Post-Apocalyptic Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Book: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Format consumed: Ebook, also available in hard copy (Fishpond, Booktopia)

Plot summary (Goodreads):

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed or sterile and raised in the Shell. As, one by one, the survivors grow sick and die, Pete and the Six struggle to put aside their anger at the alien Tesslies in order to find the means to rebuild the earth together. Their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings. Suddenly her predictive algorithms begin to reveal more than just criminal activity. As she begins to realize her role in the impending catastrophe, simultaneously affecting the Earth and the Shell, Julie closes in on the truth. She and Pete are converging in time upon the future of humanity—a future which might never unfold.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

I don’t think I agree with the plot summary in Goodreads.  I’d rewrite it as follows (unless I read a completely different book).

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed and sterile and raised in the Shell. The original survivors are growing old and sick, and some have died. Pete and the Six blame the alien Tesslies for the end of the world and their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool, and supplies to make their lives more comfortable.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings and thefts. With each new data point her predictive algorithms are more accurate and she can predict where Pete and the Six will appear next.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

This novella was nominated for several awards and won some too (Goodreads):

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2013), Nebula Award for Best Novella (2012), Locus Award for SF Best Novella (2013), Endeavour Award Nominee (2013)

Type of post apocalyptic story: This one is interesting.  It’s written both immediately before the world as we know it is ending, has the moment the world is ending, and also in a now that is the future.  The chapters swap between the past and present, working towards the moment the world as we knew it ended.

Review

This story is certainly ambitious, and the writing is of high quality.  The characters were all equally unlikeable, and I think that’s why it rates so poorly.  Pete is an obnoxious, aggressive, sex obsessed teenager with entitlement issues and Julie is a determined loner who wants to do it all on her own, bugger the consequences.  I certainly didn’t feel any empathy for either of them, mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to grow up.

I did like the story mechanic.  I would have much preferred that the story followed one of the survivors versus Pete, but the gradual collapse of all the time lines to the main event was done really well, and the urgency was surrounding the events was well captured.

World Building: Basically the world is Gaia, a self regulating mechanism, and she/it gets pissed off with humanity and wipes us all out.  The book is set in the Northern Americas which is convincingly wiped out.  I’m still not sure Australia was affected.  We’d be protected from Yellowstone exploding by trade winds, and any resulting tsunami from that event would wipe out the Pacific Islands and PNG, but Australia would be mostly ok.  The tsunami from the Canary Islands collapsing in the Atlantic wouldn’t affect Australia.  If a major earthquake happened off the coast of Chile, then Western Australia would still be ok.  Australia is special that way.  I’m not sure anything happened in the Indian Ocean either, so all the countries in that part of the world are probably ok too.  However, there is another element to the plot which means that humanity would die off regardless of what continent they lived on.

I’m nit picking, and really when the end comes, it comes quickly enough that news about what is happening doesn’t have time to spread.  So I’ll just say that everyone but the survivors died, and the story went from there.

Character Building: I didn’t like any of the characters.  I didn’t like their motivations, I didn’t connect with them, I thought they were all insufferable.  This is not a ringing endorsement.

Women: So Julie is really smart and capable.  The women survivors are resourceful and have worked hard to build a new life for themselves with the male survivors in the Shell.  The survivors are a bit 2 dimensional because they’re not main characters in this novella.

Non-white characters: So they’re there, but most are not central to the plot.  The survivors in the Shell were all the the US at the end of the world, but are not all white.  There is a Chinese man, someone with Latino/a heritage, and Julie’s surname suggests that she has South Asian heritage.  It’s a good reflection of the diversity of the US.

Disabled characters: So the Six have various birth defects, for undisclosed reasons, which have meant that they all have a disability of some form.  The story does not go into this in much depth, but Pete is described as having a head too big for his body and a weak shoulder (which is wrenched from time to time when he’s kidnapping children or fighting).

Queer characters: There is no mention of any queer characters in the book at all.  LGBTI people do not exist in this world.

