December 22, 2010

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Get Over LOST [review and musing time]

It may have taken about seven months since the airing of the Season Finale, but I have finally come to terms with the unresolved mysteries left in its wake. All over the internet you easily find blogs, forums and sites listing the many questions that went unanswered, despite the fact that the Lost team made the choice to end the series early and wrap everything up well, instead of dragging it out. After reading one such list, and considering my own response to the finale upon its airing, I felt that maybe the answers were better left unsaid, and here's why...

December 21, 2010

Firefly - You can't take the sky from me [review by starlight]

Embarking on an unfinished 14 episode stint in a sci-fi television show may be unattractive to both regular nerdling viewers and the main stream, but whether you regularly sink your teeth into 20 year spaceship journeys or prefer to keep your feet firmly on Earth, Firefly is definitely worth your attention for a mere half-season at the least. You can put aside your Battlestar or your Gossip Girl for a week or two and find out why the premature end of this cult favourite is bewailed by watchers everywhere.

December 20, 2010

The Untimely Demise of Heroes [review and musing time]

I was a Heroes fan until the very last. I never gave up on the show, and watched every episode weekly, no matter how little hope there was that it would really come back. The first season was excellent, and the ideas were always there, but the show got progressively worse. There are many negative things I could say about Heroes, and the show has obviously gotten many negative reviews before it was dropped at the end of its fourth season, but I am going to focus on the positive in the hopes that I can bring other Heroes fans to grieve with me.

December 19, 2010

In Defence of the Herbert Syndrome [just musing]

Some may argue that the underlying force guiding authors of multiple novels set in the same universe is that of monetary compensation. As a life-long reader of science fiction who is still working on the Dune and Wheel of Time series’, I would say that this motive is over-simplified at best. If a universe still has possibilities for commentary on the nature of our world, why shouldn’t it be used to tell more stories about the human race?

December 18, 2010

I've read Twilight. [review time]

Good cover design. Bad writing.
That's right. I went to a bookstore, stood in line, paid close to $13, and spent a couple precious hours of my life turning the pages of the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series. And I was not disappointed. It was exactly what I expected it to be. A page turner that creates an ideal soap-opera love interest, often described as perfect and god-like, who falls desperately in love with a normal, nothing special whiney teenage girl. And of course he’s so enraptured by this pathetic nobody that he can barely keep himself from eating her. She just smells so good.

As a Fantasy reader I really have to comment of the gimmicky-ness of the use of the Vampire in this story. Sure, Meyer is using the tradition of the sex predator consuming an innocent young woman, but she’s also destroying the legend for no reason other than to tell a sappy love story. He’s a vegetarian. Please give me one good reason why a soulless being that thrives off sucking human blood would just decide that it’s ‘wrong’.

Random thought [musing time]

As a person learning English as a second language,
how do you keep straight the words
lead, lead, led,
read, read and red?

There's a really faulty pattern here.
Present tense to lead, lead (the metal) the noun, past tense led,
Present tense to read, past tense read, red the colour.
See what I'm saying?

Magical Realism as a more ‘Literary’ Genre - One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [review time]

Nobel Literature Prize winner  1982
What is it that gives One Hundred Years of Solitude its critical acclaim, where many high mimetic fantasies go unrecognized? This book kept me delightfully shocked and appalled with its depravity and bleakness, but what makes it more ‘literary’ and likely to be studied in a high school English class then the charming tale of a wizard going off to defeat his arch-enemy? Is fantasy silly and childish? Because the Buendia family is reminiscent of a never-ending chain of eight-year-olds playing in a sandbox and fighting like savages over whatever their hearts desire. Harry Potter is more mature than Jose Arcadio. This is the story of the lost boys never growing up, but in this story their bodies mature and they have adult desires that they gratify however they can, whether it be with their aunt or a donkey.

Layout Revision [renovation time]

It's come to my attention that my sci-fi theme isn't really working for me. I believe I've written very few sci-fi reviews in the past year. I had my sci-fi phase and while I still have some good cyberpunk on my reading list, my heart belongs to Fantasy. Expect a new theme and layout, and you may even see the Psychotic Android disappear forever. Stay tuned.

The Way of Kings Final Reaction [review time]

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.

The Way of Kings is a very promising beginning to a hopefully long and enduring fantasy adventure. It's exactly what I've been looking for. It's lengthy, and much of this first book is introducing the characters and the world, but those characters are interesting. Fascinating. Remarkable. And I can't really do them any justice without spoilers because its all about their secrets. Just trust me on this.

