Clickbait – a story of people on the Internet

Clickbait on Netflix is an Australian series of 8 episodes relevant to our Internet-infused lives. It is a binge-worthy show in the thriller-crime genre. The twists and turns in the plot are intriguing. The end is engaging and packs in quite a surprise element. Clickbait is also a commentary on the complex nature of relationships, work, and individual psychology.

For instance, Detective Amiri – we see a bit about his personal life, but we also glimpse how his insecurities affect his professional demeanor and work relationship. He feels overlooked because of his religion. In reality, as a lone wolf, he lacks the skill to work in a team. Amiri is ambitious, with personal and professional ethics mostly in the right place. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the journalists. They hound the victim for news bites and employ objectionable methods to capture information and the coveted prime time slot. These and other incidents provide ample food for thought on complex work dynamics in various professional arenas.

Pia, as one of the leads, has a visibly volatile temperament. She is determined to solve the mystery involving her brother, Nick. We witness an empathetic side of her as she fights for her family. As the shadow of an Internet-based crime hangs low over the Brewer family, skeletons drop out of the closet, including extramarital relationships.

Characters that do not fill in the entire space of the series but feature in dedicated episodes have a lot of depth. Tech-savvy teenagers, who do not understand the impact of technology, put themselves and the lives of others at risk. From GPS-tracking devices, memes, and trends, to meeting strangers on the Internet, youngsters pride themselves on being connected. How many of them are mature enough to understand the consequences of using technology, even if well-intended? Why blame the children, when even the adults plonked in front of screens, take part in a make-believe world? The series brings out the horrors of convoluted identities and an even-more complex web of lies on the world wide web.

A content moderator sits through 10, 000 images a day, sieving out the trash from the Internet. Trudging through his boring life, he probably does not realize how the violent and inappropriate content he is perusing every day has subconsciously affected him. His wild side breaks out after he cannot save his sister from being deceived on a dating site. Then, there is the compulsive liar, the insurance agent, who is so good at weaving stories out of thin air that maybe her mind stops processing the thin line between fantasy and facts. I found her character to be quite impactful.

At the end of it all, there is one underlying theme. The pursuit for the remedy of loneliness through the Internet. When we are alone, anxious, perturbed, even bored, we turn to devices to consume mindless information, entertain ourselves, fix dates, and make friends. As the clock ticks, filling in the stark hours, we throw caution to the wind. We are entangled. We are callous. We are still lonely and afraid. Trust is a beautiful thing, but it shatters bit by bit, rather, click by click, as we bite the bait and hope for beautiful and extraordinary things to emerge from the Internet. It is all a lie!

Clickbait, as a series, has garnered mixed viewer responses. I found it watchable and impressive enough to feature on my blog. Beyond the crime drama and investigation, the psychological aspects are worth pondering. Clickbait is a tale of complex mind-games and a reflection of our society. It projects the mental health condition of the seemingly normal-life leading individuals and how it hides behind glossy screens and digital spaces. The more these people need to get help, the more reclusive and secretive we become. It carries a message of caution not just about what you click but also how well you know the people in your life.

The Silent Sea – A compelling sci-fi thriller

Must watch for sci-fi lovers!

Trailer – The Silent Sea

Climate change, state-sponsored controversial and secret research and space exploration have intrigued the human mind for a long time. From questions and activism to conspiracy theories and some inspired fiction, we have tried to make sense of our world. Science-fiction as a genre has flourished on intrigues and extreme imagination and has sometimes become prophetic.

When I watched The Silent Sea on Netflix, I wondered if some of this was true. What if years of space explorations have led to some discoveries that are privy to the high and mighty? With the sudden spurt in space-related activities, as we battle a pandemic, nothing seems improbable!

The Silent Sea, a 2021 South Korean sci-fi mystery thriller, is an adaptation of the 2014 short film, The Sea of Tranquility. IMBD trivia says this is the first sci-fi space drama to be attempted in Korea. This Korean drama or K-drama starts at a slow pace, which is the hallmark of most space-bound series. I believe it’s a deliberate attempt to chip away at the romantic imagery of space travel. Space is dark, uninviting, boring, and dangerous. The thrill is not because things move fast, but the disenchantment is that time stands still in closed confines. In this series, the eerie corridors of an artificially lit space station are abuzz with adrenaline-soaked action.

A brooding astrobiologist joins a team of cherry-picked professionals to go to the Moon and recover a mysterious sample from the abandoned Balhae lunar research station in a 24-hour secret mission. The Earth is already barren, and water is more precious than any commodity. In a dystopian future of rationing and misery, we start with the stark realities of climate change, hitting us with tawny and pale dust. In contrast, the grayish and detailed lunar surface is intimidating and inviting.

