Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review: Planet of the Apes

For me, the 1968 film Planet of the Apes exists almost as long as my childhood memories of science fiction, along with shows like Mork & Mindy, Star Wars, and Star Trek the story of an astronaut trapped on a planet inhabited by intelligent apes seemed to always exist in my understanding of space-based stories.

Over the years I've seen the original film, the sequels, the remakes and the toys, so when a friend suggested we read the original French novel by Pierre Boulle, I was definitely intrigued. The novel follows a journalist named Ulysse Mérou, who in 2050 joins a spaceships crew to explore planets in the Betelgeuse star system. Here they find a planet inhabited by intelligent great apes, where humans exists, but as a wild animal rather than a dominant species.

There are a couple big changes from the film including the fact that the apes speak their own language, and the protagonist ends up spending much of his time learning it. I can definitely see why the film went with having them speak English, but this made for a much more interesting story. The story ends differently than the film and does have significantly more focus on the loneliness and isolation felt by Ulysse.

A really intriguing read and one I'm glad I got the chance to experience.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Charles de Lint's Little (Grrl) Lost (2007) is a YA novel focusing on a friendship between two teen girls, T.J. and Elizabeth, the first having recently moved from the farm to the suburbs and the second having just run away from home. Although T.J. is more straight-laced and Elizabeth is a little more punk, the big difference between the two of them comes down to size; while T.J. is a pretty normal young woman, T.J. is a Little, and therefore stands at about six inches tall.

The Littles were first introduced in the collection Tapping the Dream Tree, and although this novel does take place near Newford, it's connection to de Lint's regular cast of characters is pretty limited. A fun jumping on point for new readers and a great story about friendship and finding your place in the world as well.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Gods Behaving Badly

So I've had a copy of Marie Phillips Gods Behaving Badly in my home for about five years now; both my wife and oldest daughter have read the book, and my wife had said she thought I would really enjoy it, so when I found a copy at a used bookstore I snatched it at once.

First things first - my wife was absolutely right, this is a delightful read and one I should have gotten around to long before this.

The novel follows the major gods of the Classical Greek Pantheon (Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, etc.) in the modern world, where they share a small house in London, England. While trying to keep a relatively low profile, they end up affecting the lives of a number of mortals and the end of the world may occur unless a hero can rise to save them all.

A big part of what I like about the book is the soap opera-esque family dynamic shown between the various gods with plots, friendships, affairs and even wars occurring regularly. Yes, a lot of this type of concept has been covered elsewhere (American Gods, Greenmantle and Fables all touch on similar concepts), but Gods Behaving Badly has a nice sense of humour throughout and a reminder of how much more interesting fallible gods can be to a narrative.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Slow Reads


So although I have a specific reading pattern I tend to follow each month (LINK), there are a number of things I read that fall through the cracks.

1) Month-long Reads: During any given month I'll supplement my seven regular books with a book of non-fiction, usually essays, to read each night. As these books can take a month or longer to read, I don't often update them on my Goodreads list or even mention them on my blog. Current I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, and enjoying every bit of it.

2) Year-long Reads: A few years ago I received a horror anthology from one of my younger brothers that had a horror story a day for a year - usually these stories were less than a page long, but they were all a lot of fun. So, when I heard about Ryan Holiday and Stephan Hanselman's The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations of Wisdom, Perseverance and The Art of Living I had to give it a shot, and you know what - it's a pretty great read read! I'm about a third of the way through and find this book, read first thing in the morning gives me some pretty interesting stuff to think about all day.

3) Books my wife suggests: As my lovely wife is just as voracious a reader as I am, she'll often read a book that she know would be exactly my thing (for instance, she was the one who introduced me to the world of Charles de Lint), so every couple months she'll suggest something I have to squeeze in between my other books. Although she does suggest far more titles than I can immediately get to, I do keep a list and get to it when I've got time.

4) Other: And here we fit all the trade collection of comic books I read, as well as magazines, social media, and pamphlets, as well as all sorts of online content ranging from LinkedIn and Facebook posts to Doctoral Theses on Economics.

What can I say? Even for a guy who spends all his time reading it's often tricky to keep track of it all!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review: Promises to Keep

So after finished Widdershins, wherein de Lint has written a very nice finale for two of his favourite characters, what is the appeal of a prequel novel looking at one of them during her college years? Actually quite a lot.

Promises to Keep follows perennial favourite Jilly Coppercorn in an earlier time in her life, shortly after she came to Newford in the first place, and works as both a great little story in its own right, and also a pretty great jumping-on point for new readers who may not want to go all the way back to The Dreaming Place, written nearly two decades earlier, as well as a story that acknowledges that although very interested in the magical aspects of the world, Jilly spends the first part of the series of books with no direct contact, only hearing about this world through the stories of her friends.

The story is short and sweet, focusing on issues of lost friends and things that may have been and left me feeling quite satisfied and looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Movie Review: Colossal

Throughout our lives every action we take (or don't take) effects people around us in ways we can't often see until well after the fact. Nacho Vigalondo's 2016 film Colossal takes this concept into the fantasy genre when Gloria, a young woman in crisis finds that for a few minutes each morning her actions directly affect the people of Seoul South Korea when a giant Monster exactly mimics her actions, causing destruction and mayhem wherever it goes.

The film alternates quite nicely between small-town drama and the heightened reality of a monster attack on the other side of the world. Recently dumped by her long time boyfriend, Gloria (Anne Hathaway), has returned to her small hometown and is living in her childhood home while attempting to find something to do with her life. She reconnects with a friend from elementary school and gets a job in a local bar, she begins to put her living space and life together, and then she gets swept up in the news stories surrounding a monster attacking Seoul. Things take a strange turn however when she starts to realize the creature is mimicking her movements each morning when she crosses the same playground on her way home from work.

The story depends strongly on the relationship between Gloria and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and how their friendship begins to move in a direction Gloria isn't interested in.

Although darker in tone than I was expecting based on the trailers, Colossal was well worth the watch and a nice change from the comic-book adaptations that tend to fill my spring and summer theatre viewing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters

A companion book to the museum exhibition of the same name Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters is a fascinating read looking at the collection of horror, science fiction, fantasy and other genres kept by the writer/director in his home.

The book focuses on many of the pieces of artwork (in many mediums) in Del Toro's collection, as well as an essay by the author himself, and three different lists of films, artwork and fiction the author has been influenced by - all of which are robust enough to keep even a massive reader like me enthralled for some time. An excellent addition to his 2013 book Cabinet of Curiosities, which went film by film through his works and related parts of his collection.

A wonderful Christmas present from my friend Ron - this book was quickly scooped up by one of my children for her own reading pleasure, so double bonus!