Category Archives: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Don’t Make a Sound: A Review of A Quiet Place

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, and The Little Stranger.

Content warning: death of a dog and death of a child. I will not be mentioning those portions of the story in my post today, and this will otherwise be a spoiler-free review. 

A Quiet Place is an American post-apocalyptic thriller that was released on March 9, 2018.  It’s set in a near-future version of Earth in which sightless monsters have taken over the entire planet. Where these creatures came from is unknown, and their skin is so thick that it cannot be pierced by bullets. The only way to being detected by them is by remaining perfectly quiet twenty-four hours a day.

The opening scene of this story happens 89 days after this apocalyptic event began, and it follows the Abbott family as they attempt to survive on their own. One of the children in this family has become ill, so they must travel into town to find medicine for him while avoiding all of the monsters who may be wandering nearby.

Interestingly enough, there are very few characters in this film. The vast majority of humans and large animals have been killed by the monsters, so the Abbott family must rely on their own skills and common sense in order to survive without any hope of finding help elsewhere.

I will be writing the character section in the present form. It’s a trick I discovered while working on a previous review, and I do it to avoid giving away any spoilers about the fates of the characters I write about.

*Yes, I know I said I was done watching horror flicks. Let’s round that down to 98% done watching this genre since I keep finding (fairly) non-gory horror movies that tickle my fancy.

The Characters

Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott

Evelyn is Lee’s wife and the mother of their children. Her desire to protect her family is strong, and she expresses it in practical ways like making sure they have food, medical supplies, and clean clothing. She struggles with guilt over decisions she’s made in the past and anxiety about what will happen to her loved ones in the future.

John Krasinski as Lee Abbott

Lee is Evelyn’s husband and the father of their children. He is determined to find a way to reach out to other survivors and keep everyone safe, and he spends a great deal of time gathering as much information as he can about the monsters and their whereabouts. Sometimes this urge gets in the way of more urgent and practical needs, but he does always have the best of intentions.

Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott

Regan is the oldest Abbot child. She is about twelve years old, quite intelligent, and has begun to question whether she should be listening to everything her parents tell her to do.

Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott

Marcus, the Abbott’s middle child, is about eight years old. He shares his mother’s anxious personality and is reluctant to do anything that he perceives to be dangerous.

Cade Woodward (bottom right) as Beau Abbott

Beau, the youngest Abbott, is a curious and imaginative four-year-old. As a preschooler, he’s too young to understand the danger everyone is in and relies on his parents and older siblings for guidance and protection.

My Review

There are certain portions of the plot and character development that I have to leave out out of this review in order to avoid sharing spoilers with you. Needless to say, there is a lot more going on in the story than you might originally assume. Since I didn’t know anything about it when I first began watching it, I was pleasantly surprised by these plot twists. I hope you will be, too!

One of the things I found most unusual about this tale was how little dialogue it had. The monsters had ultra-sensitive hearing, so even a quiet conversation would be noisy enough to draw their deadly attention. I was impressed by all of the non-verbal cues the filmmakers included in the script in order to keep the audience clued in to what was happening to the Abbott family. This is definitely something you’ll want to pay close attention to while watching. Multi-tasking is not a good idea here! So much information is shared with the audience through the characters’ body language, events happening in the background, or the strategic placement of certain items in specific scenes.

While there were a small handful of scenes that briefly involved the sight of blood or serious injuries, this was not a gory film. Nearly all of the horror elements involved the characters’ reactions to the unknown and how they’d had to adapt to a world where speaking or any other types of noise was enough to ensure your quick and certain death.

The relationships between all five Abbotts were interesting. There were times when two or more of them had disagreements and had to convey those feelings primarily through any means other than speaking. This lead to some scenes that I thought were particularly well done, especially when it came to Regan’s desire to have more independence now that she was getting older. How do you parent a smart, willful kid who thinks she has everything figured out while living in an apocalypse? It definitely isn’t easy!

I would have liked to see less foreshadowing, especially since not all of the foreshadowing actually turned out to be accurate. It was a little jarring to me as a viewer to get so many hints about how things might end only to find out that they were misleading.  With that being said, this is still something I’d recommend to anyone who likes horror, survival flicks, or science fiction films about scary creatures.

This premise of this story was solid. It would have been just fine with some foreshadowing and more time spent building up the tension as the Abbott family attempted to build a new life for themselves.

By far my favourite part of this film was the ending. There were so many false starts along the way that I didn’t make any assumptions about how everything would turn out until the credits rolled. I loved the fact that the filmmakers kept us all guessing until the end.

A Quiet Place is available on Netflix.

