New short story: Pathos

Everyone! Go check out Pathos, a short story by my friend Elisa Nuckle. It’s a story that questions the meaning of existence through virtual reality; it’s a path society is heading toward already through technology addiction. It’s a dystopian future that makes you think, and it’s only $0.99, so it’s affordable for such an interesting read. Do it!

Blue Milk Special: a webcomic review

My favourite strip

Blue Milk Special is one of the webcomics I religiously follow. Made by married artistic team Rod and Leanne, it is a parody strip that chronicles the Star Wars original trilogy. They started with A New Hope in 2009, and are now partway through the Empire Strikes Back, after completing two lesser known stories in between that tie things together.

This is more than just another parody of Star Wars – which, even the artists will agree, is done to death. While they do make fun of the common things that were done by the likes of Robot Chicken and Family Guy, they up the ante with a laid-back Vader who is rarely seen without coffee, a Carrie Fisher-ized Leia, an Admiral Ackbar with Spider-Man-like qualities, and a hero in everybody’s favourite unknown character: Biggs Darklighter. Loving Star Wars fans that they are, they poke fun at George Lucas from the ’70s and current day, and how much change has been made to the original trilogy since its conception: an example of this is when they decide to change Chewie’s look, and incorporate it into the story rather than just go back and pretend the original look never happened.

Even if you aren’t a huge Star Wars fan (like me; look what I did in the name of fandom) you’ll get a kick out of BMS. The jokes and characters are enough to keep even someone who doesn’t like Star Wars in stitches.

So kick back, relax with a glass of blue milk (but avoid the special), and enjoy the ridiculous antics of Luke, Leia, Han, Vader – and not least of all Biggs.

Sorry, Han

How To Be A Canadian: a book review

How to be a Canadian. Don’t worry: here, the phrase is not punctuated by the usual soul-searching question mark. Instead, the Ferguson brothers boldly assert that, since they have both been Canadian their whole lives, they are uniquely qualified to dissect Canadian society. Besides, Margaret Atwood told them to do this book, but that’s another story.

As a guidebook, How to Be a Canadian contains “a wealth of information gathered from fact-filled articles that [the authors] sort of remember reading somewhere,” but frankly, the facts are there as a framework for a wicked sense of humour. The jokes, which fill every page, are sometimes juvenile: “There are 30,000,000 people in Canada– all of whom have, at some point, frozen their tongues to the side of a flagpole.” They are sometimes pointedly amusing: “Often, when the UN needs a cereal box translated, they call in the Canadians, who parachute out of stealth bombers clutching boxes of Capitaine Crounche.” And they are often laugh-out-loud, fall-out-of-bed funny: “There is the assumption that Canada has only two seasons: Winter and Not Winter…In fact, Canada has no fewer than six distinct seasons: Tax; Hockey; More Hockey; Still More Hockey; Summer (also known as the July Long Weekend); and finally Good God, Isn’t the Hockey Season Over by Now?!”

Will and Ian Ferguson divide their guidebook into such useful sections as How to Find Canada on a Map; Canada: A Rich Tapestry (Who to Hate and Why); and my personal favourite, Twelve Ways to Say “I’m Sorry.” Nothing defines the national character more than our “sorry,” especially vis-a-vis the Americans. As the authors point out, “once you learn how to properly say ‘I’m sorry,’ you will no longer be trying to become Canadian, you will have rewired your brain to such a degree that you will actually be Canadian.” For a true Canadian, the opportunities for saying “I’m sorry” are endless, but there is one uniquely Canadian “sorry”: the one you use when someone else steps on your foot.

The book concludes with a quiz designed to evaluate your level of Canadianness. For example, if you hear the name “Elvis” and think of figure skating, you get 1 point. If you can’t remember if you’ve ever curled or not, because of how drunk you were, you get 50 points. If you know the words to “Barrett’s Privateers” but not the national anthem, you get 10 points. And so on. The perfect score is zero points; I’ll let the Fergusons explain why: “So, you couldn’t even be bothered to do the damn quiz. Too much effort, eh? You just skipped to the end. Talk about slack. Talk about lazy. Talk about Canadian! Congratulations. You are now one of us.” –Marven Krug

If you’re American, English, Zimbabwean, what-have-you – I’m sure at one point you’ve wondered just what it’s like to be a Canadian, and if all the national stereotypes are true.

Let me – and this book – tell you that yes, they are.

Will and Ian Ferguson teach the reader how to dress like a Canadian (mullet, plaid flannel shirt, jeans), how to speak like a Canadian (our bastard language of English and American), and the proper use of the word eh? – which, unbeknownst to all nonCanadians, is an art form in itself.

The book is excellently written, with self-depreciating jokes peppered throughout (because Canadians are world-class at making fun of themselves), and is so spot-on with the Canadian history and cultures that it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in learning more about Canada.

Plus, Margaret Atwood suggested it. It has to be good, eh?

 

Dominant Race: a book review

Lilia is a genetically altered human – a modified – with special animal instincts and abilities. She is half wolf and half human under the microscope, and it shows in her territorial pack mentality.

When Lilia learns about a growing threat against all modified, she leaves home for the first time to join a militia that, like her and her family, survive in the fragmented remnants of the United States, the Old People country.

Their enemies?  The Eighth General of the Greater Cities and the ever-expanding devolved, degenerate modified that are mindless killers, blind instinct and rage in human form.  When a coup occurs in the First City, Lilia and the other defenders must choose: help reinstate a government in the business of killing their kind, or defend a radical modified in the business of killing everyone else?

Dominant Race is a novella by Elisa Nuckle, available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, with Apple to come. It’s only $2.99, and it’s a steal for something so enjoyable.

In a not-so-distant future, scientists and experiments have created a race of modified humans, those who have animal DNA mixed in with human. The main character, Lilia, is a wolf modified, living a sheltered life with her family in the ruins of North America. Although the strength of the animal DNA varies with each individual, Lilia’s wolflike characteristics are strong, and it shows in the way she behaves with others.

Throughout the course of the story, she has to learn the hardships of leaving home, discover a whole new world she never expected – and all the joys and difficulties that come with it – and doing what is right in the face of oppression and prejudice. It isn’t an easy path – when is it ever? – but the style of writing and the emotion evoked will leave you laughing, in tears, and desperately wanting more.

Dominant Race is dystopian science-fiction like nothing else; completely unique, with a cast of characters readers will fall in love with – and love to hate. I’m not just saying this because I’m friends with the author: Dominant Race is well worth the read, and since it’s only $2.99, how can you possibly go wrong?

The Gendarme: a book review

Now, it isn’t often I gush about books other than Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. However, for the past several months I was eyeing up a book at work: The Gendarme, by Mark T Mustian. I’m a history buff, and take a keen interest in tidbits of information unknown by most. An example of this, which ties into my interest in the Gendarme, was in my grade 11 social studies class. The teacher asked which of us had heard of the Holocaust; naturally, everyone raised their hands. He then asked which of us had heard of the Armenian Genocide. Just me? Okay. I also have a history of only reading books written in the past tense. I’m not sure why I was so biased, but there was something about the present tense that I couldn’t stand. Reading the Hunger Games changed my mind some, and I was ready to try it again.

What would you do if the love of your life, and all your memories, were lost—only to reappear, but with such shocking revelations that you wish you had never remembered…

A haunting, deeply moving novel-an old man comes face-to-face with his past and sets out to find the love of his life and beg her forgiveness.

To those around him, Emmet Conn is a ninety-two-year-old man on the verge of senility. But what becomes frighteningly clear to Emmet is that the sudden, realistic dreams he is having are memories of events he, and many others, have denied or purposely forgotten. The Gendarme is a unique love story that explores the power of memory-and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities and politics, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness, this is a transcendent novel.

Emmet Conn has been living a lie since the end of World War I – without even realizing it. A head injury wiped away much of his memory of his childhood and the war, and he was forced to rebuild after recovering in a British hospital. Emmet’s health is quickly deteriorating, beginning with a brain tumor, but what is most disturbing to him are the dreams of a deportation and genocide he didn’t even know existed. As the story progresses, Emmet learns more about his own mysterious past, as well as the history kept hidden and denied by Turks since the First World War.

What really struck me about the Gendarme is the style in which it is written. It is present tense, but I was able to overlook that because the descriptions were so vivid and flawless. The scenes written in the present, during Emmet’s health problems, are choppy and short, without too much detail. It puts you in Emmet’s head, and his distorted thoughts and confusion. On the other hand, the scenes written as dream sequences, or memories into the past, are clear and concise, with great detail and beautiful – and often disturbing – imagery. The reader experiences firsthand how horrific the deportations of the Armenians from Turkey really was, not just through the eyes of a Turkish soldier, but those of an Armenian deportee as well.

The end is so striking and heartfelt – and painfully heart-wrenching, as well. You’ll find yourself rooting for a senile old man, while knowing in the back of your mind how it will play out. I cried like a baby.

The Gendarme is disturbing and beautiful, and pinpoints a dark part of history that few really know about. I recommend it to anyone – whether you like history, love stories, or have a peculiar dislike for the present tense, or what have you – this book appeals to everyone.