Tag Archives: sci-fi

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaids-taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, first published in 1985.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Genre: dystopian (sci-fi).

Source: the library.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now… (Goodreads)

srcek

My rating: 5/5

I’ve been wanting to read The Handmaid’s Tale for a while now but I’ve somehow fallen out of the habit of reading classics. It took me some time to really get into it, even more so because of the topic. Any stories where something bad happens to children are a huge no-no right now, but I’m so glad I worked my way through the difficult beginning of this particular tale and read it despite my fears. I’m sorry if the review isn’t the most eloquent you’ve ever read – this is an important book for me so I might ramble a bit.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood (hello, obviously, I’m a new mom) and the role of women in our society. This book addresses all my concerns and has a certain punch-in-the gut effect that left me with a profound sense of worry about where this current situation is leading. Mind you, this book was first published in 1985, when I wasn’t even born yet, and women are STILL fighting the same old fights – and in fact, the situation is even worse today. This is something I find particularly terrible. Read this article if you’re interested in seeing just how bad things are becoming for feminists.

If we take this book out of its context (which is nearly impossible, but let’s try anyway), it’s one of the best-written novels I’ve read in years. There are SO MANY quotable quotes I noted them in my phone, in my journal, and on random bits of paper. I have read Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Surfacing before (during my studies), but neither stuck with me as much as The Handmaid’s Tale did.

I just have to list my favourite quotes here, much as I dislike just quoting stuff without context (there’s that word again, so important…):

  • We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.
  • I hunger to commit the act of touch.
  • Humanity is so adaptable, my mother used to say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.
  • How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all.”

srcek

The most important thing about reading this book, however, is that it made me think. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks (it took me more than three weeks to sit down and write this review) and these are the questions that have been rolling around in my mind, scaring me to death:

  •  Would women really descend to this point? Would we become our own jailers? — Yes. The situation now may not be as extreme as in Gilead, but look at all the slut shaming going on, at the petty comments we make about each other’s daily appearance. I’m ashamed of myself sometimes.
  • Do we all have Stockholm syndrome, living peacefully in a patriarchical society? — Maybe. I have never felt particularly oppressed, but that doesn’t mean that millions of women aren’t in a horrible position every day without even realizing it.
  • When have we gotten so adept at turning the other way? — This is the most horrible of truths, perhaps, that we have been raised to be blind to social injustice.
  • Is Gilead really the logical conclusion of the events taking place in the last couple of decades? — Again, maybe. Don’t tell me you don’t feel like the world is taking a turn for the worse.

srcek

And with this optimistic thought, I leave the stage to you (if you haven’t given up on me yet):

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?

Did you find it as scary as I did? What freaked you out the most?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss this with you!

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

viciousVicious by V. E. Schwab, published in 2014 by Titan Books.

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: paranormal (?) fantasy/sci-fi (?) (I’m useless at these… I don’t know why I bother.)

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? (Goodreads)

srcek

My rating: 5/5.

This is a great book. Go read it now.

Ok, I just wanted to get that out of the way. Vicious easily made its way onto the list of top five books I’ve read in 2014. I’ve read and loved Schwab’s The Near Witch and The Archived (you can read my review here) and I admire her writing so, so much. Vicious just confirmed that she can write for adults as well. I have to get my hands on The Unbound and I can’t wait for A Darker Shade of Magic to be published in 2015. Did I mention she’s only 27 and is a student as well as a writer? No? Well… I’m kind of in awe. Go follow her Twitter account as well, she’s great.

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It seems to me like I’m always whining about the pacing in books – I either find the story too slow (like in Half Bad) or too fast (like in Illusions of Fate – review to come soon). But here, it was bloody well perfect. The switching between the past, the recent past and the present is done so masterfully I couldn’t help but rush forward, eager to find out more, to get more clues, to see how the tension would unfold. And I can tell you, there’s tension aplenty, and by the final third of the novel, I was practically bouncing up and down – and yet afraid to fly through the text too fast for the fear of missing a lovely piece of writing (there are plenty of those as well).

I’ve read books with a similar structure before – Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora (and sequels) are done in a similar manner, but Lynch’s prose is slower and more lyrical despite the story that flows beautifully. Schwab, however, attacks her story with surgical precision and has a clean, no-nonsense style that I can’t help but adore. Both are marvellous, don’t get me wrong, but totally different.

