Her Young Smile is Radiant in the Spotlight

Only Ever Yours
Louse O'Neill
Quercus
2015

only_ever_yoursImagine a world where women are pitted against each other, forced to comply with nigh unattainable standards of beauty and behaviour, and live their lives entirely according to the whims of men who treat them with nothing but contempt. Oh sorry, you don’t need to imagine. That’s our reality*. Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours** is our reality up to eleven.  I’ll say it now: massive trigger warnings for eating disorders, shaming of women’s sexuality, rape culture, misogyny, domestic violence and toxic masculinity.  As someone who, like most women, has struggled with body image (etc.), I was not terribly affected, but I cannot speak for other readers and potential readers.

freida is entering the final year of School.  She is 16, and with her 29 classmates she has spent the last twelve years of her life in a routine of maintaining stringent beauty standards, learning proper feminine behaviours, and being rated weekly on her appearance by her peers as well as total strangers.  In the future earth of freida’s birth, sex-selective abortion almost led to the extinction of the human race.  It was decided that women must be designed and educated to become the mothers of future generations.  But, since men need more than just wifely companionship, a large number of concubines are also required.  freida’s destiny is to become either one of ten companions, a concubine, or a chastity–a celibate teacher for girls at the School. Continue reading

Behold the Deluge as the Levees Break

The Water Knife
Paolo Bacigalupi
Science Fiction
Hachette
June 2015
Paperback

the_water_knifeFor someone who quite enjoys science fiction movies, I sure don’t like thinking about the future. It’s scary, it’s worrying, and in order to live my life without being cripplingly depressed I do have to become one of those head-in-sand people about some things. This is especially the case when it comes to near future climate change fiction, a genre I pointedly avoid. But it’s not just earth futures; it’s space as well, that unfathomably huge universe. Nothing against space personally, I just don’t need an existential crisis right now. Thanks.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, then, was a book I took up hesitantly for fear it would just upset me. Set in water-starved Arizona in a future where the United States has all but dissolved and swathes of people are fleeing death by dehydration, it is a grim view of the future indeed. The powers of Nevada, California and Arizona vie for drips of the Colorado river. Ruthless Angel, employed by Nevada, arrives in Arizona to chase up rumours that a new water source has been found. Lucy, a journalist, is chasing similar leads in her quest to uncover the truth behind Phoenix’s ever-increasing bodycount. Maria, a Texan refugee, tries to eke out a living selling water, fighting to survive Phoenix’s dangerous underworld. The plots of these three characters intertwine as they are all embroiled in the desparation and violence of a city in its death throes.

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