Sunday, April 30, 2006
I just described The Magic of Recluse, The Towers of the Sunset, a variation of Ordermaster, and pretty much every other Recluse novel.
This is also a very accurate description of Legacies, the first novel in Modesitt's Corean Chronicles.
Alucius is from a herder family. Herders typically have some measure of Talent. Alucius has Talent in full measure. Where do we think his story is going to go from here? What sort of novel is this? Who is the author?
Ah, yes. It is a fantasy novel written by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. The basic outline of the plot fits the outline given above. Add in the matriarchy vs patriarchy which also fills out Recluse and it makes me wonder if there isn't some way that the Corean Chronicles isn't set thousands of years after The Death of Chaos. Likely, it isn't. But there is a fit.
The book is workmanlike and decently crafted. Modesitt knows how to tell his story and if you space out his novels enough there isn't the full sense of retread.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
As much of a fan that I am off Joss Whedon and Buffy, I don’t love Angel. I watch, and I’m interested, but I don’t have that same connection to the show. My feelings for the show sort of come and go in waves. When Darla and Drusilla were doing their little vamp spree during Season 2, I was sold. And then it went away. Then when Darla was back in Season 3 and doing the whole pregnancy thing, I was sold. When she gave birth, my interest checked out a bit. Angel with an infant isn’t nearly as effective as the how two vampires could produce a child. That said, the actual birth scene was incredibly powerful. I think what I really miss is Kate, the cop from Season 1 and part of Season 2. But I finished Season 3 last night and I’m curious how some things will play out, but not as much as I was after previous seasons. I wish that this wasn’t the beginning of when Cordelia is on the show less and less. From her origins on the first episode of Buffy through Season 3 of Angel (3 seasons on Buffy, 3 on Angel), Cordelia Chase has undergone the most dramatic character change of anyone in the Buffyverse with Wesley in a moderately distant second place.
Anyway, I don’t have much to write about Angel. Decent show, but nothing terribly special.
Monday, April 17, 2006
I'm always disappointed when the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is announced and all I can say is: "Huh?" That's exactly what happened this year when I just heard on the radio that March by Geraldine Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer. Since I have been specifically paying attention in the past few years I have heard of previous winners Gilead and The Known World before the win, and had already read Middlesex and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think it has to do with how familiar I am with the author's previous work. I've read Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys) and Jeffrey Euginides (The Virgin Suicides) before and think highly of the authors. NPR has had a few Edward P Jones and Marilynne Robinson pieces on air. But March? This isn't The March, by E.L. Doctorow (a Pulitzer Finalist), but rather a continuation of Little Women, taking a character from the book and expanding the story.
I can't say just how not interested I am in March. Maybe it's a fantastic novel and I know I'll find out because I would like to read all the Pulitzer novels, but ugh.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
no temptation seize a man
that he can’t overcome
who am i to be fallen?
crack your back on a slab of wood
come freedom, nail it down
i come crawling
i come crawling
come trickle down and save the world
two hands that i can’t see
come breathe, come breathe
come breathe on me
split-rib water, blood and bone
come now, come Calvary
come breathe, come breathe on me
Testimony come now, quickly,
whisper in my ear:
Peace at last, not far away
empty sheet, a borrowed grave:
come freedom, come
come freedom, come
breathe on me - Jennifer Knapp
Friday, April 14, 2006
Once again a Star Wars author gives us two half books for the price of one. From the title and cover art the assumption here is that this book is going to be about Darth Vader and his rise to power. You wouldn’t be wrong with this assumption as all of that is in the book. But Darth Vader doesn’t appear in the first 50 pages. Instead we are given a story a small group of Jedi who where ambushed when Palpatine’s Order Sixty Six was given to eliminate all Jedi. Three had survived specifically because a squad of Clone Troopers thought for themselves and gave the Jedi a chance to escape. Early on in the novel these Jedi are trying to figure out why they were attacked and what is going on in the galaxy...they learn of Vader’s massacre at the Jedi Temple and that the Jedi are all but destroyed. This brings us to Vader and his initial uncertainties and frustrations with his body and being more machine than man. Luceno has a nice passage where Vader analyzes various parts of himself with “this is not seeing” “this is not breathing”, “this is not living” and it’s a very well written and moving passage for this former Jedi turned Dark Lord.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader suffers from the issue that Luceno is telling two different stories. They connect and intersect and it allows us to care for some of the Jedi that Vader is cutting down, but I feel that the novel loses quite a lot because of it. This is it, this is the behind the scenes story of Vader that Star Wars fans have always been hoping for and it’s only half the book. It’s the good half, but that doesn’t excuse the other hundred and fifty pages. There could be a great novel about the Jedi who survived the Purge and how they dealt with what happened. This is only half of that novel, too. So here’s the thing, we are given half of two good books, one of which has been eagerly awaited for years. The complete novel is nothing special. Perhaps it is my expectation of what Dark Lord would be, that it would this grand Darth Vader novel where we get all of his inner thoughts and more Purge killing of the hidden Jedi. So the novel did not live up to what I expected and hoped it would be because Vader was only in half the book. But this is like Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. When a character is the title character of a book, that character should be the overall focus of the novel with maybe some side events going on but most of the book should be about that title character. This is not truly the case with Dark Lord. I felt cheated out of Vader.
