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

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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

A Fire upon the Deep

Not for nothing did A Fire upon the Deep take home a Hugo. There are just so many things about it that are good. The universe within which the story takes place is carefully crafted and very interestingly conceived. Several alien races are presented, two of them in detail, one of which (the Tines) had been very elaborately created. The story is huge and compelling, while the writing draws you onward. And the Usenet-like communications setup is an interesting concept.

Probably one of the things that stands out the most in this book is the structure of the Tines. Vinge does a good job of explaining by showing, and the details of the race were enough to make my head hurt as I imagined their ramifications.

The writing was well-paced. It's a long book, and some parts felt slow-moving compared to others, but they were never uninteresting. During the more active parts, especially the climax of the book (and the other climax right before it) I was so immersed in it that I couldn't stop reading. And the image at the end was echoingly haunting.

Simply put, buy this book. It's eminently worth it.

Slashdot seems to have a review of a recently-released special edition of the book. It has notes by Vinge and those who helped him with his book and is apparently only available in electronic format. If I had a working PDA, I'd consider getting it, since the annotations would be very interesting to read, but I'd much prefer a more open format (mostly so I could read it with Weasel Reader).

Excel Saga, volume 3

Excel Saga 03 continues along the path set by volumes one and two: weird situations, not-so-smart Excel, not-so-healthy Hyatt, not-so-successful Il Palazzo, some satire, some plain funny stories, and so on. The excellent footnotes make their return, with comments about The Prisoner, Astro Boy, Blaise Pascal, and many other wonderful things.

Now I have to wait for volume four to be translated and published.

The Fifth Elephant

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Yet another Terry Pratchett book. Specifically, another City Watch book, though much of this one takes place in Überwald. No witches are visible, though there are plenty of werewolves, dwarves, vampires, and Igors.

There is, as usual, a good story. Being a City Watch book, it's largely a detective story, with the details swirling around the coronation of a new dwarven king, a very revered piece of dwarf bread, and the politics of the region, including the involvement of Sergeant Angua's parents. And, of course, plenty of very funny bits; Pratchett has a tendency to make me laugh out loud while on the bus.

I had worried that Terry Pratchett was losing his plain humor in being overly satirical, but The Fifth Elephant is merely a funny, well-told story with satirical elements running through some of the details. (Well, "politics" is a pretty big detail, but still...)

Yet another Terry Pratchett book I'm happy to add to my collection.

Jingo

There are so many different Discworld novels that it becomes difficult to write separately about each one, due to the similarities among them. I don't mean that in a bad way; the books are certainly distinct from each other, too. It's just that the things that keep me coming back to the series--the characters, the storytelling, the humor--are present in all of the books.

Nevertheless, Jingo tells its own story. In this book, Pratchett has set his satirical sights on war, with the assistance of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch. As usual with a City Watch book, there's a crime to be dealt with (two crimes, if you count the war itself), specifically an assassination attempt. Chasing these crimes leads Vimes and his men out of Ankh-Morpork, past the newly-risen island of Leshp (gotta have something to fight over, after all), and into the wilds of Klatch, which is certainly not based on the Middle East. :)


Phil! Gold