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Always Pay your Debts

A Song of Ice and Fire series

Martin, George R. R.

Published: HarperVoyager

Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones series

Series comprises: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords (part 1: Steel and Snow, part 2: Blood and Gold), A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons

It’s been a long time since I read any fantasy.  Like, proper fantasy.  And I gotta say, A Song of Ice and Fire definitely comes under the category of ‘proper fantasy’ – anyone who’s been watching the Game of Thrones series on HBO knows what I’m talking about, however vaguely.  Because when it comes to screen adaption, the movies are okay (that’s being generous a lot of the time – usually there’s either too much padding out or too little detail), the television series is better (again, not always, but recently it’s been the case), but the book is best.

Speaking about detail, my word, these books go to town with it.  Usually I steer clear of this kind of fantasy book, all the castles and horses and dragons and shit like that gives me hives.  It’s mostly because to a lot of authors (and probably, readers, which is why they do it) don’t bother to call a big, f***-off horse you’d ride into battle on a destrier.  That’s what it is though, a destrier.  Also, all the bits and pieces of the armour – the greaves and gorgets and pauldrons that you just don’t read about in other books.  I think that was what sold me on A Song of Ice and Fire, it was a moment of “Aww, George, you had me at hauberk”.

So, okay, we’ve established that there has been some kick ass researching done for this book.  Being a library type person, I respect a healthy dose of research.  Not only does it lend a tone of realism to a work like this (however lost that realism might be on a general audience), I also feel that it makes the author seem more respectful of the intelligence of their audience.  If that seems a little odd, allow me an explanation.  Because Martin has decided that he’s going to tell us which particular bits of the armour that they’re wearing are rusting on the knights, and he’s going to use the proper names for bits of castles and also words like prate and corsair without any hint of explanation, that to me speaks of a respect for readers that they either know what those things are already or they will damn well go and look them up if they have a mind to.  What’s not to love about that?  Hang on, in the next bit, I’m gonna talk a little about what the story is actually about, so don’t read anymore if you’re reading them and aren’t up to Dance yet, or if you’re watching the TV show and just don’t want to know any more.  Fair warning – here be spoilers.

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Danger is Out There, Not in Here.

Defiance: The Bielski Partisans

Tec, Nechama  (directed by Edward Zwick)

1993, Oxford University Press  (2008, Paramount Vantage)

ISBN 0 195075951

History is a bitch.  So is memory.  And when you get down to it, memory often has to serve as our personal history, and the way that we relate that personal history to others (if we ever do) can reflect in interesting ways on the actions we took during the course of our life.  Tuvia Bielski and his brothers led an otriad comprised of Jews who had escaped the cities of occupied Belorussia during World War II, and managed to keep so many of them safe while also contributing to the undermining of the German forces.  This wasn’t such a weird thing – there are other examples of Jewish otriads and resistances during the Second World War, but the main difference in the Bielski otriad was that Tuvia’s stated aim was to keep people safe, no matter if they could fight or not.

I had read this book before, but not before I’d seen the movie of the same name.  The movie is pretty damn fancy, Daniel Craig plays Tuvia Bielski, which is pretty cool.  The recollections of Tuvia that the survivors of the Bielski otriad made this a pretty good casting choice, at least in my opinion (not in the looks department though – Daniel Craig is, as ever, sans moustache).  There are a few instances in the book where the survivors recollect how inspiring Tuvia was, which seemed to give Daniel Craig a lot of opportunity to do some manly horse riding and gun shooting and frowning.  Plus he seemed to be pretty good with the ladies too – slightly heartless sometimes, but you know, treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen, I guess.  Tuvia was the undisputed leader of the group, but the movie makes quite a bit of the relationships between him and his brothers, Asael (played by Jaime Bell) and Zus (played by Lieb Schrieber – I must have watched too many X-Men movies though, because in my head he’s always going to be Sabretooth).  Particularly the relationship with Zus, who was a bit of a hot-head, and eventually left the group to join up with a different Russian partisan group.

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Where’s My Cheesecake?

Carlito’s Way

Torres, Edwin  (directed by Brian de Palma)

1975, Futura  (1993, Universal Pictures)

ISBN 0708817068

Oh man, I love this movie.  I’ve seen it loads of times now, but I could never get sick of it.  There is almost nothing bad about it.  It’s got violence, boobs, disco, drugs… and a story line.  A tragic storyline, no less.  Like I said, nothing bad about it.  It’s one of those movies that I watch any chance I get, but it wasn’t until I rewatched it recently that I felt compelled to read the book that originated the whole thing.  It was actually a happy coincidence (the kind of coincidence which is sadly lacking from Carlito Brigante’s life) that I managed to pick it up at a local book fair for only a few dollars.

Carlito’s Way is not a taxing read.  I have the Futura edition which stands at 147 pages, which is not a big read at all.  The language is… almost quaint, which sounds mental for a true-crime style book, but it’s full of seventies gangsterisms and street talk like “You right, man, you right!” and “Right on!”  Heh.  Right on, man.  That’s not so prevalent in the movie, which is a good thing, but it may have been because the movie was made almost twenty years after the book came out – so, like I say, there’s disco, but not the ‘jive turkey’ back chat to go with it.  It’s almost stream of consiousness style, which can make it quite interesting to follow sometimes, but I love the intermingling of Spanish (the fact that there’s a glossary at the back which doesn’t skimp on the swear words also helps).

Seriously, I find it hard to believe that there are people in this world who haven’t yet seen Carlito’s Way, but if any of those people are reading this and think that they might like to, please go watch it before you read this, ’cause after the jump, there are spoilers.

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A Parrot among Crows

Let the Right One In

Lindquist, John Ajvide

Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2007

ISBN: 978 0 312 35529 6

Pre-movie

You may know this movie as ‘Let Me In’, but it’s the Swedish version (the original version, I should add), which has been sitting in the pile of ‘to be watched’ DVD’s for a good long time.  We’re terrible at that kind of thing, the Lad and I – we have probably about seven movies sitting in the pile next to the TV at the moment.  I prefer to look at it as ‘seasoning’ them, but I don’t know what I’m seasoning them for exactly… still, to get back on topic, I didn’t even know this was a book until I found it by accident while looking through horror stuff at the Book Depository.  Since I knew it was a movie already I tried desperately not to get the edition with the movie poster as it’s cover (God, I hate that.  I mean, it was a book before it was a movie, right?  So why would you need a whole new cover for it? Are people that lazy that they don’t recognise a movie is taken from a book unless it has a dirty great movie poster on it?  Okay… climbing down off my hobby horse now.  I promise.), but I failed and settled for the movie poster version.

So, I don’t know, I may have jinxed myself out of liking this movie by being determined to read the book first.  I guess I just didn’t want to be seeing the actors from the movie in my head – particularly Håken post-acid-face.  There were a couple of really beautiful scenes in this book, so I could see why whoever it was wanted to make a movie about it; particularly the scene with Oskar and the school group on the ice when the body is discovered, and the scene in the church with Tommy and the saltpetre in the baptismal font.  But tone is always the thing, don’t you think?  I mean, when you’re reading a book, the thing that either leaves me cold or makes me keep reading is the tone, the feeling around the edges of the events.  Ugh, you know, that’s a phrase that I use a lot, ‘feeling around the edges’, but it’s the only real way that I can think of to describe that sort of thing.  It’s like an emotion that’s not directly described, it’s just there, and in Let the Right One In, it’s a feeling of desolation, of loneliness and the desire for a connection, almost at whatever cost.

Okay, okay, so it’s also a vampire book.  What is it with ladies and the fanged ones, eh?  I have to say that I am no exception to the craze of vampires, though I like to think that I was kind of riding the wave before they became cool.  Hopeless justification, but hey.  And just to get this out in the open, yes, I have read Twilight, and I seem to be powerless to resist Sookie and the Bon Temps gang, but mostly that’s just romance dressed up in horror drag – sort of like those cute zombie cheerleader outfits you see around now we’re approaching Hallowe’en.  This is not that.  Not at all.

I don’t feel like I can comment too much on the writing style of this book because of the translation issue. Just so you know,  this version was translated by Ebba Segerberg in 2007. I mean, how can you say that something is well written when all you have to go on is the translated version?  It’s enough to me that the story was compelling, and thought provoking, which isn’t something you can say about a lot of books that come under the Fanged Canon.  It’s a pretty intricate plot, with a lot of seemingly unconnected characters who are swirled up in several violent events.  So I’m slightly concerned about how that plot is going to suffer being told in only115 minutes.  We’ll see though.

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Jane Says

Jane Eyre

Brontë, Charlotte

Pre-movie

I’m just going to pop this out in the open right now.  Ever since I first read it at the tender age of about thirteen, Jane Eyre has been my favourite books.  But this post is going to be mostly about the movie, which I saw today.

It’s always dangerous, isn’t it?  Going to see the movie of a book that you can recite large passages out of,  or that you relate strongly to one (or some) of the characters.  To be honest, if I wasn’t so impressed with the cast of this particular version of the story, then there is no way I would have gone to see it.  No way.  But… Judi Dench!  Michael Fassbender!  I haven’t seen much of Mia Wasikowska’s oeuvre – sadly, she is the weakest link for me, I didn’t really like her in Alice in Wonderland, or in Defiance, but I’m trying to put that aside and see how I go.  But having said that, visually she’s a good choice for Jane, I think.  Not horrible looking, just pale and weird-looking (in a nice way).  Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers I’m having a slightly difficult time imagining too, but again, I’ll see how I go.

I’m really interested in how they handle some of the more brutal elements in the story – the scene in the church, the crossing the moors in the darkness, St. John’s proposal, the fire.  As usual, all the nasty stuff.  The treatment of Adele will be quite interesting too (Jane bonds with her so strongly in the book that the chemistry between the two actresses will be very important).

There’s a strong class struggle in Jane Eyre as well – Jane constantly wonders at Rochester, because she thinks she can bring nothing to their union (well, not money or title, anyway).  So that will be interesting.  I’m going with my Lad, against his will, I might add (though I’ve been to see Transformers 3 with him, so he kind of owes me), so I’ll be interested to see if he enjoys it or not.  Be warned, that if you’re thinking of seeing Jane Eyre there are some spoilers after this jump.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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