Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine – review

Bitch Planet Volume 1

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Writer), Valentine De Landro (Artist), Robert Wilson IV (Artist)
Series: Bitch Planet (Vol. 1)
Published
: October 7th 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Pages: 156p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) team up to bring you the premiere volume of Bitch Planet, a deliciously vicious riff on women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

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Volume One of BITCH PLANET collects the first five issues and it was a treat! This was such an interesting read. Some points made definitely pour salt in fresh wounds. I had to finish this in a series of sitting because, especially in the climate we’re living in today, the tyrannical patriarchy aspect really chapped my ass.

BITCH PLANET features a cast in skin tone, body type, and sexuality (this hasn’t really been touched on much yet but there do appear to be some queer characters). Every main character is a woman. Even better, it’s written by a woman, so this doesn’t have that uncomfortable aftertaste of “I can tell a man wrote this female character because her breasts are mentioned on nearly every page.”

The nudity is not gratuitous, it is secondary to what’s happening even though it’s necessary given their circumstances. Women shower naked. What they’re talking about in the shower, and what it leads to, are far more important that the outlines of average breasts. (This was another favorite part of mine – they look like normal women of all shapes and sizes, including their breasts that don’t sit just beneath their collarbones like skin-colored grapefruits.)

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I could name more than a couple of characters though I do recognize them when they show up. The same thing happens to me with TV shows, and I wind up referring to Eleanor Guthrie as “the blonde lady” for the whole first season of Black Sails before her name sticks in my head. When it sticks though, it does stick. BITCH PLANET has a large cast of characters and I am just used to fiction that reminds you of someone’s name every other paragraph. The characters are definitely intriguing, especially when it’s mentioned what they’re ‘in for’ before they’re really introduced. Sci-fi is normally hard for me to connect with (probably because it’s often weighed down beneath the male gaze) but I had no such issues with BITCH PLANET.

The art has a very typically comic book style. It’s not the most polished thing, but it definitely suits the aesthetic of the story. Let me tell you, this is one of the more aesthetically pleasing, humorous graphic novels I’ve yet put my eyeballs on. The story is hard to follow in some places, especially if you only read the first issue or two. Definitely pick up the volume for a more full story arc if you’re interested.

One of the final pages (possibly an endpaper? my copy is digital so I don’t know) reads:

ARE YOU NON-COMPLIANT?

DO YOU FIT IN YOUR BOX?

ARE YOU TOO FAT, TOO THIN, TOO LOUD, TOO SHY, TOO RELIGIOUS, TOO SECULAR,

TOO PRUDISH, TOO SEXUAL, TOO QUEER, TOO BLACK, TOO BROWN, TOO WHATEVER-THEY’LL-JUDGE-YOU-FOR-TODAY?

YOU JUST MAY BELONG ON

BITCH PLANET

What sci-fi trope are you least fond of?

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Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor – eARC review

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

BINTI: HOME
by NNEDI OKORAFOR
Series: Binti (#2)
Published
: January 31st 2017 by Tor.com
Genre: science fiction
Pages: 176p
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

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As may be inferred by the title, this is about Binti’s return home and expands on how her culture relates to her new life at Oomza Uni and as part-Meduse. Learning more about Binti’s home and family was probably my favorite part since there wasn’t much room for it in the first Binti novella. There was definitely more focus on the senses in Home than in Binti, and some really delightful descriptions. Home is full of beautiful imagery. On top of that, what a cover!

If it’s been a while since you read the first Binti novella, you might want to flip through it to refresh yourself before starting Home. I finished it just a few days ago and I was still a little lost for the first dozen pages since it dives straight in. That may be my fault though – I’m not overly familiar with science fiction and some of the things seem lost on me.

I’m also glad that this was longer! I felt like there was really time to explore Binti’s new circumstances and her struggle to maintain balance in her life. Home does end on a cliffhanger, which isn’t something I’m overly fond of, however it was such a satisfying read for all the other questions that are answered. I felt like it sat in a nice middle ground of answering questions while asking others. I’m interested to see how this series wraps up!

What’s your favorite sci-fi novella?

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BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor – review

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

BINTI
by NNEDI OKORAFOR
Series: Binti (#1)
Published
: September 22nd 2015 by Tor.com
Genre: science fiction
Pages: 96p
Source: purchased for Kindle
Rating: ★★★★☆

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

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Binti is such an interesting, complex character that I’m a little surprised. In my experience with novellas and short stories, I don’t tend to connect with the characters much as they often seem more like a vessel to serve the plot than fully realized people. Thankfully, this was lightyears away from my experience with this novella!

Even more exciting is that Binti is a badass through the sheer strength (and vulnerability) of her character, not by going around and stabbing everyone. I appreciate that in a heroine. Murder and violence has its place, but it was refreshing to have a female protagonist that’s peaceful.

I was left wanting more, and wishing it was longer. I would’ve appreciated a little more detail to some scenes, like the one in the dining hall. Being a bit of a sci-fi newbie, some of the tech I didn’t understand at first – and some of it I’m still not certain if I’m meant to know exactly what’s going on or not. Nevertheless, Binti and her world were very intriguing. I trust her.

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