RSS

‘Kros: Hallowed Ground’ by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake

Vampire Hunter Kros fights a battle at night as fearful and horrific as the battles fought during the day at the Battle of Gettysburg.

2516ee900fa495eaf492be3209f77a39_original

Kros: Hallowed Ground began over 10 years ago as a tale of horror set during the Battle of Gettysburg. A dream project for us both, it waited silently, like a vampire in the shadows… The story was written, some pages were drawn–atmospheric, dark murky landscapes, the dimly lit surgeon’s tent, a figure swirling from the smoke of battle…

It’s time to hear the wolf’s howl; to watch the undead descend like buzzards to the feast.  It’s time to unleash the vampires…

 All wars are horror stories.

Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The blood soaked battlefields of the Civil War draw Vampires who descend to feed on the wounded and dying as Blood calls to Blood. One man, a Vampire Hunter named Kros, stands against them, waging a battle at night as fearful and horrific as the battles fought during the day.

KROS: HALLOWED GROUND is a 128 page horror graphic novel by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. Kros is a dream project and Kros’ story is one we have been wanting to tell for a long time.

With just under 24 hours to go, this kickass Kickstarter project has been FULLY FUNDED! Absolutely epic news for John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake! :) The first stretch-goal has been achieved and the second, which will see 20 additional pages of content added to the graphic novel, is very close to being passed.

a6b271bf5ee270269ea0d8a1977fa8cb_original

 

THE STORY

Set against the backdrop of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, KROS: HALLOWED GROUND is a tale of horror that follows the story of Vampire hunter, Major Kros, who fights two wars. During the day, Kros fights the battle history remembers. At night, he fights a secret battle against supernatural forces.

Kros himself is an enigmatic character. He’s a dampyr – a vampire hunter – and has some of the vampire’s abilities. Long lived, Kros cares nothing for the politics of ordinary mortals. The Civil War means nothing to him. Kros is on the trail of the undead. There are considerable dangers to Kros as well–and death is not the worst of them. Blood calls to Blood and there is always the danger that could be turned and become that which he hates.

Around Kros are ordinary people, civilians and soldiers from both the North and South in the midst of a cauldron called Gettysburg. They have faced the conflict and horror of the battlefield and now must face an even greater horror. Vampires have followed the armies and come at night to feast on the fallen. A second battle is fought at Gettysburg of which the history books know nothing. That’s the tale we want to tell. We’ve waited a long time to tell it. With your help, it will happen.

The KROS: HALLOWED GROUND 128 page graphic novel will include character and production artwork by Tom Mandrake, cover/poster art, as well as a short KROS story by John Ostrander.

92f6e747e5f53328fb0407e3307213a5_original

Definitely a graphic novel I’m looking forward to devouring, and I’m really stoked for Tom and John that this dream of theirs is in the process of becoming a reality. :) If you’d like to help make sure that the next stretch-goal is reached and passed -and who wouldn’t? There is some really cool swag to be had in exchange for your help- check out the project’s page over at Kickstarter.

Massive congrats to John and Tom once again – very well deserved, guys! :)

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

Book Review: Empire of Night

This is book 2 in the Age of Legends series. Over here, you can read my review of book 1 Sea of Shadows. I knew I would return to this series because I adored the characters, and I’m really glad that I did because what I felt was lacking in book 1 was delivered in spades in book 2!

empire

No blurb this time because it would give away too many spoilers. This is going to be a spoiler-free review as well, so I won’t be discussing too much of the plot. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that this book kept me turning pages way past my bed time!

Book 2 picks up almost exactly where book 1 leaves us, weaving recaps of book 1 into the narrative in a way that didn’t feel like a major info dump. While book 1 was mostly about two girls traipsing through the wastes and battling legendary beasties, book 2 dives straight into what I thought was lacking in the first book: political intrigue! Book 2 introduces quite a few new characters which not only adds to the world-building but also forces the characters to grow and change in unexpected ways. Again, the girls are split up by circumstances and must face their own trials and tribulations, but the book never lets you forget that this story is first and foremost about the sister-bond between Moria and Ashyn. There is romance, but it always comes second to the love between the sisters which I found most refreshing.

