Pull List: Nancy Drew and Submerged Tackle the Mysteries of Life and Death

At first blush, Nancy Drew and Submerged seem like an odd pairing. One is a young adult mystery series about a wisecracking teen investigating several murders in her hometown, and the other a retelling of the Orpheus myth set in the storm-drenched subways of New York. But they line up more than you think. Each takes an old, trope-laden tale and refreshes it with diversity and new perspectives. On a deeper level, both examine what it means to live a life you didn’t intend due to circumstances beyond your control, and the lengths we’ll go to protect the people we care about. Plus, both are awesome stories that aren’t getting nearly as much attention as they deserve, and who doesn’t love chatting about underdog comics?

 

Nancy Drew

In this contemporary update, Nancy is dragged back to Bayport to investigate a cold case. She left town seven years before after ...

Queers! In! SPAAAAAACE!!! Emily Skrutskie’s Hullmetal Girls

Aisha Un-Haad is out of options. Her parents are dead, her brother is dying of a terrible disease, and her sister is about to start working in the dangerous dyeworks. Without money, their lives will get exponentially worse. Aisha does the only thing she can: surrender her freedom to become a mechanically enhanced soldier. Called Scelas, they are living weapons for the oppressive regime that rules the fleet of generation ships on which the last humans live.

Key Tanaka has little memory of her life before becoming a Scela or what drove her to undergo the life-threatening procedure. Aisha wants to protect her family, and Key to unlock her missing memories. In order to do that they and their teammates, willful Praava and awkward Woojin, must join the ranks of the Scela elite. But what happens when they’re ordered to kill, maim, and conspire against citizens at the behest of ...

What Is, What Could Be, What Should Be: Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

After nuclear war and global instability, Green City seems like a utopia, a place of hope and growth in the middle of a vast Southwest Asian desert. When a Virus decimates the female population, the Agency creates Perpetuation Bureau to repopulate the region. Men hold all the power, but must share a Wife with up to five other men. Women are stripped of their rights and made into “domestic scientists” whose sole purpose is to breed with their Husbands. The Bureau assigns marriages, monitors women’s fertility, and executes anyone who resists.

Not long after the establishment of this patriarchal authoritarianism, two women disappear from Green City. In its underground tunnels they build the Panah, a secret community of women who refuse to be Wives. They survive through a kind of prostitution, offering powerful men not duty-bound sex but chaste intimacy. Sabine hates working with Clients and carries so much fear ...

Science Fiction and Cultural Identity: Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti Series

Binti trilogy hardcover edition Nnedi Okorafor cover reveal Tor.com Publishing

One evening, Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib runs away from home. She is a teenager and Himba, a people from southwestern Africa. They believe in staying close to their native land and that women should cover their bodies and hair in otjize, a mixture primarily comprised of “sweet smelling red clay.” Otjize in hand, Binti climbs aboard a living spaceship called the Third Fish as it heads off to Oozma University. Most of the passengers are Khoush, the dominant people in Binti’s country, and they look down on the Himba. But Binti is the first of her kind to be accepted into the prestigious uni and won’t let anything stand in her way. That is, until the Meduse, a jellyfish-like alien species engaged in a centuries-old war with the Khoush, attack the ship. Binti’s people didn’t start this war, but she may be the one to ...

Pull List: Queering Canon with Doctor Aphra

Hey you! Yeah, you! Do you love Star Wars? Are you eager to explore the non-Skywalker part of the EU? Do you wanna read stories starring a badass queer woman of color? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then it’s time you picked up Doctor Aphra. She’s cool, she’s tough, and she can out maneuver anyone at anytime. Aphra will flirt until you swoon, then pick your pocket. Oh yes, my friend, you’re gonna love this comic.

Doctor Aphra was first introduced in the Star Wars canon with issue #25 of Darth Vader. The series is set about two years after the Battle of Yavin during the three-year gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. The rogue archaeologist’s first solo story arc has a strong Indiana Jones vibe. In hiding from Vader, who thinks she’s dead, Aphra sets her sights on retrieving ancient ...

