Recently, I was asked to write an advance review for a forthcoming science fiction novel from a small press. I jumped at the opportunity to read the book before fully contemplating if it would be worth the time. Smaller presses are always a gamble in terms of quality, both with the writing and the printing, so for all I knew I was in for a terrible reading experience. I decided to plow through with the review anyway and soon found Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool and Spaceboy Books in my inbox. So, were my fears justified or was Leech Girl Lives worth the effort of a read through?
Leech Girl Lives takes place in a dystopian future where the majority of humanity has died out and what’s left live in a domed city called the Bublinaplex. While the Bublinaplex is surrounded by a “Fungus Wasteland” filled with large, horrendous and terrifying creatures, the people have managed to build a pretty stable world which is overly concerned with safety. This is where our protagonist comes in.
Margo Chicago is an Art Safety Inspector who investigates all works of art put on display to ensure that the artwork doesn’t hurt anyone. She has a fairly important job because the denizens of the Bublinaplex are all encouraged to work on some sort of “creative pursuit.” Some of these are worthwhile, like painting and singing while others, like Margo’s desire to crochet cats, are a little offbeat. Others still are just asinine, like Margo’s boss and his creativity in stringing nonsense words together in everyday conversations.
Due to a freak accident, Margo gets a pair of giant parasitic leeches attached to her arms. The leeches slowly eat away at her flesh and, through their symbiotic nature, become her new arms. It’s a unique concept. Although it sounded strange at first and had me questioning what kind of book I was reading, eventually the idea settled in and just flowed with the narrative. I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d enjoy a concept like that but I surely did.
Leech Girl Lives is author Rick Claypool’s first novel and that’s fairly evident in the way the book is written. Claypool builds his world and presents his novel using simple prose, which I liked. Lots of science fiction authors use long, flourishing prose and convoluted sentence structure that may sound pretty but can be confusing when trying to build an in-depth world. Claypool shirks that and just lays everything out on the table in easy bits for the layman. Whether this was intentional or just a byproduct of not finding his unique voice yet, I’m not entirely sure but the move worked in this instance.
One move that was intentional was the way Claypool split the chapters for the first third of the book. Each chapter vacillates between “Earlier” and “Later,” clearly delineating two different time periods. It’s an effective strategy that made the story more enticing; each time I finished one section, I wanted to find out what happened next but I had to read through a different section that piqued my interest just as much. Unfortunately, once the two sections converge, the story runs somewhat flat. It managed to remain interesting, but it lacked the oomph of the previous section.
The novel is also split into two distinct books, named Book One and Book Two. While I enjoyed Leech Girl Lives in its entirety, I did start to feel weighed down by the time I got to Book Two. It’s not that the second part wasn’t good; it’s just that I’d become burned out by the time I got there. I’d already gone through an entire adventure with Margo and her leech arms so to be thrown into another one right away was exhausting. I would have preferred if Leech Girl Lives ended at the first ending, with Book Two comprising an actual second book.
Doing so would have also allowed Claypool to expand on some of the themes he brings up in Book Two. While Book One dealt with the idea of stifling expression through the Art Safety’s mission to have artists alter any work they deem unsafe, Book Two explores the idea of a corporate run state as well as the division between the rich and the poor. By day, Rick Claypool is an activist who works with an organization that fights corporate power so if there would be anyone who can successfully integrate the dangers of a corporate state taking power in a silly little sci fi book, it’d be him. The way he breaks down the company’s rise to power makes us believe that the city would accept the corporate power, but everything that happens in Book Two happens so fast that it almost comes off as hokey despite the gravity of the theme. Claypool spends too much time focusing on scenes that don’t have much of an impact while breezing through others that are far more interesting. Characters speak in awkward, unnatural ways and the action doesn’t serve the plot but merely acts to hasten the transition to the next scene. I would have enjoyed it more if he slowed down and delved further into this new world he’s introduced. Allowed us to get to know a few of the newer characters better and see why they do what they do and how the corporation changed them from their previous lives.
The characterization is really the weakest part of Leech Girl Lives. Claypool focuses on Margo and spends a lot of time making sure she’s as fleshed out as possible, which is to be expected of the protagonist. Unfortunately he does this to the detriment of the supporting cast. Margo is surrounded by many unique and interesting people but they never feel whole. For example, Margo has a great relationship with her mentor, Cuthbert. Though we get a peak at Cuthbert’s home life, all we really know about him is he’s a great cook and he cries a lot. Even the book’s main protagonist, Lorcan Warhol, is a two-dimensional foil to Margo. Sure, his character takes an interesting twist during Book Two, but at a certain point he disappears and has no impact on the rest of the book. He had the makings of an interesting character but he’s flung off without a second thought.
