Category Archives: Science Fiction

5 Sci-fi and Fantasy Novels About Climate Change That Everyone Should Read

Spring was technically supposed to begin in Ontario almost a month ago, but I don’t think Old Man Winter ever received that memo. The last several weeks have been filled with snow, sleet, cold temperatures, and the annoyed mutterings of millions of Canadians who are beyond ready for a proper spring now.

While we’re waiting for the snow to melt away for good and the sun to eventually peek out from behind the clouds again, I’ve been thinking about how often climate change is talked about in the SFF genre. All of the books I’m about to discuss today show what happens to a civilization (or the lack thereof) long after the weather patterns destabilized and the seasons people thought they could count on became unpredictable.

1. The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future by Will Self.

It’s easy to forget what the past was really like when a society has to struggle to survive every day. This is even more true when it comes to documents that aren’t easy to understand to begin with and when the people reading them are only barely literate at all. This tale showed what happened when the journal of an frustrated cab driver was accidentally discovered five hundred years after his death and fashioned into a harsh, new religion.
The satirical elements made me laugh, but it also made me think about how easy it is to misinterpret something that was written a long time ago in a culture that was nothing at all like your own.

2. Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1) by Octavia E. Butler.

I must be honest with you here. Water isn’t something I ever worry about running out of in Ontario. It’s so abundant here that I can’t see us running out of it anytime soon.
Not everywhere on Earth is like this, though. There are places like California that are using water faster than it can be replenished. They’d be in trouble even if the climate in their area wasn’t already becoming drier than it has been before.
The characters in this book had to face the threat of running out of water at the same time their government collapsed, their home was destroyed, and their family was torn apart.
3. Mara and Dann  A Novel by Doris Lessing.
Take the crises of one country in Parable of the Sower and expand them to the experiences of millions of people across an entire dying continent in the distant future.
This was actually the first science fiction book about climate change that I ever remember reading. The fact that it was told through the perspective of an orphaned and often painfully hungry child only made her observances of how climate change can destroy entire civilizations even more poignant. Mara and her brother did nothing to deserve all of the suffering they experienced, and yet that couldn’t save their parents’ lives or fill their stomachs with food when all of the rivers dried up and the crops failed.
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick.
Climate change has already begun driving far more species to extinction than is typical in our world. How many more species we’ll lose forever depends on many factors, and I can’t even begin to guess what the final tally will be.
The interesting thing about the setting in this book is that it happened after humans have killed off so many other species that we began making robotic versions of various animals to keep us company. There were even robotic people who had no idea they were robots because they looked, felt, and sounded exactly like biological people.
 It wasn’t addressed clearly in the plot from what I can recall, but I always wondered what everyone was eating to stay alive in this universe after all of the old ecosystems had been destroyed.
5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Only read this book if you’re comfortable with very dark and disturbing plots. I’m glad I read it once, but I was so saddened and horrified by certain plot twists that I don’t think I could stomach them again.
The Road could be the logical conclusion to any of the books listed above. It was set at a time when there were no plants and animals left on Earth and the few remaining humans were all slowly starving to death. The main character, an unnamed father, must try to keep himself and his young son alive against impossible odds.
What is your favourite science fiction or fantasy novel about climate change?

It’s More Than Just Survival: A Review of Into the Forest

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the never-ending list of films I’d like to see someday. Into the Forest was the first movie from that list I’ve watched since then, and I liked it so much that I decided to review it today.  This story does include a rape scene that I will be discussing briefly later on in this post, so consider this a spoiler warning and a trigger warning (if needed). 

 Into the Forest is a Canadian film based on a young adult book by the same title by Jean Hegland. It followed the lives of two sisters, Nell and Eva, after the west coast of the United States permanently lost power for unknown reasons and society fell apart.

One of the things that made this story unique was how few characters it has. While there were a handful of people who were briefly part of the time in Eva and Nell’s lives that was covered in this film, the vast majority of the storyline was about the complex relationship between these sisters and how hard they worked to survive on their own at their rural home.

Eva, the older sister, had been studying to become a professional dancer before the blackout. Nell, the younger sister, was preparing to take her SATs and apply for college. They were smart young women, but neither one of them had any experience in practical skills like hunting, first aid, farming, or self defence before this adventure began.

 

Ellen Page as Nell and Evan Rachel Wood as Eva in Into the Woods. ©Elevation Pictures.

 

One of my favourite parts of this  film was the strong pacing of it in the beginning. The electricity went out a few minutes into the story without any advanced warning, so the characters almost immediately needed to make major adjustments to their lifestyle. Nell and Eva had been so loved and sheltered that neither of them really understood how much their lives changed in that moment, but they were about to find out.

I’ll be honest with you: it took a while for these characters to grow on me. They were young and a little entitled in the beginning. I didn’t appreciate the way they complained about small inconveniences like not having enough spare power to play music when there were far more important things in be for them to be worried about.

With that being said, I adored the complex relationship between these sisters. Eva and Nell argued, played, dreamed, and schemed with each other just like all siblings have since the beginning of time. They had a bond that was stronger than anything else in their little world. Watching them both mature from girls into confident women together was a highlight of this story for me.

Since they hadn’t known that the blackout was coming, there was no logical way for their family to stock up on food, basic medical supplies, gasoline, or anything else that would have made their lives easier once all of the stores shut down. The few items they were able to buy shortly after the power grid failed were precious, but they were a drop in the bucket when compared to what this family actually needed in the longterm.

While I would have liked to see a little more character development, I did end up liking Nell and Eva quite a bit by the end. They proved just how resourceful they could be in a world where they could only rely on themselves and each other to stay safe. As young women who were living in an incredibly isolated area, they either had to learn to work together or risk dying alone from starvation, injuries, or the violent urges of other human beings.

Yes, that was a reference to the rape scene. I hated the fact that one of these characters had to add that traumatic experience to all of the other awful things they went through as they struggled to survive, but this is something that  regularly happens to people even when police officers still exist and can be called for help. From what I’ve read, the risk of sexual assault skyrockets after disasters of any kind.

The foreshadowing in this film was really well done in general. It was subtle, but any attentive viewer could find satisfying hints about what will happen later on if they paid close attention to the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the storyline. Since this was originally written for teenagers, I liked the fact that there were so many hints about what these sisters were about to experience. It was the right choice for this age group.

I also appreciated the fact that Nell and Eva knew almost nothing about what was going on in the outside world. As much as I wanted to know what caused the power outage and whether cities and towns had begun to get back to normal after a year or two had passed, it made sense that two young people who were living in a house in the woods far away from the nearest community wouldn’t have any way of knowing for sure what was happening elsewhere or whether the few vague rumours they’d heard were at all true.

 

Potentially Sensitive Content

As I mentioned earlier on, this film does contain a rape scene. While it was shot in an artistic manner that focused on the victim’s face instead of more graphic material, this is something that viewers who are sensitive to this topic should be aware of in advance. The rape played an important role in what happened later on in the storyline, and it was referenced later on multiple times as the characters reacted to it and the victim healed from it.

The gore factor was pretty low in general, although one character did die in a brief but bloody accident early on and there was a hunting scene later on that showed a wild animal being butchered after it was shot.

Should You Watch It?

Yes, I would recommend watching Into the Forest to both teen and adult viewers. Due to the mature themes, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone under the age of fourteen.

5 Things I Want from Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale

Disclaimer: there are mild spoilers for the book and major spoilers for the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale in this post.

How is it possible that almost an entire year has passed since the release of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale? It honestly feels like I just finished watching this show.

I used to roll my eyes when adults said that time sped up as they grew older, but now I completely understand where they’re coming from.

April 25 is the release date for the second season in the United States. Last year, Canada was about a week and a half behind the United States on new episodes. That meant that by the time I saw episode three, for example, people in the US had already seen episode five.

It looks like that waiting period for those of us in Canada will be shortened to about five days this year. Avoiding spoilers is going to be easier this time around, and I’m very grateful for that!

While we’re counting down the last few weeks until season two begins, I thought I’d list five things I’m hoping to see in it.

1. A Detailed Look at How the U.S. Government Was Overthrown

The first season spent a decent amount of time showing how Commander Fred and his associates built up the social and practical support they’d need for the moment when the United States ceased to exist and the Republic of Gilead was born, but we still don’t know the logistics of how a small percentage of the population was able to take control of one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Without giving away too many details for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, this was something that was briefly addressed in The Handmaid’s Tale. However, Offred was such an ordinary, non-political person before all of this began that she only knew the basics of how her government replaced. She was not privy to any of the details of what exactly happened or how it was planned out.

On a positive note, this means that the screenwriters will have a lot of leeway in showing what happened to the previous leaders of the country formerly known as the United States.

2. Happy Baby News for Offred

In the first season we learned that 80% of pregnancies in this universe are now ending in a miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious birth defects for reasons that no one has been able to figure out. The odds aren’t in her favour, but I’m hoping that Offred being the protagonist of a beloved show will make the writers hesitant to kill off her child.

Babies who were born with birth defects in the novel version of The Handmaid’s Tale never grew up. It was heavily implied that this was due to at least some of them not being allowed to live instead of their health issues being too difficult to treat. As curious as I am to know how such a baby-obsessed society would rationalize killing an infant who could have lived if they were given medical treatments, I’m crossing my fingers that Offred’s child won’t be the one to show us how this system works if she doesn’t make it to Canada before she gives birth.

3. Reunions with Hannah and Luke

Is seeing Offred reuniting with her daughter and husband too much to ask for season two? We know that all three of them are still alive as of the end of the first season. Luke is safe in Canada, Hannah is living with a high-ranking official in Gilead, and Offred has possibly been rescued by the Resistance.

My fingers are crossed that they’ll be together again soon, even if it turns out to be a temporary reunion for the sake of future plot twists.

4. Scenes From the Colonies

The Colonies were describe in the book as a place that rebellious, infertile, elderly, sick, and/or politically useless people were sent. Some of them cleaned up toxic waste while others were responsible for tasks like farming. They were a quiet threat to the life of anyone who wasn’t wealthy and powerful who fought back against their assigned role or who had the bad luck of being diagnosed with a serious illness.

Based on the previews, we will be seeing The Colonies at some point. Any scenes set there are almost certainly going to make me cry, but I still want to know exactly what life was like for Offred’s mother and other people who were deemed not worthy of being kept around.

5. What’s Going On in the Rest of the World?

We already know that Mexico is suffering similar problems with infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths, and life-threatening birth defects in this universe.

If the reproductive issues are limited to these two countries, it could point to a specific environmental cause that the characters in this show will eventually be able to fix.

On the other hand, we might find out that many other countries are suffering in the same way. My fingers are crossed that we’ll get a peek at what’s going on in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and the rest of North America.

I was always a little frustrated with how vague the book was about this part of the plot even though I understood why Offred couldn’t possibly know what life was like thousands of miles away when the news was so heavily propagandized and filtered.

If you’re watching this show, what do you hope will happen in the second season?

A Peek at My Never-Ending List of Scifi and Fantasy Films to Watch

A number of years ago I started keeping track of movies I’d like to watch once they became available to rent online.

This list has only ballooned over time despite my valiant attempts to chip away at it. The problem with watching a film is that you have to carve out about two hours of time for it. It’s easier to commit 22-45 minutes on a TV show than a few hours for something that I’m not always sure I’m actually going to enjoy.

My hope is that I might find an extra boost of motivation to watch some of these movies if I share my list publicly. Their titles are bolded and include links to the trailers for them when possible. I’m including brief notes on how I first heard of them or why they appeal to me, too.

(Yes, this list is alphabetized. I’m geeky like that).

The Age of Adeline

This reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another movie about a character who doesn’t age in a typical fashion. It’s going to be fascinating to compare the tale of a man who aged backwards with the story of a woman who didn’t age at all.

Alpha 

As my longtime readers know, I love stories set in the distant past that are about hunter-gatherers or other similar cultures. The fact that this film is also about taming a wolf only makes me want to see it more once it’s released in September of this year.

If I like it, you all might just get a review of it at some point.

Angelica

I loved the book it was based on and do want to see how the film compares one of these days. The references to possible child abuse in the original version were so unsettling that I’ll need to be in just the right mood to watch it.

Annihilation

For some reason, I mixed this film up with Arrival a few weeks ago. I thought I’d already seen (and loved) Annihilation, but it turns out I was thinking of Arrival instead. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who I was discussing it with anymore, but my apologies for the error. This is definitely something I will be watching and blogging about as soon as I can rent it online. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite available yet.

Coco 

I adore well-made animated films like Inside Out, Wall-E, Up, and Finding Nemo.  Honestly, sometimes it feels like they were written for adult audiences just as much as children.

Coco‘s take on death and the afterlife looks particularly interesting, especially since I don’t know a lot about this part of Mexican culture in general.

Devil 

This was recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬ from Twitter. I’ve never been someone who feared stepping into an elevator, but it sure would be a scary experience if you’re riding with the devil!

The Devil’s Backbone

Also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬. You’re going to see several more recommendations from her in this list. What can I say? She has good taste in movies.

Get Out

I have heard nothing but positive things about this Oscar-winning film since it was first released last year. The horror genre doesn’t generally spend a lot of time on serious social commentary, so I’m looking forward to seeing how race and racism are discussed and dissected in it.  It honestly should be the next thing I watch.

A Ghost Story

What appeals to me the most about this one is that the ghost in it isn’t scary at all. Like The Babadook, it appears to be using “frightening” themes in order to explore love, grief, and other topics that are usually brushed over in the paranormal genre.

The Good Dinosaur

There’s something to be said for a friendly dinosaur movie every now and again.

Iceman

Yes, this is about a real person who lived and died about 5,000 years ago. I included it in today’s post due to all of the educated guesses the filmmakers and scientists made about who this man was and why he died such a violent death. While their speculation is based on all of the scientific research done on Otzi’s life and death, there is an art to putting all of those clues together.

If I lived closer to my mom, I’d gently pester her to watch it with me as soon as it becomes available to rent online. I think she’d really love it.

If I Stay

The book this was based on was excellent. I truly enjoyed reading the main character’s thoughts about the hazy place between death and life she was existing in after a horrible car accident. Would she fight to wake up from her coma or go to the afterlife to join certain loved ones who died in the same accident that so badly injured her?  There were compelling reasons for her to make both choices. While I was pretty sure which one she was going to make in the book by the time I’d finished the first chapter, it’s going to be emotional to watch those moments play out in vivid detail on my TV screen.

Into the Forest

Every few months, I ask my spouse again if he’d like to see this movie with me. I think he’d really enjoy the post-apocalyptic themes in it given how gritty and realistic the book was. My fingers are crossed that he’ll someday say yes and give it a try. If not, I’ll still watch these teenage sisters try to survive in a dangerous world where there are no longer  police officers, antibiotics, adult supervision, or electricity.

Lights Out

I honestly have no idea how I heard of this one. It looks frightening, though!

A Monster Calls

There’s no shame in admitting that I sobbed my way through the last few scenes the book this was based on. Patrick Ness is an incredibly talented writer. I just need to be in the right mood to be emotionally torn to shreds again. LOL!

Monsters University.

Monsters, Inc. was such a fun tale. I sure hope the sequel will be every bit as good. This is another one of those films that I’m waiting to watch with my spouse.

Open Grave

Recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬.

Orphan

Also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬.

The Revenant

Is there any part of your mind, body, or soul that is surprised this was also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ as well‬? Keep reading, because this isn’t the last recommendation from her.

The Shape of Water

Based on what I’ve seen online, some people adored this movie. Others didn’t have that reaction. I’m withholding judgement either way until I’ve seen it for myself, and I’m trying to avoid spoilers in the meantime.

The Skeleton Key

I feel like @Alexandria_SZ‬ might have recommended this one to me as well. Maybe she’ll remember for sure either way?

The Visit

Recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬ as well as by several other horror fans I know who deeply enjoyed it. As with most of the other horror flicks on this list, I’ll need to be in the right mood to watch it.

Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built 

I love ghost stories that are based on real people, places, events, and/o items in rour world. It makes some of the tired tropes in this genre feel fresh again. This also sounds like the kind of urban legend that would have really creeped me out as a kid.

***

If you’ve seen any of these films, tell me what you think of them! Were they good? What did you like about them? Would you recommend buying them or waiting for them to show up on Netflix or similar sites?

How long is your to-watch list? If you share it, I’ll tell you what I think of anything on your list that I’ve already seen.

Are There Any Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Easter?

I can think of dozens of science fiction and fantasy books written for adults that are about Halloween in some way. At least the first dozen wouldn’t require me to google anything at all, and I know I’d barely even be scratching the surface at that point.

Given enough time, I could scrounge up shorter lists of Sci-fi/fantasy books about Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays, too.

I haven’t read any fiction about any type of religious customs or beliefs in a very long time, so the vast majority of the books I’d come up with for the above categories would be purely secular takes on those holidays. For example, Santa and his reindeer would be heavily featured during Christmas, and Cupid would steal the show on Valentine’s Day.

Some of the tales I recommended would offer dark takes on their subject matter in which Santa is a villain or monsters really do come out to prowl on Halloween night. Others would be pure silliness that was obviously written to make adults feel like kids again.

There are hundreds of novels and short stories out there that include various religious ideas. Some of their ideas are based on real religious beliefs, while others are about religions that only exist in the author’s imagination for the purpose of serving the plot in some way. If we expanded the above lists to include books that satirized, explored, criticized, applauded, or even simply acknowledged the existence of various religious beliefs, my lists would only grow longer.

The point I’m trying to make with all of this is that many holidays have been thoroughly explored for the purposes of telling a great story.

So where are the science fiction and fantasy tales about the Easter Bunny that were written for an adult audience? I’ve been wracking my brain over this question this week, and so far I’m coming up with nothing.  The handful of books about Easter as a secular holiday that I’ve thought of were written for preschoolers. There is nothing I can think of or find online that was written for anyone older than the age of six.

This is odd.

Can you think of any?

Is the Easter Bunny too silly a concept for the average adult scifi/fantasy fan?

If I get responses to this post, I’ll either write a follow-up to it or edit this post with everyone’s suggestions. It bothers me that this holiday is being short-changed!

Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking

I’m assuming all of my readers heard this news yesterday, but the famous physicist Stephen Hawking is dead. The world is a dimmer and sadder place without him. I doubt any of his friends and loved ones will read this, but I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to them if they do. A Brief History… Read More

3 Embarrassing Things I’ve Learned From Books

Today I have three embarrassing stories to share with you. Before I dive into them, let me explain a few things about my childhood to the new readers of my blog. I grew up in a series of small towns and rural communities in the United States. I was also homeschooled for the first several… Read More

How to Survive a Paranormal Storyline

  Congratulations on your new home, job, vacation spot, construction project, antique gift, or other plot device that has invited a restless spirit into your formerly-peaceftul storyline! While most of the characters who take the time to look up what to expect in a haunting are the protagonists, I’d like to give a special shout-out… Read More