (ISBN13: 9781770462540)
  • Edition Language English

Awards

  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Graphic Album
  • Best Writer/Artist (for Tom Gauld), and Best Lettering (for Tom Gauld) (2017)

My Thoughts

This is tiny, and I mean really tiny melancholy story about a cop who lives in a now-defunct colony on the moon. Everyone is leaving the colony and heading for parts unknown. This leaves the cop with decreasingly less and less to do. Until he is almost the only person left… almost. I don’t want to give anything away about how this story ends up. However, the ending has a bittersweet tinge with a splash of hope. Perfect for the timbre of the story.

The artwork is simple and subdued. It is odd how it is drawn, almost so stark that you believe it to be the desolate land of the moon. I think if it had been drawn any other way, it would have been too fancy for this story. As it stands it is perfectly rendered to convey the almost ennui of the cop.

I recommend this. Plus, donuts play a bit of a roll so you can’t go wrong.


Procurement

I checked this out from the library.


About the Author

Tom Gauld is a cartoonist and illustrator. He draws a weekly cartoon for the Guardian newspaper and has created a number of comic books. He lives and works in London.

100 Question Tag – Part Three Questions 76 – 100 (OMG I am glad this is done)

I swear this is the last one. Yikes, this was a long Tag. Please forgive me for the monotony of this. But, for completion’s sake, this is the last bit of it.

I am not specifically tagging anyone but please feel free to go for it with this bunch of questions!


What’s your favorite color?
My favorite color is probably blue in all shades.

What’s your favorite dessert?
Probably Mexican flan. It is the perfect, pure desert.

What’s your favorite drink?
Manhattans. Or a good Gin and Tonic. I drink like a very old man.

What’s your favorite food?
Japanese food is the best. Give me sushi or Yaku Don any day.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Again Japanese food.

What’s your favorite gadget?
My Ipad. Cannot live without it.

What’s your favorite hobby?
Gardening. It is a massive part of my life in the spring and summer months.

What’s your favorite movie?
The Matrix or maybe Kill Bill.

What’s your favorite restaurant?
Namaste in Portland Oregon. Indian Buffett.

What’s your favorite sandwich?
Pastrami sandwich with coleslaw.

What’s your favorite season?
Spring and summer.

What’s your favorite series?
Battlestar Galactica. Not the old one. SO SAY WE ALL.

What’s your favorite snack?
Nachos.

What’s your favorite sport to watch?
Sportsball?

What’s your favorite thing to have for breakfast?
Waffles.


What’s your full name?
Elizabeth R. Tabler

What’s your longest relationship so far?
11 Years this year.

What’s your lucky number?
eh…


What’s your star sign?
Cancer


When is your birthday?
July 1st.


Which city did you grow up in?
Las Vegas Nevada


Which city do you live in now?
Portland Oregon

Who do you miss right now?
I miss my family and friends in Las Vegas

Who is your celebrity crush?
Ryan Reynolds.

Who’s your favorite fictional character?
That is a toss-up between Ringil Eskiath and Hiro Protagonist.

Review of The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

Synopsis

The job of the skin is to keep things in.

On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless.

Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying, unstoppable… monster*!

Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, most importantly, are they going to do with Dave?

The first book from a new leading light of UK comics, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is an off-beat fable worthy of Roald Dahl. It is about life, death and the meaning of beards.

(*We mean a gigantic beard, basically.) 



Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 240 pages
  • Published June 17th, 2013 by Jonathan Cape
  • Original Title The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
  • ISBN0224096281 (ISBN13: 9780224096287)
  • Edition Language English

Awards

  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Graphic Album-New, Best Writer/Artist (for Stephen Collins) (2015)
  •  Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2013)

My Thoughts

“Because” is a word used

by ordered, order-loving

beings about a world which

they like to think is ordered.

“Because” is for storybooks.

This is… Well, I know this is

difficult to understand,

but what we see here is

becauselessness itself.”


― Stephen Collins, 
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

It was lustrous, it was hedge-like, it was so, so very untidy. Where once a single, black and twitchy hair grew on the face of our protagonist, Dave now grows an avalanche of hirsute proportions. Stephen Collins first outre graphic novel features the weird and compelling often underappreciated affect a random occurrence such as a beard can have on a tidy community. Similarly, how the effect of a book about an unkempt beard can have on the graphic novel community.

