Category Archives: Science Fiction

Is Mary Sue a Sexist Concept?

Thank you to my friend Berthold Gambrel for coming up with the idea for today’s post.

For anyone who hasn’t already heard of this term, a Mary Sue is a (female) character who is so idealized that she’s honestly too good to be true. Picture someone who is good-looking, smart, athletic, talented, charming, and good at virtually everything she tries.

If she has any flaws at all, those weaknesses are trivial things that don’t make a real difference in her daily life or current quest at all. For example, she might have a terrible singing voice, but her storyline has nothing at all to do with whether or not she can sing.

You’ve probably noticed that I used feminine pronouns in those last two paragraphs. I did this on purpose. In all of the years I’ve been reading various fiction genres – including, and sometimes especially, the science fiction and fantasy genres – I’ve never seen a male character being accused of being a Mary Sue even when he meets all of the criteria for this label. The very thought of a Marty Stu existing is controversial in some circles.

Sometimes I’ve seen people use the term Mary Sue to describe an author’s possibly subconscious desire to be loved and admired by everyone they meet. There have been times when certain critics of various well-known series have insisted that a Mary Sue character was written as a projection of everything the author wished she could be.

Intention Isn’t Everything

While the original Mary Sue character was first written as a lighthearted parody of unrealistic characters in Star Trek fan fiction, she’s since evolved into something else entirely.

If we lived in a world where Marty Stu was thrown around as easily as Mary Sue, I’d say that both of them were intended to shed light on the dangers of writing flat characters. As someone who has written hundreds of reviews over the years, I have seen plenty of books whose characters never felt like real people. It’s not easy to create a character who appears to have all of the same hopes, dreams, fears, and realistic personality flaws that you’d find in any random person walking down the street.

When a term is created to criticize one group of people for doing something while ignoring other groups that do the same thing, the original intentions quickly become less relevant over time.

Double Standards

What bothers me the most about Mary Sue as a concept are the double standards it enforces and the disproportionate amount of hate Mary Sues receive when compared to their male counterparts.

Yes, stories that portray a female main character as someone who has few if any flaws and who is somehow good at everything she tries aren’t an example of good writing.

This applies to every single even vaguely humanoid protagonist who has ever been invented, though, as well as quite a few who were created to be as unlike humans as possible.

Which gender they identify as doesn’t matter at all. I’ve sat through far too many stories about Marty Stus who were just as unbelievable as any Mary Sue has ever been. Yet I can’t remember the last time I saw or heard someone use the phrase Marty Stu in real life or complain about how unrealistic his character development was.

If we lived in a world where this wasn’t the case, I’d be much more willing to use the phrase Mary Sue to describe characters who were poorly developed or seemed to be an idealized version of who the author wishes he or she could be.  These are issues that I occasionally see pop up in the books, movies, and other forms of entertainment I review, but they are in no way limited to one specific gender. They happen everywhere.

Yes, It’s Sexist

It is for all of the reasons listed above that I believe Mary Sue is a sexist concept even though I don’t think that most people who use that phrase are purposefully trying to be sexist.

Sexism – and many other forms of prejudice – are so deeply ingrained into western society that it’s easy to overlook the milder examples of them like this one. Honestly, I know that I’ve occasionally said things that rubbed other people the wrong way because I wasn’t aware of why a certain phrase or topic was a sore spot for a particular group.

I can’t and won’t speak for every woman here, but my reaction to someone using this phrase wouldn’t be an angry one. The first thing I’d assume would be that they’ve never thought about the different ways characters who behave in very similar ways are treated based on their gender or why it’s a problem to hold one gender to a much stricter standard than you’d expect from another gender. This would be a teaching moment, just like I’d hope that someone else would be willing to explain to me why they found something I said to be offensive if I accidentally crossed the line when talking to them.

