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

The Time of The Dark

The Time of the Dark opens with a woman dreaming of events taking place in another world. By the second page this book, published in 1982, has already described something as "cyclopean". I, having read that description, was busy being depressed about the story, fearing that Hambly was aspiring to some Lovecraft-styled tale. (This would be a problem because most such imitations are bad ones.) Fortunately (so to speak), it's merely a run-of-the-mill fantasy story from the early '80s.

The book does carry a fairly obvious Lovecraft influence, mostly in the descriptions of ancient architecture and of the Dark, a not-terribly-nice race which is encountered early in the book. There was one particular description of some ancient ruins where I was enjoying some nice echoes of Lovecraft's style until she actually used the adjective "Lovecraftian". Oh, well.

So the descriptive writing wasn't too bad. The plot was, unfortunately, pretty standard stuff. People (a man and a woman) are transported from this world into another one where magic is possible and some great danger threatens. These two become instrumental in saving people from the danger. I was somewhat pleased to note that it wasn't completely textbook--the two did not fall in love with each other. On the other hand, the woman, a medieval scholar, discovers an innate talent for sword-based combat, while the man, a sometimes-biker and itinerant artist, finds that he can work magic and falls mutually in love with the widowed queen.

This is the first book in a series. I want enough to know what will happen that I'd read the next books, but if they're similar to this one, I'll probably be sighing at the clichéd fantasy conventions as I come to them.

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.

Chernevog

This one's a worthy successor to Rusalka. More that's familiar Cherryh style, including characters worrying over their choices and not knowing which characters to trust.

Spoilers below.

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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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Phil! Gold