Discussion in 'Community' started by droideka27, Aug 31, 2005.
Although our favorite Lannister is in the Disney version of Prince Caspian.
The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carre.
Yeah, I have to say that I felt like The Narnia movies definitely played up the "BIG EPIC" thing too much. I mean, I get that they are fantasy stories and told within a big world and they are adventures, but I mean, they're not Lord of the Rings and felt like the movies desperately wanted to be Lord of the Rings.
Prophet (1992) – Frank E. Peretti
In the midst of a hotly contested election, news anchor John Barrett has more than his share of stresses; he increasingly feels like his role in the media is less journalism and more entertainment; he’s estranged from his ex-wife and his college-age son; his father is a crazy fundamentalist Christian that’s harassing one of the political candidates. And then . . . well, on top of all that, what to make of these strange voices, these strange hallucinations, these . . . visions? It’s a great premise; Peretti said he wanted to kind of transplant the idea of an Old Testament style prophet into modern times and it’s a great hook. And when the book plays around with ideas of superficiality in culture and news as entertainment, the book feels, well, prophetic. If this stuff was true in 1992, twenty-five years later, it’s almost painful to read. The book throws itself too heavily into a contrived political cover-up revolving around a dangerous abortion clinic and it’s in the abortion narrative that the book feels the most false. It’s a bit of a pet project for Peretti as we say from Tilly and it feels pretty out of place here. The “modern day Old Testament prophet” angle would have worked better had the story been about financial corruption or big business & poverty; these were things the actual OT prophets railed against. The book is pretty preachy and it paints its villains very one-dimensionally, men-hating feminists, promiscuous pro-choice activists, etc. and it doesn’t really acknowledge the negative sides of the pro-life side. Peretti does create two really great characters who are on the side of the truth of the cover-up being revealed that are pro-choice, however, so that’s something I suppose. They’re actually two of the most interesting characters in the book, a newsroom boss who finds himself caught between the corrupt big brass and the loose-cannon reporters, and a crusading female reporter who won’t be swayed in her convictions about being pro-choice. Also, on a small side note, kudos for having the two main reporter characters be a man & a woman and not shoehorning in a cheesy romance; they care about each other and respect each other and it feels like a real relationship. Does the good premise and good characterization of the main cast outweigh the cartoonish villains and the preachy tone of the forced plot? It’s a toss-up. The book would be helped immensely if it was tightened up; at almost five-hundred, very closely set pages, it’s simply too long. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Peretti’s got a killer premise & does some good character work, but the plot is forced & the politics are preachy; the prose is punchy, but the book could stand to lose a hundred pages. 2 ½ stars.
Not sure what the consensus is from fans of the book, but in general the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I'd say it got the biggest bump coming out of Comic-Con. Other than the copious 80s pop culture Easter eggs I can't say it matches up to what I've read so far (1/4 of the way in), but I can see it going in that direction. If you're interested, I'll link it here.
Oh yeah, reading TMN re-set that bar in my head. Going in to my next Narnia visit I should have a much better perspective. Having read The Lord of the Rings many years before getting around to The Hobbit I similarly had to adjust to the differences in tone and scope to properly enjoy it.
Yeah, coming out as they did a year or so after the LOTR trilogy the studio were definitely trying to ride that wave and amped it up accordingly. I will say I think they did a better job of taking Narnia to that LOTR level than Jackson did a decade later when he tried to do it with The Hobbit trilogy.
Well, Narnia utilized a really strange and groundbreaking strategy of one book = one movie, so there was, you know, sufficient story to fill two hours with those movies. And for some reason they also had the weird idea that fantasy for children shouldn't have a constant air of ponderous despair.
I mean, they also don't have nearly the emotional power of the LotR trilogy, but, in the aftermath of the Hobbit trilogy, it feels like a new, wonderful discovery every time you watch a movie that actually has enough story for its running time.
But I'm getting snippy again.
@Rogue1-and-a-half Quite true. Re: stretching The Hobbit out to three films, I'm reminded of what Bilbo said about the Ring's effect on him "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.".
Ranger's Apprentice: The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan. I think his writing has improved somewhat since the first books in the series, but the ideas are thinning out. As expected for a YA novel, it's a quick and easy read.
