Category Archives: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Plot Twists I Didn’t See Coming

Scifi Month banner. Shows #ScifiMonth hashtag and two planets in background.This month I’m participating in the Scifi Month challenge that was created by the bloggers at One More. Click on the link in that last sentence for more information or to sign up yourself. There is still time to pick a few of their prompts and join in if you’re interested.

Today’s prompt was “What can possibly go wrong.” The notes for it mentioned plot twists, so that’s the approach I’m taking with this post. 

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t very good at predicting how plots would turn out when I was younger. While this is something I’ve gotten better at over time, there were still some notable moments when I didn’t figure what was going to happen ahead of time despite all of the hints the storytellers threw my way.

Let’s see if I can talk about these films without giving away spoilers. I know most of this stuff came out years ago, but I’d rather let other people discover the plot twists for themselves.

The Sixth Sense film poster. It has five numbers on it. Numbers 1 through 5 are illuminnated and named the five sense. Number 6 on the post shows the outline of a child. No sense is named there. The Sixth Sense (1999) 

The protagonist of this film was a child psychologist named Malcolm whose newest client, Haley, was struggling to open up to him.

There was something strange going on in Haley’s life, but all the boy will say about it is that he sees dead people.

It was up to Malcolm to find out what Haley means by that and why he was so reluctant to go into detail about what’s bothering him.

The foreshadowing was incredibly well done, and there were a lot of hints about what was happening with these characters. I have no idea how I missed the twist in this film the first time I watched it!

Film poster for The Others. Image shows Nicole Kidman holding a glass lamp and staring off into the corner with a fearful expression on her face. The Others (2001)

This is one of my all-time favourite ghost movies. It’s set in 1945 and follows a young mother, Grace, who was raising two special needs children on her own in a large, isolated mansion while her husband was off fighting in World War II.

The children’s health problems made it dangerous for them to be exposed to any form of natural light, so Grace had her hands full looking after them and protecting them from harm. Grace hired a few local people to help her keep the house and grounds running smoothly.

The interesting thing about her new hires was that they dressed like they lived in the late 1800s and seemed to know a lot about her home. There were strange things happening in the house that made Grace’s children wonder if it was haunted. She scoffed at that notion, but her employees had other notions about it.

Once again, this film gave plenty of hints about what was really going on in Grace’s life. I loved the ending, but I also should have seen it coming in advance.

Moon (2009)

Moon film poster. Image on it is of an astronaut wearing a spacesuit and holding his helmet. Unlike the other films in this list, this one didn’t have any paranormal themes.

Sam, the protagonist, was an astronaut who had signed up to spend three years alone mining helium-3, a new source of fuel, on the far side of the moon. He chose this isolated job in order to make money to support his pregnant wife.

A couple of weeks before his term ended, there was an accident. When Sam went out to investigate it, he found something that should have never been possible: another living human being.

That plot twist was the least surprising of them all in this film. I only wish I could discuss the rest without giving away spoilers!

While I did figure out one of the plot twists ahead of time, there were so many more that I didn’t see coming. This is the sort of film I recommend to everyone from hardcore science fiction fans to people who brand new to this genre and hesitant to give it a try. It truly had something for everyone.

What plot twists in films, books, or TV shows did you never see coming?

Dystopian Novels Everyone Should Read

 

Over the course of the next few weeks I will be participating occassionally in the Scifi Month challenge that was created by the bloggers at One More.

Click on the link in that last sentence for more information or to sign up yourself. There is still time to pick a few of their prompts and join in if you’re interested.

Today’s prompt was Future Imperfect. That is we’re supposed to pick something related to dystopian or utopian stories. Therefore, I’ll be talking about some dystopias that everyone who enjoys science fiction should read.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin book cover. Photo shows a mountain and some scrub brush.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

Why everyone should read it: What could be more frightening than living in a world that was forever altered every time a specific person had a vivid dream? I don’t know about all of you, but my nightmares would be pretty scary if they came true.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell book cover. Image is of an eye peering down a hole.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Why everyone should read it: I try to avoid politics on this site, but this book’s message about totalitarianism is just as relevant now as it was when it was first published.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham book cover.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Why everyone should read it: If you don’t fear nuclear war yet, this book might make you change your mind about it. The plot is set generations after a nuclear war. Radiation continues to kill people, though, and society’s response to it has changed all sorts of things about the ways in which people live.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood book cover. Image is of a woman's face and a flower.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Why everyone should read it: Bioengineering is fascinating. The other interesting thing about this book is how few characters it had. Nearly every human on earth had died from a plague when the events of it happened. Many of the animals and plants that humans had tweaked in some way were still alive, so it was like getting to know humanity without meeting many people at all.

The Book of Dave by Will Self book cover. Image on cover is of an etching of a car.

The Book of Dave by Will Self

Why everyone should read it: It’s set five hundred years from now and has amazing plot twists. I first read it at a time in my life when I wasn’t very happy for reasons that seemed almost impossible to fix. Reading about what the future might be like – as dark as that future was –  somehow made me feel better. This book also had some thought-provoking things to say about how we interpret old texts and why it’s so important to take the cultures they came from into context before deciding to base our lives around them.

The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper book cover. Image is of top of a building, a woman standing in profile, and a full moon.

The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper

Why everyone should read it: One of the reasons why I take long breaks from the dystopian genre has to do with how poorly women are treated in most of them and how strong the assumption is that all women will have awful lives in that setting. This Feminist spin to the genre was a breathe of fresh air.

Glimpses of Horror: A Review of Regretfully Invited

Book cover for Regretfully Invited by Jan L. Mayes. There is a skull, books, candles, a quill pen, and a page filled with writing on the cover.Title: Regretfully Invited: 13 Short Horror Stories

Author: Jan L. Mayes

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 86 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Jan.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Find out the answer to this question and more with this 13 story bundle of creepy, horror micro-stories and flash fiction.

No zombies, vampires, or werewolves.

Delve into disturbingly haunting quick tales of murder, madness, and mayhem. Contained in a menacing atmosphere where all is not right in the world.

Included in this bundle:

Double Vision
Based on real events, where midnight visitors could be sinister or a quirk of vision.

Tubsy & The Trauma of Oz
Based on real life hideously shocking consequences of letting a girl’s favourite dolly perform in the school play.

The Grave of Gelert
Based on a visit to the real Gelert’s Grave in Wales, a tribute to the memory of when hasty deadly action brought sorrow.

Mary Annette
Based on the most terrifying teleporting real life marionette ever rejected by a child.

Tinnitus Study 421: Rotary
A 50 word flash fiction experiment that inspired the optimistic psychopath Doctor Bell.

Regretfully Invited
When an audiologist knows too much about Doctor Bell’s tinnitus cure experiments, he takes an unorthodox approach to eliminating them as a witness.

Disembodied
Inspired by real events where left feet keep washing ashore in the Pacific Northwest, but police have no idea who they belong to or where they came from.

Dreams of Debbie
Based on real events after the death of a sister, when a dream may be more than a dream.

Eye Eclipse
A father uses a rare solar eclipse for revenge, inspired by real events when a bystander videos a fatal accident instead of trying to save the child.

Ladykiller
Based on nightmares of an alien apocalypse, where oversleeping has deadly consequences.

Dad’s Death Bells
Based on real events after the death of a father, who might have ghosted back to give a murderous message or last good-bye.

Cofveve Pie
A Mom’s desperate plan to prevent her daughter’s wedding by serving the fiancé a “special dessert”, inspired by real events and the mystery of what cofveve means.

Napkins
Inspired by a big brother who decides to take things into his own hands to protect his sister from Mother’s abuse, but things don’t turn out exactly as planned.

Review:

Book content warning: Murder, torture, cancer, and death of a pet. 

Sometimes it only takes a moment for someone’s destiny to change.

Since I wasn’t familiar with the legend that “The Grave of Gelert” was based on, I went into it with no pre-conceived ideas of what might happen next. This was one of the shortest tales in this collection, and yet it was also the most satisfying. It had a clear beginning, middle, and ending. The fact that the dog, Gelert, was the only character whose named was mentioned only made me more interested in finding out what happened after the king who owned him noticed that the infant prince was missing.

One of the things I noticed happening over and over again in this anthology were that many stories spent precious little time explaining what was happening in them. While I do understand that flash fiction and very short stories in general need to get straight to the point in order to stick to its word counts, there were several times when I had trouble understanding what happened in a scene or what an ending was supposed to mean because of how briefly everything was described. I loved the concepts behind all of them, but this confusion was what ultimately lead me to choose a lower rating than I would have otherwise gone with. This was something that was most noticeable with “Tinnutitus Study 421: Rotary” and “Tubsy & The Trauma of Oz.”

My favourite tale in this collection was “Dreams of Debbie.” It happened shortly after a woman named Debbie died from an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her grieving relatives were struggling to come to terms with her untimely death, and their healing process was not going well. I deeply enjoyed seeing how the plot developed from this point. It was simultaneously satisfying as well as something that made me desperately wish for a sequel.

If you love being scared senseless, Regretfully Invited: 13 Short Horror Stories may be the perfect book for you.

 

An Imperfect Crime: A Review of The Ghosts Inside

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside book cover. There is a fuzzy photo of an amphibious, bidedal creature on this cover. Title: Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside

Author: James Pack

Publisher: VaudVil

Publication Date: 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from James

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

These Dollar Tales feature one or two short stories from the forthcoming collection of fiction by James Pack titled Morbid Museum. This Dollar Tale is called The Ghosts Inside and features the original and extended versions of the story. Go inside the mind of a man who believes he is saving children by ending their lives. Will he kill again or will someone stop him from taking young lives?

Review:

Content warning: child abuse and the murders of children. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

This e-book contains two versions of the same tale. I found the first draft too short for my preferences, so I’ll be reviewing the extended version.

Not every serial killer is an evil genius.

One of the things I liked the most about this story was the fact that the antagonist behaved like an ordinary person. (Well, other than the murders he committed, of course). He wasn’t the strongest, smartest, fastest, or most cunning person around. If not for his awful hobby, he would have struck me as a perfectly average man. That was refreshing.

