Friday, August 12, 2011

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist is a young adult horror novel, and won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award. For those of you that do not know what a Monstrumologist is, it is a Cryptid hunter. If that doesn't help, this may not be the book for you. But in case you are still curious, a cryptid is a creature that hasn't been proven to exist such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or El Chupacabra.

The story is set in the Northeastern United States in the April of 1888. It is the story of Pellinore Warthrop, a Monstrumologist, and Will Henry, his 12 year old orphaned charge and assistant.Warthop and Will Henry are tied together by circumstance. Will Henry's father was Warthop's assistant before his death. Will was orphaned in a fire, the events leading up to the fire are linked with his father's work for Warthop. The point that they are all each other has left in the world is hit home repeatedly, and pointedly. Both characters seem to be torn as to whether this is something that they are happy or miserable about. As with real world relationships, their's is a complicated one wound up in history, guilt, obligation, etc.

In case you need a visual
The adventure begins very quickly, with a stranger, Erasmus Grey, knocking on the door in the middle of the night bearing a monstrous load in his cart. He brings the corpse of a young girl entwined in the embrace of a monster, an Anthropophagi. Warthop is excited, while Will Henry is horrified (this is his first real experience with the darker side of his employer's work). Once Warthop has separated the pair, and completed his necropsy, Warthop has Grey lead them to the site of his discovery.

Warthop's approach is to always use logic when making a decision. This practice does not serve him well in this instance, and he quickly realizes that he and Will Henry are in over their heads. They retreat to do more research and call in some help. Things continue to spiral out of control as the story progresses.

The narrative is set up as a diary written by Will Henry in his later years as he reflects back on his life. We are seeing it through the eyes of a modern researcher who is reading the journals after his death, at 131 years old. I know that the found diary isn't a new story device, but Yancey does it well. Another thing Yancey does well is describe the horrific details of the monsters, their lair, and the deaths of their victims. My husband began reading this before me, and balked when I told him it was a young adult book because of the graphic nature of the narrative. It' not graphic to the point of making you nauseous, but he definitely utilizes the gross out factor. The language used by the characters also adds quiet a bit to the ambiance of the story, it seems quite authentic to the time period.

If you are a horror fan, I recommend this book, adults are included in this recommendation. I look forward to the sequel.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Superman and the U.S.

For me the icon that most represents what I want the United States of America to be and the ideals it espouses is Superman. He is honest, brave, helpful, trustworthy, self-sacrificing, moral, and non-judgmental.  I have been told that Superman doesn't represent the ideals of the U.S. at all, this saddens me. "Truth, justice, and the American way" says it all to me. He was raised with all the core values of the United States, but without the bigotry and politics that has become dominate in the rhetoric.

My husband recently brought it to my attention that he also embodies the American dream in another way that I had never considered before. He is the ultimate example of an immigrant becoming a success and embracing his adopted land. He is an illegal alien, not just to the U.S., but to the planet. He is adopted by the Kents, raised to be an American citizen. He gets a job as a reporter, when they still sought the truth and to expose corruption. He uses his special gifts to help not just his fellow citizens, but his fellow world citizens. It saddens me that Superman has relinquished his U.S. citizenship in the comics. I know this move angered many "patriots", but it makes perfect sense to me. It saddens me, not because it was done, but because our country has moved so far away from it's core ideals that it made sense for this icon to do it. Those that got angry at the writers of Superman would do better to focus their anger on the corruption that caused it.

I know the official symbols of my country, but they do not capture my heart or imagine the way Superman does. They seem to only symbolize one aspect of my country: the flag is historical, apple pie is tradition, and the bald eagle has no clearly defined symbolism as far as I know. It was just a bird they picked, I'm not sure why. And for me the bald eagle, though a beautiful bird, implies aggression as it is a predator.

I have lost faith in the politicians, they are out for themselves and their largest donors, the corporations. It is no longer about governing the nation, but about maneuvering for power and position. As long as we have only two major political parties that can simply switch places in power, we are looking at serial political monopolies. They will continue to block each others' ideas to ensure failure so they can regain the top spots and our nation will continue in a downward spiral.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty." — George Washington, September 19, 1796 (from

I look at the laws that have been passed in the last 10 years that have corroded the citizens civil rights and fear because most of the citizens are supporting this action instead of being outraged. We now have a government that can spy on any citizen without cause or warrant and that can hold us without cause or trial indefinitely. The citizens should be protesting en mass, complaining to their Congressmen, but they say nothing. People are being arrested for filming the police, protesters homes are being searched and t-shirts confiscated. I wonder when I left the West and moved to a totalitarian state. I wonder if we even deserve to be considered a Western nation anymore, as stated by Eric Whinery states here. I am planning on reading Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed", I am guessing that the U.S. is making choices leading to failure.

I love my country, I love the spirit that started it, but I'm ashamed of the direction it is headed. I am ashamed of the immoral actions of our government, like deliberately infecting people from poor countries with diseases for studies. I am ashamed that crimes of soldiers are not made public, though if they had committed the same act on U.S. soil they would have been registered in a database. War is not an excuse for awful behavior, though war culture enables people to act badly when part of that culture is to dehumanize the enemy and forget that they are people too. I am not a fool, I realize that a certain amount of that is necessary for the soldiers to be able to do their jobs. I am ashamed that my nation utilized torture in our prisons, violating the Geneva Convention which we helped get in place. Starting illegal wars and goading countries into war to be able to play the victim (Japan and WWII).

I want my country to be a guiding light for the world again rather than being viewed as a economic and military bully. I want us to once again be leaders of innovation in math, science, and education rather than trailing behind major European nations, some developing nations, and even some 3rd world nations. I don't want the world to view us as rude, self-centered, uneducated, and arrogant. I want us to follow through on our stated views on human rights, and stop supporting (and sometimes even starting) regimes that violate human rights. I want us to condemn the human rights violations of our allies as well as our enemies. In short, I want us to be partners with the world rather than a self-appointed police force. I want us to stop ignoring requests for aid when the country has no oil. I want us stand up for what's right and not for corporate gain. I want the people to speak up against the outrages in their own country. I want American to be angry when any of our soldiers commit atrocities in war zones. Our soldiers represent us, we are judged by their actions as much as we are judged by our government's policies. I am not saying all soldiers are doing bad things, I know that most are good people in bad situations.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't say Captain America, it's because I didn't grow up reading him. I just went to see the new movie with my husband, I quite enjoyed it. I can see how he epitomizes the American ideals as well. My husband shared a Captain America quote with me, it sums up my feelings about this is a different way.

"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world----No you move."

Thank you Superman and Captain America for keeping the light shining, even when others do not. The fact that you have survived and still speak out against wrongs in the world and the government, and that your writers are still patriots gives me hope.

Many will say that speaking out or questioning the government isn't patriotic, especially since 9-11, and the government loves you for it. But Thomas Jefferson would disagree with you about it being acceptable to give up your rights for safety, "A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither”.

That is my opinion anyway