Dave is about as average a person as someone could be in the town of Here. He is a bald fellow with a single stubborn hair on his chin that when shaved, grows right back. Dave works in a job that he doesn’t understand that it is boring. Everything is boring. Imagine a life tuned to Muzak elevator music. His only differ from the norm is his penchant for voyeuristically sketching street life outside his window and listening to The Bangles Eternal Flame on repeat. (side note – I have to admit that, that is an underappreciated song.) One day something bizarre and untidy happens. Dave’s feels “a roaring black fire” climb through his face. Suddenly and without provocation, Dave’s beard of epic and unruly proportions is born.

Dave attempts to shave, cut, burn, pare, peel crop and slash at his beard. He cannot work or eventually move because of the torrent of beard hair pouring from his face. The community and tourists began to watch him now. He becomes an attraction. Soon the government sends in barbers and stylists to help tame the mane. Scaffolding is erected around the beard as it begins to take over his block. Soon balloons are added to the mix, lifting sections of the hair off of the ground and suspending it midair.

The beard must come from the place of There. There being everywhere around the Island of Here. It comes from a place of the unruly and the untidy. What will happen to our quiet community is a beard like this is allowed to exist? We must stop it! We must protect ourselves from its influence! Soon the beards presence spreads out in slow ripples. First, a man who is never late to work comes in late to work. Next, a man who has typically very tidy hair could not make it the barber, and his hair became overlong. Small ripples turn into large ripples. Things evolve.

This is a fairy tale and allegory that everyone can appreciate. It is a story of tidiness and the power of non-conformity. How a single action can cause, ripple effects felt for years and years. But more so, it is about a vast much-belied beard that is called evil when in fact it might be this communities savior.


Procurement

I checked this out from the library


About the Author

Stephen Collins is a UK illustrator and cartoonist. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide, and he has a weekly comic in The Guardian Weekend magazine, as well as a monthly one in Prospect. In 2013 Jonathan Cape published his debut graphic novel The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book Of The Year award. A collection of his shorter comics titled Some Comics By Stephen Collins was published by Jonathan Cape in 2014.

What am I Reading Wednesday? 3/20/2019

What am I reading?

“After years of self-imposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city that he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd Century surroundings. Combining black humor, life-threatening situations, and moral ambiguity, this book is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy.”

I am currently reading a buddy read with Paul at https://paulspicks.blog/. Transmetropolitan is considered one of the great classics of graphic novels to come out of the genre in the last twenty years and it does not disappoint.

What Have I Just Finished?

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

I just finished the spectacular book called, How To Best The Boys by Mary Weber. I cannot recommend this store enough. You can find my review here.

What am I Reading Next?

I am honestly not sure. I have quite a few wonderful choices at the moments. Any ideas? Help me make a choice!

Magic, Sexism, and STEM

“Apparently your feminine wiles are capable of making them idiots, Rhen.”

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Synopsis

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 352 pages
  • Expected publication: March 19th 2019 by Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN0718080963 (ISBN13: 9780718080969)
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

“Rhen Tellus opened it simply to see if she could scrape off the ink and derive which substances it’s been created from. Using her father’s strangely fashioned microscope. Which is how she discovered that this time the lettering was created from two types of resin, a binding paste, gold flecks, and a drop of something that smelled quite remarkably like magic.”

To Best the Boys is a lot of great and grand things. It is surprising, exciting, sad, bittersweet, and most of all remarkable. Mary Weber wrote a noteworthy book. It is a YA dipped in light fantasy without coming off as silly or unsophisticated, a rare feat nowadays. I cheered Rhen, she is a hero that young and teenage girls can look up to. Who says that women can’t be excellent at science and math? Who says they can’t look at dead bodies and not squeal. Rhen can! Rhen is the person capable of doing the saving, and if you listen to her, respect her opinion, she might help you out along the way and be your savior instead.

