Claire-Dee Lim

Writer, Content Marketing

Category: Books (page 1 of 3)

Body Hopping in the Fierce World of Altered Carbon

At last … one of my favorite sci-fi books has been adapted into a series. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan arrived last Friday on Netflix. When I first read the novel, I was mesmerized by the world Morgan created: a world where consciousness could be downloaded into a type of chip located at the base of the neck called a cortical stack. It could then be placed in a body (known chillingly as a sleeve). That sleeve could be a real body, a clone or a synthetic.

The ramifications of this concept are dizzying. Say your body was injured or diseased, and you had the money to pay for a new sleeve—because in this world and like most sci-fi, the wealthy have all the options—you could essentially live forever. But if you’re not rich, this world is not your oyster; it’s grim, gritty, ultraviolent and rife with sexual exploitation.

The 10-episode series is also a future-noirish crime story lead by our hero Takeshi Kovacs. Played by Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, RoboCop), who buffed out uber hard to play our conflicted hero, Kovacs is a mercenary who’s stack has been imprisoned for 250 years for crimes against the state. And now’s he’s been re-sleeved by one of the Meths (as old and rich as Methuselah, get it?) to solve who murdered him. Yes, this rich dude (James Purefoy) is alive again! His consciousness was backed up to his personal cloud before his stack was blown to bits. You see, once your stack is kaput, you’re irretrievably dead.

While the series made some dramatic changes to the novel that weren’t entirely satisfying to me, the overall result was thrilling and very cool. Budget was rumored to be around $100 million. Whatever the budget, every cent is evident on-screen. If you’re a lover of Philip K. Dick’s novels and the polluted, ad-fueled and rainy world of Blade Runner—which turned those motifs into sci-fi visual canon—you must check it out!

 

Handmaid’s Tale: Far From a Brave New World

Would you rather be sent to the Colonies and made to clean up toxic waste until “your skin falls off in sheets” or be forced into becoming a birthing surrogate for an infertile couple? These hideous and oppressive scenarios are what the character Offred must face in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in a dystopian near-future, the U.S. is controlled by a totalitarian Christian fundamentalist regime that shoves women into various servant classes while denying them independence and rights.

Now Hulu has begun streaming its 10-episode adaptation starring Elizabeth Moss. Three episodes have already been made available, and let me tell you the series is just as creepy and chilling as the novel. At times it’s even tough to stomach. Especially the scenes where the handmaids are raped in grotesque mating rituals, aided by the complicit, barren wives of the elite commanders. Horrifying.

In the current political climate, one of the novel’s central themes, the destruction of feminism, has taken on a deeper resonance. And like 1984, it should be no surprise that The Handmaid’s Tale has topped Amazon’s bestseller lists. As the battle for reproductive rights rages on in the U.S., Atwood’s story reminds us once again how women’s independence is tied to the ability to control our bodies.

Rock Memoir Round-Up

Here’s a niche for you: rock memoir audiobooks. If they’re read by the author, I’m in! Musicians may be performers but those abilities do not guarantee they’ll be great narrators of their own stories. The good ones—Elvis Costello for example, who adds vocal animation and phrasings like any professional reader—bring extra insights and drama to their tales. While someone like Kim Gordon, bassist for Sonic Youth, her affectless tones give off a sense of remoteness. Even when she’s revealing something personal, she still feels like a cipher. Very much like her too-cool-for-school performances on stage.

If audiobooks and rock ‘n’ roll stories are your thing, you might want to check these out:

Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe & Tom DeSavia

X bassist John Doe and other punk notables, like Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins, give the down and dirty about the origins and evolution of the Los Angeles punk scene. The essays are also read by their authors. This one brought me back to memories of these scenesters at some of their insane and historic shows.

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello

Costello’s memoir is as wordsmithy as his lyrics. His story dives deeply into his childhood, his father’s background as a working bandleader and that influence on his musical career. I warn you it’s lengthy and a fair amount of time is spent deconstructing his music, but if you know his records, especially his new wave ones, Costello offers up some funny anecdotes.

Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon has a fascinating story to tell. She chronicles her journey from being a Westwood Cali girl to co-founding Sonic Youth with Thurston Moore and to the pair of them becoming New York-noise rock royalty. She paints a vivid picture of the scene and her creative process.

 

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

I admit, I was never a big fan of Sleater-Kinney, but I’m a huge fan of Carrie Brownstein. Her hilarious and audacious turns in Portlandia inspired me to listen to her candid memoir. Brownstein adds amusing timing and pathos to her journey of self-discovery through music.

 

At the end of 2016, when I heard that Johnny Marr, legendary guitar hero of The Smiths, had a new autobiography, Set the Boy Free, I nearly plotzed! The audiobook is on my device; I can’t get to it yet for I’m immersed in Nathan Hill’s The Nix, all 22 hours of it! Reports on both to come.

Happy listening!

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