The Outlands Pentalogy – new covers!

I’m absolutely delighted to unveil the new covers for The Outlands Pentalogy. My dear friend Heather made them (she’s a wonderful designer, for anyone looking for a book cover!). These books are dystopian/science fiction, with a dash of romance!

Behold:

The book’s map is here, for anyone curious! Add on Goodreads.

Show Review: Manifest (2018)

Awww yuuuus, this show is my absolute jam! It’s like Lost meets Heroes meets Tru Calling and has filled my sci-fi need. The plot follows the Stone family: Michaela Stone, a detective with a troubled past, and Ben Stone, Michaela’s brother and husband to Grace, and father of Cal and Olive. After a trip to Jamaica with their parents, the flight gets overcrowded and passengers are offered alternative routes if they’re willing. Michaela, who’s struggling with going home after the death of her best friend in a drink driving accident, and not sure how she’s going to respond to her boyfriend’s proposal, opts to take a later flight to postpone it. Ben and Cal offer to stay behind with her. Cal is dealing with leukaemia and isn’t responding to treatment and has no desire to go back home, either.

*spoilers*

On the flight, the plane is struck by intense turbulence, but everyone’s okay and the pilot requests permission to land. He’s met with bewilderment from the air traffic controller and the plane is diverted to another airport where the passengers are greeted by police and the FBI. After disembarking, the passengers are told that they’ve been missing for five years. Confused and upset, they’re questioned for days but are finally let go after thirty-six hours. Grace, Ben’s wife, and Olive, his daughter and Cal’s twin sister, meet them at the airport, along with Ben and Michaela’s dad, but they find out that their mother’s passed away in the time they’ve been missing, and Jared Vasquez, Michaela’s boyfriend, is now married to her best friend Lourdes. Grace, too, has a boyfriend. But the personal complications are the least complicated part of their return.

Michaela’s on a bus a couple days later when she starts to hear a voice telling her to ‘stop’. She forces the bus to stop and, amazingly, saves a child’s life. Later, she and Ben both hear the same voice telling them to free a pair of dogs. The deed leads Michaela to saving two kidnapped children. She and Ben dub the voices their ‘callings’ and soon the voices lead them to other passengers, namely Saanvi Bahl, a doctor whose cancer research is curing children with leukaemia – including Cal. (Saanvi is an absolute gem!!!)

Ben, Michaela, Jared and Saanvi begin working together to figure out the mystery of the callings, why the plane jumped through time, and what it means for everyone involved. Initially, each episode follows another member from the plane and how they’re handling their callings and how their stories propel the group towards answers (and total confusion). The storylines eventually bring the passengers to an organisation who have deeply nefarious intentions and the question of whether someone else knows what’s going on.

I love the focus on family and siblings in this show. Michaela and Ben’s relationship is the central force of the show and they’re a great duo! Cal and Olive, twins with now a five year age difference between them, are adorable and protective of each other. The romantic relationships are great and really tug at your heartstrings. I love Ben and Grace together, and while I really liked Michaela and Jared at the start, I’m liking Zeke more and more. Zeke is introduced as a mystery character about midway through season one and I was pleasantly surprised to see the actor was Matt Long from Jack & Bobby! Nostalgia throwback!

The third season is airing in 2021 and I can’t wait to finish season two and find out what happens!

Show Review: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

If anyone ever asks me what my favourite Cinderella story is, my answer will be shouting Ever After (1998) at the top of my lungs before they can even finish the question. Perfect Cinderella, perfect Prince Charming, perfect Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy godmother. Perfect, perfect, perfect. As a result, Dougary Scott has always been a favourite of mine and I’m therefore *shock Pikachu face* at the fact that this BBC adaption of a classic science fiction novel from 1951 with the classic Prince Charming has somehow escaped my notice. At least I’ve found it now!

The Day of the Triffids is two-part series that follows Bill Masen and Jo Playton after a meteor shower has left most of the world blind. For context, triffids are a source of alternative fuel that is pollution free and easy to grow, but at a steep risk – these plants eat people. Global warming has been diverted by these plants, but they’re not safe and must be kept under constant watch. Bill, a scientist who has spent his life studying triffids after a sting from one killed his mother, and Jo, a reporter, escaped the blindness (two of the few who did), but not the triffids.

