Today I finished reading How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, by K. Eason, and I have to say, it was one of the best SF fairy tales I’ve read in a long time.Continue reading “Review: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse”
A couple nights ago we went to see Steven Page in concert at the Westman Centennial Auditorium. It’s been a while; he hasn’t been to Brandon in twenty-five years. He was on tour with Craig Northey of The Odds and Kevin Fox, a cellist.
The show was amazing. I confess, I didn’t know much of Page’s newer stuff, but what I heard I liked. We ended up buying a couple CDs during the intermission, so I look forward to hearing more of his recent work.Continue reading “Steven Page in Concert”
I wasn’t going to buy any books on our Ottawa trip. I wasn’t. I have too many books already at home.
Then we were walking back to the hotel from Byward Market, and we stopped in at Chapters, and I found myself in the SF/F section holding a copy of This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar (an Ottawa writer) and Max Gladstone. I opened the book, intending to skim the first chapter and then set it back on the shelf, intending to go home and request a copy from my local library.
But I found Amal’s signature on the title page, and well, long story short, I bought the book.
It’s a wild ride, a time-travel novella about two agents working on opposite sides of a time war. Red works for the Agency, a tech-based organization, and Blue works for Garden, an organization that might be an organism. They write each other letters across the timelines, the threads of history and future, at first to taunt each other (“Nyah nyah, you’re gonna lose!” “Are not!” “Are too!”) and, later, as they get to know each other, to express their feelings for each other.
The epistolary affair spans all of history, mostly in various versions of Earth (at one point, one of the characters goes to see Romeo and Juliet, to find out if it’s a tragedy or a comedy in her current timeline), but sometimes on other worlds or even in the vacuum of space. Red and Blue’s relationship progresses upthread and downthread, through past and future, in letters written in some of the weirdest steganographic ways I’ve seen: one is written in a volcano, another in a thornbush grown over a year from a seed. Only one, if I recall correctly, is written in ink on paper.
The writing itself—Amal’s and Max’s, I mean, not Red’s and Blue’s—is beautifully wrought, by turns amusing and horrifying. Moments as calm and sedate as a woman braiding her hair or enjoying tea contrast with the same woman, pages later, washing her hands after slitting someone’s throat.
And the language! I’m pretty proud of my vocabulary, but the authors, in their search for le mot juste, more than once sent me to the dictionary to make sure I understood the precise point or image they were trying to convey.
I enjoyed the novella, with its twists and turns, its hunter-vs.-hunted story chasing itself down the corridors of time. Highly recommended.
Update: I’m feeling a little slow, eh, because I only just now noticed that it’s Amazing Stories that reviewed Parallel Prairies. Amazing Stories just reviewed my writing.
Darren Ridgley, one of the editor of Parallel Prairies, just tweeted a link to a new review of the anthology. It appears the reviewer enjoyed my little tale of dementia and alien visitation:
What makes this story fun to read is Vincent’s determination to protect Charlie from the agents. […] Amusing. With a tinge of sadness.R. Graeme Cameron
He also liked the anthology as a whole:
This anthology features a collection of stories ranging far wider than I anticipated. There is, perhaps, a Canada-wide tendency to underestimate Manitoba. […] Amazing what stories the contributors wrested from its soil. I confess this book exceeded my expectations. Well worth reading.R. Graeme Cameron
If you’d like a copy of Parallel Prairies, you can get it from McNally Robinson.
I really want to like the new The Twilight Zone. But I think the problem with an anthology series is that you’re always starting from square one. Every episode requires an all-new round of exposition, and exposition is hard to do well.
I really don’t like the “as you know, Sally” style of expository dialogue, where characters say things to each other that they both already know, for the benefit of the audience. It sticks out like the cliché sore thumb for me.
And there’s a lot of it in this first season of The Twilight Zone.
Maybe it’ll get better, but so far I’m on the sixth episode, and it’s not been living up to my hopes.
(On the plus side, the acting has been top-notch, across all the episodes. Even the child actors have mostly impressed me.)
Well, episode 6 — “Six Degrees of Freedom” — was definitely a brighter spot, at least for me. It had some issues, sure — technical quibbles on the level of CBC’s SF attempt Ascension, q.v., but at least they tried harder. (For instance, they gave a reason, however ludicrous, that the Mars ship would have artificial gravity.) The story, though, manage to capture me and hold me till its end, even with a bit of clunky “as you know, Katherine” bits of infodump.
Seems I can forgive a bit of clunky writing if the overall story is good enough.
Last night my wife and I were contemplating going to the movies. She really wanted to see the cystic-fibrosis–related teen rom-com/drama Five Feet Apart, and I wanted to see the post–alien-invasion SF drama Captive State. So we compromised: she went to Five Feet Apart, and I went to Captive State.Continue reading “Review: Captive State”
I read Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster this weekend.
It’s the story of sixteen-year-old Jared, who’s doing his best, trying to balance baking weed cookies, caring for his elderly neighbours, keeping his dad from losing his home, keeping his aggressive mom off his case, and generally just trying to not fail grade ten.
It’s not real helpful that he’s started hearing crows talking to him.Continue reading “Review: Son of a Trickster”
Finally, last night, I watched Bad Times at the El Royale. Back when I first saw the trailer, I thought it was an Evans movie for sure, but it ended up playing at the multiplex down the street instead, for all of two weeks. I managed to miss it. Now I regret not seeing it on the big screen.
El Royale takes place at a hotel in Lake Tahoe, on the border between Nevada and California. The border literally bisects the hotel. Rooms on the California side are $1 more per night.
The movie opens with a priest, a singer, and a vacuum-cleaner salesman trying to check in, one lovely afternoon in 1969, but the clerk is nowhere to be found. Once they do track him down, a fourth guest appears, and she’s got some baggage. Well, they all have baggage, but the fourth woman appears to have kidnapped someone.
Of course, this is a noir-ish thriller, and no one—not even the venue—is who they seem to be.
I quite enjoyed El Royale. It felt a lot like a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it was written and directed by Drew Goddard. Goddard managed to take all the good things about a QT movie—colours, music, sudden violent twists—and discard the endless soliloquies. It really makes for a tight, nasty thriller, and it’s just the thing I was looking for.
If you like violence, secrets, thunderstorms, ’60s music, and violence, it might be just what you’re looking for too.
Header image from The Movie DB.
Last weekend I watched The Old Man and the Gun at the Evans Theatre. I loved it.
Forrest Tucker (played by Robert Redford) robs banks. We meet him as he’s robbing the latest one. He’s polite, he’s charming, he’s got a gun that he shows the manager (but that we don’t actually see till much later). He makes his getaway, and after he’s switched cars he spies a truck broken down on the side of the road. It’s driven by Jewel (Sissy Spacek), whom he offers a ride home (after the cop cars go screaming by, hunting a getaway car he’s no longer driving).
Forrest is in a gang with Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). The media dubs them the Over-the-Hill Gang. They don’t seem to need to rob banks, not for the money, at least; they seem to enjoy it.
(Aside: Teddy’s tragicomic Christmas story was my favourite scene in the movie. It’s got nothing to do with the story, but it says something about his character.)
Rounding out the story is the police officer John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is determined he’s going to be the one to nail the Over-the-Hill Gang. Will he succeed? Will our plucky anti-heroes get away with their next heist? Will Forrest and Jewel’s meet-cute turn into something deeper? Watch the movie to find out. It’s worth it.
Few things in this movie are stated outright. What appears at first glance to be an old-timey hearing aid is more likely a police-radio scanner, and this revelation makes it easier to understand how Tucker manages his getaway in the opening scenes. As mentioned, we don’t actually see his gun for quite some time, and it’s unclear by the end of the film if he’s ever even loaded it, much less fired it. One of the centrepiece heists isn’t even shown on-screen; we see a bit of the planning, a lot of hand-wringing by the Over-the-Hillers (“Can we even do it? Is it worth trying? I can’t run near as fast as I used to”, etc), and then a news report about the crime as Tucker puts the loot into its hiding place.
It’s a fun movie, a funny movie, and a sneaky, sly movie. I loved it.
I read recently that Robert Redford decided to retire after making The Old Man and the Gun because he wanted to go out on a fun movie. I think he did a fine job.
This is the first review I’ve come across for the new made-in-Manitoba anthology Parallel Prairies, and I’m glad to say the reviewer appears to have enjoyed my short story “Vincent and Charlie”.
Another rural close encounter of note in the collection is Brandon-based Patrick Johanneson’s Vincent and Charlie. The story explores the concept of alien telepathy and memory manipulation from inside a mind descending into dementia. Johanneson finds an artful balance between suspense and sentimentality and adds a soupçon of Men in Black for good measure.Sarah Jo Kirsch, The Uniter
Parallel Prairies launches Oct. 11, 2018, at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, and Oct. 13, 2018, at Brandon University’s John E. Robbins Library.
You can order the book from McNally Robinson, too, if you’d like (there will be copies available at the launches, of course).