Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Color Master - Aimee Bender

The Color Master: StoriesLike most story collections, The Color Master varies wildly in quality from one story to another.  The book is loosely divided into parts, which start out more "realistic" and get more "fantastic" as the book goes on, though all of them blend elements of reality and fantasy, whether it's a traditional swords-and-sorcery type of fantasy or a more modern sexual type of fantasy, or just an element of surrealism.  The stories cover everything from a woman convincing two of her male friends to have sex with each other to a man who thinks he's a Nazi but isn't to more fairytale-like stories including ogres and dresses the color of the moon.

That last one, the story with the dress the color of the moon, is the source of the book's title.  "The Color Master" was definitely one of the strongest stories in the book, telling the tale of the people who made the famous dresses of the fairytale "Donkeyskin."  It captures doubt, fear, anger, and grief while mixing in a somewhat comic, disorganized work environment.

Some of the stories, on the other hand, just didn't make much sense to me.  I wasn't sure what to think of "Appleless," the first story in the collection, which at first appears to be about a girl who doesn't like apples but might actually be about murder or rape or both; I'm not entirely sure.  This not-being-sure-what-to-think spanned much of the book for me.  In most of the stories, I felt like I was just missing the point, which left an unpleasant feeling of disappointment and confusion--not what I'm looking for out of pleasure reading.  Maybe I'm just not cut out for the majority of Bender's short stories.  Still, if surrealism is something you're interested in, this would probably be a good read.  If you're not very good at interpreting tons of layers of narrative though (like I'm apparently not) this might not be the book for you.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Undertaking of Lily Chen - Danica Novgorodoff

17934370This book isn't what I was expecting.  I was expecting some sort of magical realism, I think, with lots of ghosts and specters and cool shit like that, and some really complex moral dilemmas, and some intense character development, and I just didn't get that.  Maybe it's because I'm just not a graphic novel person.  I try and I try and I try to enjoy them, but I really just don't get as complex of a story out of a graphic novel as I do out of a prose novel.  Anyway, let's get down to it.
I liked the art in this.  It's a pretty unique style in regards to how the people are drawn, but the scenery is what really got to me.  There are some absolutely stunning full-page scenery pictures in here that I would love to be able to purchase as full-size posters.  The story had really great potential.  It revolves around a man named Deshi, whose brother Wei dies in an accident.  Deshi's parents want him to find a dead girl to serve as a "corpse bride" for Wei so he won't be alone in the afterlife.  Deshi sets out to complete his mission, but it turns out dead young women are few and far between in his neck of the woods.  In fact, the only young woman to be found at all is Lily Chen, and she is still very much alive...
But no matter how much potential the story had, I think it just fell flat.  I didn't get a ton of character development out of this, and some of the stuff, from the romance to the ending, just seemed to come out of nowhere.  This book is also Lord of the Rings-esque, and not in a good way; there is a lot of walking, without anything else much happening for much of the book.
Overall, I was disappointed.  I think I might have loved this if it had been written as a prose book, but as a graphic novel it just didn't capture me the way I thought it would.

2 stars out of 5.