They come for the trees.

Greenwood, Michael Christie, Scribe 2020

It is well-known (here) that I’m a fan of family epics. There’s always the risk that the dullest character gets the most attention but still: throw in clear images of different eras and I’m in.

Michael Christie’s adds trees to his. From cutting to protecting, wood working and dendrology (- yes, I learned a new word), these Greenwood generations are willingly and unwillingly connected to the lungs of the earth.

The story ranges from 1908 to 2038 and with almost 500 pages – goes far and wide through Canada and characters.

The only thing that slightly bothered me was the imbalance between male and female characters and how the latter were all connected to motherhood somehow. I know that some of the historical settings limit female independence and freedom or maybe the male author simply didn’t dare but.. I would have liked to know more about them and their surroundings.

Except for Jake’s. Her 2038 is a loud, environmental warning we should all hope doesn’t turn into reality.

The Dark Gifts trilogy

  • Gilded Cage
  • Tarnished City
  • Bright Ruin

For YA, there’s a surprising amount of politics and commentary on political systems. Mostly still on a YA-level – don’t expect deep-going analyses and there’s just a hint of ‘maybe grey is the best possible option in a world of black and white’ but it was a pleasant surprise. It even kept me going through the first book after realising the author was setting up the plainest of romances.

Anyway, there’s magic users in power and not-magic users that have slavedays: ten years of their life have to be devoted to working for the country with nothing in return. Of course there are people who agree with this, who disagree with this, and those that just want to be and/or stay in power.

Two families are followed, on either side. Some are skeptical from the start, some naive, blood flows, death follows, and more and more often reality sinks in.

That sometimes it’s all a bit clunky and certain plot lines aren’t as neatly finished as they could have been might be a sign of its target audience, or just a lack of editing. Either way, it was more fun entertainment than expected. I didn’t even mind it being a trilogy.

Trail of Lightning

The monster has been here.

More Charlaine Harris (True Blood and the like) than Eden Robinson, but you can’t always win,and at least I was entertained. Maybe I should have known better when discovering that there had been criticisms about this novel, but I very much enjoy the stories of indigenous people, so I was willing to risk it. On the other side, how could I have known if the author was doing something right or wrong with the very little I know about (North-American) indigenous people?

Anyway, hindsight is 20-20 and it wasn’t her representation of the Navajo – wrongfully or otherwise – that bothered me about this novel. It’s the characters, specifically the main character.

I understand that you’re a pretty tortured soul when you’ve gone through what Maggie has gone through and is still going through, but when it only leads to moping and lamenting – all the goodwill evaporates quickly. There are other characters that are more exciting, I would have loved to learn more about the world this plays out in, but instead I get ponderings-while-looking-in-the-mirror. If there would have been more sex and blood, I would have called this a Laurell K. Hamilton.

Coming down largely on the side of ‘meh’, you can skip this one for your dystopian, sci-fi and or not-just-white story needs.

Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse, Simon & Schuster 2018

I Am Mother

113 min.

When you first critique lands about ten minutes in, it’s hard to not view a film without bias. Why is everyone involved white, even the people in the ‘old-timey’ videos the main character views?

I Am Mother posterThen there’s the non-nuanced use of the soundtrack. A good soundtrack builds upon the scene, sharpens the emotions you are already feeling. In this case we got THINGS ARE SCARY pressed upon you while things weren’t all that scary. Or emotional. And lights flickering with no reason don’t mean that we’re worried either, just that we want an explanation about wiring suddenly being faulty when we’re looking for someone.

Is there anything nice to be said about this film? Not really – maybe that with small tweaks it could at least be a commentary on sovereign AI and its relationship with humanity, but that’s been done before – and better – as well. Even the explanation of the things happening is extremely unclear – did I nod off somewhere along the almost two hour ride?

So all in all, it’s just not much of anything. If someone’s mid-parting is the thing I’m irked about most, it doesn’t say any good about the plot. You can’t replace it with music bits either, nor flickering lights.

Good thing about all this is that at least it’s an utterly disbelieving dystopia: more sensible humans would have given up before any AI could get involved.

I Am Mother, Netflix 2019


An Ocean of Minutes

People wishing to time travel go to Houston Intercontinental Airport.

Is dystopia less scary to me when it happens in the past? For someone that doesn’t like dystopian stories, this is the second one I read in two months.

This time it’s an epidemic and time travel that gets us where we end up; although – we end up in the past. The protagonist is sent into the future from the eighties, and ends up in 1998. Oof, isn’t that an awful long time ago?

Of course, because that’s how it goes, things go quite awry, and Polly has to adjust not just to a new time, but to new surroundings and societal rules. This being a dystopian story – things didn’t improve.

The twist of this story – it masquerading as a love and time travel story, while it really isn’t – is also the most appealing feature of it. Besides that it’s too muted, lamenting and passive to feel anything but a tinge of relief of having finished this.

An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim, Penguin Random House 2018

Ink and Bone

“Hold still and stop fighting me,” his father said, and slapped him hard enough to leave a mark.

Maybe I’m just a little bit too demanding. There’s little wrong with this story, it ticks plenty of boxes and it’s a fun, light read. It just didn’t sweep me off my feet, being a tad too traditional in tropes and plots. The world-building, though. Libraries!

This is a world in which books and librarians are viewed quite differently from ours. It’s Big Brother through books, originals should only be owned by the Great Library and everyone’s got a journal which is basically your testament (to be added to the same library after your passing). In this world, it’s an honour to be part of the Great Library, so guess where the unlikely (“”) hero shows up.

He’s part of a group of aspirant librarians, but during his time in Alexandria he discovers that not everything is as rosy as it should be. Conspiracies and plots and maybe the good guys are really the bad guys and vice versa, adventure!

With a few twitches, all that could have been less fantasy-by-numbers, but of course there’s a sequel: maybe everything leading up to that will flourish in the second book. If you’re fine with fine, gritty world-building and another male protagonist, this story will do you very well.

Ink and Bone: the Great Library, Rachel Caine, Penguin Group 2015


8 x 49 min.

Zo’n tv-show die ik al best lang in mijn Netflix-lijst had staan, maar pas ging proberen toen mijn 20-jarige stagiaire het aanbeval. Terwijl wij nu niet bepaald qua mening regelmatig op dezelfde golflengte zitten.

De show stond zolang in mijn rijtje omdat ik wist dat ze Zuid-Amerikaans (Braziliaans) is, met Portugees als voertaal. Ik kijk liever niet te veel niet-Engelse series tegelijkertijd, zeker niet sinds ik weer Engels ben gaan studeren. Hoeveel taal past in je hoofd, tenslotte? In ieder geval, hoor ik meteen Engels! 3% heeft dus ook een gesynchroniseerde optie, maar daarmee zitten ze zo vaak naast de articulatie van het origineel dat ik gewoon ondertiteling aanraad. Aangenomen dat je geen Portugees spreekt.

3% posterMaar wie of wat is die 3% dan? De 3% zijn mensen die Het Proces succesvol doorlopen en hun sloppenwijken kunnen inwisselen voor een zogezegd utopie. Dat Proces is alleen nogal bruut, dus er zijn ook wat tegenstanders van. Met teksten als ‘niet iedereen verdient hetzelfde’ en ‘alleen als je je uiterste best doet verdien je een beter leven’ is dat ook wel te begrijpen.

In acht afleveringen (had wel met één of twee minder gekund, maar het tempo zakt nergens echt in) volgt de kijker een groep die graag door Het Proces heen wilt. Voor uiteenlopende redenen, natuurlijk.

Het is aantrekkelijk vermaak met – voor mij zeker een pluspunt – een diverse cast. Als je Hunger Games in tv-serievorm wilt, kun je aan 3% geen buil vallen.

3%, Netflix 2016

The Fifth Season

Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we?

I’m pretty sure I don’t understand what kind of story I just finished. Not understanding like getting it, because half way in, I was pulled in. No, I’m just confused, lost. In over my head.

N.K. Jemisin is one of those authors I just really wanted to try once, and with no clear recommendations, any start anywhere is a good one.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if this book was the right start. There’s no bright, light, breezy flow to The Fifth Season, and as every end-of-the-world book, it makes me go down the road of uncomfortable what-ifs. There is a lot of world and society and people to learn off, and when you feel like you might have a grip, Jemisin starts turning things. It almost feels like a point and click game, one where wander into bonus levels unwittingly (is this a flashback? A flashforward? What am I reading here?).

The Fifth Season is definitely at home in the category of epic fantasy, fantasy that has been invested in and that might stick with you for years to come. And like the most epics, it needs a bit of you to work out. After the first 200 pages I was glad I didn’t plan on reading more of it (it’s part of a series), after the second 200 I decided I was curious for more, but after a breather.

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, Orbit 2015


When She Woke

When she woke, she was red.

Soms lees je een review op het precies verkeerde moment. Ik kon me herinneren echt naar When She Woke uit te kijken, en toen die review. Iets met katten en nieuwsgierigheid.

Hoofdrolspeelster Hannah leeft in een streng-christelijke omgeving, en wordt, door haar abortus, als crimineel gezien. En in haar wereld wordt je als crimineel met een pigment geinjecteerd. Nu is ze alleen nog maar ‘een Red’.

Hillary Jordan toont de wereld die dit toelaat zonder enige moeite, gewoon op de achtergrond van het plot. En Hannah is ja, ze is wat zeurderig en naief maar dat is ook wat de samenleving van haar heeft gemaakt.

Wat was dan de teleurstelling? Religie. Ondanks de situatie en gebeurtenissen in haar boek die erg tegen georganiseerde religie (en zeker voor scheiding van kerk en staat) spreken, wordt er met elk deel meer God is Goed rondgesprinkeld. Het wordt een spagaat tussen verhaal en boodschap, eentje waardoor ik enige opluchting voelde toen het boek uit was. Christendom hoeft niet verketterd te worden, maar de whiplash van goed-slecht-perfect was op zijn minst ongemakkelijk.

When She Woke, Hillary Jordan, Harper Collings 2011

Station Eleven

The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.

Tsja, dan moet je van een boek als Everything I Never Told You weer door. Niet dat Station Eleven verschrikkelijk, slecht of saai was, maar ik had mij al laten overreden om het te lezen (ik ben niet zo van post-apocalyptisch), dan moet het heel goed zijn dat ik mijn boekinstinct niet vertrouw.

Er is een heel extreem geval van de varkensgriep en dat roeit 99 procent (waarschijnlijk) van de wereld uit. Een deel van de één procent, in Noord Amerika, worden gevolgd. Daar ligt al mijn eerste punt, waarom maken we het einde van de wereld (en de wereld er na) alleen op dat continent mee?

Tussen het dagelijks leven na de epidemie door zijn er flashbacks naar het leven van een beroemd auteur en de man in wiens armen hij stierf. Er zijn geen hints waarom zij deze flashbacks waard zijn, maar door de vele exen van de auteur zijn er in ieder geval meerdere karakters aan elkaar te linken.

Het is niet alsof het verhaal slecht geschreven is, voor mij blijft het gewoon te veel aan de oppervlakte. Een happy ending is niet nodig, maar dit voelt alsof ik een encyclopendie in handen had waar verschillende hoofdstukken uit verwijderd waren. Een bepaald deel van de vragen die je opwerpt als auteur, mogen best beantwoord worden.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, Picador 2015