Reading & Reviews, Reviews

February 2020 Books Read Standouts: The Outsider/A Witch's Printing Office, Vol. 1

The Outsider – Stephen King

    In the introduction to Pet Sematary, Stephen King said that before it was published, he was afraid it would be the one that finally went too far, that the public simply wouldn’t let him tell this story about the intersection of death and children. WELL THEY DID, and I’m glad of it because that book rules and is filled with very important ideas about coping with different kinds of loss and grief, but it apparently gave him the impression that horrific, visceral, and in this case sexual violence upon children was something we wanted from him because whoa, doctor, did he open that jar and turn it upside down all over our faces with The Outsider. I read this one out loud to my missus at bedtime and for the first time in more than a decade of this custom we finally hit a book that had things I simply could not bring myself to say out loud, especially to my wife. That said it all serves the story, which is pretty good: a child is murdered in a soul-destroying fashion, which a detective discovers is part of a larger pattern and has to take his badge off to pursue, and what he finds is much, much worse than he could have imagined, and has been happening for longer than anyone thought possible. As I write this it occurs to me that it sounds a lot like I’m describing It from a cop’s perspective? And honestly I’d read the hell out of that, too. The Outsider brings a lot of repellently painful and ugly stuff to the table, but it doesn’t feel exploitative so much as it forces the reader to confront realistic and truthful ideas about how trauma, loss and violence can warp the very shape of a community and how easily grief, pain and fear can turn into anger and bloodlust, for a chance to flush all the sorrow and darkness out of the world by pulling one person-shaped plug by any means necessary.
    The Outsider also features Holly Gibney, who we are given to understand is from King’s Mr. Mercedes crime-trilogy; she’s probably the best character in the book, but the exposition that justifies her inclusion pretty thoroughly spoils the other books she’s from, although to be honest from her description of those events I didn’t feel like I was missing much.
    Upshot: Extremely upsetting, mostly pretty good, doesn’t end especially strongly but that’s standard for King, still well worth the read.

Score: 7.5/10 Máscaras de Luchadoras

A Witch’s Printing Office, Vol. 1

    There is, I understand, a bustling genre of manga that revolves specifically around people–usually an enormous geek of one breed or another–being voiped, thwipped or otherwise zooped into fantastical worlds; most frequently it’s a video game, but sometimes it’s just straight-up Narnia-nonsense, as is the case here. “Bwuh,” says our hero/ine; adventure ensues. This particular heroine, however, isn’t interested in dungeon delving and treasure troving, but in continuing to be a fuckin’ nerd as hard as she possibly can. You know what she wants to do when she finds herself magically transported into a world of magics and monstros and such? She wants to invent the goddamn printing press, start mass-producing magic-users’ grimoires, and host the world’s first spellbook convention so people can come from all over, learn about magic from other places and distribute their own to standardize spells as a public technology for the common good. There’s a whole sequence about how she and her printing-house assistants have to collect a whole bunch of a certain kind of leaf to press into pages, which are then sliced by the tail-blades of a monster they’ve befriended, to make deadline on a huge rush order of a certain kind of spellbook. There are extremely cute and detailed diagrams of the convention-floor layout that she modeled after all the manga conventions she worked at back in her old world. It is a very, very specific kind of story but if you have the Slot B for its Tab A it will hit you like a freight train. A bunch of other shit happens and eventually it does get pretty adventury but the heart of it is this small, soft, Ghibli-ass, lo-fi chillhop story about a nerd who can’t get her preferred books and so becomes the change she wants to see in the world around her, and that is fundamentally pretty damn good.

Score:  8/10 Magiket Convention Programs

 

laid out low, nothing to go, nowhere a way to meet

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