Book Reviews: Beagles and Unicorns, Hostages and Robots

“I’m from one of the Baltic countries. Care to guess which one?”
“Do I get three guesses?”
(Yes, I’m a geography nerd.)

Snoopy: Party Animal!
It really is impossible to say something about Peanuts that hasn’t been said over the past 50 years. The humor isn’t edgy, and sometimes the joke’s pretty obvious, but a huge proportion of the time you chuckle, snicker, or outright laugh. Kids will get the jokes too.
One sticks in my mind: Snoopy sleeping on his doghouse when a football smacks him on the stomach. After that he sleeps with a helmet covering his torso. Every time he gets tickled is a highlight as well. Okay, one more: Snoopy being asked what he would do if he was in the woods and spotted a rabbit. With a big smile he sticks his paw out to shake. . .
Again, nothing groundbreaking, just funny.

A terrorist takes hostages in Washington DC, only he’s not what he seems to be. Two of the hostages end up becoming famous, though one is not who he seems either.
Something annoyed me from the start: you never get a clear sense as to when this takes place, though it’s obviously not in the present. There’s mention of the conflicts in Lebanon and Chile, plus a 1984 Volvo, so I’m thinking 80s or early 90s, but it’s irritating not knowing.
The main plot twist actually isn’t much of a surprise; I expected it and felt no satisfaction to be proven right. Oddly enough for a rather thin book, there’s a lot of padding, most of it taken up by the publicity tour the two ex-hostages take. At one point they’re watching the making of a music video based on the hostage situation, which goes to show how ridiculous the media can be. Unfortunately this point is driven over and over and loses its edge. The dialogue, especially during the interviews, is repetitive as well, with the guys always agreeing with each other to the point of boredom. I did find it humorous, though, when even the gang attacking them when they get a flat tire knows about Pizza Guy.
Glad it wasn’t expanded any further.

Unicorn vr. Goblins
A comic strip collection where a little girl has a unicorn as a best friend. Since this is the third book but the first one I’m reading, I have no idea how that happened, but it only matters that it did.
First off, the introduction by Poesy Doctorow and her grown-up Cory is awesome.
The unicorn is drawn to be femininely beautiful, almost dainty, so it’s a bit of a shock to learn, right on the first page, how snarky she can be. She has as much snark as sparkles and rainbows; coffee makes a unicorn oversparkle. . . and I never thought I would ever write that word, or that sentence. She actually looks like the blonde waitress on “2 Broke Girls,” only prettier. The unicorn can’t use contractions, making her sound more formal; it’s just off enough to be funny. And yes, unicorns should be the only equines allowed to wear legwarmers and scarves. . . especially pink. But even though she’s snarky and incredibly narcissistic, Marigold the unicorn luckily always feels amused at all those around her rather than irritated, which saves her from being annoying; it’s like she’s in on the secret.
Phoebe is also quite interesting, a little girl who really doesn’t go out of her way to make friends because she already has the bestest one ever. Of course everyone except her frenemy have no idea there’s a unicorn around, but luckily her parents and her teacher “get” her. And she does make a few friends, from the even weirder roommate at band camp to the older girl she’s in awe of to the younger girl she calls “Small Auxiliary Backup Phoebe.”
Some highlights:
Candy dragon says “Rar!” Using your horn to roast marshmallows over a campfire doesn’t sound smart, Marigold. There’s something called the Curse of the Unicorn-Adjacent. And the image of a unicorn wearing a life vest while rowing will always stick with me.
At the end there’s a primer that shows some of the other animals and magical creatures, and particularly the differences between Marigold Heavenly Nostrils and her sister Florence Unfortunate Nostrils. A recipe for questing snacks and a brief mention of what a unicorn looks like when imagined by Lewis Carroll ends the book.
The reason I’m giving this such a high score is that while other comic strip collections have made me laugh and occasionally chuckle, this one brought a ton more laughs out of me. Now I just gotta figure out how much each laugh weighs. . .

In a future Earth, humans are gone and there’s a robot society, though nothing at all like one would expect such a thing to turn out. Exposition shows this is a sequel; a year ago something happened and D4ve became a hero. This time a couple of humans show up to screw things up, and though he’s a supposed war hero he’s not up for the task of managing what could become a dangerous situation.
It’s like the author took all the worst traits in humans and none of the good ones to make his robots, an entire society of slackers and airheads who cuss even more than humans ever did. There’s a female with literal bazookas, as in missiles running through her and ending in giant breasts. The only sane person, and that’s in comparison to the rest, has such a huge crush on D4ve she’s pretty useless too.
Even worse is his teen son, who shows no respect for either his dad or his commanding officer, both being D4ve. (How do robots have kids? I’m afraid they’ll tell me.) Not that he’s worthy of much respect, hero or not, being the ultimate slacker, but in this world that hardly matters. At least he acknowledges the Terminator thing as the story takes him into the past, but toward the end the whole thing turns so existential I had to go to my bedroom and listen to 80s music. The entire story comes across as too cutesy, and the robot almost-names/numbers gave me a headache.
There’s some fun moments, especially in the way the robots rework human sayings, like, “You’re always gonna have that little folder in your CPU for those feelings” and “You’re gonna 404 urself” and the even better “Not to be a blue screen. . .” At one point the soldiers say, “Let’s get triggy with it.” My favorite part, being a photographer, is the guy at the closing press conference who has a telephoto lens of about a million mm.
The best way to put it is I really didn’t get it. . .


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