Showing posts from February, 2016

Recent Movie Roundup 21, Part 2

In a few hours, this year's Oscars will be handed out, concluding a season that has been interesting more for the conversation surrounding the nominated movies than for the movies themselves.  Nevertheless, here are some more thoughts about nominated movies (plus a recent one) with my ranking of the best picture nominees at the end. Room - A few years ago, when Emma Donoghue's novel was the topic of discussion everywhere, I found myself, on several occasions, just on the verge of picking up a copy, and then deciding not to.  What held me back was the reaction I had to every one of the novel's reviews, and their description of its premise, in which the experiences of a teenage kidnap victim are filtered through the point of view of her young son, who has spent his entire life in the room in which his mother was imprisoned by her abductor, which he believes to be the whole world, and who must rebuild his worldview when they are rescued.  I kept thinking: this sounds unbear

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

About a year ago, in preparation for the BBC miniseries adaptation, I reread Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell .  This was the first time I'd revisited Clarke's novel since I first read it about ten years ago, and what struck me in this rereading--aside, that is, from its reminder that this is a special, unusual, and exceptional novel--was how very political Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is.  It's not something that one hears discussed very often--partly because Jonathan Strange is so much its own thing that, in the absence of a tradition that springs from it, one doesn't find it discussed very much at all.  And partly, because Clarke's handling of her political subtext is, depending on how charitable you want to be, either halting and incomplete, or, in keeping with the rest of the novel, not an easy fit with any of the templates we use for how genre fiction can address issues like racism, misogyny, and colonialism. Nevertheless, Jona

Recent Movie Roundup 21, Part 1

Every year I promise myself that this is the year I'll start watching more grown-up movies, instead of just flocking to the same action and superhero movies.  And every year I remember why that's a difficult promise to keep--because unlike TV, the Israeli movie market is still stuck in the 80s, with screens devoted almost exclusively to either blockbusters or middle-of-the-road pablum aimed at people thirty years older than me.  An additional complication is that Israeli film distributors only bring out prestige movies if they've been nominated for awards, so all the Oscar contenders show up here within the space of a month, making it even more a challenge to catch up.  (This, by the way, is an additional wrinkle to the #OscarsSoWhite problem that hasn't gotten a lot of play.  Israeli film distributors will only buy a movie focused on African-Americans if it's received award attention, which means that lot of those movies never even make it here.  I suspect we'r

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree begins with a gloomy, wet boat journey to a gloomy, wet island in the English Channel.  Fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly, our protagonist, is moving with her family to the Isle of Vane, so that her father, the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, can consult on an archaeological dig.  It's the 1860s, and amateur natural scientists like Erasmus are grappling with the new, controversial theory of evolution, while trying to reconcile it with their ironclad belief in the Biblical stories of creation.  Erasmus's claim to fame is having discovered a fossil of an apparently winged man, but as the inquisitive Faith realizes soon after settling in the family's new house on the island, the reason for their hasty relocation is that the authenticity of this find--and of many of Erasmus's other discoveries--has been called into question.  When Erasmus is found dead, Faith's mother and uncle quickly scramble to protect him from the accusation of suicide, but Faith believes th

E-Books Galore

When I promised to start making ebooks of some of the posts in this blog's (gulp) ten-year-old archives, I thought I'd get on that in a few weeks.  Six months later, I've finally done it!  the E-Books tab has been updated with three new collections: the series Back Through the Wormhole and Let's See What's Out There , in which I reflected on the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation , and Austen and Friends , a collection of my reviews of Jane Austen's novels and other related books.  All three ebooks are available in epub and mobi formats. Please let me know if there are formatting issues or problems downloading any of the ebooks, and if you have comments on the contents.  It was an interesting experience, going back to my old writing to edit and format it for these collections.  In some cases, posts that I wrote ten years ago, when I was still working out what I wanted this blog to be, still resonated with me.  In other instances, thin

Review: The Liminal War and The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett

Over at Strange Horizons , I review the second and third books in Ayize Jama-Everett's Liminal People series.  This was one of those cases where a book comes to you just when you need it the most.  As they've slowly taken over popular culture, I've found myself growing increasingly impatient with superhero stories, and with how the ones that show up on our screens choose to handle politics (see, for example, this series of tweets from last night in which I try to sum up my frustrations with the seemingly endless barrage of superhero shows and their messed-up politics).  It's been particularly frustrating watching what is, by now, the dominant genre in pop culture carefully and studiously avoid anything like a real engagement with issues of social justice.  For all that they claim otherwise, superheroes are about preserving the status quo, and that usually means siding with those in power, not those whom they oppress. So Jama-Everett's books, in which opposing--