The Refrigerator Monologues – book review

Sometimes something keeps showing up everywhere I look – a couple of weeks ago, The Refrigerator Monologues dropped into this category. I first stumbled upon a guest post (on John Scalzi’s Whatever) written by the author where she discussed the idea behind the book. Later the same day, she was a guest on one of the podcasts I normally listen too (The Writer Files). Because the book caught my interest twice in one day, I ordered a copy. It turned out to be a quick read.

Catherynne M. Valentine has created an original universe of superheroes including Kid Mercury, The Insomniac, Platypunk, Mr. Punch, Retcon, Professor Yes, Zigzag, but the book isn’t about them.

Instead it’s a woven tale of six women tangled with superheros. Their stories have ended while the superhero’s go on. None of these women got their happy ending, instead they ended up as forgotten footnotes in someone else’s story – or as Paige Embry, one of these women, says: “trouble is, my story is his story.”

The idea behind the book comes from Gail Simone, a comic book writer. She pointed out that comic book women often get killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad or have their powers taken to further the storyline of a male superhero (details here and here).

In Deadtown, a richly complex underworld where it’s always the middle of the night and the River Styx now flows through the pipes of the Deadtown Municipal Waterworks, the women converge. Some are residents, some are passing through. Deadtown has “no fiery rings of artisanal punishment” – it’s just a place where residents can’t move on

The women are all now members of the Hell Hath Club – a forum to share their stories. And they do, the reader gets six tales of how each of them ended up in Deadtown and the spin is different each time.

“Dead. Dead. Dead. Flying ace of the corpse corps.” – and the whole book is full of this kind of wordplay.I love the author’s word smithing (okay I’m flat out envious). Overall, even with its tragic bent, The Refrigerator Monologues was a fun read.