Novel Reactions: Radicalized

Wow, never has science fiction felt so real to me. Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a collection of four stories—all “what if?” scenarios people have probably thought to themselves at some point:

  • What if we take the internet of things too far?
  • What if our favorite superhero clashes with our justice system?
  • What if regular people finally crack?
  • What if the world goes into turmoil?

Of course, all of the stories stretch things (a little) too far, but, to be fair, they’re not too far from what we can imagine. All of the themes are current and familiar, and the social commentary is spot on: if these situations actually happened today, the stories in Radicalize portray potential reactions pretty well. How unfortunate.

The stories are longer than the typical short story, but each one can still be read in one sitting. I limited myself to one story each time I picked up this book because …well, it is a little chilling. Also, Cory Doctorow wrote the characters so well that, even if I didn’t love them, I understood them. Society can be crazy sometimes.

Radicalized is a very timely and worthwhile read, and I have super glad I picked it up at the bookstore. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, even to my friends who don’t really venture into sci-fi.

Short Bites: TGIF

Set in Brazil, “TGIF” is a story of a boy who, from a young age (or at least since he began smoking), has been toughened by the streets and by labor. Seeking to unwind after a long week’s work, the boy just cannot get a break from reality. He has to deal with a society with a large gap between the rich and the poor, the systemic corruption in the government, and the rage inside himself. Life is hard. To actually have a nice, enjoyable weekend to look forward to, seems to be a privilege as well.

The story is part of Geovani Martins’ short story collection, The Sun on My Head, which was recently published in English. While pretty much the whole story is in English, I appreciated the retention of some Portuguese words in the text. Although I had to look up the English definitions, I felt that this kept the story in character and showcased a part of Brazilian culture and values. Also, I felt like this contributed to the main character’s strong voice even if the text was translated from its original language. (That said, Julia Sanches did an amazing job translating this work.)

Pick up this collection The Sun on My Head if you are curious about favela life in Brazil. “TGIF” reminded me a bit of some stories in Bryan Washington’s Lot—class struggle is real. (Here’s the Short Bites entry for “Navigation.”) I also enjoyed reading “The Mystery of the Vila,” which tackled a different part of Brazilian culture and which I found to be heartwarming.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Distillery District

Historically a whiskey distillery, the Distillery District is an area that has been converted into a public venue that houses boutique shops, art galleries, and trendy restaurants. I always enjoy trips to the Distillery, which is easily accessible by the King St streetcar.

A national historic site, the Distillery also hosts events and campaigns for causes. In April, the venue supported the Daffodil Campaign against cancer and in June, Pride month.

I love the aesthetic of the Distillery. I’m partial to bricks—maybe it’s the warm colors—so I’m glad the developers didn’t go crazy with a modern look. Plus! There is art all over the Distillery (not just in the galleries), and they change these up from time to time, too.

Walking around is fun. I like entering stores that sell local or one-of-a-kind products, things that will remind me of a certain place or memory, and the shops are like that in the Distillery. There is a big Deciem store here, and it can get overwhelming to look at at all of those skin care products. (Research before entering!) As for food, my favorites are Madrina and Arvo Coffee.

The Distillery is, hands down, my favorite place in Toronto.

Novel Reactions: 99 Percent Mine

I am more or less a mood reader. I switch off to lighter romantic reads when I’m on vacation or when I’m too pooped from numerous sad endings. So this is where 99 Percent Mine comes in: I needed a source of entertainment during a time when Netflix wasn’t a good option.

The story is simple, and it was enough to keep me entertained. So… it served its purpose, but will I recommend it to anyone? Nah. I’m not a fan.

The story isn’t that special. The main girl (Darcy) is in love with her childhood friend (Tom), who is also her brother’s (Jamie’s) best friend. Additionally, the childhood friend is pretty much family and is doing the siblings a favor. (Said favor is renovating their grandmother’s cottage.)

Darcy and Tom are obviously going to get together, and it’s not the predictability that put me off. (My guilty pleasure is reading/watching romantic comedies; I always know they end well.)

Here, in more detail than people who hate spoilers will like, are my reasons for feeling meh:

  1. The main characters are not likable. Darcy is incredibly selfish. She has zero self-control and cannot accept responsibility for her actions. She thinks she’s all that (not in the way that she would brag about her work but in the way that she would always try to protect Tom). Also, Tom is not even that great. He’s placed on too high a pedestal, but he’s really just there as a brooding, juicy piece of meat.
  2. It seems like the writer needed an excuse to bring the two in extremely close quarters, so for some reason, Tom (childhood friend/contractor) camps out at the project site while Darcy lives somewhere there. Excuse me? How ridiculous is that? I get that it’s fiction, and writers can invent things, but at least let these things make sense! A lot of safety precautions have to be taken at construction sites. People cannot just come and go as they please, and contractors do not just let their inexperienced clients do manual labor on their sites. I am baffled.
  3. How can a new business owner with so much to prove skip town for two months and then take credit for all of the work done in their absence? Yes, everyone needs to take a personal day or two (been there) at some point, but to take two months without consequences? Given Tom’s background, I expected more hustle from him. I get that this is supposed to be for dramatic effect, but it would have given off the same effect and still have been more acceptable if this disappearance was cut short.

I’ve read better romantic novels. I came in looking for a fun read—to be entertained without having to think too much (basically, I needed an alternative to tv shows). It was just ok, I guess. Actually, no, it wasn’t very satisfying. Perhaps I should have read something else.

Short Bites: A Visit

In Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine, Kevin Wilson’s “A Visit” is a homecoming kind of story in which a dutiful daughter rushes to her mother’s aid. You guessed it—the circumstances of their reunion aren’t so great, but what can you expect when there’s a sudden need for any child to come home?

I felt like the story gave me a sneak peek of what it would have been like to grow up in the US South. I like the strong community feeling—growing up having so-and-so’s kid around or knowing you can easily ask neighbors for a cup of sugar when you’ve run out. Also, there’s nothing like a good parent-child story to make you feel like the world isn’t so bad.

So, I liked it just fine.