Bill and Jo cross paths as panic breaks out and chaos ensues as a result of so many losing their sight all at once. At the same time, the triffids, now unwatched, begin to wreak havoc on London. While what’s left of the government try and gather supplies, and a man named Coker rallies those who have been blinded by the meteor to keep them safe, the triffids spread across the land and the only ones emphasising their danger are Bill and Jo. Everyone else is more concerned with the obvious diversions of everything going wrong, believing the pair’s fears overblown. (Narrator: Their fears were not overblown.)

Dougray Scott and Joely Richardson are fantastic in this! I wasn’t expecting to see Jason Priestly in a BBC production, but his character makes for a good introduction. He plays Coker, a man furious at the lack of care being shown to those who have been blinded and becomes an activist of sorts, although his tactics take questionable directions. I wasn’t expecting to see Eddie Izzard either, and his character becomes a supplementary antagonist alongside the triffids and adds to the chaos and fear that permeate every scene.

If you’re looking for a science fiction miniseries with a solid cast and a different take on unravelling of society, this one is a good diversion from zombies and aliens. This time, it’s plants!

Show Review: Fringe (2008)

My Dawson’s Creek rewatch led me to Fringe, which I unfortunately never finished when it was airing a few years ago. I’m now finally going through it properly and really, really enjoying it. If you like The X-Files, Supernatural (and can we talk about the most recent episode ending, guys, because I’m not okay?!), Alias, Buffy or Angel, this one fits right in with classics of the 2000s. It has that vibe. I can’t even describe it, but if you watched these shows, you know what I mean.

Fringe follows Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who has fallen in love with her partner, John Scott. She and John end up on a case that ends badly, with John in hospital afflicted by a strange virus. It’s turned his skin translucent and he’s dying. In an effort to save him, Olivia begins researching doctors, treatments and scientists who might know more about the mysterious illness. Her search leads her to Walter Bishop, a genius who’s been in a mental institution for almost two decades after someone died during one of his experiments. Bishop, a leading thinker in the field of ‘fringe science’ is believed to be insane, but is still brilliant.

Unable to get in to see Walter without a family member, Olivia flies to Iraq to find Peter Bishop, an MIT dropout turned transient who has no relationship with his father and doesn’t want one. Fibbing blackmail, Olivia gets Peter to come back with her to Boston to see Walter. They take him out of the institution and, along with Astrid, a fellow FBI agent, begin researching ways to save John.

When I first started it, I got heavy X-Files vibes, but after a couple of episodes the two shows couldn’t be more different. There are strange figures called Observers popping up at random events and they are sufficiently terrifying. Each episode follows a different mystery of the week, many of which tie into ‘the Pattern’, or are related to Massive Dynamic, a multinational group that has a role in the strange events going on. Massive Dynamic reminds me a bit of the Life Foundation in Venom, actually.

I love the focus on characters in this show. This one has a really good balance between hard science fiction and character relationships and development. There’s a lot of focus on Peter’s relationship with his father, Olivia’s past relationship with John, and the growing friendship between Peter and Olivia. All of the characters are intriguing and complex, and I’m excited to see how the show progresses and how it ends.

Thoroughly recommend!

Show Review: The Man in the High Castle (2015)

I put off watching The Man in the High Castle for ages. It’s based on the classic novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and it stars Rufus Sewell, whom I love soooooooo much (if you haven’t seen The Pillars of the Earth or Cold Comfort Farm, hop to it!), but, being Jewish, it’s nightmare fuel to see a world where the Nazis won. (Side note: if you want a great movie with central Jewish characters, I wholeheartedly recommend Defiance.) I found out though that The Man in the High Castle isn’t just alternative history, it’s science fiction, and the focus is heavily on the Resistance and fighting against all the horrors of racism and eugenics, so I decided to give it a go. The science fiction angle just sounded interesting. It’s slow to come, but it’s there, so keep an eye out for it. (The show is slow to bring in the sci-fi like Game of Thrones was slow to bring in the fantasy. It’s very political and character based.) And, seriously, epic casting all around: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and, of course, Rufus. (And more awesome actors come in as the episodes go along. Lots of great guest stars! Lots of rep!)

The show starts off in the 1960s, so it’s a costume drama-dystopian-alternative history-science fiction show. The backstory is that, during WWII, the Axis powers won their separate theatres of war, and so the United States is divided up under German and Japanese control. The Nazis control the east, which is known as the ‘Greater Nazi Reich’, while the Japanese control the west, known as the ‘Japanese Pacific States’. There is also a small sliver of land between the two known as the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is basically keeping the Cold War between the Axis powers from turning hot.