What I’m Reading Over the Holidays

I was originally planning to write about walking meditation today, but I’ve been dealing with a stubborn headache the past few days that’s kept me from doing the research needed to properly put that post together. It’s such a cool concept that I want to make sure I do it right. So we’ll save the walking meditation discussion for a later date and have a quick chat about winter holiday reads now instead.

Honestly, is there such a thing as having too many posts about books? I vote no! For those of you who haven’t met me in real life, I’m pretty quiet in person…unless we somehow get on the topic of books I’ve read, am reading, or want to read soon. This is one of those things that can make me light up, especially if it happens to be a title I have a strong opinion about.

Luckily, my local library seems to have have endless supply of reading material, and I’ve been reaching the top of the list of some very interesting titles as December speeds by. I should warn you that nothing in today’s post is going to be about Christmas, New Years, or any other winter holidays. They’re simply what I hope to read over this period of time, and this year it’s a beautiful hodge-podge of genres and themes.

These are the books that are currently in my to-read queue. I can’t promise that I’ll finish all of them, but I will be giving them a shot as 2018 comes to an end.

As much as I love science fiction, it’s definitely not the only thing I read. This list is pretty representational of the wide range of fiction and non-fiction that I’m working my way through at just about any point during the year, and everything is listed in order of when I’m hoping to read them. I generally try to read the titles that are due back at the library first unless something really exciting pops up in my queue.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

When Humans Nearly Vanished: The Catastrophic Explosion of the Toba Volcano by Donald R. Prothero

In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World by Lauren E. Oakes.

I Wait for the Moon: 100 Haiku of Momoko Kuroda by Momoko Kuroda. Translated by Abigail Freidman.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing by Sam Kean.

Jell-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom.

Dealing with Dragons The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 1 Patricia C. Wrede.

Happiness: How to Get into the Habit of Being Happy by Gill Hasson.

Happy Times in Norway by Sigrid Undset.

In the beginning of January, I’ll be sharing the list of everything I finished reading over the past year.  (It doesn’t make sense to me to count a book that I only read a chapter or two of before putting it aside for something else). A couple of the bloggers I follow have already published the lists of what they read which is wonderful. Hopefully this trend will grow in the future. It’s so much fun to see what everyone has read and possibly find some new authors or series that you might not have heard of before.

Have you read any of these titles? What will you be reading over the next couple of weeks? Finally, what’s your most effective and/or unusual home remedy for headaches?

Echoes of the Past: A Review of The Little Stranger

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, and Winchester

This is a spoiler-free review. 

The Little Stranger is the 2018 film adaptation of a book by the same name written by Sarah Waters, one of my favourite authors. This story was set in 1948, and it followed about a year in the life of Dr. Faraday, a middle-aged man who was one of only two doctors in his rural community. He grew up in a low-income family at a time when the vast majority of children did not move into higher social classes as adults than the ones they were born into, so he was still adjusting to the changes that higher education had brought to his life when this mystery began.

In one of the earliest scenes in the plot, Faraday revisited Hundreds Hall, a mansion that his mother once worked in, after one of the servants who worked at that estate came down with a mysterious illness. The last time he’d visited it had been nearly 30 years ago when he was a young boy and his mother brought him to a public celebration there after the end of World War I.

Hundreds Hall was crumbling by 1948, and the family who lived in it had isolated themselves from the surrounding community to an alarming degree. It was nothing at all like the glamorous, well-kept home that Faraday recalled from his childhood, and the Ayers themselves didn’t seem to be doing well either. After a brief encounter with Roderick, Faraday asked to come back again to see if he can treat some of the pain and muscle stiffness that Roderick had been dealing with since he was wounded in the war. (I’ll give you more details about these characters in a moment).

While he knew that the Ayers have lost much of their wealth over the past few decades, Faraday was still shocked by how much the property has deteriorated since he last saw it. Could their inability to pay for necessary repairs explain what is going on, or was there something else afoot in this once-stunning mansion?

 

The Characters

Domhnall Gleeson as Dr. Faraday

Dr. Faraday, the protagonist, was a middle-aged bachelor whose days are generally spent holding office hours at his clinic and doing home visits for patients who were too contagious, sick, or frail to come see him. Most of his patients were poor, so he didn’t make a great deal of money for someone in his position despite his prestigious title and the long hours he worked.

Charlotte Rampling as Mrs. Ayres

Mrs. Ayers was the matriarch of the Ayers family. Her life had changed dramatically since Dr. Faraday first met her in 1919, from the births of Caroline and Roderick to the steep decline in her fortunes and social standing. She had once hosted grand parties in her home, but she now hid away from the community she’d once embraced. Even her own children didn’t seem to spend a great deal of time with her despite the fact that they all lived in the same home.

Ruth Wilson as Caroline Ayres (right)

Caroline Ayers was Mrs. Ayers daughter. She was by far the most intelligent and resourceful member of the Ayers family, and there were several intriguing references to the things she’d accomplished before her brother’s terrible injuries happened in the war.

