Posts Tagged ‘australia’

Cannonball 48: Y: The Last Man, Volume VII: Paper Dolls by Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 7: Paper DollsY: The Last Man, Vol. 7: Paper Dolls by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another of the weaker volumes in the series, but this one at least moves the story along a bit.

In this volume, Yorick & Friends stop to refuel in Australia before continuing on to Japan in search of Ampersand. This allows Yorick the opportunity to search for his fiancee, Beth Deville, who was in Australia when he last communicated with her.

We also learn a little more about Agent 355’s history, which isn’t as compelling as it could be, in my opinion. It’s a pretty standard story of childhood trauma that eventually turned her into a hardened soul who could only be softened by the right people. Meh and meh.

This volume also sees Yorick’s existence revealed to the rest of the world. Ehhh, once again, it doesn’t do much to propel the story forward, and ultimately becomes more of a MacGuffin than anything else.

But since the series overall is so innovative, it’s easy to overlook a few less-than-great volumes.

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Cannonball 47: Y: The Last Man, Volume VI: Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 6: Girl on GirlY: The Last Man, Vol. 6: Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Girl on Girl was probably my least favorite volume in the series.

In this volume, Yorick & Co. cross the Pacific Ocean in their quest to recover Yorick’s monkey, Ampersand, who may hold the key to curing the plague that wiped out the “man” half of mankind.

There are some random subplots here, and Vaughan’s twists and turns in this volume are rather two-dimensional, which is a disappointment considering how artfully he was able to turn societal conventions on their heads in some of the earlier volumes of this series.

There are pirates and spies and I felt rather beat over the head with the whole idea of “Yorick can’t trust anyone,” and, yes, yes, I get it, he has to be careful. There’s also a whole lot of “fair is foul and foul is fair” — the ally turns out to be a villain but then turns out not to be as villainous as she was believed to be. I’d call that a spoiler, but it’s such a thin device that watching it unveiled leaves you with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

This volume doesn’t do much to advance the series, but the worst volume of this series is still a sight better than the best volumes in some others, so it’s still worth reading.

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Cannonball 38: Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Mao's Last DancerMao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fact: I’m actually North Korean. My parents lived most of their lives in the South, but both of them originally hail from the North.

When we were kids, my dad would occasionally gather us all ’round the table and tell us tales of North Korea. He would tell us about how his family struggled to survive during the war, and how Communism had ruined the country so that everyone was poor. Families only got a small ration of beef every year, that they would boil over and over again in order to make it last. He would tell us harrowing tales of poverty and oppression.

Then, I grew up and studied the Korean War and realized that my dad wasn’t even in North Korea at that time. In fact, he was only an infant when his parents fled — before the DMZ was set up.

As a result, I grew callous to the suffering of people in Communist countries. In the back of my mind, I always just kind of thought that these tales of poverty were just over-exaggerated by people like my dad who wanted to scare their kids into behaving and being grateful.

But reading Li Cunxin’s autobiography set me straight. In a nutshell: Communism sucks.

Li grew up in rural China during the Cultural Revolution. His family did okay for themselves, and he loved both his mother (niang in Chinese) and his father (dia in Chinese) dearly. He particularly loved his mother and craved more time with her. But, as the sixth of seven sons, he didn’t get much.

He describes his parents’ sacrifices for their survival, and how they worked hard to keep everyone alive. The family, as well as everyone else in the area, survived on a meager diet of dried yams and the occasional protein.

Li’s life changed forever when he was selected to go to Beijing to become a dancer in Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy. He was only eleven years old, and leaving his beloved niang was tortuous. But he knew that he had to do this for the family’s honor.

Li excelled as a dancer under the careful tutelage of many teachers. As he continued to excel, he was offered an opportunity to visit America.

One visit to America was all it took to shatter years of Communist propaganda. When he saw the freedom that the Americans had, he knew that he could never be content living in China again. Li eventually defected to the United States and became a principle dancer for the Houston Ballet.

Oh, and there’s plenty of ballet-stuff in the book, too. As an unashamed owner of Center Stage on DVD, that was super-fun to read.

Chengwu Guo plays Li Cunxin as a teenager in the film version of the book.

Li’s life is an amazing tale of courage and determination. But the parts that resonated most with me were his accounts of his family life. In Communist China, all the Li family had was each other. Their love and devotion to one another helped them to survive conditions that I can’t even imagine. Even after defecting, Li couldn’t be truly happy until he knew that his family was safe.

The writing’s a little clunky, but this isn’t a book written for the sake of literature. It’s the tale of a man, his victory over oppression and poverty, and how his family’s love for him made that all possible.

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