The show begins in San Francisco, which looks totally different, and follows Juliana Crain and Frank Frink. They’ve been together for years, but they worry about having children as Frank has Jewish ancestry and Jews are still in danger in the Pacific States. They try and live under the radar until one day Juliana’s sister Trudy appears, frantic. She tells Juliana that she has a way out. Before Juliana finds out what she means, Trudy’s killed by the police. Juliana then finds a film Trudy had in her possession that’s meant to be delivered to the Resistance. On the film is something seemingly impossible: a world where the Nazis lost and the Allied Powers won. (It’s not quite our world, but it’s close.)

Frank begs Juliana to go to the police, knowing how dangerous being involved with the Resistance is, but Juliana decides to go instead to meet with the person Trudy was trying to give the tape to. When she leaves, it triggers life changing events for everyone: Frank is promptly arrested, as are his family, and their Jewish heritage is used against them; an undercover man named Joe encounters Juliana on the road and, though he has his own agenda, quickly falls in love with her. At the same time, the high officials on both sides are keeping secrets and plotting against each other. We’re introduced to Obergruppenführer John Smith, a high ranking figure in New York who is trying to bring down the Resistance and find ‘the Man in the High Castle’, who knows something.

My favourite character, bar none, is Frank. He’s deeply loyal, loving, kind, and his character progression is intense. His devotion to Juliana and Ed, his best friend, make him so endearing, but he’s also just such an innately good person. I don’t want to spoil too much of his character arc, just know he’s amazing. I like Juliana, but I definitely struggle with some of her choices. Ed is a hero. While I never liked any of the bad guy characters, the actors who play the bad guys are brilliant in their roles, and Rufus Sewell’s character has a very well written storyline. There was one storyline that I really feared would happen, but it didn’t. Huge relief! Without spoilers, if a romance had gone one way, I would’ve peaced out so fast there would be cartoon dust clouds behind me.

Heads up, though: this whole show is tough to watch. There are some truly gruesome, twisted scenes that broke my heart. There’s a storyline where they follow a character with a medical condition and you get to hear all the Nazi eugenics bullshit and it made my skin crawl. The antisemitism is appalling, disgusting, wrong and hard to watch. There’s horrific racism aimed at Blacks by both sides that will make you furious and leave you crying. The scenes with all the propaganda, insignia and symbols are also very painful to watch. But, again, it’s showing how wrong all this is. How we should be free, how everyone should be equal, so if you can handle the grim storyline to watch good characters kick ass against awful racists, it has great payoff.

What I found especially interesting is how the historical events that really happened in history are basically switched for alternative events in the story’s history. It blends the events a little, but it’s pretty much Opposite World. And as the science fiction comes in and you learn the ‘secret’ of the Man in the High Castle, the show spins you on your head while leaving on the edge of your seat.

Mini Review Roundup [30/05]

I’ve been having trouble with longer fiction novels of late. Being elbow deep in study definitely affects that, as I went through quite a bit non-fiction this week. I do really love reading old newspapers and archives, but I am missing fiction! I combed through two memoirs, this week, though. Both are from the Korean War.

I am really enjoying Days Without End on Audiobook. And Humankind, which is so darn optimistic and upbeat. I totally recommend it given what I’ve listened to so far. Bregman reframes so many moments and shows a different take on the narrative that makes headlines. It’s very hopeful.

mini reviews;

Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer

If you can bring me more such books, I will leave you every scrap of gold I can find.

Oh my goodness, I really liked this one. A little free library becomes a way to correspond with a mysterious, grateful seeker of books. J’adore!

3 a.m. Blues by Joseph Fulkerson

doing the backstroke in the ocean of other’s opinions, navigating the minefield of could’ve and should’ve

This was quite a good collection of poetry, I only wish it were longer!

When Two Swordsmen Meet by Ellen Kushner

It’s a beautiful fight. They each want the other to win. Not so much duel as duet.

Ooooh, this was goooood. Something very lyrical and fanciful about this one. I definitely recommend it. Available here

What’s everyone reading this week? 🙂

Review Roundup [27/05]

A Small Revolution in Germany by Philip Hensher, narrated by Neville Watchurst [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

Sometimes, as humans, we decide without consultation what would be best for people.

