Thursday, December 21, 2017

On Such a Full Sea - Lee, Chang-rae

This is one of those novels that you have to piece together the type of world you're in as you read, rather than have things laid out. It takes place in a form of America, one in which the land is exhausted and its original inhabitants are hardly to be seen. At some stage, society has split into three levels - Charters, where life is much as it is in posh areas in early 21st century America; grow facilities (gated communities of workers producing foodstuffs and other items); and Counties - everywhere else, where it is every man or woman for themselves. Almost everyone is sick, with something called C: those in grow facilities eventually succumb to it; those in Charters are treated with various chemicals that prove fatal and those in the Counties have far more than C to worry about. 
B-More is a grow facility in what was known as Baltimore: it is not clear when or why, but it has been deserted by its original inhabitants and is occupied almost exclusively by New Chinese (what happened in China is barely mentioned, I think because it is so many generations ago that few actually know). There is a shadowy thing called the Directorate which makes decisions for this community but no suggestion of any central government. The main product created here appears to be fish, grown in sterilised tanks - but history has shown that there are still risks to be faced, that even in these "ideal" conditions, the entire stock has had to be destroyed in the past, making this an ever-present threat.

Reg is a young man of B-More, who may or may not be entirely free of C. When he seems to have left B-More for the Counties, Fan follows him. She is 16, a tank diver, pregnant to Reg (although no-one knows) and has a special quality - it is not so much that she is strong-willed or full of volition (although she is more of each than is typical) but that she is the kind of person that people want to see succeed, that people just help without hesitation or self-interest. This means that out in the Counties, where everyone is at risk and young women particularly so, she has a charmed existence. She is soon taken in by Quig, a former vet in a Charter town who fell from grace when people stopped keeping pets because of the health risks they pose. He offers a primitive form of medical practice, where people are treated according to what they have to give.

To help his community, they have to go to a Charter town some distance away: Fan gets to hear about a gruesome event in Quig's past and they have one of their own, when they are taken in by a group of vegetarians who just happen to have dogs which need feeding. Obviously they escape and get to the Charter Town - this is about half way through the novel, and the rest of what happens, happens there. Quig gets what he wants, leaves Fan behind - and it is here that the one bad thing that happens to her, happens, or maybe it is stopped before it happens. Anyway, things get a bit weird at this point as the lady of the house has a collection of living dolls, women she has somehow accumulated who live entirely separated from the world. They are both captive and lacking any will to leave. 

Things get even stranger, in that while Fan might not find Reg, she finds a brother, one who might have found a cure for C. He faces a moral choice: he has spent up large, exceedingly so, in anticipation of selling his cure but part of the deal is that he has to hand Fan over - she's carrying Reg's child, after all.

Probably the strangest thing for me was the narration of this tale: the narrators are some unidentified people of B-More who never leave town or hear from Fan again, yet they purport to not only provide her history but that of the people she meets, such as Quig. There were other strange elements to the story - there seemed to be no means of communication, people don't read, the fact that things seemed quite organised (at least between the Charter towns and those supplying them) without any apparent organisation and Fan's own existence. Of course, it is possible that nothing is known about her, and this story is really about appeasing the people of B-More. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

800 Words S3E4

George thinks that surfing might be the answer to Shay's problems but she's really not into it - that look she gives him tells the whole story.
George’s article this week is musing about how age is not to be equated with wisdom, which links nicely with Woody’s problem. He has to go to go to Australia to get the ex-wife Tracey knows nothing about to sign divorce papers, so hits on the idea of saying he is going to a symposium of Australasian Registered Solar Engineers, but Tracey doesn't buy ARSES as a proper organisation. So Woody’s way out is reverse psychology - talking it down so she says he must go. When she worries that she can't find a website, Woody enlists Sean to make a website of mind-boggling tedium; he then gets Ike to make it - he does such a good job that Tracey is proud of him for going to such a hard out conference. Of course this is not the end of it - she wants to go, he persuades her it will be boring but George is so much better at lying, can he please make her happy about not going. Poor old Woody has a seriously mangled metaphor. But Woody is such an innocent and Smiler is no better - so George has to go, to protect his investment. Smiler, George, Woody - the three arses. Tracey is so kind and proud, she makes cool business cards - this tips Woody over the edge - she's too good for me, I have to break up and move far away. George talks him down.

At the end of the last episode, Ike's mum Ngahuia (Miriama Smith - haven't seen her for a while) arrives. Shay mentions it to Siouxsie while they are boxing. This causes a stir - Monty is also boxing but he loses attention and takes a punch to face. Sean apparently took to hiding from her, Hannah calls her a taniwha and Constable Tom obviously has bad memories of giving her parking ticket but Monty sees her as “an agent sent from heaven”, warns George to back off. So of course George and Ngahuia meet - wants him to consider Ike's experience was real, that Ike has something to say to him. Ike talks about his kaitiakis - he made promise if they would save him. Laura was one of his kaitiaki, which George naturally has trouble processing, more trouble with Laura's message “don’t be like dying fly on windowsill”.

