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)

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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)

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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

Mini Review Roundup [30/03]

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The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo

“Be back before dark,” they whisper. “The trees are hungry tonight.”

This started out reminding me of Hansel & Gretel, then made me really hungry (seriously, the descriptions of food are lush), then it completely took me by surprise, and then wrapped up like a classic folk tale. Definitely worth a read!

 

Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams by Sunny Moraine

We never would have believed, before the dead girls started climbing out of their refrigerators, that people could be literally resurrected by sheer indignation.

I actually loved this. I don’t even know how to describe it, because the plot itself is vague. Dead girls begin reappearing and nobody knows why. It left me with so many questions (why only girls? why are they coming back? what’s going on?) but somehow I’m not frustrated not knowing the answers because the writing was just awesome and strange in a great way. Abstract horror would be how I’d describe this. Definitely recommend!

 

The White-Throated Transmigrant by E. Lily Yu

We’re monsters, all of us. You’re monstrous, I’m monstrous.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. Intriguing, to be sure.

 

Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light! by Kameron Hurley

The monsters rose from their beds, already armored and bristling for another attack on the city below. They came to extinguish light, and hope. She was here to remind them they wouldn’t do it unchallenged.

Another great short, very evocative prose.

 

The Last of the Minotaur Wives by Brooke Bolander

Once you’ve been in the light for awhile, Blue finds, it’s hard as hell to willingly walk back into darkness.

This is short and to the point, and very well done.

Mini Review Roundup [19/03]

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Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

When you mix juju with technology, you give up control. You are at the will of something far beyond yourself.

This was a really intriguing tale about witchcraft and technology, and the consequences that come from blending the two. I only wish there’d been a little bit more to the story, but overall I really liked it. Available here.

 

Trial Run (Wild Heritance #0.5) by S. Lynn Helton

She wasn’t trying to prove anything, was she?

Ooooh, this was cool. I haven’t read the Wild Heritance books, but this novella has left me bursting with questions. Such great world building and adventure! I can’t wait to see where the story takes Namid.

 

Migration by Kat Howard

In every life I can remember, which is not all of them, not any more, I have longed to fly.

This was an absolutely beautiful tale of birds and eternity. Read here.

Mini Review Roundup

My Post (2)

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

You can’t tell whether people are gay by what they look like. And gay or straight aren’t the only two options.

This comic, initially published online, is honestly one of the most heart-warming things I’ve read in a while. The drawings are so lovely and you just end up with heart-eyes every page. Definitely, definitely recommend.

 

Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage by Marissa Lingen

My experience was not proving helpful here.

Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage in Uncanny Magazine’s twentieth issue was SO. GOOD. Tree magic and iceberg giants?! Amazing. I now want a longer novel that goes into this magical world! Available here.

 

Demon’s Blood by Shari Sakurai

This is such a great take on the normal vampire genre! Having read Never Change, I was eager to get back into this world and continue Thane and Taku’s story. Sakurai’s attention to detail is wonderfully immersive and magical, and I’m so curious to see what happens in Demon’s Life.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips by Beth Cato

His soul was tethered to mine by blessed spice and a solitary word.

This was really intriguing and feels like the start to a novel, which means I didn’t want it to end there! The story felt like it was just getting going. I’d love to learn more about this universe. Very interesting ghost story. Available here.

 

March 2020 TBRs

currently reading

I have no ability to read one book at a time, and I’ve found myself reading several at the moment. Clearly I have the attention span of a napkin 😉 I’m hoping to get all of these read and reviewed this month, in addition to more short stories!

Demon’s Blood by Shari Sakurai:

Immortal blood is precious and Kokawa Taku’s makes him especially unique.

After vampire hunters force them to flee Tokyo, Taku and his lover, Thane, try to make a new life for themselves in England. But three months later Thane is still tormented by nightmares of the fire that almost cost them their lives. This leads to carelessness and the discovery of one of his victims.

When faced with threats from all sides Taku tries his best to protect them although his actions are met with disapproval and anger from Thane. Unknown to his lover, Taku is also struggling to keep hidden the truth of what really happened three months ago.

However, it is only a matter of time before Taku’s past and bloodline catches up with him.

Enchantée by Gita Trelease:

Love. Magic. Revolution. Enchantée is Gita Trelease’s lush and imaginative debut fantasy about an impoverished girl who must use magic to impersonate an aristocrat in Versailles to provide for her sister as her own political awakening forces her to choose sides in the French Revolution.

Paris is a labryinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose — love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic — before Paris burns.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past — both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. Paul’s intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that ‘heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down’.

André Aciman casts a shimmering light over each facet of desire, to probe how we ache, want and waver, and ultimately how we sometimes falter and let go of the very ones we want the most. We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we’ve always known we were.

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove

The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance. Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms. Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.” But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true…

While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish & Larissa Mandeville

A tragic death.
A dangerous obsession.
A desperate mission.

After losing the person most important to him, Lake Smithson stumbles across a letter he cannot explain. A single brush of his finger and he is thrust into the heart of a mystery only to slowly realize that his obsession to be more, will unleash an evil that threatens all he has left.

Faceless creatures, terrifying magic, unlikely friendships, and broken promises lead Lake and his friends to walk a tight line between the mage realm, on the brink of extinction, and the human realm, on the precipice of revelation. Will Lake become the first human to wield magic or will he be the last?

 

What’s everyone else reading this month?