Final thoughts

Pete is such an obnoxious character.  He really ruined the story for me as he was so self obsessed and entitled.  I find it rather weird that he grew up that way given the survivors had the choice to change the ways they did things (including raising children).  Pete wanders around with such a huge chip on his shoulder, and believes that he should get what he wants in relation to sex.

Oh and the angry sex he has with one of the Six makes him even less palatable. I don’t recommend this story at all.

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Cancer Update #7 Radiotherapy Consult

So today I went and saw the radiotherapy doctors at the Peter Macallum Hospital, Victoria’s premier cancer hospital.  Before I talk about me, I want to talk about that hospital because it was one of the most amazing patient orientated places I have ever been.

The Peter Mac (as it tends to be known to everyone) is a bit of a maze.  That is a big downside when you’re stressed and confused and don’t know where to go.  However, once you get where you need to be – in my case the Breast Cancer clinic, the waiting space is absolutely amazing.  The various clinics are located alongside each other, with one big waiting room.  And what a waiting room it is.

I wasn’t there for very long, but this is what I saw.  There are jigsaw puzzles, with tables set up to do jigsaw puzzles on.  There is a big box of wool, with knitting needles and I’m guessing crochet hooks, so people can knit/crochet while waiting.  The supporting columns were all decorated with yarn bombing.  There were colouring pencils and adult style colouring pages.  There were board games and a chess board.  There was a library of fiction and non-fiction books.  There were magazines in many different languages.  There were comfortable chairs.  There were treadmills if you want to walk off anxiety or do your daily exercise.  There is also free wifi so you can browse the internet/read RSS feeds/play games on devices.

I know the Peter Mac is moving next year to a new location on Grattan Street, across from the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals, and I hope they keep this very patient friendly and supportive atmosphere in their new building.  It was great to see so much creativity.  A little more on what goes on is here.

Ok, so me… I saw a younger doctor who initially told me I’d need 6 weeks of radiotherapy, and then went through my cancer diagnosis history and overall health.  I reported something* which I think might be related to the surgery I had, he wasn’t sure it was related, but I’ll speak to the breast care nurse at the Royal Women’s tomorrow anyway.  He took me through the not very likely, but serious risks of having radiotherapy, and then went off to find his supervisor – who is the doctor I’d actually been referred to see.

The supervisor doctor said that I’d only need 4 weeks (which is what the RWH had said), and that overall that’d be better for me as it means that it’s over quicker and the immediate side effects don’t last as long.  I will be called for a mapping appointment which will be in the next two weeks, and then radiotherapy will start two weeks later than that… probably.  Apparently the planning of how to deliver the treatment without impacting on my heart and lungs can take up to a week, so the radiotherapy won’t start as soon as I expected.  This is ok, I am not an urgent case. Given my cancer is at an early stage and appears to be completely removed from my body.

* I have some pain under my breast that seems to be as if some fluid (oedema) has formed as a result of surgery. It might resolve on it’s own, it might need to be drained.  I’ll get a second opinion, because it’s sore and that means that I’m not doing all the things I’d like to do otherwise.

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Cancer update #6 To chemo or not to chemo, that was the question

And the answer is no, which is good.

This morning we saw the oncologist and she was LOVELY, really really LOVELY, and laughed at our jokes and thought we were funny (which is always nice).  I am still super impressed with how the hospital, the nurses and the specialists are dealing with my two partners.  They pause briefly after I answer their question as to why I’m being accompanied into the room by two men, and then move on like it’s no big deal (which it isn’t).

Anyway, the oncologist said that with my tumour profile that the Oncotype DX test would essentially be unhelpful, and that with radiotherapy, and tamoxifen for 10 years that I will be right.  That’s essentially what she said, she talked a lot about the types of tests already done, the fact that the growth factor test is less reliable than the others (greater likelihood of false positives), and as it is stating a different finding than the other tests (grade 2 tumour, slow growth generally, no spreading into the lymphatic system, tiny tumour, etc) that she doesn’t think the Oncotype DX test is required.