Why Negative Reviews Can be a Positive Thing

Does anyone else find that their taste in movies is constantly evolving? Even when it comes to films I know I’m going to want to watch eventually, I still need to be in the right mood for certain genres. Sometimes I might be more interested in a documentary or comedy. On other days, something dark and serious is right my alley.

Last week I was sorting through my never-ending to-watch list and trying to figure out which film from it to check out next. (That list is even bigger if you include all of the non-scifi entries on it! One of these days I may have to blog about the whole thing).

I’m the sort of person who will add something to my to-watch list in a heartbeat but wait until the last possible minute to decide whether or not I really want to sit down and pay attention to it for two hours.

Before I pay for anything, though, I always check the online reviews of it for a few different reasons that I’ll dig into during the course of this post. Positive reviews are no guarantee that I’ll end up watching something even if every single reviewer loved every single scene of that film. A string of negative reviews won’t necessarily dissuade me from watching something, either.

My reasons for deciding to watch something are more complex than that.

Does One Person Mention Problem X, or Does Everyone?

Once a film, book, or any other piece of pop culture has attracted enough attention, it’s bound to be picked up by at least a few people who don’t connect with it at all for a wide variety of reasons.

Maybe they’re simply not a big fan of that particular genre. (See also: me and 98% of the romance novels out there). They might have been in an awful mood and would have hated anything they watched that day no matter what it was. There could have been a part of the setting, plot, or character development that stirred up difficult memories for them for any number of reasons that almost certainly wouldn’t apply to most other people who read or watched the same thing.

If one reviewer mentions hating something about a film, I’ll tuck that information in the back of my mind. It probably won’t keep me from renting it unless the reviewer mentions something that I strongly prefer to avoid in the media I consume.

If multiple reviewers mention the same issues over and over again, I sit up and take notice even if their complaints all seem to be mild ones when looked at individually. There’s a difference between one person being annoyed by a particular part of the plot and lots of folks noticing it enough to mention it in their review.

Even then, a string of negative reviews aren’t going to necessarily stop me from enjoying a film. So much depends on what their specific complaints were and whether they were things I can look past when deciding what to watch.*

*Not counting godawful storytelling, sexist, racist, or homophobic content, or other major issues of course.

Honesty Is More Important Than Always Being Positive

When I write reviews for my own site, I focus on as many positive aspects of the films and books I talk about as I can think of. I believe in pointing out everything the creator did right, especially if it’s stuff that doesn’t seem to be mentioned too often by many other reviewers. Anything worth reviewing – much less watching in the first place – will have strong points.

As an author, I also know how scary it can feel to release your work into the world. I’m always mindful of the fact that the creators might someday read my review, and I’d want them to feel good about all of the hard work they put into their story regardless of any criticisms I might have had to share about certain parts of it.

With that being said, I also believe in being perfectly honest about the themes, scenes, or sections that didn’t work for me. If I disliked something about a book or movie, I’m going to find a tactful way to talk about what it was and why it rubbed me the wrong way.

I won’t just tell you that the characterization fell flat or the dialogue didn’t sound natural to me. I’ll do my best to give specific examples of when these things happened and why they were such an issue for me. If my complaints were more subjective than that, I’ll talk about why a specific issue is a sensitive one for me and how I wish it would have been broached instead.

Other people might completely disagree with my reactions to those scenes or themes. That’s okay, because…

Not Everyone Has the Same Dealbreakers

There are a small number of things that I really don’t want to be exposed to when I’m watching a film. If I know they’re going to show up in advance, I’ll watch something else instead.

Some of the stuff I refuse to watch is too private to share on a platform as public as this one, but I will give you one example. My extended family includes multiple relatives who were adopted at various ages.

Occasionally, films are released that deeply stigmatize people who were adopted. It makes me angry to see adoption being portrayed so negatively because I’ve had multiple conversations with acquaintances who assume that everyone who wasn’t adopted as a newborn is going to fit their harmful stereotypes of other types of adoption.

For example, I’ve met some people who made very negative assumptions about what it would be like to adopt an older child or what sort of person that child would grow up to be. When they said unflattering things about such a large group of people, I winced. Not only were their assumptions untrue, they were unkind.

The last thing I want to do is encourage anyone to perpetuate such damaging myths about adoption and people who were adopted. I’m open to watching a lot of different types of stories, but I draw the line at ones that make it look like my relatives are inherently bad people because they happened to have been adopted.

The nice thing about reviews – including negative ones – is that stuff like this can be discussed in detail. Rather than being blindsided by something that rubs me the wrong way, I can go into the story prepared for what I’m about to see and decide not to watch it if hits something on my dealbreaker list.

It Still Gets the Word Out

Just because I might not personally be interested in a film that spends a great deal of time on a certain theme or topic doesn’t mean that everyone I know feels the same way.

This same rule applies to everyone. There have been multiple times when I’ve read negative reviews of a film or book only to realize that the things that irritated that particular reviewer are either neutral or positive to me.

For example, I’m not usually bothered by movies where the dog dies in the end. It’s something I expect to happen in a lot of different types of stories, so someone who complained about it in their review wouldn’t be discouraging me from watching it at all.

A negative review might turn some people away, but it can also be used to attract even more folks who are actually the right audience for it.

How much attention do you pay to negative reviews? Has a negative review ever convinced you to read or watch something you might not have otherwise tried?

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A Spoiler-Free Review of Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale

Those of you who have been following me on Twitter these past few months have no doubt noticed my occasional tweets about the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. This year I decided to combine all of my thoughts on this show into one long post instead of blogging about each episode individually.

The cast of characters for this show is large. As you scroll through my review, you’ll see photos and names of most of them. I did leave out some minor characters in order to avoid giving away spoilers for later developments in this season, but I included nearly everyone who appeared at least semi-regularly in the plot.

There was only one exception for the spoiler-free rule, and it is something I’ll briefly mention in the section underneath Commander Waterford’s picture. I felt the need to include that sentence because the storyline does involve some common topics that some people find triggering.

 

Elizabeth Moss as June/Offred.

 

When season one of this show ended last year, Offred discovered she was pregnant shortly before being lead out of the Waterford’s home and into one of the vans that was owned by the Eyes, the government-authorized spies in Gilead. Whether the van was meant to deliver her to a life of freedom in Canada or take her someplace else entirely was left to be seen.

The pursuit – and loss – of freedom was one of the major recurring themes in season two of The Handmaid’s Tale. As a member of a totalitarian society who only valued her for her reproductive capabilities, Offred should have been resigned to the loss of her husband, daughter, and freedom by now.

She wasn’t.

 

Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford.

 

Life as a Handmaid in general or with the Waterfords specifically had never been pleasant for Offred.

Since Offred had done it once before, the Waterfords held high hopes that her latest pregnancy would have an equally happy ending. I had strong opinions about the most likely outcome of this pregnancy when season two began.

Offred had something that Serena Joy desperately craved: the ability to conceive and bear a healthy child. The jealousy in this household was palpable, and it only grew stronger as the season progressed. As someone who has never felt the urge to be anyone’s mother, I appreciated the fact that the storyline spent so much time exploring what it means to be a parent and what it feels like when someone is stripped of the ability to decide when, whether, with whom, or how often to reproduce.

While being biologically related to a child can be part of parenthood, this theme was much more complex than who shared DNA with each other. I’d be wandering into spoiler territory if I said much else about this idea, but do pay close attention to how all of the characters on this show react to children and the concept of being a parent in general.

Joseph Fiennes as Commander Waterford.

 

Speaking of Commander Waterford, I liked the fact that this season spent so much time exploring how a man who claimed to be doing God’s work could authorize so many things that no loving deity would ever command anyone to do. He was also one of the least paternal characters I’ve ever known.

If you need a trigger warning for rape or abuse, know that these are two of the many horrible things this character does in the second season. This is all I will say on this topic, but I would be happy to privately go into more detail for anyone who needs to know what to expect ahead of time.

The thought of Commander Waterford possibly raising a baby was a frightening as it was bizarre. He seemed to have no interest in children outside of their ability to elevate his status in society, and that’s never a good reason for anyone to have a child.

The tension between the wholesome image this character wanted to project to his neighbours and who he genuinely was when the doors were closed was as frightening as it was thought-provoking. Anyone might notice slight discrepancies between who they would ideally like to be and who they actually were, but when the gap between the two is this gigantic it becomes impossible to ignore.

Amanda Brugel (left) as Martha.

 

This is even more true for people who interacted with Commander Waterford on a daily basis.

I appreciated the fact that Martha, the cook/housekeeper, was given extra screen time in season two. Her character shared enough tidbits in season one from her previous life  – including the fact that she had a son who died in the civil war – that I was hoping we’d learn more about what sort of person she was.

As is often the case with secondary characters in this series, I didn’t get as many details about Martha as I would have liked to receive. There simply wasn’t enough time to tell me everything I wanted to know about this character, but my appetite has been whetted for more. I hope she gets even more attention in season three.

 

Max Minghella as Nick.

 

Nick, the Waterford’s driver, Guardian (bodyguard), and biological father of June’s baby, did get his fair share of development, however. Based on the way he behaved in season one, I was not at all prepared for what would happen to him in season two. It was really nice to dive into this character’s point of view so deeply, especially once certain things began happening that he hadn’t planned for or desired.

Honestly, he wasn’t someone I liked or trusted all the much in the first season. Throwing Nick into situations he found unnerving was the best possible thing that could have happened to him. I learned so much about his moral code and what  he wanted out of life based on his reactions to all of the life changes that Gilead thrust upon him.

Yes, I know I’m being quite vague in this section. It’s something I’m doing on purpose in order to avoid sharing a major plot twist from one of the early episodes of season two. Just know that Nick’s life is about to be turned upside down in season two if you’ve just begun watching it.

Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia.

Aunt Lydia was as insufferable as ever.

When I first met her in season one, I couldn’t tell if this character was a true believer in the unbearably strict religious mores of Gilead or if she’d always been a sadist. The things she did to the handmaids she trained and kept in line were disturbing on a good day.

When she felt threatened or like her handmaid’s weren’t being obedient, Aunt Lydia was quick to slide past disturbing and into much darker corners of the human mind. I can’t imagine mistreating anyone the way she did, so it was hard to understand where she was coming from.

Other than Martha, Aunt Lydia is the character I’d like to see fleshed out the most in season three. The audience had so little information about what makes this villain tick that her violent choices only lowered my opinion of her more this season.

 

Alexis Bledel as Emily/Ofglen.

 

Offred wasn’t the only Handmaid in this society. Some of the most memorable scenes this year explored the fates of the other Handmaids in Gilead. None of them could be said to be having a positive experience, but certain ones were treated worse than others.

Emily/Ofglen’s fate was of particular interest to me due to how much I could relate to her as a fellow member of the LGBT community and lover of knowledge. In a slightly different set of circumstances, I could have easily walked a mile in her shoes. That’s frightening.

Madeline Brewer as Janine/Ofwarren.

 

Janine was another Handmaid whose storyline was developed nicely in season two. Once again, I can’t say a great deal about her life with giving away spoilers, but I did find it interesting to see how someone as fragile and emotionally unwell as this character has managed to stay alive in a society where either of those “flaws” could so easily lead to a quick death for anyone unlucky enough to develop them.

O.T. Fagbenle as Luke, June’s husband.

One of the things that first pulled me into this book before it became a TV series was June’s relationship with her husband.

The Luke in the book annoyed me in the beginning due to his unwillingness to empathize with June’s fears about living in a society where women were so quickly losing their rights and his stubborn determination to ignore every red flag until it was too late for him to get his family out of the country safely. I didn’t blame him for failing to understand what it’s like to be a woman. However, I did blame him for refusing to take his wife seriously when she opened up to him about how women were really being treated.

Getting to know a little more about the assumptions Luke made about others helped me to understand why he messed up so terribly in the beginning. I still wish he’d listened to his wife the first time she shared her concerns with him, though!

Jordana Blake (left) as Hannah Bankole, daughter of June and Luke.

 

There is very little I can say about Hannah without giving away spoilers, but her emotional bond with both of her parents has been a beautiful part of the plot since the first scene of season one. June’s second pregnancy was made even more poignant because she’d already had years of parenting experience under her belt. She knew exactly what it was she was going to be giving up after her pregnancy ended and she was moved on to the next childless household.

Samira Wiley as Moira.

 

I do wish Moira had been given more opportunities to shine in season two. We got to know her so well in the first season that I would have relished the opportunity to see how she was adjusting to life outside of Gilead after her daring escape at the end of season one.

Only time will tell if season three dig more deeply into the lives of Moira, Martha, and Aunt Lydia.

If you’re a fellow fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, what did you enjoy the most about season two?

What to Read When It’s Hot Outside

Last winter I shared a list of books that I’d recommend checking out when it’s cold outside. All of them were set during the winter because sometimes I like to match the settings in the stories I read to what the weather in Ontario is like at that a particular time of the year.

Now it’s the middle of July.  Instead of having a high temperature of -25 C (-13 F) like we did when I published that post last January, it’s supposed to feel like 40 C (104 F) today including the humidex. I’m lucky enough to have air conditioning, but our home air conditioner does have some trouble keeping up when the weather grows that hot and humid.

Luckily, there’s something about leaping into a good book that helps me forget even the strongest heat wave.

My summer reading preferences tend to veer off into two different directions. I either want to read serious classic literature or lighthearted beach reads that don’t require much analyzing at all. (So much depends on exactly how humid it is outside and how well my brain cells are swimming around in my skull. Ha!)

I have no idea why my brain has made the connection between these two types of stories and summer. All I know is that these were the sections of our local public library I’d often visit first after school let out and I needed something to occupy my time for a few months.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Summer Sisters was the first Judy Blume tale I read that wasn’t meant for kids. I stumbled across it a couple of decades before I reached the target age range, but I still loved the idea of making a childhood friend who remained with you throughout your life.

My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. The friends I made once we finally settled down for good turned out not to be people I had anything in common with at all in adulthood. This gives me a soft spot for people who were able to maintain their childhood friendships twenty, forty, or even sixty years later. It must be incredible to have such a long, rich history with someone like that.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

The first thing I’m going to tell you about this book is that you should never try to fry green tomatoes. My one and only attempt at making this dish did not end deliciously. Fried tomatoes have such an odd texture that I don’t ever want to taste them again.

The storyline itself was well done, though. It was about an unlikely friendship between a sad, middle-aged woman named Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode, a lonely nursing home resident. As they got to know each other better, Mrs. Threadgoode began telling Evelyn a complicated story about two friends who grew up together and ran a restaurant in Whistle Stop, Alabama that served coffee and occasionally might have been the scene of a violent crime or two.

Summer makes me feel nostalgic, so reading about what life was like from roughly the early 1900s to the1940s tickled my imagination.

 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Some middle grade books can be just as appealing to adults as they are to their intended audience. If you ask me, this is one of them.

Winnie, the main character, had to decide whether or not to drink water from a spring that had the power to make someone immortal. I loved the descriptions of the water in that spring, especially since Winnie visited it during an uncomfortably warm portion of the year from what I can recall. There’s nothing as refreshing as a glass of cold water on a hot summer day, although I don’t know that I’d be interested in living forever.

 

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Okay, so technically My Sister’s Keeper wasn’t set during the summer. I first read it during such a hot and humid portion of this season that it still feels like a summer read to me.

The dilemma the characters dealt with was one that I thought could have been solved much more quickly than it was. Anna was a young girl who had been conceived specifically to be a donor for an older sibling who had leukaemia. She’s endured numerous medical procedures over the years in order to keep her sister alive, and by the time she turned eleven she’d had enough.

I formed my opinion on the ethics of this (fictional) case almost immediately. That didn’t mean I was any less interested in seeing if Anna could become legally emancipated from her family or what would happen to her sister after Anna was no longer forced to give away parts of her body to her sibling.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

To be perfectly honest with you, I am not a huge fan of Faulkner’s writing style. His descriptions remind me of a few people I know who will take ten minutes to recount a story that could have easily been shared in one or two. My patience for that sort of thing is limited to days when I have all the time in the world to read (or listen) and don’t mind getting lost in a long description of what someone’s wagon looked like before the narrator eventually sees fit to tell me who is riding in that wagon and where they’re going.

Without giving away any spoilers, the journey on said wagon was a deeply emotional one. I simply need to be in the right frame of mind in order to properly enjoy it (and to keep the 15 narrators straight in my mind!)

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

As someone who had mixed feelings about Romeo and Juliet, I sure wasn’t expecting to enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream like I did. There’s something about a warm summer night that makes falling in love – or, in some cases, lust – just a little more appealing than it would be at other times of the year.

If possible, I highly recommend watching this play outdoors on a warm evening. I was lucky enough to do that once, and it made the storyline come alive for me. There was something about feeling the humid air against my skin and hearing crickets chirping in the distance that made me feel like I’d been transported hundreds of years ago to when this story was first performed.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Yes, I know I’ve talked about this book several times before in previous posts. One of the things I liked most about the earliest scenes were their descriptions of what summer was like in the 1930s before air conditioning was invented. This was a very small part of the plot, of course, but people back then came up with all sorts of inexpensive and inventive ways to remain as cool as possible. I enjoyed reading about their solutions, and they made me very grateful to live in a world where air conditioning exists.

 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

 Not only is The Bluest Eye set during the summer, I first read it over summer vacation as well. The sharp contrast between the warm setting and the cold descriptions of a young girl who had endured terrible abuse made me very curious to see how it ended. This book does include descriptions of the after-effects of rape, so reader be warned.

Do your reading preferences shift from one season to the next? What genres do you like to read during the hottest part of the year where you live?

Hopeful Science Fiction: Woman on the Edge of Time

Last month, I blogged about my desire to step back from the dystopian genre and read hopeful science fiction instead.

The rules were simple. I didn’t require a story to start out in a hopeful or happy place, but I did want to read scifi that ended that way.

Since then, I’ve started to compile a list of books that fit this description. I’ll be talking about one of them today and plan to gradually blog about the rest in the future. If you have recommendations for this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Woman on the Edge of Time

Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time was first published in 1976. It was about Consuelo Ramos, a woman whose life had been forever changed by poverty, mental illness, prejudice, and violence.

Nothing I’m about to say is a spoiler. All of it was mentioned in the blurb for this book, and there are many plots twists and important details from later chapters that I’ll leave up to you to discover for yourselves.

I should warn you that the beginning of this book was filled with a great deal of pain. Consuelo’s life had been incredibly difficult for many years before the audience met her. She’d made choices that seriously harmed other people, and she’d been on the receiving end of other people’s terrible decisions as well. There were times when it read much more like a dystopia than anything else before the plot veered into other directions.

If you press forward through the dark beginning, though, you’ll begin to see what I’m talking about when I refer to this as a piece of hopeful science fiction.

Shortly before involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital early on in this story, Consuelo began telepathically communicating with Luciente, a person who was living in an utopian society in 2137.

As their unlikely friendship blossomed, Consuelo eventually travelled through time to visit Luciente and see how people lived in the 2100s. It was like nothing Consuelo had ever seen before.

