Tag Archives: Reviews

Hopeful Science Fiction: The Toynbee Convector

In June of 2018 I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of TimeThe Lovely BonesSemiosis, and Astraea. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi. This time it’s a short story! 

If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

The Toynbee Convector

“The Toynbee Convector” is a short story by Ray Bradbury that was first published in 1984 as a standalone piece. It was later republished as part of an anthology, so that is where the book cover in this post came from.

Feel free to click on the link at the beginning of this sentence if you’d like to read it for yourselves before continuing on with this post. It’s a quick read.

The storyline follows a reporter named Roger Shumway who has been given the opportunity to interview Craig Bennett Stiles, a time traveller who had visited the distant future  and come back home bursting with hope.

A century has passed since his trip, and Stiles is a very old man now. This interview will almost certainly be his last chance to tell the world more about what his journey was like and why he was so excited about what he saw in humanity’s future.

Given the short length of this piece and my strict no-spoilers policy, I can’t tell you much else about the plot. Let’s talk about my emotional reaction to it instead!

Real Problems with No Easy Solutions

The first thing that impressed me about this short story was that it existed in our universe, warts and all. This wasn’t an episode of Star Trek….although Star Trek would be an interesting choice for a future Hopeful Science Fiction post!

These characters were well aware of the pollution, violent conflict, inequality, climate change, and other major issues that humanity has yet to solve.

I found it fascinating to see how Roger reacted to the idea that so many of our biggest threats would be resolved. He was just as intrigued – and honestly maybe a little suspicious of – those claims as I would be if I spoke to someone who claimed that this same scenario would happen in real life.

Everyone Needs Hope

The importance of hope was of the recurring themes in Roger and Craig’s interview, and it was the second thing that made me think this would be the perfect addition to this series.

Craig had come of age at a time when the average’s person hope for the future was waning. So many unsuccessful attempts had been made to fix the world that some folks were beginning to wonder if it was impossible for us to make things better.

Can one person make a difference?

If one person isn’t capable of improving the world, how many willing participants do you need in order to change things?

What do you do when nothing seems to work?

I’ll leave it up my readers to discover the answers to these questions for themselves.

We All Have Choices

Not everyone necessarily has the same opportunities in life, but we all have choices.

The third thing that convinced me this was a piece of hopeful science fiction worth sharing with all of you was how Craig and Roger responded to the choices that were available to them.

Their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Roger was a risk-taker, while Craig was someone who seemed to have spent his entire life making the most cautious moves possible.

Yet they both made decisions that were eerily similar. I loved seeing how two personalities on opposite sides of the spectrum could end up coming to some of the same conclusions.

Those of you who read the free copy of this story before continuing on with this post know what I’m talking about. For everyone else, I’m doing my best to entice you to check it out without giving away too many details.

What hopeful science fiction stories have you been reading recently?

Unlikely Allies: A Review of Pads for His Throne

Content Warning: Blood.

This is otherwise a spoiler-free review.

Title: Pads for His Throne

Author: Olli Crusoe

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2016

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Humour

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Ollie.

Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: A regular night at the office changes Louise’s life, when a running gag summons an ancient evil from a forgotten time. To be honest, it’s probably harder on the ancient evil, though. Not only the times have changed.

Demons come in all shapes and sizes.

Before I talk about demons, though, let’s talk about menstruation. This is a topic that I’ve seen mentioned in fewer books than I have fingers on my left hand, and I genuinely can’t remember the last time it happened in the science fiction genre. The fact that it was not only mentioned but played an important role in the plot early on was one of several reasons why I decide to review this story.

Once I met Terazael, the demon that Louise accidentally summoned, I knew this was something I had to recommend to my audience. Terazael had been around for eons, and his understanding of our world was rooted in the mind of a creature who has seen countless civilizations rise and fall. That is to say, he had no idea how modern life works, and his assumptions about what sort of person would summon him might not have been totally accurate.

The relationship between Louise and Terazael was deliciously odd. He expected her to worship him as the powerful, immortal being that he was. She expected him to be a figment of her imagination and was perplexed when that didn’t turn out to the be case. They had nothing at all in common at first glance, and yet I couldn’t imagine a funnier or more memorable duo. She was as snarky as he was enthusiastic.

There was only one thing I wavered on when writing this review, and that had to do with whether or not I should include a horror tag in it. Like demons everywhere, Terazael relished the thought of blood sacrifices – especially of the virgin variety –  and talked about his desire for them them regularly and in great detail. While this wasn’t a gory story overall, it was something I thought I should mention for anyone who dislikes references to blood or torture because of how enthusiastic he was on the topic. I can’t go into more details about his preferred types of recreation or how successful he might have been with them without giving away spoilers, but I’d be happy to discuss it privately with anyone who would like more information.

I couldn’t have imagined a better ending for this story. Both Terazael and Louise struggled with problems that they had no clue how to resolve, especially in the first few scenes when she was still trying to figure out what sort of creature he was and if he really existed. It was fascinating to me to see how the plot dealt with their problems and what happened once they each realized that all of their attempts to solve them weren’t working.

Pads for His Throne was a wonderful read. Olli couldn’t have done a better job with his storytelling, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Adventures on the Orange Planet: A Review of The Lady of Dawnzantium

As mentioned earlier this summer, I’ve decided to include more book reviews in the publication queue for this blog. Everything I review will somehow be connected to the speculative fiction genre, and I will highlight authors whose books are self-published, indie, or from small presses as often as possible.

As always, my reviews are spoiler free.

Title: The Lady of Dawnzantium – A Trace & Mikhail Story

Author: Berthold Gambrel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Humour

Page Count: 13 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Berthold.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Two adventurers encounter a strange creature on a remote colony world in this humorous sci-fi short story.

Review:

Nearly every small town has a local legend or two. This is true even for communities that were built on faraway planets only a few years ago!

This was one of the funniest tales I’ve read in ages, but I can’t give you specific examples of why that is so. Let’s just say that not everything in Dawnzantium, the planet Trace and Mikhail are visiting in order to hopefully solve a local mystery, is necessarily what it first appears to be. Pay attention to everything the characters say and enjoy the ride!

The one thing I wish had been made more clear in this short story is whether it was part of a series that needed to be read in a specific order. The subtitle and certain references in the storyline made me think it may be part of a much larger universe, and I’m a stickler for reading books in order. I wasn’t entirely sure at first if this was a sequel, prequel, beginning of a new series, or something that was intended to be read as a standalone work. It would have been nice to know for certain  that I wasn’t accidentally jumping into the middle of a series when I started this tale.

One of the things I like the most about the science fiction genre in general is how it imagines humans will react to living in places that don’t look or feel much like Earth at all. Some of the strongest scenes were the ones that explained what Dawnzantium looked like and how it was different from our home planet. Humans could live there fairly comfortably, but there were a few things about it that were unique.

Figuring how whether to use the mystery tag in this review was a fun challenge. There were mystery elements in the plot, but the storyline remained firmly rooted in the science fiction genre. This is something I’d recommend to readers who are curious about mysteries but not quite sure if that genre is right for them. The little taste of it here may be enough to help you make up your minds either way!

The ending was fabulous. While it was something I’d briefly wondered about while reading earlier scenes, seeing the narrator go off in the direction I’d been speculating about was still a great deal of fun. Readers who paid close attention to the beginning will get a nice payoff by the final scene.

This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys humorous science fiction.

Wombs for Rent: A Review of The Farm

I’ve decided to start reviewing more books on this blog. All of the rest of the titles I’ve set aside for this purpose for the foreseeable future are indie, but I thought I’d start off with something mainstream. The star rating below is out of a possible five stars.

Title: The Farm

Author: Joanne Ramos

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Genres:  Dystopian, Contemporary, and a pinch of Science Fiction

Page Count: 326 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library

Rating: 3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.

Gripping, provocative, heartbreaking, The Farm pushes to the extremes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

Review:

The first time I heard of The Farm was a few months ago when another reviewer compared it to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, one of my all-time favourite books. As soon as I read that line, I was hooked. Like Ms. Atwood’s famous story, this one is also about fertile, generally lower-class women being used to gestate babies for the most powerful members of society.

Unlike the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, Jane and the other surrogates chose to become impregnated. Whether they knew what they were really consenting to is something I can’t discuss much in this review without wandering into spoiler territory. Let’s just say that the glossy description of what this job was like didn’t necessarily match Jane’s actual experiences with it.

What I would have loved to see from this book were more details. The most frightening parts of it were glossed over so much that I had to make educated guesses about how they played out. While Jane’s perspective was a limited one, it was a little frustrating as a reader to get so far into the plot only to receive the same vague hints that were contained in the blurb and early chapters.

There was a satisfying payoff for a subplot involving the woman who first introduced Jane to the idea of gestating a pregnancy at The Farm. If only the other clues at the beginning were given the same treatment. Not every dystopia is necessarily going to include a government being overthrown or other major signs that a society has gone terribly wrong. I loved the more subtle approach Ms. Ramos took with the assumptions she made about how people might respond if they couldn’t find decent paying work and selling the use of their reproductive organs seemed like the best option to make some semi-quick cash. If only she’d developed these thoughts further.

With that being said, one of the things I liked the most about this storywas how realistic it was. Yes, there were little snippets of what could be interpreted as science fiction and dystopian content in it, but everything in it is either really happening in our world today or could easily occur with a few small tweaks to how science works and what society tolerates. This is the kind of soft science fiction that grabs my attention because of how close it is to our reality.

I can sleep easily at night knowing that little green men from Mars aren’t actually ever going to invade Earth. The thought that women could so easily be coerced or enslaved into producing babies for wealthy, powerful families, on the other hand, is chilling because it has happened in the past, it is currently going on in some parts of the world, and it will almost certainly occur again in the future.

That’s frightening. Despite it’s flaws, The Farm’s no-nonsense approach to this topic is why I’ll recommend it to anyone who finds the blurb interesting.

Top Ten Tuesday: First Ten Books I Reviewed

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I write a fair number of long film and TV reviews on this blog, but it hasn’t been as common for me to give books the same treatment here due to the volunteering I do as a book reviewer who uses a pseudonym elsewhere on the web. By the time I’ve written those reviews, I’m generally in the mood to write other sorts of posts for my own site.

Saturday Seven is a now-defunct blog hop I participated in. We talked about all sorts of bookish things on it, and I sorely miss it.

Hopeful Science Fiction is a series I occasionally update here that is meant to highlight sci-fi/fantasy books that have uplifting messages. Today’s prompt is reminding me that I should keep this series going. It’s been a while since I added to it.

This week’s list will include a few long book reviews, but it will also have round-up posts I did that included micro-reviews so that this post is a reasonable length. I really need to write more full-length book reviews for this site!

1. Hopeful Science Fiction: The Lovely Bones.

I should warn you all that the opening scene in this book is about a young girl’s final moments on Earth, and she had violent end. The last thing I expected from such a terrible start was to see what happened to her after she went to the afterlife.

2. History Books About Ordinary People.

This is still my favourite type of history to read about.

3. Non-Human Protagonists.

Xenofiction is an awesome genre and we need more books about it. I’m quite excited that there’s going to be a movie made about The Art of Racing in the Rain!

4. Hopeful Science Fiction: Woman on the Edge of Time.

Woman on the Edge of Time is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi classics. I keep talking about it online in the hope that more people will discover it.

5. Cold and Flu Season Reads.

I’m so glad that cold and flu season has ended. This was a round-up I did about fiction and non-fiction books about all sorts of respiratory illnesses.

6. What to Read When It’s Hot Outside.

Now that those of us in the northern hemisphere are moving closer and closer to summer, I may have to reread some of these books.

7. Cold Weather Reads.

The Valley of Horses has been something I’ve reread the past few winters, and I still think it’s the best book Jean M. Auel ever wrote. Winter tends to be a difficult season for me for mental health reasons, so it’s crucial for me have some stuff to look forward to then.

8. My 4 Favourite Science Fiction Books About Life on Mars.

Wow, I’d totally forgotten I wrote this post. Here’s hoping we all live long enough to see humans actually staying on Mars at least temporarily.

9. Hopeful Science Fiction: Semiosis.

This was such a fabulous read. As you might have already noticed, I love stories about humans moving to other planets, and this was an excellent example of that type of tale.

My Review of The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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, Winchester, The Little Stranger, and Astraea. This is a spoiler-free review.  The… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: Astraea

Last June I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of Time, The Lovely Bones and Semiosis. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi, and this time it’s a film!  If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to… Read More

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, Coco, Winchester, and The Little Stranger. Content warning: death of a dog and… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More