The Blog

A page for blog posts.

You may have noticed a lack of content for the previous two books. That’s okay! Uh…Those were tests!

But actually we’ve been having discussions on Twitter and Facebook, and we feel this site is a better medium. SO. This month will start the focus on this page.

Basically, we’ll start off the discussion in the main posts, and then everything else is via comments. Ready? (Player one) Go!

This book was very fun. Certainly not a literary stalwart of the genre, but fun nonetheless. If you don’t enjoy many things about the 80s and you’re not into many video games, this book may not be for you.

What did you think about it? Comment below.

******* SPOILERS BE BELOW. TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE ‘EM. *******

** SERIOUSLY **

 

Okay, that’s out of the way. So let’s do this.

Yesterday I went to a midnight showing of The Force Awakens. Midnight shows are fun. This was similar. 🙂

I’ll start: The movie was good. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it wasn’t flawless of course. Very solid entry in the series and certainly about the prequels

 

I’ve broken this down into what I liked and didn’t like about the film. This isn’t a plot review so much as it is a review from a fan who’s first ever movie seen was Star Wars (Thanks mom!) when he was a kid.

 

Was awesome:

Classic sounds. Ben Burtt does the sound design for this movie and it shows. The classic sounds of the TIE fighters and the X-Wing sounds remain iconic. No need to change them there. Lots of interesting panning from left to right and front to back. New lightsaber sounds but that’s needed based on that there’s new lightsabers.

Diversity. It seems the Star Wars universe has grown up since the rebellion and this new world is teeming with other races naturally woven into the fabric, alien species not being a spectacle as much as the prequels, and of course, women in important roles. Justin Trudeau would be proud. The Bechdel Test is passed a few times, once in a really powerful and plot-advancing way.

Dialogue. The writing was snappy and fresh, but the banter was still Star Wars banter, which I really enjoyed. Han did a great job of being the old man, and Finn gave stormtroopers personality! (The idea is that the First Order was desperate for people so they just raided villages and took children) Rey’s voice was very well said through the film and many actors didn’t have regular American/British accents. There’s some memorable quotes, one of the best right now is “Move it, Ball” from Han.

BB-8. I enjoyed that the ‘ball’, BB-8, didn’t overshadow R2D2, and especially looked up to him (Physically and emotionally (?) in the film)

Finn. I very much enjoy Finn’s character and the back-and-forth between him and Poe had me laughing at times.

When the “Long time ago” came on screen, someone behind us said, shakily “It’s…it’s happening. This is happening!”

Speaking of that, the text crawl and intro were not changed. Good job, JJ.

No Jar-Jar.

Supreme Leader Snoke. Andy Serkis (Gollum in LOTR) played this character. I’m so intrigued as to what he is! He seems to have the force, too.

The wipes and transitions were still there! The sill Star Wars fades and circle wipes stayed, which thrilled me.

Leia. She seems wiser. And very troubled.

Lightsaber fighting. Chaotic and visceral. Return to form of the original films.

Directing. It seemed like a very mature, almost, well aged, Star Wars film. It wasn’t a kids movie. My soul is happy.

Wasn’t:

Too high of a nostalgia factor. The movie was chalk full of EP 4, 5 and 6 references, but the references they put it only make sense if you watch the movies from a fan’s timeline. (1977 being the first one and around 35 years since content from the original films) – If you watch this movie having seen 4, 5, and 6 recently, these references are just a “Oh, well I just saw this, hah.” instead of a “Oh man! I remember that game they played on the Falcon where 3P0 said “Let the Wookie Win!”

The beginning. It seemed like a Call of Duty opening scene. There wasn’t anything Star Wars-y about it until Kylo Ren comes on screen. Which, maybe is fine, but I expected to be thrown back into the universe, not coaxed in gently.

The end. They didn’t NEED to have that reveal if that character isn’t going to do anything. It’s good that they did that but it could’ve been handled so much better.

I HATE to say this, but, the music. This is a movie by John Williams. Not only that, but Star Wars is voted the greatest movie soundtrack of all time. So why would I not love the music? Because it’s forgettable. All of the other films had these huge, epic, grandiose fanfares and most if not all of the main characters had a theme (Except Han and Chewie and a few others). When I left the theatre following Episode I, I was singing Duel of the Fates all the way home! Following Episode 3, that Anakin vs Obi-Wan music was so good it gave me chills. This movie? Re-hash of older themes which is needed for sure, but nothing new on that scale. No massive epic themes, no grandiose fanfares. I think it’s telling that Williams is almost 90 and his style is slowing down (Same thing happened to Bernstein and Goldsmith) – But I really wanted some of that sweet, Star Wars fan fares flaring in my ear. It’s worth noting that Michael Giacchino, the composer for Up, Jurassic World, and the new Star Trek films, looked up to Star Wars and Williams for his own music style. Michael is in the movie as a stormtrooper. I think if Williams can’t do EP 8, we have someone in waiting!

 

That’s it for now. I’ll see it again and give you a follow-up review. May the Force be with you!

In the tradition of great Confessionalist poets, I give you “I suck at being an english major.”

Heh-hem.

 

How I really feel is:

I haven’t read a book in weeks

A letter arrived in the mail and I pretended rejection doesn’t hurt

Mixing past and present tenses is something to avoid when writing

Ran into a college reading Aristotle’s Metaphysics in a cafe

I haven’t read a book in weeks

Well, one. Off and on, during lunch breaks

I try to write and stare off into everything I’m supposed to be doing

This book said toaster coils should glow blue and electrons are aware of each other

Inspiration always crosses to the other side of the street

Haven’t gotten around to posting all those rejection letters on the wall like I said I would

Writers make it seems so easy

Literary critics are the only ones I can read without feeling threatened

There may be only one way to skin a cat but there’s only one way to write a book

You have to write it.

 

I read “The Girl With All The Gifts” by M.R. Carey (Not related to Brittni Carey). People compared it to The Martian, or Stephen King, or Ender’s Game.

It wasn’t really like that.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Basically, this book is a zombie book. Getting that out of the way, it’s about a kid, whom you discover is a zombie, and she’s housed at this military base, where they do experiments on them to find a cure. (So, it’s also post apocalyptic)

The book deals with the growth of a few characters and their interactions with Melanie, the zombie child. She’s more intelligent than some of the other zombies (They call them ‘hungries’ in this book) – And so you’re left wrestling with the idea of zombies being people or not.

I didn’t like that the main villain was often quite cartoonish in nature, it was slightly annoying.

I liked the premise of a zombie helping the protagonists while still being a zombie (She still wanted to eat them at times)

If this book came out maybe 6 years ago it would’ve been really good, I think, but there weren’t many new concepts or ideas presented here.

People praised the ending but I wasn’t very captivated with it. That said, the book was pretty well-paced and I didn’t glaze over parts.

 

There’s a movie coming out soon, which may be cool. But I’m kind of done with zombies. Max Brooks won the genre with ‘World War Z’. It’s time to move o to space, or, dinosaurs or something.

Alphabet by Kathy Page

(Published 2014 by Biblioasis)

 

A prison narrative, concerned with sexuality, relationships, and rehabilitation. There were times I felt I couldn’t go on, Page’s prose was so devastatingly raw – yet never for one moment does the novel lose its clarity. There’s a deep compassion in the writing, but also a realist’s grasp of how difficult it is for a person to truly change.

 

Simon’s interest in words and language begins in prison, where he is serving life. All the scenes recorded in the novel have something to do with words. Page only gives us one scene from Simon’s first days in the prison because it involves a letter from his mother. The next time we see Simon, it’s months later. Simon is covered in words that he’s tattooed onto himself as he thinks about the past, how he is perceived by others, and who he really is. I really appreciated this – Page doesn’t write a typical entering-into-the-new-world-of-prison story – she puts us right in the middle of it.

 

I also appreciated that although like The Video Watcher this novel deals with problems associated with voyeurism, Page’s attention to gender and sexuality is nuanced and complicated. The women Simon interacts with in the novel are individuals with complex motives – even as Simon objectifies them, he struggles with their autonomy and agency. As part of his journey of rehabilitation, Simon tries to communicate with women and understand them. Letter writing, essays, drama re-enactment, are all ways words inform this struggle towards understanding and communication. Page doesn’t stop with male/ female relationships, though. Gender itself becomes more and more difficult to define as the novel goes on, and it’s through Simon’s friendship with a former inmate that Page really shifts the end of the novel towards a more hopeful conclusion for Simon, ambiguous as it is.

 

Devastating and engaging, well-paced and expertly crafted, Alphabet is definitely one of my favourite reads this year; I’ll be thinking about this book and its implications for a long time.

I read Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” – A post apocalyptic novel. Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and National Book Award nominee.

Screenshot_2015-01-27-20-17-34

It’s set largely in Toronto and what used to be Michigan, before & after the apocalypse respectively.

It’s like Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” in the sense that it tells the story through characters, and has elements of the story told before the apocalypse as well as a separate storyline for the present day, which is after everything fell.

This book is about a traveling theatre troupe, living in the apocalypse, making their rounds from city to city. They’re largely Shakespeare focused, which is awesome, and definitely a treat to read. The book starts out with King Lear, and has elements of Midsummer’s, more, but I don’t want to spoil it if you want to read it.

Mandel’s view of how society collapses is really striking, just how fast and how everything and indeed, everyone is important. There’s a great part where she describes why an airplane isn’t taking off and it’s because there isn’t a massive support network of staff that need to get an airport working so a plane can take off.

One of the biggest points of the narrative is the bleakness that comes from the apocalypse. Just surviving is hard and there’s no grandiose moment to be had. But that’s the point, right?

I also like (And Brent Bellamy and I have discussed this) how the characters are well…HUMAN. They’re not super good, they’re not super bad. Remember in Year of the Flood (if you’ve read it) where the bad guys are these supremely evil rapists and murderers? You won’t find that here, even amongst the ‘bad guys’, save for one man called “The Prophet” – But I think he’s more of a caricature than an actual portrayal of something human.

Anyway, great book. Next is “Between the World and Me”.

This book was great! It was fun. A good summer read.

Definitely a book for geeks, or people with an affinity for video games from the 80s and 90s – even today!

 

The plot, summarized: A game developer who built a virtual reality MMORPG (Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) has died, and he left his vast fortune as an easter egg (something hidden within the game) for players to find. Whoever finds the egg first inherits the developer’s fortune!

It was interesting to see a main character that wasn’t perfect; our protagonist makes mistakes, and even does some pretty questionable acts throughout the book. Certainly not as bad as, say, Walter White, but still nothing rosey either.

The book’s writing isn’t anything special, in fact it’s thoroughly average, which I think was the charm; it really put you into the world being lived and told by the main character. You really believed it.

The author, Ernest Cline, wrote for the movie Fanboys, which was a great Star Wars themed movie!

What made the book fun for me was the fact that I was in on all the jokes, having been (And still am!) a massive nerd. I’ve played many of the games mentioned in the book and all the 70s and 80s music references were AWESOME.

The best part? Wil Wheaton narrates the audiobook and his narration style fit PERFECTLY with the style of the book. I wouldn’t get Wil to narrate, say, Oryx & Crake, or Dickens, but he was so good here!

I’ll also add that this movie is being made into a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, due in 2017. Cline is writing the screenplay. From Nerdst: Cline and Eric Eason wrote initial drafts with Penn taking over.

Check it out if you want a light read that is easy to pick up and put down. I think I’ll add this to my shelf.

A Jest of God

Margaret Laurence

1966 by McClelland & Stewart

 

I thought it was a book I had never heard of. Rachel, Rachel, it was called, wedged in the Margaret Laurence section of the secondhand bookstore.

Turns out, it was a reprint of A Jest of God, with an alternate title probably influenced by the film adaptation made in 1968. Though I’d heard of that book, the only Laurence I’d read were excerpts from A Bird in the House – which is my bad, considering Margaret Laurence is widely considered one of the great Canadian authors.

And for good reason: her style captured my interest immediately. Sharp, self-aware, and ironic. Rachel Cameron is a schoolteacher, and on the outside may seem reserved and agreeable – but inside, watch out. This isn’t your usual Little House on the Prairie family drama. Families are difficult to hold together, are restrictive. And in the end, it’s up to each person to choose what kind of person they want to be and what kind of life they want to live. Rachel makes mistakes, second guesses her choices, and is constantly being polite instead of stating her own opinion – until something happens that could only be a trick played on her by God. The story also explores sexuality, societal expectations and their effect on the individual, and the history of Ukrainian settlers in Canada.

Will definitely be reading more of Laurence in the future!