August 26, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #34 Seanan McGuire: "Velveteen vs." Series


Intro


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps 😊. Just to be clear,  I'm NOT taking a break from writing long reviews - no such luck LOL (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

Please note: these short stories (mind you, NOT graphic short stories) were first published on Seanan McGuire's LiveJournal from 2008 to 2017. The three volumes came out in 2012, 2013 and 2016 - so, apparently, the author had been sharing the ones collected in Velveteen vs. The Seasons after the very book came out...Then again, the hardcover was a limited edition, and the whole series something akin to a collector's item, so I suppose it makes sense. If you're interested in these stories but can't find the books on sale anywhere, you can read them on Seanan's site (the ones from the first installment only) and/or on her LiveJournal (all of them - starting from the last post on the page I linked and scrolling up from there, then clicking on "Next 50" at the top of the page, which will redirect you to a second page with the last batch of stories). Also, keep in mind that the last LiveJournal story, Velveteen vs. Recovery, wasn't included in the third and (for now?) last book - I assume that it should have been the opening story in a new collection, but there weren't enough readers/publishers interested in the project to keep it going, which is a shame...because Velveteen is great (even if you aren't a fan of superheroes), and because this way we'll never get the answers we need about a lot of things...

P.S.: for the sake of completeness - McGuire allowed author Marion G. Harmon to use Velveteen and her universe for an installment in her Wearing the Cape series called Team-Ups and Crossovers.

(Velveteen vs #1)

★★★★

A 24 y.o. former child-superheroine finds herself targeted by the corporate entity who used to own her (and other kids with powers) until she walked out on them at 18, and does her best to keep them at bay - with the aid of the toys she animates and a few unlikely allies - while saving (corners of) the world in the process.

***

Rated 4.5 really.

An imaginative, fond yet subversive take on superheroes, in which children with powers (and their adult counterparts, if they make it that far) are corporation property, groomed to sell merchandising and to be exploited in multiple other ways. We meet Velma "Velveteen" Martinez in the present, six year after quitting her superheroine gig, when a small "mistake" puts her former guardians on her tail while she's trying to survive dead-end jobs and general bad luck. From here, McGuire intersperses Velma's new adventures with flashbacks of her child-superheroine past, weaving a world full of entertaining, epically humorous adventures and very human feelings and woes. Oh, and did I mention that the other superheroes (and magical creatures from other dimensions...like Halloween - ahem, Autumn - Land, because of course, that's McGuire for you 😂) are a riot?

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series. Which these are, but not one that I started reviewing back when I used to write a full review for every book...).

Velveteen vs. The Multiverse by Seanan McGuire
(Velveteeen vs. #2)

★★★★★

Superheroine Velveteen, animator of toys (and more) currently fighting evil in Portland, finds herself visiting a number of alternate realities or been visited by a number of their inhabitants, all while trying to maintain a love life, save an old friend, and break the corporate entity who own superheroes once and for all.

***

This is much more organic than Book 1 (which sort of happened by accident after all, one story after another) and McGuire once more blew me away with her ability to create a new, original, completely self-sustained world out of age-old tropes, all while reversing/putting wild spins on them. (And did I mention, an inclusive world?). It's fun, yet heartbreaking. It's imaginative, full of twists (oooh, THAT one twist 🤯 😭) and quirky powers, but ultimately character-driven in true McGuire fashion - the one where you care for everyone and feel like you've known everyone for your whole life. The worst I can say about this installment is that there's a *cough* love triangle *cough*, but then again...it doesn't feel forced or icky. Also, if you're worried about my "Horror or Gore" label on Goodreads, this is violence/fighting superhero-style...not much blood to be seen. What else can I say - if you enjoy twisted seasons, rebranded fairytales, mirror mazes that offer you a glimpse into parallel worlds, parallel worlds themselves, silly yet endearing superpowers, women having one another's back, and justice coming at a price, you'll fall in love with Velveteen and her world(s).

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series. Which these are, but not one that I started reviewing back when I used to write a full review for every book...).

