Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Weeks Review Of...

Seventh Decimate
It was an immense treat to immerse myself in a new novel by one of my favorite authors, this time set in a world where war – cruel and terrible – has governed life for centuries.
But war is always bitter, and all the more so when armies are strengthened by sorcerers who can wield the Decimates of fire, wind, pestilence, earthquake, drought and lightning to rain death upon their enemies. Or at least they used to until someone or something stripped the land of magic, leaving its armies defenseless.
Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin king, is privately elated by such a turn of events, for he detests all forms of enchantment. Without it, however, the kingdom and its citizens will wither and die. As such, Bifalt is sent on a quest in search of a place of legend: the repository. A storehouse of all the knowledge – both magical and mundane – that has ever existed, in an effort to turn back the ravages wrought against his people.
The thing is, nobody in the land knows where such a place might be – or if it exists at all.
One thing’s for sure, the prince – a hard-headed, short tempered man – is in for a shock, for he is but a pawn in a much larger game of strategy than he could ever imagine.
The Seventh Decimate is an excellent adventure. Involving complex characters and superb story-telling, the master of the slow burn returns, weaving a world of mystery and intrigue that you won’t want to leave.
I can’t wait for the next installment.

Bird Box
An unknown force decimates the world’s population. Only, you never get to see it. If you did, you’d wind up like everybody else: dead!
A clever premise that keeps you hanging from beginning to end, for the closest you’ll get to discovering exactly what this malevolent force is, will be by watching other people’s reactions to it.
In the story, Sandra Bullock plays Malorie Hayes, a woman with two children desperate to find a place of safety. The thing is, to reach such a place, they have to traverse unknown forests and navigate treacherous rivers whilst blindfolded. If they dare take a peek, it could be their last. Thankfully, birds give warning of the entities presence, but only at the last second – so you have to stay sharp.
As you can imagine, their journey is fraught with danger and things don’t go to plan, and you really do find yourself caught up in their nightmare.
I can’t say more as I don’t want to give away the slightest hint of what transpires. Try it, it’s well worth the risk.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

My Review of Paperclip & The Handmaid’s Tale


I think it was only a month or so ago that I mentioned I liked to be surprised. You know, it’s like those occasions you sit down to watch a film or read a book and it ends up taking you unexpected places that please you no end?

Well, in “Paperclip” I experienced another one of those out-of-the-blue- moments that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Who would have thought?)

Carlie and Mickey are different from other children. They know things. Things they shouldn’t. A bit of a pain when they can’t exactly broadcast the fact without being thought of as weird or one sandwich short of a full picnic. Each tries to cope in their own way. Alas, people “like them” appear to act as a lodestone to others who are different. And that’s not always a good thing.

Based on a real life project, Paperclip is a clever paranormal psychological thriller, involving government conspiracies; national security at the highest level; Nazi scientists living under false identities; and killer stalkers with a penchant for being it the right place at the wrong time.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is well constructed, engages you from the beginning, and adopts a pace that allows you to become involved in Carlie and Mickey’s lives as they try to make sense of why things keep happening to them.

Oh, and who’s the mysterious cowboy with a brute of a dog?
Make the effort to find out, you’ll be glad you did.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Seasons 1 & 2)

This TV series based on the 1985 Margaret Attwood novel of the same name is bound to divide opinion. Set in a dystopian near future, the world is suffering. Fertility rates among humans have dropped dramatically due to sexually transmitted disease and environmental pollution. Events are set in motion that lead to a second American civil war, resulting in the emergence of “Gilead”, a totalitarian theonomic government hungry for power and influence. Gilead’s society is hierarchical, aggressive and wholly militarized, and under the umbrella of resetting a proper balance, forces a new regime upon its citizens.

In a nutshell, only men retain any degree of autonomy, albeit controlled by the state. And women? They lose all their rights as individuals and are not allowed to read or write, open their own bank accounts, drive a car, etc. Nor can they hold position like doctors, scientists, or police officers. Basically, they become nothing more than property divided into various social classes: Wives – (the infertile spouse of a commander) is the highest status a woman can have, and they are expected to run households under the strict guidance of their husbands; Marthas are infertile housekeepers and cooks; Aunts (also infertile – you get the gist?) train and oversee the handmaidens; Econowives are lower-class fertile women who have a degree of freedom the Marthas and Aunts, etc, don’t have. In the series, they live under constant fear and are totally subservient to all the rules and regulations. And well they should be. At the drop of a hat, they can be forced into servitude as a handmaiden, and their spouses disposed of. And if they have children? Well, they are farmed out to “families” of commanders.

You’re starting to see how things are now, eh?

If anyone breaks the law? Men are executed, or, if powerful and influential enough, expected to submit to the biblical precept of “an eye for an eye”. In a woman’s case, if they aren’t executed outright, they’re sent to the colonies, where they’re worked to death clearing toxic waste.

With me so far?

Now we come to the handmaids. Distinguished by their red robes, the handmaids are supposedly afforded a place of great honor in Gilead, as they’re the only women who are fertile. Yeah right! (Strange how the econowives are overlooked?)

Basically, all they are there for is to produce children to repopulate Gilead asap. And how – pray tell – is this wonderful idea applied? I’ll tell you. They are raped on a regular basis by their male masters, who, if they are married, expect their wives to take part! (Oh yes). Even more infuriating, they try to ritualize the whole sordid affair by making out it is a solemn and sacred duty for everyone taking part.

Having grasped the basic concept of the way things are, we come to the actual series.

The story follows the life of June Osborne (Elizabeth Moss) who, before the world turns upside down, lives a happy life with her husband and child. In a series of flashback, we see the events that led to the rise of Gilead: Behind the scenes maneuvering to get the “right” men into positions of power; unrest; rioting; the implementation of martial law; an act of terrorism that eradicates the government . . . Ta-dah . . .Hello Gilead!

Unfortunately for June, neither she nor her husband pay attention to how serious things are getting and they leave it far too late to try and flee the former United States to Canada. They are caught, her husband is shot, her child is taken into care (for adoption to a commander’s family) and when it’s discovered she is fertile . . . THAT’s when her nightmare really begins.

She undergoes a brutal form of conditioning in an attempt to make her become subservient and compliant enough “to serve” her state. She is now property, and is no longer known by her given name. What she did before doesn’t matter. Her qualifications are irrelevant. She becomes Offred (literally, Of Fred) the name of her assigned commander (Fred Waterford) and his wife Serena Joy. If she steps out of line or says the wrong thing, she can expect to be beaten, tortured . . . or worse. And it really does get worse for those who retain the spark of defiance.

As you watch this series, you really feel for June’s plight, and that of a society so easily manipulated into giving up their rights to a bunch of egotistical, power-hungry autocrats whose only agenda is to look out for themselves. Nowhere is this displayed more poignantly, than when a handmaid gives birth. (I won’t explain here, you’ll see for yourself if you watch the series – but if you do, rest assured, it will enrage you).

It’s shocking, repulsive, heartrending, alarming. And so thoroughly mesmerizing, you can’t help but get sucked into the mire that is her life. I can honestly say, I’ve never wanted to reach into a screen and throttle the *******s on the other side so much as when I was watching this. My poor wife who suggested we watch this together needed to apply ice-packs to my brow on a regular basis to cool me down. (And a gag. I do admit, I cussed . . . a lot!)

Powerful stuff. And kudos to the team who dared to make it.

(For a more in depth review, see my January article for Amazing Stories)