Cultural Update: May

My pile of unread books is only very slowly inching down, and I really must avoid buying any others.

Today’s link-magic: Having The Talk with your kids…..

A child who has experienced that talk, may also end up with a wedding that looks like this.


The Quiet War Paul McAuley There are some fabulous things about this book. The vision of settlements on Saturn and Jupiter is probably the most wonderful settlement of the solar system I have ever read. And it fascinating to see another take on the issues of ecological disaster and genetic engineering – very different from that in The Windup Girl even coming from similar premises. Some of the characters too are great, though at times it suffers from the same problem as a number of recent books, that some of the characters aren’t quite likable enough. Over all though, some very interesting ideas and depictions; a very thoughtful book, even if I didn’t find the ending ultimately as satisfying as one might have hoped.


District B13

This film has some of the most awesome fight and chase scenes you could hope for. Brilliantly choreographed fights and parkour with a pumping soundtrack, they are an absolute delight to watch. The lead characters’ athleticism is also impressive. Set in a near future (well 2010 envisaged from 2004) it also takes on a number of issues around class and race which are prevalent in modern France, with a progressive spin, so the story itself is not bad either. That being said, some of the dialogue is woeful (although the subtitling may have been partly at fault) and the acting range of the leads is not as impressive as their fighting/jumping/athletic skills. Nonetheless, well worth watching if you are looking for a good action film – well ahead of most Hollywood types.


Games of Thrones first half of season 1 I really really really wanted to like this. While I haven’t read the books, any sword and politics type drama is worth hoping for. And I wasn’t disappointed by the first episode, especially its shock conclusion. But the next two or three episodes were a bit too ponderous, and I found myself worried that I would lose interest. The characters were a bit too stereotyped: the boorish king, the plotting queen, the arrogant prince,the stalwart loyal friend, the barbarian and his noble queen… I think that the challenge in the first half of the season is to stick with it through the slightly less compelling parts – a story this complex takes time to weave, and the pay off will arrive (as I will discuss next month no doubt).  The two most compelling characters in the first half of the season were Catelyn Stark and Tyrion Lannister – both had rounded personalities and complex motivations. I imagine that to follow the destiny of Arya Stark will be a fascinating story, but one which, most likely, I will have to end up turning to the books for, as I don’t know whether we will see the series lasting that long. Otherwise, it is beautiful to look at, and I think the couple of slow episodes in the early part of the season will be compensated for by the pay off.


100 sci fi women #62: Ahsoka Tano

For a silly but on-theme link here is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Star Wars.

On a sadder note – my last entry was Sarah Jane Smith, little realising that within a couple of weeks, Elisabeth Sladen would have died. I was very sad to learn of her death – Sarah Jane Smith is certainly the first of the Doctor’s companions I really remembered and grew to love, and it is nice that my children, through the Sarah Jane stories got a chance to meet this significant female character on their own terms. I was hoping for more Sarah Jane stories, and possibly more crossing over to the Doctor Who universe. But it is not to be, and sadly we must say farewell to Sarah Jane. Don’t worry, we won’t forget you.

Ahsoka Tano Star Wars: The Clone Wars  movie and television series

Ahsoka is a woman, or rather girl, in a very male world. As Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, she inhabits worlds which are dominated by men – the Jedi Council, the Republican army. She is surrounded by men who want to tell her what to do because she is young, and possibly, because she is female. She is also a non-human in a very human dominated environment – although the Jedi Council does have its share of non-humans. Ahsoka manages to forge her own way through this world, showing her own strength, inventiveness and skills. She is one of the few Jedi who face General Grievous in battle and survives and she is left by Anakin at times to lead missions because he has faith in her abilities. She also has compassion for others; she cares about the deaths of the clones who some see as expendable battle fodder. She is loyal and at a young age she is willing to speak her defiance to the Jedi Council when they are willing to let her orignal mentor, Plo Koon die unrescued. Ahsoka is a credible female prescence in a universe where there are only two other stand-out female characters – Princess Leia and Padme – and as such she brings some balance to the force.

It is lucky I don’t need rescuing!

100 sci fi women #24: Princess Leia Organa

Princess Leia Stars Wars Pts IV-VI

Despite the eccentric hair and the flowing robes, young girls everywhere knew they had a new kind of Princess to look up to from the moment that Princess Leia points out the inadequacy of the foolhardy men’s rescue plans, grabs a blaster and finds a way out – even if it was into a garbage compactor. Bad smells do not deter this Princess. Many of us had already anticipated that Princess Leia was no ordinary princess waiting to be rescued – she was a Senator! At 19! Willing to tell one of the baddest baddies off! She didn’t succumb to torture, and was sad, but not broken by the destruction of her home planet.

Later we see her commanding forces on Hoth, happy to get her hands dirty fixing the Millenium Falcoln, daring Jabba’s lair in disguise and willing to fight side by side with the assault team on Endor. As Luke says to her on Endor “you’ve always been the strong one.” Too right buddy.

And yes, she does fall for Han Solo, but who wouldn’t (except perhaps the same 13 year old me who had a crush on Tarrant. 13 year old me perhaps needed better taste). But like any sensible girl, she isn’t willing to trust Han straight away, and so is cagey until the situation is such that a declaration of affection is warranted. Such a sensible approach to love.

Best of all, she is mostly sensibly and practically dressed. Let’s face it, the robes in Star Wars (sorry, I mean A New Hope) can be explained by the fact she is on a diplomatic mission at the time. The rest of the time, it is combat gear. Only a bad guy would dare to dress her in less….

General Tarkin, I thought I recongised your foul stench when I came on board.