Book Review: The Wicked + The Divine Vol 2 gets better on the myth, worse on the story

See my review of Vol. 1 here.

So, the plot is kind of all over the place with this one. Everything we know to be “the rules” turns out to false. There are no rules. The mythos behind the plot is better explained, which made me  stomach a lot of my initial mythology-related issues. But the plot doesn’t really go anywhere and isn’t better for all the “explaining.” Spoilers from here on out.

So, at one point in this Ananke is like “They may not really be gods, but they think that they are.” So, we aren’t even dealing with gods now?! Which makes sense, because their powers are so limited. And Woden does things that seem more like stuff Hephaestus would do (like building armor). It seems more like Ananke is just telling them who they are (naming them after the gods like pets) and every time they (re)incarnate they just remember what Ananke had named them…

The backstory that Ananke gives is so vague (as to why she exists and why the cycle happens) that it seems like the writers don’t know themselves. You could argue that they are being purposefully vague (but that vagueness isn’t working for them), or that they just don’t want to back themselves in a corner, but it seems more like they just don’t care. That they know we’ll eat from their hands anyways.

All we get of that “ancient backstory” is like one page worth of frames explaining that it’s some stupid battle between light and dark (why the gods incarnate? Or why they exist? I can’t even remember). Except I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe Ananke. She doesn’t seem to be very trustworthy. Are they here to fight darkness or to inspire? Because all these pop stars want to inspire. Not much fighting going on. Perhaps they want to inspire to fight the darkness. I don’t know. It sounds cheesy though.

And then Ananke proceeds to make a 13th incarnation. So, apparently there can be more than 12. Way to break your own rules, writers. My guess is that Ananke is feeding  off the gods/whatevers she has trapped somewhere. But she has to let a few of them out at a time otherwise they’ll consume her or turn on her or something something something.

Let me write my own comic book and I’ll do better.

I have beef still, but I’ll probably read the third one just so I can complain more.

And the fact it’s set in the UK continues to rub me the wrong way. Of course the most historically imperial country would get the gods. Of course it feels entitled to all cultures. Of course.

Other reviews I agree with:

Kieron Gillen’s story for this book is incredibly thin. I’m not really sure why it’s important for Laura and Cassandra to find out who Luci’s failed assassins were because 1) they proved their incompetence and aren’t a threat, and 2) Luci’s dead anyway. Also, Laura’s “investigation” involves her going to raves and underground parties, doing drugs and dancing which isn’t just utterly tedious to read but wholly ineffective! Without going into spoilers, the reveal of who the assassins were is also really anticlimactic.

 

I really like the idea behind this series, but it is hard to follow. I don’t think I’m really lost, so much as things just aren’t clearly explained. It’s enjoyable having a Pantheon of characters, but I can’t be the only one who finds it difficult to keep their personalities straight.

 

Twelve gods, I think, were too many to adequately develop. It feels as if they’re thrown into scenes or forced to converse with Laura just because they’ve had very little stage time and the audience hasn’t had a chance to get to know them yet. This has slowed the pace of the story to plodding (I was so bored reading this) and plot threads have been too quickly resolved (who and why were snipers shooting at the gods?) which was anticlimactic or forgotten until the closing act (Laura’s obvious god ability)The Faust Actdid a lot more in 144 pages than Fandemonium did in 166.

Reviews of the next few issues of the comic aren’t reassuring. It seems plot is completely absent in favour of telling back stories. If one of those is Ananke’s then that might be helpful. Should my library purchase the third volume, I may skim it. The Wicked + The Divine‘s mythology is compelling but I’m not willing to waste money on it.

When White Savior Complex Masquerades as Veganism

‘You want to know how I know this was about retribution for the crime of being black? Because you didn’t take the dogs. I’ll say that again. YOU. COWARDS. DIDN’T. TAKE. THE. DOGS.

Anyone who is familiar with the plight of animal companions in the United States should be aware that when the state claims animals, the potential for execution (and yes I mean execution, because we don’t use euphemisms like ‘euthanizing’ to describe the fact that we execute animals after we criminalize them for homelessness) is extremely high, and even more so for dogs considered to be “bully breeds.”

