Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Right What You No”

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like an author desperately trying to establish their literary cred by referencing classic works of fiction. Guess what is mentioned in Inferno.

Professor Robert Langdon is back for another inexplicable adventure to save the world. This time a madman with a love for Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Black Death is threatening to release a new disease that could wipe out humanity. Only Langdon and his latest arm candy can save the day.

If it isn’t obvious, I have a like-hate relationship with Dan Brown novels. Dan writes very entertaining novels that are well paced with interesting plots. But he also manages to bash readers over the head with plot points – or character traits, or other random things he deems important – and squeeze in a lot of useless exposition. The useless exposition often feels like an attempt to impress readers with the amount of research that has gone into the novel. But when he starts mentioning things like Dim Mak – the mythical pressure point and no touch martial arts technique – with credulity, I cringe.

There are other points I find amusing about Inferno in particular. The continuous referral to six-foot tall Langdon as “tall” says a lot about the author (or editor’s) height. The desperate need to reference great literary works in a mass-market thriller novel. The idolatry of Langdon by various characters – “she was admiring him more and more”, “his deep voice” – is heavy handed at best. But for these points I wonder if this is a result of Dan’s success and wide appeal. Could it be that because Dan sells billions of copies of his books that he and his editors have to make sure the book has wider appeal and comprehension? Or is it the reverse; is his appeal that every plot point is hammered home, and that the reader is repeatedly bludgeoned with how awesome the protagonist is?

For all the book’s faults, Inferno was an entertaining read. Upon picking this novel up I was refreshingly entertained. Worth a read for fans of Brown, Steve Berry, James Rollins, etc.

[Spoiler]

I wanted to rip the final scene out and rewrite it. Langdon is returning the stolen Dante death mask to the museum but the curator can’t meet him. So Langdon sneaks in and replaces it, reopening the exhibit himself.

Boring!

How about Langdon being caught in the act of replacing the death mask. Security recognise him as the guy who stole the mask a few days earlier but haven’t gotten the memo about Langdon being off the hook. So they are arresting him at gunpoint, to wit Langdon responds, “Please, I can explain.” The handcuffs go on and the book finishes there.

[/Spoiler]

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Book to Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit – What’s the Difference

Did you know Who Framed Roger Rabbit was based on a book? Me neither. But apparently in this instalment of What’s the Difference from Cinefix, the differences between book and movie are so vast that it is more a case of what is actually the same.

Do I really need an excuse to post this picture?

Fastest Bikes In Fiction

Recently I reposted a cool infographic about science fiction weapons, which was a continuation of my posts of infographics with cool comparisons (such as the fastest space ships). Bryan at EVELO liked those posts and sent me a link to his post on the Fastest Bikes in Fiction. Check it out.

fastest-pop-culture-bikes

Speeder Bike is still the coolest.

The Top Sci-Fi Weapons in the Universe

Cool infographic comparing the destructive power of sci-fi weapons from Foundation Digital and Fat Wallet. And yes, the Smart Disk is probably more accurately called a Smart Chakram (if I learnt anything from watching Xena Warrior Princess).

The Top Sci-Fi Weapons
The Top Sci-Fi Weapons Created By: Fat Wallet

Book Review: Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the first time I’m actually interested in what is in The Juice. I’m betting The Juice doesn’t contain oranges.

Leviathan Wakes is the first novel in The Expanse series and follows two protagonists, Jim Holden and Joseph Miller. Holden hauls ice – not that kind – for the colonies spread throughout the solar system. He and his small crew inadvertently start a war when their ship is blown up. Meanwhile Miller is a detective trying to find a missing rich girl. Holden and Miller’s paths cross and they have to stop a war, and something even more dangerous, from destroying humanity.

It has been awhile since I’ve sunk my teeth into a space opera. The impetus to do so came from the SyFy series The Expanse, the first season of which is based upon Leviathan Wakes. For the first few weeks of the show I was matching pace with the TV and novel, but have finally pulled in front with my reading. I can highly recommend both the show and the novel.

There is a lot going on in the novel: it touches on elements of many genres (noir, mystery, hard sci-fi, etc); it maintains a brisk pace/tension; has elements of social and political commentary (anyone else notice the WikiLeaks ethos reference?); and combines some interesting characters with an interesting plot. As such, this is one of the better sci-fi novels I have read. I’m starting Caliban’s War, the sequel, today.

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Do people in Australia ride kangaroos?

Yes and no.

Like most advanced countries, Australia has moved past antiquated methods of travel. Just as you don’t see horses and carts in major cities anymore, Aussies have moved away from riding kangaroos in much the same way. Let’s face it, kangaroos are smelly, need to eat lots of food, and are dangerous with a nasty kick – kinda like horses when you think about it. Cars really are much nicer to commute to work in.

But just like horses, there are diehard kangaroo riding enthusiasts who haven’t figured out that cars are so much better. As such there are riding schools, such as Alex Hayek’s Kangaroo Riding School, and clubs for people to learn to ride. Some children do prefer to ride kangaroos instead of bikes to school, but that is becoming less common with the advent of helicopter parents.

The sad thing about kangaroo riding is that it isn’t as popular as horse riding in Australia, despite kangaroos resulting in less deaths each year than horses. So it will be interesting to see if this proud tradition is continued in future generations.

Originally published on Quora and Medium.

Book Review: The Executioner – War Against The Mafia by Don Pendleton

War Against the Mafia (The Executioner, #1)War Against the Mafia by Don Pendleton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you go to war with the Mafia do you have to use Tommy Guns?

Mac Bolan is a one man army and he has the Mafia in his sights because reasons. And he gets the girl. I think that sums up the plot. Change Mafia for some other antagonist and you have the plot for the entire series of the long running young-men’s action novels.

When I was young Indiana Jones was the prototype for action-adventure movies. They were amazing. It took a long time for them to be released on DVD, but when they finally did I grabbed them for a movie marathon. I was a little disappointed. They were cheesy. It was hard to tell if they were always cheesy or if they had aged badly because Indiana Jones was the prototype for a genre that had evolved and now looked lame in comparison. NB: don’t take that as a diss on Indiana Jones…. except Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was terrible.

The Executioner is similar to Indiana Jones in that it was the prototype – well, one of many – for a genre that has evolved. It’s hard to call this cookie cutter stuff since this was the prototype cutter. It is easy to see the appeal and how this influenced so many people, including my friend Matt Hilton (shameless plug). But so much time has passed since these were new. In that time a generation of authors, TV shows (watch Banshee), and movies have been influenced and created works. The genre has grown, matured, and taken on other elements, such that this feels kinda cheesy. Was it always cheesy? Maybe that was what made this series fun in the first place.

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Fan fiction is awesome

I’ve never understood authors, directors, or other creatives who have a problem with fan fiction (and other derivatives). What is wrong with fans showing their love for something you’ve created by creating something of their own? Sure, it won’t be canon, and they might not get the feel of your work right, but does it really matter?

With that, I give you a fan fiction short from Rocket Jump.*

*Yes, this post is just an excuse to share the above video, even if it is only for the Firefly reference.

Book vs Movie: The Princess Bride – What’s the difference?

A much loved book and a classic movie: this month CineFix tackle the differences between the tree and silver halide versions of The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Many years ago my sister was kind enough to force me to read The Princess Bride. Of course I was a fan of the movie; despite never doing the fancy dress thing for parties I have worn an Inigo Montoya name badge, so yes, I was a fan. But for some reason at the time I had this strange idea that if I had seen the movie then there wasn’t much point in reading the book. I mean, how different could they be?*

Long story short, The Princess Bride is one of my favourite novels, ranking up there with Good Omens and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The What’s the Difference? video only makes passing mention to the style of the novel, which is as much about making an abridged version of the original S. Morgenstern novel, as it is about the adventures of Westley and Princess Buttercup. Having to edit out the endless chapters describing trees, the difficult negotiations required to secure the rights to do the abridgement over Florin native Stephen King (who ends up securing the rights to the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby), and generally only including the good parts, are key to the novel. Just about all of this was dropped from the movie, because meta-humour would be too confusing to audiences (trust me, people still don’t understand Inception for some reason). So the novel is quite different from the movie. Read it.