 Shay knows what this means - something between her and her mum, Shay had been troublemaker when at school, the statement was made by the principal. Means - if she ever goofing around, mum was to use the phrase. Arlo says “that’s freaky” but underwhelming message from beyond the grave. There is much agonising over why Laura spoke to Ike and not George or Shay, but Arlo is the voice of reason: she might have been being mum, lending hand where most needed. We don’t need visit, doing OK.  

The other main story line was about Hannah, who wants to be cop, offers to be civillian support officer for Tom, but he is all "why - you have been a giant pain in my bum for years, you flirt with the wrong side of the law". She says too old for other choices, wants to be taken seriously - I think he was impressed, even more so when she gives a pretty accurate account of what Woody and co are up to.          

Spotless episode 7 - Say What You See

The episode starts with a tense Bastiere family dinner. Maddy is texting furiously, says it can't be rude as she's not interrupting anything, no-one has anything to say to anyone. Martin finished last episode being badly beaten - Julie stalks off - when did this become normal, Martin being badly beaten. She asks Jean, asks "You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?” knowing full well her husband is. Despite the last episode, Maddy is still asking Martin for help - how do you get someone to like you? Him: "Become irresistible by being unavailable". Her "He looks right through me." Him: "Life hurts." Later, Maddy is educating Martin on what it is like to be a teen - they all judge my rack. His advice - "don’t be a sheep, be a knockout"

Julie really wants Maureen (Jean’s right-hand-woman) to spill the beans - she tells her of the second book, for clients who can’t go through normal channels. Jean has a double murder to clean up - turf war, send a message killing - Nelson has killed Veysal (the Turkish gang man Martin has been dealing with) and his wife to show who is boss. Jean looks permanently troubled, as well he might. The remnants of Veysal's gang find him and pull a gun on him. They want Martin to make good on promises he made about Nelson. They know better than to start a feud but want Jean to spy on Nelson, so they can go after him “you work for me now”.

Jean gets home and who is waiting? Nelson “I thought we were exclusive”. At least he understands it was Martin’s doing but says if you (Jean) even have a craving for a shish kebab “I will end you”. Then Jean confronts Martin who, of course, was “just trying to help”. Jean: “I have two phones, two bosses, no way out” but I have that film of Nelson, might be a way out. Please don’t tell Martin where it is, he's a weak link. Martin actually has what turns out to be good advice - don’t trust a cop, just go. Jean meets with DCI Squire. She cautions him, says trust no-one, get a lawyer. Jean tells lots to Squire, says "He watches me" she says "We watch him" as if that is supposed to make him feel safe. Jean then takes a break, goes outside, which worries me about his safety, but he has to break up with Claire - she says her mum is dying.

Meanwhile, Martin is back with the helping, goes looking for Nelson and finds Sunny instead, says Nelson has to back off. Back at the station, Nelson comes into the interview room - obviously DCI Squire was not to be trusted “corrupt doesn’t come into it”. Despite his disclosures, she suspects he has more, wants to know what else he has, why he saw Kendricks’ widow. Jean to Nelson: “You’re not a philosopher, just a thug, that read a book once”. Visiting with Kendrick's widow, she mentions Fallowfield, the place in the country which neither Nelson nor Squire knew about.

Back at Nelson’s, Martin tells Sunny “I came here to invite your husband to kill me, in place of my brother”. They get into the medical marijuana, have a good chat. Sunny: "He’ll be home soon, you should leave but I could stay in town!" Digging Jean in even more deeply! At Fallowfield, Squire suggests Jean just go along with Nelson, have a good life.
Then things get rough - Squire just stands by while Nelson threatens to kill, does eventually walk away. Does she work it out? Yes, and Nelson’s goon has to go into the pond to find the film - there goes any leverage Jean might have had. All Squire can say is “that’s quite a selfie”. Don’t shoot him in front of me - there have to be boundaries. Then she gets worried about her own reputation - they left the station together, so if Jean turns up dead, she could be implicated.

Back home, the suspicion I had is confirmed - Martin is the bloke Maddy had in mind. At least he doesn’t go there. When Sunny calls, he’s off. “This can’t happen again - I don’t do this.” This is Nelson’s place! Will he find anything? An ear ring. Julie is home - luckily so is Jean. Ends with Jean back at the scene of Veysal's murder - cop says "they fucked the corpse of the wife". This looks like Victor's work.