She’ll refer me to the Peter Mac do to the radiotherapy as the Royal Women’s Hospital doesn’t have radiotherapy services, and I’ll need a month (4 weeks) of radiotheraphy at least.  I should have my initial appointment with them in the next two weeks, then an appointment to line up the machine and tattoo me, and then radiotherapy, 5 days a week until it is done.  I should be able to work while being treated, but will feel quite tired and a bit sore.

All in all, it was nice to get some good news.

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Marriage Equality – again

So last night the Liberal Party and the National Party held a meeting for over 5 hours to discuss whether or not the party would allow a free conscience vote (which still would have not gotten the required numbers over the line) or whether they’d all vote as a block and therefore and vote No.  The block voting won (in case you didn’t know).

Not enough has been said about this debate taking over 5 hours in my opinion.  Over 5 hours.

I hate meetings at the best of times, finding them an incredible waste of time when I could be doing the stuff that is discussed, but this meeting went FOR OVER 5 HOURS.  That’s 5 hours of impassioned debate about an issue that is important (not the most important, but still).  An issue that is capturing the world’s attention.  An issue that reduces the active amount of discrimination in the world.  A few years ago, we would have been lucky if that party room discussion went for an hour.

Just this year Ireland, the United States of America and Mexico have allowed same-sex marriage, adding to a long list of countries in which it is already legal.  The referendum in Ireland with the majority of voters voting yes, and the Supreme Court decision in the USA have been big drivers to get marriage equality back into Parliamentary debate here in Australia, and it’s not going anywhere soon

I’m grateful that some LNP politicians have my back on at least one issue that can affect me.  I’m not generally the type to support the LNP (queer, left leaning woman who is big on social justice), but it’s good to see that some of the party has actively thought about what is good for Australia and Australians and decided that if over 70% of Australians support marriage equality, then perhaps that’s something that should be recognised.

Now I’m going to take a small detour here and talk about some bigoted arsehats who have weighed in on this debate in one for or another recently.  This is where the post is going to be long, but will hopefully still make sense.  Ok, I’m ranting, leave me my ranting space.

New South Wales Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Liberal)

Fierravanti-Wells told the party room yesterday that:

…she believed opinion polls showing majority support for legalising same-sex marriage did not reflect the views of a “silent majority” of Australian voters.

She said changing the marriage laws – or being seen to condone change – would cost the Coalition seats at the next election.

The senator referred to an analysis she had undertaken which identified marginal seats with high percentages of religious voters.

A copy of the analysis, dated July 3, lists 14 seats across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania with relatively high proportions of Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Muslim or Buddhist voters or overseas-born voters from ethnic communities likely to oppose same-sex marriage.

In a written foreword to her analysis, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the parliamentary secretary for social services, also responsible for multicultural affairs, says she believes there is strong opposition among culturally and religiously diverse communities to changing the marriage laws.

Ok, let’s just start with a majority says X, so a “silent majority” says Y.  I’m not convinced that Fierravanti-Wells does maths.  Also, I’m not convinced that Fierravanti-Wells has actually spoken to anyone of these people she’s using to support her argument against marriage equality.  She claims that:

She notes that faith leaders from across Australia had written to the Government in June, objecting to any change.

Her analysis includes the western Sydney seat of Barton, the Liberals’ most marginal seat, held by Liberal Nickolas Varvaris on 50.31 per cent.

She says Barton has nearly eight times the proportion of eastern Orthodox constituents than the national average, four times the proportion of Muslims, a higher-than-average Greek population and fewer who said they had “no religion”.

Other western Sydney marginal seats included are Reid, Werriwa, Banks and Parramatta.

The analysis says Parramatta, held by Labor’s Julie Owens on 50.57 per cent, is 25 per cent Catholic, has 10 times the national average of voters identifying as Hindu, four times the rate identifying as Islamic and higher-than-average percentages of those born in India and Lebanon.

The first issue here is that Faith Leaders don’t represent the believes and feelings of their flocks.  I know they claim they do, but you get the Catholic and some Anglican faith leaders in Australia being bigoted arsehats, and most Catholics and Anglicans actually supporting marriage equality.  Not knowing a large number of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or Orthodox people, I cannot claim to know what they do and do not support, however I do note that the majority of Australians support marriage equality, and that is something that really should be taken into account.

