Author Archives: lydias

A Review of Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One) book cover. Image on the cover is of two robots facing the viewer and reaching their arms out to us. Title: Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Author: Nicky Drayden

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2011

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: About 20 pages (see note below).

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

This collection of short stories contains 70% of your daily value for weirdness. If you’re still feeling deficient after reading these tales, stay tuned for Nicky Drayden’s forthcoming debut novel, THE PREY OF GODS from Harper Voyager, Summer 2017.

A shifty shapeshifter cons an intergalactic casino, a married robot couple moves to the burbs, punker space rhinos invade a small town in Colorado, and you, yes you, get to see firsthand what goes on in one of the strangest restrooms in the universe. This delightfully twisted collection of four short stories is easily devoured in one sitting and will leave you hungry for more.

Review:

If you love weird science fiction, keep reading.

Normally, I pick a few stories out of an anthology to highlight in my reviews. Since this collection only had four of them, I’ll talk about all of them.

The only other note I’ll make about this book before diving into my review is about the page count. My ebook was divided into shorter pages than usual, so I estimated the total length for this collection based on how long I thought it would be if each page had the usual 250-300 words in it. At any rate, it was a quick read!

“Winning Streak” followed a shapeshifter named Traleel Az who aroused the suspicions of the casino owners after winning far more money from a slot machine than anyone was supposed to get from playing that game. I was mesmerized by all of the fantasy creatures who worked at and visited that establishment. It sounds like an incredible, if also possibly dangerous, place to visit, and I wanted to know more with every passing scene. This is a world I’d love to visit again sometime if the author ever decides to revisit it.

As mentioned in the blurb, “Memories and All That” was about newlywed robots who moved to the suburbs. Kath-090 and Bit-722 were so excited to make this change in their lives that I was curious to see how their organic neighbours would respond to them. The pacing for this tale felt a little off to me, especially in the beginning when the characters were talking about which possessions they’d brought with them on their move. This momentary slowdown of the plot was more than made up for by the final scene, though. I couldn’t stop giggling at it.

The thought of sharing a town with space rhinos was more than enough to make me want to read “The Pudding Master and I.” Rynoss was the name of this species. Since they acted quite a bit like Earth rhinoceroses, just imagine all of the chaos they caused when they moved into human neighbourhoods. Their understanding of Earth culture was yet another reason why I was fascinated by these creature. Let’s just say that there were plenty of misunderstandings along the way and that some of them were pretty funny. The only thing better than this part of the storyline were all of the plot twists that happened after it.

“Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” was one of the best short story titles I’ve seen in ages. The main character in it was an amateur anthropologist living onboard a space ship who was attempting to figure out how an alien species called the Asiphants used the washroom. I would have liked to see more attention spent on explaining why the protagonist was so fascinated by this topic. It seemed odd to me, especially since they’d described themselves as someone who had spent plenty of time working and living alongside other humanoid species. Surely they would have gotten used to things like this by now? While I still enjoyed reading it, having more information about that part of the plot would have made it a better experience for this reader.

This was the first book I’ve read from Nicky Drayden. Based on how much I enjoyed it, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more from her!

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Earliest Memory

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

apple growing on an apple treeMy earliest memory involves an apple tree.

My family lived in a farmhouse on the edge of a small town in Ohio for the first four or five years of my life. An apple tree was growing in our front yard.

As soon as the apples on it grew large enough for me to recognize them, I decided I wanted to taste them.

The problem was, I wasn’t strong enough to pick the apple first no matter how much I tugged on it. (In retrospect, I wonder if the apple also wasn’t fully ripe yet).

After accepting the fact that the apple wasn’t going into the house with me after all, I decided to have a bite right then and there. I don’t remember what happened after that, but years later my parents told me they found that apple with a tiny little bite in it and laughed.

And, yes, I still love apples to this day

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Top Ten Tuesday: Cookbooks for Winter Holiday Feasts

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Gingerbread people lying on a table. My Brain: Okay, it’s time to write this week’s Top Ten Tuesday entry now. What should we talk about in our freebie post?

My Stomach: Food!

Brain: Well, it’s supposed to be a bookish topic and, ideally, at least tangentially related to winter or the holiday season in general.

Stomach: We will be surrounded by more delicious food than usual until at least the first week of January. It’s the only thing I want to talk about, so there must be a way to blog about it while still technically following Jana’s rules.

Brain: What if we decide to use this prompt to discuss cookbooks? Will that work for you?

Stomach: Yes, I’ll agree to that deal.

Now that you all know how I came up with today’s topic, let’s talk about cookbooks. All of the winter holidays I’m aware of share one delicious and important thing in common: special dishes and meals. Every culture has them, and this is a very common time of the year for people from all walks of life to start making that famous family recipe that everyone expects during the holidays.

If my apartment were large enough for me to host holiday get-togethers, I’d want to browse through these books to plan the perfect meals for all of my guests.

Book cover for Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry.

1. Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry

Book cover for Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

2. Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

Book cover for Nadiya's Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

3. Nadiya’s Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

Book cover for Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

4. Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

Book cover for The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

5. The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

Book cover for The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

6. The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

Book cover for How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

7. How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

Book cover for Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

8. Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

And for dessert…

Book cover for Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

9. Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

Book cover for The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

10. The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Which cookbooks do you love? What are a few of your favourite things to eat during the winter holidays?

A Third Update on My Walk to Mordor

Red Mountains that look like Mordor
Photo Credit: Dawn Endico.

Last spring I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor, and I updated my progress at the end of August when I was a third of the way through with it. Now that I’ve reached the two-thirds mark, I thought it was time for another update!

For anyone who needs a refresher or wasn’t following me six months ago, Walk to Mordor is a free app that lets you chart your miles walked every day and gives you updates on where Frodo and Sam were when they’d travelled the same distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I am not being compensated in any way for blogging about this. It’s simply something I thought would be a fun way to track my walking and help me stay active, and I was right about that.

Last summer I was logging 9 to 10 kilometres per day. When the weather is nice here, I take advantage of it! Now that I’m spending less time outdoors due to winter deciding to make an early appearance, I’m getting about 7 or 8 kilometres a day on average instead.

SnowflakeMy dad is still logging his miles walked into this game as well. There’s nothing competitive about how far we walk or anything like that. It’s simply nice to have that companionship.

I’m logged in on that app under my name, Lydia Schoch, if any new readers want to sign up and be friends there.

It’s interesting to read about the various plot twists that happened when Sam and Frodo were on their journey. Sometimes you’ll go 80 kilometres (50 miles) without reaching any new milestones, and then you’ll suddenly have several of them in a row. There have also been certain days when I reached multiple milestones depending on how close they were together and how far I walked that day.

This uneven progress makes it interesting to log my distance every night. Yes, you can guess how far you’ll go, but I find it more entertaining not to look at what’s coming so I can be surprised by the latest plot twist. Honestly, it makes me want to watch the Lord of the Rings movies again after I’ve gained full appreciation for just how far these characters walked! Their feet must have been so sore by the end of it.

Screenshot of progress page on Walk to Mordor app. A chart at the bottom of it shows that Lydia Schoch is two-thirds of the way finished with the game.
My progress so far.

There isn’t much else to say in this update, so I’ll wrap things up here after a few more sentences. This has been a fun experience so far, and I’m looking forward to finishing the last third of it through the winter and early spring.

I will write one more post in this series once I reach the end of the 3109 kilometres (1932 mile) journey that Frodo and Sam took.

Back in August I estimated this would happen in March of 2020. That still seems like a reasonable goal, although we’ll have to see how the next few months go.

Hopefully, I’ll stay healthy through cold and flu season and continue to log the same number of kilometres each day.

Good Things Come in Small Packages: A Review of Downsizing

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its WallsA Dog’s Purpose, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Content warning: needles, substance abuse, and dental work. I will make a brief reference to the substance abuse but will otherwise steer clear of these topics in my review.

Downsizing is a 2017 science fiction film about a suburban couple who decided to undergo a new medical procedure in order to shrink their bodies to about five inches tall each in order to help the environment and live a more luxurious lifestyle on whatever savings they’d accumulated before being downsized.

Global Solutions was the research institute they turn to in order to make this procedure possible. It was founded in order to use science to make life better for humanity, and the director of this organization was certain he’d found the perfect way to solve human overpopulation and climate change simultaneously.

As always, I will be discussing every character in the past  tense in order to avoid spoilers about what their fates may be. Some of the other films I’ve reviewed here have included character deaths. I stick to this rule in all of my reviews so that I’ll never inadvertently give away any spoilers other than the potentially triggering material I share in my content warnings.

Characters

Matt Damon as Paul Safranek
Matt Damon as Paul Norris Safranek

Paul worked as an occupational therapist for a meat packing plant when this film began. He was committed to helping everyone he met feel as mobile and healthy as possible, although he also worried about falling behind financially speaking when compared to other households.

Kristen Wiig as Audrey Lustig Safranek

Audrey was Paul’s wife. She was a little nervous about being downsized and moving to Leisureland Estates, a community built specifically for five inch tall humans.

Yes, there are reasons why the descriptions of most of the female characters in this post are so sparse. I will discuss that in detail in my review below.

 

Christoph Waltz as Dusan Mirkovich
Christoph Waltz as Dušan Mirković

Dušan was an outgoing, friendly, and exuberant upstairs neighbour in Leisureland Estates who fully embraced his life as a small person. That is, he was well-known for his  late-night loud parties, substance abuse, and loud music.

 

Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran
Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran

Ngoc Lan was one of the workers who cleaned the houses of the wealthy people in Leisureland. She had an assertive and sometimes blunt personality that was well explained by her backstory.

 

Rolf Lassgård as  Dr. Jorgen Asbjørnsen
Rolf Lassgård as  Dr. Jorgen Asbjørnsen

 

Dr. Asbjørnsen worked for Global Solutions. He was the first scientist to discover how to safely and effectively shrink humans to a fraction of their former size. His wife, Anne-Helene, joined him and 34 other volunteers to be the first humans to undergo this process long before Paul and Audrey signed up for it.

