Mencken and the Monsters

Portrait Of Sad Unhappy African Man Having Bad Headache, Looking

 

During the past week, the air conditioner in my house hasn’t been working properly. The first time the repairman took a look at it, the problem seemed fairly straightforward, and he was in and out within an hour.

The next day, however, the AC shut off again. He came back and checked every single part inside and out. The further he dug, the more problems he until finally a solution was reached.

Jeff Elkins’ latest book unfolds in a similar fashion, although the stakes are much higher. Mencken and the Monsters follows Mencken Cassie, an ambitious journalist fighting crime and corruption in Baltimore one story at a time. As the puzzle pieces fall into place, however, unfamiliar faces make their presence known, key players in Mencken’s story die brutal deaths, and monsters emerge from the shadows. With every turn, Mencken finds himself even deeper over his head. It’s up to him to find the courage within himself to do the right thing for his city.

Mencken doesn’t let up, not even for a second. When the titular character isn’t working out the details of the crime syndicate, he’s chasing down a lead on a serial killer or meeting with his editors. When the action comes, it’s fast, brutal, and bloody. There’s even a bit of romance for Mencken, although it’s not a central part of the story. If anything, the romantic subplot is strictly used to reflect on Mencken’s growth.

Elkins subtly ponders the importance of duty and responsibility compared to prestige and glory throughout the story with every challenge Mencken faces. The climax only serves to reflect that duality, leading to a satisfying finale.

The strongest aspect of Mencken is how satisfyingly Elkins blends two genres together. It starts off as a political thriller with hints of urban fantasy scattered throughout. As the story progresses, however, the fantasy side takes center stage, thrusting readers into a world rife with fantastic creatures and mythology.

How are the monsters and the gangsters connected, you ask? I can’t say, and not just because that would be spoiling the fun. This is the first book in the Defense of Reality Series. Elkins has barely scratched the surface of the bizarre, terrifying world he’s created, one that’s sure to enthrall readers. For more info on Elkins and his work, visit his website.

Pre-order Mencken and the Monsters on Amazon. It’s available for Kindle September 10th.

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

Zootopia

zootopia

Disney’s been on the rise the past few years, what with Tangled, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and all the live-action remakes they’ve been pumping out, and Zootopia proves they’re moving full steam ahead. Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, and Frozen 2 are all in the works or set to release soon.  As a kid who grew up with The Lion King and Aladdin, it’s good to see Disney come back into their own.

Zootopia was a pleasant surprise. When I first saw the poster for an animated kids movie with talking animals living in a bustling metropolis, I thought it looked silly, maybe a little fun, with a bunch of laughs for the kids. I was not prepared for the story that unfolded before me.

***Some Spoilers Ahead***

Zootopia combines the tale of the small-town girl in the big city with a police/political thriller, all wrapped up with anthropomorphic animals and the animal puns that go with it. Predators and prey have learned to live in harmony, the crowning achievement from this peace being the city of Zootopia, an incredibly diverse haven that can accommodate most any mammal on the planet (yep, it’s just mammals in this movie. Makes things way easier.).

Judy Hopps (a bunny, duh) is the first bunny police officer in Zootopia history, and she certainly doesn’t have it easy. Bunnies are ‘cute and dumb’, according to every single character in the film, including her own family. With every step she takes, Judy has to be more resourceful and clever than the bigger, stronger animals out there to even get by. All of this culminates in an ultimatum from her boss , who doesn’t want her on the force because – you guessed it – she’s a bunny.

Judy isn’t the only one who faces discrimination. She works alongside con-artist Nick Wilde, a snarky, bitter fox. And guess what? Predators get a bad rap for being predators, and foxes also get a bad rap for being untrustworthy. They end up working together to solve a slew of disappearances in Zootopia, or both of them are in serious trouble.

Part of the reason this movie works so well is because Judy and Nick are fantastic together. I’m not talking romantically, even though that’s what literally every fan wants. They naturally fall into a genuine friendship based on shared experiences and exceptional circumstances. You can’t help but be a little heartbroken when they fight in the middle of the movie or smile when they reconcile their differences. It’s also a huge testament to the abilities of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, who absolutely nailed the voices of Judy and Nick, respectively

***Spoilers Over***

The big theme in this movie is overcoming adversity in all walks of life. This certainly isn’t the first movie to attempt to convey strength and perseverance over all obstacles. However, very few movies out there manage to tackle racism, sexism, police discrimination, profiling, bullying, affirmative action, fear-mongering, and political scandal all in one coherent story, especially not kids stories. Admittedly, the plot is a by-the-numbers crime thriller, which helps enormously in presenting these issues to the target audience: kids.

There’s also something to be said about the timeliness of this movie. I don’t know if writers have access to a fortune teller who will predict what issues will be most pressing on people’s minds the year the movie comes out, but somehow Disney nailed it. With all the violence and bigotry in the world today, Zootopia manages to talk about so many problems in today’s society with surprising clarity and a fantastic message of hope and love. Don’t be fooled by the well-animated, lovable animals on the screen, especially the sloths. Zootopia is one of those movies that, despite the premise, leaves people thinking about the real world more than they’d expect. It’s classic ‘90s Disney with fantastic 3-D animation, and hopefully it doesn’t become as irritating as Frozen did.

If you’ve seen Zootopia, let me know what your thoughts are.

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I hadn’t read it, I’ll add it to the list!