While I found the world-building a little confusing in the first book, book 2 reveals far more about the cultures and construction of this fantasy world that seems to be a mesh between East and West, with a tendency toward 17th Century Japan although I think Armstrong does well to avoid some of the cliches while still introducing recognizable elements of the culture. There is also mention of foot-binding which was a Chinese practice, but the caste system comes straight out of Edo-era Japan. Coupled with the northern cultures we’ve only begun to get a taste of by book 2, I would say the world in this series isn’t a borrowed version of the ancient East so much as an continental amalgamation which I found really different from the vast majority of Euro-centric fantasy.

While there are no openly LGBT+ characters in the series – yet? – same-sex relationships are mentioned several times and seem to be accepted if not quite the norm. I’m not quite sure how this would work in a society very much concerned with family and lineage, but I hope that Armstrong explores this in the final book.

I cannot talk about the plot without giving away major spoilers. This book is all about the plot! There is substantial character development as well, but what kept me turning the pages was the political intrigue and wondering who the girls could trust, or who might betray them next. What I do absolutely love about this story is that the girls are both strong, independent young women who aren’t strong because they act like men. They are still young girls with a rather narrow if slowly broadening understanding of the world and people who use their significant skills to help themselves and others while not being afraid of asking for and accepting help when needed. Too often, strong female characters are written like male characters as if any show of femininity is somehow a show of weakness, but this is definitely not the case in this novel where the girls can do battle just as easily as they can chat about pretty dresses.

If I have any criticism of this book, it’s that the ending was a punch in the gut and is going to make the wait for book 3 a special kind of torment. While book 1 wasn’t my favourite, book 2 was excellent and I strongly recommend giving this series a chance because I’m sure it’s going to finish on a high! 5/5 splats for Empire of Night.

5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Book Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming

This book has been on my radar for ages. It’s also my first foray into the writings of Francesca Lia Block, but it certainly won’t be my last.

love global

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

What you need to understand before you venture into this story is that this is less science fiction and more magical realism. While Block does attempt to provide some sciency answers to what’s happening in this post-apocalyptic world, most of what’s going on is decidedly trippy and surreal. If you start trying to make sense of what’s happening in terms of science and technology, you will not enjoy this book. Rather, suspend your disbelief, and embrace the bizarre yet beautiful landscape Block effortlessly crafts with elegant prose.

This is the first YA magical realism book I’ve ever read and I absolutely loved it. At first, I was wondering how on earth the author would justify what was happening, but I quickly ceased to care about the details as I became utterly engrossed in the story and emotionally invested in the characters. There isn’t an awful lot of plot in this book. It’s really just a roadtrip adventure through a surrealist landscape with some obvious goals to keep the story moving forward, but the plot isn’t what’s important here, it’s the characters. I should mention that this story is quite openly inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, with some overt references to the classic. If you’re not au fait with Greek mythology, however, fret not as these references are fairly well explained given that the target audience is teens.

In the world of YA we talk a lot about diversity and the need for intersectionality – where minority meets minority – and this book delivers that in spades. While the story revolves around Pen – a teen girl coming to grips with her bisexuality – all four of the main cast members are queer teens. How refreshing to read about an entirely queer main cast! We have Hex, Ash, and Ez – each with their own gender identity, sexuality, racial identity, and socio-economic background. These traits are masterfully handled by Block so that at no time does the story seem preachy or like a lesson in privilege. Instead, the author weaves the back-stories of each character into the narrative in a way that helps the four friends understand each other and better come to terms with their situation.

In order to fully explain why I loved this book so much I need to give a few details about Hex and Pen which may seem spoilery, so skip the next paragraph if you’d prefer to avoid spoilers…

Hex is a trans boy with whom Pen falls in love. Their relationship brings to mind the unfurling of a flower as they get to know each other and their own hearts. I have never before read open-door sex featuring a trans character in YA fiction. Block handles the love scenes between Pen and Hex as she does everything else in this book, with an easy elegance that results in scenes of true beauty, scenes that are honest and open without becoming crass. I think it’s important to show trans teens having normal relationships and exploring those relationships physically without the usual genital fixation that comes from the cisgendered. This book shows that love is love, subtly giving the reader insight into Hex’s identity while also developing Pen’s character and burgeoning sexuality. Kudos to the author for going there in this book and doing it so well!

