Inspired by the ‘Arc of the Scythe’ Series by Neal Shusterman

Who knew death could be so much fun? What a creative and unique world Neal Shusterman invented for us through his Arc of the Scythe series. I ate this post-mortality concept up. How did he do this? I’ve read a lot of dystopian literature, and I think this one might be my favorite. It gave me the same feeling that The Hunger Games did, in that I was transported into a world far from where we find ourselves now. This reminded me why books are magic. In a year where we are inside all the time because of a deadly pandemic, you will feel far from quarantined once you enter the world of the Scythedom.

The breakdown: What would happen if we became so technologically advanced that disease and death were eradicated? Where if we were hit by a car and rendered “deadish” we could be sent to a “revival station” and be brought back to life? Wanna look younger? That can happen, too. The one problem: How would we control the population? Shusterman gives us the answer with his creation of the “Scythedom”: a superior and respected group of people who kill others in order to prevent overpopulation.

At the center of this amazing series are two teenagers, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, who undergo training as apprentices to Honorable Scythe Faraday (I loved Faraday so hard). Each youth struggle with the “art of killing”, and eventually become extremely important to the future of not only the Scythedom, but to life on Earth as we know it.

Technology is also the star of the show. An advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. Who is preventing plane crashes, sinking ships, and terrorist attacks? The Thunderhead, that’s who. Yep, and it’s watching when you accidentally electrocute yourself and need to be brought to a revival station? The Thunderhead sends reinforcements to bring your fried ass back to life. The Thunderhead is a form of AI that does not make mistakes or have regrets, and serves the population in life, while the Scythedom serves us through permanent death. It operates separate and apart from the Scythedom. In the second and third books, we see how this AI tries to save humanity from itself after the Scythedom goes rogue. And how it’s inability to interfere with the Scythedom complicates matters. What a testament to show that even without disease and death from violence, the same things lead us to hurt one another: greed, power, jealousy, and groupthink.

I loved these characters, even the horrible ones. I also liked to imagine what life would be like if this were real. Would I be a Scythe? Hell no. Would I enjoy getting the 18 year old version of my ass back every few years? Hell yes.

As an aside, I loved the words and concepts Shusterman created. Examples: “Gleaning” (permanent killing), “MidMerica”, “Tonists”, “Revival Stations”. It goes on. The names he gave the Scythes, too. So much fun.

The Arc of the Scythe series is worth your time. Read (or listen) to all three books. If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you won’t regret it: Greg Tremblay does a fantastic job bringing each character to life.

Dream Cast:

Scythe Faraday: Liam Neeson

Scythe Curie: Viola Davis

Citra aka Scythe Anastasia: Jenna Ortega

Rowan aka Scythe Lucifer: Alex Lawther

Scythe Goddard: Mads Mikkselson

Scythe Rand: Lucy Liu

Greyson Tolliver: Levi Miller

Jericho: Jade Hassouné

Monira: Selena Gomez

Thunderhead: Morgan Freeman

If ‘12 Angry Men’ were made today

I drew this for my teenage niece. She has a learning disability (she said it’s ok if I say that) that makes it difficult for her to retain information. She has always been a visual learner, and it’s just hard for her. She tries so hard. Her English teacher assigned 12 Angry Men and is allowing her to also watch the movie to help retain the material. One small problem: my niece isn’t into the movie because it’s in black and white and “it looks old” (forgive her for she know not what she says) and it’s just “a bunch of old white guys” (ok, she got me there but she also knows it was a representation of how things were in 1954 when the play was written). There is a 1997 movie adaptation but she wasn’t interested in that either. So, to make it fun I suggested we put our own diverse cast together with actors she’s more familiar with so she can connect with them and put a face to the character. Then I’d draw them to try to help her remember each man, and what their personalities bring to the jury. She wanted to me to pick six, and then she picked the other six. (By the way, she selected Shawn Mendes as the defendant 😂)

I used the same background as the movie poster from 1957, but I inverted the colors on procreate. Here’s the original:

Here is the version I drew in 2021, the year of our Lord and Savior Dolly Parton:

Jury Foreman: Paul Walter Hauser – calm, fair, employed as a high school coach. Originally played by Martin Balsam.