I enjoyed Leech Girl Lives. The simple prose aside, the book played with some deep sociological themes and really dived into the darker aspects of society. Even the superficial nature of Margo’s affliction, forming a symbiotic relationship with a pair of parasitic leeches, was handled in a way that felt natural and believable. That’s not to say the book doesn’t have its flaws; in fact, there are quite a few of them, but they’re easily overshadowed by the depth of the symbolism. All in all, I’d recommend Leech Girl Lives if you’re looking for a fun adventure that doesn’t require too much brain power to really understand and enjoy.
Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool is available on September 26th from Spaceboy Books.
Last year some of us from the Sub Cultured team were able to attend Nan Desu Kan 2016. NDK is the premier anime convention in the Rockies. This year it took place on September 1-3, 2017 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, and lured many anime and geek culture fans like I siren’s song. Housing thousands of fans, this convention grows with every year.
There is plenty to do at an anime conventions, including: viewing rooms (for watching anime), dealers rooms (for buying stuff), music video contests, and of course costumes, costumes, costumes.
Since NDK is local to a few of us here at Sub Cultured, we try and make our presence known there every year. Check out the article we wrote last year, and peruse all the pictures of the fantastic cosplay from Nan Desu Kan 2016. We also go in depth with some of the guests and events/activities that could be found there. Check out our small gallery of photos we took while patrolling the floors of Nan Desu Kan 2017!
Nan Desu Kan grows every year, and as of now NDK will be back for 2018, in the same Hotel, on the same Labor Day weekend. If you are interested in this convention, please stay tuned around this time next year where we will cover it even more! There are always major guests from the voice acting world, as well as an excellent musical guest. With the growing popularity of this con, it is sure to garner more attention from even bigger names. Keep updated with all things NDK 2018, right here on sub Cultured!
It’s that time of year again! No, not Halloween (though that is sneaking up on us faster that I realize). I’m talking about New York Comic Con time! Though not as prolific as San Diego Comic Con, NYCC is the East Coast’s biggest comic and media convention, boasting hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees.
Just like its West Coast counterpart, NYCC attracts countless collectors and, as such, has become a haven for exclusive merchandise. This is where Funko comes in. Over the summer we showed you all of Funko’s SDCC exclusives, the Pop!s, Dorbz, Rides and Vnyls that were only available at the con. Luckily, they’re bringing a pretty strong game to New York Comic Con as well.
Since they’re revealing all of their exclusives in waves so make sure to check back often as we update to see everything you can expect to find at NYCC.
Also, as of now, it’s unclear which, if any, of these will be shared exclusives, with Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble and the like. Once news of that breaks, we’ll let you know.
Wave 9: Warner Bros. (Announced September 15)
Naturally, Funko wouldn’t leave Harry Potter fans in the lurch. Snape as Neville’s Boggart is a pretty clever Pop! to add to the line but I’m really looking forward to that Luna Lovegood lion head Rock Candy.
Also part of this wave are some classic Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera characters. Speedy Gonzales is cool in a Mexican stereotype kind of way. All in all, though, I wasn’t a big fan of those cartoons so all I really care about is the Captain Caveman. Still, there’s some stuff there for the hardcore fans.
Lord of the Rings
Pop!: Lord of the Rings – 6” Glow-in-the-Dark Balrog
Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera
More of your favorite Looney Tunes & Hanna-Barbera characters are joining the Funko family!
Pop! Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Gellert Grindelwald
Graves was actually Grindelwald! One of the most dangerous Dark Wizards of all time is now a Pop!
Wave 8: 80s & 90s (Announced September 13)
This is the wave I’ve been waiting for and I didn’t even know it. There have been one or two different Pop!s from each of the previous waves that I wanted but this? I want practically every single thing on this list. That 6-inch Dragonzord, the glow in the dark Green Ranger, Sailor V, the Thundercats… There are so many gems in this wave that I am awestruck.
Anyway, enough with my gushing. Take a look at Funko’s blog for more.
Go Go Power Rangers! Both the Green and Black 6-inch Dragonzord Pop!s have entered the fray for New York Comic Con 2017! Complete your Saban’s Power Rangers collection with the glow-in-the-dark Green Ranger Pop!
Bad news for the Dark Kingdom, but good news for Funko collectors: the Sailor V Pop! will be available at New York Comic Con 2017!
Pop! Anime: Sailor Moon – Sailor V
Ickis from Nickelodeon’s classic Aaahh!!! Real Monsters comes in a new mid-scare pose!