Ingjerd Egeberg as Anne-Helene Asbjørnsen

 

Anne-Helene was Dr. Asbjørnsen’s wife.

 

Udo Kier as Konrad
Udo Kier (centre) as Joris Konrad

Joris was Dušan’s companion. Like Dušan, he’d spent many years partying hard and sucking every last moment of joy out of life. There was nothing more important to him than having a good time with likeminded people.

 

Søren Pilmark as Dr. Andreas Jacobsen
Søren Pilmark as Dr. Andreas Jacobsen

 

Dr. Jacobsen was the director of Global Solutions. He excelled at putting on presentations for investors and the media in order to bring in more money and hopefully attract new people to the downsizing movement.

Neil Patrick Harris as Jeff Lonowski

 

Jeff was the Senior Product Specialist at Leisureland Estates.  He and his wife, Laura, did live demonstrations about their lifestyle to convince big people to sign up for the downsizing procedure.

My Review

It took a while to gather my thoughts about this film. There were parts of it I loved and parts of it that made me want to stop watching it altogether.

The trailer for it will make it sound like a comedy. While there were some humorous moments, this was a pretty serious story in general. Climate change is no laughing matter, and the creators hammered that point home clearly. This was actually something I really liked about the plot. It didn’t hesitate to shy away from the serious repercussions humans are going to face as the polar ice caps melt and our weather becomes even more unpredictable.

Shrinking humans to a fraction of their original size was a creative response to this crisis. A human who is less than six inches tall is obviously to need much less food, fuel, clothing, and other supplies to stay alive than one that is six feet tall. While the science behind shrinking someone to such a small size was never really explained, I enjoyed seeing as much of that process as the characters were aware of.

There were a few details about the downsizing procedure and how it worked that never occurred to me. It’s effect on the environment – and the environment’s potential effect on humans that are essentially the size of hamsters – was another part of the storytelling that I thought was really well done. The repercussions of both of those things spread further than I ever would have imagined.

I also liked the fact that the plot spent so much time exploring why downsizing will be the only way humans can hope to survive in the longterm. The scientists had excellent reasons for believing that big humans will die out as a result of climate change. While I was originally expecting something with a faster pace, it was nice to dig so deeply into all of the ways the planet will become uninhabitable for so many different species in coming generations.

What bothered me about this film was the way it treated the female characters. Despite having backstories that were just as, and in some cases far more, interesting than the male characters, the vast majority of them were given much less screen time than their male costars. I still don’t know what Audrey, Anne-Helene, or Laura’s professions, interests, hobbies were. Everything the audience learned about them was somehow connected to the men who married them.

Ngoc Lan’s personality and backstory were developed better, but even she was framed as a love interest despite everything else that was happening in her life that would have made for great storytelling. She had a lot of responsibilities to juggle for reasons I can’t disclose here without wandering into spoiler territory.

It is very odd to take someone whose life is filled with serious problems that have no easy solutions only to reduce all of that beautiful complexity to wondering whether she’s going to fall in love when and with whom the audience wants her to.

If this had happened to one female character who had been longing for a life partner, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The fact that the writers did it with the only woman who had an identity outside of being someone’s wife really rubbed me the wrong way, especially since she didn’t show any interest in romance when we first met her. Her life was so full already that I shuddered at the thought of her having to fall in love in order to live happily ever after.

There is nothing wrong with showing characters falling in love. What bothers me is when films shoehorn characters into that subplot or only show the parts of their lives that have to do with who they’re in a relationship with when none of their male counterparts were treated the same way.

To contrast this complaint, Paul had great character development during the course of this film. He started off as someone who had good intentions but who could be a little oblivious to other people’s perspectives at times. Seeing how he changed as a result of his decision to be downsized was a thrill. He took his experiences to heart and genuinely grew and changed as a result of the things he learned.

While the secondary male characters didn’t show as much development due to the smaller amounts of time they had on stage, they did have some of it. And they were also shown having interests, hobbies, and dreams that had nothing to do with whether or not they were married or had fallen in love.

If only the women in Leisureland Estates had been given the same opportunity.

Downsizing is available on Netflix and Apple TV.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Book Boyfriends or Girlfriends

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Since I’m bisexual, I’m going to be talking about book boyfriends and book girlfriends today. Allie Nelson from Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.  I didn’t like Noah (the male love interest) at all in this story because of how unwilling he was to respect Allie’s boundaries when they first met, but… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Reads

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl While I don’t really celebrate any winter holidays with anything other than a nice meal, I still enjoy reading books about or set in this part of the year. 1. Yuletide Tales A Festive Collective by Peter John I’ve never seen such a diverse assortment of stories related to Christmas.… Read More

Scifi Science That Became Real

This month I’m participating in the Scifi Month challenge that was created by the bloggers at One More.  “Science the shit out of this” is today’s theme for Scifi Month. Old reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation were my first introduction to technologies and scientific advancements that weren’t yet possible in our world. There… Read More