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Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we've all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been  fine . Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor —a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better. And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars , but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars . No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride. Then a bit of Den

The Menu

There's something about filmmaking that lends itself very easily to cooking metaphors. Cooking and filmmaking are, after all, very similar. They're both the act of combining many different ingredients—some with chains of supply and production that stretch far beyond any one artist's ability to influence or even perceive—into a whole that should, if successful, feel entirely of a single piece. They're both the work of many pairs of hands that ends up being ascribed to a single mastermind—whose role, in reality, is often more in the realm of administration and logistics than artistry. And they both produce a range of results that can suit different palates at different times. An unassuming dish made with care and precision. A challenging, avant-garde experiment. A dazzling bit of cleverness. A junk orgy, full of fat and carbs, that leaves you entirely satisfied but with a looming stomachache. Or, you know, maybe that's just nonsense. Shortly into The Menu , Mark Mylod

Recent Reading Roundup 56

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The "recent" in the title is a bit deceptive—having switched over to running mid-length reviews as their own posts (an experiment which I think has been a resounding success), this post selects books from the last six months of reading, books I had something to say about, but not at a length that justified its own post. Later this week, I'm leaving on a holiday where I expect to do a lot more reading, so this feels like a good opportunity to clear the decks—and leave space for more reviews. Moon Witch Spider King by Marlon James - the first volume in James's Dark Star trilogy, Black Leopard Red Wolf , was meandering, clotted, powerful yet frequently overbearing. It's not surprising to find the same qualities in its follow-up volume, but going into it I had assumed that the reading experience would be smoother, simply because I knew what to expect. Instead, I found myself having a very similar experience to the one I had reading the previous book, feeling incredi

Recent Reading: Wergen: The Alien Love War by Mercurio D. Rivera

Rivera's novel is one of several wildcard nominees on this year's Clarke Award shortlist, though in my non-representative sampling it is the one that has garnered the most commentary—perhaps because people got a glimpse of its appalling cover design , which is bad even by the standards of its publisher, NewCon Press, and felt compelled to react. But to me what truly makes Wergen unusual—in ways both good and bad—is how old school it is. It's such a throwback to the science fiction of the 60s and 70s that it ends up feeling fresh and different. And yet at the same time there are aspects of it that are decidedly old-fashioned, and which end up undercutting its effect. Wergen is a fix-up, with several stories having been published independently in various short fiction venues (and one as a standalone novella) over the course of more than a decade. Here we already have the first tick on the old school checklist—I can't remember the last time I read a fix-up novel, and eve

Review: The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison at Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons have published my review of Katherine Addison's The Grief of Stones , the sequel to last year's The Witness for the Dead , which was itself a spin-off of Addison's beloved 2014 fantasy of manners The Goblin Emperor . Unlike Goblin 's court intrigue, the Witness novels are detective stories, starring the priest-necromancer Thara Celehar. It's interesting that Addison chose such an oblique follow-up to what was after all a popular and well-loved novel, but as I note in my review, both The Goblin Emperor and now this new series seem to draw on inspirations from outside the fantasy genre, while constructing a thought-out, down-to-earth fantasy world. The books I found myself comparing it to are Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody detective novels (2004-2019). As in that series, the detective takes on an array of cases, some trivial—a bakery desperate to find a suddenly-deceased partner’s scone recipe—and some tragic—a newly-bereaved husband who needs Cele

Nope

In interviews and promotional materials for his third movie, Nope , writer-director Jordan Peele has explained that the watchword for this project was "spectacle". After two years of pandemic-mandated movie theater closures, and filmmakers' growing fears that audiences would get used to the convenience (and safety) of streaming and give up on the cinematic experience, Peele's goal was to make a counter-argument. To create an experience as much as a story. On one level, it can't be denied that he has succeeded. Nope is chock-full of vivid and memorable imagery, cannily uses cinematic devices to evoke everything from dread to delight, and, in its last hour, delivers thrilling, pulse-pounding action. But this is still a Jordan Peele movie, which means that there's a barb hidden in all that celebration. For all that it is dedicated to spectacle, Nope is simultaneously engaged in analyzing what a desire for spectacle says about us, and about the people who produc

Recent Reading: The Moonday Letters by Emmi Itäranta

[This is an expanded version of a capsule review of The Moonday Letters, which appeared last week in The Guardian] Every now and then you have the pleasure of stumbling on a book that just blows your socks off. Finnish author Itäranta has had her share of plaudits—her first novel, The Memory of Water , was a Clarke nominee, an honor that I very much hope The Moonday Letters will share—but I'd managed to miss her previous work, and picked up her latest in the hopes of jumping on the bandwagon. What I found was excellent beyond any of my expectations. You can feel the influence of several recent works by Kim Stanley Robinson (an author who, for all that he's regularly acknowledged as a major figure in the field, doesn't have a lot of direct successors). But there is also a flavor and an emphasis that are entirely original, combining to create one of the most exciting works of science fiction I've read this year. Lumi is a healer in the 22nd century, traveling across the