Velveteen vs. The Seasons by Seanan McGuire
(Velveteeen vs. #3)

★★★★

Still reeling from her fight with The Super Patriots, Inc., superheroine Velveteen fulfills her promise to serve Winter, Spring and Autumn for a trial period, and is forced to give up on her humanity in more than one sense while doing so - until her trials end and she realises that they cost her (and someone else) more than she could ever imagine.

***

Rated 4.5 really.

While the concept is fascinating and the body horror is top-notch (says she who usually squirms at body horror), I expected Velveteen's adventures as the Seasons' servant to be more exciting and meaningful, not to mention fleshed out. As a matter of fact, the real excitement, for me, started when she got home after her trials, found a world both gone sour and retconned (at least for what concerns a small, yet not-so-small detail), and banded with her friends to try and make things right again. Which poses another problem, because this made for a huge detour from the titular Seasons plot, and wreaked havoc on the overall structure. Then again, I'm not sure I would have liked to spend more time in the Seasonal Lands, since Velveteen's servant duties came off as a bit mundane and nonsensical.
I loved hanging around with the gang again, and I found the social commentary to be spot-on (especially in light of the Roe vs. Wade debacle - don't take anything for granted, always keep your guard up, they'll start with a finger and in time they'll devour your whole body), and I was excited to get the chance to explore more of the multiverse/multiple identities of our cast, and I appreciated that even with gods bending the rules, there aren't easy ways out. What I didn't appreciate was the amount of loose threads left at the end of the installment, especially since, apparently, we aren't going to get a proper ending anytime soon (there's one more story on McGuire's old LiveJournal, but it's more of a prelude for things to come than an epilogue...).

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series. Which these are, but not one that I started reviewing back when I used to write a full review for every book...).

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

16 comments:

  1. These sound really fun. :) I admit I have not read that many books with child super heroes, but I love the idea, that along with visiting Halloween, I mean autumn land. ;)
    -Quinley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of the stories follow the group as adults, with only a few flashbacks to their childhood years. And yeah, it's true that there aren't many stories about child superheroes...I can't think of a single one actually!

      Autumn land was fun!

      Delete
  2. I'm always impressed by just HOW prolific she is, which I know we've discussed before, but still... I have to say too that I am curious to see where she would take superhero stories. And of course parallel worlds. She seems to love those, and I do too naturally. I had no idea these stories even existed lol.

    The social commentary DOES seem spot on, especially given what's happening now and the fact she wrote these a while ago.

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    Replies
    1. "I had no idea these stories even existed lol."
      That's why you need me in your life 😂 😉.

      "The social commentary DOES seem spot on, especially given what's happening now and the fact she wrote these a while ago."
      Goodness, she's psychic, I swear. She practically predicted the coronavirus outbreak...now I just hope she missed the mark with her giant cannibal mermaids and her zombies 😱 😂.

      Delete
    2. Right?? :)

      Ooh cannibal mermaids. I could take that... it might actually be an improvement over what's occurring now!

      Delete
    3. Definitely...at least they're honest monsters.

      Delete
  3. It great to see such a strong set of books from you, but then again, this is an author you love. The superhero premise of the first story is interesting. Seems like there is a bit of social commentary in there (?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. McGuire is strong on social commentary...

      Delete
  4. This is really interesting. I haven't read anything by Seanan McGuire yet but she's on my TBR. This series sounds really interesting, bug I think not having an ending would irritate me, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's say there are a few loose threads, one of them pretty major. But it's totally worth a read...or a number of them!

      And now I wonder which McGuire books are on your radar...

      Delete
  5. I haven't read any of these, but you brought me back to my LJ days, so thank you!

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  6. While these sound fun, I'm not sure they would be for me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. These sound fun! And yes, I was surprised to see you describe body horror as top-notch, but apparently Seanan is just that good! Glad you enjoyed these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, she is! She can pull off the most disturbing things (though I'm still not sure I want to read her Parasitology series because ewww tapeworms 😖).

      Delete

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