Dogs who end up in the prison system (nee shelters) have approximately 3 to 5 days before they’re killed when facilities are full. And if these victims were in fact suffering from acute psychological or emotional trauma, these animal activists basically sentenced them to death.

It was never about the dog victims for you. You wanted to wear a mask and torture a black man without fear of being labeled a member of the KKK. And so you did. Often when stories like this break, the common question asked of me by vegans who support this violence is “Well if it was YOU were being victimized, wouldn’t you want someone to intervene?”’

Striving with Systems

The following post is an excerpt from my presentation at VegFestUK Bristol 2017 “Savior Complex Veganism: You’re Probably Pretty Speciesist…and you could be racist too.”

Most of the time, my discussions center on western society as a whole and the ways in which violence against animals is a reflection and extension of violence against black and brown humans (and vice versa). But in this particular talk, we examine our own biases within the mainstream vegan community.

An article was posted by a friend on Facebook about a black male dog breeder. The piece states:

A 52-year old Detroit man and suspected dog fighting breeder was reportedly outside feeding his dogs when he was confronted by three armed men wearing masks to conceal their identities.

The masked men forced him into his home where they tied him up before brutally beating and torturing him before cutting off his ear and driving…

View original post 985 more words

The Wicked + The Divine Faust Act had nothing to do with Faust

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

This is Volume 1 of the series. It was OK.  As a mythology fangirl, I have a few nit-picky things with this one. One being the term “incarnate.” It doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like the gods possess the bodies of humans. And it’s not like it’s really full-on gods possessing these humans, either. They don’t seem very powerful.

They say they don’t use their powers so that they don’t scare humans, so it’s hard to tell how omnipotent they are. But, when they do show their powers, they have to do things like snap their fingers to get them to work, which isn’t as godlike as I’d prefer. There’s limitations.

Other limitations being that they can only live for 2 years. And why the fuck it’s every 90 years that this cycle picks back up again is never explained. At least, if it was, I can’t repeat it back to you because I missed it. And by 90 years is it really 90 years then plus 2 years and THEN 90 years again? I didn’t pay attention to the dates thrown at me, but if I have to do math to understand your mythos NO THANKS.

Anyway, the whole snapping thing seemed to equal limited power. Is their power draining? If so, why? Also, is it really not the full form of the god possessing the human body? I could buy that then. That would make sense. Like, if the gods just put a part of themselves in the human just to see what would happen.

But it also seems like part of the human self remains in the body because they seem to care about what happens to their bodies. Is this caring because gods are all trapped somewhere and wanting their turn to be let out in human form? Or is it because part of the god is like “It’s not fair to the young human I’m possessing that they have to die so young?” Not really clear.

Another issue I have with the book is that the gods are all pop stars. Sure, it’s a great way to make money, but if you’re a god WHY NOT CREATE MONEY? Oh, wait. It’s because they want to inspire fans and to be admired. Hm. OK. Why? Seems like this is a contradiction of laying low (not using their full powers). Also, the pop stars are pretty unoriginal — you can tell what pop stars inspired them.  This is probably intentional, but I don’t see how they’re not being sued.

And can we just talk about Lucifer? She looks like a knockoff of Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel in Constantine:

Also, Ananke is old and the same age throughout the 90 year cycle, calling them back into new bodies. HOW?

Why doesn’t she have to die? Why is she not in the game? Does she have the gods locked up somewhere? How’d she manage that?  NEED TO KNOW HOW THE GAME WORKS BEFORE I PLAY.

Also, “Faust Act” is misleading. There is nothing to do with alchemy in this book. Dr. Faust summoned demons for alchemical powers. This isn’t really about that…unless you say Ananke is Dr. Faust in this analogy. Or maybe it has something to do with the devil (Luci) being such a main focus in this one. Anyway, it felt like just one more reference that was jammed in there in their attempt to look cool. 

Lots of questions that lead me to want to (grudgingly) read the next volume, I guess.

