The Review: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Volume 6), Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Volume 6)
by Bryan Lee O’Malley
ISBN: 9781934964385
Oni Press

Reviewed by U of T Bookstore Staff, Aleks Wrobel

Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old, is in a band called Sex Bob-omb with his friends Kim Pine and Stephen Stills, and has a rating of ‘awesome’. Scott also must defeat the seven evil exes of the beautiful Ramona Flowers in order to win her heart.

Scott’s story starts in 2004 with Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (Volume 1). Readers were introduced to Scott and all the members of his precious life and immediately fell in love with the Canadian loser. Fans couldn’t wait for the next volumes, and the independent comic book artist and writer Bryan Lee O’Malley suddenly became a local celebrity. Even Hollywood took notice and Scott Pilgrim finally met the world on the big screen this summer. Scott Pilgrim vs the World directed by Edgar Wright and starring Michael Cera, opened on August 13th and was one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer.

Except for the occasional battle with an evil ex, not much happens to Scott. O’Malley wrote the first Scott Pilgrim book as a joke for his friends, creating characters that were 20-something-year-old stereotypes, and put them in a familiar setting: Toronto. Scott’s sister works at Second Cup, midnight cravings are satisfied at Pizza Pizza and the gang’s favorite hang out is Sneaky Dee’s. Toronto fans immediately recognized the world that O’Malley writes about as their own. However, this world is a nerd’s paradise. Each battle with an ex borrows heavily from the video game format. There are ninjas, robots and a vegan with psychic powers. Scott collects lives, points and tips on how to win the girl.

In Volume 6 Scott has defeated almost all of the evil exes. The only one left is the one that really matters: Gideon Graves. Unfortunately, when we find Scott in Volume 6, he’s lost the will to do anything that doesn’t include moping around his apartment. In Volume 5, Ramona disappeared right before his eyes and no one has seen her in months. It’s difficult to talk about the books without giving too much away and Volume 6 is the most important volume of the series as evidenced by the nearly 2,000 die-hard fans who flooded the street at a local comic book shop’s midnight release party. On all the summer reading lists for 2010, fans will be excited to know that Scott does get off his rear end and confronts his issues, the results of which are ultimately satisfying for the reader. Volume 6 gives us fight scenes that are better than ever and there’s enough relationship drama to keep things interesting. O’Malley knows what his fans want and does a good job of giving it to them. Each Pilgrim book depicts the life of the millennial loser-turned-hero. And everyone needs a good hero, even if he is in a band.

Buy Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Volume 6) Now!

Bright Shiny Morning: Nobody Walks in L.A.

Bright Shiny Morning 2I stand corrected from my earlier post about James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning–the amoral gunshop owner doesn’t learn a hard life-lesson.  In fact, he never appears in the book again. There are a lot of characters like this in Frey’s novel, which speaks to the disconnectedness of life in Los Angeles, and I’m now more certain than ever that is Frey’s overarching theme.

In most books the various characters and plots would come together at some point and, even if not everything was resolved, at least connections would be made.  Not so in Bright Shiny Morning, and not so in L.A.  Frey throws in a lot of information (only some of it true apparently–he seems incapable of leaving behind his proclivity for making things up) about the makeup of the sprawling California city, its ethnic groups, their neighbourhoods, and the divide between them.  L.A. is easily one of the most diverse cities in the world, but the many people it’s welcomed over its history continue to be divided within its city limits, by race, class and wealth.

Frey’s novel is almost a horror story–so many bad things happen relentlessly to so many people–and there’s very little hope at the end of the tale.  In keeping with his gritty outlook, everything seems dismal, but there is a little hope, sometimes cynical, sometimes misguided, but sometimes spiritual and romantic.  And isn’t it that faint glimmer of hope that keeps people coming to the City of Angels?

Rise and Shine Los Angeles!

Bright Shiny Morning 2I’ve read more of Bright Shiny Morning and it seems like the characters are stereotypes and cliches–but that’s actually a good thing. It turns out that the stories, about a young chicana who has to work for an elderly and rich white woman to make a living, about a couple of kids struggling to survive in the big hard city but who at least have each other, about a high-profile Hollywood star whose biggest role is the one he plays every day to convince the world that he’s straight, aren’t really about those characters, but just part of the character of the city of Los Angeles, the real subject of the novel. It’s surely one of the most complicated cities in America, if not the world, and Frey really brings it to life through the stories of its denizens.

The Great Los Angeleno Novel?

Bright Shiny MorningJames Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning is set in Los Angeles, and intersperses quick historical facts about the city in between introducing his many and varied characters, from a young couple who have fled abuse and boredom in the MidWest in search of their dreams in the City of Angels to the owner of a gun shop who hates everyone equally and doesn’t care who his guns kill (you just know he’s going to come up hard against a life lesson later in the book). The characters are interesting and show promise. Frey’s style takes a little getting used to, with its lack of commas and slight stream-of-consciousness flow.

Frey is of course (in)famous for the scandal around his “memoir”-later-revealed-to-be-fabrication A Million Little Pieces, but hopefully the incident won’t hang over his career forever.