Known for Gone girl which now has a movie of the same name, Gillian Flynn‘s Sharp objects is just as clever and shocking of a tale. While having only seen the movie of the other, the novel Sharp objects was more integuing of an idea and story.
Caveat: the novel reads like true crime and the murders are of little girls with vivid sometimes gory details and descriptions of the main character’s family abuse and self-harm. These passage run throughout the novel and might turn some readers off from it.
Told in first person by second-rate journalist Camille Preaker, the book opens with a murder assignment from her editor that forces her to return to her long-left home in rural Missouri. Wind Gap is so small and with other more important news in bigger cities around the world that she is the only one of the scene writing, or rather struggling to write, about the horrific murders of little girls. Part of the novel centers around her reluctance to return and enummerating the many reasons of why she moved away to Chicago years ago. Flynn’s insights on small-town life are eerily accurate and her crafting of Camille’s loneliness and unhappiness are fascinating as well. The characterizations of Camille and Wind Gap create realistic portrayals in the novel.
More specifically, Flynn hones the details but makes them her own. For example, Camille is a cutter (self-inflected harm) who carved words all over herself during her teenage years and got professional help for it recently. Now she writes on herself in pen, sometimes mindlessly. Due to this, she’s forced to wear long sleeves and pants or skirts to prevent anyone from seeing as only a couple of people know. Instead of the generic stereotypical acting out of a teen girl, it becomes a wholly unique endeavor especially as Camille refers to certain words flaring up throughout the novel when triggered by particular emotions, people, or situations.
True to form, the reader is led to believe varying things as the story progresses, usually kept in the dark alongside the main character. Deeper and deeper into the story, more is revealed and the mystery seems to become crystal clear until the final plot twist, in Flynn’s true nature. Stunningly chilling.
Recommended?: For those who like a twisting murder mystery but don’t mind the brutal gruesomeness of the murder details for the young girls and other abuse and self-harm described. The plot itself was well-crafted and kept me in the dark until the final twist was revealed. Maybe diehard fans would have seen it coming but I certainly enjoyed the plot itself. More Gilliam Flynn, please!
If possible, Transmetropolitan: year of the bastard volume 3 is even more offensive, explicit, and violent than the previous two. The main character Spider Jerusalem is oven emperor again consumed by city life and back to his bad habit of being constantly drugged up to make it through the day and write his columns. Previously led to his demise by reporting on politics, he begrudgingly agrees to cover the current divisive election. Keep in mind, this graphic novel was published in 1999.
The plot of this volume is Spider starting to cover the election that he’s tried so hard to ignore up until now. Neither choice is good but one side is using hate and bigotry to divide people and feed off of it for popularity while the other candidate is still and fake, always smiling but not much substance. Just as he gets involved and starts covering the candidates, the opposition’s campaign advisor gets shot on air and dies. With such a cliffhanger ending, I’ll need to order the next volume soon from the public library.
Oddly, the second the third volumes have been in near pristine condition while the first was well used. Seems like people try out that series and then do not continue on, which makes sense considering the content. If these were movies, they wcould hid certainly be rated R for drug use, violence, and sexual content. Despite these aspects, the story itself is compelling because while Spider is clearly flawed, he writes for and cares about educating the common person who he believes is getting screwed by society and those running it. His drug use stems from not being able, or perhaps willing, to deal with his disgust for how the world works and the scum who live in it, in a more healthy way. He doesn’t date, hang out with friends, and so far lacks or isn’t close with his family so there’s no support net; instead he fills that void with drugs to get by. However, with his new assistant, in this volume she shares her concern with her uncle who is Spider’s editor so perhaps in future volumes he will turn this around or at least work on it.
Recommended?: For graphic novel fans, and readers of Transmet as this fills in the political aspects of the world and what makes Spider tick. Also, for anyone interested in Ellis’ take on a divisive political race, as long as the other material isn’t a deal breaker. It feels weird to recommend this series, due to its explicit nature but the story so far is intriguing and the main character is complex.
Monstress by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda is a fantasy graphic novel about a world in a tentative peace after a brutal war with weapons and magic. There are five main races, including humans and other creatures with some that are magical.
From the first page, the drawings are stunning. They are in the style of steampunk mixed with fantasy elements that are reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. The detail and movement captured add to the atmosphere of the story.
Also, the world is mainly women, which is refreshing for a change. Whether or not there’s a reason for it isn’t addressed in this first volume. Nearly all covenversations are between women and never about men so it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, even the new one proposed by Slate. Despite this, there is still a fair amount of fighting and deadly battles. Life in this world is difficult and cruel, especially for certain types of creatures who are taken advantage of by those in power.
While there is a lot to like about Monstress, the story itself isn’t very clear. There’s a main character but there are several others and a handful of different locations in which the story takes place. Perhaps the other volumes build upon it further but I wish there was more explanination in in this one. Nothing particular hooked me as a reader plus with new aspects being introduced then receding just as quickly as it turned back to the main character, it felt disjointed and confusing at times. I am not sure if I will read the others.
Recommended?: For graphic novel lovers and fantasy fans who would enjoy a beautifully drawn, creative story about a curious magical land in turmoil and on the verge of another war.