Juror 2: The Banker. Riz Ahmed. Shy and meek. Originally portrayed by John Fiedler.

Juror 3: The Angry Business Owner. John Turturro. Hot-tempered and estranged from his son. Wants a guilty verdict. Originally portrayed by Lee J. Cobb.

Juror 4: The Stockbroker. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Detail-oriented, concerned with focusing on the facts of the case. Originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall.

Juror 5: The Survivor. LaKeith Stanfield. From humble beginnings. Now a healthcare worker. The one who realizes the position of the switchblade knife is inconsistent. Originally portrayed by Jack Klugman.

Juror 6: The Painter. Oscar Isaac. Tough, measured, protective of the older jurors when they are disrespected. Originally portrayed by Edward Binns.

Juror 7: The Salesman. Patrick Wilson. Wisecracking, totally indifferent, would rather be anywhere but in a jury room. Originally portrayed by Jack Warden.

Juror 8: The Architect. Mahershala Ali. The first one to vote not-guilty. Kind, justice-seeking and humane. Originally portrayed by Henry Fonda.

Juror 9: The Senior. Alan Arkin. Wise. Extremely observant of witness behavior. Originally portrayed by Joseph Sweeney.

Juror 10: The Garage Owner. Woody Harrelson. Bigot, loud-mouth. Originally portrayed by Ed Begley.

Juror 11: The Watchmaker. Mads Mikkelsen. European immigrant and naturalized citizen. Passionate about democracy and due process. Originally portrayed by George Voskovec.

Juror 12: The Advertising Executive. Alan Cummings. Indecisive and easily swayed by others.

‘Piranesi’ review, inspired art, and dream cast!

Painting of the Albatross described by Piranesi. I made the background with a marble effect to represent the statues in Piranesi’s labyrinth.

Spoilers ahead (kinda):

What a superb work of literature this was. An unforgettable story about a person who has forgotten. This was so richly layered, unique, and thought-provoking that I’m pretty sure this will be my go-to book recommendation to friends for some time to come.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is the story of a man living in a huge home constructed like a labyrinth. Room after room, covered with symbolic statues, wildlife, and surrounded -and fortressed in-by an unforgiving ocean. Piranesi, the title character, knows The House well, but it is so massive that even he discovers new things or new creatures, often to his delight. And because he doesn’t have a calendar, he has created his own measure of time starting from the day two albatross arrived at the labyrinth (i.e. six months since the albatross visited). But he doesn’t know much more than that about the time and space he finds himself in. How did he get there?

Piranesi is alone on this expansive property save for one other person, aptly named “The Other”, who has tasked Piranesi with helping him research the labyrinth. “The Other” is an unkind and short-tempered pendejo, something Piranesi, in his innocent and childlike wonder, doesn’t realize. And because Piranesi trusts “The Other”, and we are seeing life from his perspective, the reader doesn’t know what to make of him either. All we know is that he doesn’t stay, he comes and goes, while Piranesi never leaves. Making matters more complicated, Piranesi relies on “The Other” for supplies, even shoes. He also senses that Piranesi isn’t even his real name, just one given to him by “The Other”. So there is a ton of control and manipulation at play here. One day, Piranesi comes across someone new in the labyrinth, someone “The Other” doesn’t want him to talk to. This chance meeting sparks of a series of events that changes Piranesi’s life.

You can feel the isolation of Piranesi’s existence. Even though he doesn’t seem to mind, because it is all he knows, Clarke does an excellent job describing the emptiness of The House for the reader. Just imagine walking hall after hall in rooms filled with birds and gorgeous statues, and not knowing why or how you got there. You have to create your own calendar, make your own food, and survive the cold. You become with the ocean tides, that you know when a flood is coming. And for some odd reason, you know the statues surrounding you portray people and actions that are based on something real, but you’re not sure how you know that. And the skeletons be finds? This was a total mind boggle, and disorienting. Oh, and by the way, it turns out the labyrinth will cause you to lose your memory if you stay long enough. Hence Piranesi’s amnesia. Uncle.

