#FridayReads for 7/24

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The Hidden Girl

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Justin: Hannah desperately wants a child, so much so that she convinces her musician husband, Will, that they should leave London for rural Suffolk and renovate an old Victorian manor in order to impress the inspectors from the adoption agency. It’s a well-worn trope for a house to represent the family that lives inside it, and Tornley Hall is no different. The house, like Hannah and Will’s relationship, is in need of major repairs, and Hannah’s obsession with restoring Tornley mirrors her deeper desire to start a happy family. Soon, though, Hannah’s country idyll starts unraveling: there are rooms that can’t – or shouldn’t – be unlocked, an overgrown garden that rustles in the night, the smell of gasoline, and the creeping suspicion that Hannah’s not alone in her new home.

One of Millar’s great gifts is making you constantly question what kind of story you’re reading – Is this actually a ghost story? Or are the eccentric villagers trying to scare Hannah off, Scooby Doo-style? Or are we simply watching one woman’s harrowing psychological collapse? At various times, all of these seem equally plausible, and it’s that uncertainty that propels you through.

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall

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Alex: Will Chancellor’s expansive, electric debut is, at its essence, a postmodern retelling of the Odyssey. If that seems like an ambitious gamble for a new author—to place your work alongside that of Homer and Joyce—well, yes. It is.

Brave Man is primarily concerned with Owen Burr, a Stanford senior who loses an eye during a water polo game and subsequently decides to drop out, move to Europe, and become an artist. His father, a bumbling classics professor, embarks on a lecture tour across Europe hoping to locate Owen. While that covers the majority of the plot of this globe-hopping tale, it doesn’t begin to touch on the tapestry of references overlaying it. To wit, Chancellor expends considerable time covering: the Berlin art scene; every aspect of classical mythology; current trends in psychology; the absurdities and eccentricities of academia; postmodern philosophical theories; and water polo. There’s even a cameo from Jean Baudrillard. While all the clever references can become a bit overwhelming, the quiet devotion of the Burr’s relationship grounds the novel’s emotional center, lending the book a gravity around which the academic references and highly topical characters can orbit. An ambitious debut, definitely. But it's also quite the introduction.

Reboot

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Ashley: Zombies normally aren’t my thing. Just watching my boyfriend play The Walking Dead video game has induced nightmares and much emotional distress. But in Reboot, the zombies have been rebranded as, well, Reboots: undead beings who display a weird immunity to an otherwise devastating virus and who become super-soldier slaves for the still-living. The longer a Reboot was dead, the stronger and less weighed down by those crappy things humans call “feelings” they are. It's one of the more intriguing starts to a dystopian series I've encountered in a long time.

Though the premise is definitely compelling, I’m way more into Reboot’s true speciality: a great opposites attract romance. As you might expect, the protagonist, Wren, is the most-dead (and deadly) Reboot: she died for a whooping 178 minutes before reanimating, and after five years as a Reboot, has the reputation of being a cold, calculating killer. Now she’s training a dude who died for a measly 22 minutes. He smiles a lot, which unnerves Wren but also make her feel those pesky feeling things. My fangirl heart simultaneously cannot take this cuteness and also needs way more of this cuteness. Luckily, the sequel, Rebel, recently dropped on Scribd to satisfy all my violently cute needs.

Young Inhumans

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Joey: The story could be totally pedestrian in another circumstance—five young students are sent on an exchange program to learn about a culture rather different from their own. Only here, these five students are Inhumans: genetically modified beings imbued with unique super powers. Their home is not simply some foreign country, but a technologically advanced society on the Moon. They’ve been sent to Earth on a goodwill mission to help broker peace between the Earth and the Moon.

Authors Sean McKeever and Robert Teranishi could easily have relied upon flashy, super-powered action to drive the story, and there is a good deal of it. But the battles are secondary, if that. What really makes the story stand out is the deep exploration of what it means to be human, seen through the lens of those who are distinctly not. The Inhumans experience racism and classism, love and lust, manipulation and power plays, and even lessons in personal finance. We’re granted a deep understanding of the personalities of the five young men and women trying to fit in on a strange world. It’s a careful blend of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, a coming of age tale, a reality show, and a story of subterfuge and political intrigue all wrapped into one. This comic is a clever way of exploring one of humanity’s oldest and greatest failings—our innate fear of that which we do not understand.