In Luciente’s world, there was no poverty, racism, sexism, or violence. No one ever went hungry or was denied urgent medical treatment due to their lack of ability to pay for it. Everyone was given the opportunity to chart the course of their own lives regardless of who they were or what they’d previously decided to do with their energy and time. As long as it didn’t harm anyone else, you could do virtually anything you desired with your time, from raising a family to making art to experimenting with new ways of growing crops.

This wasn’t the only future world Consuelo visited, however. She later saw a dystopian society where the bodies and minds of poor people were used as a commodity by the wealthy. It was the opposite of the place Luciente lived in every way you could imagine. Roles were rigidly determined by who your parents were, and there was no way to switch from one part of that society to another. A person’s time was never their own. There was always someone looking over your shoulder and telling you what you must do next.

Which Future Will Be Ours?

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this tale was how much time it spent explaining why Consuelo had been chosen to see and interact with these two very different versions of the future of humanity. She wasn’t a passive player in these trips by any means. Her presence made a difference in ways she couldn’t even begin to imagine so long as she was stuck in the psychiatric facility.

As Luciente would tell her over and over again, the decisions Consuelo made in 1976 were going to play a critical role in which version of the future came to pass. The thought of someone as socially marginalized and powerless as Consuelo actually being the key to changing the fate of the entire world tickled my imagination. I’ve almost never seen anything like it before.

Most science fiction and fantasy heroes that I’ve read about have had at least a few advantages in life, whether it’s through being born with special powers or being apprenticed to someone who could teach them the skills they needed to defeat even their most powerful enemies.

The fact that Consuelo was expected to save the world without any magical abilities, mystical objects, all-knowing mentors, trusty sidekicks, or any other real sources of help in her battle made it impossible for me to stop reading. I had to know which version of the future would come to pass and if Consuelo would be able to improve the circumstances of her own life in the 1970s as well.

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

With apologies to Emily Dickinson, I loved this story’s approach to the concept of hope.

When I first began researching possibilities for this series, I wondered how easy it would be to find hopeful examples in a genre that has so often assumed the worst case scenario is the one worth writing and thinking about. The dystopian sub-genre has become so popular these days that I knew I’d have to do some digging to find characters who didn’t live in that kind of world.

Since I’m also not the kind of reader who usually seeks out tales that attempt to be hopeful by brushing over – or even simply ignoring-  difficult topics like racism and sexism, my other concern was that I’d be left with stories that were hopeful only for readers who were able to suspend their disbelief and enter an imaginary world where no one ever dealt with serious, real world issues.

The beautiful thing about Woman on the Edge of Time was how it found hope even in the midst of all of the prejudice Consuelo fought against during her life. Her determination to radically improve the future for the sake of every person who had been or will be born was rooted in part in her hope that all forms of bigotry could be vanquished for good if she made the right decisions.

Final Notes

There are so many other things I want to say about this book, but I don’t want to give away spoilers about it for anyone who hasn’t read it before. If you have read it, I’d be happy to discuss it in much greater detail somewhere other than the comment section of this post.

Do keep in mind that this tale has many twists and turns along the way to the final scene. It’s not something I’d recommend to anyone who needs to avoid any references at all to complex topics like abuse or how destructive habits can be passed down from one generation to the next. Consuelo and many of the other characters had many difficult experiences in their lives. This wasn’t the sort of universe where someone swoops in and saves the good guys in the nick of time before anything terrible happened to them.

These characters knew more than their fair share of pain, but all of the hope they found along the way more than made up for it in my mind.

What hopeful science fiction stories have you been reading recently?

 

Dangerous Mutations: A Review of Annihilation

This review is spoiler-free. As always, the only time I’d share spoilers in a review would be if I needed to warn my readers about potentially triggering themes or scenes in the source material. This was one of the films I talked about wanting to watch in this post. So far, I’ve also reviewed Into the… Read More