I found it tricky to keep up with the multiple narrators. It would have worked really nicely in a novella or novel, but the roughly twenty-five pages that the extended version had to work with simply wasn’t enough space for everyone to show the audience who they were and what they were about. Focusing so intently on the killer in the first version was a smarter decision. As much as I enjoyed many of the other changes the author made to the storyline once it was expanded, I do wish this part of it had carried through.

There were so many hints about the killer’s personality that I was able to gently tease out of the things he said and did. It was interesting to figure out what made him tick. While he wasn’t someone I’d ever want to meet on a dark street or anywhere else, I did like the way the author tried to explain why someone would commit such unforgivable crimes. This only became more true as I realized what the killer’s biggest weakness was and why it appeared to be something that he himself wasn’t necessarily aware of. I’ll leave it up to other readers to put these pieces together for themselves, but they did make for a satisfying experience.

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside was much darker than what I typically read. I think it would be best suited for people who enjoy crime fiction or dark science fiction.

Surviving the Apocalypse: A Review of Patient Zero

Patient Zero Post Apocalyptic Short Stories book cover. There is a biohazard sign on the cover as well.Title: Patient Zero: Post-Apocalyptic Short Stories (Project Renova #0.5)

Author: Terry Tyler

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2017

Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

Length: 120 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Terry

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, ‘bat fever’ is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely ‘stand alone’.

1. Jared: The Spare Vial
Jared has two vaccinations against the deadly virus: one for him, one for a friend…

2. Flora: Princess Snowflake
The girl with the perfect life, who believes in her father, the government, Christian charity and happy endings.

3. Jeff: The Prepper
What does a doomsday ‘prepper’ do when there is nothing left to prepare for?

4. Karen: Atonement
She ruined her sister’s last day on earth, and for this she must do penance.

5. Aaron: #NewWorldProblems
Aaron can’t believe his luck; he appears to be immune. But his problems are far from over.

6. Ruby: Money To Burn
Eager to escape from her drug dealer boyfriend’s lifestyle, Ruby sets off with a bag filled with cash.

7. Meg: The Prison Guard’s Wife
Meg waits for her husband to arrive home from work. And waits…

8. Evie: Patient Zero
Boyfriend Nick neglects her. This Sunday will be the last time she puts up with it. The very last time.

9. Martin: This Life
Life after life has taught the sixty year old journalist to see the bigger picture.

Review

Review:

Content warning: death. This will otherwise be a spoiler-free post.

It’s impossible to get away from an invisible foe that has spread everywhere.

Normally, I pick about three short stories in an anthology and do mini-review for all of them. This time I decided to shake things up since everything in this collection has the same setting. The characters change, but the effects of the Kerivoula Lanosa (bat fever) virus are felt by everyone in this world.

The character development was well done across the board. Each character had a limited amount of time to show the audience who he or she was due to how everything was formatted, so I was impressed by how well I got to know everyone. Their unique personalities shone through no matter how many or how few pages they had to share their experiences. While I can’t say that I’d necessarily want to be buddies with everyone in this universe, I did want to learn more about all of them. They were all genuinely interesting folks, and that’s something I always love discovering in a book.

While I didn’t expect to have every question of mine answered neatly, especially since I haven’t read the rest of this series yet, I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to the final story. Martin: This Life had a tone that was nothing like anything else I’d read earlier. It also introduced a plot twist that had not been so much as hinted at in any of the other stories. In fact, it seemed to change the genre classification entirely. I was intrigued by this surprise, but I also wish it had been explained a little better.

With that being said, I still enjoyed this collection and would recommend it to new and longterm fans of Ms. Tyler’s work alike. It left me with so many questions about what happened next in this universe that I can’t wait to read everything else about these characters and the plague they tried to survive.

This anthology is part of the Project Renova series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

Characters I’d Never Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers! Last year I wrote about the characters I’d want to invite over for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. Since then, I’ve gotten some hits on my site from people who are wondering which characters shouldn’t be included on a Thanksgiving dinner guest list. Honestly, I could happily make small… Read More

Choosing to Survive: A Review of Powdered Souls

Title: Powdered Souls, A Short Story: They Decided to Survive (Snow Sub Series Book 1) Author: Dixon Reuel Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance Length: 22 pages Source: I received a free copy from Dixon Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: People together in close quarters – fraternization naturally follows. A military VR trainer,… Read More

Life After The Handmaid’s Tale: A Review of The Testaments

Title: The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) Author: Margaret Atwood Publisher: Nan A. Talese Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Speculative Fiction, Dystopia Length: 432 pages Source: I bought it. Rating: 4.5 Stars Blurb: More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on… Read More

A Review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and A Dog’s Purpose.… Read More

Once Upon a Time: A Review of The Raven and Other Tales

  Title: The Raven and Other Tales Author: Joy V. Spicer Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Length: 132 pages Source: I received a free copy from Joy Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: A raven appears on a cold winter’s night. An old woman helps a stranger find his way home. A young… Read More