Saturday, December 31, 2011

film review: I Am Legend


I Am Legend 
Directed by:  Francis Lawrence

Released: 2007

Starring: Will Smith, Alice Brega

For synopsis please see my book review.

Ok, this isn't going to be a pleasant review, but like the book review, I can't really delve into why it fails so abysmally because that'd destroy the book for potential readers. If I sum it up though, the film missed the point. Completely. Like many Hollywood adaptations of classic (or modern classic) books or films, they were too focused in how awesome Will Smith would look walking down an empty New York street, and not enough in the crux of this story, the inner turmoil that haunts the last man alive and his constant battle to hold onto his sanity, his humanity and his self.

The book isn't an epic tale of a man taking on the disease single-handedly. It's a personal account and it's god damn harrowing. The film focuses too much on making Robert a hero and a good guy and MISSES THE GOD DAMN POINT. Essentially, the film is the glossy Hollywood attempt to sell tickets, and really I don't blame anyone except the writer and the executives who green lit the film. That said, the pacing of the film is actually pretty decent. The first 15 minutes or so do a pretty good job of setting up Robert as the final man alive, and showing New York as a crumbling ghost town that's been overtaken by nature. However it misses that mechanical approach in the book, it's almost gimmicky at times, and Will Smith is far too sane and emotional to truly be a man who has spent three years alone in the world. It also eliminates the humanity of the "dark seekers" as they're known in the film. They're more like zombies now and there isn't the persistent terrorising of Robert that exists in the book. In the book his neighbour Ben and other vampires are the single thing most likely to tear Robert's sanity to shreds, because he can't help think of them as the people they once were and of the humanity they now so sorely lack.

It's those smaller details that really niggle at me as I watch this film. They might be small details but they're important to the complete picture, and if you mess with one, ultimately you mess with all of them. Worst of all though, is the end. I can forgive, to an extent, making Robert a scientist who was involved in the original deadly cure or giving him a dog for a pet, or ramping up the action as he hunts the dark seekers. If you're going to make a blockbuster, you have to please the majority, and I'm fairly sure most people who saw this film had no idea it was based on a book. What I can't forgive though, is the ending. They basically took a big steaming pile of crap and smeared it all over Matheson's memory. It appeals to the lowest common denominator and completely disrespects not only the original, but the story that they had (rather haphazardly) been building to that point. It destroyed the elegance and complexity and humanity of the story and treated the audience like idiots. The rest of the movie is hardly a must-see, but that final half hour is enough to warrant me to advise you all to stay far, far away from this "movie".

In the end I have to ask why the hell they thought this needed to be remade. The book could easily adapt to a moody and complex dystopian tale, but so far Hollywood has forced the story to bend their way in all three adaptations. Why do authors keep accepting the project if they can't keep true to the book? Surely they've read the original book and understand that their project has completely missed the mark. And if it's because Hollywood interferes, then don't make it. It's like the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, if people are pressuring you into removing the heart and soul of the story, then don't make it. Simple.

So, don't watch this. Read the book and if you must watch a film adaptation watch Night of the Living Dead  because though it doesn't follow the plot in the slightest, the heart of the story is well and truly present in this classic zombie film, and it's the only film that Matheson himself thought captured his amazing novella successfully.

Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

This review is incredibly difficult to write. Not because it's a bad book (it isn't), or there is an absence of symbolism, plot or substance (there isn't) but because in order to talk about what makes this book REALLY great I'd need to discuss the final 10 pages, which would give away all the details that make reading it worth it. So I'm in a little predicament, what do I include, what do I leave out? What I've decided to do is avoid discussing the plot in this review, but I will be writing an in-depth discussion post about this book for my horror blog with all the spoilers, so if you have read the book or don't care about spoilers head over there sometime in early 2012.

I Am Legend 
by Richard Matheson

Published in: 1954

Synopsis: Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth...but he is not alone. Every other man, woman, and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville's blood.
By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn.
How long can one man survive in a world of vampires?

This book is phenomenal. It is so short and compact and the storytelling is so distant until WHAM! There are a few books that I love so freaking much that I can barely discuss them because I can't form coherent sentences or discuss the book without using a whole bunch of "ZOMG" "FREAKING AWESOME" "AHFUITFHFSKLDSHGHJ!!" This is definitely one of those books, but I'm going to try really, really hard to  keep this short, succinct and helpful in case you're thinking about delving into this masterpiece.

Robert Neville is the flawed character. He is the final human being left in a world overrun by vampires, and is taunted by them every night as he tries to maintain some semblance of regular life. Obviously this is almost impossible, and as a result Neville becomes this distant, cold character who almost completely refrains from showing any real emotion or giving himself the opportunity to ever react to the things he sees each day and night. Everyone he loves is dead or transformed thanks to a medical cure gone wrong, and by the time we meet him, he's hardened and spends everyday ticking off the day's 'to do' list. Because the story follows our final man standing, it begins to resemble Robert Neville...systematic, distant, and methodical. It chops through his day like a scientist proceeds through his methodology, we watch him chop the garlic and string it into garlands, fix the wood nailed across the windows, take his meal out of the freezer and then prepare, cook and eat it. But we also follow him as he systematically makes his way across town and stakes the vampires through their hearts, or throws dead bodies into the tyre pit, or peers out the door when the vampires arrive each night to taunt and tease him.

Distant though the story is, you catch glimpses of the man that's hiding behind this tough exterior. especially as it progresses, gaining momentum and speed. You really get an idea of how hard it is to be the last man alive, and not only difficult but tedious. With only yourself for company, and the weight of the world on your shoulders, it's a slippery slope into insanity. And that's what the beauty of the this book is. It combines the enormity of being the last man on Earth and trying to find a cure (without the benefit of a science or medical education) with the tedium of day to day life and with the constant battle of emotions that threaten to destroy your mind. Ultimately Robert is an incredibly positive character. Even as he's closed off and reluctant to really think about what it is he's doing, he's still there. He's living day by day, doing what needs to be done as it needs to be done, while only allowing him the briefest moment to think about the past, the present and the future, because he knows the danger that lies in giving it to those thoughts.  I can't imagine what I'd do if I found out I was the final person alive, but I imagine I'd probably crumble fairly quickly once the enormity of it hit me. He's not perfect, and he's certainly not a warm guy, but he's possibly one of the strongest and most interesting characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

I'm not going to discuss any more of the plot because I think that will soon progress into me discussing the things I really shouldn't discuss. So I'm going to conclude by saying that this book is one that will make you contemplate EVERYTHING! The book raises so many issues, from medical experimentation, to personal strength, to the real essence of monstrosity and the 1000s of shades of grey that exist. I Am Legend stuck with me for quite awhile after reading it, it kept swirling questions and thoughts around my head for days and days. Forget everything else, that is the sign of an unbelievable book. It's the result of a talented author crafting an impressive story, with a lasting character in a world that is so believable it practically bleeds through the text on the page. It is phenomenal.