Will Poulter as Roderick Ayres

Roderick was Mrs. Ayers son. He was badly injured during World War II. When the events of this book began, he was still dealing with both the physical and psychological effects of his wartime experiences in a time when mental health issues were not well understood and when doctors had far fewer treatments for the serious burns and other injuries he’d survived.

My Review

One of the things I’ve always loved about Sarah Waters’ writing style is how adept she is at giving evidence that can support multiple interpretations of a scene or plot. Most of her books don’t have the strong mystery elements in them that this one does, so the fact that she was able to pull this off while writing in a genre I haven’t seen her spend much time in before was impressive.

Dr. Faraday was a character I had mixed feelings about from the beginning. In one of the earliest scenes, the audience saw him visiting Hundreds Hall in its heyday and purposefully breaking off an ornamental acorns from one of the walls in this home. The reasons why he did that were explored later in the storyline, but they didn’t give me a good first impression of this character.

Getting to know him as the adult he was a few decades later softened my opinion of him. As I mentioned earlier, he’d grown up in a time and place where it was nearly impossible to escape the social class one was born into. The fact that his family had scrounged up enough money to get him through medical school was amazing, and I did admire the determination and grit he must have needed to get through such an experience when his family had so little money to spare.

As intrigued as I was about the Ayers, I didn’t feel like I got to know them quite as well as I could have. I appreciated the fact that Faraday was given so much time to shine, but I would have liked to know a few more details about who Roderick, Caroline, and Mrs. Ayers were as individuals before they began experiencing so much misfortune. The little pieces of their pasts that were shared were well done. I simply needed a few extra scenes describing how and when things had gone so terribly wrong for them.

With that being said, this was something I also noticed in the novel. Explaining why these characters weren’t quite as open with Faraday or the audience as I would have preferred them to be would be wandering dangerously close to spoiler territory, and I do understand why they were written that way even though I wish they could have been a little more forthcoming in the film.

What I did love about the storyline was the way it encouraged the audience to ask questions. It wasn’t immediately clear what was really going on at Hundreds Hall. The servant that Faraday was called to treat was quite spooked by living in there, but she refused to tell him who or what had frightened her. This pattern of dancing around the question of whether what was happening in this mansion was supernatural in origin or had a purely rational explanation occurred over and over again.

Just like when I read the book, I formed my opinion about what was going on pretty early on. I won’t tell you what it was, but I will say that I really enjoyed the process of weighing the evidence and coming up with the most likely explanation for all of the strange, and sometimes violent, occurrences at Hundreds Hall before the final scene was revealed.

This is something I’d strongly recommend checking out to anyone who likes any of the themes or genres I mentioned in this review. I liked this adaptation and thought it complemented the original story nicely.

Speaking of Violence, Is It Gory?

I definitely wouldn’t call this a gory film, but there were a few scenes in it that involved a little blood. If anyone would like more information about this, know that I’ll have to share some mild spoilers in order to go into detail about it. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t bothered by these scenes even though I strongly dislike gore in general. They were brief and fit the tone of the storyline well.

The Little Stranger is available on iTunes.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry About Winter Holidays

Readers, we need to talk about the fact that there’s such a thing as science fiction and fantasy poetry that’s written about Christmas and other winter holidays.

Seriously, how cool is that?

I discovered this niche by googling for something I wished might really exist: Christmas poems written for adults that have a science fiction or fantasy twist to them.

I do these searches a few times a month on various topics for the sheer fun of it. The vast majority of the time, they turn up nothing. (They probably amuse the heck out of whomever might have access to my search history, though!)

This time I was in luck, and something amusing turned up on the very first page. That lead me to try different combinations of words to see what else I could find. This list is the sum total of everything I found that I thought was well-written and didn’t fall into the sentimentality that most Christmas and winter holiday poems resort to.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that sort of writing, but I have a strong preference for poems and stories that take other approaches to their subjects: humour, allegories, pragmaticism, and even a little bit of sarcasm at times.

1) 12-Word Christmas Sci-Fi Poem.

Published: December of 2016

Author: syd7t5.

That is all I know about this poet and their poem, but I do love the UFO reference.

2) Sheep, Aliens, and Curry.

Published: 2017

Author: Lee Leon.

Imagine what the nativity scene would be like if it were viewed through the eyes of sheep who neither cared about nor understood human concerns. Now double your expectations of delightful oddness and start reading.

3) bad santa, bad santa.

Published: 2018

Author: Allan Terry

This is a side of santa I don’t think anyone has seen before. That’s all I can say about that without giving away spoilrers.