I fell in love with Victor – the villain, the hero, the undefineable, complex person that he is – from the start. I love how Schwab plays around and questions the morality of his and Eli’s choices, how their world seems black-and-white but is really a very blurry shade of grey. Other characters are lovely as well, fleshed-out but not too flashy to distract the reader from the main conflict, that of two best friends (though I find myself questioning this friend label in their case…) turned mortal enemies.

Gah. Can I get more gushy about this book? Possibly not, but let me just finish up by saying that I was terrified that the whole pressure-building technique was going to whet my appetite and that I was going to finish off the book, disappointed (as one often is) by a lackluster ending. That did not happen, people. Schwab delivers a fantastic finale and I really do recommend this book. To… to everyone, basically!

srcek

Have you read Vicious? Or anything else by Schwab? 

I’d love to discuss her work so comment away! :)

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians_of_the_galaxyGuardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios, 2014.

Director: James Gunn.

Runtime: 121 minutes.

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper.

IMDb. Facebook. Official Site.

IMDb rating: 8.6/10.

My rating: 7/10.

 

 

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I’m a fan of Marvel movies. And other sci-fi (I think the Star Trek movies might just be my favourites). I’ve watched both Thor movies, X-MenThe AvengersCaptain America, Iron Man (though this one isn’t a favourite) and so on. But I’ve never read the comics, so I never know what true fans think about these adaptations. For me, they are an excellent opportunity to see some kick-ass action, gorgeous heroes, bantery humor and cool storylines. I always watch them with my husband, who enjoys all of the above, but prefers Natalie Portman to Chris Hemsworth. So they’re movies made for the both of us, which is cool. :)

I really liked Guardians of the Galaxy. I liked the characters, the smart dialogue, and the soundtrack – the soundtrack was really great, people! I liked that the movie didn’t take itself too seriously, because serious sci-fi is really hard to get right.

I loved Rocket, the genetically engineered racoon whom Bradly Cooper brought to life in such an awesome fashion. I think the last Bradley Cooper movie I saw was American Hustle, so I kept seeing his terrible, terrible hairdo, but I’m really happy with what he did with the racoon. Groot the tree was cool as well, though he didn’t require that much innovation when it came to his lines (I am Groot.). He reminded me a bit of Hodor from The Game of Thrones, truth be told, and I’m never sure if these similarities are accidental, a nod to the previously existing bit of culture, or plagiarism. Anyway, I thought the tiny dancing Groot was really cute!

Chris Pratt was just handsome enough to pull off Peter Quill’s cocky attitude. I haven’t really seen him in other movies before, so I can’t compare this performance to others, but I liked him well enough. As I’ve said, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, so Quill isn’t some gorgeous heart-throb (he’s more of a Captain Kirk from Star Trek than a Thor, I’d say), but I think found the walkman-listening scene with Gamora to be one of the best in the movie.

And then we come to Gamora. Gamora, played by a green-skinned Zoe Saldana, is a genetically mutated assassin. And she’s kick-ass, she really is, perfectly trained and everything. She’s got a tragic past and all, but I still felt she was rather too… bland. While she smacked around the bad guys, she never took the initiative but mostly followed other people’s (other men’s) orders and ideas. As one of the five main characters in the movie – and the only female – she really could have been more fleshed-out and self-sufficient. I always have a problem with this, I can’t help it.

From the movies I’ve listed only X-Men come close to anything remotely similar to gender equality, I’m sad to say. I always feel like I’m repeating myself when I start going on about “hot females who look like they’re independent and are dangerous and all but are only there to serve as props most of the time”. Think of Uhura (also played by Saldana) in Star Trek, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in The Avengers, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in Thor, Mikaela (Megan Fox) in Transformers, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Superman and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in The Amazing Spider-Man. I really wish for a heroine that would have her own agenda, her own sense of purpose and her very own strength, regardless of her male companions. Maybe Wonder Woman and the female Thor will change this, and maybe sci-fi will always be ruled by men. But I hope not.

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If you’d like to check out other book bloggers’ reviews of the movie, here are two I’ve encountered: Book Haven and Reviews from a Bookworm.

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Have you watched the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Have you also read the comics? Do you like Marvel’s movies in general?