Cultural Update: February

Before we start with this short roundup to reflect this short month, here is a cool link which shows you films compressed into a barcode and gives you a sense of the overall colour scheme of the movie. The Matrix one is totally distinctive.

And now to business.

Books

The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi Dark. The book is set in a fascinating world; I love the ideas of calorie powered energy stored in springs – but it does rather beg the question of what happened to tidal/solar/wind power and the like. The concepts around genetic engineering it introduces are also fasntastic and the ideas of the windup girl herself and the cheshire cats were brilliant. Overall though the book lacked something; too many of the characters weren’t likable (at all) and it just took a bit too much time and effort for it all to completely hang together. Parts of it were page turning and gripping and other bits somewhat less so. I also really didn’t like the Jaidee conceit in the second half of the book and didn’t think it added a lot. The book is, however, a clever and layered discourse on inclusion and exclusion, on difference and othering where none of the characters completely fit and the powers of belonging are literally life and death.

Movies

Unstoppable Simple, straightforward thriller that had me tense throughout. Strong performances in a clear storyline with an added dose of working man versus US corporate evil. A little stereotyped, but the writing and directing was enough to keep it from cliché. A well made thriller that maintained believability. An enjoyable ride.

True Grit Good but not amazing. Strong performances from the three leads – Jeff Bridges was still over-acting, but at least  the over-acting was suited to the role. Weirdly I didn’t think that the cinematography and shot composition as impressive as I would have expected from the Coen Brothers when there are fabulous landscapes to work with. There was humour and the film sustained my interest….but overall it just seemed to lack something. But I wouldn’t say it wasn’t good. It was. Just not brilliant.

 

100 sci fi women #60: Emiko

As you can see, am attempting to make up for lost time with a few new entries. Tonight’s is from the book I finished reading last night, which I will talk about more generally in another post. For the moment I give you…

Emiko The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi

Emiko is a New Person; a genetically engineered servant, a human who is not quite entirely human, designed and trained to serve. She has small pores to make her skin silkier and has been genetically programmed to have jerky movements to ensure she cannot be mistaken for a real person. She is the ultimate Other; fascinating and repulsive, frightening and frightened; excluded from society and disposable; readily pulped bythe Environment Agency her see her as an abomination with no soul, using calories that could be used by others. Emiko is treated little better than a slave, dumped when her original patron thought is cheaper to leave her behind, left to fend for herself in a highly hostile world. She is sexually exploited and abused, spat on even by those who wish to use her sexually. Yet despite her training and her breeding, Emiko keeps inside her a spark of resistance and a dream of something better. She loathes her obedience and her genetically driven impulses. She finds a way to maintain hope within herself, to look for a world which could be better for her. With this hope she also learns about her own power; her speed and strength and resilience. She learns to hide waht she is and deceive. Emiko survives because she finds a way, because despite what she is told and how she is treated, she is in many ways, a better human.

She stifles the urge to clean up the rice, to make things neat for Anderson-sama when he returns. Instead, she makes herself stare at the mess and recognise that she is no longer a slave. If he wishes rice cleaned off the floor there are others to do his dirty work. She is something else. Soemthing different. Optimal in her own way.