The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

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The Return of Alcatraz

Alcatraz #5: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

As usual, I loved, loved, love this book. I just find the writing style, the commentary on writing, the delightful internal dialogue and just the straight wackiness of it. And so, so many librarian jokes.

I was really disappointed in the ending though because it didn’t really end. It was just over and the narrator insisted this was the end of the series and I believed it because I’d heard there was only supposed to be 5 books. It just totally failed to wrap up the story and it made me really sad.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was okay. This abrupt, unhappy ending actually kind of worked with the genre bending, commentary on language and tropes. To have such a surprising, unpredictable ending like that, kind of genius and plays into the whole story really well, even if it didn’t make me happy.

Only then I found out there’s going to be a sixth book. So I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it all ends.

Anyway, I still love and recommend the series completely, even if they’re a little abstract for younger readers.

Last movie I watched:

The Santa Clause? I think. It’s a good one I feel.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. This episode isn’t that great, but we’ll see how it goes.

Genre Mixing

Hunter (Hunter #1) by Mercedes Lackey

We’re getting pretty close to books that I’ve read in recent enough memory that I might be able to manage some thoughtful discussion of this book. Probably not much, but a bit.

Hunter takes place in a dystopian future after an unknown apocalypse when the humans of the world are terrorized by magical beings that can crossover from another mythical realm to hunt humans. Humans have responded by living in major cities, protected by Hunters – people with magical abilities and a connection to mythical beasts called Hounds who are public figures, as well as protectors. Into this complicated world, Joy is asked to leave her quiet mountain home for Apex, the biggest city in North America with nothing but her training, her hounds and the occasional communication from her high ranking uncle to keep her alive. It is the first book in a trilogy. I think. There’s at least a second.

One thing that was really interesting about this book was the blending of science fiction and fantasy. On the one hand, Joy is tracked all the time by mechanical bracelets, cameras and trending but on the other she has a telepathic connection with mythical, shape shifting animals.

Overall, I found the pacing a little off with some stretches dragging and then a lot of action for a long time, but I will definitely be reading the next one.

Last movie I watched:

No idea.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural still. I’m going to get through this season without thinking about it too much.

Tiny Newts!

Rise of Herk: Nnewts #2 by Doug Tennapel

This is the second book in a great graphic novel series which is basically about amphibians and reptiles and lizards in space. The main character is a young Nnewt named Herk who, until the first book, has never grown legs. But as it turns out, he was always meant to be a hero.

I really, really enjoyed this book and like this series a lot. There’s a lot of great stuff in there – fun, bright, illustrations, fast paced, good language for early readers and no doubt a popular choice with young readers.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Sleeping Beauty. Not my favourite.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. So bad and yet, so good.

The ongoing Saga

Saga Volume 5 by Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan

So I read this months ago, but it’s so great so I wanted to write about it, even though I don’t remember any intelligent things to say about it.

Alana and Marko have been separated. Alana is with Hazel and her mother-in-law, kidnapped and Marko is searching for them, hell bent on getting his family back. The Will is in a coma and a crew of people are looking for a cure to save him.

The illustrations are stunning, the story is full of sex, drugs and swearing but all of the beautiful intricacies of love, grief, loss, addiction and parenting.

The last movie I watched:

Mulan. Love it.

Last TV show I watched:

Outlander episode one. So far, I’m sold.

Space Opera + Graphic Novel = wonderful

Saga Volume Four by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

As I have previously mentioned, I love Saga. It’s an amazing series which I’m getting depressingly close to being caught up on.

The general pitch for the series is two planets have been at war for generations when a soldier from each side fall in love, marry and have a child which should be impossible. Governments across the galaxy are frantic to get their hands on the baby. The series followed the family as they struggle their way through parenting, marriage and being on the run, but also the people who are hunting them.

If you haven’t read it and are going to, stop here with this recommendation: It’s amazing.

After this point there might be spoilers for the last three books.

Volume Four starts with Prince IV’s son being born, while he is off world wasting time on Sextillion (the sex planet), Alana struggling with her newly established acting career, Marko fumbling his way through being the stay at home parent and The Will’s sister The Brand looking for a way to wake him from his coma.

In addition to the beautiful graphics in this book, the complicated characters and intriguing plot there is also a very basic, human story too. What it means to in a relationship, how easy it for every day stresses to come between people who love each other. What being part of a family means, the good and the bad that love can drive you to. What it means to be a parent and have to put someone else’s needs before your own all the time.

Just a heads up – there’s a lot of mature and graphic content of all varieties – violence, sex, drugs  it’s all in there.

The series is amazing though. I really recommend it.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Deadpool. I love it.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. It’s got a lot of evolution as a show. I think it’s a good thing.

 

Way Better Than the Day After Tomorrow

The Dark Gravity Sequence: The Arctic Code by Matthew J Kirby

This book takes takes place in not so distance future when half the world is covered in ice and snow. It starts in Phoenix, with a young girl named Eleanor. Most of her friends are refugees, who fled to Phoenix from the rest of the United States when it became too cold for people to live, and live in cramped, underpowered apartment towers but because her mother works for one of the biggest oil companies in the world she and her uncle Jack have their own house. Eleanor never feels like she fits in, so when she receives a strange message from her mother, who then goes missing in the Arctic, Eleanor doesn’t overthink going north to look for her mom. But her mother is involved in something much bigger than anyone ever realized and nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake.

This is a really great book. Eleanor is a plucky, lovable hero who’s impulsive decisions regularly cause problems but it makes her more real, more interesting and more relatable. One of my favourite things about her is she has no father – her mother wanted a child, didn’t have a spouse and used a sperm bank. The reality of the world is that there are lots of children with families that look a little different, and it’s great to see them represented in a casual, realistic way. The group of adults who support and protect Eleanor and later the other kids do a good job of not showing up being all knowing vestals of wisdom, just slightly older people who don’t know how to protect what they love, exactly the same as the kids.

It’s a great children’s adventure book, it moves quickly and builds towards a very exciting climax that sets up the next books pretty well. I’m excited to read them.

Also there’s a mammoth. You can’t really go wrong with a mammoth.

Conclusion: recommend. Also love.

Last movie I watched:

Might still be Victor Frankenstein. Ugh.

Last TV show I watched:

Touch! It’s getting more Heroes-esk every episode but I’m already on the 2nd session and it’s not notably worse than the first, so it’s better than Heroes in a lot of ways.