Thursday, January 30, 2014

Loving isn't Knowing (The Almost People Suite)

While listening to the Doctor Who season six soundtrack, I was struck by the title "Loving isn't Knowing (The Almost People Suite)." At first, the title seems not only odd, but even paradoxical.  Most of the other titles are derived from dialogue ("Run, Sexy," "Always with the Rory") or a situation ("Chemical Castle,"  "The Impossible Astronaut"), but the significance of the title requires more thought.
In context, it's a reference to Amy's ganger, but the wider context applies to both of the Pond couples. Most people associate love with knowing everything about a person--even the Biblical "to know"  implies intimate, physical knowledge of another person.
But what is River's catchphrase? "Spoilers?" And in Angels take Manhattan, she says "Never let him see the damage." The Doctor and River keep secrets from each other all the time, secrets of identity and love and death.   Amy is much the same; in both Pond Life and Asylum of the Daleks, she refused to tell Rory why she was pushing him away. Perhaps that's part of the reason this song is so sad. If we can never know anyone else, what does it mean to love?
"Trust me," River told Ten. "One day I'm going to someone that you trust completely."  She then proves it by whispering his name in his ear. Given the Doctor's timey-whimey lifestyle, perhaps that is the only he can interpret love--as something he can trust, not something to know.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

20 and Something: Have the Time of Your Life (And Figure It All Out Too)..

This slender volume (88 pages) contains a wealth of information about the Millennial generation, including graphs, charts, illustrations, and other eye-catching images. While the subtitle “Have the Time of Your Life and Figure it Out too” suggests a multi-step application plan, the true value of this book lies in its succinct analysis of 20-something culture and its causes.
As a member of this age group, I can confirm that many of the observations are right on, though others surprised me. For example, 82% of Millennials want to be married, and 77% want to have children. But due to the high rate of divorce among their parents, many are choosing to put marriage off in hopes of being better prepared. These statistics also illuminate the high rate of cohabitation among young adults—they want to test each other before committing.
Another area that surprised me was the definition of adult.  57% said emotional maturity, while 20% said economic independence. No traditional marker—age, marriage, or education—even reached double digits. With the challenging job market and the abstract nature of “emotional maturity,” it’s not surprising that many Millennials are caught between adolescence and adulthood.
This book is one of the first in the Barna group’s Frames series, which attempts to provide a Biblical worldview of common cultural issues.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Empty Hearse

After a two-year wait, the return of BBC Sherlock on PBS made me very happy.  And the episode kicked off with quite a bang: direct flashback to the conclusion of "The  Reichenbach Fall," with the promise of finally learning what happened.
Except we didn't--it was just Anderson's theory, played out large for all to see. The process was repeated twice, once in a ridiculous slash scene and again with Sherlock's (misleading?) explanation.  Anderson's theory explained the fate of Moriarty's body, but Sherlock's seemed more rational.  But I wouldn't put money on either of them--I know Moffat's trolling ways far too well.
Either way, Sherlock and John's reunion was everything I wanted--particularly the three punches. Sherlock may be a genius, but the average Whoniverse alien has a better understanding of human emotions and psychology than he does. Nothing John said would convey his frustration and anger--so bring on the punches.
The actual plot of the episode was wonderfully, brilliantly British. While some Americans may miss the historical significance of the 5th of November, the episode had enough references for uninformed viewers to get the gist of it. It also alludes to Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta.  And that was just one of the in-jokes and allusions in the episode. The motorcycle and helmets that Sherlock and Mary used to rescue John are probably the ones used in "The Bells of St. John." And if Sherlock's explanation is correct, he was listening to John's grief, just as Eleven was in "The Impossible Astronaut."  Even the episode title not only alludes to the original Doyle adventure, but subtly foreshadows the railway carriage.
Finally, the casting of Sherlock's parents and Mary is hilarious, especially in light of this old interview:
Interviewer: Are you going to be able to keep your actors after season 3? They’re both quite big stars in The Hobbit..Moffat: Yes, but we have their families locked in the cellar.  
I guess he decided to let them out for filming (Sherlock's parents are Benedict's actual parents, and Mary is Martin Freeman's partner.).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


With the growing popularity of dystopic literature for young adults, authors must find a fresh perspective to make their work stand out.  Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen has a government that maintains its power not through subtle mindwashing or social planning, but by control of the world’s remaining freshwater supply.  Given the rising concern about water supplies—even in America,  farms and urban areas dispute water supplies, especially in the barren Southwest—the scenario seems closer to reality than some of the elaborate systems in other dystopias.
However, the water restrictions are minimalized in the novel. If only one freshwater aquifer remains, why aren’t countries attempting desalinization? How is it piped across the world? And how much water are people allowed to use? Wouldn’t the world be on some sort of rationing system?  The author did mention water pirates, but there was no indication that people were suffering from lack of water.
In addition, the “dials” that each member wore felt unnecessary.  While most fictional dystopias restrict emotion, such a restriction didn’t fit with this government. The author seemed uncertain about the mechanics of his dystopia—while harsh, rules-bound societies are the genre norm, this book would have worked better if citizens were permitted an illusion of freedom. 
Fans of dystopian literature will probably enjoy this book, though other readers might be bored.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program in exchange for a free review. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Divergent: Virtues Gone Mad

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues (...) full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.  The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care only for truth, and their truth is pitiless. Those some humanitarians care only for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.
--Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton (emphasis mine)
This week, I finished reading Allegiant, the third book in Veronica Roth's trilogy. For those who have not yet heard of Divergent  (adaptation in process) and its sequels, it occurs in a vaguely future environment. The main character, Beatrice, grows up  in a city divided into five factions:

  1. Candor, the honest
  2. Erudite, the scholars
  3. Amity, the friendly
  4. Abnegation, the self-sacrificing
  5. Dauntless, the brave
When Beatrice goes in for her faction test, the results are inconclusive--she is a Divergent, with characteristics of multiple factions. Without spoiling the rest of the books, I will say that each book reveals further flaws of the system, though not as many as I would have liked.

What would a society of people devoted to telling the truth--with no regard to other people's feelings--be like? The Abnegation, for example, don't even share details of their own childhood with their children. because that would be selfish.  And once Dauntless have grown too old to face physical challenges, they are left behind.  

Even though dystopias have reached saturation, the unique set-up of this book provides plenty of food for thought.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Every Waking Moment

Every Waking Moment contains engaging characters and quiet tension with its story of a young girl who has a special gift to engage with the elderly.
Although I generally prefer fantasy novels to realistic fiction, this book held my attention from the beginning to the end. It also made me think about nursing homes and the way we care for the elderly in America. While assisted care facilities provide valuable services, they also enable us to avoid people who need our respect.

One Realm Beyond

One Realm Beyond, the first novel in Donita K. Paul’s Realm Walkers series, invites readers into a series of worlds crafted with imagination and originality.  Young Cantor has desired to be a realm walker, with access to the nine planes, for a long time. When his guardians finally allow him to leave, he looks forward to finding a mor dragon to serve as his constant and explore the worlds. But the first dragon he meets doesn’t quite fit his plans,  fellow traveler Bixby seems to know more than he does, and  the realm walkers might not be the noble order he’s been told.
I enjoyed the author’s previous  DragonKeeper and Valley of the Dragons series, and this new tale is even better. She creates memorable characters and deepens her world by considering the social impact of crossing between worlds.  I’d recommend this book for fantasy fans of various ages, with enough detail for older readers and action for younger fans.

I received a free copy of this book through the Z Street Team program, but was not obligated to write a positive review.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

When the Doctor Was Me

My Doctor, my first and favorite, is and always will be Matt Smith. And I'm still not over Time of the Doctor. It doesn't help that my emotions were still amuck from graduating December 20th and extended socialization with Mom's side of the family.*
While I adore Moffat's storytelling, respect Matt's decision, and anticipate Capaldi, I dreaded this episode.  Endings are hard. Change is harder. So I avoided trailers, scrolled past spoilers, and generally tried to avoid thinking about the episode until I sat down to watch it.
Every five minutes, another brick dropped. Gallifrey. Trenzalore. The Papal Mainframe. A crack.  I kept yelling at my laptop until the weight in my chest was too much  to bear. At first, the episode seemed another blockbuster, a grand finale--but a comment on Tumblr also pointed out how intimate the heart of the story was. The Doctor stayed for Christmas--one small town, on one dark planet--because no one else did. Because it had to be protected, because there's no such thing as unimportant.
The only way it could have possibly been better is if River had been there for him. She could have grown old with him, lived a straight line with him, and no need for spoilers. I understand why she wasn't; I hadn't had much hope of it anyway, but I'm still gonna write that fanfic where she does come.
But it boils down to the last ten minutes. I have no issues with the extra regeneration cycle or the use of the energy as a weapon; I was too busy listening for his last words. Big badass boast--that's fine. That's fine.
Except it wasn't. Seeing the clothing on the floor felt like seeing a body, the absent body in every regeneration episode. His young appearance was even worse. It felt like seeing a mirage in the desert; you know it's not real, but you want it so much that you force yourself to believe.
Who's coming?
 The Doctor. 
But you, you are the Doctor. 
Yep, and I always will be. 
That whole speech leaned on the fourth wall so hard,  and it hurt so much. It said so many things that I was feeling. It glimpsed the future and affirmed the past, took everything that was and everything that will be, and said Remember this. 

And Amelia. Wee Amelia, our Amy Pond, came to say goodnight to her raggedy man. All stories have an end, but make them the best they possibly can be. I didn't even hear what she said the first time I watched the episode--I was too overwhelmed seeing her again, young and happy.  Even if River couldn't be there, she was mentioned, and Amy Pond, the first face he ever saw with this face, was there for the end.

I'm not even going to comment on Capaldi's performance at the moment; it's still too much for me to believe that Smith is gone..
*nice interaction, but still wearing on an introvert.