Book Review: The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain. Tor, 2019. 9781250209115. 167pp.

After thousands of years, Melek Ahmar, the Lord of Tuesday, Most August Rajah of the Djinn, awakens in his stone sarcophagus. The spells that kept him there have rotted, like most of the earth. He soon meets a Hume who refuses to tremble before him, a pistachio eating Gurkha named Bhan Gurung who lives in a hovel in the mountains, with enough tech to create a healthy microclimate around him. Ghurung tells the djinn of Kathmandu, whose citizens are now governed by an impartial AI named Karma. They set out for the city because Melek Ahmar needs worshipers and is determined to rule again.

Soon Melek Ahmar is trying to raise hell there, to have a little fun and get some respect. Gurung wants revenge, but that comes later. There’s a well-behaved sheriff in town, and he and his lover, a high ranking soldier, may be all that stand between Karma and the Lord of Tuesday. It’s hard to raise hell, even for a djinn, in a paradise where everyone can pretty much have what they want. Maybe things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem in Kathmandu, though.

Gurung is a hilariously deadpan man who stands out in his crowd of zeros — he not only has zero karma points, he’s removed the implants that allow him to be recognized as a citizen and to interact with the virtuality. Melek Ahmar is as full of himself and his power as he is with disdain for everyone else, and is constantly spouting insults and bragging. The sheriff is a puzzle, one of the only folks still determined to contribute to a society where no contribution is required.

This is a fun, very readable novella.

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Graphic Novel Review: Murder Falcon

Murder Falcon by Daniel Warren Johnson (writer, artist) and Mike Spicer (colorist). Image, 2019. 9781534312357. Collects #1-#8 and a bunch of covers, so it’s a good value at $19.99.

Giant monsters are attacking but don’t worry, Jake brought METAL (and his guitar). When Jake starts playing, a muscular cyborg bird, Murder Falcon, appears and saves the day. The harder Jake shreds, the stronger MF becomes.

If you need to know more than that, this book isn’t for you, though it’s worth noting that the art is fantastic, the writing is great, and there’s a lot of heart in this book. The monsters are amazing, too.

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Oh Josephine! by Jason

O Josephine! by Jason. Fantagraphics, 2019. 9781683962106. 174pp.

Another book full of deadpan, four-panel perfection from Norwegian cartoonist Jason. There are four graphic novellas in this book. The first, in which Jason walks Ireland’s Wicklow Way, includes absurd moments like when he gets lost and imagines Bono and others commenting on a news story about his death. Napoleon appears in one, and in another there’s a crime and a woman trying to choose a name for her baby. My favorite is the short, absurd biography of Leonard Cohen — I have no idea how much of it is true I didn’t expected it to make me laugh so much. Highly enjoyable.

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Graphic Novel Review: Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams. Abrams Comicarts, 2019. 9781419736742. 295pp.

Erin Williams wakes up, puts on her makeup, walks her dog, and takes the train to work. Some of the people she encounters are pleasant. One guy, a pain in the ass, takes the last window seat just to take it away from everyone else. Another reminds her of someone she took home when she had her period. A man in a blue suit keeps looking at her, making her feel both threatened and lonely. This makes her think about someone she met at her grandfather’s funeral, and when she finally saw him as a predator, she realized how desperately she wanted to be seen (and how he didn’t see her at all).

This is a compelling string of consciousness look at not just Williams’ commute, but her relationships and her daily fight for control of her body, both in public and private. It’s darkness, the discussions of rape and alcoholism, is balanced by her humor, honesty, and the spare, poetic way she leads the reader through her thoughts and experiences. It’s a hard book to describe or booktalk, but it’s worth picking up.

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Book Review: State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease by Haider Warraich

State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease by Haider Warraich. St. Martin’s Press, 2019. 9781250169709. 337pp with an index.

Cardiologist Warraich writes about the history of heart disease in an incredibly compelling way, weaving personal experiences with tales of the history of the science. This includes many stories of poor research, ineffective treatments, and sketches of cardiology’s most famous and infamous personalities.

My favorite parts in the book were about the importance of double blind studies, and how we as people are all apt to believe anecdotes without really looking into the details. He’s convinced me to look past the news stories I hear about medical treatments and to start looking for cold hard facts and citations. (I’m going to be even more of a a pain in the ass to my doctor from now on, basically. I’ll blame Dr. Warraich.)

Overall the book gives a great sense of how far the treatment of heart disease has come, with a nod to many of its problems and a dash of hope for the future. Dr. Warraich does this all without BS or trying to sell anything. I took comfort in his honesty even though many of his stories about patients end with their deaths.