Sexual Undertones in Harry Potter [review by starlight]

I found the new Harry Potter film to be really unremarkable. It was what can be expected from a movie that stops in the middle of a plot arc. This allowed them to keep most of the material, which always makes me happy, but as a stand-alone film I don't think it works.

One of few things that interested me about the film was the sexual undertones. I've stated my opinion on the romance in Harry Potter before. It's the biggest flaw in Rowling's writing, the one area where she digresses from the necessary action to indulge the fantasies of preteens. Not interesting to me at all. But I found the movie incredibly sexual in a way I never picked up on in the books. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

December 17, 2010

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe [review time]

A horrifying atmosphere can be created by playing with the imagination and expectations of the audience. Poe introduces his horror piece with the traditionally frightening motif of darkness. Fear is a result of the unknown - that which lies in darkness - and establishing that darkness immediately is crucial to the horror text. The story itself cannot begin until it has been established that there is a setting that will permit a supernatural occurrence. The narrator then opens the door to find “Darkness there, and nothing more” (Poe 24) suggesting that the narrator expected to find something “more” waiting for him.

December 16, 2010

Lighting and Music in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) review time

Darkness is a technique found throughout the horror film genre. Low lighting is the first hint towards the possibility of supernatural events, and the introductory scene takes place, almost without exception, at night. In Nightmare on Elm Street, the initial dream sequence is dark, taking place in an unknown and unfamiliar setting, where a solitary young girl is lost. From the first scene there is a tension between familiar horror elements (the darkness, the vulnerable teenage girl, the sense of being preyed upon) and estranging elements (the surreal location, the maze of Freddy Krueger’s dream-world, and the initial shot of his knives). The darkness in horror films is often accompanied by a return to normalcy, where the characters have to deal with their fears in the light of day, and are perhaps lulled into a false sense of security. The opening scene of the movie is clearly a nightmare, but the following scene is in the brightness of day outside a high school.

November 22, 2010

The Fantasy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Kubla Khan [story time]

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

November 18, 2010

Captain Vidal stars as the Wicked Witch [review by starlight]

Pan’s Labyrinth is an incredibly brutal film that will make you feel the harshness of the world, particularly because of the contrast with a beautiful fantasy. There is a realist story intertwined with a fantastic one, where the world of the adults is dark, cruel and without any justice, and Ofelia, as a child, is able to access a just and beautiful world if she overcomes dangerous obstacles. Her part of the story is the Fairy Tale. Captain Vidal is the bad guy for both the realist of the Spanish Civil War and the fairy tale of Ofelia’s quest. His character really gets the idea across that there is no cosmic justice. Vidal represents the cold, irrational brutality of the world.

Tears and Goose-bumps! [nostalgia time]

That is how I always react to a Harry Potter trailer, but this time I don't think I'm going to be let down! I just have a feeling. The Harry Potter films can be hit or miss. They are chalk-full of emotional moments, particularly for a fantasy series (where there is more focus on sweeping, world-changing events than on character depth), so whether or not they are good quality films, I have ended up crying in each and every one.

October 29, 2010

Ok, yeah, this is an essay for a class I'm taking... On J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the RINGS! [review time]

The Fellowship of the Ring, and the Lord of the Rings as a whole, develops the theme of loss and mortality through the decline of magic in a fantastical world. There is a sense of inevitability throughout the text as the reader is constantly reminded that Middle Earth will never be the same. The time of Man is coming, the elves are leaving, magic is fading and the hobbits are in hiding. This is a major theme of the text, but the central plot and quest have nothing to do with it, thus emphasizing the inevitability of this loss. Sauron is considered nearly invincible and the quest seems impossible, but that does not stop Gandalf and Frodo from facing dangers and dark forces when they have no other choice. They do not, however, go on a grand quest to save the magic of Middle Earth and make the elves stay. Tolkien seems to be suggesting that while it is possible to conquer evil, it is not possible to stop the wheels of time from turning – mortality cannot be stopped. Although magic is fading, the world will go on without it, and there is no solution.

Random thought... [musing time]

does spellcheck cramp anyone else's style? I swear unvocalized and inconcrete are words... or they should be!

