In September, I read three more InCryptid books by Seanan McGuire, and finished out the series so far. Other than that, I read a few graphic novels and listened to a short sci-fi novella.
This book is definitely a relic of its time. Wood liked to write sexy action comics for servicemen, so these stories originated in comics sent to soldiers. Wood had a great art style, all bullet-headed agents and voluptuous, leggy women. He had a talent for drawing both action scenes and cheesecake pinups, and he was also especially good and looks of existential horror, which pop up once or twice in this volume.
One of the tropes of this series is that all the women are beautiful and none of them keep on their clothes. A handful of the female characters (heroes and villains both) are seemingly always nude or only occasionally dressed in see-through clothing. When given the opportunity to disrobe, they do, and if they need to escape a villain’s clutches in the altogether, they make the best of it.
This would all be a bunch of absurd, sexploitational fun if not for the threats of rape and casual misogyny that crop up throughout. I liked the art and adventure enough that the occasional sour note didn’t ruin the book for me, but my rating definitely comes with a big asterisk.
Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
I think one of the biggest strengths of the InCryptid series is its ability to support switching viewpoint characters from volume to volume. These books exist in a shared world, but every Price sibling has a different perspective on life and a unique tone that comes along with it.
The whole series is funny, but the humor in each book comes at you from different angles. This book is the first of three focusing on Antimony Price, the youngest Price sibling, tasked with an important undercover mission after the world-changing events of the last book. She also ends up joining the circus.
One nice thing about Antimony’s story is that she gets a bit of new romance, which was missing from the last few books because Alex and Verity have more established relationships. It’s a fun time to mix romance and danger with death-defying feats in a carnival tent. I’ve already purchased the rest of the series so far, so it won’t be long before I’ve finished reading the remaining books.
REALLY LIKED IT
Imaginary Fiends by Tim Seeley, Stephen Molnar and Quinton Winter
In the world of this book, imaginary friends are real but are also trans-dimensional vampires that feed on fear, among other emotions. The main character, Melba Li, is a young woman committed to an insane asylum as a teenager after stabbing her best friend a dozen times because Polly Peachpit, her imaginary friend, told her to do it. The FBI recruits the now adult Melba to help solve a case that may involve another imaginary friend.
The art in this book is pretty great, and the story goes to some bizarre, oftentimes dark, places. I like the idea of someone who can only solve crimes with the help of a manipulative invisible monster. It’s an absurd trope, but it’s fun to see it play out in this scenario.
Unfortunately, I think this book was a casualty of DC shuttering Vertigo, and it seems unlikely the story will continue. At least the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and this story arc can easily stand alone even if there is plenty of potential for more in this world.
REALLY LIKED IT
Giselle and Beatrice by Benoît Feroumont
This is an odd book. The art is exaggerated and cartoonish, but the subject matter is fairly explicit. It’s about a woman named Beatrice, mistreated by her sexist cad of a boss, George, until she gets revenge with magic that turns him into a woman named Giselle. Oh, and Beatrice has a penis because she was partially transformed by the man who gave her the gender-swapping magic.
After George becomes Giselle, Beatrice forces herself on her and then makes Giselle clean her apartment as her live-in maid. Complicating things for Giselle is the fact that she has a thick accent and speaks in broken English, so she has a hard time explaining her predicament to anyone. As time passes, their relationship changes in unexpected ways.
I liked the art, and the story kind of reminds me of Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, but this is also a book about two reprehensible people. George was a scumbag, but Beatrice isn’t particularly likable once she gets her revenge, and Giselle soon becomes sympathetic.
Tricks For Free by Seanan McGuire
Antimony is on the run from the covenant as well as hiding from her family, so she goes to ground and goes undercover as an employee at LowryLand, a Disney-like theme park with equally soul-destroying working conditions.
It wouldn’t be an InCryptid novel if she wasn’t surrounded by cryptids and the supernatural. Her dead aunt Mary hangs around to make sure she’s safe, and her roommates are a sylph and a gorgon. She doesn’t have her mice or her boyfriend Sam, but plenty of weird stuff keeps happening around her no matter what she does and how much she tries to hide.
When Antimony runs afoul of magic users in the park, she jumps at the chance when one of them offers to teach her how to control her magic. Everything seems great until strange, unexplained accidents start happening around the park and Antimony decides to investigate even though it might blow her cover.
This was yet another highly enjoyable entry in the InCryptid series. I did get a little frustrated late in the book when it felt like the characters were constantly rushing into danger without much of a plan, but it wasn’t enough to kill my momentum. The ending sets up further complications that will surely pay off with dividends in the third Antimony book, That Ain’t Witchcraft.
REALLY LIKED IT
That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire
And now, after six InCryptid books in a row, I come to the end of the series so far. Book nine comes out in February of next year, and you can be sure that I’ll buy it day one. I enjoyed immersing myself in this world for the last two months.
I especially liked how Antimony’s books served as a trilogy within the larger series, building a story arc that resolved with a confrontation against the most significant and dangerous supernatural villain in the series so far, while also tying up one thread of the Price family’s fight against the Covenant, now personified in Leonard Cunningham.
My favorite part of this book comes during a climactic moment that I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that it was the only moment in the series so far that made me get a little misty-eyed.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay
I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews of Tremblay’s work, but this is the first of his stories that I’ve read, and although it was decent enough, it probably wasn’t the best introduction.
In it, an amnesiac wakes up in a strange facility and an unseen woman puts him through his paces. She prompts him to remember his past via mental and physical exercises. The tone is detached and a little unsettling, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that there is more going on than the main character first realizes.
This novella is part of a collection of thematically related short stories made available on Audible and Kindle for Prime and Kindle Unlimited users. It’s a fancy short story collection that you can download and read in any order. Even if this story wasn’t my bag, I plan on checking out the rest of the series.
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