Dreams Before the Start of Time

2.0 rating based on 1,234 ratings

This is a near-future story about people having babies. It won a bunch of awards, but I can’t say I get it. The people seem very parochial in their opinions about reproduction and what they want from their kids. I hope we progress a LOT more than over the next century.

In the Distance

5.0 rating based on 1,234 ratings

In The Distance (Hernan Diaz, 2017)

I’ve read a few novels about the final days of the American frontier, but none have given me this visceral sense of the immensity and the brutality of that landscape.

A (very) rare five-star review from me.

Convenience Store Woman

4.0 rating based on 1,234 ratings

Convenience Store Woman (Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator), 2018)

A short glimpse into the very odd existence of a misfit in a world with little room for misfits. I’d mention Catcher In The Rye and Confederacy of Dunces as American counterparts, but this feels less grand and more subtle.

American War: A Novel

4.5 rating based on 1,234 ratings

American War (Omar El Akkad, 2017)

Reading this during the Trump-induced immigration crisis and creation of internment camps made this a difficult respite from the news. Still, what a fantastic read.

El Akkad spends little time on exposition about this climate-shocked future America. Instead, he focusses on the impact of geographic and political upheaval on a small group of climate refugees in the American south some 70 years from now.

I found it fascinating, compelling, and beautifully written.


4.0 rating based on 1,234 ratings

Annihilation (2018, Alex Garland)

I had to think long and hard about how I felt about the movie adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation which I loved. I was a big fan of Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” too but thought the psychedelic and literary novel was going to be pretty much impossible to film without major reworking.

Visually the movie is absolutely stunning and ultimately I feel that Garland’s decision to drop some of the more out-there stuff in the book (including some major plot elements) was probably wise.

On first viewing (in the theatre) I couldn’t get my head around the lighthouse scene. This felt nothing like the book and looked so oddly out of keeping with the organic mutations earlier on in the film. But on second viewing I’ve decided that everything in the lighthouse is metaphorical because it is beyond our comprehension – much like the acid trip Jupiter and Beyond scene in 2001. With that in mind, I decided the film was great.