The best things we read and watched in September
By The Hodderscape Team
Posted on September 26, 2014 in Books, Film, Friday Favourites, Television with tags Jean M. Auel, Orphan Black, The Walking Dead
It’s been a busy month at Hodderscape HQ, but we have of course made time to sit back and relax… with a television show about flesh-eating zombies, and other soothing delights. See what we’ve been enjoying this month below.
The Walking Dead
Yes, I know you’re thinking ‘how lame – that show is so old!’ Well, the reason I am second-to-last in the flesh-eating race is that after a noggin or two of late-night shandy I recently signed up to one of those thingies for online (but rather old) TV.
Now I’m halfway through the second series. Oh, the delicious voyeurism of post-apocalyptic horror! Exult in your cosy armchair as the last survivors of the global pandemic flee then, inevitably, are cornered a zombie spit away from perdition. Boy, can those so-called ‘walkers’ RUN (and agilely climb fences and fire escapes– hey, Darabont, isn’t that CHEATING?!). It’s so gorgeous and heart-warming that it’s Rick Grimes and his pals, not us.
And could there be a more visually pleasant place to host the apocalypse than Georgia? Rolling countryside, verdant forests, rhododendrons and white frame farmhouses. Kind of like a zombie invasion of the US Masters Golf tournament except the shambling spectators are now shambling undead. Wow, now I think about it, a zombie golf tournament is a great idea for an episode. You can have that one free, Frank, but after that I’m charging.
What a lovely conceit it is to have Sheriff’s Deputy Grimes wake up from a coma to find his bedside flowers dead, his ECG machine inert and the hospital parking lot packed with corpses. Oh, bliss was it in that dawn to be dead. The world has changed and now it’s adapt or perish. The zombie infection rules seem a little unclear, but effectively one bite and you’re out.
A definite virtue of the show is how the predictable and cliché-ridden plot mutes the jeopardy for those of nervous disposition like me. The rule of Darabont seems to be: ‘the likelihood of character survival is in direct proportion to their lines of dialogue’. You just KNOW the folks with one or two lines of place-holding mumbling are going to get it, whereas the ones that jabber away endlessly about this, that and essentially nothing, and that includes YOU, Andrea, ( just get over your sister already will you?) are going to go on and on. You form mental alliances: resolute Rick with his corn-chewing, homespun philosophy; survivalist Daryl (you may not like his politics but this is the guy you want to be with in an end-of-the world scenario); and Dale, one of those avuncular good old boys that every TV show needs.
While Dale’s trusty Winnebago cruises the wreck-filled and walker-choked freeways of the USA you just know there must be hope for mankind… don’t you?
The Earth’s Children series – Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, by Jean M. Auel
My mother handed me copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses when I was twelve, and I loved them. Cro-Magnon heroine Ayla is orphaned at age five and raised by a tribe of Neanderthals (the Clan) in a prehistoric eastern Europe. She goes against convention and teaches herself to hunt, and is eventually thrown out of the Clan. In the second novel (my favourite), she lives alone for three years and becomes wholly self-sufficient. I loved the descriptions of her hunts, her innovations in everything from food-storage to animal husbandry, and her various discoveries, accidental and otherwise. I never read further on, but reread those two several times in my teens.
So it was with a great deal of interest that I started rereading the series on a recent holiday. The books are as much fun as I remembered (and as steamy). I also moved forward and finally read the third in the series, The Mammoth Hunters, and look forward to reading the three remaining novels that make up the series.
Auel has mentioned that she considers the series science fictional because of the detailed research she does on current palaeoanthropology to support her writing. I’ve heard worse arguments for considering something science fiction. I might also suggest that there’s a fantastical element to the series, as well; several characters take psychotropic drugs in all three books and experience incredible visions, which the reader understand are meant to represent visions of humanity’s true present and future. (Ayla is particularly thrown by her vision of skyscrapers, as well she should be.)
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
This book has been on my to read list for ages, and last week I decided it had been far too long since the last Game of Thrones series (and let’s not even talk about the book), and I needed something where most of the action takes place in a castle and a lot of people die. I delved into Assassin’s Apprentice expecting Game of Thrones, but what I got was something quite different.
The main character Fitz is the bastard of the soon to be King and has a strange psychic affinity with canines. So far so Jon Snow, but Fitz’s route to power is much more tedious and undignified. Aside from being a dog whisperer (which is a bit of a dirty secret), Fitz isn’t particularly distinguished and he definitely isn’t a bad ass. He gets trained to be an assassin, but it doesn’t involve swords or ninja moves – mainly just spending most of his nights alone with a man covered in pockmarks.
Dark forces gather on the edge of story, but people run away from them rather than meet them in epic battle, and assassination plots fail pathetically. It might all sound a bit tepid, but it’s an interesting riff on the genre. Rather than a multi POV, continent straddling epic tale, Hobb draws you into the world of Fitz as he learns magic and tries to make his way in a world where the odds seem stacked against him.
Recently I discovered Canadian science fiction series Orphan Black on Netflix and I’ve just been getting into that. It’s a gripping thriller with a great sf twist – a con woman sees someone who looks just like her jump in front of a train and takes her identity, but she discovers she is one of many clones throughout the world – and someone is killing them off… Tatiana Maslany is great in her multiple roles, and it raises questions about the ethics of cloning, nature vs nurture and the like.
I’ve also been loving Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, though the scripts have been more of a mixed bag. Also, how good is Red Rising? I need to nab a copy of Golden Son quick!