It made for a nice listen and the narrator was quite good. Spike was interesting character and his relationship with Joaquin is explored well. The political conversations and musings are thought-provoking, and Hensher certainly knows how to write witty dialogue. I’m just not sure what my thoughts are on this one. Overall, though, the prose was good, and it made for a nice addition to lgbt+ historical fiction.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #304 [review cross-posted to Goodreads]

She offered me a handful of bees and told me what to do, word for word.

Listened to ‘The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows’ by Dimitra Nikolaidou. Amazing title, just sayin’. Well written short story and the audiobook is worth a listen! Available here.

The Curse of the Black Cat by Lou Wilham [review cross-posted to Goodreads, Reedsy]

This is an inherently sweet spin on the classic fairy tale. Prince Alrik of Edan is set to marry Princess Amriah, whom he doesn’t, and can’t, love. Cos, you know, he fancies the pants off Filip, his valet. He tries to play along and give Amriah a chance, but he can’t. He feels nothing for her. Filled with fear of his secret being discovered, Alrik seeks out the witch Gwydion, for help: he wants to be ‘cured’. 😦 It’s a very sad moment, but rather than take advantage of him, Gwydion tells him there’s nothing wrong with him: I’m afraid there is no cure for such a thing, dear prince. We love who we love, and that is the end of that. No magic can change it, not even mine. Nor would I want it to. I really liked her! She’s such a kind person.

Unfortunately, Alrik doesn’t take this well and Gwydion turns him into a cat. And she can’t change him back cos magic doesn’t work like that. A cat you are now, and a cat you shall stay until you can learn to love yourself. It’s an interesting twist to say the least. In addition to being a cat, he’s now immortal. With no way back to his life as a prince, Alrik watches the world pass him by while trapped as a cat. He travels around, seeking out witches, but to no avail.

One day, centuries later, Alrik finds himself in New York, at a Japanese restaurant. He starts to fall in love with both the food and the chef, Yuuki. Very soon, Yuuki begins taking care of Alrik, and dubs the cat ‘Prince’. ADORBS.

What follows is a very sweet, fluffy *pun totally intended * romance. If you’re a fan of adorable fantasy tales, this one is totally for you (⌒▽⌒)

Mini Reviews & Reading Roundup [23/05]

Today I finally finished Gold Rush Manliness. It was really good, I just kept getting sidetracked. It was a great examination of how race and gender impacted the gold rushes in California and British Columbia. This line really stuck with me: In short, the notions of white manhood established in the nineteenth century persist today, and their legacies can be seen everywhere, from the least-threatening practical joking to the most menacing expressions of white male superiority. There were loads of things in this examination that really wow’d me. Definitely recommend!

I also read Warm Up, which is a prequel story to V. E. Schwab’s Villains and Vengeful. I really liked it! If you’re curious, the book is available on Tor, here. It was dark and eerie and very well done. I loved this quote: It didn’t catch fire. Nothing ever actually caught fire. No, it all simply burned.

Beyond the Dragon’s Gate by Yoon Ha Lee is a new Tor original. Read it online, here. I quite liked it! The new issue of Uncanny Magazine is also out and I’ve started with poetry this time!

Girl, you best stop setting yourself on fire,
you may be the phoenix,
but these bones aren’t kindling
to keep others warm—

Ali Trotta, ‘Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength’, here.

Currently reading;

Still working through Everything You Love Will Burn, Agnes Grey and A Small Revolution in Germany, all of which I’m liking, although Everything You Love Will Burn is something I have to listen to in small doses. I also started Cage of Souls. It’s my first Adrian Tchaikovsky. He’s such a big name in the science fiction genre, so I’m glad to have finally picked up one of his. I’m also about halfway through Louise O’Neill’s Almost Love. The prose is really good and the storyline sucks you in, but I’m having trouble liking the main character.

What’s everyone else reading? Have you read any of the above? What’d you think?

Film Review: What Happened to Monday (2017)

movie review

What Happened to Monday, or Seven Sisters, was far from what I was expecting. Noomi Rapace is a treasure. It fits in well with Gattaca, Children of Men and V for Vendetta, my favourite dystopian films. This one is set in 2073 when the world population has grown to such a degree that there’s little food, little space and a lot of problems. To counter this, the Child Allocation Bureau is created to ensure that only one child is born to every couple. No siblings allowed. The leader of the organisation totes the idea that any additional children will be taken into custody and put into cyrosleep until the time comes that there’s more space, more food and fewer problems.

Creeped out yet?