On the subject of the above video, it is interesting in this instance that William Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay. So we are able to see how Goldman has zeroed in on the important parts of the narrative to simplify the movie. Because movie audiences aren’t like us sophisticated book readers. In the anniversary edition of the book, Goldman notes how pleased he was with the movie, particularly the casting that brought the book to life. No mention was made of the budget blow-outs due to Andre The Giant’s alcohol consumption.

*Hence the reason I share this fantastic video series each month: it is my penance for such poor thinking.

Book review: The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

The Forgotten Room (Jeremy Logan #4)The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

One day I’m going to start a think tank and name it after a bodywash – possibly a shampoo – just like Lincoln Child did with his fictional institution, Lux.

There’s a problem in the west wing of the think tank Lux. No, it isn’t that their research is funded by special interest groups. No, it isn’t that they are neo-cons intent on bending governments to their policy wills. Lux has a slight problem with residents going crazy. So they contact Dr Jeremy Logan, a former resident and investigator who specialises in the extraordinary, to figure out what is causing the problems. That’s when they find The Forgotten Room and its contents.

Without realising it, I’ve actually read one of the other Jeremy Logan mysteries. The reason I didn’t realise I had read the first in the series (this being #4) was that Jeremy wasn’t the main character in Deep Storm. But much like Deep Storm, The Forgotten Room is a compelling mystery that hits all the right beats. Where Deep Storm was more techno/sci-fi based, The Forgotten Room has allusions to the supernatural whilst being more conventional. Where Deep Storm had a mysterious illness, The Forgotten Room has a mysterious illness. Where Deep Storm tried to kill off as many characters as possible, The Forgotten Room keeps the fatalities to a minimum. I don’t know why I’m comparing the two books in the series this much, probably because they seem to have the same general plot and feel to them. Although I do prefer the character of Logan to Crane.

As with all Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston books, you can be assured of an entertaining read. Whilst Logan is no Pendergast, he does make for an interesting character to follow as he unravels the mystery. But as with my review of Deep Storm, I did feel this book to be a little too “by the numbers”.

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Book vs Movie: Casino Royale – What’s the Difference?

In the latest instalment of the What’s the Difference? series, the CineFix team have broken down the Ian Flemming novel and Daniel Craig movie, Casino Royale.

Unfortunately Casino Royale is not one of Bond novels I’ve read. The change between generations is very marked when reading a Bond novel, the little changes like letters and radio to texts and mobile phones (cells to US people) are expected. But the social change that has occurred is the biggest noticeable difference, mostly with the role of women and minorities in society. Felix Leiter being African-American in the movie? Vesper Lynd being the intellectual equal of Bond? These are not things that Flemming would have imagined for his world.

I like Daniel Craig’s Bond and think that Casino Royale was a shot in the arm for the long running series. The gritty take on things was needed after the cheese that was Die Another Day (etc). And you can’t help but love any film that has Eva Green in it. With rumours flying that Craig’s Bond will be no more, it will be interesting to see what the next take on Bond will bring us. Will the producers push back to a suave Connery take on Bond, or a tongue-in-cheek Moore version, or an in-between like Brosnan, or something really lame and poorly written like Dalton and Lazenby’s outings?

Whatever happens with the Bond series it is clear that the social update to the novels will continue.

When Science Fiction Became Science Fact

One of my favourite science blogs, From Quarks to Quasars, had a great post from Isabelle Turner that I needed to share. Take a look at the things from science fiction that became science fact, and wonder whether it was prediction, influence, or just wishful interpretation on our part.

BookPredictions2

Book review: Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter Is Dead (Dexter, #8)Dexter Is Dead by Jeff Lindsay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If Dexter is Dead, does that mean alliteration dies with him?

The final instalment of delightfully dismembering Dexter sees the titular protagonist in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, which really means the cops aren’t trying very hard. His friends and colleagues – the ones that are still alive at least – have abandoned him, his sister Deb thinks he is getting a dose of karma, and Detective Andrews is doing his best to frame him. Good thing he has a brother. And Brian never causes problems in Dexter’s life.

As a huge fan of the Dexter novels – the TV series: meh – I have been looking forward to reading the final Dexter adventure for some time. I’d like to say the anticipation set me up for disappointment, but I’m pretty sure it was the series running out of steam. That isn’t to say that Dexter is Dead isn’t an entertaining read, more than it doesn’t hit the normal highs I’ve enjoyed from the earlier novels in the series. Which means that finishing the adventures of Dexter now (or a book or two ago) was probably a good idea. Dexter’s luck finally running out, hammering home some of the central points that many have missed previously (yes, Dexter isn’t smart), and finally (spoiler alert…. from the title) killing Dexter, was important for the series.

I’d say this book is mainly for fans of the series who want closure. It is just a pity the end wasn’t a highpoint.

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Book Review: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered if werewolves are sexy? Apparently it isn’t just Rule 34 that has the answer on that question.

Moon Called is the first in the highly successful Patricia Briggs series. Mercy Thompson is the local mechanic, a shape shifter, and a lightning rod for trouble. First a runaway with problems starts work at her shop, bringing his problems with him. Then her friendly neighbourhood werewolves get dragged into the start of a civil war. And then it seems the local witches and vampires are involved. Then Cthulhu rises… Okay, I made up the last bit.

Patricia’s Mercy Thompson series are not normally the sort of book I would choose to read. Being a guy, I have these prejudices about sparkly vampires, sexy werewolves, and novels clearly aimed at that market. Which is stupid on my part. The Moon Called has as much in common with Twilight as Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. In other words, I could have enjoyed this series earlier if not for my misplaced prejudice.

This was a fast paced novel that was highly entertaining. One thing that stood out to me, though, was the novel kind of ended without really finishing the story. This made the ending feel a little unsatisfying, but at the same time it felt like a more natural story, especially for a series. I suppose it is refreshing to have a novel unafraid to not have an epilogue or tagged on final chapter that ties up all the loose ends. And this open-endedness doesn’t feel like a deliberate setup for a series, rather it feels like a genuine limited world perspective: we don’t get to know everything because the characters don’t know everything. I will be reading many more Patricia Briggs novels.

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The continued war on e-books

Stupid meme is stupid.

Stupid meme is stupid.

Do you love the smell of books?
Do you prefer the feel of paper?
Do you feel slightly superior to others because you paid for the hardcover?
Do you grasp at any excuse to deride e-books and the people who read them?
Well, I have found the article for you!

Recently on Mental Floss an article entitled “5 Reasons Physical Books Might Be Better Than E-Books” sought to comfort snooty readers who wanted ammunition to fling at e-book readers. In the proud tradition of deriding any new technology as bad (see e-books, e-cars, driverless cars, etc), this article introduces us to some research that is wonderfully out of context for the intent of the article’s argument. Let’s dig in.

Though e-book readers have become a more common sight around town, traditional books still have their evangelists. According to The New York Times, e-book sales have been falling in 2015. Print definitely isn’t dead. In fact, according to some research, it may actually be a better choice for some readers. While scientists are still trying to tease out exactly how digital reading affects us differently, here are five ways e-books might be inferior to their dead-tree cousins.

When deriding things it is always best to reference another article that derides the same thing. In this case the article references the wonderfully misleading NYT piece on e-book sales slipping. Pity that the sales didn’t slip… That’s right, the NYT misrepresented a slowing in e-book sales growth as a drop in sales. And did they mention why readers were stating a preference for paper? Yes. Hidden in the article is a little quote about how publishers had been protecting their paper sales by inflating e-book prices. Now, my economics is a tad rusty, but I’m pretty sure making something more expensive when there are direct substitutes on offer results in a decrease in sales of that item and an increase in the sales of the substitution item. At least, that’s what I’ve heard…

1. E-BOOKS CAN REDUCE READING COMPREHENSION.
In a study of middle schoolers, West Chester University researchers found that students who read on iPads had lower reading comprehension than when they read traditional printed books. They discovered that the kids sometimes skipped text in favor of interactive features in the e-books, suggesting that certain multimedia in children’s e-books can be detrimental to the practice of reading itself. However, the researchers noted that some interactive features in e-books are designed to enhance comprehension, and that those might be more helpful than game-type interactive graphics.

This is a fantastic study in how multitasking is terrible for concentration and thus impacts reading comprehension. iPads have all sorts of cool stuff on them, including little notifications telling you that your friend just liked your latest picture of your meal. And building those distractions into the book being read: sounds like a great idea! What this study doesn’t do is support the idea that e-books reduce reading comprehension.

2. YOUNG KIDS CAN GET DISTRACTED BY E-BOOKS.
Similar results were found by a small study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center that consisted of 32 kids reading e-books and print books with their parents. It found that “enhanced” e-books might be distracting. Kids who read enhanced e-books—ones with interactive, multimedia experiences—were more engaged with them physically, but in the end they remembered fewer narrative details than those who read print books or basic e-books [PDF].

Don’t read the link. Don’t read the link. You read the link: didn’t you. Leaving aside the tiny study size for a moment (a point the study authors acknowledge), the study itself supports the points I made above about being distracted whilst reading. And if you look through the study you see a great little chart that showed the comparison of reading comprehension – expressed as story details recalled – was actually superior in basic e-books than in print books or enhanced e-books.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 10.13.19 am

The findings of the study were literally stated as:

The enhanced e-book was less effective than the print and basic e-book in supporting the benefits of co-reading because it prompted more non-content related interactions.

Odd that the “e-books are bad” article failed to highlight this finding…

3. YOU REMEMBER LESS ABOUT A BOOK’S TIMELINE.
Another study of adults also found that e-books can be hard to absorb. The researchers asked 25 people read a 28-page story on a Kindle and 25 to read the story in paperback, then asked the readers to put 14 events from the story in chronological order. Those who read the story on a Kindle performed worse on the chronology test than the book readers, though they performed about the same as print readers in other tests. Earlier research by the same scholars, from Stavanger University in Norway, found that Norwegian 10th graders also remembered more about texts if they read them in print rather than on a computer screen [PDF].

Finally we come to a study on actual e-books on an actual e-reader versus their dead tree counterparts. Of course I’m again blown away by the sample size of the study, a massive 50 people. That should easily extrapolate to the rest of humankind. The linked article doesn’t give us much information, but I found a better one, and it has this summary:

In most respects, there was no significant difference between the Kindle readers and the paper readers: the emotional measures were roughly the same, and both groups of readers responded almost equally to questions dealing with the setting of the story, the characters and other plot details. But, the Kindle readers scored significantly lower on questions about when events in the story occurred. They also performed almost twice as poorly when asked to arrange 14 plot points in the correct sequence.

I’d link to the original paper, but it is behind a paywall. Suffice to say that the error margins were pretty big (even the paper readers got 34% of the plot points in the wrong order). And this was a short story, something that shouldn’t be that difficult for any reader. So this probably says as much about the story as anything. They’d need far more stories and participants to get a good idea of what is going on. But I will concede that reading on paper vs e-reader vs screen is definitely a different experience and has an influence. What that influence is, positive, negative, or just different, needs more research.

Interestingly the study of reading PDF texts on a screen vs paper texts in high school students showed why scrolling is a terrible way to read anything. Scroll down to read more about PDFs sucking.

4. THEY’RE NOT GREAT AS TEXTBOOKS.
While e-book textbooks are often cheaper (and easier to carry) than traditional door-stop textbooks, college students often don’t prefer them. In some surveys of college kids, the majority of students have reported preferring print books. However, a 2012 study from the UK’s National Literacy Trust of kids ages 8 to 16 found that more than 50 percent of children reported preferring screen reading [PDF].

It is odd to start a point and then go on to disprove it. E-book textbooks being cheaper, easier to carry, and in some surveys preferred by the majority of respondents, seems to me to be the opposite of “not great”. The preference for paper textbooks claim comes from a survey of 527 students, yet is immediately refuted by the UK survey of 34,910 students. I wonder which one is more representative of how students feel about textbooks?

In the comments of the Mental Floss article, someone made a good point in regard to the format of textbooks. Oftentimes the textbooks are PDFs, which brings us back to the point about scrolling, and adds the problem with taking notes. Clearly the format of the e-book plays a big part in how people feel about them.

5. THEY’RE TIRING.
Staring at a lit screen can be tiring for the eyes and the brain. A 2005 study from Sweden found that reading digitally required a higher cognitive workload than reading on paper. Furthermore, staring at LED screens at night can disrupt sleep patterns. A 2014 Harvard study found that people who used e-readers with LED screens at night slept worse and were more tired the next day. So, if you’re going to go for an e-book, go for one without the backlight.

Now let us talk about how bad e-books are for your brain…. Sorry, did I say e-books when I meant LED screens like your iPad and computer? Silly me. Having bright light, especially from white background screens, shining in your eyes at night isn’t a good thing. But that is about as related to e-books as X-Factor is to talented singers. So the message about changing your screen setup for night viewing only really applies to readers if they utilise a backlit screen for reading.

And now that we are at the end of the article, let’s throw in some information for the pretence of balance in the hopes you will ignore the headline and main article points:

BUT DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR E-READER JUST YET.
However, all this may not mean that reading on a Kindle is really going to melt your brain. For instance, reading an e-book on a computer is a much different experience than reading on a Kindle, which is specifically designed for consuming books. So, too, is playing with an interactive e-book on an iPad, compared to using a simpler e-book device that only presents the text, with no opportunities to click away into digital distractions.

This really does appear to be information that would have been better presented in the context of the “e-books are evil” points above; doesn’t it. Throwing in this sort of context at the end rather than in the discussion of the study findings is a cheap tactic, a ploy that sees important information left until after you have already formed your opinion on a subject, or just plain stopped reading the article. This information has far less chance of being retained than the others points made earlier in the article, thus the article has created the bias they were after (deliberately or otherwise).

And some studies have found that part of the difference between the way people absorb information from e-books versus paper might be due to approaching e-books differently—in one test, participants didn’t regulate their study time with digital books like they did with paper texts, leading to worse performances. It’s possible that our expectations of e-book reading—as well as the different designs of the digital reading experience on a computer or iPad or Kindle—might affect how we approach the text and how much effort we put into studying them. As generations of e-book readers evolve, and people become more accustomed to the idea of sitting down with a digital textbook, these factors could change—for better or for worse.

These are all good points, again made at the end of the article rather than at least being hinted at throughout. And unlike the main points in the article, these are unreferenced. Are these points from the studies already referenced (some are) or some other studies that aren’t worth mentioning? In the former, you would expect these points to have been raised earlier in the article in the proper context, in the latter, this feels like an attempt to downplay the statements as less important than the referenced points above. Either way we are left with the sentiment “change is scary” rather than “change is change”.

Hopefully this breakdown of the Mental Floss article shows just how disingenuous many of these anti-technology articles are, especially the “e-books are evil” articles. I’m not trying to say that e-books are what everyone should be reading, or that our forests are now saved from Dan Brown. There is clear evidence that our changing technology is changing the way we read and absorb information, and this transition period is still a learning phase as to how and if we will change our reading preferences. But negative preconceived ideas about e-books (or technology) don’t help in communicating about the change that is happening.

Book vs Movie: V For Vendetta – What’s the difference?

In this outing for the CineFix team they have covered the classic graphic novel and movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta.

So, truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of the Alan Moore graphic novel V For Vendetta – yeah, yeah, I know: sacrilege. I actually gave up on it about a third of the way through, as such it is hard for me to compare the book to the movie. Actually, that’s not true, I can compare how entertained I was, since I enjoyed the movie and couldn’t be bothered finishing the book. That should say a lot.

Moore distancing himself from all adaptations of his work is odd, but completely understandable given it is based upon having watched* The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. That was the film that caused Sean Connery to quit acting, which gives you some idea of just how bad that movie was. But you are still left with his admonishments of adaptations, like V For Vendetta or The Watchmen, that were good films (IMHO) and captured the essence of the source material. Like most of the book to movie adaptations discussed in the What’s the Difference? series, when you see the breakdowns of differences you can completely understand why the changes were made. The example in this video was of Evie’s character arc to help the audience empathise with both her and V in a shorter format. The book and movie occupy different spaces, have different constraints, and are often made at different times for society.

Which is why I find Moore’s stance – or is that complaints – on adaptations of his work to be a bit precious. I mean, he was, and I quote, “getting money for old rope” as well as a much wider exposure as an artist. He has managed to influence popular culture (The Killing Joke was the primary reference material for Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker). Not much to complain about. Unless the movie studios paid him in beard trimmers.

*Being a little flippant here as he was also sued over accusations that someone else’s script was plagiarised.

Book reviews: The King’s Deception by Steve Berry

The King's Deception (Cotton Malone, #8)The King’s Deception by Steve Berry
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Have you ever wanted a thriller to star not one, but two book store owners? Well, this is the novel for you!

That’s right, our favourite book seller is back in action. This time Cotton Malone is caught up in a CIA operation called King’s Deception. See what Steve Berry did there? Cotton and his son Gary get caught up with the CIA, SIS – better known as MI6 – and The Dedalus Society’s deadly spy games. King’s Deception is their game and Cotton has to blah blah the McGuffin surrounding Elizabeth the First before the blah blah.

I’m a big fan of Steve Berry’s novels. They are always entertaining and well thought out thrillers. Berry is the writer Dan Brown wishes he was, but then takes a swim in his pool of money to console himself. As is typical with this genre, Berry seamlessly mixes the modern day with the historical McGuffin in a plausible and interesting manner. But for me, I found this to be one of Berry’s weaker novels.

My main fault with the book was that it was a story being recounted between the narrator and reader analogues, with the first and last chapters book ending the actual story. I hate this sort of story telling. It always feels hackneyed, even in films. At least flashbacks only last a short time, this is like having 95% of the story be a flashback. In this case you could cut the first and last chapters out and it would be a perfectly reasonable novel, so the additions of these parts feels superfluous.

Despite that criticism, the book was entertaining and would rank 4 stars, but I’m giving it 3.5 stars. I’m taking half a star off for the book-ends on the actual story.

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Common Myths

common-myths

Found at From Quarks To Quasars.
Original and larger version.

Book vs Movie: Alice in Wonderland – What’s the difference?

Another great instalment from the CineFix team. And don’t worry, they didn’t do the Depp/Burton movie comparison. Dodged a bullet there.


I can’t claim to have read all of Alice in Wonderland. I can’t even claim to be much of a fan of the movie; Disney animation or otherwise. My main reason for not liking either is that this is a classic example, and possibly the progenitor, of the “and then she woke up” ending. My wife dislikes the book because it lacks a point and is boring and waffly. Since it is a “classic children’s book” it could explain why kids used to hate reading: thank FSM for Harry Potter!

Book review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Potatoes and Pirate-Ninjas: the reason you will read this book.*

I’m late to the Mark Watney appreciation society, since I only heard about this book as a result of the movie trailer. I guess at least I didn’t find out about the book after watching the movie and wondering if it was based on anything. The blurb essentially sums up the novel “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.” There you go, premise done.

To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement, as I usually hate novels that try to be hard sci-fi. I mean, if I want to read a physics text book I’ll grab the one on my shelf, not some of the “plausible” made up stuff that hurts my needless exposition aversion gland. So to find a hard sci-fi story that manages to be so entertaining was no small feat. The humour was a big part of the reason for the enjoyment. I felt that this addition was very important to not only the characterisation of Watney the space-nerd – because nerds are normally only funny to laugh at – but also in how too many novels would have taken the same premise far too seriously.

So now I’m looking forward to the movie. This should adapt very well to the big screen, and Matt Damon seems like a great choice for Watney. Hopefully Ridley Scott won’t go all Prometheus with The Martian and we’ll have a great adaptation.

Edit: The wonderful From Quarks to Quasars posted about the Real NASA Technology seen in The Martian. Check it out to get your geek further on.

Science-the-shit-out-of-this

* Because you’ll wonder what the hell those things could possibly have to do with a book about Mars.

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