The best part of taking a mental health vacation is that I finally get to catch up on my favourite things. In between fussing about with grad school applications, I think I’ve managed to get into around ten books this month. All of them were quite good, but some have stuck with me all month. If you’re looking for your next read, you’ve found the right place.
3. The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
They’re strong, powerful, and if you cross them, things will quickly go very badly for you. Only one thing scares them—growing up. Because in the world of the Wrenchies, it’s only kids who are safe… anyone who survives to be an adult lives in constant fear of the Shadowsmen. All the teenagers who come into contact with them turn into twisted, nightmarish monsters whose minds are lost forever.
When Hollis, an unhappy and alienated boy, stumbles across a totem that gives him access to the parallel world of the Wrenchies, he finally finds a place where he belongs. But he soon discovers that the feverish, post-apocalyptic world of the Wrenchies isn’t staying put… it’s bleeding into Hollis’s normal, real life. Things are getting very scary, very fast.
Artistically, “The Wrenchies” is a beautiful book. Dalrymple’s art style is at once both gritty and other-worldly. The narrative achieves a brooding sense of menace for most of the way through. The character of Hollis is full of heartbreak and hopefulness, and is well rounded and distinct. The problem is that the story is often difficult to follow, the characters are interchangable and flat (with the exception of Hollis) and the ending doesn’t feel like a climax, nor a continuation. It just sort of ends. I learned more about the story from reading that Goodreads summary than actually reading the book. However, it was unique enough to be one of my favourite things this month.
2. Probably Monsters by Ray Culey
From British Fantasy Award-winning author Ray Cluley comes Probably Monsters a collection of dark, weird, literary horror stories. Sometimes the monsters are bloodsucking fiends with fleshy wings. Sometimes they re shambling dead things that won t rest, or simply creatures red in tooth and claw. But often they re worse than any of these. They re the things that make us howl in the darkness, hoping no one hears. These are the monsters we make ourselves, and they can find us anywhere…
I love short story collections. I personally get so into books that I’m emotionally exhausted after finishing them, and when I was working I found finding time to polish off a novel difficult. I can read a short story on my lunch break, or during a
bathroom break business meeting, or while my partner plays Fallout Four. I own a few short story collections and anthologies, and Ray Culey’s book is one of my favourites. I enjoy the variety of stories contained within, ranging from apocalypse survival tales reminiscent of The Walking Dead to stories about impoverished people risking encounters with “monsters” to escape from the cycle of poverty. Of course, not all of the stories are perfect, but most of them are well-written and memorable. My only criticism of this work is that it’s too fricking long. I haven’t even finished the book yet (80%!) but what I’ve seen so far tells me that Culey has a true gift for writing unique horror.
1. Forever Evil by Geoff Johns, David Finch and Richard Friend
The Justice League is DEAD! And the villains shall INHERIT the Earth! In a flash of light, the world’s most powerful heroes vanish as the Crime Syndicate arrives from Earth-3! As this evil version of the Justice League takes over the DC Universe, no one stands in the way of them and complete domination … no one except for Lex Luthor.
Yes, there are two graphic novels on this list. Like short story collections and anthologies, they are easy to read. Unlike short story collections and anthologies, they have pretty pictures. Don’t judge.
I was torn between putting this one and “Green Lantern vol 1: Sinestro” as my top book of November. Both are excellent introductions to the world of the New 52 (DC’s latest reboot) and both are well written, full of emotion and fantastic art. I find that, on a slight tangent, comics are terrible for needing fifty years of backstory and reading every single book of every single series to understand what’s going on. I will bow down and chant “not worthy” before a comic that manages to escape this, and both “Forever Evil” and “Green Lantern” did this expertly. Forever Evil just narrowly edged out “Green Lantern” because of the pulse pounding pace of the plot. “Forever Evil” manages to pull off the rarest kind of comic writing that seamlessly blends character development, action and emotion into one narrative. It also took the tired trope of the purely evil-for-the-lolz alternate versions of the DC superheroes and gave them vulnerability. My favourite part of the book was the interactions between the characters. That alone is worth reading the book. I will use a disclaimer, because I have the necessary 50 years of backstory, but I feel like new readers to comics will enjoy this new look at classic characters and archetypes.
What books have you been reading? Let me know in the comments below!