By Charlie Owen on
What gave Sonnie her Edge on Netflix?
While I was away traveling last week I received slightly befuddling few tweets:
"Really glad that they made a show about @sonniesedge's username".
“@sonniesedge omg have you seen this thing with you in???”
It wasn't until my return to Berlin that I was able to search for what they’re talking about and found a new Netflix series called Love, Death, and Robots, where the first episode is titled... Sonnie’s Edge.
Fortunately for my dicky ticker, this wasn't a surprise for me.
You see, I cannot claim credit for the handle that I’ve used for the last 10 years.
I admit it. I stole it.
Gasps of shock from the more delicate readers.
Let me explain
Peter F Hamilton published a collection of short stories back in the late 90s, called A Second Chance At Eden. It is an extension of the Confederation universe (an extremely fun space opera universe by the way, where a multi-stellar human civilization stumbles into the truth of the afterlife and discover traumatised dead who want to escape it - yeah THAT is an elevator pitch).
Sonnie's Edge is the first story in that collection. It is set in London in the year 2050 (horrifically close now) and deals with a woman who is remotely linked to, and is in control of, Khanivore, a bitek "beastie", or artificially constructed fighting creature.
So far, so sci-fi. But what I always liked is that the eponymous Sonnie was a gay woman - not something that's used as a central character very often (I would notice, especially in the sci-fi world I love).
Sonnie is not portrayed negatively. She's a bit of a loner, a bit of a stud, but also a bit shy and dorky. She likes to fight in the ring with her 3 meter tall death machine and then party, flirting with and seducing any interested groupies after. Not exactly a mature and emotionally deep character, but a huge leap beyond most straight white male writers are capable of producing.
It's in somewhat of a contrast to the Netflix version, which has her almost unlikable, she's so closed and angry. She sulks around in her hoodie, glaring at everyone like a cyberpunk April Ludgate.
SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOK AND SHOW FROM HERE ON
At one point in both book and Netflix, Sonnie is asked by a Bastard Rich Male Character what exactly gives her her "edge". In both it is said that it's because of the fact she was attacked and raped in one of the no-go areas of inner London. The articulates this at one point, much to Sonnie's derision. "Men always want it to be something like that. They want it to be about them. You can't accept a woman might just be good at what she does, just because she's good at it, and not because men made her that way". Good on you, heroin Wednesday Adams!
In the book Sonnie comes across BRMC's mistress. She takes her under her wing and... well, slowly seduces her. Sonnie sees that the woman is broken, and is likely being abused by BRMC. Sonnie offers to get her away from BRMC at the end of the match. The woman does not dare accept, she is so afraid of the evil fucker.
In the Netflix version they simply meet and waggle their eyebrows.
The story moves on. BRMC tries to bribe Sonnie into taking a dive in an upcoming match, but refuses. As a result the match is rigged against her, but, because she is the heroine, she prevails and wins.
During the post-match celebrations Sonnie is approached again by the mistress. They retire to the trailer where Khanivore is kept between matches in stasis.
In the Netflix version the mistress and Sonnie just hook up. There's little reason given beyond the funtimes human need to fuck. The mistress is portrayed as only sexual, and almost childlike. Little more than a two dimensional sex object. Then, suddenly...
In the book Sonnie is on a high of winning, and the mistress sees someone who might have the capability to get her away from her abuser. Sonnie realises the mistress is someone who she might actually have feelings for. They kiss, and Sonnie is happy. Then, suddenly...
...the mistress kills Sonnie. In both it's via a knife-like implant in her hand. The book implies it to be a surgical weapon. The Netflix version portrays her as Wolverine.
In both versions, Sonnie is dead.
The book and the film diverge heavily from here.
In the Netflix version BRMC walks in and gloats as Sonnie is dying. While he verbally wanks over her corpse the mistress takes vicious joy in beating the remaining life out of Sonnie. BRMC wants vengeance on Sonnie for not throwing the match, up close and very, very personal. But he gets a shock when Sonnie starts speaking through the computer system of the trailer. Khanivore suddenly wakes up, and kills the mistress, before moving on to kill BRMC.
Because it turns out Sonnie's Edge is - ho ho ho - the fact that her brain has been moved inside of Khanivore. It's her legacy human body that is the remote controlled meat robot. Her Edge is not wanting to die in the ring, unlike every other safe and comfy Beastie Baiter.
In the book the viewpoint switches from the first-person of Sonnie, to the first-person of the mistress/assassin. There the vulnerable and shy person is revealed to be a mask for a coolly-clinical killer. As in the Netflix version, Sonnie survives because of her Edge. But there is no BRMC. Sonnie terrifies the assassin by talking via her newly-trepanated corpse, while she expresses how betrayed she is by the mistress. The mistress panicking, doesn't understand what is happening until she sees that the cover to Khanivore's pod is slowly opening, and she realises she's trapped in a locked trailer with a killing machine. Her absolute terror at her imminent death and her anger at fucking up so badly is evident. The story cuts there.
Enter stage left: a man
The lack of love between the two characters in the Netflix show is somewhat understandable. There simply isn't time for that to develop in the 17 minutes the episode lasts. In the style of the animation, the little interaction they have is violent, grungy, and seedy. The need for time and visuals perhaps also why yn the book Sonnie is dorky, and protected by her Beastie team, while on Netflix she is the ultra-cool leader of a gang of futuristic cyber warriors.
But the difference that stood out to me was the ironic centering of the BRMC in the Netflix version. In the book he's barely seen, apart from his initial bribery. The results of his work are there, but at least we don't have to put up with him in person. But the Netflix show has him at the center. Despite Sonnie's derision of the rape-fantasy being about men's ego, the show made the ending all about the guy's ego. It was about him, and his need for revenge, and (thankfully) his eventual death.
Did I enjoy the Netflix version of ~my origin-story~ of the book I enjoyed and stole a username from? Oh yes, it was great. It was wonderful to see the things I'd imagined made visual.
While the altered relationship and ending is worse than the book, it is far better than the de-queered and male version that I assumed would have been produced.
But next time someone makes a show out of my username, give me some fair warning, yeah?