4) Waking in Winter

Published: 1960s

Author: Sylvia Plath

While this poem doesn’t directly reference any specific winter holidays, it felt like it was written at that time of year to me due to the cold weather and the narrator’s descriptions of ordinary life. I could easily see this being set during a post-nuclear Christmas when everything is terribly uncertain and yet some people still hold onto every shred of hope they can.

5) Lifelong Hermitage Denizen Enjoys Spiritual Freedom

Published: 2018

Author: matthew harris.

I don’t know that the audience was actually supposed to like the speaker of this poem, but I did. His rough exterior seemed to be mostly a facade to me. I’d bet he’d relax pretty quickly if he was told what the rest of us were doing on Christmas and then given complete freedom to participate in all, some, or none of it without any pressure in any direction.

6) Re-Assigned Sugar Plum Elf

Published: 2018

Author: Caren Krutsinger

If only this one could have kept going. Since when are Sugar Plum Elves this small? I don’t remember reading that before, but I’d love to know more.

Did you know that there was such a thing as science fiction and fantasy poems about winter holidays that are meant for adult audiences? Have you run across any other poems that could be added to this list?

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I Love the Fuzzy Edges of Science Fiction

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the types of science fiction we both like. After explaining to them the novels and TV shows from this genre that I’ve enjoyed the most over the years, they made a comment about how interested I seem to be in hard science fiction.

Well, yes. I do love hard science fiction.

There’s something inside of me that comes alive when an author or screenwriter takes a problem that scientists are currently attempting to solve and tries to guess where they’ll be on that issue twenty, a hundred, or five hundred years from how.

However, that isn’t where my love of this genre ends.

I love the fuzzy edges of science fiction, too.

The line between sci-fi and fantasy exists, but often it’s so wispy that I barely feel the difference at all when I move between them. Neither one of these genres would be the same if it hadn’t been so heavily influenced by the other over the years. While I do tend to stick closer to the sci-fi side of the fence in general, I’m often pleasantly surprised when fantasy tropes wander over to say hello or when I notice a common science fiction plot twist in something I thought was going to be pure fantasy.

I’m pleased with how this cross-pollination works in other genres, too.  While I still don’t believe that every sci-fi story should have a romantic subplot, I appreciate the fact that authors are introducing audiences to things they might have not otherwise thought they’d enjoy. Mysteries aren’t my favourite genre, but I have started reading them on occasion thanks to repeated exposures to these types of storylines in science fiction and fantasy books that I otherwise found to be a perfect fit.

This is also a technique I’ve been using on friends and relatives in a straightforward sort of way. I’d never trick or push anyone into reading something that they’d find objectionable, but I have recommended stories to people that included elements of genres they don’t normally read if I thought they’d enjoy the plot in general.

For example, earlier this year I was discussing Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre with someone who has no interest at all in the romance genre. There were so many other things going on in that tale that I thought they’d really love it. In the end, they read it and thought it was well-worth their time.

The beautiful thing about science fiction is how difficult it can be to draw the line between where this genre ends and another one begins. There is sc-fi that politically motivated, apolitical, humorous, serious, hopeful, dystopian, barely there, the sole reason any of the characters bother to stumble out of their sleeping pods in whatever counts for morning on a planet with three suns, and so much more. It has crossed over with everything from romance to horror to mysteries to stories that are loosely based on real historical events.

It is this wide range of possibilities that keeps me coming back for more. Sometimes I wander into one corner of the genre and set up camp for a few months or years. Right now I have almost no interest at all in the dark, violent, or dystopian sections, for example, but there are so many other places to explore that I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeking out new stories that somehow have sci-fi elements in them no matter how far they roam from home.

What’s your favourite kind of science fiction to read? How do you feel about stories that mix two or more genres together in general?

 

Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows I’m Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! I hope you all have a table full of delicious things to eat and plenty of kindred spirits to share this meal with. Today’s post will be something short and sweet. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how happy I am to see the science fiction and fantasy… Read More

5 Stories That Need a Prequel

Last week I was scrolling through the list of new ebooks at my local library and stumbled across a title that made me grin. Marilla of Green Gables: A Novel by Sarah McCoy was written to tell the story of Marilla Cuthbert’s life before she and her brother became the permanent guardians of Anne Shirley.… Read More

5 Funny Short Horror Films You Should Watch This Halloween

One of the things I love the most about Halloween is seeing all of the creative things storytellers do with common horror, science fiction, and fantasy tropes at this time of the year. There’s something about the Halloween season that seems to bring out the best in writers, filmmakers, and other creators. The films in… Read More

10 Things I Love to Read About

On Monday I blogged about the 10 Things I Won’t Read About. It was surprising to see how many of the people who read my posts have similar aversions to those topics. Today I’m talking about 10 things that would make me keen to pick up and read a book. I tried to make this… Read More