31 December 2017

What I read in 2017

01. Headless by Tristram Lowe
02. The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes
03. The Paladin Caper By Patrick Weekes
04. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
05. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed
06. Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure by Michael G. Munz
07. The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
08. The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I by Stephen King (The Great Re-Read 2017)
09. The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower II by Stephen King (The Great Re-Read 2017)
10. The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III by Stephen King (The Great Re-Read 2017)
11. The Heart of What Was Lost By Tad Williams
12. The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
13. Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet by James Goss
14. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
15. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
16. IT by Stephen King
17. Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey
18. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
19. Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End By Chuck Wendig
20. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
21. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Beckly Albertalli
22. Strange Weather by Joe Hill
23. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King
24. Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

30 December 2017

Books: Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson (2017)

"One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters."

While billed as the secret history behind the First Order’s most notorious (and underutilized new character within the movie franchise) Stormtrooper, Delilah S. Dawson’s Star Wars: Phasma seemed designed to help fans get a better glimpse into this new character (a tactic that Disney is now using so they don’t have to bother with characterization on screen) who looked to be a breakout villain. But basically, what we have here is a backstory for Phasma—but told from a third-hand retelling (which is just a horrible way to write a tale). No one, not even the captured Rebel repeating this information onto another high ranking Stormtrooper named Captain Cardinal, even considers that the stories of Phasma’s upbringing are whole truths, lies, or could be given by an unreliable narrator. So if you’re coming to this novel, as I was, hoping to find out more about her personality or discover what makes Phasma tick, then be prepared for disappointment because this book is completely devoid of any kind of real characterization.

The problem with these new canon books is that while they can often offer more clarity and motivations of these new characters, they still need to have an interesting back story. Phasma is still mostly a cipher here, and even the rationale of Cardinal trying to solve a “murder” seems suspect. While the analogy that the First Order is model for the rise of the Nazi’s, Star Wars: Phasma offers no new wrinkle here, they are what you think they are and they have no redeemable value.
I’m unsure why Dawson took this route with Phasma, who could’ve been more than the sum of her chrome parts we’ve seen in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. I don't have an issue media of books, comics, and animated TV shows being used by Disney to flesh out certain character’s back story -like Phasma and probably Snoke- but I do want something more interesting, more worthy than what is presented here.

10 December 2017

Books: Sleeping Beauties By Stephen King and Owen King (2017)

“In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?”

Much of Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen’s Sleeping Beauties plays out like an elongated morality tale that owes a lot to The Twilight Zone, the 2016 presidential election (and the consequences that bleed on as I write this of that election), the many dystopian novels (including the elder King’s The Stand, Under the Dome, and even Joe Hill’s The Fireman) that have become popular over the last decade or so (insomuch as these type of novel tropes never really go away), Netflix’s Stranger Things, The Andromeda Strain, and (if I can use the word) the feminist movement.

While this book plays out as a fantasy novel (with King’s family patented ability to create a real, breathing world), it also a book designed to be a mirror on our current state of mind. It reflects issues such as women’s roles in our society (and setting the story within a women’s correctional facility helps bring these themes forward), what they must do to keep men happy (and who are, as always, generally the ones whom start the problems), and contemplates that while some women are born bad, there is a possibility that some whom are incarcerated were put there by the treachery of men.

So, as I’ve done over the last few years of reading the books by Stephen King and his two sons, Owen King and Joe Hill, I see his tales less as horror novels and more political with some deeply metaphorical meanings that I take into the real world. The elder King has always excelled at trying to figure out the motives of the humans he creates in his novel (and something the Joe Hill has done in his novels, as well as Owen did with his books). In many ways the tropes that come forward, the people who do bad things, are not evil in any real sense (well there are evil people in King’s novels), but people who do bad things in pursuant of goals they believe is right.

Take Frank Geary as an example in Sleeping Beauties. He has anger issues and has not addressed them. Those issues have destroyed his marriage, but the love of his daughter Nana propels him to horrible things as the book progresses. You do have sympathy for him, and the writer’s make the reader aware that Geary kind of hates what he has to do, but then that’s the point, I think. Both King’s make their agenda pretty well known (as the elder one does on his Twitter feed) that most of all our world’s problems can be lain at the doorstop of men, men who believe they are doing the right thing when all they’re truly doing is what’s best for them.

The novel really does not explain how this Aurora virus (or whatever it is) comes from, why it started. The same goes for the mysterious women emissary that goes by the name of Evie. You get the impression that she is some sort of higher being (though she says she’s as human as anyone else) but who or what she is (the ghost of Christmas past, present, or future?) is never fully explored but she is the fulcrum on which hangs an Earth with women or one that has just men (and doomed to extinction).

And on the other side, the King’s version of the Upsidedown, is a world that has moved on without men and the women who awake there who now have the ability to set their destinies and reset the once burned out world on a path to new enlightenment.

It’s hard to say if the book is overtly over-long, but clocking in at 700 pages, I did find at times where the narrative could’ve used a few trims that would've not impacted the tome. But that is another trope of the King family.

But as I noted, out of all Stephen King’s books, Sleeping Beauties may be his most unconcealed political one. Neither father nor son shies away from blaming a huge amount of our world’s problems on men, who use guns to solve all their problems, instead of trying to figure out how to solve them by coming together. They attack our patriarchal society with aplomb, they attack the current president in the White House (without ever making it obvious), and they point out the absurdity of a small Appalachian town that has an arsenal worthy of our military.

There is much more here, and maybe it needs a deeper, more critical look than I can give, but I simply enjoyed the book. That’s what counts for me. But it also clearly showed me something I’ve felt for a long time, that maybe our patriarchal needs more women in control. Because in the end, when everything done and blown up, women survive, clean up and move on. That’s what makes them heroes in my book of life.

And I wish, oh so do I wish, I could be like them (not that I want to be, physically, a women, but have their innate abilities to be able to solve problems without violence).