Read All Over reviews

By Kane Faucher
December 06, 2012

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The Fridgularity
By Mark A. Rayner
Monkeyjoy Press, 394 pgs.


Hot on the heels of Pirate Therapy and Other Cures, Mark Rayner’s incisive and satirical wit strikes again.

In a nightmare that even George Romero could never envision, imagine if a sentient refrigerator were to pull the plug on the Internet. The antagonist of this novel is a HAL-9000-esque appliance named Zathir who has achieved the artificial intelligence grail of the technological singularity. Meanwhile, to resurrect our reference to Romero, the population stumbles about in a zombie-like haze, confused and in withdrawal from the Internet.

At the center of this singularity and the resulting chaos is the ostensible owner of Zathir, Blake Given, who is pitching woo to Daphne.

Written in a humourous parodic prose that merges the apocalyptic genre with the contemporary mores of digital technologies, Rayner succeeds in transforming the lurking anxieties with advanced bots and voice-recognition software a la Siri on iPhone and refrigerators that are digitally enabled into both a risible and even touching story about our diminishing place in a world of technological intelligence run rampant.

As any good science fiction does, Rayner presents us with the underlying critique of unbridled technological integration. And, hey, who could turn down a novel that stars a megalomaniacal talking fridge?

There is indeed an app(liance) for that!

Screening the Face
Paul Coates

Palgrave Macmillan
2012, 195 pgs.


Leering from an ancient Greek frieze, the tongue of the Gorgon lolls as Perseus holds it aloft. The grotesque close-up of the beheaded Medusa is represented as a symbol of heroism triumphing over the abject.

Paul Coates weaves a cogent exploration of the tense conceptual borderland between faces and masks, film and philosophy, exploring the dialectical question of face and mask with agile erudition and applying considerable critical pressure. Taken as general stock and unacknowledged binary in film from Eisenstein to neo-realism, the symbolic, semiotic and cultural perspectives on what role facial representation plays receives more than simply a ‘close-up’ under Coates’ treatment.

We are reminded, in turn, of the increasing interest in facial representation including Siegfried Kracauer’s writings on photography up through more poststructuralist preoccupation with the fundamental significance (if not semiotic regime) of the face in history and linguistics in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.

Coates’ strong critical theory perspective on film lifts the symbolic mask to reveal the filmic face, tracing the conceptual arc from Bergman to Batman.

Environmental Issues for the Twenty-First Century and Their Impact on Human Health
Richard B. Philp
Bentham Science Publishers

Many are the books that remind us of the threats that undermine our Earth’s well-being, and within this genre are a raft of readymade solutions to promote a radical attitude shift if only there was political, corporate and citizen will to do so. Richard B. Philp’s book may not strike a particularly different chord among the already converted, but he does present readers with a holistic approach to the effects of pollutants on human health, relying on meticulous studies.

Ranging from the deleterious effect of oil sand extraction to the measured impact of the Walkerton crisis, from fracking to e-waste, from the wind turbines debate in Ontario to the effects of aerial fumigation, the reader is presented with a thoroughly researched text so densely woven that it is difficult to believe the motley of issues could be contained in so relatively few pages.

Marked by evident literature review in each of its gnomic chapters, Philp succeeds in providing a balanced approach to the underlying problematic: the complex integration of our air, water and land resources with respect to chemical threats to our health. Although fact-studded, Philp’s passion and strong concern for the subject emanates from the page.

Moreover, for those of us (like this reviewer) who match environmental concern with proactive change in everyday practice, this book is a trusty reference. And, although many of the concluding recommendations for change are already well known by some, they do bear reiteration, and we cannot simply rely on government regulations to lead the way: it is for each of us to take responsibility for our own actions, and to place keen pressure on polluting industries that continue to embrace unsustainable and destructive practices.


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