The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – A Book Review

Probably like you, I grew intensely interested in this book after watching the first season of the Hulu adaptation.  Though it’s been available since 1985, I regret to reveal that I only recently sat down and read it.

As you no doubt suspect, it absolutely lives up to its reputation.  My only disappointment lies in the fact that the Hulu series is so true to the novel that there isn’t much in the way of “surprise.”

Until the end, that is.

The last ten pages of the book absolutely riveted me.  I did not anticipate the drastic change in direction, but I found it completely appropriate and, when compared to the ambiguous nature of the exterior world surrounding Offred, satisfying.

If you are unfamiliar with general plot of the novel, it occurs in the near future.  The east coast (and maybe more) of the United States has been overrun by an ultra conservative religious group that picks and chooses Scripture to interpret literally.  Because sterility plagues the country, the commanders of this new order, and their wives, are allowed a “Handmaid,” which is a fertile woman forced into servitude.  She is there to copulate with the commander for the sole purpose of providing a child.

The story is told from Offred’s perspective, the Handmaid belonging to the commander known as Fred.  We learn snippets of her present as well as the history of her past.  The fall of our civilization as we know it, while brief and segmented in the novel, is horrifying nonetheless.

This new regime takes it upon themselves to terminate intellectuals, free thinkers, and anyone that does not adhere to their ideologies.   Women are objectified and rendered powerless, all in the name of Scripture.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, the commanders in the novel are blatant in committing “sin” without fear of reprisal.  They bask in it–in fact, they celebrate it among one another.

Most disturbing, however,  is the fact that the last ten pages gloss over all of this travesty.  Without spoiling too much, these grievous violations are looked upon as a means to an end, an uncomfortable moment in history.  All is well, and so thus we mustn’t worry too much about what happened in the past, no matter how terrible.

My fear is that this book is prophetic.  In this day and age, it certainly seems so.  It is warning us about how quickly it can all fall apart.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

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CANCELED – Please Join Me For a Talk At Barnes and Noble This Sunday

Update: I’m so sorry everyone.  Due to complications with my publisher, Barnes and Noble has canceled this event.

I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Bloomington, IL, this Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Join me for a discussion regarding my 2010 novel, Andropia, as well as my electronic book series available through the NOOK entitled Dr. Nekros.

I hope to talk about the advent of both titles as well as their meaningfulness before conducting a reading.  Topics pertaining to the stories will include …

  • the importance of independent thought
  • why inquisitiveness is vital to our society
  • the bonds of love, even when estranged
  • how our imaginations make us immortal

Of course, I’m happy to answer any questions after the reading.

Furthermore, I will be giving away copies of Andropia in a drawing!

It will be my honor to see you this Sunday at Barnes and Noble at 2:00 p.m.  I hope you can make it!

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DR NEKROS BOOK ONE E EDITION COVER

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Operation Finale – A Movie Review

Operation Finale is a movie based on historical fact.  It chronicles a team of Israeli agents sent to Buenos Aires in Argentina to capture the Nazi war criminal named Adolf Eichmann.  As records show, they were delayed several days after securing Eichmann and had to keep him in a safe house as they awaited extraction.

Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, an actual member of the team that captured Eichmann.  He is credited with wrestling Eichmann to the ground when the murderer sensed something amiss.  Ben Kingsley plays the high-ranking Nazi official who organized the transportation of Jews to their deaths who, along with several Nazis, took refuge in South America.

My wife loves historical movies, so we went together to see this.  She enjoyed it even more than I did, and that’s saying something because I liked it quite a bit.

We agreed that for such a complicated story, it was surprisingly easy to follow.  The editing felt very smooth and the story unfolded fluidly.  Though I can’t say I totally remember every character’s name–there were several–each appeared visually unique and had a distinct personality which made them simple to recognize.

In fact, overall all, we thought the acting was superb, particularly in regards to Ben Kingsley.  Kingsley played Eichmann as a regular man.  He did not portray him as a two-dimensional villain, nor did he deliver a pompous, raging despot.  Fifteen years after the war’s end, Kinglsey characterizes Eichmann as quiet, reserved, even gentle.  But every once in a while, you see a flash, a brief glimpse, of the conniving, murderous Nazi hiding behind those eyes.

The filmmakers utilized another shrewd storytelling technique as they revealed snippets of Eichmann’s past, little by little, in short, potent vignettes.  Those scenes eventually piece together a vision of Eichmann that is horrifying and in stark contrast to the man being held prisoner at the safe house.  I specifically loved the image of him annoyingly wiping ink off of his cuff during a Nazi meeting.  He wore the same expression upon his face as he wiped something entirely different from his uniform near a death pit.  These little touches were remarkably effective at conveying character.

