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I look at things

I haven't taken the time to write about the books and movies I've seen lately, so here I go.

Spoilers for everything, I believe.

First is George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows, and while this is not my favorite book in the series, it is one of the best books I've read so far this year or expect to read. It just happens to be exactly the sort of book I love.

The previous books established a new standard for "books I enjoy." While reading those books, I literally laid awake at night, thinking about the characters' problem and how they should be fixed. I wanted to jump into the book and straighten their shit out.

That didn't happen with this book, mainly because my favorites among the POV characters were excised for the next volume. Tyrion is, in my view, the heart of this story. He's damaged, twisted, and he's reviled by everyone, including his own family. He has every disadvantage, including a sense of fair play, but he has the one advantage that trumps everything else: He can accurately judge the strengths and weaknesses of the people around him.

So many of the characters in this story live or die based on their assessment of their friends and enemies, and so many manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Theon Greyjoy had captured Winterfell. If he'd taken Bran and Rickon back to the Iron Islands he would have been hailed as a hero, inherited the Sea Stone Chair and could have returned in strength to conquer the north. Instead he rushed to his final goal and was betrayed and murdered. Robb Stark won every battle, but he trusted the allies who betrayed him and infuriated the allies who would have supported him. Cersei had all the power of the Iron Throne behind her, but her scheming was so ridiculously incompetent that I could only shake my head as I read her chapters. Stripped of the family members that have kept the Lannisters in power through four books, she's losing everything.

At the same time, Jaime is coming into his own. He's grown wiser now that he can no longer rely on his sword hand, even though the life he's lived so far has made him an object of contempt. And what are these books about, anyway, if they aren't about the way people strive to better their place in life, or even just to preserve the life they have.

Reading through these books, with all the cataclysmic changes going through the story-world, all the people desperately struggling along as best they can, I'm struck by all sorts of things. There are so many places in the book and I never get them confused, so many characters and I never get them mixed up. Sure, I have trouble with the names often enough. But Martin has done an amazing job with this story.

It could have been tighter, sure. Some of the Brienne chapters could have been reduced without much loss. How much time can we spend with her while she travels through the woods? And I'm frankly hoping that Cersei loses her head--I really don't like spending time with her voice. Still, I recommend them to everyone.

After that, perhaps it was unfair of me to jump straight to Melusine by Sarah Monette. A Feast for Crows so closely falls into my areas of interest, and this one... not. After finishing a book where war had turned people out of their homes and tortured, it was hard to care about a guy who has had his sordid past outed, where all the good guys were earnest and sensitive, and the bad guys sneering and bitchy. Honestly, it was like the fantasy version of Blow Out (the cable tv show, not the movie).

And I couldn't stand the voice. I just wasn't interested in Felix's melodrama. I didn't care about the cutting remarks he made to his friends. I wasn't entranced by his self-destructiveness. When Felix slapped his boyfriend's face and then considered giving him a backhand smack to cut him with his rings, all I could think about was the people who were being dragged off to be hanged, or poisoned to the point of blindness, or imprisoned and tortured in my previous read.

There was a second, more forgettable storyline that was playing out in a very predictable way. A cat burglar is hired to steal something for a beautiful woman, and he's getting sucked in deeper and deeper into her problem. It was mildly interesting, but not enough to keep with it.

Oh yeah, and I kept bouncing off the names. I didn't make it past page 37. All in all, not the book for me.

We have rented some movies lately, too. SERENITY came off better in the movie version than it did on TV. Maybe it was the lack of commercial breaks, but all the "I reckons" didn't bother me quite so much this time. Also, the story was just fine, if unremarkable.

Unfortunately, Mal continues to be a blank space for me. He quips. He's honorable (within reason). He hates the government. That's it. I needed more to pull me in and never got it.

We also watched VAN HELSING, which was dreadful. I know some folks who thought it was great campy fun, but the tone was at war with the art direction, and the over-the-top performances annoyed the hell out of me. I blame the director. He did not have a coherent way to address the monsters, the tone or the performances. Bleh.

It was TERMINATOR 3 that honestly surprised me. It was miscast, especially John Connor and new terminator roles, but the story was told with some style and originality. I'm not surprised that it went over badly, though. The leads left me cold and the ending was a bold choice, but not exactly thrilling Hollywood escapism.

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
amberdine
Apr. 20th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
Neat reviews! I suspect we have similar tastes.

I have not been tempted to try Melusine.
burger_eater
Apr. 20th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
I suspect we have similar tastes.

My admiration for you grows and grows!

Melusine strikes me as one of those books that will be loved by people with very specific tastes, much the way vampire novels work. Some people lurrrv vampires to the extent that they will read anything that tickles their vampire bone.

This book features those slightly-fetishized, overly-sensitive, -romantic and -expressive gay men that some people seem to love. It leaves me a bit cold, though.

What I should have said in my main post (making it even longer, if that's imaginable) is that the author did a very skillful job of portraying the voice. It wasn't a voice I wanted to spend time with, but it was very clear and distinct.
james_nicoll
Apr. 21st, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
This book features those slightly-fetishized, overly-sensitive, -romantic and -expressive gay men that some people seem to love. It leaves me a bit cold, though.</q? My reaction to the series was "Huh, someone thought of porting over and westernizing Yaoi."
burger_eater
Apr. 21st, 2006 05:43 am (UTC)
My email notification included this in your post:

My reaction to the series was "Huh, someone thought of porting over and westernizing Yaoi."

To which I must reply: You are far more worldly than I, sir. Good thing I have Google and Wikipedia.
james_nicoll
Apr. 21st, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what happened there.

It's useful to keep an eye on Japanese Manga, because it serves as an example of Ugol's Law applied to entertainment (and also, in contrast with NorAm comics, what a diverse marketplace would look like, which is more or less the same thing).
burger_eater
Apr. 21st, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what happened there.

It was a "?" in place of the last ">" No biggie.

From the outside, Manga looks so big and diverse that I have hesitated to tackle it so far, although I have reserved a history of Manga from the library. Did you see the article from a couple days back about the mother who was outraged that her teenage son checked out said book and found sexually-explicit images in the back? Yes, I'm very high-minded.

I guess I ought to read the whole thing then, rather than skim through it for the dirty pictures.

And I hear you about North American comics. I happen to love superhero stuff, but the modern industry is insanely narrow.
affinity8
Apr. 20th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
I didn't get far into Melusine either.

I liked Terminator 3 a lot more than I expected to. I like Nick Stahl a lot. I thought the ending brought the series round full circle, and was glad they didn't paste a happy ending into it. The first will always be my favorite, though.
burger_eater
Apr. 20th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
The first will always be my favorite, though.

Yes. The first was full of really interesting stuff that I hadn't seen before. I still remember the scene where the police kept shooting the terminator as it massacred its way through the station and thinking "That is so totally not fair!"

Heh.
jodi_davis
Apr. 26th, 2006 11:51 am (UTC)
Melusine
OK - I'm going to stick up for Melusine - I really liked it - I don't think you can categorize how predictable or not it is at page 37. I liked the dualing first person narratives - I liked both characters. I think Monette has a lovely way of phrase turning and both characters have a very internal and true compass (even if one is crazy). It's one of my favorite books right now (but that's in with Anne Bishop who I just plowed through all of, and Peter Watts (SF) so taken for what it's worth, my tastes and range are great.)

While Martin certainly enjoys torturing the characters, it's sometimes a little much - he also describes the clothes and the food WAY too much - his books could honestly be half as large if he'd cut that out.
burger_eater
Apr. 26th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Melusine
Sure, but didn't you also like THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK?

Kidding! I kid. But...

You're right about most of this. Not about how predictable the Mildmay story was going to be (I'll admit I didn't read far into it, but the setup was entirely off-the-rack), but certainly about Monette's way with words and the appeal of a dual-first-person narrative.

Frankly, I was not enthralled by Mildmay's voice. A professional criminal ought to have a bit of rapaciousness in his voice. He ought to be more transgressive. Mildmay was so, well, mild that I wouldn't have believed him as a newspaper sales rep.

And here's something that really bugged me, but that I somehow dropped from the main post: "This is the worst story I know about hocuses."

Mildmay opens the book with this little tale, and the story, while it would be a terrible thing to have happen to you, can't possibly be the worst story. It took me about thirty seconds to think up a story that would be ten times worse than being forced into sexual slavery. We can start with being required to procure children for a child molester and go from there.

So, for me, the first two pages put me in the mindset of "That's terrible, but not as bad as you seem to think it is." The underwhelming started early.

And I hear you about A Feast For Crows. I didn't mind the food, but I could have done with less traveling. At a certain point, it reminded me of those online games, where characters have to run down long roads to find this person or that thing. In a movie, that would be edited out.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )