Tear Tracks by Malka Ann Older
Published by Tor Books, 2015
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This short from Tor Books is about a mission to make contact – and attempt to draw up a peace treaty – with the first newly discovered alien race. It has many hallmarks of classic sci-fi, and is a quick, engaging read, but it’s the subtext that helps this one stand out – even if it does become a little heavy-handed by the end. Essentially, the story is a riff on the idea of what constitutes power, and where, as a society, we place credence. Chiefly, Older asks the reader to consider why we feel compelled to supress pain.
The lack of a proper denouement is interesting. It certainly left me wanting more, but I can’t quite decide if it did so in the good way or not. Still, I enjoyed the quieter, more contemplative approach to a sci-fi/first contact narrative, and would read more from the author.
You can read Tear Tracks for free online by clicking here.
Frida: The Story of Her Life by Vanna Vinci (translated from the Italian by Katharine Cofer)
Published by Prestel Publishing, 2017
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This graphic memoir of Frida Kahlo offers a particularly insightful look into life with chronic pain, and the transformative power of art. It’s very interestingly structured, both in its forgoing of traditional panels in favour of a freeform layout, and in its narrative framing, with the book presented as though a first-person discussion between Kahlo and Death. Having suffered many losses throughout her life, and flirted dangerously close to death many times herself, this has effective thematic resonance.
I appreciate that Vinci chose to present Kahlo as the complex being she was, rightfully celebrating her genius and magnetism, but refusing to shy away from her prejudices and infidelities. Vinci’s artwork is also perfectly suited to the task at hand, drawing clear inspiration from Kahlo’s work, and incorporating motifs that dominated her subject’s own style. It’s a great example of where the graphic memoir form can really enhance the material; the beautiful, vivid, sensual, and often surreal imagery adding an immersive quality while also paying additional homage to the life and work of a fascinating artist.
You can pick up a copy of Frida: The Story of Her Life by clicking here.