The Secret of the Desert Stone (1995) – Frank E. Peretti
After a few years away, Peretti comes back to the Cooper Family Adventure series with a really interesting and atypical book in the series. This one finds the Coopers journeying to Africa after a mysterious stone several miles wide and almost two miles high literally appears overnight in a desolate area of wilderness. This is the most mystery oriented of the series and also the least intense in terms of violence or suspense or scares. The resolution to the mystery of where the massive stone came from is a kind of surprising one and, while this one was a little slow for me as a youngster, I now think it’s actually one of the more creative and interesting books in the series. Kudos for having a mysterious tribe of vicious cannibals set up to be a villainous force in the book and then having them . . . turn out to just be, you know, normal folks living a peaceful life in an isolated village. It kind of sets up for the book to go in a direction that, as an adult, you expect to be really racially insensitive and then turns that on its head in a nice way. 3 stars.
tl;dr – emphasizing mystery over thrills, this slower-paced entry in the Cooper series is actually one of the more creative and interesting books in the set. 3 stars.
I loved the last battle myself.
Everything about it was very fitting and it served as a fine allegory for the book of revelation.
I liked Shift as a villain and always admired King Tirian as well.
Sawyer's WAKE was a well done look at a A.I. gaining consciousness. It's the first of a trilogy that is no longer in B&N so used book stores in my future at some point.
Moving on to Arena by Holly Jennings. If this turns out well I'll buy the sequel.
The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.
The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Oath (1995) – Frank E. Peretti
We all live in Hyde River. We all have our own dragon.
I’m finishing up my Peretti project with this one; there’s a substantial amount of stuff I haven’t gotten to, but I’m ready for a break. Just by chance really, I end on a very high note. In The Oath, a nature photographer is viciously killed and half eaten by a wild animal high in the wooded mountains; his brother journeys to the area to investigate and he finds himself drawn into the intrigues, secrets and violence of the tiny town of Hyde River. This is one of Peretti’s least preachy books. It’s very much a story about evil and the corrupting power of sin, but it’s all allegorical and, while there are a couple of religious supporting characters, none of the three main characters are Christians, a first for Peretti. It’s a very simple story really, about a town that made a deal with the devil and now finds itself haunted and hunted by an evil force, and it’s told in a more stripped down prose style than usual with Peretti. He may, in fact, have stripped the prose down to try to keep it to a manageable length; it’s about six-hundred pages, as it is. But, man, it moves like a forest fire and it’s really visceral and impactful. The character work is good, though a few of the supporting characters are thinly sketched. The villain of the piece is well-written and more complex than he at first appears. The allegorical elements of the book are gripping and memorable; the more a person gives into his or her basest instincts, the worse a wound over their heart becomes. As judgment nears, it oozes a gruesome black slime. I remembered some of those scenes vividly, despite me first reading this book nigh onto twenty years ago now. It’s kind of a dead heat for Peretti’s best with This Present Darkness. The prose in This Present Darkness and the labyrinthine plot really elevate it a lot and help the characters come more to life; but for sheer punchy genre thrills, this one has the edge in intensity and horror. Both great; I don’t really want to pick one as better than the other. But either way, The Oath is a thrilling, brilliant genre novel. 4 stars.
tl;dr – gripping genre thriller has intensity and horror to spare; less preachy than Peretti’s usual stuff, it’s still a compelling story of good vs. evil and one of his very best works. 4 stars.
Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time, by Robert V. Remini. Remini, an accomplished scholar of the Jacksonian era, offers a meaty biography of one of the great figures of that period. Webster was one of the great statesmen between the Founding period and the Civil War, a massively influential constitutional lawyer whose arguments before the Supreme Court helped shape the legal system's fundamental understanding of the Constitution and a legendary orator whose speeches in favor of the Union, and a national rather than sectional understanding of America, helped bind the country together. Remini has a good insight into Webster and his era, having already written biographies of Webster's great contemporaries and rivals, Jackson and Clay. He's sympathetic to Webster and appreciates his greatness as a national figure, but isn't afraid to point out his shortcomings. Despite his legendary stature as a representative, longtime senator, and multi-time secretary of state, Webster was a decent but flawed diplomat and a terrible politician. As an orator he was wonderful, and could sway opinion in the Senate with a powerfully reasoned, eloquent speech, but he had almost no ability to actually move legislation to accomplish his aims, unlike Clay, and like Clay never managed to adapt himself to the politics of the Jacksonian era, with their populist tilt and the domination of the presidential nomination process by political machines. Despite Webster's burning desire for the presidency, he never even got close, and could never win significant backing outside Massachusetts. The closest he came was turning down the opportunity to be Harrison's vice president -- he would have been president if not for his pride. In the arrogant, prickly, increasingly drunk, and financially improvident Webster, Remini finds a fascinating character, a deeply flawed man who nonetheless achieved greatness through his admirable qualities, his brilliance, passion, talent, and noble love of his country and the great things he accomplished. It's a thoroughly entertaining, well-written biography that highlights just how fascinating the often-overlooked first half of the nineteenth century was in American politics.