I know I’ve said that majority of Australians more than once tonight, so let’s get that data for you.  From a report in The Age in July 2015:

Support among Australians for same-sex marriage and for a conscience vote in the Coalition has reached an all-time high, according to a survey by the Liberal Party’s own pollster.

A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised, while 77 per cent think Coalition MPs should be granted a conscience vote.

The survey by the Liberal Party’s national pollster finds support for marriage equality is increasing among Australians, up from 65 per cent in a Nielsen poll last August.

It shows opposition to same-sex marriage has collapsed, with just one in five Australians or 21 per cent opposed, marking Parliament as increasingly out of step with the views of the majority of Australians.

According to the poll, support for same-sex marriage is now higher in Australia than it was in any other country, including New Zealand and Great Britain, when overseas parliaments have passed marriage equality laws.

And if you want something a little more recent than July this year, from Australian Marriage Equality (August 2015):

Marriage equality advocates have welcomed a new poll showing almost 60% of Australians believe marriage equality is a medium to high priority.

The poll, conducted for anti-marriage equality group, the Marriage Alliance, found that marriage equality is, on average, the 13th most important issue for Australians, about the same level of priority given to agriculture, taxation and asylum seekers.

59% of poll respondents said marriage equality is a priority, made up of 24% who said marriage equality it is a high priority and 35% said it is a medium priority. Only 39% said it is low a priority.

So even when organisations against marriage equality are attempting to poll against marriage equality, they can’t do it.

Charitably I could believe that Fierravanti-Wells really did care about the numbers and how the LNP will poll in the next election, but didn’t actually consider what she was saying – which effectively is that all religious and culturally diverse people are happy to discriminate against same-sex attracted people when it comes to marriage (or in short-hand that they are bigots).  I’m positive that this is not the case.

Kevin Donnelly

I’ve blogged about Donnelly before, he has a track record of being racist, and now he’s adding homophobic to the list.  I haven’t even read the article, I didn’t need to after seeing this headline, “Abbott made the right call on same-sex marriage“.

Donnelly tries to be clever and epically fails:

This is especially the case as many of the arguments in favour of same-sex marriage are flawed. Those wanting change argue that defining marriage as involving a man and a woman discriminates against lesbians and homosexuals.

Ignored is that there are many examples where society and the law allow discrimination to occur. Women-only gyms and clubs are allowed to exclude men and those under 18 are not allowed to view X-rated films and videos.

Yes, defining marriage as only involving a man and a woman discriminates against gay men, lesbian women, bisexual people and trans people.  It’s ok Donnelly, I’m glad you forgot some of us.  The less you think about us the better off we’ll all be.

Ignored is the fact that Donnelly doesn’t understand that not all discrimination is harmful, and that children are to be protected against things that harm them.  Let’s work on the first one.  Women only gyms.  Women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted by men than the other way around.  Therefore in the interest of safety, women only gyms exist, where men are discriminated against to protect women.  When men stop assaulting women at the current rates, then it is possible the need for women only gyms will go away.

Marriage equality harms no one, and the discrimination against same-sex coupled people who’d like to marry harms them.

Children and pornography.  I don’t even with this one Donnelly.  We have lots of laws to protect children, we have laws about who they can have sex with, we have laws about them having to go to school, we have laws about the mandatory reporting of abuse, we have laws that can result in them being removed from their homes.  It is believed that pornography will harm children, therefore children cannot see pornography.  I note that Donnelly isn’t complaining about any other laws relating to children, so I wonder why that is.

Many on the cultural left, often the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage, also argue in favour of positive discrimination where they believe some people should be treated differently to others.

Because Donnelly doesn’t understand the difference between equality and justice/equity, I give you the following image:

First image – three people are standing on boxes looking over a fence to watch a baseball game. The tallest and second tallest can see over the fence. The shortest cannot. Second image – Three people are watching a baseball game over a fence. The tallest can see over the fence. The second tallest is standing on one box to see over the fence. The shortest is standing on two boxes to see over the fence.