(Is it a coincidence this is my Halloween book review? No. Now you know what terrifies me.)

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Graphic Novel Review: Simon & Louise by Max de Radiguès

Simon & Louise by Max de Radiguès. Translated by Aleshia Jensen. Conundrum Press, 2019. 9781772620351. 123pp.

It’s the end of the school year. Louise is heading for Montpellier for the summer, but Simon just got a phone so they should be able to stay in touch. Simon’s story: Soon after she leaves, Simon sees that Louise has updated her status to single. She says her dad says she’s too young to be in love, and that she’ll see him in September. Simon decides her dad can’t keep them apart, lies to his mom about going on a trip with a friend, and starts hitchhiking to Montpellier to find her. (Minor spoiler: his trip is a bit harrowing and doesn’t end well.) Switch Louise’s story: A friend of hers was the one who changed her status. She was momentarily annoyed, but then wasn’t. She goes on a date with a boy who seems nice, but then isn’t (and then totally stands up for herself).

I love the way both Simon and Louise have both good and bad experiences over the summer. Despite a rough breakup it manages to end on a friendly note. It’s worth reading (and trying to get teens to read). (Note this was originally published as two full-color graphic novels in France.)


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Graphic Novel Review: Fence Volume One. Written by CS Pacat, illustrated by Johanna The Mad

Fence Volume One. Written by CS Pacat, illustrated by Johanna The Mad, colors by Joana LaFuente. BOOM!, 2019. 9781684151929. Contains #1-#4.

Nicholas Cox faces Seiji Katayama in his first fencing meet, and everyone knows Cox is going to lose. (It’s not a surprise that he does, but there is a moment that hints at his potential.) Cox vows to defeat Katayama. Flash forward six months to Kings Row Boys School, where the two competitors are roommates. As the tournament to decide who makes the fencing team gets underway, the stakes are highest for Cox who has to make the team or lose his scholarship.

The best things about the book are its hilarious moments (my favorite being the background chatter when Cox says he’ll beat Katayama eventually — apparently he’s not the first to make such a vow) and the natural way it includes diverse characters. This is a strong opening for the series, and this volume was on the 2019 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

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Graphic Novel Review: Zenobia by Morten Dürr, illustrated by Lars Horneman

Zenobia by Morten Dürr, illustrated by Lars Horneman. Seven Stories Press, 2018. 9781609808730. 93pp.

In the opening pages of this graphic novel, a young Syrian refugee’s boat capsizes. Under the water she has flashbacks about her joyous life at home with her parents, and about the day after the war started that they didn’t come home. She dreams of Zenobia, the warrior queen of Syria, and of the day her uncle came to get her s they could flee their war-torn country.

It’s a quick, riveting read, and a book that’s nearly wordless. This is an affecting story that could find a home in any library.

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Graphic Novel Review: They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. Art by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, 2019. 208pp.

Takei’s memoir about being interned with his family as a young boy, during World War II, and its aftermath, opens with him and his brother being awoken by their parents and told to get dressed. Soldiers enforcing Executive Order 9066 have arrived to take them away. It’s upsetting and powerful. Flash forward to Takei’s TED talk in Kyoto in 2014, and then the story of his parents and his own birth, Japan’s unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor and the US reaction to it — a history lesson that includes includes “Lock up the Japs” as a popular political position. Most of the rest of the book tells the story of the Takei family’s forced relocations and incarceration beginning in Spring 1942 at Santa Anita Racetrack, Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, and Camp Tule Lake in northern California. The details about crowding and conditions are pitch perfect alongside with some funny moments of Takei and his siblings being kids and misbehaving and playing even in those difficult circumstances. I think kids will find these bits very readable, while I found myself identifying with his parents who were trying to do the best for their kids despite where they were. After WWII, they return to Los Angeles, and are forced to rebuild their lives while living on skid row. As Takei begins attending school he sees that racism against Japanese Americans continues (he has to deal with it in his classroom), and he comes to understand that the camps he lived in were like jail. A quick 30 pages at the end brings Takei’s story up to date as he begins acting and supporting civil rights, the government apology to Japanese Americans for their internment, and recent court cases that affect immigrants and those traveling to the US.

Worth noting: The art is black and white with digital textures, and the panel layouts are fairly simple. Along with the young Takei looking out from the cover, these work together to make this a book almost anyone will enjoy, though kids will take more of an interest in the pages about Takei’s incarceration as a young boy.

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