October 20, 2010

The Way of Kings Initial Reaction [review time]

I have awaited this book with excited anticipation since I read the single volume Elantris. Brandon Sanderson has incredible creativity – something that is ironically lacking in the fantasy genre for the most part. If we take him to be a protégé, or at least a contemporary of Robert Jordan, having taken on the task of completing the epic Wheel of Time series, I would argue that Sanderson is perfecting the imaginative genre and taking it a step further. This is an important step towards what the fantasy genre was always meant to be.

September 10, 2010

The Little Mermaid according to Tolkien [review time]

‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Anderson does not qualify as a fairy tale according to Tolkien’s ‘On Fairy Stories’. Although it does accomplish fantasy, its ending is not a satisfying fairy tale ending, in that it does not create the sensation described by Tolkien. It also loses readers in terms of believability, and forces them to suspend their disbelief. One can even argue that the fantastic elements of the story were not necessary to the plot, but merely decorative devices to make the story fanciful. This is something that concerns Tolkien greatly, so it is clear that ‘The Little Mermaid’ is not a fairy tale, but something else entirely.

Tolkien is very clear in his theories about that which disqualifies a story from the genre of the fairy story. He argues that a Eucatastrophe is necessary to resolve the conflict of the story and cause a reaction from the reader: “a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.” (Tolkien, ‘On Fairy Stories’). The happy ending without a cost is not satisfactory to Tolkien. ‘The Little Mermaid’ does not evoke the same emotional response as other fairy tales because the end reward is without a price. It is also problematic because there is no foreshadowing of the little mermaid escaping her fate in this way. It is clear that she is meant to escape the fate that is consistent with the plot: that she gives up her life to save the prince and does not make it to heaven. Instead the daughters of the air offer her eternal life, telling her, “By striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul”. The possibility of obtaining a soul in such a way is never mentioned before the last scene. Becoming an air fairy is not only an unsatisfactory resolution to the problem, but it also disconnects the reader from the world of the story.

The Secondary World created by Anderson is perfectly believable in the beginning, but the ending forces the reader to suspend their belief in order to stay in it. According to Tolkien, suspension of disbelief is less satisfactory than a genuine immersion in the Secondary World. The point where the world ceases to be believable is when the little mermaid dies and becomes an air fairy. The scene is set perfectly for the tragedy of her death, which comes about completely in accordance with the story’s outlook on death, when suddenly she is saved from her fate and given a path to gaining an immortal soul. The air fairy is never mentioned before in the story, so the ending feels forced and unnatural. The air fairy is a plot device leading to the desired ending, but not originating from the story’s theme. The reader is abruptly torn out of a world that has set down its rules and a story that has been presented as if it were truth. Although Anderson succeeds in telling the story according to Tolkien’s high seriousness, he loses the audience to disbelief. This, in combination with an unsatisfying conflict resolution, prohibits us from considering ‘The Little Mermaid’ a fairy story in accordance with Tolkien’s theories.

September 1, 2010

Parasitic Relationships [review time]

“Bloodchild” and “Passengers” attempt to convey very different messages through the use of a parasitic relationship. However, a similarity between the two texts is the inappropriate transference of responsibility from the “host” to the parasite. In Silverberg’s story, the parasite personifies drunkenness to alleviate the responsibility for actions committed in a state of intoxication. “Bloodchild” treats males as parasites and women as hosts for their offspring. It ignores the female role of the biological imperative to put all of the blame for childbirth on the male. Both stories make use of alien parasites attached to human hosts to allegorically represent the things that enslave us, while there is a blatant absence of acceptance of responsibility.

August 20, 2010

Alan Moore's Watchman and Post Post-humanism [review time]

One direction for Science Fiction to proceed beyond the Post-Humanism subgenre is suggested within the pages of Watchmen through the character of Adrian Veidt. As long as there is an audience for Sci-Fi, the genre can continue to have meaning for humanity despite Post-Humanism’s climactic nature. Veidt’s perfume line, ‘Nostalgia’, is to be replaced with a more forward looking line after the crisis in New York solves the world’s conflicts. ‘Millenium’ embodies the idea that in times of great prosperity and little fear it is easier to be optimistic when looking to the future. The Post-humanism movement was pessimistic and served as an admonitory medium, and it is logical that after the presented crises become unlikely, optimism will stem from it. Although post-humanism is somewhat climatic, as long as there is a market and a demand for Sci-Fi, new subgenres will continue to emerge from the ruins. One of these may present new hope for humanity and technology as the threats posed by technological advance become improbable.

August 5, 2010

Robert Jordan's Crossroads of Twilight - A long road to nothing [review time]

I have been very defensive of the Wheel of Time series in the past, but this book is just begging for criticism. There is no story arc whatsoever - nothing happens. There is no climax. My experience with previous WoT books is that you can read the first 500 pages wondering when the climax will arrive, and it may be the last 50 pages of a huge volume, but it's usually totally worth all of the drudging build-up, character development, extraneous detail and unnecessary complication. I love those things, in a way. It makes the world real, dense, complex. But it was completely unnecessary this late in a series to provide an entire volume that does not move the plot along, that accomplishes ONLY establishing back-story, developing characters and showing the complications. It’s as if this tenth instalment is the beginning of a new story. Jordan gives us an introduction, a complication, and rising action, but we have to wait until the next book to get the climax and falling action.

June 8, 2010

Just a bit of a Buffy Rant [review time]

Lately I have been noticing a lot of blasphemy from Firefly lovers in my community. The Buffy hating. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just something you have to see before you could possibly appreciate its quirks, and by seeing I don't mean five minutes of the awkward dialogue between Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brandon that can only be described as nerdy banter. As the creator of both Firefly and Buffy, and several other shows which I haven't watched yet, Joss Whedon has always been actively involved in much of the writing for the show. You can't just watch a few minutes of the banter and say "This is terrible dialogue" and turn it off.

May 26, 2010

Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss review time

David is entitled to as much love and care as the family toaster. He is an appliance created for a specific purpose, which is to fill the void in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Swinton. He cannot think freely or feel emotions any more than a toaster, and no one owes him devotion any more than they owe to a toaster. One might argue that the difference between a toaster and an android is that of artificial intelligence, but an android has no more consciousness of its operations than has a toaster. It is very clear to us that there is no evidence to suggest that a toaster knows that it is heating bread, yet most toasters can adjust the toasting time to avoid burning the second or third piece of bread when it is already hot. This ability to respond to different situations is programmed into the toaster in the same way that certain speech situations and responses are programmed into an android.

Brandon Sanderson's Elantris [review time]

It has long bothered me that the genre of Fantasy has become essentially formula fiction. Most Fantasy can be defined by its setting and plot: in a medieval world of magic, an unlikely hero saves the world from an unspeakable evil. Elantris cannot be said to be a part of this "Tolkienesque" tradition. The single book epic differs from much of modern fantasy in that the setting has a unique feel that cannot be placed in any single Earth timeframe, and encompasses its own religions, cultures and history. And the plot cannot be described in ten words, which is always a plus.

Vampire Objection - Twilight by Stephenie Meyer [review time]

I have not read the Twilight series, but my objection is that Meyer has altered the Vampire fiction genre without contributing anything to the meaning. The idea of vampirism has long been a comment on humanity’s quest for immortality and the cost of such a quest. It is similar to the Faustian bargain of selling one’s soul, but in this case the soulless become a prey upon their former race. By altering this trope, Meyer destroys the idea of the cost of immortality in order to create a new class of bad boy for teens to swoon over. I much prefer Joss Whedon’s creation of a soulless, demonic race that cannot experience desire, love or empathy, to demonstrate the cost of immortality and the undesirable condition of vampirism. Anne Rice deviates from this with the character of Lestat, who regrets his disconnection with his humanity, giving a foil to the character of Louis, who revels in his condition.

Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card [review time]

This book made me think of Ender's Game in a whole new light. In the driver's seat this time we have another brilliant student, possibly even more brilliant than Ender, and you really can't appreciate the commander as much after having read this book. If you want to continue to think of Ender as an incredible leader and a suffering human being, don't read Ender's Shadow. Shadow places Bean at the forefront and shows his contribution to Earth's victory over the Buggers. His personality is strikingly different from Ender.

The Wheel of Time: Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan [review time]

This book seems to focus on Rand and show his internal thoughts much more clearly than previous books, which works perfectly with the climax. Finally we begin to see the toll the Source is taking on Rand and the Asha'man, and how much Rand relies on his followers. Losing just a few Asha'man for any reason is a high price to pay for victory, and Rand has to decide whether to take the Seanchan out before they become too much of a threat, or whether to keep his valuable forces in tact. Egwene struggles against the puppet strings that keep her power as Amyrlin Seat in check, while Elayne journeys back to Camelyn and faces difficulty claiming the thrown of Andor. With both of these plots we are left with a complete cliffhanger, driving this somewhat weary reader on to the next book without pause. If you haven't given up on the series yet, don't hesitate to pick up the 8th book. You've already come so far!