The 8-episodes series packs in a lot of punch and strikes nearly all the boxes. We get regular doses of adventure, excitement, mystery, conflict, confusion, secrets, thrill, fear, suspense, human dynamics and emotions, and the eternal question of ethics. The element that binds the series together is that of trust. The fabric of trust is often ripped apart as the story progresses – from trusting your government, your colleagues, family members to your instincts.

At some places, the scenes linger on, but there is always a twist that leaves you thinking. They do not show the crew sleeping or eating, and I found it an interesting detail. The cinematography is excellent. Production has gone into details, from lighting to gadgets, and it all ties up well together. The unique storyline is a big draw and a win because it stretches the imagination, yet it is not implausible. I would have loved to delve into so many aspects, but none can be without a spoiler. An interested viewer has to take undertake this journey to draw their conclusions.

On the lunar landscape, the crew discovers anomalies and surprising elements. The series-makers give an exciting revelation, even at the end. As with most series, the pertinent question to ask is will there be a season 2? A work of art is successful when it leaves you contemplative and not craving for more, though I can see scope for a prelude series. I opine some things are best left to the imagination for a lasting impact. The Silent Sea leaves you pondering and with a powerful impression, and that should remain untampered.

Midnight Mass – An intense limited series

Poster – Source: Buzzfeed

The opening shot of Midnight Mass limited series on Netflix India is of a car crash with a policeman lifting a liquor bottle from the smashed vehicle. Shift to the court and prison scene we presume this to be a horror series in an urban setting. When an apparition appears to the accused, Riley, we have our first jump scare moment. These moments of modernity and scare are far and few. This is neither a haunting nor a prison narrative. This is an altogether different drama peppered with deep philosophy and enigma.

The plot soon shifts to Crockett island, a sleepy fishing village. It has a dwindling population reeling under the aftermath of an oil spill and disenchantment of youngsters, who are fast heading to the cities. The despondent and resigned-to-fate villagers are suddenly woken from slumber by the arrival of a young priest, Father Paul, who has replaced their old and ailing village priest. He bestows energy with enigmatic sermons and compassion, getting in touch with people, offering an ear and advice, and the Holy Communion.

Revelations in the middle of the series are preceded by a miracle, accompanied by confession, setting into motion a bizarre set of occurrences. A lot of time and attention goes into building up the primary characters. From anger to apathy, forgiveness, and sympathy, through trials and tribulations, and homecomings, we see an entire gamut of emotions build up a profound narrative. There is suspense, horror but mostly sadness and questions as people navigate their lives. Father Paul’s sermons can be heavy on those not acquainted with the Holy Bible.

Conversations between people are the most impactful. My favorite is in Episode 4, between Riley and Erin, where they take turns to describe What happens when you die?” It is a discourse to be revisited and applauded, as one tackles the physical connotations of death, and the other expresses it at a metaphysical level. Both are achingly beautiful. Even if you do not watch the series, watch this discourse starting at 27:50 minutes. The discussions in the AA meetings between Riley and Father Paul are also insightful.

Another conversation that stands out is between the village doctor and the sheriff, a practicing Muslim. He tells the doctor how 9/11 transformed the lives of men like him and brought them down from positions of importance to men clinging to their endangered dignity. It is poignant – nothing that we do not know of – but necessary to remind us of the injustice and discrimination. The wheat and chaff are not always separated and end up with the same crushing fate.

Poster – Source: Heaven of Horror

Midnight Mass is heavy-duty and not binge-watch material. The shadow of life and beyond life falls heavy on Crockett island. Demons are lurking in the dark with ghosts from the past, but the most dangerous are the secrets and desires that hide within us. This limited series will engage viewers in a meaningful discussion on community, sacrifice, suffering, and of course the good and diabolic. It is a serious watch with the mysterious and mystic thrown into the human cauldron. It touches upon science and religion, atheism and faith, and even nonconforming relationships.

Dramatized by extremely talented artists, this series brings out the beauty of the Church and its rituals and the truly devout, who try not to yield to temptation till the end. It also invokes the ugly and ruthless. Not all who pray are free of malice, not all who profess the Holy Word interpret it in the best interest of the masses. This is a story of lust, faith, fanaticism, spirituality, metaphysics, and of some flawed, forsaken men and women.

Not all angels are divine and not all faithful are without evil. There is, however, goodness and divinity in most people, irrespective of religious leanings or life philosophies. The most devout can treat someone as a pariah and harbor hatred for others. While the simple-minded can cradle compassion. For me, this is the deeper meaning that the bold series attempts to explore. 

