An enjoyably irreverent diversion.



Novelists King (Double Feature, 2013, etc.) and Poirier (Modern Ranch Living, 2004, etc.) team up with debut artist Ahn for a graphic novel that's a madcap tale of college cliques, girl power, and oversexed body snatchers.

When a sleazy college professor smuggles a sack of soil out of a notorious meteor-impact crater in Siberia, he figures he’s a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize in astrobiology. But soon the microscopic alien life forms embedded in his pilfered permafrost thaw out into tiny blue bugs hellbent on infecting or devouring all human life—a scenario first played out in a Siberian village near the original meteor crash site in 1923 (“They made us pregnant,” the lone survivor claimed. “They filled us with jelly!”). As the aliens spread across the professor’s liberal arts college in Vermont, a hurricane strands a cross section of the student body—goths, bros, arty chicks, young Republicans, theater kids, Greeks, trustafarians, and the professor’s star pupil, Stacey—who must grapple with classmates turning into towering humanoid insects or swollen egg sacks. Spurred by her superior intellect and a secret crush, Stacey takes the fight to the invaders. While the trajectory feels familiar, the story is told with energy and a subversive charm somewhere between Edgar Wright and Eli Roth. Small quirks like a claim that chicken nuggets grow in water (“Big as a Christmas ham!") win the day, while depictions of various college stereotypes (particularly a pair of bros with backward baseball caps and popped collars) are delightful grotesqueries. Ahn’s illustrations have the clean, fat lines of animation stills as they depict tidal waves of goo and alien assaults, and her details (the stippling of a weak mustache) are enjoyably offbeat. Bookish Stacey’s instant and unflinching acceptance of her role as alien-killer (and killer of infected humans, who mostly accept their doom) deflates some emotional heft, but the fun is too infectious to resist.

An enjoyably irreverent diversion.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6340-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.



Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.


Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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