Skip to content

Bookitty bookitty boo

Redshirts – John Scalzi

It was always a matter of time before I read this one: I loved the premise of this book before I even read it. Redshirts, just to fill you in, are the extras who are inevitably killed off in Star Trek. Identified as lower-ranking staff by the red uniforms, their deaths are a handy way of elevating drama without bothering the audience too much. But what happens when the redshirts start comparing notes, and realise something’s observably off-kilter about the ship they’re serving on? And once they realise things aren’t right, how will they fix them? Scalzi’s book is a great read: fun and fast and interesting. It’s got a bit of — all right, a fair whack of — meta self-referential stuff, and I lapped it up. I’m not a deep science fiction reader, and I loved it: I expect if you are more familiar with a lot of science fiction, you’ll still love it. It’s funny, clever, and a great read. The book’s core themes look at humanity and free will, artistry and creativity, and a bit of the old carpe diem motif: interesting and thought-provoking, and wrapped up with great characters and a fun plot. Good stuff!

Nexus – Ramez Naam

A wee while ago I scooped a whole bundle of great books up at AngryRobot Books. (Love those DRM-free ebooks.) Nexus was one of them: and a fantastic read it is too. It explores the next generation (well, maybe not the very next, but one of the future ones) of drugs and the war on them. Nexus is a technological enhancement-slash-drug that allows, among other things, connectivity between minds. It can offer mind-blowing experiences from others’ perspectives and it can take compassion and understanding to heights they’ve never had. And the ERD, the US government’s department dedicated to controlling the spread of post- and transhuman technologies is not happy about civilians having it. Kade, one of the primary developers of the Nexus code, is taken by the ERD and coerced into becoming their tool in exploring the international trade, while struggling with his conflicted alliances. Nexus is a cyperbunk technothriller which touches on questions of self-rule, the right to advancement, and the right of governments to control their citizens. The book takes an unexpected tilt towards international spy thriller territory in the middle, which caught me off-guard. Not usually my bag, yLea dig? But the book overall kept it together well and was a fun ride! Liked it a lot: now reading the sequel, Crux.

Female Chauvanist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture – Ariel Levy

What a great read: if you’ve ever been a bit skeptical of pole-dancing as an empowering career-choice for women, but haven’t been able to pinpoint why, this is the book for you. This is one of the areas of culture that can be tricky to navigate: icons, activities and attitudes that feminism had previously freed a lot of women from are now creeping — rushing — back, and it can be hard for people to negotiate how they feel about that. If a woman takes delight in pole-dancing, is it because she’s empowered and proud of her body, or is it because she’s being rewarded with attention and/or money from the dominant group? If you’re not into pole-dancing, is it because you’re a prude or a backwards, no-fun, no-sex, bad-old-days-feminist? Levy investigates the rise of raunch culture: a culture where sleaze, ogling, and sexual exhibitionism/voyeurism are the predominant expression not only of female sexuality but of personhood and value.  Levy examines cultural phenomenon like Girls Gone Wild, pole-dancing as exercise, beauty trends and the mainstreaming of porn as she tries to get a handle on what happened to feminism. Levy’s point is not that these expressions of sexuality are wrong, but that endorsing and celebrating only one kind of sexuality is dangerous and oppressive, whether that sexuality is cheeky tit-flashing or stern repression of desire. As long as you’re encouraging the idea that only one kind of sexual behaviour is to be encouraged, you’re hurting a whole lot of people. Another angle of raunch culture that I’d like to explore more is the equating of sexiness with worthiness: hot or not, that’s all the options you get. Even in situations where this dichotomy should be meaningless (career choice, military actions, ethics and philanthropy), the ‘sexy’ choice is sometimes given superiority. I gravitated towards this book because it articulated something I’ve felt skeptical about for a long time (which should send your ‘selection bias’ warning doohicky bleeping wildly): that the word ’empowered’ gets used to mean something I never thought it meant. It’s being used to justify behaviours that can be otherwise construed as objectifying, disrespectful, and even harmful, but encourages women to undertake those behaviours “willingly”. Come on, let your inner slut out: aren’t you empowered? The problem is not that women shouldn’t behave in exhibitionistic, attention-seeking sexual behaviour: the problem is that no other form of sexual behaviour is respected. If you’re a woman who’s not really into that scene, you’re repressed, prudish, a feminist, or, worst of all, being “girly”. Levy’s book is a great starting point if you’re skeptical of some of the social trends emerging in Western gender dynamics, and you’re ready to start challenging where we, as a culture, are going.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *