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REVIEW:  A Galactic Holiday Anthology by Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers, and Anna Hackett

REVIEW: A Galactic Holiday Anthology by Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers,...

A Galactic Holiday Anthology by Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers, and Anna HackettWhen looking around at the holiday offerings this year, I saw this anthology from Carina Press. It was a complete stab in the dark for me as I knew nothing about any of the authors and SF/futuristic usually isn’t my thing. Perhaps having no expectations allowed me to just read in the moment but I finished with some new authors to watch out for. The anthology is available for purchase as a whole or the novellas can be bought separately.

“Do androids dream of electric sugar plums?

A detective who refuses to modify her body teams up with her cyborg rival to track down a burglar who is putting toys into homes. A solitary ice miner finds love and friendship while stranded on the surface of Galileo. And two hardheaded negotiators put their differences aside to evade an assassin and save their planets.”

How the Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail

A stubborn non mechanized detective and an equally stubborn and madly in love bodmod detective discover in each other the happiness and joy of the season they each thought lost.

The story utilizes a ‘not totally dystopian’ near future world and is done well. There’s enough here that’s familiar mixed with enough to suggest futuristic developments without going overboard about it and letting this take over the human interest aspect of the story. The initial friction between Raine and Wicke is over their advancement in the Chicago Police Department which then shifts to the fact that Raine keeps resisting the department directive to get bodmods. Her reasoning is presented and makes sense just as Wicke’s decision to use the new technology to allow himself to be a better cop also makes sense. Pros and cons on both sides lead to each understanding the other’s position and being at peace with it.

Both are shown as good cops, intuitive and determined to solve the somewhat strange crime that’s been reported. The resolution adds a neat touch to their discovery of each other and love when they find the spirit of trust and Christmas giving from someone who shouldn’t have these at all. Oh, and I love the title of the oft mentioned Christmas carol, “Gimme, Santa, gimme.”. Are there words to this?

The story feels complete without being rushed and as a tech holdout myself, I could appreciate a heroine who is described as a Luddite. B

Galileo’s Holiday by Sasha Summers

An ice miner now stranded on an frozen outpost planet discovers love with an enigmatic man of mystery amid the strange holiday celebrations of the settlers who live there.

I am in shock and tickled pink to have gotten two great stories in a row. Perhaps I need to be reading more SF?

Again the novella feels complete and unrushed which is a rarity in anthologies. Usually either there’s not enough space to give a full story or I don’t get fully engaged in the novella because there’s not enough to make me care. Here I get a full world experience, a love story I believe plus a holiday story of sorts. It’s kind of a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas but that’s fine and makes sense as it’s presented and the way these people celebrate these holidays is the way it ought to be done. The world building is detailed enough for the needs of the story without either over or under doing it. The setting is totally off Earth but with distant echoes of what we know so as not to feel totally strange.

I liked the twist of characterization of Riley and Leo and will admit that when I read the novella description, I got the placement wrong. Here the social hero must woo the skittish heroine who has to be persuaded that a relationship is a good thing. It’s got tension, excitement, enough that’s different to capture my imagination, a heroine who is skilled at what she does – and makes no apologies for that – plus a yummy hero who obviously falls for her immediately. And appreciation for books! And food! A-

Winter Fusion by Anna Hackett

She’s a tough planetary negotiator but he thinks he’s tougher. She already dislikes him due to a past conflict while he won’t let anything stand in the way of winning a coveted promotion even if he does insist on negotiating during her planetary holiday.

I had hopes for a trio of excellence but alas, for me it was not to be. This one has an interesting start with an uber controlled hero who seems like he will be matched by an equally strong, though more openly emotional, heroine. There is much at stake and an already established conflict that is real and not manufactured. Then the hero arrives on the snow planet. Sparks of dislike and disdain fly until an outside force pushes these two together in life or death peril. With all that, this one should have worked but this is the story which annoyed me.

Perhaps because the strong heroine has turned wimpy in the face of danger – to the point where the hero has to yell at her to snap out of it (shades of Moonstruck) and help them survive the cold conditions of her damn planet. Perhaps because the heroine is ogling, to the point of inertia, the shivering hero while she’s stripping him to warm him up. Even she realizes she needs to stop this. Then after time together, she can tell that he’s just aching to be loved. This description is repeated and each time it made me imagine a lost puppy rather than an adult man. Finally the hero then starts to go emo – way emo. To finish, a standard final conflict drags the story out to an equally standard resolution. C-

~Jayne

 

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Friday Film Review: Outsourced

Friday Film Review: Outsourced

Outsourced (2006)
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Grade:B-

Outsourced is a movie I’d had in my Netflix rental queue for quite a while but Bonnie Dee’s email to me suggesting it as a review movie got me to move it up the head of the line. Though a 2006 release, the subject matter – someone who’s job is being transferred to another country where it will be done more cheaply and someone who is a fish out of water – are still relevant today.

Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) manages a call center in Seattle for a company that markets kitschy novelty items. He takes pride in customer service as do most of the people who work for him. So when he learns that all their jobs are being eliminated because the call center is being transferred to a small town in India where the company can get eleven people for the price they’re paying one American, he’s mad. He’s really ticked when his boss tells him that he has to travel to India to train his replacement and work with the staff there to get their MPI (minutes per incident – basically the time it takes to resolve a customer problem) down.

But as the next scene shows Todd arriving in Bombay then traveling by taxi and train to this small Indian town, it’s obvious he’s been browbeaten into the job. After making the mistake of eating street food – hello Delhi belly! – he finally meets the man he’s to train, Puro (Asif Basra ), who refuses to let Todd think of staying in a lonely hotel when Puro’s Aunti-Ji (Sidha Shivpuri) has offered to put Todd up at her house. His initial moments in Aunti-Ji’s house prove to be just the start of Todd’s education about life in India.

Because, in reality, that’s what the movie is about. In order to help the call center staff get their MPI numbers down, something another American businessman Todd encounters in Bombay tells him is impossible, Todd first has to understand India and the people there in order to be able to help them understand the American customers they’re trying to help. One person who ends up helping Todd the most, and with whom he eventually falls in love, is the charming Asha (Ayesha Dharker). But as the MPI falls and Todd and Asha grow closer together, will it all ultimately fall apart as the realities of arranged marriages in India and corporate profits in the US conspire against them?

After watching the film, I couldn’t help but think it probably went over better even the few years ago when it was first released. Since then, the recent years of economic upheaval have made outsourcing even more of a flash point issue for people around the world as they watch their jobs being sent overseas leaving them to scramble for the fewer and fewer positions still available in their own countries. And the open ended close of the film, in which Todd has finally told the company, in so many words, what they can do with their policies but where he obviously, at least for the moment, has no job, would probably be seen more as something to be worried about rather than something that’s freed Todd.

But putting all that aside and getting back into the spirit of 2006, it’s a fun, charming little film that is better than it ought to probably be. The director and co-author of the script, John Jeffcoat, spent lots of time junketing around the world including stints in Nepal and India and it’s obvious he’s probably using his own or witnessed incidents to have some fun with the hero. Todd starts out as a clueless American who blithely imagines that he’s going to breeze in, fix what’s wrong and then fly right out of there. But no, that’s just not going to work and here is one of the things I really like about it. There isn’t going to be the Great White Savior who comes in and saves the dark skinned people with his superior wisdom. Instead Todd quickly learns that if he listens to the people there, they can teach him a lot about motivating staff and being a better manager at work as well as more open to what the world has to offer that’s different from what’s in your own backyard.

It’s also got a smart heroine in Asha, who is very much more on the ball than Todd. And in Dharker, the film makers have an actress whose smile will light up the darkest of movie theaters. Basra is great as well and conveys infectious enthusiasm for the chance to earn enough money to finally be able to marry his true love. But I think my favorite Indian character and indeed actor is Sidha Shivpuri who is instantly ready to match Todd up with a nice Indian girl once she ascertains that he’s not gay.

There’s lots of local color and character actors and I like that Todd ends up being the one with the most to learn and who does learn the most. One thing I’m not too sure of is the fact that Asha, though she genuinely seems to care for Todd is treating their relationship as a brief encounter before she goes ahead with the marriage her family arranged for her years before. It’s her “Vacation in Goa” as she explains to Todd. It’s not so much the arranged marriage as the fact that she doesn’t initially tell Todd she sees this as only a fling. He does continue with it on once he knows this but a brief look on his face then and his statements to her later that he hopes to be able to find someone as wonderful as she is with whom he can fall in love make me think his involvement was deeper than she guessed.

It’s kind of predictable, but then few movies of this type aren’t. The open ending allows for various interpretations from Asha and Todd getting together to maybe Todd going back to a country he’s come to love. Watch for several funny moments such as Todd vainly trying to explain to his Indian staff what a “Cheesehead” is and Aunti-Ji’s handyman giving Todd a visual on why only the right hand is used to touch food in India. It was probably more “feel good” then than might be possible today but I enjoyed it as a fun popcorn evening.

~Jayne