Rhen is a woman in her late teens trapped in her families financial situation. They dare to be working class people. Rhen’s parents, her mother born an Upper and her father born a lesser, fell in love and married against her mother’s families wishes. Rhen’s family has been shunned by her mother’s side her entire life. But, in a city built on familial connections, Rhen has been associating with her Aunt and cousin Seleni most of her life. In a bid to help her out of the Lesser social class. Rhen is a bit of a prodigy in math and sciences, and along with her father work tirelessly to find a cure to whatever is ailing the poorer classes in her port town. Those affected include Rhen’s mother. Here is the impetus of the story. Rhen must work tirelessly to find a cure, but Rhen is a woman and therefore not worthy of having her opinions heard. She is stuck in a catch-22 unless she can change the social equation. Each year a wealthy aristocrat and inventor holds a contest of magical and mathematical tests.

“All gentlepersons of university age (respectively seventeen to nineteen) are cordially invited to test for the esteemed annual scholarship given by Mr. Holm toward one full-ride fellowship at Stemwick Men’s University. Aptitude contenders will appear at nine o’clock in front of Holm’s Castle entrance above the seaside town of Pinsbury Port on the evening of 22 September, during the festival of the Autumnal Equinox.”

If Rhen can win the tests, she can gain access to the education that is necessary to help her friends, family, and people of Pinsbury Port fight off this spreading disease. She has the need and drive to succeed in this. What she faces as a contestant is fantastical creatures, science, math, and logic puzzles. As well as other contestants conspiring against her. You know she can do this, but Weber affectively amps up the suspense of the story until the reader is on proverbial pins and needles.

How does this story mimic our world today?


Although we live in a reasonably forward-thinking world, generally speaking, little girls face the same challenges of sexism when it comes to STEM(science, technology, engineering, math). Woman are still considered too illogical by some to be analytical enough to be a scientist. There are still real sociological and environmental barriers that girls need to overcome to become immersed in STEM. This story echoes that. Rhen is a woman continually being told that she does not have the mind and attitude for male-dominated STEM subjects.

Different men in Rhen’s Life


A quality I appreciated in this story was how men were depicted. Men are just as varied in personality, intelligence and spirit as women are. The author could have gone the route of stereotyping the male characters, but she didn’t. There was no type-casting for characters. Each of the players in this story has an individual mind and personality that mimics the variances in actual culture.

Political opinions and class warfare


Rhen comes from a poorer class, and although it is a peripheral plot point, Rhen’s working-class neighbors and friends have to deal with out of touch upper-class people thinking they know what is best for them. Those decisions cause a significant calamity for the working middle class and poor people of this village. It is an important vignette that mirrors political and social change taking place in our world even as we speak.

What I did not like

There is very little not to like with this story. My only slight complaint was that I felt like maybe there was one too many ideas in the plot. The plot line with the town’s fisherman seemed just a little much. Maybe that plot line would have been better seen in book 2.

Should you read this?

Absolutely. I cannot stress this enough, I loved this book. It is exceptionally well written, the plot is interesting, the characters are cheer-worthy. The message is one that can resonate with young girls, and when you get to the end, the reader feels empowered. You want to do better in your life and for those around you after reading this book.

Quotes taken from eARC are subject to change upon publishing.


Discussion Questions

  1. Many times in the story Rhen encounters situations with other male characters in the story that leave her uncomfortable. Rhen is gaslighted, talked over, embarrassed, shamed, and shunned. How does this make you feel as a reader.
  2. Are there other books in the YA light fantasy genre that talk about STEM and girls? How is it portrayed in other stories.

Procurement

I received an eARC of this novel from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Hi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I’m also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. 

Popular 1980s Fantasy Novels

I love this post so much. “Hello, my childhood!” These are the books that shaped my love of fantasy as a child. Plus this post has tons of cool little details about covers and the authors.

Thoughts on Fantasy

After the boom of the 60s and 70s the fantasy genre continued to enjoy mainstream popularity, with many 80s authors branching into new sub-genres and styles.  Fantasy tropes were so established that works of comic fantasy, which poked fun at them and were humorous in tone, became increasingly popular. Urban fantasy as we now know it also had its early roots in this decade.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 1980 and 1990. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets:

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