Friday, July 1, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: June 26th to 30th

Happy Canada Day, and welcome to a special Friday edition of Murchie Plus Books! I normally publish these weekly reading recaps on Sundays, but I've got visitors today and tomorrow's my birthday so I wanted to spare myself a bit of hassle.

Besides, I've got a Cool Thing planned for Sunday.

(Okay, it's just a Best of 2016 To Date, but I got to ALL CAPS all over it and that was a lot of fun.)

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lies on a fuzzy cream pillow. His ears are perked. Propped up behind him is a white Kobo with Bookburners S2E2's cover on its screen. The cover features a stylized illustration of two feminine people facing an enormous, humanoid figure in what looks to be a black diving suit with a lit face plate.

I had myself a mini Readathon last Sunday, starting with the second episode of BOOKBURNERS S2! In case you missed all my previous gushing on the matter, BOOKBURNERS is a weekly serial about the Vatican's anti-magic squad. They hunt down demons who've tucked themselves away inside objects, including old books (which the Bookburners actually store safely instead of burning).

Since complexity makes everything more interesting, not everyone on the team is as anti-magic as they might be. Their archivist, Asanti, believes magic is a tool rather than an innately evil force, and she's keen to explore it in more depth. Trouble is, the Vatican shut down their magical research & development department centuries ago after a disaster so shrouded in mystery that no one knows anything about it.

This episode sees Our Heroes venture into the R&D team's long-abandoned facility on a fact-finding mission. It's a real down-the-rabbit-hole situation, replete with forcible separations, ink golems, mechanical spiders, spaces that refuse to obey the laws of physics, and a puzzle involving an ancient and famous piece of magic.

It's fitting that Andrea Phillips, who joined the writers' room this season, penned this episode. Phillips is a transmedia game designer who first came to my attention via THE DARING ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN LUCY SMOKEHEART, so she knows from puzzles and serials alike. She sets the team a challenge that demands they draw on everything they've learned. It's both entertaining and creepy.

I'm also glad to see Sal and Grace working on their friendship. Hurray for female friendships in fiction!

The whole thing breeds many more questions, as any good serial installment should. Bring on Episode Three.

Murchie stands on a back step, eager to come in. Inside, a pale hand holds a white Kobo with The Witch Who Came In From the Cold's cover on its screen. The cover features a white woman with long, wavy hair superimposed over the silhouette of a white man in 1970s garb.

Awkward, last minute picture alert. I caught Murchie hanging around on the back step and thought it'd be super cute if I could get an indoor/outdoor picture of him asking to come in while I held up THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. Unfortunately, Murchie stepped up close to the door the moment he saw me, and I ran into technical difficulties when I tried to take a few more pictures entirely inside. Sigh.

Anyways, Sunday Readathon Selection #2 was another Serial Box publication: the first season of THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. I'm reading this one as an omnibus for a spotlight post I've been working on, and I'm having as good a time with it as I did with BOOKBURNERS S1 and TREMONTAINE S1. It's set in early 1970s Prague, all full of magic and spies and secrets.

As I write this, I'm three episodes in and both eager for more and happy I can draw it out a bit for maximum effect. That's the nicest thing about serials, really. Even when you have the omnibus, you can easily leave a couple of days between each episode if there are other demands on your time.

Murchie lies on his fuzzy pillow. His head is twisted to look at something off to the right, effectively putting him in profile. Beside him is a white Kobo with Shadow Blade's gold-toned cover on its screen. The cover features a leather-clad black woman with a silver dagger on her hip. The top of the cover cuts off her eyes. Behind her is a large pyramid.

I finally found some proper UF with Sunday Readathon Selection #3, Seressia Glass's SHADOW BLADE. In fact, I initially worried it was too UF for me. The heroine has a power that sets her apart from humanity. She works for a large and ancient magical organization with whom she has a Complicated Relationship. You'll never guess what happens to her mentor. (Damn, he does die horribly. How'd you know?) And of course, there's a seemingly evil dude we all know she's gonna fall hard for.

Basically, it's trope central. And while I have a lot of fun with, say, the tropes present in most of my favourite TV shows and comics, I don't read much UF because these particular tropes rarely hook me the way their wielders intend them to. They're the UF version of secondary world fantasy's Pig Boy on a Lengthy Quest for a Stupendous And Magical Thingy, Archetypal Allies in tow.

Ie, they're played out.

I stuck with SHADOW BLADE, though, because I liked the prose, I liked the protagonist, I liked the seemingly evil dude I knew she was gonna fall hard for, I liked the Egyptian mythology behind it all, and I liked the diversity. And ultimately, I think I'd have liked the book--except I ran into a busy couple of days where I couldn't squeeze in any prose, and in that time I lost both the thread and my unexpected UF craving. Sigh.

Maybe I'll try again someday.

The tips of the fingers of a left hand hover above a white Kobo with an issue of Uncanny X-Men on its screen. The nails are lacquered shimmering royal blue. The comic's cover features two groups of superheroes rushing towards one another from opposite sides of a pale purple plain.

I long ago resolved not to make Murchie pose with every single issue I read, but I photographed Sunday Readathon Selection #4 with my newly-lacquered nails and figured I'd share it here, too.

I've been working my way through UNCANNY X-MEN for the last several months, at a much slower pace than I'd like due to pre-2000s comics being densely packed with dialogue and exposition. (Sigh.) I'm fast approaching the point where my Marvel Unlimited subscription1 expires, though, so I'm making a strong charge towards the finish line.

If I can read at least four issues a day, every day, I'll make it. That's a big if, but I am having fun with the series as of the late 80s and I managed to read enough this week to give myself a bit of a buffer. As I write this, I've passed #225 and am chugging along towards #250.

I've had a surprisingly good time writing about the series lately, too. You can find my readthrough posts under my X-Men tag, along with some of the x-stuff I wrote for My Year With Marvel.

Murchie folds his ears back as he stares at the camera straight on. He lies on a white surface with a trade paperback copy of Superboy Volume One in front of him. Its cover features a dark-haired white boy surrounded by wires and glowing red things, including an S chest plate.

Then Murchie got really frickin' grumpy and I decided to cool it with the pictures.

I haven't written a whole lot about my journey through the DC Universe, but I haven't given up on it either. This week's test subject was the first volume of Scott Lobdell and RB Silva's SUPERBOY. I liked it just fine, but it's reinforced my impression that the DC Universe doesn't have a lot of freestanding structures. There was enough on the page that I could follow along and enjoy it, but I also felt like I was missing out on things established in other books and in the character's pre-New-52 existence.

Next week: Tiffany Reisz! Benjamin Alire Sáenz! Probably Lucy Knisley, too. Hopefully some Intisar Khanani and/or Delilah S. Dawson, mood permitting.

  1. The Canadian dollar took a hit this week account of Brexit, so it's looking less and less like I'll be able to justify keeping Marvel Unlimited. I love it so much, but it's edging up on $100 a year with the current exchange rate and the inevitable foreign currency fee my credit card'll ding me with. That's a lot of money to me. I need a Mysterious Benefactor, or perhaps an extremely wealthy and recently deceased aunt I've never met who nonetheless has decided to remember me in her will.


  1. I hope the dollar has a turn around soon! I like Marvel Unlimited and Audible and I use both of them a lot!

  2. I consider that your inside/outside picture of Murchie is a success, even if it is not exactly what you wanted to be. It isn't your fault Murchie became ever more zealous in his efforts to be near you. :p