Review by: Mark Palm
In this time when social media is ascendant it’s hard to believe, but there was once a time when newspapers were everywhere. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a print reporter. Before radio and television the amount of power wielded by investigative print reporters was enormous. Even in those halcyon days however, there were stringers. Heaven knows there is plenty of fiction out there about star reporters, but Invisible City by Julia Dahl goes the other route, and gives us the low-down on what it’s like to be a stringer for a big, and probably struggling newspaper. There have been stringers, from Hunter Thompson to Mark Twain, who have found fame but in this book the story is about Rebekah Roberts, newly graduated from colleges and lucky to be working for the New York Tribune.
Most books about journalists fall in love with the cliché of the grizzled veteran, so it’s a pleasant change of pace to have a story about a young woman getting her feet wet in the rather tawdry world of the news business. Another pleasant surprise is that Rebekah is very much a human –scale character who gets her story with a mixture of guile tenacity and just plain hard work. It’s an interesting story to boot, about the mysterious death of an Hasidic woman. Rebekah has an edge here, because her mother was an orthodox Jewish woman, who left her not long after birth. Goodness knows being abandoned by your mother is never good, but Rebekah makes the most of her circumstances as she investigates not only the woman’s death but a ton of mysterious mitigating circumstances that are peculiar to the Hasidic world, the “invisible city” of the title.
It’s a harrowing story as well, dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse, societal pressure and mental illness. There are also links to Rebekah’s life as she meets a mysterious Orthodox policeman who know her mother, and tells Rebekah that she is still alive, which Rebekah did not know.
Ms. Dahl lets the story unfold gradually, and shows us more than she tells, in plain brunt prose. It’s also refreshing to see the Hasidic world portrayed fairly, and honestly, at least I think so. No one is a black villain and there are few shining white heroes either, but lots of solid if unspectacular characters. The only reason I didn’t rank this book bit higher is that Rebekah’s personal story, which emerges again and again at random intervals in this tale, isn’t nearly as interesting as the story she is following, so those pasts of the book seem to just drag the pace down a bit. Still it’s a good solid thriller with unique setting and characters and I look forward to what Ms. Dahl writes next.
Review by: Mark Palm
Once J.R.R. Tolkien talked about the suspension of disbelief in an essay called On Fairy Tales. He suggested, and it has pretty much become the gospel since then, that for readers to accept the implausible parts of a story that the rest should be grounded firmly in reality. In other words we believe in the wizards and the elves because of the hominess of the Shire.
There are supernatural elements galore in The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, so many that I won’t be able to catalog most of them in this review, but what makes it all work so well, is underneath it all is a world that is stick-stone-bone solid.
Set in England, around the middle of the nineteenth century The Oversight is the story of an organization called, shortly, the Oversight. It is made up of five individuals, Sara, Mr. Sharp. Cook, the Smith, and Hodge, who all have various supernatural abilities, and whose mission is to protect the vast majority of humanity from the sinister side of that unseen and unknown world. There is also a damsel in distress, Lucy Harker, a very evocative name, a travelling carnival, and more than a few villainous lawyers. It’s a wonderful cast, vivid and believable, from the heroes to villains and the just-plain folk on the sidelines.
The story, which starts with a kidnapped girl with a mysterious background, and unwinds through the history of the Oversight, to the latest attempt by dark forces to overthrow it, is thrilling and full of wonders; wonders that seem to give us just a glimpse of a world as diverse and varied as our own, but full of magic, both good and bad. The various plotlines, involving the Oversight, Lucy, the Templebane brothers and their sons, and various and sundry other characters, all unspool and interweave, but never become confusing or confused. He also has a deft hand with just when to switch from one part of the tale to another, leaving us hanging but not with the dread clichés of melodrama.
The framework of reality that supports all of the fantastical surface is what made this book exceptional for me. The bones of this story are gritty and real, but somehow also leave you with a glimpse of a world even stranger and more mysterious that the one that takes place on the surface. It’s a kind of quiet epiphany that most writers would love to accomplish, and few do; when prose, plot and character somehow come together to transcend the sum of the parts.
If it seems like I am gushing, I am. It’s not unfair to compare this novel to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and if you know my fondness for that novel you will know that it is no small praise. The Oversight is the first book in a trilogy, and I am looking forward to the next two novels with bated breath.
Review by: Brennan Palm
Winston Churchill once said Russia was a mystery wrapped in an enigma. If Winston Churchill wrote a review for this comic book the beginning would sound something like this, “This book is a train wreck, wrapped in an enigma.”
I would give you a half decent review instead of just making fun of this book, if I could. I would give you a basic storyline, anything that seems to be important but it’s impossible! The creators threw literally dozens of new characters and storylines into 50 or so pages of comic book, making it impossible to connect the dots and form one whole storyline, to borrow a good line from Saving Private Ryan “It’s like trying to find a (particular) needle in a haystack of needles!”
Basically all I can tell you is Superman and Wonder Women made the U.S government mad by rescuing a bunch of American hostages from terrorists? Everyone is mad at Batman for keeping an Achilles heel for every Justice League member, some unknown villain wants to kill Superman, and The JLA fights the JL at the end, that and there is something to do with Tarot cards, Cyborgs new upgrade and, SHAZAM ( an instant deterrent for any true comic book fan).
I’m going to leave the creators names out for this one (god bless them they must be the sickest men in the world.) I think the reason the book is so scrambled might actually be that the men up top tried to make them do much in too small a package. After this I may only read Batman, Marvel, and Darkhorse comics. (I already didn’t like DC but this may have pushed me over the edge to full-fledged hater-dom) One-star.