Monday, August 31, 2020

All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward

 I saw Tanya Talaga deliver the first part of her five part Massey Lecture here in Thunder Bay.  I've never heard a Massey Lecture before, so I was curious if it would differ from the book form.

All Our Relations speaks largely to the suicide epidemic in Indigenous communities around the world.  Talaga argues that the inter-generational trauma caused by colonialism is largely at the root of this epidemic. Parents who themselves were traumatized in the residential schools and alienated from their culture are passing their trauma onto the younger generations, who in turn are bereft of their cultural and family ties, and, left feeling empty, are increasingly seeing suicide as the only way to deal with the pain and emptiness.  Indigenous people around the world are marginalized and fighting for their rights, often seen in negative and sometimes derogatory lights by the dominant cultures, and this as well is taking a toll on individuals.  

 Talaga shares some heartbreaking facts throughout the five lectures that comprise this book.  For this reason, All Our Relations is very informative and worth reading, particularly if you are part of the settler culture in places like North America, Australia, and Brazil.  I just wish the book was a little better organized; Talaga kind of goes all over the place with her anecdotes, and at times you are left wishing she had gone into more detail with them.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Truth About Stories

While browsing through the library's Indigenous Knowledge section, I came across the 2003 CBC Massey Lecture by Thomas King: The Truth About Stories.  I was intrigued, so I grabbed it.

The Truth About Stories is a really quick read. Like all Massey Lectures, it is composed of 5 chapters which comprised the 5 lectures in the series (although this one had an added bonus chapter which was not part of the lecture series).  I'm not familiar with King's writing, but I quite enjoyed The Truth About Stories.  It meanders at times within the chapters, but always gets back on point, sometimes in unexpected ways.  His writing is very friendly; I felt like he was literally hanging out and chatting.  

I also really liked how he structured the lecture.  There's a lot of repetition, particularly at the beginning of each chapter (the same story is told, although the details differ a bit), and the ending is very poignant (for example, here's the ending of chapter 1):

Take Charm's story, for instance. It's yours. Di with it what you will. Tell it to friends. Turn it into a television movie. Forget it. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.

You've heard it now.

Like the beginning of each chapter, the end differs in the details (there are different stories in each chapter, after all). But they all end with those last two lines.  

I also really liked how King builds to his thesis within the lecture series.  Again, his language and tone are very colloquial, which kind of lulls you into a false sense of security.  But then, again and again within each chapter (and even moreso within the last chapter because that is the end of the lecture series), his meaning hits you almost to the gut (yes, I did find it very visceral).  

This is a book that I want to read again and again.  It strikes me as the type of book that will not only stay with you, but that you will get more from the more you read it.  I'm also very interested in reading more from King as I really enjoyed his writing style.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Network Effect


I completely forgot that Network Effect, the fifth Murderbot Diaries book by Martha Wells, was coming out this spring.  I also forgot that I put it on hold at the library.  So I was pleasantly surprised to get it last week! :)

I wasn't sure where this book would be taking Murderbot.  I thought the story ended quite nicely in book 4.  It starts out with Murderbot being contracted out to provide security for some of Dr. Mensah's family on a voyage.  Everything is going fine until their ship returns to Preservation space and is attacked by what looks like ART (from book 2).  While trying to protect Amena (a teenager from Mensah's family - I'm not 100% sure of what their relationship is as Amena keeps calling Mensah "second mother"), Murderbot and Amena are forced to flee the ship and end up on ART.  Unfortunately, ART is gone and there are strange grey people (possible aliens, or humans who have been modified by an alien remnant) on board.  After admitting to deleting ART, they get more than they bargained for with Murderbot destroying them (they mistakenly thought Murderbot was a human). 

Network Effect took a lot of crazy twists and turns.  Some of the other humans from the Preservation mission got trapped along with them (their ship got pulled into the wormhole that the aliens took ART's ship through). ART hid a backup of himself for Murderbot to find.  Looking for ART's crew leads everyone to the planet where the grey people are from, which was a lost colony with quite a history.  Half of ART's crew were sent down to the planet, while the other half remained on a shuttle as hostages.  ART and Murderbot decide to make Killware as a last resort, which ART ends up deploying onto the shuttle.  The Killware is a copy of Murderbot's personality, and ends up calling itself Murderbot 2.0.  Meanwhile Murderbot 1.0 went down to the planet to save ART's crew but ends up getting captured itself, which leads to a battle against the enemy targetControlSystem.  Luckily Murderbot 2.0 found its way to Murderbot 1.0 to help.

Despite all the fun stuff happening, I had a really hard time reading this book.  The middle, when everyone was trying to figure out what was going on and where the missing crew was, really dragged (as did Murderbot and ART's feud).  Unfortunately it took me a lot longer to read this book as a result (all the other Murderbot books I couldn't put down; this one I had a hard time picking back up).  That being said, it was an interesting story, and I am looking forward to Murderbot #6 (ART asked Murderbot to join it on its next adventure, and Murderbot decided it wanted to, as long as it can come back to Preservation to visit Mensah.  This was the first time Murderbot knew what it wanted).

Also I forgot to mention, Murderbot 2.0 helped another SecUnit hack its governor module on the shuttle to help rescue ART's crew there.  This new SecUnit, which called itself Three, wants to help Murderbot too.  So I'm quite interested to see what happens with a second rogue SecUnit!