What I read this month

I’m home.

It doesn’t look like it yet–I’d say there’s a solid 85% of our stuff in the house that isn’t where it’s ultimately going to end up, which is making for a lot of chaos with pockets of usable space–but we’ll get there. And in the mean time, it’s still home, and there’s simply no beating that.

With the crunch to get everything moved in two big waves over the last couple of weeks, I haven’t had a ton of time to read, but I’ve still managed. I’ve been diligently ensuring I get in writing/creating and reading every single day for a few years running now, and I’m not going to get a little thing like the topsy-turvy, life-altering experience of moving change that.

Here’s what happened:

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) – Martha Wells
Second Coming, vol. 1 – Writer: Mark Russell, Art: Richard Pace, Colors: Andy Troy
Aru Shah and the End of Time – Roshani Chokshi

Started and stopped
Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox – Michael Buckley

Paper Girls, vol. 1 – Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Art: Cliff Chiang, Colors: Matt Wilson

I’m really enjoying Paper Girls so far. Which perhaps shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Its writer, Brian K. Vaughan, wrote my all-time favourite graphic novel series, Y: The Last Man. And there’s no sign of this story losing my interest, either.

Speaking of losing my interest, I realized something with Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox.

I’ve written before about quitting books I’m not enjoying. Finn made me realize one of the specific things that bumps me out of a story, though: Unrealistic aspects of a story that are supposed to be realistic.

To ‘splain:

Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox is a crazy adventure story about an everyday Earth kid who accidentally gets caught up with an intergalactic character and her robot. Light and fun and wacky.
But the set-up for when and where Finn discovers all that is that he’s in the school principal’s office again because the school bully keeps getting Finn to lash back and they both get in trouble for it. The principal, tired of seeing these boys repeatedly, says that by the end of the day they’ve either got to make up and be sincere friends or they’ll both be suspended.

Then he leaves the kids alone in his office to talk it out. And that’s when everything goes crazy and the titular lunchbox becomes the opening of a wormhole that parts of a space robot comes out of, and the office gets trashed. Parts of it are literally disintegrated.

Finn, understandably freaked out by all of this, runs out of school. Plenty more happens after that, but I wouldn’t know what, because I’d put it down and moved onto a different book at that point.

Here’s the thing I realized about myself: What bothers me isn’t the nutty intergalactic space stuff. I’m all for that. I’m looking instead at the set-up for how these kids are left together and can’t shake myself from the take that, C’mon, that wouldn’t actually happen.

Alien space rebel and robot sidekick? Sure. A wormhole machine that she uses as a last-ditch escape plan? Sure. A lunchbox on Earth being the opening to the wormhole leading to these characters meeting? Sure.

But the principal wouldn’t level an ultimatum like a bully and a victim had best become true friends. He wouldn’t leave them alone in his office. And there absolutely wouldn’t be screaming and shouting and lasers zapping and things getting disintegrated without someone sticking their head in to see what the hell was going on.

There’s something in my head like feeling that there should be, and it seems the writer wanted this, a realistic grounding in order to help make the fantastical nonsense really work. Like, all the space adventure crazy stuff doesn’t stand out to me as much of a Whoa, what’s this crazy stuff that’s happening?, when what it’s being compared to–what seems to be shooting for Finn’s realistic life–itself isn’t realistic. And so without that solid foundation (or at least what smacked of reaching for it), the stretch of the imagination to wrap my head around the space adventure feels far less engaging.

If you want to make a setting that’s pure fantasy or science fiction or a twist on our real world where XY and Z are simply the norm, I’m all for it. But there are certainly times when trying to offset the fantastical with straight-laced doesn’t work when the straight-laced ain’t so straight.

Or something? It’s a theory, anyway. And does explain a sometime tendency to watch or read a story that’s fantastical in some respects but then get thrown when the mundane stuff in the same story wouldn’t happen as portrayed.

Happy for any insight you have on that phenomenon. There’s probably a German term for it.

Anyway, it’s the last month of the year coming up, which will mean I’ll post what I read along with my favourite books of the year.