Monday, September 7, 2015

A Book I Would Wish on My Worst Enemy

Book: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate Series #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Rating: Terrible

Gail Carriger's Soulless follows heroine Alexia Tarabotti, a part-Italian, literally soulless spinster living in Victorian London, a society in this book that has fully integrated supernatural beings, such as werewolves and vampires. Being soulless, Alexia has the ability to neutralize supernatural powers by mere touch. The story starts out with Alexia accidentally killing a vampire with her parasol, which sets in motion an investigation of conspiracy. In the meantime, Alexia has Lord Maccon to deal with, a handsome werewolf who can cause quite a scandal...

You could say this book is a combination of Pride and Prejudice and Twilight, if Pride and Prejudice had no substance or wit to it. I didn't have high expectations for this book. I went in for a light, fun read; so, my expectations were actually pretty low. Somehow, Soulless failed to surpass my already low expectations. The premise seemed interesting enough, but the book was so poorly executed. This book is way, way too long, and as a result, it's slow and boring. The author was so obviously trying to copy Jane Austen's writing style, but it just didn't work. Her writing style was inconsistent, which distracted from the actual plot. Carriger forgoes a more detailed look at the complicated society she has dreamed up and instead spends over half the novel on Alexia and Lord Maccon's romance, filling pages upon pages with insipid and cliched dialogue. We get it; they have chemistry.  

The dialogue and romance was cheesy and boring, and the humor not-so-humorous. The characters were more like caricatures, with none of Carriger's depictions scraping beneath the surface. Each character could be described by a handful of words. This is especially seen in her gross characterization of Lord Akeldama, a flamboyant gossipy vampire who is best friends with Alexia. 

The author  relies on cringe-worthy tropes: Heroine is convinced she is unnattractive, despite being beautiful and having a great body. She and her love interest (who happens to be a well-sought after, handsome, wild man - well, werewolf, in power) bicker with each other like an old, married couple and assert their dislike for each other, despite being in love with each other. Both heroine and love interest are stubborn and assertive.

Make it stop. 

I am not a fan of paranormal romance, but I believe that any book, no matter what genre, should be thoughtfully and carefully written and should say something of value. Soulless is neither well-written nor  well-developed enough to contribute anything to its genre. I do not believe Carriger spent enough time developing her characters, plot, or world. Had she done so, the book would have been more concise, less repetitive, and more developed. It could even have been an enjoyable read. 

Despite struggling to finish this book, I did learn something about myself while reading it: I have the potential to be very vindictive. This book was painful to read, but I endured it just so I could write this review. I also couldn't help but think this book would be a good way to torture someone, someone I really, really disliked. 

The Art of Superficiality: Helter-Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki

"A laugh and a scream are very similar." 
Rating: Amazing!

Look at the woman above. Something is just not quite right. And it isn't the smudged mascara under her eye (or is that a bruise?).

Kyoko Okazaki's Helter-Skelter follows Liliko, a beautiful, high-profile model who becomes jaded emotionally disturbed when faced with competition from a younger model and with the deterioration of her own body.

This is my second time reading this manga, and I love it even more. This manga expertly tells the story of Liliko's gradual descent into depression, apathy, and madness. To say the artwork is stunning would be inaccurate and reductive. The artwork can be unpolished, disgusting, terrifying, and erotic, embodying the manga's haunting opening sentence: "A laugh and a scream can sound the same." Kyoko Okazaki captures the shallow world in which Liliko lives, focusing in on celebrity culture and the pressure to be "beautiful," that is, slender and proportional. Pressures to be "beautiful" and popular are omnipresent in Helter-Skelter, in the end taking a toll on Liliko's mental and emotional stability and making her shallow, selfish, sadistic, sad, and lonely. Basically, an awful human being. But one must consider how everyone contributes to her deterioration. Those who built her - "Mama" who manages her career and her plastic surgeons who literally build her a new body - and those who consumed her image. The word "image" here is very important as everything Liliko presents to the world is fake - her face, body, and emotions. Apathy, jealousy, and weariness, gnaw at Liliko until she decides to simply "give the people what they want," becoming a vacant shell - all exterior, all meaningless. This manga is haunting.