When Terrence Settman’s daughter dies giving birth to seven identical daughters, he takes the extraordinary step of keeping them all in secret. He names them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each girl is allowed out of the house on their name-day under the singular identity of Karen Settman, their mother. For decades, the girls exist as one person in public, but flourish as unique individuals in private. Until Monday goes missing.

Very quickly, the sisters ban together to track down their missing sibling and figure out what happened.

The other characters are Nicolette Cayman, played by Glenn Close, and Adrian Knowles, played by Marwan Kenzari. Both work for the CAB, but have wildly different amounts of power and opinions on what they’re doing.

Let me just say that Noomi Rapace blew my mind in this. She played each of the seven sisters uniquely and it’s done so well. Marwan Kenzari was another standout and I really hope to see him in more things. He and Rapace had great chemistry. Glenn Close and Willem Dafoe are fabulous as ever and steal their scenes as much as Rapace and Kenzari. Honestly, these four really brought believability to their scenes.

There were some aspects of the film that I didn’t quite love, although they’re minor complaints: I feel like one character got away with a lot; I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, although I didn’t hate it; and Zaquia, a CAB agent portrayed by Cassie Clare, was somehow in dozens of scenes but rarely spoke, whilst her partner spoke quite a bit. It’s great that Rapace and Close got so much screen time, but I felt like Clare got left out a bit.

Overall, however, I think the film fits well into the dark dystopian genre and rivals Children of Men for gritty futuristic societies that deal with overpopulation as a plotline.

Recommended for fans of dystopian films.

 

**gifs found online, not mine

Timeless (2016)

show_film review (1)

Timeless is such an underrated gem of a show. It’s co-created by Eric Kripke, who also created Supernatural and Revolution (very fabulous shows, too). So gather round fellow history and time-travel buffs, this one is a gauntlet of perfection and representation. And when I say representation, I don’t just mean the beautiful, talented cast. The series itself highlights moments in history that are often overlooked and makes a point of focusing on under-represented groups and their contributions.

The show follows historian Lucy Preston, US Army Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan, and coder and programmer Rufus Carlin as they travel through history to stop supposedly crazed-killer Garcia Flynn from wreaking havoc and irrevocably changing the history of the world. The other central characters are Connor Mason, Denise Christopher and Jiya Marri, who all work with the ‘time team’ on their missions, usually staying in the present time and working on the science and bureaucracy that inevitably comes alongside running a time machine. The time machine, nicknamed the ‘lifeboat’, is one of two, with Flynn using the new fancy model (the ‘mothership’) and the Time Team using the original, older model. As their missions get more and more dangerous, the trio realises that the enemy isn’t who they thought and the danger is far worse than they realised. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends.  

The primary antagonists of the show are those who work for ‘Rittenhouse’, an organisation that spans centuries and controls everything from corporations to politics. Flynn’s objective is to destroy Rittenhouse and as the series unfolds, you slowly learn why. Rittenhouse also has a connection to Lucy, who begins delving into the mystery of her past after she accidentally erases her original history for a new one with an unintended, devastating consequence.

Despite the fact that the show only lasted two seasons (WHYYYYYYYYYYY) it covers a phenomenal number of historical moments: The Hindenburg disaster; the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; Las Vegas’ atomic tests, John F. Kennedy and Judith Campbell; Ian Fleming and Nazi Germany; the Alamo, Davy Crockett and James Bowie; the Shawnee tribe and chieftain Nonhelema; Katherine Johnson and the Space Race; Bonnie and Clyde; Sophia Hayden, the Chicago’s World Fair and H. H. Holmes; Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker; Marie Curie and Irène Joliot-Curie; Wendell Scott and the Darlington 500; Hedy Lamarr; the Salem Witch Trials; Robert Johnson; Alice Paul and Grace Humiston; Harriet Tubman and many, many more. For history buffs, this show is a straight up shot of awesome sauce.

The relationships of the show, like any show, are the bedrock of the series. The characterisation is great and develops well. The core trio are wonderful friends who have each other’s backs. There’s a burgeoning romance between Lucy and Wyatt, and Rufus and Jiya, and the core couples are adorable. Mostly, though, the friendships are the best part and take a more central role than the romantic relationships.

The show was famously cancelled twice, but ultimately got its finale to wrap up the storylines, so it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, thankfully! I wish we got more than two seasons, but the two seasons of absolutely wonderful, so get watching!

 

**gifs found online, not mine