Monday, January 20, 2014

Mini book review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

With The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, we have another entry into the "who will be the successor to Katniss Everdeen" contest.  Nineteen year old Paige Mahoney is a clairvoyant working for one of the mime-lords of a bleak dystopian London.  While all of Great Britain's clairvoyants are criminals, Paige is a special case, a "dreamwalker," able to leave her own consciousness and enter other people's dreamscapes to influence, possess or hurt them.  She's got a tidy little lifestyle, earning good coin, working with friends, dodging the law.  But one day she is chased, drugged and kidnapped, dragged off to an internment city run by the Rephaim (ostensibly psychic aliens).  The Rephaim plan to use clairvoyants for their own nefarious purposes, not least to fight the Emim, vicious creatures that live in the forests surrounding the Rephaim city.  Paige struggles against her captors but her particular trainer, Warden, consort to the leader of the Rephaim, more than matches her.  Paige must learn just what she is capable of and then decide what her fate - and the fates of the other humans, clairvoyant or otherwise, held in the city - will be.

I learned about The Bone Season from NPR's book section.  It's a pretty ambitious first novel (the author is 23), and the first in a planned series of seven.  It is very imaginative and I suspect that as the series goes, it will get better and better.  There are several editing errors that I found - dropped words, using "I" where "me" should have gone, etc. - that I thought should have been caught before publishing; and several times I just wasn't sure what was going on: much of the fighting that goes on is psychic and from the text it was difficult to picture the action.  Still, it's always nice to read a YA fantasy novel where the female protagonist is not in love with a vampire/werewolf (and this coming from a HUGE BtVS fan).  I hope Samantha Shannon does well with this series.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mini movie review: The World's End

Finally,  finally, I have seen the Pegg-Wright joint venture, The World's End, the third in the Cornetto trilogy (first two: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz).  Was it all that I hoped for?  Yes, yes, it was.  Part of it is, of course, that I have a big ol' crush on Simon Pegg - would I like to have a pint with him? damn straight I would - but part of it is because TWE is a lovely little send-up of bodysnatcher movies, with strong action sequences and nice character work.  And a friggin' kickass soundtrack: Stone Roses, Sisters of Mercy, Blur, Happy Mondays, James, Soul II Soul, The Sundays, Soup Dragons, Teenage Fanclub, The Housemartins ... most excellent.

Gary King (Pegg) is having great difficulty letting go of his youth, where the highlight of his life was attempting an epic twelve-stop pub crawl with his mates in their town.  They never finished the Golden Mile and Gary is determined to recapture those glory days of the early 1990s.  He rounds up his old mates (Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan), all of whom have gone on to grow up with grown-up jobs, families and responsibilities.  They start their pub crawl and are first surprised that no one seems to remember them.  A short time later they are even more surprised that SPOILER (but not really if you've seen any of the trailers) the whole town seems to have been taken over by alien robots.  The boys end up drinking a lot of beer, fighting a lot of robots and squabbling amongst themselves.

That little plot synopsis was terrible, I know, and really won't inspire anyone to see this movie.  But there really is some nice character work among the five old friends who really aren't friends anymore.  Pegg is very funny in his brash, irreverent, wounded oblivion and Nick Frost gets to play the straight man for a change.  I laughed out loud quite a few times and was gratified to see not only the Cornetto connection but also the fence-jumping call-back.

Although the pacing is a little slow (twelve pubs is really a lot of pubs to get through), and no new comedic or story ground was really broken, and the final scenes after the big action climax were surprising and a bit melancholy, I really enjoyed this movie.  I'll obviously have to add it to my collection so that the trilogy is complete and I may just watch it again before sending the DVD back to Netflix - I liked it that much.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mini movie review: This Is the End

This Is the End, the apocalyptic comedy starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride and with guest shots of Michael Cera, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, Emma Watson, Channing Tatum and many, many more, was not all I'd hoped for.  It started strong - the over-the-top party at Franco's house (pre-apocalypse) was quite funny - I particularly loved evil Michael Cera, finally breaking free of his type.  But once the world ended, the movie devolved into a bunch of the guys stuck in the house and yelling at each other.  I guess it's hit or miss for me with this Apatow-esque group's comedies: I loved Superbad but didn't much care for Pineapple Express, liked 40 Year Old Virgin but not Knocked Up, and so on.  It certainly looked like the gang had a great time making the movie, at least, but I found it monotonous - and the special effects were sucky.  These guys have enough money that they could have made the demons more sophisticated than the ones from Ghostbusters, for crying out loud.