This is why we suggest that some people should be treated more positively – because they are coming from further behind that others.  Many people are coming from further behind than Kevin Donnelly, as we’re not all straight, white men with a platform to be vilely racist and homophobic.

Also ignored, for all intents and purposes, is that gays and lesbians already have the same rights as de-facto heterosexual couples.

Also ignored by Donnelly is that not all same-sex attracted people want to marry, but denying those who do is harmful.  Sure we can live in defacto relationships, and we do right now, but that isn’t the same as marriage.  If it was, then we wouldn’t be having this debate.

A second strategy employed by same-sex marriage advocates is to argue that anyone who disagrees is bigoted and homophobic. Wrong. The reality is that many of those opposed to redefining marriage do so for sound and carefully thought through reasons.

I love this comment, it is a comment I see all the time.  “I’m not bigoted and homophobic, I’ve thought about some really good reasons why I oppose granting rights to same-sex attracted people that would do me no harm whatsoever.”  I am also yet to meet a good argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t in the end reduce down to either “my religion is homophobic, not me”, or “because gay sex is icky” which are both homophobic.

As Andrew P Street wrote, “And if you are, in fact, a bigot, then it shouldn’t bother you that people are accurately assessing your shortcomings as a human being on the basis of the things you believe, based on the stuff you say.”  Donnelly continues:

When arguing that the definition of marriage must be changed to include same-sex couples, advocates often argue that the love between a man and a man and a woman and a woman is the same as that experienced by heterosexuals.

From a biological point of view, such is clearly not the case. Such is the physiology involved in procreation, and not withstanding the availability of surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation, that it requires a man and a woman. The optimum environment in which to raise a child also involves a mother and a father.

Oh yeah, I forgot the third way, the reproductive argument.  If two people of the same gender can’t have children, their relationship is worth less than those that can, because apparently all we’re about is having children.  Let’s not look at the treatment of those children by heterosexual people. Let’s especially not look at the really positive outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents.  Let’s leave Donnelly to his little bigoted world where LGBTI people are worse people than heterosexual people.  He’s wrong of course, we’re pretty fucking awesome.

Michael Jensen

This piece is from May and I’ve been putting off on blogging about it because it’s so full of complete and utter rubbish that it isn’t really worth mentioning – except that it’s another white, Christian man telling us that he isn’t really a bigot for not supporting marriage equality, “I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I’m not a bigot)“:

How could anyone stand opposed? The terms in which the pro-marriage redefinition case are stated make it sound as inevitable as the dawn, and as unstoppable as the tide. And these same terms make opposing a redefinition of marriage sound primitive and even barbaric. There are those in favour of change, we are told, and then there are the bigots.

I do wonder how anyone can stand opposed without actually being a bigot.

It is not even the case that “all the surveys say Australians want it” is a sufficient argument. The surveys say that Australians want capital punishment. Wisely, our politicians don’t listen to surveys on that issue (and I agree with them). They should exercise leadership, not follow opinion.

I’ve seen this argument before and it’s an interesting one.  It’s particularly fascinating that the death penalty is brought into an argument, to contrast something where no one gets hurt.  On one side you have the violent end of someone’s life, on the other side you have two consenting adults committing to their relationship in front of family and friends, and having the Government, and other bodies that need to, recognising that relationship legally.  It’s not like they are even remotely in the same class of things.

Should the Australian Government listen to the people in all things?  Should the Australian Government take the lead on some things so that the better interest is served?  Wouldn’t it be best if the Australian Government was abolitionist on the death penalty and in support of marriage equality?  The Australian Government should be about the best human rights that we can grant to each other.  That includes being abolitionist on the death penalty and in support of marriage equality.  There we go, I solved that one for you.

In fact, it may be the case that offering supposedly “equal” treatment is incoherent, as it is in this case. It is crucial to notice that the proposed revision of marriage laws involves exactly that: a revision of marriage. In order to offer the status of marriage to couples of the same sex, the very meaning of marriage has to be changed. In which case, what same-sex couples will have will not be the same as what differently sexed couples now have.

Except that marriage has changed multiple times over millennia and the world didn’t end.  Men used to marry their property, which then begat more property which they’d consent to have married off to other men, unless some of that property were male, in which case they’d become human whenever the age of adulthood was at that time.  Men now marry women, and both people have to consent to the marriage.  Men used to also marry lots of property, they’d have multiple property all over the place, sometimes it mattered if the property consented to more property being married, sometimes it didn’t.  It used to be that you couldn’t marry without your parents’ consent, and most marriages were arranged.

If marriage can change to be what it is now, then it can change to include same-sex couples who want to marry.

This is where Bill Shorten again misunderstands what marriage is. As we now understand it, marriage is not merely the expression of a love people have for each other. It is, or is intended as, a life-long union between two people who exemplify the biological duality of the human race, with the openness to welcoming children into the world. Even when children do not arrive, the differentiated twoness of marriage indicates its inherent structure.

Blah, blah, blah – see argument about children above. Also, to erase other gendered people from the conversation is an arse move Mr Jensen.

Look I really don’t understand why so many people are frightened of marriage equality.  If it creates something new, something that currently discriminated people can engage in, what is the problem with that?  Do so many of these bigots believe that the moment marriage equality is granted those who would have otherwise married someone of the opposite sex will suddenly rush out and go and marry someone of the same sex?  Do they think that being queer is contagious and it’s only the shame of being queer, and the inability to marry that keeps opposite sex marriage going?  Do they think that suddenly everyone will stop having children, or start ignoring children, and suddenly there won’t be a human race any more?

There are FAR more important issues facing the earth today than marriage equality.  Granting marriage equality makes the lives of many of my queer siblings better.  It does not save the environment, it does not refreeze the glaciers, it does not bring endangered creatures back from the brink of extinction.  It certainly doesn’t help asylum seekers or bring peace to nations at war.  It does make a difference though, and that difference is one that has been made in many other places already and it helps.

Granting marriage equality helps, and granting it means that people like me can marry if they want.  Families can recognise the relationships of their children and parents.  Relationships that until relatively recently were looked at as deviant and different can instead be shown to be as valued as the opposite sex relationships they are surrounded by.  It means that children who are growing up queer know that if they wish to get married and be like their friends in opposite sex relationships, they can.  Think of the children, think of those who you’re denying the ability to be normal.

 

 

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Cancer Update #5 – Results of surgery

So today I saw the breast surgeon and got the results from surgery.  In fact one of the results was delayed and we spent time sitting around the hospital waiting until it was ready – bumping into an old friend who had breast cancer some time ago, and who was there for a checkup.

The good news is that they have removed all the tumour and that there was no cancer in the removed lymph node.  They confirmed the grade of my cancer at 2, and once removed it was 13mm – so 5mm bigger than the ultrasound put it – which apparently is common.  There was some cancer in the surrounding tissue, but not at the edges of the margin they removed so they believe they got it all.

There was no HER2 associated with the tumour so chemo is not mandatory.  However, as I am young (as far as breast cancer goes) and because the growth factor of the tumour is 25% (which is higher than the 5 – 10% they prefer), the surgeon suggested that I might want to considering sending a sliver of my tumour off to the US for further testing to see if chemo would be beneficial.  However this comes at a hefty price tag of $4000 (not covered by Medicare or private health cover).  The surgeon wanted to state that it is something I should consider, but he said that he believed that the radiotherapy and Tamoxifen would more than likely be sufficient given the make-up of the tumour.  I have an appointment with an oncologist on Monday to get more information as to what they think regarding the test and chemotherapy.

The surgeon was extra impressed with my healing prowess.  He said that it looked like I had surgery a month ago, not a week and a half, when he removed the dressings.  I heal well, I probably should have been involved in more risky, extreme sports as a young adult and tested my healing to the limit.  Except I’m not a fan of being adrenaline and pain.

I’m really relieved that I don’t need more surgery, and that I probably don’t need chemo.  I was more stressed about more surgery as that was an immediate, unpleasant experience – one I didn’t want to repeat any time soon.  I’m not sure about chemo yet, I’m going to gather more information, including from people who’ve survived breast cancer, and determine whether or not paying for the testing is a worthwhile investment, or whether I should stick with the most likely to be successful existing treatment of radiotherapy and Tamoxifen (plus other drugs as needed).