But I’m getting tired of these complete rewrites of mythology. You don’t have to recreate the rules to make something interesting. There’s something more creative in keeping things as they are and working within the cultural constraints that would make the story all the more creative rather than just stealing interesting mythical characters you like, like Neil Gaiman does. It’s just as bad as all the “updated fairy tales” these days, recycling characters just like recycled plots. It’s got to stop.

Recommended stories of what I mean that don’t do the Neil Gaiman thing: The Library at Mount Char, Fifteen Dogs, The Automation, The Philosopher Kings… Those work within established myth and theology but create new characters and new plots. Someone back me up here?!?

Other reviews I agree with:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE . . . was a lot of shiny distractions with periodically deadpan dialogue to mask the lack of substance in the plot. Not impressed. Not recommended.

 

I enjoyed this, but I found it difficult to follow at times and it felt rather undeveloped. I definitely want to continue on with this series, but I can’t deny that I wasn’t very impressed with this first volume.

 

The Wicked and the Divine had this special something about it that kept me interested the entire time I was reading it.
But once I finished, I was like…that’s it?

TBR – The Sugar Baby Club by Teresa Lo

Sick of “hanging out” and hookup culture, college freshman Jasmine Lewis decides to try out a new kind of dating—sugar dating. After watching a documentary about sugar daddies, she and her roommate Kita Okoye sign up for Searching Sweet Sugar, a sugar dating site that promises to change young girls’ lives for the better.

After meeting a few salt daddies, terrible men who abuse the system, Jasmine and Kita land the sugar daddies of their dreams, men who shower them with money, Louis Vuitton, and vacations. Their newfound, glamorous lifestyle attracts the attention of girls in their residence hall, and soon, Jasmine and Kita find themselves running a makeshift dating agency from their dorm room.

So, if I end up reading this book I plan on taking notes.

Buy on Amazon.

TBR – Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path. Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again. But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more than a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

Sounds like a twist on the Labyrinth flim. I like the sound of it.

View it on Goodreads.

Author website.

BOOK REVIEW: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova promotes animal cruelty.

This book is a DNF for me because of the animal cruelty:

“I glued my fingers so many times that they were raw and bloody. I probably bled as much for her Deathday as the sacrificial dove. If I think on it, I can see Lula [her sister’s] slender hands holding the dove, red dots smattered all over her perfectly calm face.”

– Main character, Alejandra, on her sister’s coming of age brjua party.

Her sister, Lula, is a main character. A “good witch” — rather, bruja. The fact she would sacrifice a dove took me so aback…

It is sick and normalizes animal cruelty. How many teens are going to think that good brujas do that? Are going to try that? Blood magic is usually associated with dark magic — with evil. Sure, in the book there are jars of eyeballs and tongues but you never know where they come from. You can assume that the characters are carnists, which is the default across cultures, but to sacrifice just for the sake of death is beyond vile.

I was really looking forward to a LGBTQ positive YA read, but this just glazes over the topic of animal cruelty so offensively that I couldn’t respect it or read more.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is the penultimate fairy tale.

This book is now one of my favorites.

As a child who was obsessed with unicorns and pegasi, including The Last Unicorn film, I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book until now. Though, it wasn’t until recently that I learned the movie was based on a book. I don’t think my mom knew about this book and so I didn’t either. My fetish was fed by her…one of the few things we had in common (that and our love of Cher, but that’s for another time).

This book is like poetry — more like a prose poem than any book I have ever read. It is gentle and comforting, yet quirky and often ridiculous — throwing in words like “Taco” and “Giraffe” that don’t seem to fit. It leaves you laughing because you wonder if this is supposed to be set in a medieval time period or not. Renaissance? Dark ages? Not sure that it matters, really, because it’s so self-referential that these quirks come off as more delightful than jarring. It knows it is a fairy tale, with characters saying so in lines like “…we are in a fairy tale…” and “You’re in the story with the rest of us now,” and “It’s all part of the fairy tale.”

I think all of those lines are from the magician, actually. Maybe he’s the only one who realizes he’s a character.

And Peter Beagle even takes a chance to talk about Rhinoceri, which is how the hole unicorn myth “got started.” This book is so conscious of itself — I never knew how postmodern it really was.

