The Freeze-Frame Revolution (Peter Watts, 2018)
Got to love a novel that measures time in millions of years. This is my first encounter with Watts, but I’m diving into one of his bigger, more challenging novels (Blindsight) immediately after reading this.
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 (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 (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.
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.
The Outsider (Stephen King, 2018)
King mixes real-world police fiction with supernatural horror with greater success in The Outsider than the Mr. Mercedes series. I got mad at the latter because it flipped genres without warning and I felt cheated. I knew what I was getting with The Outsider, so it didn’t bother me.
It was fun watching Jennifer Lawrence’s slow descent into madness via claustrophobic close-up as mayhem steadily increases all around her. I’m not sure if it’s about loss of control, the sacrificial role of muses, or something entirely different, but I didn’t really care in the end because it felt very fresh.
It’s best to think of this as a mid-level Black Mirror episode. Lots of fun stuff if you don’t think about it too hard and some nice graphic design used for the ubiquitous AR everyone in this world has embedded in their noggins.