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Post-Apocalyptic Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Book: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Format consumed: ebook, also available in hardcopy (Fishpond, Booktopia, etc)

Plot summary (from Goodreads):

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The world ended many years ago, possibly over 100 years ago. It’s very vague as to how that happened, it could have been disease, global climate change, or war, but there were a lot of injured people and music was found to soothe and heal them them – so music became a tool to control the population and maintain behaviour.  There is no mention of other countries or population centres outside where Anthem lives in the story.

Review

I picked up this book as it was nominated for a Bisexual fiction award.  Anthem is bisexual.  In this book he is interested in one of the female characters, but he is still friends with his ex-boyfriend, and they spend a fair amount of time clubbing together in the book.  For a story about a bisexual man, I recommend this.  It was good on many other elements. too.  I read this a while ago, so my memory is a little rusty.

World Building: Apart from no mention of other population centres, the world is believable.  There are ruins of the world before surrounding the world as it is today in the story.  There is a police state that is working on getting things done, maintaining their own power, and control.  There is a class system of the haves and have nots based on current wealth, and it is almost possible to move between them, but not likely for most people.

The technology is incredible, the ability to encode music with subliminal messages/beats that makes it addictive, as well as controlling mood and improving people’s ability to heal.  The ability for people to be bio-generators of power to power the city, the ability for people to record their lives so that after they die others can still see them, like the way we record things on our phones.

Character Building: So the main character is male and bisexual, a combination which is really rare in a book.  Also, everyone else is pretty much ok with bisexuality (nice), and queerness in general (also nice).  The characters have different motivations for doing things, they have their own back stories and women are treated as equally capable as men.  When Anthem believes that the woman he is interested in has betrayed him, he doesn’t believe that it is because she’s a woman, or that she’s weak.

Women: So Anthem’s love interest in this story is a woman and she’s a fully rounded character, with multiple depths to her.  There is also Anthem’s … handler (I’m really not quite sure what the correct word is) at the bio-generation plant who ensures that he is plugged in correctly and has something to read/occupy his time while he’s there.  There are several baddies who are also women.  None of these characters are single dimensional, and none of them are sex objects.

Non-white characters: There are a range of non-white characters in the book.  Anthem is blond-haired and blue-eyed.  Haven, his love interest, has olive skin.  Another one of the characters is described as being so dark, that in the darkened, disused space that they’re performing music in, he’s difficult to see.

Disabled Characters: Although there are no visible disabilities mentioned, there is the theme of addiction and the ruination that can cause throughout the book.  Anthem lost his mother to her addiction to the Corp’s music, and is in the process of losing his father.  There is an acknowledgement of mental health issues, and the characters are familiar with depression and anxiety.

Queer Characters: Anthem is bisexual, his ex, Scope, is gay, there are other queer characters in the book.  There are straight characters.  Orientation isn’t an issue in this version of the future.  It’s nice to see a future where who you are attracted to is not an issue and nothing to be ashamed of.

There were no trans characters that I am aware of in the book.

Final thoughts

There is a reason this book was nominated for an award. It does a lot of things right, and I really enjoyed it.

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Post-Apocalyptic Book Review: Damnation Alley – Roger Zelazny

Book: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Form consumed: ebook, also in hardcopy about the place (Booktopia, Fishpond, etc)

Plot (from Wikipedia)

The story opens in a post-apocalyptic Southern California, in a hellish world shattered by nuclear war decades before. Several police states have emerged in place of the former United States. Hurricane-force winds above five hundred feet prevent any sort of air travel from one state to the next, and sudden, violent, and unpredictable storms make day-to-day life a mini-hell. Hell Tanner, an imprisoned killer, is offered a full pardon in exchange for taking on a suicide mission—a drive through “Damnation Alley” across a ruined America from Los Angeles to Boston—as one of three vehicles attempting to deliver an urgently needed plague vaccine.