Pop! TV: Nickelodeon – Scary Ickis
Masters of the Universe
Beast Man makes his Pop! debut for New York Comic Con! Given his name, and ability to communicate with animals, it’s only right that the Beast Man Pop! is flocked!
Pop! TV: MOTU – Flocked Beast Man
Watch out, G.I. Joe! Destro, the leader of the Iron Grenadiers and M.A.R.S. founder, is coming to Pop!
Pop! TV: G.I. Joe – Destro
ThunderCats™, hooo! Lion-O, Mumm-Ra, and Snarf come in a Dorbz 3-pack for New York Comic Con 2017! Lion-O and Mumm-Ra make their Vynl. debut for the convention, as well!
Vynl.: ThunderCats™ 2-pack – Lion-O & Mumm-Ra
Wave 7: Video Games (Announced September 12)
It looks like this entire wave is similar to that 8-Bit Batman from the DC wave. I suppose this is just a new style Funko is pushing and I dug it with the Batman Pop! but here it just seems overused. Although, I do like that the first big push is 8-Bit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even though the turtles themselves are absent. Hopefully they’ll pop up somewhere as non-exclusive.
Here’s the news from Funko:
The 1980s arcade classic DIG DUG™ is joining our 8-Bit Pop! series!
Pop! Games: DIG DUG™ – DUG DUG™ 8-Bit
DIG DUG™&©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Calling all Five Nights at Freddy’s fans! The Lolbit Pop! won’t disappear even if you type “L-O-L”! “Please Stand By!”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Our 8-Bit TMNT Pop! series kicks off with Master Shredder and his Foot Soldiers! Make sure to collect all five colors!
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Shredder
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Blue Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Purple Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Red Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – White Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Pop! 8-Bit: TMNT – Yellow Foot Soldier (500pc LE)
Wave 6: Disney (Announced September 7)
Though not mind blowing, there are a few good things coming out of the Disney release from Funko. Even though I’m not a big Kingdom Hearts fan, or a video game guy in general, I love both the Halloween Donald and the Halloween Goofy. They’ll probably become regular Halloween decorations around my house. (Oh, and look at that; NYCC is just a few weeks before Halloween. How convenient!)
Without a doubt, though, that Scrooge McDuck is probably the one I’ll search the hardest for. Though the Ducktales line of Pop!s is just starting to trickle out into stores, that Scrooge in the pile of money is the definitive Pop! to come out of that line.
Check it out from Funko’s blog:
From 1979’s The Black Hole to DuckTales and from Disney Parks to Kingdom Hearts, Disney fans are sure to be thrilled with this list of NYCC exclusives!
Pop! Disney: DuckTales – Swimsuit Scrooge McDuck
Pop! Disney: The Black Hole– Vincent
Pop! Disney: The Black Hole– Maximillian
Pop! Disney: Kingdom Hearts – Halloween Goofy
Pop! Disney: Kingdom Hearts – Halloween Donald
Pop! Disney: Disney Parks – Flocked Orange Bird (1000pc LE)
Pop! Disney: Disney Parks – Flocked Abominable Snowman (1000pc LE)
Dorbz Ridez: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (750pc LE)
Mini Hikari: Mickey Mouse – Red & Yellow 2-pack (3500pc LE)
Wave 5: Television (Announced September 6)
There is so much here that I’m excited for. First of all, that Buffy/Faith 2-pack is an amazing addition to the Buffy line. The fact that fans have gone so long without a Faith Pop! is a little unnerving so at least Funko has finally remedied that.
Then there’s that First Doctor. Another necessary Pop! for Doctor Who fans. I’m glad that Funko is branching out and releasing some of the older Doctors and not just rehashing Ten, Eleven and Twelve. I wonder if we’ll ever get a full line up of Doctors, and even if we’ll get a Nine at all.
But then look at everything else; Westworld, Land of the Lost, Stranger Things. Funko seems to be going all out for their Television line up of Pop!s and figures and I am all in for it.
Check out more on Funko’s blog:
Today’s NYCC reveals include some of your television favorites!
Are you a fan of Westworld? This Robotic Dolores Pop! is essential for any Westworld collectors!
Pop! TV: Westworld – Dolores
Trollhunters fans can now add Jim with his Amulet of Eclipse armor and a special version of AAARRRGGHH!!! to their collections!
Pop! Television: Trollhunters – Stone AAARRRGGHH!!!
Pop! Television: Trollhunters – Jim (Red Armor)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Faith makes her Funko debut in this special Buffy the Vampire Slayer Pop! 2-pack!
Pop! Television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy & Faith 2-pack
The original Doctor finally joins the Doctor Who Pop! line!
Land of the Lost
It’s a Sleestak from Sid & Marty Krofft’s 1974 television series, along with Enik the Altrusian!
Pop! Television: Land of the Lost – Sleestak
Pop! Television: Land of the Lost – Enik
The Walking Dead
Will he prove to be a friend or foe to the Alexandrians? Watch your back, guys!
Pop! Television: The Walking Dead – Dwight (Burnt Face)
Poor Eleven’s being tested on again with this NYCC exclusive Pop! And grow your Stranger Things Action Figures set with this 3-pack featuring Upside Down Will, Eleven with her wig, and the Demogorgon!
Make sure to watch Season 2 of Stranger Things coming to Netflix this October!!
Pop! Television: Stranger Things – Eleven with Electrodes
Action Figures: Stranger Things – Eleven with Wig, Upside Down Will & Demogorgon 3-pack
Wave 4: Star Wars (Announced September 5)
No surprise here that we’ll be getting Star Wars stuff from Funko. With The Last Jedi just a few months out, this wave was revealed a few days after Force Friday, the huge retail push for brand new Star Wars merch. I’m actually slightly surprised that this reveal didn’t drop on Force Friday, but I’m not in charge of that.
Anyway, here are all the Star Wars offerings from Funko’s blog.
We have great selection of Star Wars offerings for New York Comic Con 2017!
The Rogue One Pop! line continues to grow with the addition of K-2SO in an action pose, young Saw Gerrera, a disguised Jyn Erso, and a chrome Death Star Droid!
Bounty hunter collectors rejoice! Dengar is now part of the Pop! family along with the latest Pop! Deluxe – Boba Fett’s Slave I!
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Action Pose K-2SO
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Saw Gerrera with Hair
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Jyn Disguise with Helmet
Pop! Star Wars: Rogue One – Death Star Droid
Pop! Star Wars: Dengar
Pop! Deluxe: Star Wars – Boba Fett with Slave I
Wave 3: DC (Announced August 30)
Quite a few additions to the Funko DC Comics lineup for NYCC. Unfortunately, none of it is too appealing. The First Appearance Superman looks pretty cool, if not entirely bland. I can see many Superman fans clamoring for that one. And that Batmobile is just a pale imitation of the red Batmobile that debuted at San Diego Comic Con over the summer.
For me, the only real winner from this lineup is the 8-bit Batman, and that’s only on originality alone. While I’m not totally bowled over by the Funko’s DC offerings, I at least give them credit for branching out and trying new things, even if those “new things” are just more Superman and Batman.
According to the Funko blog:
Our 8-Bit Pop! line makes its debut with the iconic Caped Crusader, who also shows up in a shiny black chrome, as well as a new color variant for his 1966 Batmobile in the action figure line!
Batman Classic TV Series Super-Villains come together in a Dorbz 3-pack, and Superman’s first appearance is now immortalized in Pop! form too!
Pop! Heroes: First Appearance Superman
Pop! Heroes: Black Chrome Batman
Pop! 8-Bit: Blue & Grey Batman
Dorbz: Batman Classic TV Series Villains 3-pack (4000pc LE)
Action Figure: Batman with Batmobile (1250pc LE)
Wave 2: Game of Thrones (Announced August 28)
There are two Game of Thrones Pop!s coming to New York Comic Con this year. First up is Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of House Mormont. A fan-favorite from the show ever since she displayed her indomitable will and loyalty to Jon Snow and Winterfell, she’s sure to be a popular choice.
Also up is Jaqen H’Ghar, the disciple of the Many Faced God who helped mold Arya into the ruthless, sociopathic murderess we’ve all grown to love. I’m not sure how popular this Pop! will prove to be but it’s a great addition to anyone’s collection. However, if I had to choose, I’m #TeamLyanna all the way.
From the Funko blog:
We are proud to announce two new figures from the hit HBO® series that will be available at New York Comic Con 2017!
Pop! Game of Thrones: Lyanna Mormont
Head of House Mormont and fiercely loyal to House Stark, Westeros’s most powerful child now has her very own Pop! Vinyl Funko Figure!
Pop! Game of Thrones: Jaqen H’Ghar
A new face has been added to the hall of Funko Faces! Jaqen H’Ghar, one of the Faceless Men of Braavos, has now been reimagined as a Pop! Vinyl Funko Figure!
Wave 1: WWE’s Zack Ryder (Announced August 23)
Big news for any WWE/Zack Ryder fans. This one definitely isn’t for me but I won’t fault anyone for being excited. Besides, it’s an exclusive so that’s news in itself.
We’re kicking off our New York Comic Con reveals with our favorite Funko collecting broski, Zack Ryder!
Pop! WWE: Zack Ryder
We were able to surprise him with his figure at SDCC- watch this video for his reaction!