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Darker Fables

Writing and reviews. Adventures, maybe? Exciting, definitely.

A Day in April

There was a boy I once knew,
in the vaguest, passing sense,
before my knees gave way
in a pile of brown leaves
and my head thudded on the ground.

It happened before all this,
and I spit on the memory.
I rip the corpse of it to pieces,
and laugh,
with all my wicked friends.

Howling with my ancestors at the moon,
and flying through the snow by night
with steam rolling from my lungs,
I accept what a dog joy makes me.

The cold clarity of freedom
is a tingling memory of a yoke I shed,
and the way I left, with blood behind me.

Maybe you’ll mistake my nature,
for being the innocent then,
but truth is I wiped my sword.
I left the dead for dead.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

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Winter Sand

I would like to tell you
that my homeland
is in its spring,
that its colours blend,
and the sea sings…

But you made me a stranger,
and strange, to even my closest friends.

I’ve become an advocate of honesty.

I’m not who I was last year,
or even one short season ago,
but a rock watered into a new shape,
washed out from the end of the world.

I picture us, someday,
watching the great grey ocean,
as the moon pulls together
all the waters of the world.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

Review: Paolo Bacigalupi’s ‘The Water Knife’

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A solid 3.5. Far from the worst book I’ve ever read, but nothing groundbreaking.

The Water Knife is a three-protagonist speculative fiction novel, following the intersecting lives of Angel, a hired thug who ‘cuts’ water from those who don’t pay up, Lucy, a freelance journalist, and Maria, a refugee. The three converge in the ravaged city of Phoenix, Arizona, some years into a water crisis which has rendered the United States at war with itself over the limited resources.

It’s a very geopolitical novel, and has a lot to say, but personally I felt there wasn’t much being said that hasn’t been said before.

“This dust” – he shrugged – “it’s hard to get relief here, even with the filters over in the Taiyang. Everyone cuts corners. They’d never get away with shoddy work like this in California. No one’s really investing long term. Not even the Chinese. Not long term, anyway. It’s a doomed place, after all.”

The Water Knife reads as something in the same vein as Mad Max: Fury Road, though it’s a little less crazy, a little less exciting, and the characters are a little less compelling.

That being said, I did enjoy it. It is an intelligent novel, and the writing is, for the most part, not half bad (although whether the sex scene falls under the umbrella of quality prose is questionable).

Of the three characters, I found Maria to be the most interesting. Her desperate efforts to stay out of prostitution left me rooting for her, and I found her attitude to the dark world of this novel convincing. With Angel I was less invested, mostly because Bacigalupi really tries to make this man ‘cool’, and therefore renders him a bit of a bore. And with Lucy I didn’t really care whether she lived or died.

In the midst of the conversation, she’d seen the guards ushering someone out. She’d sipped her coffee, watching as it happened. Pitying the person but not really feeling their desperation. 

The plot is uncomplicated, though it disguises itself beneath layers of scientific and political jargon. It’s not a bad one, but to be honest the opening shows more promise than the novel actually delivers.

A cursory glance on Goodreads for other reviews suggests that a lot of people see this novel as a kind of voyeuristic depiction of extreme and sexist violence. In places I agree it’s overdone, but although The Water Knife features a spectrum of gristly themes, I’ve read worse.

The things I take the most objection to are the fact that only one of the three protagonists is a protagonist worth following, and the weird smut. As a depiction of the world we are perhaps heading towards, it is pretty harrowing, but it’s not more, or less, harrowing, than many other books out there.

All in all, distinctly average.

World History

There was a time,
way back,
I don’t even know when,
and it was different, then.

And yes, people were people,
and people are still people,
but these days you don’t hear
that someone died screaming,
and a woman bathed, gleaming,
in their blood.

At least not as a bedtime story.

These are ‘civilised’ days,
built on the spine of a
mountainside
in bone.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

The Boat Party

We took a boat,
bobbing beside
the grey asphalt,
on a river I’d been reading about.

Looking at the water, swilling
black, echoing back the noise
of our animal crowd, I was thinking
about that unfortunate man,
the Moroccan who drowned.

My head was a book on state violence,
and I was a state, as violent as Nevada.

That brat, crowing
about her boyfriend, and his gifts
that she didn’t even want…
It made me thirsty for her blood,
for salt water and a better wine.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

Review: Anne Rice’s ‘Angel Time’

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Oh, but this was baaad

Angel Time is my first experience of Anne Rice, and it utterly dashed my high hopes of her writing, because this novel is nothing but a poorly written, Bible-thumping drag. And that’s to say nothing of the two-dimensional plot device of a protagonist.

It was just so disappointing, on every front, from its stilted, unnatural dialogue to its overcooked, purple descriptions.

“And now my tender darling, brought to this strange city of Norwich, and beloved of all who laid eyes on her, has died, helplessly, of the iliac passion as we stood by unable to save her…”

I’m not so narrow-minded that I’m not open to books with religious themes, but with this one I felt that a good story had been sacrificed in favour of zealous Christian fervour. A bad beginning wound up with bad ending, and things were no better in the middle.

Our protagonist, Toby, an assassin with a chequered past, had little potential to be interesting. There were over fifty pages of meaningless exposition before we even got to his clichéd backstory, and after that the meagre scraps of originality which might have redeemed this novel were squandered on an utterly inconceivable, shockingly simplistic, and imaginatively poor plot.

Don’t even get me started on the dullards who peopled the secondary cast.

“I want you now,” he said. “But your redemption lies with The Maker, with your faith in Him. The faith is stirring in you. You know that, don’t you? You’ve already asked for forgiveness…”

The lack of subtlety in this novel is almost offensive, and in its crude, juvenile devotion to the Christian redemption rhetoric it seems less a sincere expression of the author’s faith than a trite piece of conversion propaganda

I just could not take it seriously. I’m really hoping this was just a poor choice of Rice novel on my part, because if Interview with the Vampire is even half as bad as this, there are accountancy documents I would go out of my way to read instead.

Angel Time: to be more aptly remembered as a waste of time.

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Gran Torino (2008)

The Old Religion

The earth is soft and sweet.
It sinks beneath my boots,
just as it did for priestesses
of the old religion.

Things are only half dead
between these concrete walls,
but it’s true;
we are not living in Camelot.

The ground is writhing,
and the roots are snakes,
winding up my ankles,
but if I’m afraid,
it’s not of this.

I could be pulled down
to the untouched places
at the heart of the world,
and I wouldn’t really mind
about the damp, or the darkness,
or the insects crawling in my hair.

I’d just lie there,
like it was a bed
instead of a burial ground,
and forget about the world.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

New: Songs for Writing

New month, new me. I say that at the start of most months, but on this occasion I’m quite serious that a disciplined writing schedule needs to come into being. There is much that must be written, much more that I want to write, and the weeks are ticking by towards the end of my first semester. So here are some of the songs I’ll be listening to, whilst I’m beavering away at my computer.

1. Rae Morris – Eye To the Storm

I’ve dug through every song this woman has written, and no matter how much I listen, I still can still listen again. This is one of my favourites.

2. Annie Lennox – Pavement Cracks

This song reminds me of sitting in the car with my mother. The CDs get changed so rarely that I think I’ve been hearing this one most of my life. Fortunately, it’s very worth listening to.

3. WILDES – Ghost

And here’s something with a darker sound. I like the melancholy of this song. I think it’s good for writing dramatic tragedies and death scenes (something prevalent in my fiction).

I guess that will do for now. This month I will make sincere efforts to post on a regular basis. So, day one, done!

The Water House

So strange to be back here,
back here again,
in one of the many places
I still think of as home.

Under the dust sheets,
and inside plastic bags,
things have already
started to moulder.

Even my winter shoes are flaking,
crumbling into clouds of pale green fur.

Strange to say it,
but I no longer care
for these things I didn’t
ever want to part with.

It’s been moons, you see,
but not that many.
Not enough, I thought,
to efface me so completely.

Truth is, no one knows what
language I’m speaking
when I walk in the kitchen
like dew from the river.

© Deanna Scutt, 2017

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