Spoilers are over!

This book has a dreamlike quality to it with refined prose referencing art and music in a way that made my nerd hurt extremely happy. References to Goya and Bosch abound – two of my favourite artists – so this was a personal win for me! For anyone who enjoys magical realism and is looking for something a little different, or is looking for a diverse read, I strongly recommend Love in the Time of Global Warming. I’m now going to hunt down the sequel and then make my way through the rest of Block’s works. 5/5 splats for this book!

5 inksplats

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , ,

For Exposure: An Interview with Apex’s Jason Sizemore

What does it take to become a Hugo and Stoker Award-nominated editor and publisher? Follow Jason Sizemore’s unconventional professional path as it winds through a tiny, overheated Baptist church deep within the coal fields of Appalachia, Kentucky, past a busted printer and a self-serving boss that triggered an early mid-life crisis and the epiphany that he should open a magazine spreading the gospel of science fiction to the masses, all the way to WorldCon 2012 and his first Hugo Awards ceremony.
For_Exposure_CVR002sm_1024x1024

In this collection of semi-true and sometimes humorous essays, Jason exposes the parties, people, and triumphs that shaped him into the Apex Overlord. He also lays bare the hardships and failures that have threatened to take it all away. Meet Thong Girl, heed the warning about the ham, receive rest stop bathroom wisdom, and visit an emergency room straight out of a horror movie in this extraordinary account of life as a publisher and editor.
With rebuttal essays from Maurice Broaddus, Monica Valentinelli, Lesley Conner, and more, For Exposure tells Jason’s story with insight from key players along his road to success. It is a comprehensive and frank look at what Apex and the genre publishing business is about. Take a shot with the publisher, dance the night away, and become a legend.

And do it all For Exposure.

 

Q. For Exposure seems to be equal parts Apex tell-all, an honest look at the publishing business in general, and a hopeful outlook on the next 10 years of Apex Publications. When you first set out to write the book, did you always intend to mix these themes or did you initially plan to focus more on one than the others?

A. One of my worst traits is that I am an optimistic. When something isn’t working out, my mindset isn’t “Cut my losses and run” but “If I simply work harder things will turn around.” Of course, you can’t just force of will into success, and some of these disastrous and poor decisions derived from my stubbornness I tried to share in For Exposure. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, ya know.

Q. Through Apex Magazine and Apex Book Company, you’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest names in speculative fiction: Lavie Tidhar, Brian Keene, Damien Angelica Walters just to name a few. Is there a particular author you were especially excited to work with?

A. Even after ten years in the publishing business, I still have many fan boy moments. You should have seen me at World Con in 2012 where I think I frightened Jacqueline Carey! My inner fan boy squealed when Tom Piccirilli contacted me with the pitch for What Makes You Die. I believe Tom has written one of the defining southern Gothic novels of our time: November Mourns. Having the opportunity to work with such a gifted writer has been a highlight of my career.

Q. A lot of the stories in For Exposure seem to occur at conventions. How many conventions to do you tend to attend in a year, and how important do you believe they are to the success of a small press publisher?

A. I try to do 5 proper conventions a year. They’re so time consuming, expensive, and exhausting that doing more than five is a real stress on a person’s stamina. Having said that, they’re incredibly fun and are important in terms of networking, promotion, and sales. Convention appearances by ‘Apex’ and associated staff is a lot more cost-effective than taking out an ad in a genre publication such as Locus. Genre small press makes a sizable percentage of revenue from the “true fans”, and many true fans attend conventions. So I believe attending major conventions is of the utmost importance.

Q. There is a particularly disturbing story in For Exposure about ham. Just reading it, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat it again. Do you eat ham or did the experience turn you off of it forever?

A. My mother-in-law makes a really tasty honey baked ham using Coca-cola. I loved that ham. After what happened in Nashville, it took me a couple of years before I could stomach eating her ham again. I’m sure my sudden, inexplicable distaste for her signature dish offended…but when you associate the smell and appearance of ham to the sound of sweaty thighs slapping together…

I’ll not go into further details. You just have to read it in the book.

Q. There are several rebuttal essays written by those who have been a part of Apex over the years. How was it asking people to write rebuttals to your essays? Was there anyone in particular that made you little nervous about the response you might get?

A. No one turned down an opportunity to write a rebuttal. Let’s just say that these people know me well and knew the safest recourse was to offer their sides of the story!

I didn’t feel nervous about any of the rebuttals. But there were a couple that I looked forward to reading the most. In particular, Lesley Conner and Monica Valentinelli. Lesley has worked closely with me for years. To get her perspective was fascinating. Monica’s rebuttal addresses a “controversial” incidental in the Apex mythology: the warm splatter. While I disagree with her take on the situation, I loved that she wrote such a funny, open, and honest(?) response.

Q. Your first book Irredeemable is a short story collection. Your second is nonfiction. Are there any novels in Jason Sizemore’s future?

A. Oh, I get this question a lot! The hope is “Yes, yes, there will be dozens.” The truth is “I don’t know, we will see.” I’m co-writing a novel with Maurice Broaddus titled Serpent. It’s a dark SF crime piece set in the slums of alternate Indianapolis where two factions fight over a new drug created by a preacher with the venom of the snakes he handles at his church.  I just need life to slow down enough for me to finish my part of the book.
 
Buy the book over here:

For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher

About Jason Sizemore:

Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions seeking friends and free food. Visit him online.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Interviews

 

Tags: , , ,

New Release: Eden Underground by Alessandro Manzetti (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Hey folks, something brand new and different for you!

Released today, and costing you only .99c – a collection of dark, visceral poetry by Alessandro Manzetti:

Eden Underground full cover

“Eden Underground delivers an intense and visually stunning collection of horror scenarios. Rich in eldritch dreams and manic visions
these poems get under your skin. Manzetti is a maestro of the dark fantastic.”
– Bruce Boston, author of Resonance Dark and Light

“…a personal take of the world that surrounds all of us, those hidden parts that create monsters and that serve as a dwelling place for demons that invade our lives, thoughts and actions.” – Tanja Jurkovic, Horrornews.net

“From the first stanza of the first poem in this amazing collection, I was drawn into the incredibly dark scenes of a disturbing and nightmarish “Eden”.”Marge Simon, multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner

The works by Alessandro Manzetti are exciting and clever. Anything he writes is a must-read.” 
– Jeani Rector, Editor, The Horror Zine

“… Manzetti’s intelligent view has the ability to create out of such horrors, powerful and admirable images that can surprise.”  – Helen McCabe, author of Piper

“I couldn’t put it down. So intense is the writing that I had to keep reading. If you have never read a book of poetry before or if you never thought you could be a fan of poetry let this book be the one to introduce you to the words of verse.”Horror Novel Reviews

Check out Alessandro’s website here, order your copies here, and don’t forget to check out Crystal Lake Publishing for more fantastic, creepy reads! :)

Be EPIC!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Film Review: Jupiter Ascending

The trailer for this looked so pretty and ridiculous, I just knew I had to watch it… and last night, I finally did.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Jupiter-Ascending-poster

Last week I reviewed the Wachowskis’ foray into Netflix and awarded their efforts with Sense8 five glorious splats. This week, I’m reviewing their latest cinematic offering: the ever so lavish if somewhat over the top, Jupiter Ascending.

Jupiter Ascending is based on a well-worn fantasy trope, that of the ignorant Chosen One being thrust into a chaotic world when they eventually become aware of who they really are and their grand destiny etc. We’ve seen it a dozen times before and the execution here didn’t really offer anything fresh, except that Mila Kunis is a Russian immigrant in Chicago, which added an extra layer – albeit thin – to the Cinderella-esque aspects of this story.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy, I don’t think this movie is meant to be taken seriously, but it could’ve been a lot more awesome had as much time been taken with the story and character development as was clearly taken with the ostentatious sets and costuming. This film is exquisite and attention to detail is excellent, from the way feathers sprout in a goatee on the token black guy to the intricate tribal etchings on the spaceships. This film should win an Oscar for set- and costume-design. But it’s a superficial prettiness, a gilded veneer that adds little sparkle to a lacklustre storyline.

Having recently watched 2010: Odyssey 2 and in the wake of films like Prometheus, I wasn’t super impressed by the idea of a master alien race being the seeds of human life across the universe. The reason why this alien race seeds human life was even more implausible, at least in the way it was portrayed. Here’s where we get into spoilery territory… so apparently, the master race who has a near-religious affinity with genetic engineering, splices their DNA into native populations on planets in order to grow these populations for a harvest which results in an immortality elixir providing the wealthy uppercrust of the master race longevity and youthful appearances. Now this I can totally get behind, but why would said master race leave humans on Earth to their own devices, allowing them to develop nuclear weapons to a point where they might actually be able to defend themselves from an incoming harvest? These master aliens and their various minions are also capable of erasing memories, turning invisible at will, and restoring buildings after Man of Steel-scale destruction in a matter of hours, so why they don’t take advantage of some very real and easy opportunities to kill Mila Kunis’s character and the eponymous Jupiter, I have no idea. Because plot convenience.

Okay, so this film is science fantasy in the vein of Star Wars and John Carter of Mars so I shouldn’t examine the science of this too closely, but a master race that farms and obliterates entire planets, should at least have more effective weapons when they are desperately trying to kill a target. Nope, instead they have what amounts to stun guns allowing the hero to swoop in in the nick of time to save the damsel in distress, again and again and again.

Jupiter’s character is a space Cinderella but instead of a fairy godmother, she has a magical genome and becomes a queen, not a princess. She also gets a genetically spliced space werewolf with wings instead of a prince – the princes here are trying to kill her – which is kinda cool, but Channing Tatum is less wolf and more elf. They give him this whole vicious backstory – that’s never explained – but never show him going full beast (despite allusions to Beauty and the Beast – barf!). In fact, most of the time his facial expressions range between kicked puppy and a dog about to get belly rubs leaving him as a cardboard cut-out, one-dimensional, stereotypical yet reluctant hero. As such, he swoops – literally, given his gravity-surfing boots – in to save Jupiter from her own idiocy time and time again. It becomes so predictable that there is zero tension in this film. Zero. You know he’ll save her and they’ll all survive major explosions and other certain-death moments because this film is all about the happy ending. I’m not against Disney-esque uplifting feel-good films, but I’d like the film to at least throw a few curve balls and maybe have believable moments of angst. It’s not a good sign when you start rooting for the hero to die just to make the film a little less predictable and pedestrian. Also, this love story. Yeah, I have nothing good to say about it. Cute at best, but oh so very trite.

About this hero business. I am so sick of seeing this damsel in distress trope and Jupiter here was the most reactive, idiotic female protagonist ever, who needed constant saving from herself by the big, burly dude. I’m not sure if it was Mila who thought it was a good choice or the director, but to have her utter these little gasps every time something astonished her – almost always – was a bit much. There were precisely two stronger female characters, one was a psycho bitch trying to outwit her brothers who vanished from screen after her five minutes were up and the other was a stoic space captain- hooray for a person of colour! But sadly the only one of any significance in this film. I am absolutely not counting the token Asian and black guy hunters who appeared and disappeared just as quickly without serving much relevance to the plot. In a fantasy film featuring feathered aliens and even sentient dragon-people, why couldn’t the royal house of Abraxas be people of color or even biracial? Nope. Given the aliens’ obsession with genetics, I find this an interesting choice that smacks of Aryan eugenics. Perhaps it was meant to make a statement about the evils of such things. I’m not sure. As a side note, there was no apparent LGBT+ representation in this film either, making it pretty ordinary Hollywood sci-fi fare.

The best part of this film was Eddie Redmayne’s character – a totally unhinged alien royal with some serious mommy issues. He was by far the most complex character, but he hardly got any screen time and when he did, he didn’t have much to do other than be an asshole. There were a few moments where we got to see his more complicated and vulnerable side toward the end of the film and I was looking forward to him developing a relationship – however creepy – with Jupiter (the genetic recurrence of his mother) but that gets cut short in the interest of flashy action scenes that got boring after the first thirty seconds because it’s so painfully obvious Channing won’t die despite getting mauled by a dragon. And he still didn’t wolf out! I feel cheated! *sulk*

Did I enjoy this movie? Weirdly sort of yes. It was brainless entertainment and two hours of eye candy. The score is also pretty impressive thanks to Michael Giacchino. Would I sit through this film again? Not if you paid me. Would I see a sequel? Only if Channing goes full space werewolf! It was ridiculous fun, but these days I’m looking for more than that in my sci-fi. We already get the fun, spectacular, hilarious stuff from Marvel. I wanted a lot more from this movie that seemed to have a huge creative force behind it but lacked the courage perhaps, to blaze a trail into new territory the way the Wachowskis’ did with The Matrix. Perhaps that’s the biggest problem. Every time I watch a film by these siblings, I expect to have my mind blown the way I did with The Matrix, and then I’m left only with disappointment when it doesn’t happen. 2/5 ink splats for me, for being exceptionally pretty and somewhat entertaining.

2 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

TV Series Review: Sense8

Netflix has done it again, delivering a sterling scifi series that challenges the tropes and traditions of the genre as well as traditional storytelling, understanding of gender and sexuality, and so much more.

*I’ve tried to keep plot spoilers to a minimum but I do reference aspects of characters that could be considered spoilery – you’ve been warned*

sense8-poster

I’ll admit I wasn’t convinced by the first episode. While I liked the premise of this series, the first episode felt chaotic and left me feeling untethered in the maelstrom. There were so many characters, so many cultures and identities packed into 60 minutes, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know who to care about. Consequently, I didn’t really care about any of them and ended the episode feeling weirdly detached from a series that is all about the depth of human connection. Suffice it to say, after chatting to friend online and IRL, I gave the next episode a chance to draw me in and draw me in it did. I proceeded to binge watch half the series in one sitting.

Here’s what makes Sense8 so special and different and worth watching whether you’re a fan of scifi or not…

1) The premise actually done well. There have been a bunch of series – like Heroes and most recently the short-lived Messengers – that endeavoured to connect a disparate group of people by ethereal means. While the other shows have been tragically Western and woefully homogenous (mostly Americans connecting with other Americans where the biggest difference between them is their socio-economic background and possibly race), Sense8 goes all out to entangle 8 people from completely different worlds. In the one ‘cluster’ we have a kickass businesswoman from Seoul involved in an embezzlement scandal, a taxi driver from Nairobi whose mom is dying of AIDS, an Icelandic DJ living in London who gets caught up in the world of drugs, a gay Mexican telenovela star in the closet, a lesbian transwoman and hacktavist living in San Fransisco, a Chicago cop with daddy issues, an Indian woman struggling to come to terms with a loveless engagement, and a German thief with ties to organised crime. These 8 people represent an array of gender identities, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, moral codes, and ideologies. The writers seem knowledgeable and sympathetic to the cultures/identities they’re representing on screen although some of these representations still tend toward stereotype. This generally good approach elevates the show beyond quirky scifi fare, making it an exploration of the human condition through various lenses.

2) United by having been born on the same day as sensates, all these people in the cluster start to feel each other’s emotions, and experience each other’s thoughts as well as physical sensations. This allows for some truly unique experiences such as the taxi-driver in Nairobi who has never been out of the country or on an airplane to suddenly experience flying and what life is like around the world through the eyes of others. This is also where the show breaks new ground when it comes to exploring gender identity and sexuality. WARNING – SPOILER AHEAD! SKIP TO POINT 3 TO AVOID— In episode 6 there is a phenomenal ‘orgy’ scene where a couple of the characters are having sex – namely the two gay characters (with their respective partners) – and unwittingly pull the others in their cluster into their experience. This results in the gay Mexican man experiencing lesbian sex, the straight Chicago cop experiencing gay sex etc. The scene is pure art, expertly choreographed to communicate not only the amount of physical passion occurring between characters, but also the transcendental experience these characters are a part of as they switch between various viewpoints. I take my hats off to the producers here because no one – gay or straight – appears to have a negative reaction to this experience, but accepts it for what it is: a borrowed, shared event that expands their mind without compromising who they are. *I just want to hug Netflix for allowing this scene to happen*

