Monday, October 31, 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline is a fascinating commentary on humans and Western civilization and a brilliant, exciting love letter to geeks, video games, and pop culture.

Set only a few decades in the future (scary in itself), after civilization has mostly fallen apart and 'society' exists only in virtual spaces, the story kept me interested, engaged, and slightly tense the whole way through. Cline does an amazing job of creating interesting characters and putting them in situations that really keep you guessing.

I loved the idea of living 'in' a video game, and the virtual reality setting certainly gave Cline extensive leeway in what he could do in certain scenes, untethered as his world was from actual reality.

Though I'm sure most people who don't consider themselves geeks or nerds might initially dismiss this book as not for them, I would urge anybody to give it a shot -- it's that good. It does a great job of showing both the advantages and disadvantages of increasing reliance on continually improved technology, and while knowing all the pop- and geek-culture references probably brings more amusement and enjoyment to the reader, not knowing every one does not take away at all from the main themes of the story. In the end, the book is about what it means to be human, which applies to us all.
“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.”
“Dilettantes,’ Art3mis said. ‘It’s their own fault for not knowing all the Schoolhouse Rock! lyrics by heart.” 
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Page-to-Screen: TV edition!

I interrupt my (somewhat) regularly scheduled reviews to discuss a topic that has started to dominate the way I choose what books to read: adaptations of books into ongoing tv shows. Though adapting books into movies has been a long-standing practice in Hollywood, I think the runaway success of Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black (and older shows such as True Blood and Sex and the City) have shown the advantages of spending much more time in these worlds and creating more opportunities for creative freedom while also being able to follow the original stories to a greater degree of detail.

Given my love of both reading and tv, I have seen a close intersection of my reading and viewing habits already, and there are many more upcoming shows based on books I am super excited about.

Currently on TV (and loving them all!):
Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) – read all (main) books, before watching show
Sherlock (Arthur Conan Doyle) – read all (main) books, before watching show
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) – have read books 1-5 so far, after watching season 1
The Magicians (Lev Grossman) – read all books, before watching show
Shannara Chronicles (Terry Brooks)– have not read any of the series, but really want to

In most of these cases (Game of Thrones, Outlander, Magicians), I had been intending to read each series for awhile, but the announcement of the shows was the push I needed to finally do so, and I'm very glad I did in each case. So I'm thinking that many of the following upcoming shows will also be a lot of what I read in the next year or so, and I'm excited to dive into it all!

Here are the upcoming shows based on books I'm most excited about:

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams) BBCA – written by Max Landis (of American Ultra fame), this is a series by Douglas Adams that I hadn't even heard of before (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy certainly overshadows it), though hearing about it in relation to the show makes it seem to be entirely up my alley. Given that the premier is this week (Oct 22), I think I'll be watching first and reading after.

American Gods (Neil Gaiman) Starz - I finally read (and enjoyed) the book earlier this year, and have so far heard excellent things about the upcoming adaptation. It's highly appropriate that this is the book of Gaiman's adapted in the US, as the entire storyline takes place here (hence the title).

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) Netflix – Of course I loved the original show, so I'm cautiously excited about this new version. I'm not sure we necessarily need another adaptation of the fantastic book series, but I'm remaining open-minded.

Foundation (Isaac Asimov) HBO
Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) Spike TV – are both classic science fiction series, neither of which I have read, but both of which I would like to at some point. As I've only recently gotten into sci-fi books, I'm wondering if these might be better to watch first so I don't get too bogged down in the books.

Dark Tower series (Stephen King) – This is an unusual case in which a movie is planned for 2017 release (starring Idris Elba - how fantastic is that?!), which will be a sequel to the book series (unlike all the others on this list, which are adaptations of existing material), then a tv show will start in 2018 (also starring Elba) that will be a continuing sequel to the movie. I've only read the first book of the series so far, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest before the movie comes out next year.

Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket) Netflix – I've never read either the children's book series or seen the movie starring Jim Carrey, but I've heard wonderful things about this adaptation, so I'm looking forward to checking it out!

His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman) BBC – I absolutely loved this YA series, which I read years ago. It is smart, interesting, emotional, and witty, and I am thrilled that the adaptation is coming right from the BBC. I didn't mind the movie starring Nicole Kidman, though it of course came nowhere near the level of the book, so I think this might end up being a prime example of how a tv show (especially from the BBC) can be a better format for adapting a book, especially a book series, than a movie.

Cormoran Strike Detective Series (Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling) BBC – This is another upcoming BBC adaptation that I am extremely excited for! Rowling's adult mystery/thriller series is filled with interesting, well-rounded, understandably flawed characters, so for me the casting/acting will make or break the adaptation to tv. Unfortunately, the release dates of both this show and His Dark Materials is as yet unknown, so I'll have to wait to see how it turns out.

And this list doesn't even include the comic book-to-tv adaptations that are coming up (perhaps they warrant their own post). Lots here to keep me busy!

Keep reading (and watching)! Beth

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Flight by Kazu Kibuishi (Ed)

Flight V. 1 (2004) edited by Kazu Kibuishi is a collection of 23 comics (and one very funny essay) by different artists with VERY different visual and storytelling styles, all with the general theme of flying.

This was a wonderful book that really showed the extent to which comic art can vary, from the detailed and ornate to simplistic and suggestive. Some of the individual stories really spoke to me, and I enjoyed those very much. But even for the ones I didn't like, I could appreciate the skill and talent that went in to developing the story and creating the multiple layers of art.

My favorite parts of this collection were:
"Maiden Voyage" by Kazu Kibuishi  an adorable story about failure and never giving up,
"Paper and String" by Jen Wang  about feeling like an outsider and finding something to inspire you,
"The Maiden and the River Spirit" by Derek Kirk Kim  a funny twist on a classic Aesop fable, and
"The Bowl" by Clio Chiang  which tells the story of a Native man who makes 3 wishes, and doesn't quite get what he expects.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone curious about comics / graphic novels but doesn't know where to start  this is a wonderful way to explore many different interpretations of the genre and decide what you like!

Keep reading! Beth