Tue, 22 Oct 2013

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

As most people are by now aware, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's classic that adds a plague of zombies to the book's setting and plot.

I have to say that while I was looking forward to the book, its execution left me wanting. The zombie storyline feels like a veneer laid over the original storyline in a way that doesn't really add much to that original story. I feel like the zombies are just a gimmick that don't hold up for an entire book. Pretty much the only thing that kept me reading was my love for the original story, which remains mostly unchanged beneath the zombie veneer.

Seth Grahame-Smith has recharacterized several of the people, mostly making them more violent and bloodthirsty--Elizabeth is a Chinese-trained "master of the deadly arts", and Lady Catherine is a noted zombie slayer with an entourage of ninjas--but everyone takes pretty much the same actions and ends up in the same places. At least one character becomes a zombie and is killed, but not until after her presence in the original plot is finished. I think this sameness is what led me not to really engage with Grahame-Smith's additions: the original was a deliciously sarcastic commentary on 19th century people of wealth layered in with a genuinely compelling story of the development of characters' personal relationships1. The zombie additions don't change the story enough to make a statement of their own, but they do serve to obscure some of the themes and characterizations of the original, so their presence is a net negative.

All in all, I probably would have been better off just reading Pride and Prejudice again.

1 One of the great things about Pride and Prejudice is that it's pretty feminist-friendly. Sure, it's a tale of two people who take a long time and a lot of minsunderstandings to finally come together and realize their True Love(tm), but two of the things I've always appreciated about it are: 1) Elizabeth is given agency to choose her own path in life and 2) the reason it's okay that they end up together is that when she tells Darcy what her issues are with him, he listens. How often does that happen in popular love stories?

Mon, 12 Feb 2007

E Pluribus Unicorn

E Pluribus Unicorn is a collection of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon. All of the stories were written between 1947 and 1953, though they don't seem very dated, aside from occasional archaic-sounding language usage.

The stories are mostly fantasy, though some could be considered almost horror; many are certainly unsettling, most notably The Professor's Teddy-Bear, with Bianca's Hands (and perhaps A Way of Thinking) a close second. Die, Maestro, Die! reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe, in structure, if not in style. There's an element of melancholy in several of the stories, including The SIlken-Swift, Scars (which has no elements on fantasy, but is simply a good story), and especially A Saucer of Loneliness.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection; I hadn't read much by Sturgeon before, and I quite like his writing.

Thu, 22 Jun 2006

War of Honor

allconsuming link

It's past five in the morning. I've been up reading for almost the last four hours because I wanted to finish the book. It's good. The pace is much slower than I remember previous Honor Harrington books being, but things do move along.

Reading all of the Honor anthologies before this book is highly recommended.

Spoilers below.

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Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Princess Prince

Very amusing shoujo manga. In the kingdom of Gemstone, the king is father to twins: a princess and a prince. Prince Matthew is every inch the bishounen and all the girls adore him. Princess Lori is actually Prince Lawrence, but has been raised as a girl due to a prophecy made at the twins' birth.

Princess Lori and another girl have fallen for each other, but she doesn't know the Princess's true nature. And Brandon Walsh, a thief sent to the kingdom, has decided that Prince Matthew is really a girl and has fallen for him.

Naturally, many complications develop, and the book is a very entertaining read.

Players at the Game of People

Finished it yesterday. Not too bad.

Foucault's Pendulum

I liked The Name of the Rose, so when I saw Foucault's Pendulum at the bookstore, I decided to grab it. Unfortunately for me, it's a rather different sort of book than The Name of the Rose.

The Name of the Rose is essentially a detective story. It's set in medieval times and is told in a wonderfully baroque manner, but with all the descriptive flourishes pared away its story is relatively straightforward. Foucault's Pendulum is more of a surrealist book--the journey matters more than the destination, and the book's climax is just a single element in the tapestry of the narrative, a fact for which I was not completely prepared.

The pacing of the book is also rather slow, and not always in a good way. In, say, A Fire Upon the Deep, the pace is slow, but there's a feeling of grandness, of something gradually but inexorably building as the story progresses. I often felt that Foucault's Pendulum was dragging along without necessarily going anywhere, especially during the elaboration of the Plan, where the characters just keep piling details on details seemingly without end.

I should not that the edition I read had an annoying synopsis on the back cover. It claimed that the main characters put facts into a computer that drew connections between apparently disparate facts. In the book, those events don't take place until about two-thirds of the way in, and the actual details are somewhat different than those which the synopsis implies. At least it didn't completely give away things, like the summary text at the beginning of my copy of Archangel.

I'll discuss the ending below the spoiler barrier.

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Ilium

After the tedious Quicksilver, Ilium was a welcome change. It's a wonderful blend of science fiction and Greek myth.

As Simmons' Hyperion was infused with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, so Ilium works from Homer's Iliad. One of the central events of the book is the siege of Troy. In Ilium, however, the gods are more science fiction than fantasy--they accomplish their majestic feats via nanotechnology and quantum manipulation. And the events in the Iliad are only a rough third of the events in Ilium.

The book opens with the words of a twentieth-century Homeric scholar, in a very deliberate reference to the opening of the Iliad. That scholar has been resurrected by the gods and sent to observe the unfolding of events that shaped the Iliad. The following chapter introduces humans living on Earth several thousand years past the 20th century, in a world largely abandoned--the "post-humans" meddled with the planet, cleaned up some of their mess, and left it to the old-style humans, whose lives they continue to regulate. The third chapter sets the stage for the third storyline, involving sentient organic/inorganic machines that live and work among the moons of Jupiter.

Into all three storylines, the reader is dropped without much backstory; the shape of the world in which the characters live must be gleaned from details in the story's telling. And the threads don't tie themselves together until a distance into the book.

The single best thing about the book, however, is the writing. Simmons does a very good job of taking these disparate threads, blending them together while painting the backdrop for the story, and weaving a thoroughly engaging tale.

Ilium certainly deserves its Hugo nomination. I can't speak to whether it should win, since I haven't read most of its competitors, but if it does, I'll not be disappointed.


Phil! Gold