Piranesi is a magnificent character, who is kind, curious. and appreciative of everything, despite the many hardships and obstacles that come his way. He respects all creatures, and has a sentimentality to him that made me love him even more. I felt oddly protective of Piranesi, and when I didn’t like how he was being treated, had to take a break from the book.

When I read up on Susanna Clarke, and discovered that she herself was in isolation due to poor health when she wrote this, it made this wonderful work of fiction even more meaningful. Because her struggle inspired her to create something quite beautiful. I wish I could hug her and thank her. Her strength through adversity gave us the masterpiece that is Piranesi.

Note: I enjoyed the audiobook of this more than any other I’ve come across. The narrator, Chiwetel Ejiofor, absolutely knocked it out of the park.

Dream cast 🎥 🍿:

Piranesi: It simply must be Chiwetel Ejiofor, no one else. I won’t hear of it.

The Other: Colin Firth

The Prophet: Jeremy Irons

Sixteen: Regina King

“How Lucky” Book Review and Dream Cast!

The world of How Lucky in a Georgia peach.

I’m not one for hyperbole but, my goodness, How Lucky by Will Leitch is one of most compelling and memorable books I’ve read in years. This is the kind of book that reminds you why you love to read, and why even after a not-so-good book you always go back for more. It made me think “man, I’m happy to be alive right now to be reading this”. Think Stefan from SNL when he says “this place has everything”..that’s this book. Kidnapping, sports, cougar moms, love, stoner friends, high-speed wheelchair driving, and that thing where you fall in love with this f*cking book.

Set in college town Athens, Georgia, this is the story of an unlikely hero named Daniel, a wheelchair bound 26-year-old who witnesses the kidnapping of Ai-Chin, a young Chinese student. Despite fighting the monster that is his progressive and debilitating disease, he still cares deeply for others who are victims of a different kind of monster: crime, cruelty, circumstance, or just their station in life. And so begins an amateur crime sleuth mystery that will keep you up so late you’re late for work the next day (yep, that happened). With the help of the Internet and his friends, Daniel’s monotonous existence becomes a thriller. Where is Ai-Chin? Why is it taking so long for someone to care? Who has her?

While those questions will keep you reading, this is so much more than a crime thriller. James Patterson, this is not. It’s about friendship, acceptance, survival, and loneliness. It’s about how ethnic and disabled minorities are treated and perceived in society. Daniel does not want your pity, he doesn’t want you to talk to him like he’s stupid. Because he’s not. Stop underestimating him. Just because he needs help doesn’t mean he can’t be of help and a contributing member of society. And despite having been given a raw deal, while enduring so much heartache, Daniel’s still so optimistic. He reminds you how lucky we are to be here. How lucky we are to have one another. How lucky we are to walk. Be able to feed ourselves. Breathe on our own. This doesn’t mean he isn’t realistic, because he doesn’t mince words about death, or the brutality of football, or the fact that his balls need to be cleaned by someone else. Ahhh, what a breath of fresh air Daniel was.

The rest of the characters were just as wonderful. Daniel’s boisterous and non-judgmental best friend, Travis. His devoted and overworked Pakistani nurse, Marjani. His -catching-up-on-all-the-sex-I’ve-missed- globetrotting mother. I loved them all. No matter how little or how much they were in this beautiful novel, they shaped Daniel and his story into something truly unforgettable.

What else can I say? Read. This. Book.

Rating: 5/5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dream Cast: 🎥 🍿

Daniel: Josh Hutcherson

Travis: Anthony Ramos

Margani: Shaista Lodhi

Mom: Jennifer Garner

Ai-Chin: Chloe Bennet

Jonathan: Ezra Miller