Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things (Silvia Moreno-Garcia)Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5

After humans discover the existence of vampires in the 1960s, they’ve been pushed out into the open, slowly taking over drug trafficking and fighting over control of territories. After the fighting between her clan and the Godoys leaves Atl’s family dead, she flees to Mexico City, pursued by the scion of the Godoy family. But Mexico City is a vampire-free zone, and they’re both being pursued by veteran cop Ana Aguire, who is sick of dealing with both the bureaucracy and they body count in Nick Godoy’s wake.

Then there’s Domingo, who’s been surviving on his own since his stepdad kicked him out years ago. He’s infatuated with Atl, who, despite not having the time for it, feels strangely attracted to this earnest, naive boy.

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Cleverman

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Cleverman || Hunter Page-Lochard, Rob Collins || Sci-fi, Dystopia, Contemporary || ★★★★☆ – 4 stars

warnings for: racism, medical abuse/human experimentation, state violence/police violence, sexual violence, general violence/gore,

At once heartbreaking and hopeful, the Australian dystopian series Cleverman follows Aboriginal brothers Koen and Waruu West in the aftermath of a world that has just discovered the existence of Hairypeople.

I’ve been trying to write this review for months, but there’s just so much to talk about, and I have nothing coherent to say, so I’m just going to recommend that you watch this show. Don’t watch it all at once, because I marathoned it, and it kind of fucked me up, because it’s really heavy. I don’t mean it in that maudlin, overwrought way of writers who want sympathy for cheap, but because the way oppression is realised within the world of Cleverman so closely mirrors the way those structures actually play out in real life.

For all this is a fantasy series, it often rings so close to life that it was extremely difficult to watch, but one of the things Cleverman does really well is show how being at the intersections of differently oppressed identities may change the nature of your oppression––for Djukara, for example, this manifests as police brutality and prison abuse. For Araluen, on the other hand, it becomes the basis for sexual exploitation and rape.

But the one thing Cleverman doesn’t do is negate the oppression that exists in real life in favour of its fantasy oppressions. The title of the series, after all, is Cleverman, a position of great importance in many Aboriginal cultures. Much of the cast is Aboriginal, as is the series creator, and within the narrative, Aboriginal rights and racism against Aboriginal Australians is very closely tied with discrimination against Hairypeople. I don’t have much knowledge of Australian racial politics and even less knowledge about Aboriginal cultures, but the way it was handled in the series felt nuanced.

One of the strongest interpersonal dynamics in the series was the relationship between the main characters, half brothers Koen (the titular Cleverman) and Waruu (who more openly covets the position). To be honest, they’re both pretty horrible people, but there is a volatile energy in their mutual hatred (and our initial disdain for them) that really drives the emotional heart of the story forward, even as the sociopolitical events of the plotline belong in the hands of the rich and powerful.

There were a few things that I felt could have been done better. Aside from the possible exception of Latani, most of the women in the narrative felt secondary and sidelined, and all of them felt underdeveloped and underutilised for all that I thought they were the most interesting characters. Most of the portrayals also felt a little regressive, and many of the women have absolutely no agency in their own lives. All this felt quite disconcerting for a series that did so well in other areas (though some of the other characters felt kind of stock-y as well), but I have high hopes that this will be sorted in the second season. Which, if you can’t tell, I’m eagerly waiting for.

Moonshine

6977329Title: Moonshine
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Genre: Historical Fiction (Alt/Spec Fic), Mystery, Supernatural, Action, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5 out of 5.0

Zephyr Hollis has a reputation as a do-gooder. As a singing vampire suffragette, actually. From Brooklyn to Midtown to Battery Park to the LES, she and her bicycle are near-ubiquitous as she runs from protest to meeting to night school, where she teaches. One night, before class, she comes across a young boy, victim of an Other attack, and tries to save him. She’s helped by Amir, a mysterious Other who attends her classes, who in turn offers her a deal: if she will help him track down Rinaldo, the vampire mob boss whom she suspects is behind the attack of the child, he will pay her a much needed $200. The more Zephyr investigates, though, the more she finds herself compromised by her growing attraction to Amir, and by the feeling that something is very, very wrong.

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Skinwalker

skinwalker

Title: Skinwalker
Author: Faith Hunter
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ || 1.0 star

Jane Yellowrock doesn’t remember anything about her life. She was twelve when she walked naked out of the forest with no recollection of her past beyond the fact that she’s a Skinwalker. Years later, she’s become an accomplished vampire hunter contracted to come to New Orleans––to work for vampires. New Orleans has been plagued by a rogue vampire, who aside from attacking humans, has also been turning on his own. And though Jane heads to Louisiana determined to claim a kill that will put her on the map, what she ends up finding may be more than she bargained for.

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Mermaid (2016)

101941heqsj8xjxpwxsp2qTitle: 美人鱼
Starring: 林允,邓超,罗志贤,张雨绮
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Contemporary, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ || 3.5

CW: body horror, violence, blood

Every Sino of a certain age and background has fond memories of growing up with at least one Stephen Chow film. For me, it was Shaolin Soccer because I was (and remain) obsessed with Zhao Wei. For others, it’s Kung-Fu Hustle. Or God of Cookery. Whatever that film was, I feel like we can all agree that as a director, actor, and comedian, he is highly underrated outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, even when screencaps and gifs of his films are taken out of context for comedic effect, erasing his presence and his work from the laughter he produces.

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