Make no mistake, however, even though Eichmann seems powerless while in custody, he is not.  He’s engaged in subtle, almost imperceptible, mental warfare with his captors, and the audience is led to believe he might just outlast them all.

Though I liked the movie very much, I’m the first to admit it’s a little on the slow side.  This disciplined pacing, though, absolutely illustrates the tension in the safe house as they waited nearly ten days to take Eichmann to Israel.  During this holdover, everyone is beginning to climb the walls, and it’s Oscar Isaac’s Peter Malkin who must keep his head for the sake of them all.

Truthfully, I entered the theater believing most of the movie would occur in the courtroom.  I thought we were going to see quite a bit of Eichmann’s trial.  This did not prove to be the case, and I felt totally fine with that.  We all generally know the outcome of that trial, but I knew virtually nothing about Eichmann’s detainment.  They were smart to zero in on the more enigmatic material of the story.

Operation Finale is a period film that appears authentic in terms of both era and locale.  It does not offer much in the way of special effects.  It’s fairly quiet.  But it’s also focused, deliberate, and well-constructed.  In the end, it was nice to experience a movie intent on delivering a captivating story with superb acting.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest books HERE!)

The Predator – A Movie Review

Maybe you remember the other Predator movies fondly, like me, and have an urge to check this one out, especially because it’s directed by Shane Black.

Resist that urge.

This movie is awful from start to finish.

I’ll admit that it’s got a few funny one-liners, but the general story is a convoluted mess, the characters are about as thinly developed as possible, the special effects are not particularly impressive, and it honestly made absolutely no sense at all.

Furthermore, it treated mental disorders as punchlines throughout and made a rather insensitive reach regarding autism for the sake of trying to introduce a plot element.

At least with the other Predator movies we had actual stars that oozed charisma, but I can’t even tell you the lead actor’s name in this thing.  I felt really bad for Thomas Jane, by the way, an actor I really enjoy in The Expanse.  Man, he really lowered his standards with this thing.  I typically like Olivia Munn as well, but her character was all over the place.  One minute she’s a scientist, the next she can operate heavy artillery.

Another misstep is that there wasn’t enough Predator in this thing!  We spent far more time with humans than Predators, and those humans were not at all interesting.  Sadly, I couldn’t even keep track of the Predator’s story line.  The movie introduces a ridiculous premise involving a particular Predator while providing zero background information or motivation for said Predator.

Finally, at the risk of spoiling the ending of the movie a bit, Sterling K. Brown is set up to be the “bad guy” of the film.  At the end of the movie, he’s in a group with the “good guys” trying to survive the Predator.  I literally have no idea what ever happened to him.  I asked my friend who saw it with me, and he had no idea either.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Predator dog who decided to be man’s best friend for absolutely no reason at all.

Do yourself a favor, go see The Meg instead of this.  It’s terrible, too, but at least it attempted to make sense and was somewhat comprehensible.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

The Meg – A Movie Review

I realize this has been out for awhile, but maybe I’ll get lucky and this review will still prove helpful to you.

If you have the chance to see this movie, let me go ahead and save you some money by saying you should pass.

Don’t get me wrong — I had a great time watching it.  It’s just that most of my joy derived from the movie’s terrible dialogue, lackluster acting, and enormous plot holes.  In other words, this movie was so bad that it was good.  If you’re into that kind of thing, then you should go for it.

But if you’re coming for Statham’s amazing fighting skills, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  There’s not one fistfight to be seen in this film.  If you’re hoping for incredible stunts, you’ll be let down on that front as well.

However, if you’re into special effects, The Meg will delight.  Obviously, the CGI shark is pretty incredible.  Don’t discount the nearly seamless blending of CGI and reality, as well.  I honestly had a hard time discerning where the CGI ended and the real materials began.  The underwater portion of the film was amazing, by the way.  It looked really, really good.

There were also some genuine thrills in The Meg.  One moment even made me jump.  Much of it will strike you as fairly predictable and cliched, but it’s still exciting to watch.

The movie comes crashing down a bit when you start to think … even a little.  There are several plot holes that are hard to overcome.  Even harder to get past, though, is the bad, bad, really bad acting.  I think the little girl in the movie may have been the best actor.  Contemplate that for a moment.

The real reason I wanted to see The Meg is because I heard somewhere that it was the best shark movie since Jaws.  Trust me when I say it’s not.  I have no idea what other shark movies outrank it, because I’m not that into shark movies, but this dud failed to give me what I most wanted — a giant shark wreaking havoc at every opportunity.  There were too many near-misses for my taste.  The film was far too kind to its characters.  Not enough wanton destruction for a monster movie.  I’m generally not into wanton destruction, mind you, but if I’m going to monster movie, then, yeah, I want wanton.

So if you want a fairly mundane giant shark movie, The Meg might be up your alley.  Probably not, though.  It was good for some laughs, however.  And yes, I was that annoying guy laughing at all the wrong moments.  Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Journalists Are Vital To Our Freedom

To be honest, I’m hesitant to address this issue in a public forum.  In fact, I’m even fearful.  Our great nation is becoming unrecognizable to me in that we are now overtly embracing violent rhetoric as a matter of normality.  Death threats are being issued with little regard to the repercussions of the action.  Worst of all, our political leaders are leading this abhorrent trend.

As Americans, we appear to be sacrificing the very freedoms that have always made us a beacon of inspiration to the rest of the world.  The founders of our country knew the importance of certain freedoms.  They lived through an existence without those very freedoms and that is why they insisted we implement specific amendments during the birth of our nation.

We’ve existed for over two hundred years.  We haven’t always been perfect–far from it.  But we’ve learned with each new generation.  We’ve tried to be better with each new decade.  We’ve endeavored to remember that each and every American is vital to making an “America.”

There’s a wonderful line from the 1978 movie entitled Superman.  This refugee from the planet Krypton, a man who could very well be a god if he so chose, adopted the American ideal so fully, so authentically, that he literally said he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Notice that first word: truth.

Truth is the absolute foundation of our freedom.

We have always known that we have a right to the truth.  We elect our officials.  Our leaders are here to serve us, not the other way around.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve rested better knowing that if our leaders tried to trick us, cheat us, or even lie to us, we have a safeguard in place guaranteeing that they would be discovered.

The press.

The creators of our Constitution understood the relevance of truth, and they realized that we had to protect those who sought to bring us the truth.

Of course, I’m the first to admit that the word “truth” is often a matter of perspective.  My personal truth may not be yours, especially if you have a different world view.

So when I use the word “truth,” I actually mean it as “fact.”  Fact is undeniable.  Fact happened.

Journalists–real journalists–are trained to report fact.  They deliver the “who,” the “what,” the “where,”the “when,” the “why,” and the “how.”

To me, those things are truth.  But it may be better to refer to them as fact.  Without journalists, how do we know the facts of what’s occurred?

Perhaps you’re willing to believe everything our elected leaders tell us, but I personally do not.  There are always agendas at play.  Politics rule … obviously.  I take comfort knowing that our journalists are checking facts, seeking truths, and reporting to the public what they find.

Do I admire every journalist out there?  No, I don’t.  Nor should you.  However, isn’t it reassuring that we have an entire press corps from which to choose?

I’m also not so innocent as to believe that individual journalists may not have an agenda of their own.  It’s a matter of public record that many of our newspapers, news magazines, and news stations are owned by corporate entities that make profits the priority.  I have no doubt that truth has suffered as a result.

Clearly, some news outlets lean left, and some lean right.  Some are full-blown left, and some are full-blown right.  The beauty is that I can read articles from both, study subjects presented by each, and form my own opinion.  Journalists present news to America, but as Americans, we have to be willing to critically analyze that news and ultimately draw our own conclusions.  We must not be complacent.  We must not simply accept what is said to us by anyone without intellectually and soulfully engaging with the statement.  In other words, we have to make up our own minds about things after careful consideration.

But imagine a world where we have only one news outlet …  Picture an America in which the government dictates the news we receive.  Such leadership has existed in the world before–some even exist today.  I don’t want to live in that world, do you?  Such a world leads to oppression, the eradication of rights, and the termination of freedom.

When I hear that journalists are receiving death threats from the public, it makes me sick to my very soul.  When I hear that politicians are essentially encouraging the public to threaten, harm, and even kill journalists, it makes me fear for my great nation’s future.  These men and women have families.  They go home at the end of the day just like you and me.  If someone doesn’t like their reporting, simply stop reading the article, or keep surfing the web, or change the channel.  But to reach out to them and literally threaten murder?  Such an action is antithetical to the very principals that conceived this amazing democracy of ours.

Journalists are the only conduit to truth that we have.  We must hold truth dear to our hearts.  We must protect those fighting to bring us truth.  For without truth, there is no American way.

Usa, America, United States