By E. Kirshe
Monstress Vol. 1 compiles a compelling story into a physically beautiful book. This volume is a collection of the first six issues of the Monstress series.
The surface plot is engaging fantasy fare- we have a young woman with a mysterious past driving her current path which includes danger and dark magic. She holds a dark power- in this case a literal demon living inside her- and is caught in the middle of an old war. Liu is a fantastic storyteller. She tackles a lot of different themes in this fairly short volume and does so almost seamlessly.
There’s a blue neon cactus on the side of the road, almost turquoise, so diffuse the plasma seems to turn the night around the sign the color of a bruise and she can’t be sure if the sign reads Vacancy or No. Motel is in the middle of nowhere, east-bound strip of I-80 heading toward Utah, and it’s the middle of the week – she thinks it’s unlikely to be full and signals to the empty highway as she slides right, across weeds and rocks and into the gravel parking lot. The last hour there haven’t even been semis on the highway and it feels later than it is – just past nine with the last of the summer-green twilight just faded and the sky inky black.
Angela’s been driving eleven hours, from Los Angeles to Elko, Nevada, and beyond, no destination in mind, no cash, just credit cards and fury and a hard knot of tears in her throat. Eleven hours to make it to nowhere, driving ever since Jim came home this morning smelling of perfume and guilt but apparently past the point where he needed to make up stories for her.
Apparently he was past a lot of points. Continue reading
Not long after the plane lands, Davis Parker finds himself behind the wheel of his aged and misshapen Lincoln Town Car. Road lights coast past, methodical, casting feigning shadows across the dashboard, which has his eyes strained even more so than his jet lag.
It is something he has grown used to, the fatigue. It comes along with his profession; and it has been said by a considerable few—scientists, theorists, and psychologists—that commercial pilots experience shorter life spans as an effect of the detrimental lack of sleep, numbers ranging from as early as one’s mid fifties, the causes of death a disingenuous slew from heart attacks to quiet exits in one’s sleep to death not of the body but of the mind.
All that, though, in the words of Dave Parker’s woman, is mere statistics. Jessie would be curled up in bed, waiting for the morning and her husband’s company with expectations of late night popcorn and candlelit dinners coloring her dreams. “Statistics,” she says, “shouldn’t be regarded as anything more than numbers and false positives. You just can’t trust those numbers, you know?” That is her gift to him. Besides her surprise evening kabobs and the lessening-in-frequency in-shower involvements, that is her gift to him—wisdom and council—given through by the shade of her charm, a gift to her otherwise “dense but heartfelt husband,” unable to separate hype from truth. “It’s all about how you live your life, you know? Munch on fast food on your layovers and you’re going to have a heart attack. It’s that simple.” And it is that simple. Continue reading
The lock clicked at nine. The sun set against the clustered houses, suburbs of the city, houses lined shoulder to shoulder. Mary entered light-footed; her insides buzzed as her skin hit the air of their shared dwelling. A cold whoosh. A shock.
Behind her the broken screen door smacked.
Tad jolted from the couch as her car crushed at the gravel driveway. He watched the blue blur pass the windows. In its wake he straightened up the room, uprighting pillows. He slicked back his hair.
He bolted toward the kitchen when the door banged. She stood framed in the doorway. Her hair curled and twisted along her slender face. Only a day apart but he’d waited for her return. He felt compelled to move toward her and scoop her into his arms, yet the awkwardness of the space stopped him: the square of the kitchen enclosed them, each facing the other across an unforgiving diagonal.
“Hi,” Tad’s voice hung in the air. Mary adjusted her balance and pushed strands of hair behind her ear.
Silver flashed from her earring in the light and jarred Tad’s memory. Pain in her unforgiving eyes hit him, an uppercut. He broke the distance to embrace her. He hugged her harder than her body language indicated she wanted. His face sunk into her hair, and he inhaled the lavender scent before he let out a brief sob. The wetness crept unto a few strands of hair and clung to his face. When it’s easy he loves her without reservation. He’ll apologize and she’ll allow it. When it’s complicated – when the alter ego of addiction consumes his body – he builds barriers against her. Continue reading