I’m also amazed at how much the film stayed true to the book. Scene by scene and capturing much the same feel.  I will admit that parts of the movie are cheesy, but that’s just due to the time period and animation (in my opinion). Beagle has even said in an interview that he was shocked that the film was so true to the book.

I always said that this story was kind of like someone watched the cartoon version of LOTR and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And come to find out, Beagle actually wrote the screenplay of LOTR.  No wonder!

I found the book sadder than the film — perhaps because I’m now and adult and viewing the thing with fresh eyes. The book lends itself to more subtlety. In the film, you are distracted by the pictures, but here you can pick up on things like the fact when the Unicorn becomes human, she is slowly no longer called The Unicorn — not by the narrator, even. She’s The Girl and then Amalthea. I haven’t viewed the film in many years, but I didn’t remember her forgetting that she was a unicorn. I didn’t recall that.

I also have friends that hate the film because “why the f*ck is there a random talking cat?!?” Well, let me tell you, that is explained in the book much better than in the film.

I do think that if you didn’t like the movie as a kid, you might not like the book as much I do as an adult. It’s likely you just don’t like meta fairy tales or unicorns?

TBR – The New Wild by Fred Pearce

‘It is time to stand back and look at the evidence when we come to judge and respond to “invasive” species, writes the author; at this point, pretty much the majority of species is invasive rather than endemic. Pearce appears ready to swing the pendulum away from conserving the “pristine” to utterly “novel ecosystems,” and part of that change will entail sometimes-irksome invasive species. Nature is dynamic and cannot be conserved in aspic; on the other hand, to claim a noninterventionist approach is just as unreal, since humans are forever intervening in nature’s progress. When Pearce writes, “we need to lose our fear of the alien and the novel,” he hits the nail on the head. When he follows that line with, “It means conservationists must stop spending all their time backing loser species—the endangered and the reclusive,” he sounds like a crank eugenicist.  Are alien species really “nature at its best”? However, few would disagree with the author that introduced species do not deserve to be ecologically cleansed. Yes, Pearce admits, alien species can cause us “inconvenience,” but then how does it follow that we should “let [nature] run wild”? For the most part, the author brings the balanced perspective of a seasoned, freethinking environmental reporter, pushing points that need to be made—nature is a hothouse of change, an often temporary arrangement, and open to being remade—and what we think of as invasive is mostly hardiness and lack of competition that in many instances finds a new equilibrium, the incomers becoming “model eco-citizens.”’ [Via]

BOOK REVIEW: The Norse Myths: A Guide to Gods and Heroes by Carolyne Larrington

I haven’t read a nonfiction book so hungrily as I did this one. Larrington explains the myths in a way that made sense to me and I had never realized why the Norse myths didn’t make sense until now. At last! The nonsense makes sense.

There is a history behind the record — a Christian history — that I never knew overshadowed them so completely. We really are making things up as we go along.

Larrington gives these shadows the best body I’ve yet read.

At least, in the first half. You have to go in knowing a bit about Norse myth to begin with. And I did. So, the part about the gods was fascinating. The latter half — the part about the heroes — kind of fizzled out for me because I think Larrington assumes you should know a bit about characters like Sigmund too (which I don’t really — humans don’t interest me too much) to be able to understand what she illuminates. And I’m sure she illuminates some fascinating points, just like she did with the gods. But the fact is my eyes glaze over when talking about the heroes still for some reason. I’m sure if I read the Wikipedia pages on them and then went back to the last half of this book I’d be like “Oh, how fascinating.” But currently I do not feel compelled to.

What is fascinating is that Larrington mentions modern day novels that dabble with Norse myth. I’m not talking shitty books like American Gods but ones like LOTR and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  Larrington juxtaposes the old and the new. I really recommend this book.

Larrington is a professor of medieval English Literature who has written books on Game of Thrones, too. 

Suck it, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.  You should have read this book before being published.

See also: Ursula K. Le Guin didn’t like Neil Gaiman’s representation of gods. And, Domesticating Trolls.