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Westworld. Sigh. This show. Season two seemed to strain against the simplicity of its Michael Crichton source, feeling like a high school philosophy primer wrapped in a sci-fi shell. This is also a show that is more puzzle than narrative, and it routinely commits my most hated storytelling move: deliberately withholding information from the viewer/reader in order to build suspense or set up a twist. None of this worked for me. There were a couple of episodes that functioned well as stand-alone stories, but otherwise this season seemed more interested in narrative trickery or puzzle-like stage setting. And, honestly, if I wanted a puzzle, I would play a video game. This might be the first HBO show in some time that I abandon. Grade: D

Exit West. A beautiful & harrowing novel that uses magical realism to consider our current moment. In Hamid's story, doors appear & offer immediate transit to other areas of the world. We follow two protagonists—Nadia and Saeed—as they move through those doors, searching for safety in a chaotic world. The story is powerful & poignant, and I particularly loved the book on a sentence level: Hamid crafts beautiful phrases and rich characters. Grade: A

Legion. Another fragmented narrative. I liked and disliked this show in equal parts, until a terrible, unforgivable final episode. This will be another TV show I abandon. Grade: F

Infomocracy/Null States. Older's Infomocracy, the first book in a series, is wonderful. She imagines a world where citizens participate in microdemocracies (instead of nation states): small groups of ideologically-aligned populations. Some are based on corporate sponsorship, others on interest, others on policy or values. Within this political context, Older tells a great spy story—a set up that reminds me of something like Neal Stephenson's Reamde. The second book (Null States) has an equally-compelling premise, but I liked it a bit less. Still, the series scratches my cyberpunk itch, and I'll be back for the third novel. Grade: B

A Series of Unfortunate Events. Given my critiques of Westworld and Legion, this show offered the playful & delightfully linear narrative that I wanted. Is it a kids show? Yeah. But does it offer a thoughtful approach to language and compassion and the aloofness of adults in an unsafe and often uncaring world? Yep. And right now, that kind of story is a welcome (and all too familiar) one. Grade: B+

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Tim Lockridge


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tim lockridge

writer, reader, professor

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