Still, this was a very fast paced novel. I finished the book in two or three days and the plotline moved along at a pretty good clip. What Vader material was there was interesting and is worthing picking the book up for. It just could have been so much more.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Dan Simmons writes incredibly literate science fiction. I mean this in the best possible sense. The first two books of his which I read were Ilium and Olympos, a retelling of sorts of Homer’s Iliad and other classic texts. Only here Simmons twists the story into something else, something far different which still honors the source material as well as tells a compelling science fiction story. Now I have turned to Hyperion, the science fiction classic which put Simmons on the map. Hyperion is, interestingly enough, a science fiction telling of The Canterbury Tales. There is a group of “pilgrims” going on a pilgramage (of course) to the Shrike Church on the planet Hyperion. During the pilgrimage they tell each other stories about who they are and why they are going to Hyperion. Taken together this build a rich tapestry of Hyperion, our future, the Universe, and what is happening in the novel.
Hyperion is fantastically well written. Each one of the pilgrims’ tales are quite interesting and tell a good story by themselves. But in between the tales there is the story of the pilgrimage and we start to see how things fit together. Simmons is building to something big and it’s going to be a whopper of a tale. The conclusion here will be in The Fall of Hyperion, but Hyperion was a real pleasure and a joy to read.
Besides all the Canterbury Tales connections, there is a heavy dose of John Keats. Unfortunately I am not terribly familiar with Keats, but the heavier one is into classic literature the more illumination one will have. The bottom line is that this is a Great science fiction novel. Capital G.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Anyway, we turned it off before the last of the four comics went on. Ladies, gentlemen, feel free to skip this one.
On another note, I still need to come up with something for Hyperion early this week.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I just can’t keep it in any longer. The song “Temperature” by Sean Paul has to be one of the single worst popular songs ever recorded. We can’t count all those really bad songs that never make it on the airwaves, but this song is played once every 108 minutes on the radio here. Or so. It’s like they just have to keep entering the code or the world will explode, but I’m worried my head might. This is me diving for my radio trying to turn the volume down.
“My Humps” was a terribly annoying, yet catchy song. But there is some entertainment value there, check it out. But “Temperature”....ughghghghaaughh! I should just slap together some random consonants to try to really get my point across: jhgythnghtss! That’s what I think of the song.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Fortunately, Aslan does work on screen and the cheese factor is quite low. The children do a fine job and the CG effects are excellent. The world is brighter than Middle Earth, but Narnia looks fully realized on screen.
The story is a fairly simple one, four children in war torn England are sent to a relative’s home to stay so they are not at risk from bombings. While playing in the house they discover a wardrobe which harbors a secret: out of the back of the wardrobe is some sort of a portal to a different wintery world: Narnia. Narnia is ruled by the White Witch and is permanent winter until the return of Aslan. These children are foretold in prophecy and will have a major role to play in the future of Narnia.
The story is simple. It could be viewed as a typical fantasy stet up. But because C.S. Lewis was also a Christian writer there is a very strong Christian overtone (or underpinning) if you know what you are looking for. It is there, but it is not overwhelming.
Rated PG, this film is toned down for children. The battles are nothing like that of Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and yet this does not feel as if it were a children’s movie. Well made. Well acted, even by the children. Well done.
There are a slew of bonus features on the two disc DVD: Bloopers, multiple commentary tracks, documentaries and features on the making of Narnia (including a focus on Lewis himself), and the creatures and legends of Narnia. This is a very complete DVD for the fan of the film and the novels.
I know the song Beautiful by James Blunt is a good six months old if not older. I know it has hit this good amount of success right now. Yay. Something in the lyrics caught me this morning.
In the first verse he sings that he won’t lose hope, he won’t sleep on it, because “I’ve got a plan” to get this girl he saw on the subway who was with another man. Great. He has a plan. Let’s hear it. Second verse he sings that “I don’t know what to do. I’ll never be with you.” Wait a second. We’ve only had a chorus here. What happened to the plan? Why don’t you know what to do? Are you losing hope?
Well, maybe there will be some more hope coming up and he’ll rediscover the plan. Let’s find out what Blunt has figured out. “But it’s time to face the truth. I’ll never be with you.”
That’s unfortunate. He went from not losing hope and having a plan to facing the truth that he can’t possibly get the girl.
So what happened to the plan?
Out of curiosity I decided to record the first episode of Bonds on Bonds, an ESPN reality series which will follow Barry Bonds throughout the 2006 season as he chases Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, and the homerun record. Now if you’ve paid any attention to baseball at all in the past year or so you know that there is a major steroids investigation going on and Barry Bonds is at the center of it. This gets addressed during the show. Bonds, of course, denies everything and the allegations continue. But this show gives a glimpse inside the life of Bonds and one thing that the show does very well is that it humanizes Bonds. He may be a real jerk in real life to other players and fans and the media, but he’s also a person and that means there will also be a more upbeat and friendly side.
Watching Barry talk about his father is quite interesting. Barry says that the reason he is the player he is today was because he always wanted to prove his father wrong, that he was better than his father said. A complicated relationship.
Is the show any good? You know, it’s not bad. I’m not sure if it’ll work over the course of a season, but as a one episode curiosity, I was intrigued. But the point is to have the full chronicle.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
In the original Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston somehow crash lands on a planet where apes have evolved and rule the world, humans are subjugated. In the very final shot Heston sees a half buried Statue of Liberty and realizes that this is humanity’s future. Heston somehow traveled through time. Beneath the Planet of the Apes has another astronaut end up on the PotA in search of Heston and finds Heston in captivity, held by apes who are worshipping a still active atomic bomb. Throughout we have met the apes Cornelius and Zira. Well, after the Earth is destroyed it turns out that Cornelius and Zira were in a space ship of their own and the backlash of the exploding planet sends the apes back in time and in Escape from the Planet of the Apes the two apes are now on present day Earth (at the time of the movie, it’s the early 1970’s) and there is wonderment about their stories of the future and just the fact that these are two articulate apes. At the end the two apes are murdered and their infant son is taken in by a circus man who tried to help them.
Flash forward twenty years and we’re up to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. The circus man is showing Cesar the ape around the city showing him, and in turn the viewer, what Earth is like. 8 years ago some mysterious disease killed off all the domestic animals on the planet and humans turned to apes and monkeys for pets, but as the relative intelligence of the apes increased the animals went from pets to slaves. And it is this brutal Earth that Cesar experiences. Cesar is seen as a threat as he was assumed to have been killed twenty years ago and he ends up leading an ape revolution and the future seems to be fixed, that apes really will take over the planet.
After the quite good Planet of the Apes, the rest of the sequels are all pretty poor. This may be a little bit better than the previous sequels, but not by much. It’s purely a matter of opinion and preference. The original film turned the tables on the human/animal relationship and showed just how inhumane humanity could be by how the apes treated the humans. That, and it was a neat science fiction play. The next two movies did not do much with anything of importance. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes does show exactly why the apes revolted. So, there is a certain amount of power and disgust in the behavior of man and one could almost say that we deserved it. But it is heavy handed and we know exactly where this story is going. There is no mystery here.