The Doubt Factory – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: The Doubt Factory9780349002569-us-300
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 496
Category: 25. Read an indie book, where the publisher is a small or niche house and not one of the top 6 publishers (Atom)
Format: Paper

Date Started: February 7th 2017
Date Finished: February 10th 2017

The perfect book for the amateur conspiracy theorist, The Doubt Factory explores the question of just how much we can trust the brands and products we’re using. Specifically the pharmaceuticals that many of us need just to stay alive. Are these same pharmaceuticals actually killing us?

Alix has lived a very sheltered and affluent life going to the best private school money can buy with a house that many of us would be envious of and a perfectly boring suburban family. Her dad works long hours, her mum keeps the house in order, she gets good grades and her younger brother is always getting himself into trouble. Perfectly normal. Her friends are also perfectly normal, their private school kids just like her, who’s parents work and earn enough money to also send them to private schools. Her afternoons are spent in Starbucks with friends, going to the mall or doing homework. At least until 2.0 shows up and things start getting weird for Alix.

A prank at school that she is told is all her fault, then her brother runs off and her dad starts freaking out. Why does 2.0 have it in for her family and why is she now stuck with Death Barbie following her around all the time to keep her safe?

As the plot begins to unfold so do the questions, like falling down a rabbit hole, one after another. And Alix does feel kind of like she’s falling down a rabbit hole as her perfectly regular life begins to unravel around her.

The book is a bit slow to get started, but once it does it’s a fascinating exploration of the way we embrace new products without really knowing the risks they pose to us. Is your asthma medication going to put you in a coma? Is aspirin going to kill your kid? Yes, this is a novel and as such slightly dramatised, but it does make you wonder just how much you know about the products you’re using and how they’re regulated.

Despite the subject matter this is a nice easy read, the language straightforward and the concepts well explained, after all it is a young adult book. Some of the twists I saw coming, some of them I didn’t which is always a plus from me. If you can handle a story that builds slowly and a somewhat dense main character (at least for the first half of the book) then you should give The Doubt Factory a chance.

Rating: 3.5/5

Let’s Be Evil (2016)

Title: Let’s Be Evilmv5bogjjnmm5mjmtmjzlos00yje2ltllngitmdninwvmmtbjzjuwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjc5ndgwnte-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_
Year: 2016
Director: Martin Owen
Genre: Thriller
Date Watched: February 9th, 2017
Category: #35 A short film (less than 90 minutes)

If you’re looking for a movie less than 90 minutes long, the safe bet is going to be horror/thriller or children’s. Sadly I’ve seen most of the well known children’s films of that length and many of the thrillers, so here we’ve ended up with a new addition to Netflix in Let’s Be Evil.

I wish I had looked at the description and thought ‘hmm, cool concept’ and moved on without actually watching it because the concept really does have a lot of potential, unfortunately, the film itself did not manage to deliver on much.

The concept of Let’s Be Evil is a group of ordinary people (Jeni, Tiggs and Darby) who are employed to supervise a group of gifted young children going through a program that utilises augmented reality as a teaching mechanism, but of course it’s a thriller so the children are actually creepy little critters out to kill their chaperones. Based on the beginning of the movie this was employed as a technique to combat failing public schools and a generation of children that was growing up less educated than the one before it.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed the first half of the movie which was mostly setting the scene with the group getting to the facility and being shown around by their AI guide Ariel. I can’t say the same for the second half. A few strange things start happening in the facility, only to Jeni to begin with and then of course it suddenly becomes clear that the children are evil and want to kill their chaperones. Cut to some not particularly imaginative efforts to get out of the testing facility and to safety, cue the death of some of the characters and everyone has gotten what they wanted, right?

Unfortunately, this film left me wanting, based on the first half of the film I expected some kind of clever creeping which was partly realised in the first creepy efforts of the children. But ultimately, first half of the film didn’t gel with the second half, and there wasn’t really anything in the way of resolution at the end of the film. For me, there were clever elements within the film but ultimately they were like separate pieces which together can make up a great horror film (creepy children: check, trapped: check, unexplained occurrences: check) or they can make a disjointed mess like they did here.

Do yourselves a favour and give this one a miss. You will not regret it.

Rating: 1.5 stars (only because the concept and the set up was interesting)