Friday, December 30, 2011

December and 2011 Wrap-up

So that's it. 2011 is no more. Kaput. finite. done. complete. disappearing in the rearview mirror. It's been a momentous year for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest for me has been this blog. Even though I started this blog last July, it wasn't until February of this year that I had any clear vision of it being a book blog. Since then I've read 75 books (not including text books), published 50 book reviews, 10 film reviews, taken part in 25 Top 10 Tuesday memes, hosted a Harry Potter Countdown challenge/meme, started Fanart Friday, gained 118 wonderful readers (and friends), and received about 6 or 7 books from authors requesting reviews. Along with that I'm also more active on Goodreads, Twitter and tumblr thanks to the blogging community and I've had (and continue to have) an absolute ball!

Hosted by Two Bibliomaniacs 
Aim:
8 books and 8 films.

Progress:
Completed!

News/Notes:
I so nearly didn't make this one! It was a little bit chaotic trying to read the books and watch the films all while Christmas was rolling in, but somehow I managed to finish I Am Legend with one day to spare! I probably would have been finished earlier if it wasn't for me losing my copy of I Am Legend around Christmas time. All the mess and craziness caused by Christmas, wrapping gifts and having both my mum and sister come down to stay made it very difficult to find just about anything!

Books Read:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - Simply one of the greatest novels ever written. I can't recommend it enough.
Read review here.

Films watched:
Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer - Killer sci-fi/fantasy film, though it diverges quite significantly from the book. Definitely try to get either the Director's Cut or the Final Cut if you're considering giving it a watch.
read review here.

The Exorcist, starring Ellen Burstyn and Max Von Sydow - It's aged surprisingly well, unlike some older horror films I can completely understand why this terrified an entire generation. Closer to the book that I'd realised.
read review here.

I Am Legend, starring Will Smith. What a steaming pile of crap. Seriously, don't waste your time with this rubbish. It gives the book a bad name.
read review here.

Challenge Highlights:
I really loved this challenge because it introduced me to a few books and movies that I perhaps would have skipped over otherwise. I enjoyed all the reads I took on but my absolute favourites were Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and the graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby by Nicki Greenberg. They were phenomenal, especially Never Let Me Go. Even now I occasionally stop and think about that book and get a little teary. Other than I Am Legend, I also loved the films I chose to watch. But I think best of all was that all the films (I Am Legend excluded), even those which diverged from the book's plot slightly (or in some cases significantly) really maintained the true essence of the novel, and in no way had me exclaiming "The book is sooooo much better" or "They completed screwed up the film adaptation, idiots!" Overall a great challenge, thanks Two Bibliomaniacs for hosting!


Hosted by GabrielReads


Aim:
Avid Reader (2 books per month)- changed from the original aim of casual reader (1 book per month)

Progress:
11 books in total, or in other words, I failed dismally. I just ran out of time, and since most of my books left in my TBR pile are epic tomes that were destined to take a fair chunk of time it was just not meant to be. On the other hand, I did manage to read at least one book each month (except September and October due to thesis overload) and complete my original aim of casual reader (1 book per month).

Books read:
How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely - A lot more interesting than I'd expected. A funny and somewhat cynical look at the publishing industry but at it's heart it has a punch to it.
read review here.

Challenge Highlights:
I really loved this challenge, even if I didn't complete it. It really pushed me to pick up some of those books that have been gaining far too much dust on my shelves, and I managed to discover some real treasures while I was at it. The absolute highlight would have had to be The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a fantastic discovery to see that Burgess definitely did have more than one great book in him and my fears of branching into his other work were stupid! A huge, massive thanks to the blogger who was responsible for providing the motivation to read these 11 books, Gabe!


Aim:75

Progress:Completed!

Books read:
The Vagabond Kingby James Conway -A really lovely coming of age story sent to me by the author. A real surprise treasure.
Read review here.

Girlsby the Luna Brothers- An interesting, if flawed, first book in a series of graphic novels about a town that has a rather weird invasion. Annoying ex-girlfriend is annoying.
Read review here.

The Goon by Eric Powell - Absolutely brilliant. Funniest and funnest (I know, I know, it isn't a word) graphic novel I've read all year.
read review here.

Challenge highlights: I really branched out this year, reading from a variety of genres and formats. A huge highlight was definitely discovering the George R.R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series (Beginning with A Game of Thrones). I think that's perhaps the fastest I've ever devoured an entire series, I barely came up for air between book 1 and book 5! Other than that, I just really enjoyed how much reading I managed to get through, and the fantastic new authors I discovered.


Anything New:
*A little self-promotion to end the year on! Other than this blog, you can find me on twitter, goodreads, tumblr and taking part in my other blogHail Horror, Hail.

Review: How I became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

How I Became A Famous Novelist
by Steve Hely

Published in: 2009

Synopsis: In this blistering evisceration of celebrity culture and literary fame, a roguish loser sets out to write the bestsellingest bestseller of all time. When he actually pulls it off, he winds up tearing like a tornado across America's cultural landscape.



All Pete wanted was to check off four simple goals. He wanted fame (a realistic amount), financial comfort (i.e. never have a job again), a stately home by the ocean (or scenic lake) and to humiliate his college sweetheart at her wedding. Actually, if he's being honest, the only reason he wants to meet the first 3 points is so he can succeed in the final point. And by succeed, he really wishes that the first three points will make the ex regret every decision she's ever made since leaving him and just give up and live an unhappy existence in a garbage dump. Simple enough aim right? So how's he going to accomplish it? Well, he'll write a bestseller novel to beat all bestseller novels and tick all four boxes before the end of the year (hopefully).

How I Became A Famous Novelist is a funny and slightly absurd book about the book industry. Stuck in a shitty job (he writes college applications for rich kids), in a shitty apartment with nothing much going for him, Pete is kicked into action when he hears that his ex-girlfriend is getting married. As you can imagine he isn't quite over her. Not that he necessarily wants to get back with her, but he wants to be better than her, so since she's a successful lawyer about to get married, he's got to one up her by arriving to her wedding with a successful novel under his belt, and a film adaptation in development if he's lucky. What unfolds is the fictional autobiography of Pete's ascent from slacker to author and the many things he learned, made up, cheated through, and sullied along the way.

A couple of days before I started reading this I watched an episode of 'First Tuesday Book Club' which is a book review TV program here in Australia. As it so happens, the first book they were discussing was this book, and one of the regulars said she didn't like it because she felt like it was "cynical and mean" about the book industry. To be honest, if that's what she thought then she mustn't have gotten past the first half, because while that certainly is the case at the start when Pete is looking for a quick and easy way to become rich, famous and ruin his ex's wedding, it soon evolves to much more than that. He soon realises that even the dodgy bestsellers aren't simply some guy or girl looking for an easy way up in the world. Bad though the books may be, the authors are honest in telling their stories. The last two pages thoroughly, thoroughly demonstrate this. If anything, this book is a cynics rediscovery of the magic (cue soap opera music) of literature, and the possibility for any book, regardless of genre, to be brimming with honesty and make you race through the pages because the story captivates you so whole-heartedly. And it is this journey from his simple beginnings as a slacker, all the way through to the complicated process of publishing a book and onto the fame filled arena of book festivals and movie deals that provides the most interest in the novel.

