Angel Catbird and Margaret Atwood

CoverMargaret Atwood has written a Graphic Novel? Wait, what?

Who’d have thought the popular award-winning Canadian novelist, poet and short story writer would put out a comic book. I’m amazed.

And Angel Catbird is amazing! Harking back to early comics of the 1940s, this entertaining story has all the elements of the genre. Surviving a near fatal collision with a car, his beloved cat Ding, an owl and a DNA changing serum, our Hero Strig Feleedus is transformed into Angel Catbird. The once-quiet scientist now has a six-pack, owl wings and a cat’s tail and must come to terms with his new abilities. There are some funny scenes as he learns to supress his baser instincts.

Evil villain Dr Muroid; part human, part rat, commands an army of rats he intends to humanise, feminise (eewww), and take over the World! If only he can get his clawed little hands on the formula. Meanwhile, down at Club Catastrophe, Cate Leone prepares for war … Part Femme Fatale and half cat, Margaret wanted Catbird’s a love interest drawn sexy but not gratuitously, as befits a feminist author.

In her introduction Atwood explains that even though she is “a nice literary old lady”, she drew comic book characters as a child and has never stopped; influenced by early comics such as Little Lulu, Mickey Mouse, Rip Kirby, Mary Worth, Marvel and Dick Tracy, and the later political satire of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.

Nature Canada, a cause close to Margaret’s heart, has added the odd footnote to the story – suggestions on how to protect both cats and the environment. The statistics are interesting without lecturing.

I’m hooked and can’t wait for Volume 2 – due out in February 2017.

Margaret Atwood 2015
Larry D. Moore [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Frankenstein and the Vampyre: A Dark and Stormy Night, 16 June 1816

 Cover imageOn 16 June 1816, trapped inside a villa by insatiable thunderstorms erupting across Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Lord Byron challenged his party of young bohemians to a ghost story competition.

That night, Byron’s challenge gave birth to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Polidori’s The Vampyre, the first great vampire novel. Combining drama and a stellar cast of popular writers, including Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood, this documentary explores one of the most significant moments in gothic history and its lasting effect on modern literature.

View the video Frankenstein and the Vampyre: A Dark and Stormy Night.

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MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

I have just finished the last book in the Margaret Atwood MaddAddam trilogy consisting of Oryx and Crake, The Year of the flood and MaddAddam.

Cover of Oryx and CrakeCover of The year of the floodCover of MaddAddam

I’m feeling a bit bereft, as I am inclined to be when I have finished reading something that transports me to another place and time. Not that it is altogether a great place to be taken to – Atwood’s future world is grim, but it is also compelling and scarily realistic, as she states in her acknowledgements.

Although MaddAddam is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies or biobeings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory

Gulp … so pills called BlyssPlus – promising sexual ecstasy but delivering death instead, Nitee-Nite lived streamed suicides, misguided scientists capable of destroying humans and creating a new group of humans called Crakers, engineered to be free of violence and lust, destructive organisations such a CorpSeCorps that make Edward Snowden’s leaks about PRISM look like child’s play, combined with giant Pigoons and MoHairs complete with humanlike transplantable hair could all come about?  This adds another level to the idea of “Faction”!

Although Atwood is great on the science and obviously knows her stuff, thankfully her characterisation is just as good and I became easily embroiled in the lives of Zeb, Toby, Amanda and Ren – all of whom are fierce loyal survivors, alongside the quirky and oddly charming new humans the Crakers.  Although Atwood is obviously of a Green leaning, and I imagine doesn’t have a lot of time for genetically modified food for example, at the end of MaddAddam there is an amalgamation of the human and the genetically modified that gets us wondering – can the two work together?

Atwood is a great social networker.  You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website which contains a link to a  video game that you read about in MaddAddam called Intestinal Parasites, with promises of more to come!

The Year of the flood

I started The Year of the flood by Margaret Atwood with a certain amount of reserve.  I hadn’t particularly enjoyed Oryx and Crake, having found it full of interesting science,  but lacking when it came to characterisation (interestingly, having now read her new book I think I will go back to Oryx and Crake and try again).

I was also a bit worried that I would find the book depressing or over the top in regards to climate change and our future.  However fiction is a powerful medium, and even though I read and hear about the state of our planet, there is something to be said about a novel that is so well written that you feel you know and like the characters, and that you want  to live with them through the experiences of a society so badly affected by climate change and greed.

The Gardeners are a group of future hippies I suppose, perhaps even part of a cult, led by Adam One and his group of Eves and lesser Adams.  There is a strong sense of belief in God, but a God that can get combined with science and evolution.  They have their own hymn book and many chapters end with their quirky numbers.  (These have been put to music and if you wish you can by the CD).The Gardeners are striving to be self-sufficient amongst the ruins of a city controlled by the ruthless CorpsSeCorps, and dominated by the Pleeblands, skunkweed gro-groups and HealthWyzer, a dodgy pharmaceutical group. 

The two main characters are Toby, who with help from the Gardeners manages to escape from a company called “secretburgers”, (yummy meaty burgers containing your worst nightmare), and Ren, a young girl who has been brought up within the Gardeners community.   Toby and Ren are also the two characters that we follow after “The Waterless flood”, a disaster predicted by the Gardeners, that creates the plague eradicated world we experienced in Oryx and Crake.  

There has of course been a number of books and films about this type of scenario, and you may well wonder what would make this book any different from a well-worn path of devastation and horror.  There is also a risk with this type of apocalyptic genre  to feel too outrageous to be taken seriously. This is where The Year of the flood is different.  There is enough that is familiar in the book to make you stop and think.  Many of the scenarios Atwood paints could be the end result of genetic engineering, carbon emissions, and tampering with gene pool and new breeds of animals.  Is it that far out of the realms of possibility that a sheep could be bred with coloured hair, crossed with a lion, or that we would live in such a disposable society that people could be dispensed with in the same way we trade in a new car? It is also just a good read, plenty of intrigue, good (and bad) characters and a fascinating story.

In an effort to lower her carbon footprint, Margaret Atwood is only travelling by train and boat on her promotional tour to promote The Year of the flood in Europe and North America.  You can follow her blog here.