Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘death’

Redesigned by Death

41d4DKAXPfLI Avatar by Heather Harrison.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’ve said before that I don’t read much sci-fi, but every once in awhile something catches my eye, or yells in my ear. I Avatar is one of those yellers. The story, written by Heather Harrison, describes a time in the 20th century, and a character named Panama, who is suddenly reactivated in the year 2082. At first she’s not sure what has happened, but soon discovers that her handler is called Gina, and her name is now Sila.

“During my first few weeks as an avatar, there was a lot of whining and crying involved. I can’t say I’m proud of how I handled it, but hell, give me a break. Finding out you died and were stuck spending the rest of eternity as someone’s video game piece sucked ass. On the positive side, at least I was able to think. Avatars are supposed to be dead, as in not retaining any emotions, feelings, or thoughts. I on the other hand, retained all three.”

It turns out that young gamers in the future (Gina) have the same kind of love interests as those nowadays, and Sila (Panama) is with Gina all the way (literally). There are some wonderful twists and turns in this story. The process by which one becomes an avatar is bizarre, yet believable. If you take an episode of Black Mirror and Westworld, and throw them in bed together, you might wake up with something similar to I Avatar.

Gaea Cleans House

518hlTbe79L30 by Arthur Butt. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

What a great opening line. “The day the human race died started typically enough.” Thus, begins 30. A perfect short story with a powerful punch. Mr. Butt has crafted an excellent end-of-the-world scenario, with an unexpected character, and unanticipated ending.

The tale is told in the first person by Artie, who discovers that nobody else is on the Long Island expressway, as he’s making his way to work. No one accept a lone hitchhiker. Artie picks her up, and learns that her name is Gaea (Greek Goddess for earth).

The story reminds me somewhat of a play I wrote a few years back, which was produced and performed in New York. It is called The Goddess of Cancer. The play has a variety of women with cancer, who meet her (cancer) in person and discuss their predicament.

30 doesn’t take long to read, but it will leave you thinking. How did everybody die? What are we doing to the planet? If we call this globe “Mother Earth”, why don’t we treat her like one? Arthur Butt has created a memorable short we should all digest and ponder.

Prizes Among the Dirt

51xH8YMzYQLThe Boy With The Coin – A Short Story by Christina van Deventer. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

An old man tells his story about a boy he watches across the street, who finds something in the mud and then leaves. The man goes over and finds fifty cents atop a small mound. He is not sure when, or if, they boy will return to collect his find. In the meantime, it becomes clear that the narrator (an older man) has a strained relationship with his daughter (Allison), and doesn’t have long to live.

The Boy With The Coin is a well told short story that keeps the vague past present, and an edge to the tale that is palpable. Is forgiveness, or redemption, possible? Does anyone deserve, or not deserve, to die? Ms. van Deventer asks these questions in the context of the story, and with honest speculation. Does life and death “mean” anything? If so, are we responsible for our actions, or in-actions?

Here is an excerpt, with the narrator being reminded of his childhood joy of living, and present lack of such. “I don’t know what prompted me to cross the street to where the boy had been playing. Curiosity, I suppose. I was once a child myself, but I have long since lost my ability to find joy in the small things, the prizes among the dirt, and I wondered what the boy had found that could be of any consequence to his heart.”

As the Mind Turns

Reprobates by Louise Blackwick.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

417SIUTkDtLNothing is what it seems when Marc Whitehouse and Chantal Innes check into the Totermann Inn to join the thousands coming to England to witness the once every 4000 years solar eclipse, which has all the planets aligned at the same time. Everything becomes disorienting and bizarre, as Marc tries to get some sleep in a room that has a window nailed shut, and a large rat he calls Chubby. There is also a mysterious elderly lady (Chantal Innes), who innkeeper (Rob Sequies) says, “practically lives here”.

Reprobates reminded me of the film Barton Fink, where John Torturro plays a screenwriter frantically trying to finish a screenplay. He doesn’t sleep for days, starts to see things, and begins to question his sanity. The twists and turns in his mind, as to what is real and what isn’t, are seen as he sees them. It also has elements of the movie Shutter Island, though I will not say anything further about, especially the ending.

Here are a few brief lines from Ms. Blackwick’s well written tale. “He couldn’t bring the last of his memories into focus; he couldn’t bring order to the chaos of his mind. He shut his eyes, allowing his mind to be flooded by the maddening sound of falling rain, the escape attempts of the fly and the squealing of a hungry Chubby. A little past midnight, Marc no longer looked forward to any future.”

If you enjoy a story that doesn’t give anything away, and keeps you guessing about what is going on, then you’re in for a treat with Reprobates. The author writes believable scenes, and takes readers’ inside the head of Marc, as he loses his bearings, and questions how he go to where he is, what his life is about, and why his father keeps coming back to visit him in dreams and visions.

A Long Time To Die

Dying Takes It Out of You – Book One of the Madonna Diaries
by S.S. Bazinet. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

513xwn-wYJLMental gymnastics, emotional turmoil, and brotherly love, all add weight to this dystopian thriller. Dying Takes It Out of You is set in the near future, when a virus has been deployed by terrorists, and the entire world is threatened. Dory is one of those infected, who believes he’d rather die than live in this shit hole that has become his life. His brother Milton, a scientist and doctor, has other ideas for Dory, and tries to save him by finding a cure at all costs. It may cost them everything.

Ms. Bazinet has taken a terrifying world in the near future, and turned it into a philosophical and ideological tale about understanding, family, and what is worth living for, without giving up an iota of fear or suspense. The beginning is intentionally misleading, making readers believe that the pursuer is evil, and the narrator (Dory) is running for his life. The sudden switch in who is in danger, and the shift from which person is good, and who is bad, is well executed.

In the process of Milton’s heroics to save his brother, who craves blood, is afraid he’ll go crazy, and will most likely die a horrible death within weeks, Dory describes his experience. “Sometimes a person doesn’t know how strong they are until they keep dying and coming back. A few days in, Milton said that I was having a convulsion and then clunk, I was dead again. The old vessel in my chest decided it had had enough and just stopped working in mid fit. Even Milton was surprised. Most people take longer to kill.”

This fantasy, by S. S. Bazinet, explores the depths a loved one (in this case his twin brother) will take to keep them alive. The world she creates is not that distant, or foreign, and has a strong connection with its surroundings. Memories that Dory has of an abusive father, and kind mother, are also interspersed with lucid dreams and conversations with Thomas, an individual known as one of the Watchers. These dialogues provide Dory with insight and hope, and make Dying Takes It Out of You all the better.

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

51azfjj8D1LDeath by Corporate America: Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Murder at a Time by Lex Ramsay. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A great murder-mystery where the murderess is known from the start. Death by Corporate America turns this genre around by showing clearly who the perpetrator is of a series of murders at the fictional San Francisco conglomerate Mondrian Corporation (Mondo). There is no doubt that Adrian Banner, a 44-year-old African-American business geek, who is temporarily made an Executive Secretary on the companies board when one of their members dies in a balloon accident, is the culprit.

Adrian has had her fill of sexism, racism, and invisibility, by the board members of this company and decides to make the initial death just the beginning. “Commute, meetings, con calls, emails, IMs, PowerPoints and a hurried lunch eaten at her desk… wash, rinse and repeat. This was death by Corporate America, and she was one of the walking dead.” Ms. Ramsay has created a character that you root for, and hope she succeeds. The question isn’t did she do it, but how is she going to do it, and will she get away with it?

Ms. Banner is one smart woman. She learns about everyone’s vulnerabilities, what methods will work and how, and the means to have them go undetected. She is a mastermind in business. Everyone diminishes and dismisses her, assuming she is not the culprit and not able to have carried out such murders. The people she kills are assholes, and deserve to die (especially in her mind). There is also a homeless man, Jerome, who gives her ideas (unknowingly) about how to vanquish her business foes.

Death by Corporate America is rich in possibility for a good screenwriter and producer to bring the story to the screen. It is suspenseful, well-plotted, and never stops. Lex Ramsay has made revenge seem possible and satisfying, while also creating a character that you want to succeed, even though she is a cold-blooded killer. That is a hard feat to carry off, but she does it with class. This is not the kind of story I usually read, or enjoy, but there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

It Has Its Own Shape

Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss by Dipti Tait.
Review by Gabriel Constans.

411Up78mHJLGood Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is rich with personal insight, and emotional intelligence. The following quote alone is worth the book’s weight in gold. “It’s a natural process, like the tides that come in and out on the shore of the ocean of your consciousness. Some are high; some are low. It’s about learning how to surf the waves of grief and not drown in the intense sorrow of loss.” Ms. Tait shares the story of her experiences and reactions to her mother and father’s deaths, and how she has learned to not only ride the waves, but to help others stand up on their own board.

The realizations of grief’s depth and width within our lives is written with clarity, honesty, and compassion. The author’s realization that loss is variable and unique to each individual, based on a myriad of factors and conditioning, is vital for acceptance and healing. “A grieving period is individual to the person who grieves. It has its own shape, form and identity based on belief systems, personal experiences and our own unique programming.” This is so true, and yet we often want a cookie-cutter method of how to proceed and navigate loss, without taking our uniqueness into consideration.

This book shares many aspects of grief that we may feel, or think about, but often do not acknowledge, let alone process. There are chapters on loneliness, guilt, shock, stress, and the reality of loss in our daily lives, as well as the possibility for growth. Ms. Tait provides a number of ways to work with our emotions and thoughts that surround grief. These include journaling, the Three P’s (Positive thought, Positive Actions, Positive Activity), moving into emotional intelligence, and the “No/Yes Principle”. “The self-healing process begins when a person can recognize that they want to change.”

There is little doubt that Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is well worth your time and attention. You may also find that it helps you live with the pain of loss with a little more understanding, and acceptance, and provides that bit of support that perhaps you had not have realized was needed, or available. In addition to getting a copy of Good Grief, by Ms. Dipti Tait, you may also wish to take a look at my book Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter. It is similar to Ms. Tait’s, but told through the eyes of a number of people experiencing the death of a loved one, as well as my interactions with them.

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