Posts Tagged ‘fox’

Book Review: Buffalo Is the New Buffalo by Chelsea Vowel

September 13, 2022 Leave a comment
Image of a digital book cover. Two people stand on either side of a mystical ravine. the shadow of a buffalo is in the ravine between them.

Inspired by classic and contemporary speculative fiction, this collection of eight short stories explores science fiction tropes through a Metis lens: Nanites babble to babies in Cree, virtual reality teaches transformation, foxes take human form and wreak havoc on hearts, buffalo roam free, and beings grapple with the thorny problem of healing from colonialism.

This collection contains nine short stories by Indigenous (Métis) author Chelsea Vowel. The Métis are a recognized Indigenous people with a unique culture descended from the pairings of Indigenous with European fur traders (usually, but not always, First Nations women with French men). Most of the stories are set in the same region of Canada, and all of the stories are speculative, containing some fantastical element, whether they are set in the past, present, or future.

The author is queer, and queerness is clearly present in five of the nine stories. These include: a historical woman figure who identifies as a woman, is interested in women, and dresses in male clothing; a woman character who becomes interested in a fox presenting as a woman; a woman character who is in lockdown without her girlfriend who ended up trapped in another town after she went to visit her family; a queer poly family raising a child together in a collective; and a nonbinary femme-presenting character who uses Métis gender-neutral pronouns.

My favorite story of the collection is “Maggie-Sue.” This is the story where an Indigenous woman becomes interested in a beautiful Cree woman she sees but realizes is actually a fox disguised as a woman (this is revealed very early on, so not a spoiler). I loved everything about the fox woman, the mystical adventure the main character goes on, and the ending was a delight to imagine. I also really appreciated the play on words in the title (which I won’t reveal, because it’s more fun for you to realize it when you’re reading it yourself). I thought this story also offered solid critique on the difficulties of being a survivor of ongoing colonization on your ancestral lands, without that criticism ever feeling like telling instead of showing or like academic language sneaking in where a character wouldn’t use it.

The latter is my main complaint for the story I liked least – “Unsettled.” There is a scene where five characters, none of whom are established as academics, sit around having a highly academic conversation for many pages. The story felt more like an academic thought experiment than a story with unique characters and perspectives. I also struggled a little bit with the first story in the book, “Buffalo Bird.” its pacing was slow, which is a challenge for me. I think I would have liked it more further into the collection. I personally need to kind of “know” a writer to trust that a story will ultimately go into an interesting place if it has a slow start.

Something else interesting about this collection is that it has footnotes throughout, where the author explains things or gives historical context. I enjoyed these and felt they added to the stories. They’re not used all the time, sometimes you as the reader do need to figure things out from context for yourself if you’re not Métis (which I, to be clear, am not). But I thought the footnotes struck a nice balance.

The other thing is after each story there’s a short reflection from the author about the story. On the one hand, I liked these because I learned more from them. As an author myself, also, it was interesting to hear from the author on what her goals were and compare them to my actual experience as the reader. On the other hand, I could see some readers not enjoying this aspect of the book, wanting to be left with their own experience with the story and leave it at that. But you can always skip over these essays if you prefer not to have the inside story.

Related to the essays, I do also want to note one additional thing. I do think that an author’s beliefs and politics tend to make it into their writing, whether they intend that or not. I’m not saying every character reflects the author’s worldview, absolutely not, but the more you read an individual author’s work, the more you come to see how they likely see the world. This is even more clear in this collection where each story is paired with a nonfiction reflective essay by the author. The author is an academic Indigenous queer woman, and definitely leans very left. I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing. But I do think it shows through more clearly in some stories than others, and is very present in the essays. Only you, the potential reader, can know if this would be a plus, negative, or neutral for you.

Overall, this is an interesting collection of speculative short stories from a queer Indigenous woman author. I’m glad I took the time to read them and see a different way of storytelling and views on the world within the speculative framework I personally enjoy.

Please note, I calculate a rating for a short story collection by individually rating each story then reporting out the average. This came out to 3.7, so I rounded up to 4.

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4 out of 5 stars

Length: 272 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Library

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Book Review: The Last of the Demon Slayers by Angie Fox (series, #4)

Female legs with sword and dog near tombstone.Summary:
Lizzie is back from Greece with her hunky griffin boyfriend, Dimitri, and the geriatric witch biker gang (not to mention her talking dog Pirate and Pirate’s pet adolescent dragon Flappy) with plans to help the witches finally set up a real home at a New Jersey biker bar after years on the run.  Of course nothing has ever gone according to Lizzie’s plans since the day she turned 30 and inherited her demon slayer powers.  Naturally, her birth father shows up in a pillar of fire begging her to help free him from a bad situation with an even badder demon in California.  Thus, Lizzie and the gang wind up following fairy trails across the country in an attempt to stop the demon, who just so happens to be out to kill demon slayers too.

Ah, this series. I have such a love/hate relationship with this series!  That’s mainly because I love everyone except Lizzie and Dimitri.  Why why is everyone else in this world so hilarious and relaxed, whereas Lizzie and Dimitri are basically THAT couple.  You know THAT couple.  They’re the ones who met each other during freshman orientation week and proceeded to have the perfect dream relationship throughout all four years of college and promptly moved in together and got engaged after.  They’re the ones where the girl whines and bitches to you about some minor fight she had with her dude during your junior year when you’ve barely slept in three days and haven’t had a date in months. THAT COUPLE.  It’s hard to root for that couple.

On the other hand, though, there’s everyone else.  The geriatric biker witches are amazeballs.  I would pay good money to have a bunch of older women like that in my life.  They’re strong, empowered, and bound and determined to live their life to the fullest no matter what society says they should be doing.  Interestingly, grandma gets a boyfriend this entry, and Lizzie is none too happy about it.  Grandma tells her unequivocally that old people have sex. Yes! What?  Lizzie is the only one who should be making everyone eye-roll with her sexy antics?  I think not.

Then of course there’s Pirate and Flappy.  Hilarious animal characters hit my heart *right here*.  I would put up with almost anything just to see Pirate trying to train Flappy to sit.  Seriously.  Fox has a real talent for writing animal dialogue that is believable without being too sophisticated.  It’s clear she has some critters in her life.  For instance, Pirate runs up to Lizzie excited to see her yelling “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie!” and then proceeds to beg for food.  Typical doggy.

The plot definitely thickens in this entry.  I’m not sure I’m totally happy with how it has.  Essentially, it turns out there are actually more demon slayers, and as a Buffy fan, this just irritated me.  I don’t like being told there’s only one only to have more show up.  Either there are a lot of slayers or there aren’t.  Plus, did we really have to make the new slayer so feminine?  Lizzie is already a pretty extraordinarily feminine slayer.  It’d be nice to have some variety.  On the other hand, the rest of the plot of the supernatural world is interesting.  There’s Lizzie’s father plus a visit to purgatory.  I’m betting that the next entry will start to confront the presence of “good” supernatural creatures, since we’ve now visited hell and purgatory.  If Dante taught me anything, it’s that that leaves only one place to go.

It’s interesting how I can’t stop reading this series even though I can’t seem to make up my mind how much I like it.  I’ve rated entries everywhere from 3.5 to 5 stars.  I think in general the experience of the hilarious side-kicks and minor characters off-sets the annoying main couple enough that I can kinda sorta mostly ignore them.  There’s also always the hope that they’ll break up, which I root for in every book.

Overall, if you’ve stuck with the series this far, you’ll enjoy this entry.  It takes the focus off the griffins and puts it back on Lizzie and her biological family.  The ever-expanding cast of characters all fit together smoothly and hilariously.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review

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