A Quick Review Of Victor LaValle’s Destroyer

The legacy of Frankenstein’s monster collides with the sociopolitical tensions of the present-day United States.

There is something mesmerizing in a retelling that captures the essences of an original property while elevating it to the modern zeitgeist. Victor LaValle’s Destroyer, a graphic novel written in collaboration with illustrator Dietrich Smith, is such a piece.

Following Dr. barker, a brilliant scientist propelled forward by the loss of her son Akai to police violence, Destroyer is an examination of the grief that white supremacy creates, and the turmoil that is in turn born from that grief. It is, when applied, a force to be reckoned with, and when left to fester it is unpredictable and destructive—but rarely is the harm ever truly healed or the source eliminated. Through the lens of Frankenstein, Destroyer unmakes the original Frankenstein mythos and reevaluates it in a way that makes creation stem less from individual hubris and something more akin to desperation. When everything that Dr. Barker loves is dismantled, she takes it in her own hands to rebuild, reclaim, and ultimately repurpose her suffering.

Watching Dr. Barker’s descent into her grief (because I can’t justifiably call her reaction to her son’s death madness) felt almost indecently voyeuristic, which could be a commentary in and of itself about how we treat Black trauma. While Dr. Barker is not a hero, neither is she the villain. She, like so many, are the product of a violent system. And whether or not you agree with how she reacted to that system, it’s hard to say that her reaction was wrong.

The depth of Destroyer is potentially underpinned by the length of the series, which is six issues (or the chapters that make up the full bind up of the graphic novel.) This could have been mitigated by the exclusion of Frankenstein’s original monster ever appearing on page; Dr. Barker’s story and its reflection on anti-Blackness in America certainly could have carried those pages.

The Epilogue

The world is, as always, a tumultuous place. While we escape into books in our downtime, we should always be mindful of what’s going on in our uptime. Nigeria has been going through a multi-decade crisis with SARS, a special police force that abuses its power by terrorizing the people of Nigeria. Being based in America, it’s imperative that we not ignore global police-based injustices, especially ones born from colonialism and imperialism that ours and other governments have been a part of. Below I have links where you can learn more, find information on donations, and additional sources from those living in Nigeria.

End SARS Carrd
Contextual Primer on the Youth-led Anti-Police Movement in Nigeria
Nigerians to Keep up #EndSars Pressure
Young People are Using Social Media to Drive Nationwide Protests Against Police Brutality
End SARS Talk with the Black Prose Book Club and Noria from Chronicles of Noria

Support the Blog

Enjoying little book chats like this? Consider supporting this and future reviews here at Fine Point Scribbles by dropping me a coffee over on my Ko-Fi. If free books are more your gig, you can sign up to two free months of Scribd and in turn get access to hundreds of fantastic titles. I get a nice kick-back of a month free myself when you join.

A Quick Review of Blood is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon

Reading Rivers Solomon is a visceral experience—one that I’m still reeling from having read their novella The Deep and their short story Prudent Girls for the Decameron Project.

So it’s no surprise upon seeing they’ve written horror alongside their impressive SFF track record, I immediately gravitated toward Blood is Another Word for Hunger, a short story that trails in the aftermath of Sully’s murder of her mistress and her mistress’ children when they learn of her master’s death. From murder comes new life, quite literally when Sully rapidly becomes pregnant and subsequently gives birth, a new being reborn for every person she’s killed and will come to kill.

She wished she missed them. She wished at the very least she felt sadness or guilt. But all she felt was the same old rage. It burned her up, leaving her numb, nerves charred. She’d done the thing she’d always dreamt of doing, and now what? Perhaps now it was her turn to die.

Blood is Another Word for Hunger, Rivers Solomon

Blood is Another Word for Hunger feels like an apt description for Sully’s circumstances. A hunger for freedom, for revenge—a hunger that can only be sated in bloodletting. Yet hunger isn’t a feeling sated for long. It comes back, a hollow ache and no matter how much Sully wants the satisfaction of her revenge, she can’t feel it.

Revenge is often never as fulfilling as we think it will be, because the harm that’s been done isn’t fixed by that revenge. As a reader, you’re fixated on the supposed satisfaction of witnessing slavers gain their comeuppance, while also having to experience through Sully the visceral reality that healing is never truly so straight forward. The fact that Rivers Solomon was so deftly capable of examining the complexity of trauma, the desire for violence and retribution as a response to it, and the ongoing process of closing the wounds left over, is a testament to Solomon’s skills as a story teller and their unique way of exposing the harshness of the human condition.

The brilliant and perhaps beautiful thing of Blood is Another Word for Hunger is the way in which Sully finally does get that release she so desperately hungers for. Excising the mechanism of her revenge in a literal and metaphorical act of rebirth, barring spoilers, was one of the single most intense scenes I’ve read from Solomon.

Read for free on Tor.com | Add to TheStoryGraph | Add on Goodreads

The Epilogue

The world is, as always, a tumultuous place. While we escape into books in our downtime, we should always be mindful of what’s going on in our uptime. Nigeria has been going through a multi-decade crisis with SARS, a special police force that abuses its power by terrorizing the people of Nigeria. Being based in America, it’s imperative that we not ignore global police-based injustices, especially ones born from colonialism and imperialism that ours and other governments have been a part of. Below I have links where you can learn more, find information on donations, and additional sources from those living in Nigeria.

End SARS Carrd
Contextual Primer on the Youth-led Anti-Police Movement in Nigeria
Nigerians to Keep up #EndSars Pressure
Young People are Using Social Media to Drive Nationwide Protests Against Police Brutality
End SARS Talk with the Black Prose Book Club and Noria from Chronicles of Noria

Support the Blog

Enjoying little book chats like this? Consider supporting this and future reviews here at Fine Point Scribbles by dropping me a coffee over on my Ko-Fi. If free books are more your gig, you can sign up to two free months of Scribd and in turn get access to hundreds of fantastic titles. I get a nice kick-back of a month free myself when you join.

Love is a Quiet Power | A Review of Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

All the things the boy will do, I promise to do better. In all the ways he can love you, I promise to love you better.

Ijeoma is eleven years old when the Nigerian Civil War breaks out. Eleven, when her father dies in the subsequent bombings that ravage her Igbo village. Eleven, when her mother sends her away to live with a grammar school teacher and his barren wife—whether for Ijeoma’s safety or out of the grief her mother has yet to cope with, Ijeoma herself cannot say. And she is eleven, living at the grammar school teacher’s, cleaning up and tending his home, when Ijeoma first finds love in the young Hausa girl that comes to live with them.

Under the Udala Trees is a subtle, slow burn that pays off emotionally in every conceivable way. From the onset of the Nigerian Civil War to Under the Udala Trees’ quiet and satisfying ending, we are dropped into and left to ruminate on Ijeoma’s world where the expectations of an only child—a girl child, at that—are monumental and the future she sees for herself as an independent woman freely living with her female lover, is inherently antithetical to how those around her would see her: dutiful student, dutiful daughter, dutiful Christian, dutifully working her way to being an equally dutiful wife. The constant push and pull of these warring ideas creates a beautifully, sometimes painfully, layered experience.

Continue reading “Love is a Quiet Power | A Review of Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta”

Across the Stars and Back Again | A Review of Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin

Are you not magnificent? Or you will be, one day. But first, you must earn your beauty.

N.K. Jemisin’s entry into the Forward Series—a series of short stories featuring noted SFF authors—is, in a word, masterful, seeking to answer the titillating question of what would happen if Earth got to the point that it was truly uninhabitable? If, in a last-ditch effort to save humanity, the elite, the best, left, taking themselves to the stars to start anew?

This premise is not one that is new in speculative fiction. It is not even outside the realm of reality, when we have men like Elon Musk existing in our timeline, and the notion of colonizing nearby planets like Mars isn’t entirely novel. Space is, after all, the final frontier, and humanity is ever seeking to expand beyond the natural boundaries given to it.

Continue reading “Across the Stars and Back Again | A Review of Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin”

Review | The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze, the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

If there’s ever a book that combines phenomenal world building, poignant character development and characters, and untouchable commentary that spans systems of oppression, racism, power imbalances, and climate decline, it’s The Fifth Season. N.K. Jeminisin is a veritable powerhouse of a writer. Her prose is as tight and beautiful as her story is mesmerizing.

It’s gritty. It’s dark. But in terms of how well a fantasy can take something that is truly as dark as systematic oppression and slavery and adequately handle its complexities and nuances, that grittiness and darkness is every bit earned and used to its fullest potential. Parts of this book made me put it down, because for as unique and utterly alien the world of the Stillness is, it is so harrowingly real that it’s hard not to react viscerally when reading. This wasn’t to The Fifth Season’s detriment; I think the point was to react, and to react deeply.

Let’s get into it.

Continue reading “Review | The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin”

I Have Thoughts… | Her Infernal Descent Review

In my quest to read more graphic novels, I was really excited to get my hands on Her Infernal Descent, a modernized retelling of the Divine Comedy. Unfortunately, my excitement for the novel started and ended with the premise.

Let’s get into it.

The Run Down

Her Infernal Descent follows mother and wife, Lynn, after the accidental deaths of her husband and children. Visited in the depths of depression by the spirit of William Blake—a call back to Dante’s visitation and guidance by the poet Virgil—Lynn descends through the layers of hell on a quest to retrieve her family’s souls. She encounters the prolific Judge K who turns out to be Franz Kafka, the great beast Cerberus with five heads instead of three, and the lord of hell himself along the way in her journey to bring her family back.

Continue reading “I Have Thoughts… | Her Infernal Descent Review”

Drops of Cerulean | Review & Author Interview

There’s something to say about a piece of literature that pulls every emotion out of you over the course of reading. I’ve only read a handful of books that have managed to do that for me, and when I came across this book earlier this year, I couldn’t believe that not only did this book just happen to exist in the same timeline that I did, but that it was the debut from a very talented author. The only thing that I regret is the fact that it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing it, as well as sharing the amazing interview that I was able to snag with Dawn Adams Cole, the author.

Let’s talk about one of my favorite reads of the year, Drops of Cerulean, and see what Dawn Adams Cole had to say about it, her process, and what she hopes readers gain from her words.

Continue reading “Drops of Cerulean | Review & Author Interview”

A Puzzled Review | A Walk Through Hell Volume #1

Ever picked up a graphic novel that was as intriguing as it was confusing and left you sitting there like wtf?

Let’s talk about A Walk Through Hell, Volume #1


When two fellow agents go missing inside a Long Beach warehouse, Shaw and McGregor are sent to investigate. But what they find waiting is far from routine, as the local police have already discovered to their cost. Before the night is out, our heroes will encounter terror beyond their most appalling nightmares—in a place where the night may never end at all.

A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1

It’s hard to know where to start with this graphic novel, so I think I should start with the things A Walk Through Hell Volume 1 succeeded at:

Premise, Themes, and Characters

Premise:

A Walk Through Hell as it is in its first volume follows two FBI agents along a dual-timeline of events, one beginning with the investigation of a series of grizzly child disappearances, the other being the disappearance of two fellow agents in a mysterious warehouse that turns out to be more than it appears. They end up trapped there as the story bounces back and forth between the investigation and their haunting and downright gory journey through the warehouse. A fever dream of confusion, paranoia, and suspicion follows them. Is the warehouse and its horrific contents even a real place? Are they dead? Being punished?

Shaw and McGregor certainly don’t know, and by the end of volume one, neither will you.

It’s cop thriller meets psychological horror in a melding of themes that would butter any horror/thriller fan’s biscuit, converging in a weird, twisted plot line that reveals a monumental secret and is loaded with gore, time-relevant political and social commentary, and the lingering question over whether or not the best intentions justify horrific means.

Themes & Characters:

Throughout A Walk Through Hell, I thought the characters fit really well into these elements, particularly the two main agents Shaw and McGregor who end up being interesting ideological foils to each other. Shaw, who is still hung up by their previous case and on a steady roll to burning out while being fairly done with everything going on around them. Then there’s McGregor, who is more idealistic if not acidicaly aware of the current social climate that has himself (a gay man) and other marginalized people in the shitter as far as social standing goes. I liked McGregor and Shaw as a team; it plays up the old-hat, new blood dynamic that a lot of cop dramas go for, with a fresh take on it. While McGregor and Shaw certainly are meant to represent certain archetypes, I enjoyed the depth they were given and they bring out each other’s best and worst traits, playing up each other nicely.

Side by side the jarring investigation Shaw and McGregor work through is relevant sociopolitical commentary: women in male-dominated fields, gay men in those same fields, racism and the rise of fascism in a supposed democratic nation, are among the day-to-day hell hurdles that Shaw and McGregor have to deal with in addition to the actual hell they experience in the warehouse, and like any good horror/thriller, I felt the nods to bigger themes outside of gratuitous gore was a plus.

Where it all Falls Apart

Where A Walk Through Hell has an arguably interesting premise, compelling characters, and (very) pretty artwork, this first volume as a whole was all over the place. When reading a thriller, particularly one based in a police/FBI investigative atmosphere, there’s going to be questions unanswered, confusion, etc. It’s a part of the genre. The problem with A Walk Through Hell is by having two intertwined plot lines relevant to each other, writing needs to be tight and it was sloppy at best, which did not help for the cohesion of plot at all. At times this dual-timeline telling felt gimmicky at the detriment to fully enjoying the story.

Furthermore, its themes, in theory, are great but lack in execution. The presence of conversations about how McGregor feels about racism, for example, is appreciated, but ham-fisted as if to say ‘look, this story will have politics. Look at all the politics. Did I mention politics?’ Showing v. telling, etc., etc. For a graphic novel, I expect to be shown more than I am told, and I’m fully invested in the idea that the backdrop of the sociopolitical themes of A Walk Through Hell could have been smoothed out to feel like they actually belonged in the story as opposed to an afterthought or something sprinkled on top to make it a little more intriguing or patronizingly appealing to readers who are invested in sociopolitical issues outside of fiction.

Final Thoughts

A Walk Through Hell has promise, I’ll give it that. Despite the messiness of the writing in this first volume, I want to know what happens in subsequent volumes, which I think is a success to say that I’m still intrigued even if mildly put off by how disorganized the actual method of storytelling was.

Big thank you to NetGalley & Diamond Book Distributors for a copy of A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1


A Walk Through Hell is for you if: you’re into cop drama/thrillers with a heavy hit of horror, enjoy gore, like political commentary in your horror/thriller, want to be held on tenterhooks while you read, and eat up psychological foolery.

Warnings for this Volume: Gore, physical and sexual violence.


ARC Review | Sparks of Phoenix

My idea of poetry stems largely from high school English class, sloughing through sonnets and unpleasantly dense prose. When I picked up Sparks of Phoenix it was in an exercise to see if I could break the preconception that required reading had instilled in me about poetry, poets, and what a person could take away from a collection of poetry.

I was not disappointed.

Let’s take a look at Sparks of Phoenix, by Najwa Zebian.

Continue reading “ARC Review | Sparks of Phoenix”