The Virgin Suicides just like Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's pleasantly surprised me. I have seen the film many years ago and I remember the feeling of nostalgia settling in after the film has ended. (I think Josh Hartnett's dreamy eyes played a part in it. ;) ) I found the book does the same. A well-constructed storytelling draws you into the adolescent impressionable world - dealing with growing up, falling in love and dying. The novel doesn't answer questions. Instead, the novel makes you want to cross the street from the boys' spying place to the Lisbons' house, knock on the door and ask, 'What is happening inside?'
The story is a reminisce of a grown man and is told from the collective first-person of teen-aged boys (I think there are 7 of them, I tried to count) who are obsessed with the enigmatic Lisbon sisters: Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux and Cecilia. Cecilia is the first one to attempt and complete suicide setting in motion series of various responses from neighbours and schoolmates. Her suicide stirs up the sleepy neighbourhood, confronts them and makes them deal with emotions and feelings that are suppressed due to being unacceptable in social circles. While the remaining sisters are attempting to move on with their lives - they too are confronted with social pressure and parental restriction. How do they escape?
The novel's narrative is stylistically flowing. This uncomplicated language adds to the emptiness of the beautiful world around when dealing with macabre events. The novel does not claim to be omniscient, but its memories are fragile just like the sisters.
One can discuss and draw so many different issues and themes from the novel that I think it would be perfect for any literary essay. One thing did surprise me that at the end, after having walked the reader through the story, the author calls the act of suicide "simple selfishness". My understanding that even as an adult, the narrator is still dealing with personal guilt and consciousness.
Brilliant read. A must.
All Hail Megatron volumes one and two are made up of the main storyline: a twelve issue miniseries that has an additional four issues split up into two stories each. There are eight codas, short stories about particular characters.
All Hail Megatron is fantastic. It's what would happen if Megatron went all out against Earth: how would the humans, the Autobots and the other Decepticons respond? There are some absolutely brilliant and chilling moments; all of them are some damn fine character work. There is a conversation between Sunstreaker and Ironhide that uses a conversation that Sunstreaker had in the past that is a particular twist of the knife. And the way that Megatron manipulates Starscream is not only brilliant, but chilling and even painful: Starscream is cut down even when Megatron gives him what on the surface appear to be compliments. (I'm still trying to figure out if he meant to manipulate Starscream in a certain way, but that would mean Megatron would have to have known something would happen that took him by surprise. I have no doubt that Megatron was not simply complimenting Starscream, but manipulating him in some way; Starscream may be an evil bastard, but it's really sad how much flat out abuse he takes from Megatron.)
It's a little like watching a train wreck: a scripted train wreck, but... Not in that this book is so bad, more like things get worse and worse for most everyone and you still can't look away. It's all so damn compelling. And I'm not sure I can separate plot from the character work here. The character work, and the plot, don't work that way in this case; the plot is built around and upon what the characters do. Furthermore, whenever I try to pin down the plot for this review, it ends up a little like: Megatron tries to take over the world and blows up a lot of shit. There's a struggle for power amongst other Decepticons, while the humans and even Autobots, try to save the Earth. It's... not really that compelling. The truth is that the plot is interesting because of the character motivation. And here's why I wanted to reread all of Phase 1, even the not-so-great things. Why people do what they do? That's just not as meaningful without knowing the background.
This is a bit of a slow-burn character work wise, but very quickly paced as far as action. It's also, interestingly enough, a year after the last Transformers mini-series. What I'm trying to say? This series is not only well worth a read, but it's worth wading through some less interesting storylines to get the full impact of this.
Now for the reviews of the Codas:
1. Old Ways
Ironhide wants to leave the Autobots, or at least the war, for a while. Optimus Prime outmaneuvers him. This leaves me uneasy, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. There's a lot of talk in this continuity about what separates the Autobots from the Decepticons, and a lot of bots come to the conclusion that it's not much. This is a small moment in which Prime says he'll let Ironhide go if he wants - and then Prime really talks him into staying. Ironhide jokes about being outwitted by his protege, but there's no talk about what would benefit Ironhide. There's a lot of mention about the cause, and Prime, being better off with Ironhide there, but nothing about what's best for Ironhide.
So, this doesn't say it out loud, doesn't even whisper it, but given everything else about this - in Phase 1 and Phase 2 - is talking Ironhide into something that may be best for the cause, but not for his own mental health, all that different from Megatron talking people into becoming Decepticons?
It's even more haunting because this is played off as true friendship, but the lack of concern for Ironhide bothers me. Him saying 'I want out' and then being talked back in feels much more manipulative for the lack of Prime looking at it from his side. If it's a case of 'everyone trusts Prime to know what's best, and plays it off as him doing what's best for everyone', then I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this scenario as written - or that I want to be.
Of course, if I'm misreading this and it was supposed to be wink, wink, all in good fun, that's fine. But I think that even unintentionally, this short story has a lot to say about this particular continuity that other writers picked up on later.
2. Uneasy Lies the Head
Absolutely chilling story about Starscream. How does he maintain control of the Decepticons when the shadow of Megatron falls upon them all? And if he does, is it worth the cost?
On this reread, I'm finding I love Starscream more and more: he tries so damn hard, and gets so much shit for it. No wonder he turned into a manipulative little bastard. He just can't get taken seriously otherwise.
The saddest, and most deeply felt, of the codas for me. Sunstreaker thinks back to what happened to him, why he turned out the way he did in the end, and what it means for everyone - especially Sunstreaker himself.
I didn't like Sunstreaker much first reads. This time, though, I see him as the tragic character he was, right from the beginning. Just a beautiful, heartbreaking, and all too appropriate tribute to what he's been through.
A Cyclonus and Galvatron and Scourge story. I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I love Cyclonus in Phase 2. I found it boring and unnecessary instead.
5. Everything In Its Right Place
This story was actually great at the end. Prowl's story showed just what an ice cold bastard he could be - but I really love him that way. I knew he could do this, worse than this, but I still found this story unsettling in all the right ways.
While the payoffs were there, I also felt like it took way too long to get there, and that a lot of the text was just filling space. This could have been done as effectively - possibly even more effectively - if this was shorter. I say more effectively because I feel like the text droned on and on and took away from the main points of this story.
6. Lost and Found
Another chilling look at what this war does to Perceptor. It ties into a line in the main storyline and I found this compelling, and paced just perfectly. It wouldn't seem like it, but one reaction at the end was the real gut-punch to me, because it enabled Perceptor's new, more cynical persona.
7. Man of Steel
A Spike Witwicky story. That ending! I'd feel worse for him than I do, but he's kind of an asshole to all the bots at the end. Fuck him. But really, this is still a clever story about him and how the humans react to Megatron.
Bumblebee's storyline. The ending, how it's inevitable that he puts other people's lives above his own, and the recognition of that? It made me go 'aw' and reminded me of why I have a massive crush on him.
So, yeah, overall, this is truly excellent. Even the codas? The excellence outweighs the blah codas. So I love this whole thing, really.