Saturday, March 3, 2018

Book Mini-Reviews: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely and The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn

* Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Serendipity Jones lives with a father who doesn't respect anything she does. She inherited some revolvers and killer aim from her mom, but there's not much use for her talent. Her father decides to marry her off to another commune, so she decides to run away with her best friend to make a new life. On the way, her friend dies and Serendipity is captured by outlaws who decide to help her. She has the chance at a new life.

I didn't finish Gunslinger Girl. I ended around page 70 because I wasn't invested in the story. Serendipity Jones is a wet blanket of a protagonist. She's supposed to be this badass gunslinger and then doesn't follow through and is the least compelling character in her own story. Her best friend Finn is so much more interesting and gets killed off so early in the book. (I expect that she isn't really dead for a future twist.) Anyway, Serendipity is called Pity throughout the book which is just awful. This plot checks a lot of boxes that I like. However, it feels formulaic and dull. The criminals had really no reason to help her and then she descends into the hedonistic world of Cessation, the complete opposite of her restrictive upbringing. It's a clearly feminist novel, but in such an obvious, manufactured way that I didn't enjoy.

Gunslinger Girl has an interesting world where a second Civil War fractures the US into disparate factions.  However, it wasn't enough to keep my interest. There are just so many other books I would love to read that this one felt like I was wasting time.

My rating: 2/5

* The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls is Emilie Autumn's semi-autobiographical account of being in a mental institution paired with a fictional parallel story of Emily in Victorian England who is forced into a torturous mental asylum. This pairs well with many of her songs that openly criticize the mental health industry and speak of her personal experiences with bipolar disorder and its treatment. I highly recommend her music, which is a unique fusion of classical music and industrial metal.

The modern part of this story exposes the hypocricy, inefficiency, and inhumanity of the current mental health industry. Emilie admitted to being suicidal to her therapist who then refused to further prescribe her bipolar medication until she voluntarily commits herself to an institution even though she is no longer suicidal. So she goes to institution that strips away any privacy, labels her as having an eating disorder, and forcing her to take numerous drugs without concern for her physical or mental health. She's treated as a malicious invalid and diagnosed completely ignoring any answers she actually gives. It's a frustrating, dehumanizing experience.

The other half of the story is with Emily during Victorian England where she is sold to a prestigious school by her poor family to develop her musical talent for free. Nothing suspicious about that. When she gets older, she finds it's a glorified prostitution ring and fights against her captors only to land in the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. It's even worse than every other place she's been with extreme abuse and experimentation. This part of the story was a little too over the top and fantastical for my taste especially compared to the other story. All of the characters are pretty black and white, only in extremes of good and evil. The horror elements are surprisingly well done. As a whole, the novel is enjoyable, but the modern half is a bit better than the Victorian half.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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