Paper Girls vol.1, by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson

Paper Girls vol. 1 Book Cover Paper Girls vol. 1
Paper Girls #1-5
Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang (Illustrator), Matthew Wilson (Illustrator)
Graphic novel, science fiction
Image comics
April 5 2016

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

Because I, like apparently everyone else in the world, have loved Saga so much, I pay attention when Brian K. Vaughan puts his name on stuff. Like Paper girlsIt has a blurb that makes it sound a little like a Spielberg-y, Stand by me-ish coming of age story, featuring a group of tween girls, fully equipped with strengtheners like suburbia and Halloween  and it's all just pretty awesome.

And that's before we even get to the weird and crazy bits of it.

“Wait, you’re mac? As in, MacKenzie?”

“So what?”

“You were the first. The first paperboy around here who wasn’t a… you know.”

Granted, on Halloween, you expect people to look and act a bit odd.  But everybody disappearing is a big trick to pull, isn't it?

...And that thing looks an awful lot like a pterodactyl.

Um... Cyborgs? Futuristic teenage cyborgs?

Yeah, to be honest, as I got further into this volume, I felt like I had no idea what was going on (but I liked it).  It ends on a big, unresolved cliffhanger, which is a little irritating, but as this is not a "series, book 1" but rather the collected first five issues of an ongoing story, that's... acceptable and forgiven.   All the weird piles on top of this 80ies-tweens-against-evil setup, which I adore, and especially when the tweens in question happen to be girls, because that's still unusual. (The only sort-of classic of the genre I can think of is the film Now and then, which is often described as "the girly Stand by me", though it completely lacks the supernatural bits. It tries to make up for it by starring Christina Ricci, perhaps.)

The artwork is amazing, of course. The cover sends all the right signals:  This is what it looks like, we are channeling the eighties, we are sort of futuristic, we are girls who are tough cookies, you can't even guess what kind of events will be filling out these pages.

Eagerly awaiting the continuation of this, for sure.  It might actually become my first subscription on Comixology.  (Which, by the way, I adore, especially since I got a huge hi-res tablet. It has made graphic novel reading a big, beautiful, well-lit delight. A delight in which I do not have to change out of my jammies to acquire the new graphic novels I want to read. Win!)

I heavily recommend this - first and foremost to devotees of the tweens-against-evil trope,  also to people looking for new graphic novels in which diversity/inclusivity is a given and not an effort.   Go, read!

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox gambit Book Cover Ninefox gambit
The Machineries of Empire #1
Yoon Ha Lee
Science fiction
14 June 2016

I loved Ninefox gambitSo much that it has to be the first thing I say about it. Okay!

Here's the blurb:

When Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for her unconventional tactics, Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself, by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake: if the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.

As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

The novel starts by throwing you right into the deep end - which can be more than a bit overwhelming, because this world is dense with intriguing names for things and tech and concepts you don't know anything about yet.  I enjoy concept-candy myself, but I didn't really trust the book until Cheris very firmly took the stage.  Because, oh, yeah, while the book is dense with cool stuff, it still has room for excellent characters - much like Ann Leckie's Radchaai trilogy.

Of course, Cheris is not the sole protagonist - where she goes, General Jedao goes.  Jedao, who once went mad and massacred his own army. How could anyone calmly choose to preserve him as a weapon for future battles?  What did Cheris sign up for when she suggested he was the required weapon for the recapture of the Fortress of Scattered Needles?

If you're a fan of Ann Leckie, or Peter Watts-ian eeriness, you'll want to read this. And be so, so grateful that it says #1, indicating there will be more of this. I can't wait.