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Last Week: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin, Agents of SHIELD, LEGO Hagrid’s Hut

For all that most weeks are quiet now, last week seems to have been especially so. I imagine that’s in part from accepting the new terms of existence, and from it being another four day week with its concomitant blurring of time. I feel quite ineffectual a lot of the time, which I suppose is OK, since there’s damn all I can do about our situation other than moan about it.  I feel a lot like Hulk with tiny arms: full of emotions but unable to do anything with them.

It’s certainly taken me a few hours to finally sort all that washed LEGO back into their neatly sorted containers, and I’ve had Agents of SHIELD to accompany most of that. Much of the weekend was dominated by admiring the vast quantity of Easter chocolate my other half acquired at Tesco where they’re pretty much burning their excess stock. Eighteen pence for a bag of mini eggs?! We have many. And thus shall grow the belly further…

It’s been a nice weekend to spend time in the garden reading, and looks set to continue for a little while. I continue to be quite happy at home with my cats.

The most exciting thing of last weekend (apart from my parents’ peculiar psychic link causing them to both ring me at almost the same time) was a work thing – we’ve finally got the evidence that we at Aconyte Books have been doing something for the past year – we got books! Hurray! I can’t show them to you, because they’re awaiting appropriate fanfare, and won’t be in bookshops till September, but having our labours physically realised is really quite thrilling. These are the first books I’ve designed and laid out the internals and externals for (with a lot of support, approval, tsking and head-patting) so it’s a pretty big deal for me personally, as well as for the whole team. I don’t think showing the spines will get me killed, but I guess we’ll find out soon. 

Reading: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin

At last, I’m a mere four years behind with reading the very best of modern science fiction and fantasy! This is the second of the incredible Broken Earth trilogy which won a Hugo Award for each installment. Like so many of my favourite SFF novels, Jemisin has blended aspects of science fiction and fantasy together, so that we explore a truly post-apocalyptic world, riven by irregular “Seasons” of environmental catastrophes, driving humans into their comms (communities) and hoping they have enough supplies to last the season. This has been happening for thousands of years, since some event split the Earth, leading to repeated collapses of civilisation and a species directed solely toward survival, at any cost. There’s delightful social commentary on how humans behave when facing these awful threats, with rivalries between comms and the complex psychologies of those living in them, with their dwindling knowledge and science. Supporting / protecting humanity are the Guardians with their enslaved orogenes – essentially geology wizards who can manipulate the earth itself – feared and despised for their awesome powers, despite being used as a protective shield against the unreliable Father Earth. This book follows the even more catastrophic events of The Fifth Season in which Alabaster, one of the most powerful orogenes (or “roggas” if you hate them), triggered a vast tectonic split to destroy the home of the Guardians. We travel with his apprentice/lover/friend Essun as she assists in bolstering a comm against the season her mentor has unleashed. He has a plan… for Essun to undo the appalling damage that the Earth suffered when it lost its moon. On the other side of the story we see Essun’s lost and estranged daughter being taught to develop her own powers of orogeny by someone who seems to be completely insane. There’s a tonne of fascinating detail on orogeny – science or magic? – and I find the characters completely captivating. The stakes are wildly high, all of the time, and the second-person storytelling is surprisingly engaging, though it took me a little while to get into it again. This is one hell of a series, especially for reading right now: maximum apocalypse, beautifully written!

Doing: LEGO 75947 Hagrid’s Hut: Buckbeak’s Rescue

I’ve no idea what part this set plays in the films or books (I gave up on em fairly early I’m afraid), but I was very much drawn to the hexagonal shacks, and the lovely little pumpkin elements. It was a pretty quick but satisfying assembly – the roofs and floor are neatly done to produce this shape, and it’s definitely something I’ll try to keep in mind for the next MOC I start on. It’s a slight shame they’re only half-hexagons, with their backs missing. I guess I could probably source the parts from my various boxes… Buckbeak the gryphon is rather nice, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for him. I also enjoy this odd-seeming executioner (?) who comes with the set. I’ll admit I haven’t even put together the Harry Potter minifigs, but this set is quite lovely with or without the brand association. The fetching doors use massive stickers which even with my trusty scalpel I found tricky to apply. That might just have been because I was drinking beer, watching Agents of SHIELD and lying horizontally on the sofa at the time. Who’s to say, eh. It is however, brutally expensive at £49.99, even with half a dozen minifigs with the cool poseable mini-legs. I got it waaaay cheaper than that without a box, otherwise I’d not have been building it at all.  

Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one

I can’t believe this started seven years ago, and only now am I rewatching it from the beginning. Hurrah for Disney+ and sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time playing with LEGO. I’m not entirely sure how far through the show I’ve watched, since its appearance on UK TV and streaming services that I use has been kinda erratic. I’ve definitely seen the amazing season where they’re in a virtual world run by HYDRA, but I haven’t seen them go into space… WTF? So I’m quite excited about catching up. Part of my confusion comes from this having full length TV shows – 24 episodes! It’s like being back in the nineties, and I love it. Those long seasons mean so much happens in season one. Can’t wait to reach the seventh and final season.

Agents of SHIELD brilliantly picks up after Avengers: Assemble with the surprising reappearance of Agent Coulson, who quite definitely died in that movie. But that’s a mystery for later… In the meantime we’ve got a team to assemble, and then deal with cyborg/jacked-up dangerous folks running around as part of Project Centipede, followed in short order by the collapse of SHIELD (following Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and the rise of HYDRA. It’s quite a ride! The cast is pretty delightful though, from the warm, tough and lovable Clark Gregson as Coulson, his badass kung-fu sidekick who will not smile, Agent May by the splendid Ming-Na Wen, mysterious hacker turned agent Skye (Chloe Bennet), the wonderful duo “Fitzsimmons”: Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Fitz and Simmons respectively, our ace scientists and darkly handsome agent Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton. The vibe is so “NCIS with superheroes” it hurts: packed with banter, action and an unfolding season arc that I really thought lasted several seasons. The revelations of HYDRA’s subversion of SHIELD cut all the harder, with the betrayals and fear that follow – and all reinforced by having relatively recently seen all of the MCU. I’d vaguely remembered season one as being quite weak, but it isn’t – it’s just the first three or four episodes of them establishing characters before it all properly kicks off. Watch it! I’m already into season two…

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Drop-In

Last week we got a great workshop on science fiction and fantasy in improv from Philippa Stazicker, part of one of my very favourite shows Four Far Away. Well worth a look in whether you’re an improviser or not.

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2 thoughts on “Last Week: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin, Agents of SHIELD, LEGO Hagrid’s Hut

  1. The Broken Earth Trilogy is phenomenal isn’t it? Jemisin is the kind of writer that makes me want to throw my computer across the room and shout ‘Oh what’s the point in trying!?!’

    1. It’s hugely impressive. I’m very curious about how the final volume will play out, though I’m probably not gonna get to it for a while… I wonder how much of its seeming brilliance is down to the very unusual choice of second-person, which I’ve rarely encountered outside of Choose Your Own Adventure. Gives it a striking immediacy and intensity.

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