It's a funny book, but at times the humour felt a little forced or contrived. Not enough for me to be totally turned off, but there were occasions when I wanted to skip ahead to whatever would happen next. I've read reviews where people have said it fails completely to be funny, but I think if you know the book industry (as a reader, you don't have to work in it) you're more likely to get the humour that centred around those shockingly bad books you see on the bestseller list (but can't understand why) and the authors who write them. It was hard not to see the authors that Hely was making fun of in his fictional creations of literary colleagues for Pete. In fact, that's part of the fun of the book, trying to work out exactly who the female mystery/crime writer who is past her physical prime but still oozes sex appeal and is hands on in the actual crime world (working alongside cops). In some cases, the fictional authors appear to be an amalgam of several bestselling authors, and in others they're a generic cardboard cut-out which can be replaced by the latest Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown to hit the market place.

Cynical though his approach may be at face value, Hely neither favours literary or genre fiction. He takes a stab at each of them because neither are perfect and neither contain only good or only bad authors. As Pete demonstrates, it can be far easier to fill your word count with vapid prose than  research what type of food rations is typically provided to MI6 personnel when they search for the Easter bunny in Antarctica. Along with busting some of the "being a writer is romantic" myths surrounding being an author (there's an interesting segment where he lists quotes by famous authors saying how much they hate the writing process), Hely really rips into the commercialisation that inhabits the book world. I mean, you only have to take a look at all the Twilight clones on the shelves to realise how true that is, but I think perhaps most importantly, he shows that if the author is honest in their intention (i.e. not just trying to make a quick buck) then their writing has the ability to reach out and impact readers, regardless of the genre or writing style or whether it ends up a bestseller or not.

Overall, I thought this was a great novel that provided some interesting and somewhat harsh insights into one of the toughest and most bizarre industries in the world. As you'd imagine from a writer of 30 Rock, it's funny, and satirical and a little bizarre at times, but it also has a great deal of heart and guts to it.


Big Bookish Plans for 2012

With 2012 peeking around the corner I figured  I'd share exactly what will be happening on Nylon Admiral in the coming year. For the most part it'll be same as what you're used to. I'll be reading and reviewing but I'll also be taking part in a couple of challenges. I've tried to keep my challenge list down because I don't want to feel forced to read anything, but I think the three challenges I've picked will be able to be spread out enough to keep me happy. Along with these three I'll probably join a few read-a-longs and book club-ish type things but none of those have yet been set in stone. Also, I've created a new tab 2012 Challenges and you can check out my progress on there!

2012 Goodreads Challenge.
Aim: 50 books.

*I set myself the goal of 75 books in 2011, but I've decided to lower it to keep the pressure to read off of me. By the end of 2011 when I had to read a final two books in order to succeed with the challenge I felt pushed into reading something shorter just so I could meet the quota I'd decided on. With only 50 books on the table I'll be able to spend more time with the bigger chunkier books that take more time to get through and I'll also be able to balance it a little better with school.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman Challenge.
Hosted by: Booking In Heels.
Aim: To read the 10 books that the characters from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman are based on. This also includes the original graphic novel by Alan Moore.

*I'm really looking forward to this one. Most of the books on this list are classic texts I've been meaning to read for AGES, so it's nice to have a little motivation to finally get through them. I'm also a huge fan of Alan Moore, so any excuse to read another of his graphic novels is a damn fine one!

Sci-fi challenge. 
Hosted by: Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
Aim: One Sci-fi book per month (at least).

*I love science fiction so I'd be reading some each month anyway, but I like the idea of a monthly book to read and review that others will also be reading an discussing. I'll probably stick to the monthly choice Ellie makes, but if any other sci-fi titles grab my attention I'll add them to the list also. FYI book one for the challenge is Zoo City by Lauren Beukes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Best of '11

Top 10 Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we're particularly of lists here at The Broke and The Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top 10 lists.

I haven't read too many books this year that were only published this year, but there certainly were books that I read that rocketed straight up to my 'favourite books of all time' list. Some are from recent-ish, while others are from a completely different era. Not all are my top rated reads from this year (although they're all 4+ out of 5) but all are awesome and should be read by all of you!

1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
So. Damn. Emotional. An amazing book that really sits with you for quite awhile afterwards. It's a beautifully written story with characters that leap off the page with life. My favourite read for the year, and one that'll remain there for awhile I imagine.
read my review here.

2. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
I devoured this series this year! I watched the first episode of the television adaptation and was so awe-struck that I dropped everything and got my hands on the first book. I was basically a hermit until I finished these books, they're some of the best fantasy I've ever read. Huge. Amazing. Addictive.
Begin reading my reviews for this series here

.3. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
An amazing mix of supernatural and real horror. I had chills from the earliest pages and it continued to escalate until the very last page. Loved it, can't wait to find the time to re-read it!
read my review here.

4. Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
Crazy good. Warren Ellis is my spirit animal, he's such an intensely good writer. This was my first foray into his fiction (he's usually a comic writer) and he definitely held his own. Not for the faint hearted.
read my review here.

5. Freakangels by Warren Ellis (graphic novel)
My Favourite graphic novel series of the year. The writing and story was captivating, but it was the art that really drew me in with this series. Paul Duffield is incredible, he proves that a picture truly is worth 1000 words.
read my review here.

6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Short and straight to the point, this book was huge is scope. It tackles some intense themes and concepts, but it does so with such finesse that anyone can read, enjoy and appreciate the story that discusses them. Plus it was the inspiration for one of the greatest films ever, Bladerunner.
read my review here.

7. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A really fun book that tackles the rather weighty subjects of religion and the end of the world. The blending of Gaiman and Pratchett was one cooked up in heaven, we're not worthy of such awesomeness to be honest.
read my review here.

8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Of the books I've read this year, this is second only to Never let me go. In one word, this book is EPIC. It's intense and funny and creative and mind-boggling and Neil Gaiman deserves all the awards in all the worlds. So. freaking. good.
read my review here.

9. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The book that the hit film was based on. An interesting blend of psychology and religion, that, I'm not afraid to admit, had me so scared at times that I had to switch over to cheery TV to calm myself down.
read my review here.

10. The Goon by Eric Powell (graphic novel)
A really short but really incredible comic. Hugely funny, and not at all serious, anyone who doesn't have some kind of stick up their butt should read and bask in the bizarre hilarity of this book.
read my (mini) review here.

honourable mentions: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (re-read), Cell by Stephen King, The Doctor is Sick by Anthony Burgess and The Vagabond King by James Conway.

(belated) Monday Links

After the several tonnes of food that I ate on Christmas day I decided to have a fairly laid back boxing day, reading, watching TV and spending the evening with friends. So here are the links I would have posted yesterday if I'd been organised!

*From the New York Times, 'A literary history of word processing'. 

*From Belle's Bookshelf, a collection of the various editions that Penguin has been releasing that would be the perfect way to spend any Christmas dollars or giftcards you received!

*From Facebook, an account everyone should follow. George Takei (from the original series of Star Trek) is freaking hilarious! He often posts comical pictures, but it's his pun-tastic captions that really make me giggle.

*From Random House, a bunch of the latest ebooks in their collection, perfectly timed in case you received an e-reader for Christmas. 

*From Guy Laramee, a series of book sculptures that will blow your freaking mind!

*From Rome, some well-deserving books are given a hospital stay. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas goodies



Happy Boxing day all! I thought I'd share a quick little post about the bookish items I received this Christmas! Along with the much loved (and in some cases much needed) presents my friends and family gifted me this year, I did fairly well in the bookish area of gifts! From Tom's grandpa I got the 'book' bookends you see in the picture* (Now all I need to do is clear some space on my shelves so I can actually use them!), from Santa (read: Tom's way of spending more than the acceptable amount of money on me) I received Murakami's HUGE 1Q84 and from my Broke and the Bookish Secret Santa (Shelleyrae at Book'd Out) I now have Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami waiting patiently on my bookshelf. I also have three or four of the books for the 2012 League of Extraordinary Gentleman challenge awaiting me back home in Cairns, which unfortunately didn't arrive from the uncles in time for my mum to bring them down to Brisbane. All in all, a most acceptable haul of bookish items...hopefully I can get to them all, post haste!

Enough about me. How was everyone's Christmas?



*Sorry about the picture quality. I was feeling lazy so I just used my webcam which isn't a particularly good camera it seems!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy 25th of December!



Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Fanart Friday: Neil Gaiman Mixed Bag

Neil Gaiman is all kinds of awesome. I mean, other than his wonderful book and comics (I mean... American Gods and Sandman..'Nuff said), he's completely involved with his fanbase. He writes funny and interesting tweets, answers questions on his tumblr and posts countless photos of his dog and beautiful wife Amanda Palmer on his blog. I'm not sure you could name a more present author around at the moment. For these reasons, and the fact that his writing is some of my favourite around I thought I'd dedicate a Fanart Friday post to the greatest messy haired author that I fangirl over all the time! Be sure to click through the links and check out more work by these talented arty guys 'n gals.


Good Omens by Noxcape

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman by heartofglitter

Neil Himself by Lerms


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Vagabond King by James Conway

The Vagabond King 
By James Conway

Published: 2011

Synopsis:When his mother dies and he discovers the man he believed was his father is not, sixteen year old Chris is haunted by a mysterious apparition that forces him to question his pampered existence and embark upon a quest to find himself. Hoping she will “make a man of him”, he seeks sanctuary in the home of Magda, a middle aged waitress with a penchant for sex, only to discover she lives with her father, a cigarette smoking, beer swilling immigrant.


The Vagabond King is a coming of age (COA) story by author James Conway. When I was approached to review this book, I read the synopsis and automatically accepted. I really enjoy COA stories and the inclusion of a "mysterious apparition" suggested this was potentially a COA story unlike any I've previously read. The mysterious apparition didn't lead into the story I was expecting, but I thoroughly enjoying this book none-the-less.

So to expand on the synopsis, Chris is a 16 year old spoiled brat who is struck hard when his mother dies of cancer. Drowning in grief and missing his only friend (or so it appears, no one else is ever mentioned) Chris finds himself in the grips of an existential crisis, confused as to what he did to deserve losing his mum, and struggling with now being alone and without his support network. When his father, a business minded money-grabbing weiner, reveals that he isn't Chris's biological father, their strained relationship is stretched to the breaking limit and Chris runs away from home. He turns to the only person he can think of, Magda, a middle aged waitress who taught him about ancient myths when he stopped in after visiting his mother in the hospital.

Put in a tough spot, Magda offers Chris the chance to stay for the night, but as you can imagine, one day becomes two, becomes four, becomes several weeks... Once at the house though, things quickly grow more complicated. Magda is clearly uncomfortable with Chris's appearance and their relationship is further strained when Chris snootily looks down at everything in the house. The food, the furniture, the improvised bedroom they provide him, and perhaps most obnoxiously, her father. The rest of the book charts Chris's slow transformation away from the boy who turned up uninvited on Magda's front step.

Before I tackle some of the other aspects of the book I really want to discuss Christopher. My god, did I hate him. He's spoiled, shallow and self-indulgent and completely ungrateful for the effort Magda and her father make to keep Chris safe and fed and warm. He's also completely unable to live in the real world. He's constantly creating these bigger than life situations in his head, romanticising every minute detail to such an extreme that real life could never compare. For example, he wishes to travel to Europe because he sees it as a place of,
 "not only of kings and queens, but of rosy cheeked peasants. The street urchins wore ragged but well patched clothes and the chimney sweeps and beggars were smudged but clean. Everything was like the set of a play" (page 119)
While he tries to act like he's an adult with these big, huge adult thoughts his romanticism of everything around him, and his complete inability to adjust to new or strange environments and people really emphasise that he's a little kid thrust into an adult world he's completely unprepared for. Rather justly then, he tends to react like a child. He's unable to grasp why Magda's father would still be upset about his wife's passing because she was ugly, and when he's out of his comfort zone his automatic reaction is to throw a tantrum and blame it on someone else. There were times when I wished he'd materialise in front of me so I could punch him in the face, but it's so blatantly clear that he's a scared little kid reacting in the only way a spoiled rich kid with very few relationships (even with the mother he adored) knows how to.

Chris's salvation begins with Magda, but it's really her father that is responsible for pulling Chris back down to earth and teaching him how life actually is. At a time when Chris believed that he was the only person in the whole world who has truly felt grief or pain, Llaszlo Mihali (often referred to simply as The Old Man) made it pointedly clear that he not only understands pain, but he's felt it at much deeper levels. Still pained by the loss of his wife, The Old Man is a Hungarian migrant who lived through the horrific torment that rocked his home country. Initially, his stories seem to have little effect on Chris, at least not on any lasting level. Even after being told about some horrific crime against an entire village, he still thinks his suffering is more extreme, or more pure. But the old man doesn't give up. He recognises the good buried deep in Chris, and he works hard to help Chris recognise it.

The COA story is blended with poetry, blues music and mythology to create a rich and textured tale quite unlike most stories I've read of this sort. In particular, the mythology is used to emphasise the cyclic nature of life and belief and in regards to Chris's story, does a wonderful job of explaining his pain and where he fits in the world. There are a couple of parts of the novel which progress from regular prose into short prose poetry that is not only gorgeous to read but takes on shapes across the page, reflecting the story not only through the meaning of the text, but through the visual also. Though Chris's behaviour was so extreme that I almost blacked out with rage at times, the story is wonderfully paced and beautifully written, and the journey is interesting enough to encourage a reader to stick with it. A real pleasure to read, I can't wait to read more work by Conway.

My rating: 4/5







Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I hope Santa brings.


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

This week: Books I hope Santa brings this Christmas!



1. 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

2. The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

3. Haroun and the sea of stories - Salman Rushdie

4. Big Fish - Daniel Wallace

5. The Sea is my brother - Jack Kerouac (OH PLEASE SANTA PLEASE!)

6. Pnin- Vladimir Nabokov

7. How it feels - Brendan Cowell

8. Nightmare Japan, Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema - Jay Mcroy

9. House of leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski

10. The Stand - graphic novel adaptation (minus book 1-3)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Links

*An interview with Haruki Murakami in The Paris Review.

*A statement by Louis CK about his adventurous choice to sell his comedy special direct to the public (for a teeny $5) and what this means for the future (and right now).

*A short piece about the young boy, Thomas Horn, who'll be playing the lead role of Oskar in the cinematic adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. 

*A piece by Christopher Hitchens for Vanity Fair. I believe it's the last piece he wrote before passing away last week. It's the first writing of his I've ever read, and I think reading the man's take on mortality and the "trial of the will" was a poignant place to start.

*I haven't been on twitter for long, so other than the passing of Steve Jobs I've rarely witnessed the outpouring of tweets dedicated to a single person. The Guardian posted an article that amassed many of the twitter/news/tv/interview tributes that were made by writers/politicians/etc after Hitchens passing.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby 

Released: 1974

Directed by: Jack Clayton

Starring: Robert Redford
Mia Farrow
Sam Waterston

For the synopsis please read my book review.


I've long been one of those people who look back on the past and grow a little obsessed with bygone eras. In my early teens I was addicted to the 1960s, it was the decade that gave us The Beatles after all. After I began reading the works of the beat authors I added the 1940s and 1950s to my growing  "when I have a time-machine I'm definitely visiting" list. But right now, as 24 year old me, I would do anything to visit the 1920s. It was a visually stunning era, the architecture and design is bold and gorgeous, the hairstyles are to die for (and way to difficult to replicate...I've tried) and their fashion is unbelievably stylish, lady-like and luxurious. Add to that the smashing parties, dazzling music and inspiring authors and you have a decade I'd give my left foot to visit!

The Great Gatsby definitely manages to capture the visual gorgeousness of the time. The cast are all unbelievably attractive and look as though they've been transported mid-glamorous 1920s party. The women are all tall and slight, with cheekbones and jaw-lines that perfectly set off the finger curls in their hair and the haunts perched precariously on their perfectly coiffed hair. They radiate wealth and health and are completely at ease with several kilos worth of beads weighing them down on each outfit. The men look strong and stable, in their immaculate 3 piece suits, carefully gelled and curled hair, and jaunty stance with one hand in a pocket. The houses are grand and large and perfectly demonstrate their wealth and social standing, and make the perfect backdrop to the extravagant parties thrown with their champagne fountains and Charleston dancing. I came to the film (the first time) as an 18 year old longing for a time with some integrity and glamour, and even though the film is technically 50 years too late to the party, it captured the visuals as well as the spirit of the age to me.

Visually spectacular as it is, the film follows in the book's footsteps and creates a story not about the glamour of the age, but of the rampant hedonistic lifestyle and the isolation that author Fitzgerald recognised going on around him. Life appears so wonderful, there are parties, shiny dresses, abundant wealth (at least with this crowd) and twinkly lights aplenty, but none of the characters seem truly happy. Though some are obvious, such as Gatsby's heavy love for his old flame Daisy, most of them seem unable to truly verbalise what's missing from their life. Perhaps it's their preoccupation with wealth and decadent behaviours at the expense of true and lasting relationships, perhaps it's that their life hasn't panned out how they expected, or maybe they simply have expectations so high they could never come close to meeting them. Regardless of the cause, their distance from one another and from true happiness is clear in their expressions even as they dance wildly or talk a mile a minute. This is one of those films where, if you were to turn off the sound completely, you'd see a completely different story. By which I mean the subliminal would be markedly clear without their disingenuous words muddying the expressions on their faces.

This is the result of fantastic acting. The entire cast perform magnificently in their respective parts. They are so perfect for their roles, in fact, that I'm struggling to imagine the new cast (in the film to be released next year) looking anything other than clunky and fake. Mia Farrow is an absolute doll and a favourite actress of mine, and she manages to portray the shallow and slightly frail Daisy to perfection. It's not hard to imagine her being completely dominated by the men in her life, or cracking under the pressure and snapping like a twig (whoops, mixing my metaphors!). Opposite her, Robert Redford portrays the mysterious Gatsby wonderfully. He's strong and devilishly handsome, but there is this genuine calmness and quiet to him that makes it hard not to fall in love with him. He perfectly depicts the poor boy who worked his ass off (whether legally or no) to become the man his true love could marry. He's so sweet as he panics over Daisy's visit to Nick (her cousin, played by Sam Waterston) and then proudly shows off his house and possessions like a kid with his toys. The chemistry between these two is palpable, but there is a sadness through their entire reunion. Though Gatsby is the man (financially and socially) that Daisy could marry, he's too late. And even though they wax lyrical about their future together, you can see that both know that Daisy will never leave her (cheating) husband, and that their reunion has an expiry date.

The remaining cast that surrounds them perform beautifully and embody the characters Fitzgerald created with  nuanced and elegant performances. Nothing feels like anyone isn't giving it 100% and no-one feels miscast. There are so many different characters that grace the screen during this film, most for a very short period of time, but they all impact it in their own way. The short glimpses at the socialites, professional conmen, businessmen, lower class men and women and party-goers adds a depth and sparkle to this film that makes it shine past other films set during the same period.

I think it's fairly clear that I absolutely adore this film. It moves me to tears every single time and I never grow bored. It's fairly consistent in representing the book, making only the slightest alterations, and never where it demeans or changes the text's original intent. This is a fantastic film for almost all audiences. There's a love story, a plethora of parties, a leading man with a mysterious past, adultery, and a damning critique on consumerism, wealth and decadent lifestyles. And if none of that sounds good to you, watch it for the yummy actors and actresses and beautiful costumes!

My rating: 5/5




Friday, December 16, 2011

Fanart Friday: Randall Flagg from The Stand

There are a few characters, both in film and literature, that just stick around. Some are like Dumbledore, physical and emotional embodiments of the words on the page that are strong and fixed in my mind. Others are more ambiguous, they're a pervasive reminder of an emotion that was evoked when I read the book or watched the film. Randall Flagg, the dark man, is one such character. If you've read Stephen King's phenomenal book The Stand you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, well, it might be hard to explain. Randall Flagg may have a corporeal form but he's far more insidious than that. He's like black smoke, a chill on the wind, the shadows that stir in your bedroom. He's everything you fear and hate and despair of. He's terrifying and one of the single most evocative characters I've ever read. These artists have done amazings jobs capturing the darkness and shiftiness of his character, be sure to check out the full size pictures at the link, as well as the rest of their work.

The Dark Man by LynxGriffin
Randall Flagg by Clayman 84

The Stand by Chris (Mooneyham)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Graphic Novel mini-reviews

Girls (#1 - Conception)
By Joshua and Jonathan Luna

Synopsis:Ethan Daniels is a typical bachelor who suffers from one, infallible truth: dealing with the opposite sex can be complicated. One night, he bumps into a mysterious woman who will change his life... and maybe even the world.

My thoughts: This is part one in a three part series. It does a great job of setting up what I imagine is going to be a rather surreal series. After raging against the female townsfolk one night, Ethan finds a young, hurt naked girl in the middle of the road and takes her home to help her. The next day things get really, really weird. Murder, duplicates and giant sperm weird (bet that got your attention!). It starts rather teen drama-ish, but it moves into sci-fi/fantasy territory very quickly. This series is obviously a (not so subtle) allegory about gender/gender anxiety, but at this early stage it's hard to tell exactly what the Luna brothers are trying to say. The artwork is great, reminiscent of Paul Duffield (Freakangels) but dialled down, a little more simplistic and without the detailed textures. I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series, more due to curiosity about the story than as a result of a particularly high level of writing.


The Goon (#1 - Nothin' But Misery)
By Eric Powell

Synopsis: Bones will be broken and heads will roll! The Goon is a laugh-out-loud action-packed romp through the streets of a town infested with zombies. An insane priest is building himself an army of the undead, and there's only one man who can put them is their place: the man they call Goon.

My thoughts: The synopsis really says it all. This comic is a huge amount of fun, the writing, art and characters are all hyperactive and larger than life. It's a whole lot of fun, it doesn't take itself seriously and spends much of it's time poking fun at the stereotypes that were popular in comics that were produced during the era it is set it (1930s-1950s ish). For instance, the final comic is a three page sci-fi tale about a gangster alien coming to Earth to take it over only to be foiled by a barrel full of water. As our hero, The Goon, suggests water is like acid to the alien, a little Albert Einstein pops up and notes the inconsistencies this concept has. I couldn't help but think about the film, Signs, when I read that, which only made it more awesome! A definite must read for anyone with a sense of humour and a love for comics.


A History of Violence
By John Wagner and Vince Locke

Synopsis: In this suspenseful crime story, Tom McKenna is a family man who becomes an instant media celebrity when he thwarts a robbery at his own diner – a robbery attempted by wanted murderers. McKenna’s newfound fame draws the attention of a group of merciless mobsters who have been looking to settle a score with him for over 20 years. Now, as the killers descend upon his small town in Middle America, the Brooklyn native must face the actions of his youth and relive his past history of violence as he attempts to salvage the life he has built and keep his family out of harm’s way.

My thoughts: This is the graphic novel that the 2005 film of the same name was based on. I thought the initial idea of mistaken identity was far more interesting than where the story actually went.  I found it interesting, but after the initial "is he, isn't he" first chapter it just descends into your typical mob revenge story. Being a graphic novel that makes it a quick read, but I still think the author really missed out on an interesting story here, because let's face it, it's far more interesting to watch an average Joe plunged into extraordinary events, than an old street hoodlum return to his roots. While I respected the art style and think the sketchy style of black and white drawing suited the frenetic pacing, it was really difficult to distinguish one character from another. I just gave up by the end and concentrated on the writing, which defeats the point of a graphic novel if you ask me.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Film Review: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary 

Released: 1989

Directed by: Mary Lambert
Starring: Dale Midkiff,
Fred Gwynne
Denise Crosby
Miko Hughes

For the synopsis please read my book review.

OK, so I'm perhaps not the best person to go to for an unbiased account of Stephen King films. I hate to say it, but I'm a sucker for each and every one of them. Some of them truly are stand out films (Shawshank Redemption is in my top 5 films) but even the dodgiest adaptation has this weird Z-grade charm that I find hard to pass up. Because of my love for all of them, it's a little hard to distinguish with some of these older ones whether it's the quirk I enjoy, or the actual film. Especially in the ones filmed during the 1980s, where even the best are known to garner a little eye-rolling from modern audiences. So I guess this was a fairly roundabout way of saying that this film will get a high rating, but you probably should trust it.

 As I mentioned in my book review of the film, this was my very first bona fide horror film. I loved it, I remember relishing the foreshadowing, the haunting, Hermain Munster without the Hermain Munster gear (Fred Gwynne as the neighbour Jud) and all the other creepy things you expect in a horror film. It must have been weeks before I got sick of saying "First I played with Jud, then I played with mummy, now I want to play with you daddy" in a sing-song children's voice. It never really scared me (not like The Exorcist did a year or two later) but it introduced me to how fun horror can be, and how laughs can mingle with fear and general excitement. If I were to categorise this film it'd be as fun, one of those films where you know what's going to happen and you just can't wait.

Like with many Stephen King adaptations, the film does away with a great deal of the "real" horror, in this case the soul destroying loss of a child. It's still there, obviously, but rather than travel with Louis through his stages of grief, and witness the very upsetting reactions his wife and daughter also have, it fast forwards straight from Gage's death to his "rebirth". As a result there is much less time put into constructing any sort of normal life for the Creeds, or setting up any real characterisation for anyone other than Louis. There is also far more emphasis on the supernatural aspects of the story, and while the book was quite prevalent in this regard also, it was far more backgrounded until the climax. In the film however, there is much more ominous foreshadowing (both obvious through the recently dead student Victor Pascow, and more obscure), haunting music, and neighbourhood nice guy Jud is shown through a much more sinister light.

While the book focused on the turmoil that eventually lead to Louis bringing his son back to life, the film focussed more on the murder spree the young lad went on after reawakening in the Indian burial ground. I personally felt like the fear in these scenes were creepier and more nuanced in the book, but hearing teeny child footsteps, sinister words come out of a sweet 3 year old's mouth, and a rather sharp knife clasped in his chubby hand is enough to make the extended version thrilling in it's own way. Gage (played by Miko Hughes) was phenomenal, he was actually 3 years old in this film, I wonder if he had any idea what kind of film he was starring in!

Not only does the film branch off from the book in this regard, but it meanders from the book's plot quite a bit. In that regard it's quite like most Stephen King film adaptations, the bones of the story are there, but the flesh is almost entirely different. I much prefer the story of the book, it's more intense and upsetting, as well as upsetting, but I think the film did what it had to do to make it a horror film and not a drama that concludes as a horror film.

It's not as compelling as the book it was adapted from, and perhaps it's because of the fond history I have with this film, but I really can't fault it. It's the perfect mix of creepy kids, cheesy acting, 80s horror clich├ęs and has a theme song by The Ramones. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for a serious scare, and again, I'm probably just a tad biassed, but I think it's a film everyone should watch at some point, even if only to poke fun at the hokey effects!

My rating: 4/5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Film Review: Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Released: 1982

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford
Sean Young
Rutger Hauer

For the synopsis please read my book review.


Blade Runner is the epitome of science fiction, dystopia and cyberpunk cinema. It is considered to be the very best of it's kind, even though the director has re-released the film in three different incarnations! For this challenge I chose to watch the Director's Cut which was released in 1992, and eliminated the voice-over and other cost-cutting methods used to release the original film. I've also seen the Final Cut but I've never actually watched the original cut. I really should, bad though some people say it is, there must have been something about it that attracted such a cult following right?

The film diverges quite extensively from the book, and while I think it waters down much of the humanist and existential discussions that the book created, it does still adhere to the general feel of the book. In fact, Philip K. Dick saw only the first 20 minutes of the film and was quoted as saying, "it was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly." So for those of you who tend to run in horror when you hear a film is based on a book (especially a book as well loved and well regarded as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) don't fear, though it may cause moments of irritation, it is a fantastic film that is independent enough that it really should be judged on it's own merits.

Like the novel it's based on, Blade Runner takes place in the future (2019 to be exact) and follows protagonist Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in his search to locate a group of "replicants" (androids) who jumped ship and are hiding back on Earth. The city in which Rick lives owes a great deal to the early film Metropolis, it's a mish-mash of tall skyscrapers, blimps with large video screens, a giant pyramid structure and lots of small streets crammed with people, rubbish, stalls and steaming sewer grates. Though there are flying cars and bright neon lights, this isn't the future we always imagine, it's dark and dirty and abandoned by everyone except those without the money or health to leave the planet. Down in the streets the world has merged to create a truly multicultural society. Though English is still used, there is also "city-speak," which is a language made up of half a dozen languages from across the globe. And though many people still dress as we dress today, there are the typical future clothing styles that 80s films loved to create, mainly involving lots of see-through plastic, big shoulder pads out of weird acrylic-y stuff and big, BIG hair and make-up.

Visually the film is spectacular. Cyberpunk or "future noir" utilises some of the greatest film devices ever created. In this case there is a heavy prevalence of backlit scenes without a fill light, lots and lots of cigarette smoke (or smoke from other sources), and dramatic shadowing. Though it's a colour film, it has the intensity and substance of an old black and white noir, and the storyline relies heavily on the intensity of it's visual effects to emphasise the anxiety, hopelessness and dystopian nature of the story. Even without the stellar acting and storyline and pacing, I'd happily watch this film (on mute I guess, if it didn't have all the other aspects!) over and over just to immerse myself in the world that's created.

There are hundreds of websites dedicated to discussing the intricacies of the film, and the complexity of the human/android dichotomy that is set up. I won't go into much detail because there are other people making far better statements than I could possibly attempt, and I did tackle a portion of it in the book review I did. This area is the one place where it really diversified from the original text. In the original text PKD was making a statement about sociopathic behaviour, and about the lack of humanity within the "Andys," basically emphasising that even though they were undistinguishable from humans in the visual sense, they lacked the greatest qualities in humanity, and there was no way for them to absorb or learn how to empathise, emote or understand. They were lacking, and humans, even with all their flaws, were fundamentally better. However in Blade Runner, the situation is reversed. Instead it is that the replicants are an oppressed underclass (of sorts) and because of their limited life expectancy (they have a lifespan of 4 years) they lived every minute of their life to the fullest and were forced to rebel if they wanted to experience life for longer. In Blade Runner the humans take their lives for granted, and are far more closed-off and apathetic than their repressed android friends.

So the film does really take a different path than the book, but even though it ends up with an almost polarised view it keeps to the book's central idea of humanity and the struggle against man and machine. It's a stunning film that has really stood the test of time, and proved a marker for many dystopian films that have since been released. If you haven't seen this film yet, well shame on you, but don't worry, if you see it asap I won't hold it against you!

My rating: 4.5/5

Monday Links

 *It's no secret that I'm not a Twilight fan. In honour of my disdain, I present you with the BEST Breaking Dawn (film) review that has ever been created.

*Literally Unbelievable is a website which displays the many, many facebook statuses where people have taken The Onion stories as fact. Stomach churningly stupid people are absolutely hilarious!

*I always, always wanted to have a bookcase that led into a hidden room, or down a secret passage. One lovely human being has created a wikihow page about how to build a hidden door bookshelf. I don't think it's something i'll be attempting any time soon (me and woodwork...not so much) but if any of you are handy with your hands, you should totally do it!

*A neat little video of Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) speaking at the Wheeler Centre.

*Wanting to take on a couple of challenges next year but you aren't sure which to pick? How about Pulitzer winners from years ending in a '2', or heartwarming animal stories? For a definitive guide of all the challenges being posted around the bookish blogs head over to A Novel Challenge.

*I really enjoy the blog Entropificus. The fantastic artist behind the blog took up the challenge to draw "what Claudia Kishi wore" during all the descriptive portions of Baby-Sitter Club books describing Claud's wacky fashion. She's now begun to draw some of the Harry Potter gals in the same way, first up was Luna and she's just delivered a gorgeous rendering of Ginny at Bill and Fleur's wedding. Check it out!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Can't stop listening to...Matt Corby



A couple of years ago Matt Corby took part in Australian Idol and was the runner up. He was 16 and pretty squeaky clean. He had a decent voice but the singers on Idol never really took my fancy, there was no grit or real emotion to their singing and their singles were always of the mindless pop variety. I think Matt did release a few singles right after Idol but I hadn't watched that season (I stopped after number 2) so he was never really on my radar. About 2 months ago I heard this song, Brother, on the radio and instantly fell in love with it. It's so raw and intense and his voice is unbelievable considering his age. I absolutely love it and haven't been able to stop playing it all week. It's written about an event that he went through recently and if you watch this live clip you'll be able to see the anguish, pain and heartbreak written clearly across his face. I try to keep my swearing to a minimum on this blog (and in real life) but I think the only way I can really conclude my emotions/thoughts on this song is with a resounding...fuck!

Enjoy!

Fanart Friday: Doctor's and their Companions

I'll be honest, more often than not in the new series I haven't liked his companions. Rose was too love-sick for her own good, Martha was just plain obnoxious, Donna was fabulous (and I'm so sad she could be the Doctor Donna for so short a time), Amy is great when she isn't crushing on the Doctor and Rory is simply to die for. However, like them or not, I'm not so stupid that I can't see that without them the Doctor may well be dead, in serious trouble or terribly, terribly lonely. Though he (in all regenerations) spends much of his time fixing their errors and slapping their hands away when they try to touch things, he is also lucky to have them around to bounce ideas off, add an extra hand (or two) and occassionally recognise the simple remedy when his mind is churning looking for complex concepts. So to honour the wonderful men and women who help our two-hearted hero so thoroughly, here is an art gallery dedicated just to them, and the relationships they develop with their Doctor! As always, I highly recommend checking out the rest of the artists' work by clicking through the links!

New Who by Janey-Jane

Imaginary Friend by BobPsycho

Amy Pond by Stera

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Bookish Christmas Decoration DIY

I don't know about you guys but I love Christmas. The food, the presents, the decorations, the music...even the terrible made for TV movies. My Christmas creativity is usually reserved for baking (mmmmmm, gingerbread) and coming up with gift ideas, but since this is my first Christmas in my own house with my boyfriend (yay! Adult!) and Christmas gear can get a little pricey, this year I set out to make my own decorations to save money and add a little individuality.

They worked out so well I thought I'd post my directions for making pretty Christmas paper ornaments. I've primarily made mine as strings of decorations draped across doorways, walls and windows, but they could also be used as Christmas decorations, present adornments or anything you like.

What you'll need:

*Scissors

*A stapler

*A pencil

*A ruler.

*Twine, ribbon or something to string them up with.

*Paper. I chose to use a book I'd bought for 20cents for exactly this kind of purpose. It was never going to be read so I've put it to better use. You could also use comics, old Christmas cards or just plain old coloured construction paper if you'd rather.


Step 1:

1. Rule your page into columns. I made mine about 2cm wide, but it depends on how large a decoration you want to make. These ended up about 10cm high, 8cm wide, but if you cut them shorter and thinner they'll be much smaller and better suited to tree and gift ornaments.

2. Cut your ruled pages out and separate them into groups of 5, that's how many you'll need to make each decoration.

Step 2:

1. With your 5 sheets in a pile fold in both ends. Make sure the fold is deep enough for a staple and a hole to thread your twine through.

2. Put two of these sheets aside. Cut two of the others shorter, about to where they folded over with the first fold. With the final sheet cut it shorter again. The measurements don't really matter, but mine ended up, with folded ends, about 10cm, 7cm, 5cm. The shorter the middle page, the more squat the end decoration will be. After you've made a few you'll be able to work out exactly what shape/style works best for you.

Step 3: 

1. Organise your sheets so it goes long, short, shortest, short, long. Make sure the folds are aimed outwards (see picture). Once it's arranged, staple the end.

2. Start making your ornament. hold the middle piece flat and curve the outside strips so that the folded tab sits flat against the middle strip. It can be a little fiddly at first, but once you get the hang of it you can make them in minutes.

Step 4:

1. Once they're in place staple the end. You're almost done!

2. Take a pencil or your scissors and poke a hole through one of the ends.

Step 5: 

1. Tie your twine or ribbon through the end and tie the end up to make an ornament, or put it to the side and thread it onto one long piece of twine to make Christmas bunting.

2. Finished! Make as many as you need, and perhaps try some different shapes. The website I saw a picture of these on also had heart shaped ones, but I enjoyed these ones too much to bother with any others!





Review: Cell by Stephen King

Cell 
By Stephen King

Published in: 2006

Synopsis: Graphic artist Clay Riddell was in the heart of Boston on that brilliant autumn afternoon when hell was unleashed before his eyes. Without warning, carnage and chaos reigned. Ordinary people fell victim to the basest, most animalistic destruction.

And the apocalypse began with the ring of a cell phone...

Considering that I thoroughly enjoyed this book I've found it really difficult to write this review. I've been adding and subtracting from it for about a week and a half now, and I've come to the conclusion that if I don't blast this out tonight it probably won't ever see the light of day. So with that in mind I apologise if it's a little unpolished or underdeveloped, but it's better than nothing...right?

Even though I've just spent a year researching and writing about zombies I actually don't read much zombie fiction. Much of the stuff I've read, or glimpsed into, has been appalling. Don't get me wrong, there is some great horror fiction out there involving zombies, but there is also a lot of trash, and it always seems to be the trash that finds its way across my path. Cell isn't really a zombie novel. At first it seems like it may be. Within minutes of the "pulse" (more on that in a moment) people seemed to have lost their minds and developed a thirst for human blood/flesh and a desire to rip limbs from the nearest person. Several characters unaffected by the pulse exclaim that the others are like the zombies they've seen in films, but as time passes it becomes clear that these aren't reanimated corpses hungry for human flesh. They're something different, more complex and not nearly as dangerous. Well, they're dangerous, but not in the same way that zombies are. To make my life a little easier I'm going to continue to refer to them as zombies, but keep in mind they aren't the zombies you see in films.

Before I get into discussion about the zombies I should probably explain what the pulse is, and the central story and characters. The central character is Clay, a graphic novel illustrator visiting Boston to try and sell his graphic novel. As the novel begins he's making his way back to his hotel, hoping the good news on his sale will be the catalyst needed to convince his estranged wife that he's not a failure and that their marriage stands a chance of survival. As he stops for ice-cream things start to fall apart. He notices a man attacking a dog, some loud bangs and screams from further away, and the business woman in front of him, drop her phone and start freaking out. Within seconds hell is unleashed and the world as we know it will never be the same again.

Along with the zombie-like people attacking anyone unfortunate enough to get in their path, there seems to be a rush of people trying to end their lives. People jump from buildings, crash cars and even crash planes into buildings. Clay recognises similarities to the chaos that reigned in the aftermath of 9/11 and assumes that it's a terrorist attack of some kind. He's probably right on the money, but we'll never truly know for sure. What we do know is what the characters learn as the book continues. A pulse of some kind spread across the country (and presumably the world) and affected anyone using a mobile phone for a phone conversation. Without giving away too many of the details which you should learn for yourself as you read, the pulse appears to work almost like a computer virus, completely eliminating regular brain function and reactivating it in a more primitive and incomplete sense. During the first moments of the attack Clay finds himself joined by Tom, a man whose life was saved by his cat when the cat knocked his phone of a table that morning and broke it. As they make their way back to Clay's hotel they save Alice, a 15 year old also visiting Boston, who just saw her mother turned into one of "them".

The three of them form a band of "normies" who strike north to try and make it back to Clay's home town to rescue his wife and 12 year son. So begins the post-apocalyptic road trip that King is so fantastic at writing, and so begins the unravelling of a story that had me captivated from the first page. The band of three make their way through deserted towns, occasionally passing by other survivors, sticking to travelling at night when the zombies are "asleep". The group grows larger when they happen across a school and meet Jordan, a 12 year old computer wizz and Charles Ardai, the acting headmaster of the school. It's here that the story starts to progress from a survival novel into a more action driven novel, and then begins to parallel one of my favourite books, I Am Legend.

I've heard a few people make comparisons between Cell and The Stand, and while there are definite similarities, at the core they are completely different books. The real connections are between Cell and I Am Legend, on the surface very different, but fundamentally the same. The heart of this novel is about the similarities and disparities between the survivors and those affected by the pulse. I don't want to give away any spoilers about the lasting results of the pulse, but like I said earlier, they only appear to be zombies at first. After that they change, and as the majority of people left (it's never established if the pulse affected everyone worldwide or just Americans) the question is raised whether they're the "freaks" and the "monsters" or are the few survivors, the ones who wish harm on the zombie pulse victims? This, essentially, is the driving force in I Am Legend as Robert Neville finds himself the only human being left not infected, and proves to be the most interesting aspect of both the novels.

The way the story portrays technology is also very interesting. It is the tool utilised by the nameless/faceless terrorists (if it was terrorists) to destroy modern society, but just as technology ruled our lives before the pulse it informs our lives afterwards as well. Though the "normies" are forced to live in a world devoid of electricity, mobile phones (lest you wish to be turned), transport and computers, the zombies are markedly similar to the technology that destroyed them. Again, I'm not sure what else I can say without spoiling the revelations of the story, but just as their brains were wiped and rebooted there are other parallels drawn through the story. To help establish these similarities King uses the young character Jordan to bridge the gap between technology and the techno-illiterates that have survived the pulse. This is where my one complaint comes in. Though I really loved the character of Jordan, he's vulnerable and innocent and becomes the son and younger brother of the other survivors in the group, his role as an exposition device was a little too obvious for me. Even if he were a complete computer genius, his ability to understand the technological aspects of the zombies and explain these similarities, as well as how the pulse would have worked, were a little too detailed and unlikely for me. He is the bridge between the two groups, understanding how things work on both sides, but I just don't feel like he thought or talked like a 12 year old when technology comes up. He will be scared and vulnerable and talking in teen slang one minute, and the next it sounds like he should be helming Microsoft or something. Basically, while he was a charming and loveable character, his position as a literary device stuck out like a sore thumb and occasionally distracted from the story.

This is one of those books that can incite hours of discussion about the condition of the zombies, the role of technology and the comparison between it and other books (namely The Stand and I Am Legend). It's an adventurous, compassionate and thought-proving tale of a post-apocalypse brought about by our own dependence, and a father's journey to find his son. A really great read, one of the best King novels I've read this year.

My rating: 5/5


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