Impractical Magic: Lily Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang

Mila Flores is miserable. She’s an outcast at school because she’s fat, grumpy, and Mexican American in a town of skinny white people. She abides by Wicca instead of Christianity, much to the chagrin of her community. She is drowning in a sea of unrequited love for a boy who barely notices her. But mostly she’s miserable because her best friend Riley is dead. It was not, she’ll have you know, a suicide, no matter what the incompetent police say. They also declared the hangings of two other schoolmates, June and Dayton, to be suicides as well, despite the suspicious circumstances. No, someone killed Riley, and Mila is going to find out who no matter what it takes. Especially if that “whatever” means raising her BFF from the dead.

With the help of a creepy grimoire and her heretofore undiscovered magical abilities, Mila casts a spell that brings Riley back…and ...

Sorry to Bother You Is This Summer’s Must-See Dystopian Satire

What Get Out is to horror, Sorry To Bother You is to satire. Writer and director Boots Riley has put together a deliriously punk rock and intensely Oakland film with a bark as vicious as its bite: It’s an exhilarating dystopian work of science fiction, a scathing critique of American ideals, and a love song to the Bay Area. Riley is about as subtle as a baseball bat to the face, but that made me love the movie even more.

In a surreal, near-future Oakland, the world is beset by an ever-worsening economic crisis fueled by corporate greed and social and political indifference. The streets teem with tent communities and beat-up cars turned into mobile homes. When his uncle Sergio (Terry Crews) threatens to kick him and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) out of his garage for owing four months in back rent, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) takes a job ...

Girls Rule In This Season’s New Young Adult Fiction

SO. MUCH. SCIENCE FICTION. There must be something in the water, because science fiction is crawling out of the woodwork this season. There’s some great fantasy as well, but space is apparently where it’s at right now. Luckily, it’s not just the same old, same old, but a lot of cool premises and tons of racial, gender, and sexual diversity.

Something not on my list but high on yours? Share with the class down in the comments.

Books marked with an asterisk will be reviewed on Tor.com in the coming months.

 

* Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Desperate for money to pay for her plague-ridden brother’s medical treatment, Aisha Un-Haad reluctantly volunteers to become a Scela. But the process to become one involves severe body modification and mechanical enhancements that could kill her. Scelas are soldiers defending the gaggle 0f spaceships known as the Fleet. Their might enforces ...

Gods, Monsters, and Wicked Men: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

When the sea levels rose and the world was flooded, the Diné built a wall around what once was the Navajo reservation, now called Dinétah. As the Fifth World was drowned by the Big Water and the Sixth World rose up, so too did creatures from Diné legend. That wall keeps enemies out, but monsters in. Which is where Maggie Hoskie comes in. She takes on the monsters terrorizing her people using her clan powers, the speed of Honágháahnii (“one walks around”) and the killing prowess of K’aahanáanii (“living arrow”). When we first meet Maggie, she’s stuck in stasis. Abandoned by the man she loved and her only family dead, she’s alone and pretending not to be lonely. She’s hired to rescue a young girl and finds instead a whole new breed of monster.

Maggie cautiously accepts the help of Kai Arviso, the grandson of Tah, the only person in ...

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A Different Shade of Magic: Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Welcome to Witchmark, C.L. Polk’s masterful debut about a magical Edwardian-esque world still reeling from a deadly world war. One of those battlefield survivors is Dr. Miles Singer. In the war he experienced terrible acts of violence, and perpetrated a few of his own. Now back home, he treats injured veterans at a local hospital. Did I say treat? I meant cure. With magic. Miles is a healer, although no one is supposed to know. Years before, he was a recalcitrant Secondary, a second-class mage destined to be magically bound to his magically superior sister. Grace is a Storm-Singer and she and the other elite mages use magic to keep Aeland temperate and fertile. But Miles ran away, escaped from a live of captivity and servitude. And he might have remained undiscovered if Nick Elliot hadn’t died in his arms.

Something terrible is driving vets to kill their ...

Falling in Love with the Enemy: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

When she was little, Lady Branwen’s life was blown apart when her parents were murdered by Kernyv raiders. The king and queen took her in and raised her as one of their own. Now at nineteen, she a lady-in-waiting to her cousin Princess Eseult. Essy is fiesty yet fragile, a girl determined to live a life she chooses even if it means disregarding all her responsibilities. Branny, on the other hand, is content to be in her cousin’s shadow, but beneath her wallflower attitude is a fire waiting to be lit. The boy with the match is Tristan, a Kernyvman who washes up on Iveriu’s shore. After Branwen saves his life, the truth of his past comes out and threatens the passion welling up between them.

For years, longer than anyone can remember, Kernyv and Iveriu have been enemies, but Tristan’s arrival and the message he brings from his king ...

About That Legion Season Two Finale…

Legion: mostly interesting, frequently frustrating, occasionally boring, always beautiful to look at. The second season has come to an end, and I have Many Thoughts on the subject. So let’s dig right in, shall we?

(Spoilers ahead.)

When we last saw our mutants, David’s ever-increasing dickishness was giving Farouk’s a run for its money. Episode 9 explores the theme of connectivity. Ptonomy is psychically trapped in Fukuyama’s mainframe. We learn that as a teen Fukuyama was conscripted by the feds to snoop on the masses and store secrets in his unreadable mind. But Ptonomy isn’t the only one chilling in the mainframe. The Mi-Go monk has hijacked some of the code, and Ptonomy does the same to him, learning the monk’s secrets. Using a hacked Vermillion, he tells David that Farouk is buried in Le Désolé. Meanwhile, Future Syd sends Farouk to his former driver who trades the ...

“Death Cannot Tear Us Apart”: Brooklyn Brujas Series by Zoraida Córdova

Do you love engaging characters, heart-pounding plots, intriguing worldbuilding, and compelling narratives? Are you eager for supernatural suspense with a Latinx twist? Then I’m pleased to introduce you to Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born, Zoraida Córdova’s firecracker of a young adult fantasy series. Brooklyn Brujas features the three magically-inclined Mortiz sisters, cataclysmic supernatural happenings, and a whole lotta enticing Latinx influence.

The Mortiz sisters come from a family of brujas (witches), but have different powers. Eldest sister Lula is a healer, youngest sister Rose can sense spirits, and middle sister Alejandra is an encantrix. Or, at least she’s supposed to be. When we first meet her in Labyrinth Lost, Alex hates her gift and rejects her destiny. She doesn’t want to be the Chosen One, not for anything in the universe. When she casts a dangerous canto (spell) to circumvent her fate, the backlash traps her family in Los ...

The Queer Webcomics Revolution

Webcomics are full of untamed creativity, experimental stories, and wholly unique casts, not to mention creators ready and willing to tackle subjects generally avoided by the mainstream. A few webcomics have made the transition to print (the big one in recent years is, of course, Nimona), but most stay online. The freedom a creator has online to do whatever they want doesn’t even come close to Image’s creator-friendly environment. Which is why I love webcomics so much.

I’ve been dying to do a webcomics edition of Pull List for ages, and the combination of Pride Month and needing a break from Big Two comics finally gave me a good excuse. Trouble is, there are so many great webcomics out there that it was impossible to choose just one or two to talk about. After winnowing my very long webcomics library down by series that have recently updated (as in ...

Extraordinary ExtraOrdinaries: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

As college students, Victor Vale and Eliot Cardale were close friends with a competitive streak and an undercurrent of disapproval and frustration. They were friends more because the complemented each other in ways no one else could rather than any real affection. For their culminating project, they focus their research on EOs, ExtraOrdinary people with superhuman abilities. Most people are skeptical of the existence of EOs, and so are they until the science starts to make sense. Soon enough, they unlock the secret to becoming an EO, and everything goes south. By the time they are both powered up, a bunch of people are dead, Eli has disappeared, and Victor is locked away in prison.

Ten years later, Victor breaks free with the help of his supremely unlucky cellmate Mitch. While Victor spent the last decade honing his painful powers, Eli used his to kill other EOs. With the help ...

Pull List, Spooky Edition: Ghostbusters and Archival Quality

Spring has sprung! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, the sun is shining… and the ghosts are ghouling. Yeah, I know people don’t generally put ghosts and spring in the same sentence. Unless you’re me, that is, and have two awesome spirit-centered comics you can’t stop squeeing about. So gather ‘round, comics fanatics, as I rant and rave about my new faves Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Archival Quality.

 

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call

Abby, Patty, Erin, and Holtzmann head out on a routine house call to clear out a ghost, but things quickly go awry. Their target isn’t just any old haunt but a malevolent mad scientist terrorizing people and feeding on their nightmares. If the Ghostbusters don’t bust that ghost, the whole of Manhattan will fall under his wicked sway. But first they’ll have to survive their own nightmares come to life.

It’s no secret that I stan ...

What’s Going On with Legion Season 2’s Strange, Circuitous Journey?

Every episode of Legion has the same basic arc in terms of my viewing experience. Step 1: “Wait, what happened in the last episode? How did we get here? What’s going on?” *annoyed grumbling*. Step 2: Fascination with the magic of cinematography. Eager to see how this mini-mystery will be explored. Step 3: Growing irritation at pile-up of information with no context and the lack of even the smallest bit of resolution. Step 4: Boredom *scrolls aimlessly through twitter or tumblr*. Step 5: Someone finally does something cool to re-hook my interest. Step 6: “Wait, what just happened? Is it really over? I don’t know what’s going on.”

You can take that path as a positive (it is, in a weird way), or a negative—either way, I have thoughts about the last few episodes of Legion that cannot be contained. And hopefully if Legion confuses you as ...

Ghosts of the Past: Makiia Lucier’s Isle of Blood and Stone

Eighteen years ago, the two young princes of the island kingdom of St. John del Mar, the royal cartographer Lord Antoni, and lady-in-waiting Lady Esma, vanished without a trace when their picnic caravan was attacked. In retaliation, the king destroyed the neighboring island the murderous assailants came from. Years later, teenage Ulises is now king. Assisting him is his best friend Elias, the son of Antoni and a talented mapmaker in his own right, and his cousin Mercedes, a top-notch spy with a fiery personality. When apprentice mapmaker Reyna discovers two new maps that appear to have been drafted by Lord Antoni, Ulises enlists Elias and Mercedes to uncover the truth about the day his brothers were supposedly kidnapped and murdered. Their quest puts them face to face with fantastical monsters, angry spirits, and dark secrets better left unspoken.

Makiia Lucier’s tale is quieter than I think ...

Brujas, Ships, and Zombies in This Season’s New Young Adult Fiction

Another season, another massive pile of awesome young adult science fiction and fantasy books to read. In terms of inclusive diversity—particularly in regards to authors, characters, and #ownvoices—this wasn’t a great quarter for quantity (especially with science fiction) but the quality is off the charts. With plenty of sequels and new series starters, you should find plenty to occupy your time.

Something not on my list but high on yours? Share with the class down in the comments.

Books marked with an asterisk will be reviewed on Tor.com in the coming months.

 

* Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Everything changed the day the dead rose from the grave. Although African Americans are no longer enslaved, they aren’t exactly free, either; they (and Native children) are conscripted by law to combat academies where they’re trained to kill shamblers. One of those zombie slayers is Jane, a biracial girl with ...

Legion Season Two Is More of the Same, For Better and For Worse

You’re going to read a lot of reviews about how astoundingly amazing the second season of Legion is. This isn’t going to be one of them. It’s not that I don’t like the show—I actually enjoy it quite a bit—I just wish it had more… something, anything beyond surface appeal. Let me put it this way: up through the Admiral Fukuyama interrogation I was cruising along not hooked but not turned off either; by the dance off I thought, “alright, this is pretty cool;” and then I fell asleep during the light conversation with future!Syd.

The last time we saw David (Dan Stevens), he had been sucked into some sort of floating metal orb and taken away by unknown persons. Now he wakes up thinking it’s only been a few hours when nearly a year has passed. During that time, the Summerland crew joined up with Division 3, the ...