In which we like Scott Pilgrim
The latest book in Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, has been out in shops for a month or so, now. And it is, as expected, an excellent book. As it says on the back-cover blurb:
“Now with more kicks, punches, rock & roll, subspace, half-ninjas, experience points, samurai swords, girly action, and laughable attempts to seek gainful employment”
There’s a subtle pun in that blurb, which I’ll come to in a minute. If you’ve never read it before: Scott Pilgrim is a graphic novel series, 2/3rds published so far, about a 20something Canadian slacker with a mysterious American girlfriend – who has seven evil exes, who all have to be defeated in top-notch video-game style. In the meantime he has to deal with his own exes, everyday life, and (in the new book) his girlfriend’s own feelings about relationships. She is, incidentally, a rollerskating rapid-response courier, who has learned the trick of shortcutting through other people’s dreams.* Which is how Scott initially meets her.
They intermingle reality and fantasy with a lovely deftness. Defeated villains disappear in a puff of smoke and a shower of coins – although sometimes barely enough money for the bus ride home. The realistic universe is punctuated by save points, extra-lives, and RPG-style bonus items. Alongside the fantasy, though, there’s a subtle take on the character’s feelings, emotions, and motivation, all of them entirely realistic. As I said, a lot of the new book is about the mysterious Ramona’s own emotions. Spoiler time: For the first time, it’s revealed that she’s submissive, in the D/s sense, and I suspect that will become a much more important part of the story in the final book.** It’s shown in a rather subtle way: Scott takes a shortcut through subspace, in the way he’s learned from Ramona, and accidentally gets into her own dreams, which turn out to involve subspace in another sense. She gets understandably angry; and there’s no other explanation.*** If you understand it, you understand it.
You don’t need to understand that, though, to enjoy the book; and even though as I said I think that’s going to turn out to be important later on, it’s something that will deepen your enjoyment without necessarily needing to be understood. I’m sure there are plenty of other subtle references, to other worlds, that I’m not spotting myself. I really hope the rumoured Scott Pilgrim movie makes it into production, because despite the fantastic elements, the books are a wonderful slice of life.
* Other people’s dreams being the “subspace” of the back-cover blurb.
** I’m tempted to go back through the previous books and look for earlier clues; but I’ve leant them to Wee Dave at work. I’ll have to borrow K’s copies.
*** the books are all teen-rated.