Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood
Published by Doubleday, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This collection of poetry is chiefly concerned with gendered violence and the various perils – both real and imagined – of existing as a woman. Candid and often narrative driven, Gatwood’s style feels like a blend of poetry and essay, with some excellent turns of phrase that punch you in the gut.
It may seem strange to complain about too much of a good thing, but the downside of the collection for me was the sheer length. Not only are individual pieces often longer than your typical poem, the selection as a whole is vast, which leaves the book feeling bloated. While a tight thematic focus is often to a poetry collection’s credit, in this case it leads to a feeling of re-treading the same ground. By the rules of diminished returns, the strongest pieces are swallowed up, losing some of their impact.
Still, Gatwood’s frank, contemporary approach to feminist writing will undoubtedly resonate with many. Her queer perspective and occasional experimentation with form make her a poet I would read again; only next time, I would hope for a more selective offering.
Plunge by Joe Hill & Stuart Immonen
Published by DC Comics, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This graphic novel is essentially a love letter to all things 80s horror, with particular references to The Thing and Aliens. In the wake of a tsunami, the wreck of a ship that disappeared 40 years ago begins to send out a distress signal for the first time. We follow the group assembled to investigate. As you’d expect, what they find is more than a little disturbing; the ship and its neighbouring island not quite as deserted as they first appeared.
There’s no denying the story takes some wild turns. Embracing the almost camp levels of drama makes for an enjoyable ride, however. The tone is reminiscent of the aforementioned sci-fi horror classics, which lends the whole thing an air of nostalgia, and I enjoyed the way it fully embraced some tropes of the genre while playfully subverting others.
There are some lapses in logic and moments of clunky dialogue, but these are made up for by memorable body horror and striking visuals. Indeed, Immonen’s art is excellent, the characters feeling distinct and expressive, and the horror sequences suitably unsettling.
Flawed but fun, this is sure to please those looking for a fresh take on old-school sci-fi chillers.