It is one of the best series I have watched in a long time, worth the effort and patience, especially as it all makes sense in the last episode. I understand the series will have a limited audience. Not all can appreciate and comprehend the Biblical reference and the Catholic church rituals. It could have culminated in one episode less had it not been for the long passage recitations and monologues calling upon the faithful. I do see how these scenes help to build the passion and justify the flawed and seemingly faithful, as they drive the islanders to penultimate misery. Midnight Mass is not for mass entertainment but for a chosen few looking for an intelligent series that stays with them long after.

Trigger warning: Blood and gory scenes.

Trailer

For Riley’s description of death read this Elephant Journal article.

Book Review: The Juju Girl

This week, I was on a fascinating journey in New Orleans of the 19th century, with a Creole girl and her Gift. The coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Gabrielle starts from a devastating flood in her hometown of Buras and ends in a New Orleans home.

The Juju Girl

Book: The Juju Girl

Author: Nikki Marsh

Genre: Teens and Young Adult (13+), Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal

Review Copy: Reedsy.com

This week, I was on a fascinating journey in New Orleans of the 19th century, with a Creole girl and her gift. The coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Gabrielle starts from a devastating flood in her hometown of Buras and ends in a New Orleans home. This is a journey filled with magic and hauntings, spells and conjuring, sadness and misgivings. The breezy storyline has much to offer and flows meticulously and swiftly from one chapter to the next, building up curiosity as esoteric elements emerge in the life of the young girl.

The narrative creates vivid pictures of an age gone by, yet so alive. The author does not dwell much on extensive imagery and descriptions, though I felt that descriptive scenes of the ambiance and the rich Creole culture would have given more depth to the work. Maybe I was just craving for more as I became engaged in the travails of the protagonist and her family.

This young adult fiction pulled me in with its smooth and simple language and the possibilities of learning about the culture of the Creoles. As an Indian reader, I could relate to the superstitions and home remedies generously sprinkled all over the book, because we have heard all of them since our childhood. The book refers to the Creoles mixed culture of Indian, African, Spanish, and French origins.

Spooky in good parts, the novel works with a specific set of characters and builds them up well. It is reminiscent of the Classics as it dwells in 19th century America. From simple pranks to dark magic, from overnight remedies to crafted spells, secret rendezvous to clandestine affairs, from a dark past to the hopes of a future, from new friends to strange ones, from travels to worlds unknown to being unaware of the realities around, The Juju Girl, is a perfect weekend read, or to be read in short sprints and savored in parts.

The book maintains its pace throughout; the second half is as engaging as the first. Characters bring forth extra dimensions and paranormal happenings take center stage. This is the story of a family and its tryst with love, longing, death, jealousy, resentment, repentance, and a special gift. As secrets unfold, true colors revealed, they put friendships and relationships to test, culminating in the confrontation between the powers from beyond and Gabrielle’s Gift.

I thoroughly enjoyed this light young adult book; oft reading late into the night after a long day at work and that is a testimony to the fact that the book enthralls. As an avid web series watcher, I could not help but think that how well this book would translate into a televised fantasy series. It is the perfect blend of youth, drama, charms, and spells!

It also occurred to me that the character of The Juju Girl has just arrived. There is potential to build on the character and take Gabrielle on a whirlwind journey around the globe with her gift. I am hoping to read more in the series; a book that wants you to read and know more is definitely one to have on your reading list.

Reedsy Discovery – A Platform for Indie Publishing

Today, I started reading my first book in the Reedsy Discovery book review community. Reedsy is a British startup online author services firm promoting collaboration between authors and publishing freelancers in the self-publishing industry. Discovery, puts a spotlight on the best works of the Independent (indie) publishing world — great books that are often overshadowed by big bestsellers.

Reedsy

As a reviewer, I have full access to the Reedsy Discovery library of advanced review copies (ARCs) and other member perks. Hundreds of authors have submitted their books for discovery. I have access to the submissions pool and can read and review books before they launch.

I hope to guide the writing and reading community by spotting new trends and deciding which books Discovery recommends for its 200k readers. Not all writers get big publishing contracts, not all big house publications are great. A lot of talent lies in Indie publishing. I am privileged to help these writers in my own small way; I am proud to support independent publishing.

The Editorial Manager of this platform contacted me after reading my blog. My blog, in its previous avatar, and now with a new URL, has always brought me fantastic writing and reading opportunities. I am glad to read and review more books. I hope can identify some good work. As the Reedsy Discovery site for reviewers says: The best books go undiscovered, be part of the movement that shines a light on them.

I can write reviews as often as I like and they will appear in the Discovery newsletters to readers. I will also share book reviews on this blog. The first book I started reading today is an engaging story about magic in the life of a Creole girl. I am sure this will be an exciting journey.

%d bloggers like this: