This was the month that I accepted I am not going to hit 100 books this year. Some of that was my continued travel, some of that was an increased work load. But the biggest part? The announcement that Fallout 4 will be released in November, on my birthday. That pretty much guarantees I won’t be reading many books in November. I’m already far enough behind that skipping a whole month makes the goal impossible. I’m still going to try to beat last year’s mark of 73, though. But I didn’t make good progress in June, reading only one novel and two graphic novels. I started several other books last month, but haven’t finished them yet. Hopefully that prefigures a much higher count for July.
- The Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace – I picked this up at WisCon on the strength of a recommendation from Delia Sherman and my general faith in Small Beer Press. It’s published through their YA imprint Big Mouth House, about which more later. This is the story of a young woman in a brutal but magic-rich post-apocalyptic world who teams up with the ghost of a supersoldier from the distant pre-apocalyptic past to correct an ancient injustice. The plot is frenetic, and I found it difficult to put down, even as I suspect that the sheer pace of events is letting the narrative get away with less justification for its worldbuilding than I would normally require. The scenes whip by fast enough, and are exciting enough, that I didn’t stop long to worry that I can’t come up with any theories about how the world-that-was could have turned into the world-that-is, or why the afterlife functions as it does. Which I guess is a way of saying that one of this novel’s strengths is its confidence. Really, the only thing that bothered me while I was reading was that this book is positioned as YA. I’m on record as thinking the only requirement for a YA novel is a young protagonist, and canonically Wasp is sixteen years old. But we don’t learn her age until close to the middle of the story, and I had been reading her as much older. Even after learning she was sixteen, she seemed more like a character in her early to mid twenties to me.
- Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki – My graphic novel collection (and likely comics pubishing as a whole) is so brutally canted toward male creators that every few weeks I stop into my local comic shop and specifically ask what new books they have that are (1) written by women and (2) not about superheroes. This book was a find from my last such trip. It’s primarily a collection of single page gag strips featuring a recurring cast of high school students who just happen to be wizards and mutants and creatures out of myth. The humor ranges from darkly cynical to absurd, and in the last twenty or thirty pages an actual plot begins to coalesce out of nowhere. A fun, fast read.
- Vattu: The Name and the Mark by Evan Dahm – I’ve been a fan of his work since he was first serializing Rice Boy, but haven’t kept up with his material online. As he writes sprawling, surrealist fantasy epics, I prefer to consume his work in big chunks. Vattu, the slowest-paced of the Overside stories I’ve yet read, was served well by this practice. This is only the first volume of a tale about people looking for identity after being displaced from their cultures by a colonizing empire. Dahm’s color and line work, which started out great, have become sublime. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this. (Also notable for other Rice Boy fans: he’s currently doing a commentary-laden rerun of that story.)