Friday, 15 February 2019

Shout-Out: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world's first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project - and future of time travel - in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team - erasing her contributions from history. Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?

Traversing the decades and told from alternating perspectives, The Psychology of Time Travel introduces a fabulous new voice in fiction and a new must-read for fans of speculative fiction and women's fiction alike.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Book Review: Armed in her Fashion by Kate Heartfield

Pros: very feisty women, lots of history, clever integration of the hellbeast

Cons: writing was a little dry at times

When her revenant husband returns to the besieged city of Bruges and reveals he’s hidden a fortune, Margriet de Vos demands her rights: a third of that wealth belongs to her, the rest to their daughter. Her husband now serves the Chatelaine of Hell, and intends to give her this gold. But Margriet won’t be deterred. Neither war, the King of France, nor Hell itself will keep her from getting her due.

Meanwhile, Claude a transgender man-at-arms and former guest of the Hellbeast also wants the de Vos treasure, or rather, a mace he unwisely sold to Margriet’s husband and now needs back.

The story is mostly told from Margriet’s point of view, though there are a few scenes from her daughter and Claude’s viewpoints as well. Margriet is very feisty, willing to fight over a sou if she feels she’s owed it. Her daughter’s much kinder but has little agency, as her mother’s overprotective and often overbearing. Margriet supported the family by working as a wet nurse, which isn’t something that comes up often, though historically it was a common thing. It was also nice seeing a middle aged woman as the protagonist, especially one who is near-sighted in an age where glasses can only be afforded by the elite.

Claude was a great character. It’s awesome to see often overlooked people in history and, while misgendered through a good part of the story, the author always maintains his understanding of who he really is. Though they were short scenes, I really enjoyed the revelations regarding aspects of womanhood he’s missed (like breast binding) and how he survived in a soldier’s camp.

The author cleverly integrated her mythological aspects into actual history. At the end of the book she cites a Flemish painting that was her inspiration for the book, and it added an entire new layer to the story itself.

The writing can be a bit dry at times, in that it’s not a particularly fast paced or adventurous tale. There’s a lot of sitting around and talking or walking between cities.

If you like medieval history or want a historical fantasy that’s different from the norm, this is an interesting read.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Book Review: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Pros: thought-provoking, interesting characters, good social commentary

Cons: lots of adult content

In a future America, the hit reality TV show is Vigilance, where active shooters are sent into unprepared locations to see if the people there have what it takes to survive.

This novella is told through the perspectives of two people. First is John McDean, a marketing man and head of Vigilance’s production team. The second is Delyna, a bartender whose patrons are hyped to watch the next episode of their favourite show.

Don’t pick this up if you don’t want to read the following: mass shootings, excessive swearing, and masturbation. While not as violent and profane as some books (possibly due to its shorter length), there’s a lot of adult content here.

What’s also here is some actual reasons behind why such a show is popular and what that says about the people who would watch it. Murder as reality TV (or just people being hunted for sport) isn’t new in the SF field. But quite often the violence is left unexamined. Yes, there’s often a vague hand wave to the fact that it’s a form of oppression, but Battle Royale is one of the few stories I can point to (and I’ve read/seen quite a few of these in long and short form) that actually posits a reason for why such a show is put on in the first place (though Battle Royale had a very different reason for it than Vigilance). Not only does Vigilance make you think about the story and society in general (especially today’s gun culture in the US and all of its mass shootings), it works to make the violence in the story - which could otherwise be gratuitous - deeply uncomfortable and horrifying instead of entertaining. These aren’t characters in a book fingering their guns. These are your neighbours, your friends, your family members.

Delyna’s got some great scenes, especially once the TV show starts. Her story is where the social commentary really shines, in several ways.

It’s short enough to read in one sitting, but will stick with you long after.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Books Received in January 2019

Many thanks to TOR for sending me a copy of:

They Promised Me the Gun Wasn't Loaded by James Alan Gardner - This is the sequel to All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, which I haven't read yet but which sounds hilarious.
Only days have passed since a freak accident granted four college students superhuman powers. Now Jools and her friends (who haven't even picked out a name for their superhero team yet) get caught up in the hunt for a Mad Genius's misplaced super-weapon.
But when Jools falls in with a modern-day Robin Hood and his band of super-powered Merry Men, she finds it hard to sort out the Good Guys from the Bad Guys-and to figure out which side she truly belongs on.
Especially since nobody knows exactly what the Gun does . . . .

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Shout-Out: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Video: Anime Crimes Division

This a series RocketJump did with CrunchyRoll and now has 2 seasons. It's a buddy cop show that takes place in a world where people have self divided based on their TV preferences. There are a lot of anime and obsessed fan (otaku) references

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Movie Review: Bird Box

Directed by Susanne Bier, 2018

Pros: great acting, tense moments

Cons: some difficulties glossed over

When unknown entities start appearing, those who see them turn violent and kill themselves. Amid the mayhem this causes, a small group of people, including the pregnant but distant Malorie, hole up in a large house.

The film combines aspects of zombie horror with apocalyptic infection films. If you liked 28 Days Later, this is for you. There are some great tense scenes and while the film doesn’t dwell on it, there is the question of whether it’s worth helping others if there’s a risk you - and/or others - will die doing it.

The actors are great. John Malkovich plays the paranoid a-hole white man, who, while I didn’t like, I could at least understand the motivations for. Sandra Bullock did a brilliant job as Malorie. But for me the standout was Trevante Rhodes as Tom, who kept the idea alive that life isn’t meant to be endured, it’s meant to be lived. The film made me tear up a few times, which showed the actors did a great job of making me sympathize with their characters.

There were a few difficulties the movie hinted at and then completely glossed over. Like how the group loaded groceries into the car and what happened on the boat at night (did they sleep on the water or pull over to the side)?

There’s a little gore but it’s mostly a psychological horror movie. It’s a Netflix original, so if you’ve got the service, it’s worth checking out.