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976) – Raymond Carver
Carver is considered to be one of the great short story writers of all time and this was his first published collection. He’s an icon of the Minimalist movement and we’ll explore how accurate that all actually is, but his stories here could easily fit that description. Carver’s prose here is clinical & simple. He tells you what happens, but leaves the characters’ interior lives up for debate; he’s not going to tell you what people are thinking or feeling, just what they’re doing. Part of what makes this so effective is his utter lack of judgment. Neighbors is one of the more famous stories and it neatly points this up and also kind of lays out a template for Carver’s typical story. A married couple lives across the hall from another couple; when the other couple goes on vacation, they get asked to feed the cat and watch the apartment. Simple enough, but once this couple begins to invade the other couple’s apartment, their behavior gets kind of strange and, without Carver ever making it explicit, they’re feeling a kind of dark charge from trespassing on another couple’s intimate space and, at the same time, feeling a sad kind of envy. But even as these characters intrude on someone else’s intimate space, Carver reserves judgment; these are just people, just regular people, and Carver has no room for any condescension. This is kind of the basic template of a Carver story: something very mundane, of seemingly no real import, happens and it causes a strange sort of upset or turmoil in the main character of the story. When this works, it really, really works; in Fat, a woman decides her life has to change after something as simple as her husband making fun of a fat man; in Sixty Acres, a man discovers a couple of kids trespassing on his land and realizes that he’s deeply unhappy with his lot in life; etc. At their best, these stories are brilliant portraits of attempted, mostly failed human connection. In Collectors, a vacuum cleaner salesman arrives at the house of a man who’s unemployed; they find a strange sort of connection when the salesman decides to go ahead and give the full vacuum demonstration even though he knows the man won’t buy anything. Night School is a great story about a guy who picks up a couple of girls in a bar, but then really doesn’t know what to do at that point. Put Yourself in My Shoes is probably the best story; a married couple tries to have a nice evening getting to know their new landlord and his wife, but things very quickly turn sour and the confrontation that develops is painful and stark. Carver has a real gift for the way people talk; his dialogue rings absolutely true, stripped down, blunt and often aimless. He’s capturing something really powerful here, a sense of disenchantment and uncertainty in the lives of everyday people. He sees the deep meaning behind the seemingly small events that make up the mostly unremarkable lives these people live and he tells these stories with a real since of verisimilitude. This style could very easily devolve into a parody of itself, but this book only has one story, The Father, that does this; it’s the shortest story in the book, at only two pages and it has a really terrible ending. For the most part, though, Carver’s instincts ring true; these stories are just minimal enough to feel real and yet well-crafted enough to feel meaningful. I’m looking forward to continuing on the journey with Carver. He has the simple craftsmanship of a true artist; the details of everyday life he gets so right. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Carver’s debut short story collection is brilliant, minimal exploration of everyday people, unremarkable lives and the deep meaning behind the simplest things in life. 4 stars.
Arena sucked. It suffers primarily from not describing the game world well enough to be something someone would want to venture in let alone become addicted to as the lead character does. I skimmed the last third of the book.
Moving on to The Waking Land by Callie Bates
Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.
Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.
But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.
I haven't read any of the new canon novels but it surprises me that Christie Golden wrote one of the better ones. I thought her three entries in the Fate of the Jedi series were the weakest of the nine. Omen is one of my least favorite EU novels.
@King_of_Red_Lions in terms of the new canon/reset EU, that bar for me is awfully low, so Dark Disciple is more of a relative success in an extremely weak field.
Reading Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Bounty
The Stand and Millennium Falcon.
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@PCCViking wow, juggling The Stand with any other book is some rather daunting and impressive multi-tasking!
Thank you. I usually read a little bit of one at a time, then switch to the other.
@PCCViking with something as epic in length as The Stand, it's good to sneak a little sorbet in there to help cleanse the palate. W/super humungo books I will sometimes set it aside once a week and read an issue or two of a comic.
In anticipation for the movie, and I've never read It. I like It so far, but good god is It huge in length. I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish It by September 8th, but I'll try my best to do so.
I don't know if you've ever read any of Tom Clancy's novels, but some of them could give The Stand a run for its money in terms of length (Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon).