Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Squirrel Girl: Universe by Tristan Palmgren - Blog Tour


'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is on a wild cosmic adventure to save the galaxy, in a Marvel Heroines action novel that is totally out of this world!

'Squirrel Girl is in a pickle and a jam, a metaphor that mixes about as well as it tastes. She and her friends are lost in outer space, where there is a conspicuous absence of oxygen and, even more troubling, a shortage of squirrels. After hitching a ride on a passing space whale, Squirrel Girl and her trusty companions find themselves on a free-merchant space station and on the front line of a looming interstellar war. The stakes have never been so high, and trillions of lives are at risk! Luckily for the universe, Squirrel Girl is here to stand up against the odds and set things right across the galaxy.'

Even if you've never picked up a Squirrel Girl comic in your life there's a good chance that you'll have heard of the character. Whether it's her popping up in other books, or simply stories about how she's managed to defeat foes like Thanos and Galactus, a lot of comic readers will be familiar with the character. And as someone who had heard the tales, but never experienced a Squirrel Girl story I was very interested to see just what this character was like; and Squirrel Girl: Universe proved to be the perfect opportunity.

This story begins when strange anomalies begin to happen across New York, with space seeming to be folding in upon itself. It seems like the entirety of the super hero community is on the lookout to discover the source, but it's Squirrel Girl and her friends, including the heroes Coy Boy, and Chipmunk Hunk, who find the one responsible. The Mad Thinker has developed some technology that will rip the city out of its place on Earth, and send it into the furthest reaches of the universe.

Squirrel Girl steps in to save the day, and the city, but in doing so she, her friends, and the Mad Thinker, find themselves transported to a barren alien planet. With no way home, and dwindling supplies, survival looks pretty bleak. But when a sentient space whale arrives and offers them a ride to a nearby space station things begin to look up for the stranded earthlings; but little do they know that this will lead them to encounter some truly strange aliens, and a war that could change the very fabric of reality itself.

Squirrel Girl: Universe is not your normal super hero story. Other than the inclusion of some super heroes, I wouldn't even include it in that genre. Instead, Tristan Palmgren has tried to do something different, and has crafted a weird and wonderful science fiction story that at times feels like it has more in common with something like The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy than it does your average Spider-Man adventure.

A lot of this comes down to the the worlds and people that Palmgren fills this story with. We spend relatively little time on Earth, and the majority of the story is set out in space, meeting increasingly odd people. We come across an asteroid station where pirates are keeping people held captive so that some unseen power can steal away poets, and all commerce is made in lines of poetry. There are sentient space whales who change their name from moment to moment. There are aliens who narrate their lives in the third person and can alter reality around them based upon what they say. We get future and past echoes speaking to each other. It's all a bit weird, but quite often delightfully so.

And considering that this is all set around a super hero who has always been seen as a bit weird anyway, it works.I don't think that this story would have worked with a lot of the other heroes in Marvel; they'd be too serious and grounded for this to flow the way it does and not feel too ridiculous. But Squirrel Girl feels like the perfect fit here. It also helps that she's incredibly smart and has some extensive scientific knowledge that she's able to bring into play here to help the reader to keep up with some pretty big concepts. These are often given in the form of asides and footnotes that allow her to break the fourth wall in her story, and to give the reader some info-dumps that would otherwise slow the flow down a bit. These footnotes are sometimes used for comedic effect too, and we sometimes get interruptions from the books editor, the Hulk.

There are a few times that the book references other parts of Squirrel Girl's adventures, and they often come with footnotes telling you exactly which comics to check out. These can sometimes add a little bit of depth, especially in character interactions, but there are also times where it feels like you'd be getting more out of this story if you'd read her comics. It's clear that Palmgren has read the books, and they're going out of their way to include parts of it to appeal to long time fans and readers; and whilst I can't say whether or not fans of the comics will enjoy the book or not, I do think that you'll find a lot here that's familiar. This book doesn't have to stand on its own, and feels like it could be part of the rest of Squirrel Girls adventures.

As someone new to this character I found a lot of fun things to discover in this book. I got to get to know a character I'd heard about for years but never experienced. I learned about her extended cast of characters, their adventures, and got to discover a whole new part of the Marvel galactic stage. To me Squirrel Girl: Universe was a book of discovery, not just the amazing and wonderful things that the characters got to discover, but what I got to find too. There was never a dull moment reading it.

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