Terri Wrote This

art, writing, media reviews & criticism

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

Rating: Good / ★★★½
Genre: Weird Western / Horror
Series: Hexslinger, #1
Release Date: January 1, 2010
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Content Includes: Explicit violence, explicit sex, homicide, war, execution by hanging, gore, dismemberment, dubious consent, graphic sexual assault, racism and racist slurs again Chinese, Black, and Indigenous people, homophobia and homophobic slurs, transphobia, child prostitution, terminal illness, addiction, mention of abortion, cultural appropriation

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files is a beautifully written, moody, horrifying, culturally appropriative work that refuses to contend with the racist notions that it and its characters perpetuate because it incorporates its racism under the guise of authenticity to its historical period and of progressive criticism, but because all the elements of the book are otherwise strong, neither the characterization nor worldbuilding require the blatant injections of racism to embody the western era nor to add to the book’s ongoing discourse. So these additions stand apart as strange and unnecessary choices that eject readers, particularly readers of color, from the text, making this work safest for those that the text is supposedly criticizing: white men, a group that occupies the novel’s full attention as the main characters are queer white men who buck against societal expectations of masculinity during this period and are in complicated, messy relationships with one another. While the development of those relationships is interesting and delicious in its ambiguity, it is also troubled and like the topic of racism, there is little marking of the harm caused within these relationships.

August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White

Rating: Damn good / ★★★★
Genre: Science fiction
Series: Starmetal Symphony, Movement 1
Release Date: July 12, 2022
Publisher: Orbit
Content Includes: Graphic violence, blood, involuntary body modification, description of medical procedures, imprisonment or detainment, minor character death, suicidal ideation, sexual content, gore and body horror, depression, mention of terminal illness

Our story begins at the end of the world, with the titular August Kitko playing jazz ’til he’s eaten by the also titular space mecha. Only, in propulsive style and visceral detail, August joins the endgame against humankind’s annihilation and learns that life is worth living if you’re banging a hottie. Here’s one for the gay babes that’d always wanted someone to say, “get in the robot, loser!” August Kitko and the Mechas from Space is fun, stylish, inclusive, and unapologetically queer with fast-paced, violent mecha battles, a sweet beating heart deeming love as the most meaningful force, and the existentially devastating implications of Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s aesthetically and metaphorically rich final arc. 

John Constantine, Hellblazer, Vol. 1: Original Sins by Jamie Delano et al.

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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo / DC Comics

Original Sins starts as a monster-of-the-week hardboiled horror comic that frankly put me off from its dated and distasteful takes. I’ve been Twitter-adjacent too long to be anything but annoyed at this particular combination of the abrasive & crass with progressive politics as told through a white lens because so often, that particular perspective hurts and/or excludes those they claim to ally with and then shields itself by claiming that authenticity, realism, or grit excuses the narrative of whatever harm it might cause.

Witchbane by Morgan Brice

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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2018
Publisher: Darkwind Press
Series: Witchbane, #1
Content Includes: Character death, reference to homophobia, reference to car accidents, reference to stalking

Back when I believed I was ride-or-die for my main, Supernatural, I read Bone Key, official Supernatural profic written by Keith R.A. DeCandido. What that starry-eyed child learned was that she rode for no book without sufficient lyricism and that no, she can’t just have fun; a story must devastate my soul or it’s dead to me.

That’s anathema to most romances (that I’ve read); the point is usually to impart positive feelings, which I’m resistant to. That’s why I was attracted to this series. It works within a familiar framework and delivers upon its most basic promises, but its capital “S” Supernatural angle looked like it could potentially satisfy my particular need for high stakes inside of a considerable plot.

Dark Age by Pierce Brown

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Rating: *Ptreodactyl screech!!!* / ★★★★★
Genre: Science fiction / Space Opera
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
Series: Red Rising, #5
Content Includes: racism, xenophobia, classicism, poverty, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, physical, mental, and emotional abuse, queerphobia, chronic illness, substance abuse and addiction, pedophilia, ephebophilia, incest, childbirth and pregnancy, infanticide, explicit violence, gore and body horror, torture, character death, animal death, implied and/or referenced sexual violence, cannibalism, ableism, explicit medical procedures, child death, and child prostitution

While Dark Age, published by an American author in 2018, cannot actively comment on the events of 2020 and 2021, reading this book during the final six months of Trump’s presidency was a fucking head trip whose horrific verisimilitude culminated in an act of domestic terrorism on the nation’s Capitol. Our dystopia is here and we don’t get to have the neon-soaked inventions of our narratives, rather, it’s the terror and confusion so well exemplified in the latest entrant in the Red Rising saga. 

Dark Age is the fifth installment in a series that has evolved in depth. The first trilogy, starting with Red Rising, is a fast, action-packed science fiction series following Darrow, a slave who infiltrates society’s elite to realize his wife’s dream of equality. Reflecting his age, Darrow is an idealist who struggles to nurture love and compassion in an inhospitable society in the first trilogy. Darrow is hardened by the second trilogy, his idealism still a delicate flame that drives him to incredible feats, but the questions he asks himself are those that come with maturation: what is his role in prepping the next generation of sons, can the democracy that he helped to established decades ago survive him, and can a democracy created from bloody revolution be sustained?

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Science fiction / Space Opera
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Publisher: Skybound Books
Content Includes: Explicit sexual content, misgendering, sexual violence, human experimentation, classism, poverty, state violence, state corruption, imperialism, fantasy racism

The First Sister is the first part in a queer sociopolitical science fiction trilogy about First Sister, a priestess and comfort woman ordered to spy on her ship’s captain, and Lito sol Lucius, a formerly impoverished soldier given a mission to track down and kill his former partner. Pitched to have the thrills of Red Rising whilst not only acknowledging spectrums in gender and sexuality, but including their particularities in its narrative with the conscientiousness of A Handmaid’s Tale, this book was set to realize my queer dream.

The danger of explicitly naming comparable works is that this creates direct comparisons. In this case, both of the works that The First Sister compares to are multi-part cross-media franchises that have had a lot of time to find their communities. And in fact, I was finally going to pick up Dark Age, the latest book in the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, when my hold on this came in from the library. But to pit this slim book against series comprised of massive installments would be unfair, so my question entering into this book was, is it as action-packed as the first book in Red Rising and is it as socially savvy as A Handmaid’s Tale?

A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone

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Rating: Ugh, boring / ★★
Genre: Romance
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Publisher: Self-published
Content Includes: Explicit sexual content

A Lesson in Thorns is an erotic romance about a group of childhood friends that return to an enchanting English mansion when its owner begins renovating it. While reconnecting, they discover each other’s sexual passions. This culminates during their enactment of a Celtic ritual set during Imbolc that’s connected to the mansion and their pasts.

Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon that hates romance. At least, romance as the primary genre does not seem to be for me. A Lesson in Thorns treats its romances as the primary plot while everything else is a distant second, given just enough attention to loosely excuse group orgies. Every sexual encounter is deliciousy saucy in its wanton desire, but the prose that makes Simone’s erotica sumptuous becomes overwrought when applied to anything resembling a plot. Additionally, while the majority of her writing is good, the blemishes are so repetitious that they became distracting features by the book’s halfway point.


Rating: Damn good / ★★★★
Publisher: EA Vancouver / EA Sports
Release Date: September 17, 2016

I don’t play sports games. Not since the N64 with its beloved catalog of arcade-esque sports titles that have since grown up to develop the most sophisticated of sweaty face technology: I’m talking NBA, FIFA, and 1080°, the one and only snowboarding game of the 90’s. Ah, yes. Nostalgia. Since then, I’ve had no interest, but in recent years, these genre games have taken more risks. NBA 2K16, a (say what?) Spike Lee joint, is one of the notable deviations from standard fare. Some long-time fans were less enthused by the auteur’s vision, but I welcome this kind of experimentation in the AAA field and hope to see sports games evolve into annual spectacles with a surprise in every box.

FIFA 17 was far more conservative in its personal regrooving. Essentially, it’s the same-old, same-old with a steeper difficulty curve due to the introduction and importance of defense mechanics and a new mode, The Journey, inspired by one of the most successful games in the franchise’s history (–well, according to me).

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