3) The scifi-ness takes a back seat to the exploration of humanity. While the show goes to great lengths to show how different each character is and how the events of their lives have uniquely crafted their identity, the show also shows in a most poetic way that no matter where you are on Earth, no matter what your race, religion, or gender, we are all human and can relate to one another on an almost primal level. When one of the cluster is hurting, the others feel it, and the show indulges the audience with fairly long scenes between pairs of character where they simply talk about their emotions, their lives, their thoughts. This is where Sense8 breaks from traditional scifi storytelling to deliver raw and honest dialogue in place of adrenaline-pumping action scenes. In fact, despite what’s going on in the background which definitely does get the adrenaline pumping plot-wise, the show is content to slow down and spend time allowing the characters to discover each other and in turn, discover more about themselves. It really is quite beautiful to see people from such different worlds connect so viscerally with each other. And, of course, there is no judgement, no prejudice, because these characters are literally walking in each other’s shoes, feeling what the other feels, knowing what the other knows. Gah! I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

sense8

4) This show doesn’t shy away from tough topics and is, at times, rather difficult to watch. Once again, being on Netflix has given this show a lot of freedom with its content which has resulted in pretty explicit sex scenes (although nothing gratuitous in my opinion) and some unflinching violence – although the show’s focus is definitely more on drama than action. Still, the themes of this show make for some potent emotional content that left me wanting to punch certain characters, rail against the universe, hug a pillow and weep, and jump up and down in elation – sometimes all in the span of a single episode.

5) The trans character in Sense8 is played by a transwoman in real life and the portrayal of Nomi is excellent (it definitely shows that a trans person – Lana Wachowski – was behind this project)!

Note: the characters all speak their own language, but because knowledge is shared between the cluster, they all speak each other’s language which results in the Nairobi man speaking Korean, the German man speaking Punjabi etc. just in case you were wondering how this mass communication was able to take place.

Also, ever since Riley was introduced as Icelandic, I was waiting for the inclusion of a track from Sigur Ros or perhaps Of Monsters and Men – they sure made me wait, but the show finally delivered my music! ;)

Okay, so those are all the things that make the show brilliant and worthy of any and all awards and all your attention. But, I’m nothing if not nitpicky when it comes to scifi and there are a couple of things that do bother me.

1) The cultural/racial stereotypes. While I do think this show goes a lot further than most – any, possibly in this genre – to explore racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, it does tend to full into the traps of stereotypes, such as the dutiful Indian girl marrying a man her parents approve of or the Asian woman who is proficient at martial arts. While I think the show uses these stereotypes to allow their Western target audience to better identify with the characters (although I think its somewhat tragic that Western audiences can only relate to people who are different from them via stereotype!!), I do hope that the writers explore new ground and break away from these stereotypes in seasons to come.

2) Some of the scifi elements are a little odd. For example, these characters can visit each other where they appear physically to one another and can physically interact. This seems to contradict the initial idea that they would be experiencing the world through the other sensate, meaning they could only feel what that person felt sensory wise, and they’ve even shown this a few times – such as a visiting character drinking tea only to have the next scene cut to show the non-visiting character as the one who was drinking the tea. But later, this becomes confused – or blatantly ignored – as characters start to physically interact with one another and the world. In one scene one of the visiting characters drives a car while the existing character sits in the passenger seat. Since in other scenes, the visiting characters remain invisible to everyone but the cluster member and characters are shown to be seen ‘talking to themselves’ by external observers, does this mean that someone watching the car scene would’ve seen a driver-less car hurtling down the road? There’s also the matter of ‘contact during unconsciousness’ that seems a matter of convenience. Minor points of contention, but in a show that does everything else so well these inconsistencies irk me.

Right, so that’s enough about this brilliant show. What are you still doing here? You should be on Netflix watching Sense8! This show scores 5 spectacular ink splats from me.

5 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Reviews

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,763 other followers