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The current world has ended, the story starts around 30 – 40 years after the event.  Society for the most part has stabilised and is now focussed on survival.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book, for the most part, however there were a few gaping issues.  Let’s do all the good things.  There will be spoilers

World building: I really liked the way Zelazny put the world together for this book.  The main character was not alive when the current world was destroyed and the new world was formed.  He doesn’t know most of what happened, and doesn’t care – so neither does the reader for the most part.  During the story the main character, Tanner, finds out a bit more, and still doesn’t care, as living in the world as it is, is his current struggle.

The fantastical way that the world has been reshaped due to radiation, storms, and people, the way people survive day to day, and how government continues (or doesn’t) to operate is all very interesting and I can see why a lot of people were inspired by the story to create works in homage.

Character building: There is only one real character, the rest are there to drive the plot but are in essence completely unimportant.  Despite Tanner supposedly being a complete and utter arsehole (and he is a bit), he’s really just a guy who wants to be left alone, and safe – though his version of left alone and safe tends to be one where a lot of other people end up dead.  Granted many of those other people have attempted to kill him at some point.  He’s not completely unlikeable as a character and you do find yourself rooting for him.  I’d say he is lazily written because he’s not really one thing or another, and I think he should be given how he is introduced.

Description: I’m a big believer in using words to their fullest effect so I can build a mental picture of what the author is describing.  I found that this book was very successful in that, but not so successful that I wanted to stop reading after describing some mutated horror, or yet more violence.

And now the badly done bits

Women: So there are three main female characters in the book; two are sex objects and one is a mother.  The book would have worked completely fine without them, and I actually would have preferred that to be the case.  I haven’t read much Zelazny so I don’t know if he cannot write women, or whether he is actually sexist, but the three characters were really pointless to the story, and appear to be a lazy attempt at inclusion.

The mother was there in a farming household, and she was intimidated by Tanner – which isn’t surprising, he’s a force of chaotic nature and I’d be scared of him.  She didn’t drive the plot, and did nothing than be a mother to some children Tanner was interacting with, and the husband of a farmer.  She wasn’t badly written, just an illustration along the story.

The two sex objects were awful.  Zelazny clearly cannot write a sex scene.  The first woman, Cornelia, is a member of a gang that attacks Tanner.  Tanner is effectively driving a tank, and he takes out pretty much everyone in the gang, and avoids killing Cornelia by chance (he doesn’t know she’s there initially).  He picks up her, patches her wounds and she joins him.  She clearly doesn’t care that Tanner has killed her entire gang (and probably family), and happily comes along with him.  They hook up, have sex, she gets killed by another gang, Tanner buries her and continues on his way.

The second woman, Evelyn, only exists to drive the plot forward.  She lives in the plague infested Boston and is meeting with her beau who believes that he is infected with the plague but wants to see her one last time.  Then ensues one of the most awkwardly written sex scenes I’ve read for a while:

They moved to the bed and did not speak again until after he had ridden her for several minutes and she heard him sigh and felt the warm moisture come into her. Then she rubbed his shoulders and said, “That was good.”

Evelyn, her beau and most of Boston aren’t likeable.  You don’t care that they’re dying of the plague, and the world would probably be a better place if they did because then a whole lot of annoying people wouldn’t exist.  Badly written characters like this really don’t help the story.  If Tanner wasn’t such a strong character, and his determination to just keep moving forward, you really wouldn’t care about what happens to Boston.  Because Tanner cares (though even that seems to be out of character), you care.

Non-white characters: I don’t recall any being described in the book.  Evelyn is described as having red hair, Cornelia is described as having brown hair, and an obvious red burn to her face (from Tanner’s self defence flame-thrower).  The mother is described as having red cheeks.  Tanner really doesn’t have that much of a description other than having dark eyes, a beard, and being a biker.

Disabled characters: Despite the world pretty much self destructing there are no mentions of disabled characters. Given the current state of the world, there would be some, and you’d expect there to be a mention of them.

Queer characters: None are mentioned.  It wouldn’t have been too hard to include one in the story, Evelyn’s beau could have been a woman, or bisexual, or even trans, any of the other characters that Tanner briefly meets could have been queer.

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