7 August 2017

Before They Were Blockbusters: The Prestige

Edit: This review has been updated on August 8, 2017.

Welcome to the first episode of Before They Were Blockbusters, a whole new series where I review books that became the basis for popular movies and movie franchises. My goal with this series is not to compare the books with their big screen adaptations, but to discover the books behind some of my favourite movies.

First book in this series is The Prestige by Christopher Priest. The book was adapted to the big screen in 2005 by Christopher Nolan. I liked the movie quite a bit, even though I found it a little melodramatic. When I found out that the movie was based on a book, I immediately wanted to read that book. 


So, without further any ado, here's The Prestige

Note, that is a spoiler free review, so if you haven't read the book (nor seen the movie) you have nothing to worry about. 



Title: The Prestige 
Author: Christopher Priest
First published in 1995
I read the 2011 edition by Gollanz
Language: English
Source: I purchased it.

In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent seance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another. 
Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians' craft can command--the highest misdirection and the darkest science. 
Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations...to descendants who must, for their sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.



The Prestige tells the story of two stage magicians in Victorian England - Alfred Borden, and Rupert Angier, and of their life-long feud with each other. The feud begins when Borden - a young and naïve illusionist, is trying to expose Angier during a seance he is conducting with a bereaved family. From then on, the two equally brilliant, and equally obsessive men will stop at nothing to ruin each others careers. Their feud does not end with their deaths, and is instead perpetuated by their children and grandchildren, surviving way into the present-day.


It is in the present-day England that we meet a young journalist by the name of Andrew Westley, as well as Katherine Angier, one of the last descendants of Rupert Angier. One of the first things we learn about Andrew is that he's adopted, and that the name of his biological family is Borden. We follow Andrew and Katherine as they are trying to uncover the truth about the feud by reading the journals of their respective ancestors. By finding the truth, the two of them hope to shed some light on the traumatic event Katherine experienced in her own childhood, as wells as answering the questions that have been plaguing Andrew his entire life.   


The Prestige is one of the most finely crafted, and cleverly constructed stories I have ever read. In order to fully appreciate the complexity of this story, one needs to try and understand how it is told. I know, I have been thinking about it for a good two weeks now, and I'm still trying to figure it out. A thorough re-read is not that far away. 


The story centres around the three stages of a magic trick - the setup, the performance, and the prestige, or the effect. In fact, once you break the book down into its essential parts, it is constructed like a magic trick. The last chapter is literally titled, The Prestige.

   
"Let me then first consider and describe the method of writing this account. The very act of describing my secrets might indeed be construed as a betrayal of myself, except of course that as I am an illusionist I can make sure you only see what I wish you to see. A puzzle is implicitly involved." 

So begins Alfred Borden's own journal. And much like Borden, Priest constructs his story so that we as the audience only see what he wants us to see at a given moment. The story is riddled with twists, and shocking revelations but there are clues and foreshadowings placed discreetly and strategically throughout the book. Priest plays a great game of deception by hiding clues in plain sight, and by making you think about what the characters are really saying. 



This is achieved, in part, by having Borden and Angier each tell the story in their journals. As illusionists, there are some things that they cannot reveal, and they end up writing around these secrets, explaining just enough so that the reader won't get lost in their stories. But they also actively deceive their readers - and each other - by withholding simple but crucial facts.
 
Because we get to read Borden's journal first, and Angier's second, there is a great element of surprise. At first, you're thinking "Wow, that Angier fellow is a really bad guy!", but once you learn his side of the story, you get a more accurate, if not an entirely clear picture of the situation. Also, because their accounts are told in consecutive order, the story reads like a puzzle, and you can't have the complete image, until you have collected all of the pieces. 


One of Angier's many obsessions regarding Borden is the stage trick that Borden performs, called The New Transported Man. Angier becomes obsessed with this trick, as he can't figure out how Borden does it. His quest takes him to America, where he meets with Nikola Tesla in hopes that the genius inventor will build a device that will enable him to create his own version of The New Transported Man by using electricity. 


This is something that I didn't expect, but the part with Tesla is my least favourite in the whole book. This is where the story slows down, as Angier and Tesla are literally stuck in one place for several weeks as they are trying to make the device work. However, this is also the part where we are introduced to the science fiction element of this story. And I love the way the sci fi fits in this world, and how realistic it seems. Let me explain: 


The story takes place in the late 19th century. It's the beginning of the modern era, and electricity is taking the Western world by storm. When Angier goes to the US, he is amazed by how far this country has come in terms of technology. On his way to see Tesla, he meets a salesman, who tells Angier about his vision of the future: 


"He confirms that as we move towards the 20th century there is no limit, no bound, to what we might expect electricity to do for our lives.  He predicts that men will sail the seas in electric ships, sleep in electric beds, fly in heavier-than-air machines, eat electrically cooked food... even shave our beards with electric razor blades! (...) I believe that in this enthralling country, as a new century dawns, anything really is possible, or it can be made possible. My present quest into the unknown heart of this land will give me the secrets for which I hunger."  


While electricity is still considered a gimmick by a lot of people, there are visionaries who foresee a great future with this technology, and Angier's idea fits well within this mindset. This is the time, when people are still discovering the possibilities that come from harnessing electricity, so what Tesla ends up creating doesn't seem that fantastical at all. 



Even though the book is supposed to be science fiction, to me it feels more like a Gothic horror story with science fiction elements in it. Ironically, it is the present-day parts that breathe this chilling Gothic air. The atmosphere here is creepy, and unsettling. The mood oscillates between disorienting, and genuinely scary. It is infused with a sense of unease, as if you're being watched. There are some Gothic horror tropes here, too: the big creepy house with a sole female occupant, a scientific experiment gone horrifically wrong, and the metaphorical ghost of Borden and Angier's feud haunting innocent people. 

The ending itself is very abrupt. There is no real conclusion. We get the final revelation, and then it cuts to black, leaving us with our own imagination to fill in the blanks, and to draw the logical conclusions. It makes you think about what the ending says about the feud and the devastating effects it has for everyone involved.

Both Borden and Angier make terrible life choices; they hurt the people they love, and in a lesser book it would have been very difficult to empathise with them. They're selfish, and vindictive, driven by their obsession with each other. However, by letting us read their journals, they allow us to get an intimate look at the people they really are. It's ironic that they go to great lengths to keep their professional secrets, but they end up revealing so much of their feelings, and insecurities. 


They're obsessive, but their obsession is the dark side of the love and the passion they have for their art. They're also funny, naïve, and painfully vulnerable. These characters ended up growing on me, and when I finished the book I felt like I got to know two very complex people. I felt protective of them, despite all their vices and shortcomings. Most of the time, they mean well, and both eventually admit to themselves how fruitless, and mutually destructive their feud has been. Of course, they never admit it to each other, even though they want to. Their relationship is as complex as they themselves are, and had The Prestige been a hit TV-show, I could easily imagine some fans shipping these characters.




I don't often say that a book floored me, but The Prestige came close to doing just that. This is a beautifully written, masterfully constructed, challenging book, that is full of surprises. 



My rating
Plot: 4 stars
Story: 5 stars
Characters: 5 stars
Language: 5 stars

Average: 5 stars


Well, this has been the first episode of Before They Were Blockbusters.  

You can also read this interview with Christopher Priest, where he talks about The Prestige, and the art of deception in fiction. Or you can follow this link, and learn more about some of the Gothic horror tropes I've mentioned.

For my next review, I have a new book. In fact, this book hasn't been released yet. I had the opportunity to read the advanced readers copy, and it's very... interesting. 

1 August 2017

July Wrap-up and a New Series

And another month has just flown by. July is now officially over, so let's review this month, shall we?

Book Reviews 

Last month, I reviewed a total of four books, with an average rating of 4,5 stars.

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons - 5 stars

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - 3 stars

The X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris - 5 stars

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine - 5 stars

All I can say is that it has been a good month for reading.


Movies

I also went to see two new movies:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was a blast. This movie was everything I wanted in a summer blockbuster. Plus, I'm positive that Kurt Russel will finally get people to stop saying that Marvel doesn't have good villains.


I apologise for the fangirl moment.




War for the Planet of the Apes, which was good. I liked it. It was trying too hard to be this epic drama, but it was the perfect conclusion to the new POTA series, and I had a lot of fun counting the easter eggs and callbacks to the original movie.





What to look forward to 

Well, I'm still listening to Stephen King's It. Four hours done, forty more to go! Expect a review in a month or so.

I also got an ARC of Andy Weir's new book, Artemis on Netgalley, and I'm reading it right now. It's a lot of fun, but more on that later.

And, finally, I'm starting my new series of book reviews, titled Before They Were Blockbusters, where I'll be reviewing books that were adapted into popular movies. First on the list is The Prestige by Christopher Priest.




29 July 2017

Book Rant: Ink and Bone

Some days you just don't fee like writing a legitimate book review. Today is that day. And since this week, I'm supposed to be reviewing Ink and Bone, I decided to write some random thoughts about why I freaking loved this book.


Title: Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)
Author: Rachel Caine
Publication date: 7 July 2015
Published by: NAL

Source: I purchased this book when I got into dentistry school. Do I know how to celebrate, or what?

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…



So, Ink and Bone is about a boy named Jess, who loves to read.



Okay, it's not the same Jess. But nowhere in the book does it say what he's supposed to look like, so I'm sticking with this mental image. 

As far as YA goes, this book is right up there with The Hunger Games, and Feed. It has a well-developed world, that isn't your typical dystopian society. The Great Library is an oppressive superpower for sure, but it doesn't seek to divide and subjugate the people. Instead, its primary objective is to preserve knowledge, as well as to keep its monopoly on knowledge. Because knowledge is power, and who in their right mind would want to lose their power? 


Ink and Bone's greatest strength is the moral ambiguity that haunts that world. The Library is the oppressor, but that doesn't mean that The Library's enemies are the good guys either. There are two major forces that are trying to fight The Library - the book smugglers, and the book burners. To the smugglers, books are nothing more than merchandise. They're like the mobsters during the Prohibition. They don't care who they sell the books to, or what happens to the books after the deal is done - something that Jess learns very early on in his career. As for the burners, well, they burn books. They're fanatics who will rather destroy knowledge than have it fall in the hands of The Library. 

I was a little apprehensive when Jess was placed in the school environment. I thought that the school part of the story would be repetitive, and I was dreading Red Rising- flashbacks. Instead, this part took me back to my own experiences at the dentistry school and there are some aspects of this story that seem familiar, and relatable. I had a similar experience with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. You know, when you read a certain book at the right time in your life, and everything just clicks.

Attempt at Bookstagramming

About halfway through the story, I realised that this book is a mystery. And a damn good one at that. Nothing is what it seems here, and you don't know which of the students is telling the truth about themselves. It's a nice little twist that Jess isn't the only one who's undercover; and as he's trying his best to keep his own secret, he also isn't sure who he can trust. Just how many spies are there in Jess' class, anyway?

As in any YA, there has to be a romantic subplot. I accept that. But on the plus side: no love triangles! In fact, there are no romantic polygons of any kind here. The central romance is nothing special; it's serviceable, in the sense that it actually serves a purpose in the story, and it's sweet.

There is, however, another romantic subplot, that totally sneaked up on me, and took me completely by surprise. It's one of the best love stories I have read in a book in a very long time, which is surprising, since this story isn't given much attention. Like I said, it just sneaks up on you, and once you realise what these people feel for each other, you end up being moved by their relationship. At least, I was.

Ink and Bone is one of the best books I have read this year. 

My rating

Plot: 5 stars
Story: 5 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Language: 5 stars 

Total: 5 stars 







23 July 2017

Raining on a Sunday Afternoon

It's Sunday, and it has been raining all day. In fact, it has been raining a lot this summer. I'm not complaining. I welcome the rain. That being said, all the summer activities require for you to be outdoors, and there isn't much you can do when it's pouring outside. So, what can you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

I read an article today in the Swedish news outlet, Sydsvenskan, titled "Saker att göra när det regnar - Sticka eller virka en disktrasa" (or, "Things to do  when it's raining - to knit or crochet a dishrag). Sure, knitting is one thing you can do on a rainy day. For instance, I've been knitting a winter skirt, while listening to Stephen King's It on Audible (now there's a book to set the mood for a rainy day!). But if you're not a knitter, there's so much more you can do to not only pass the time, but to make the most of your day indoors.


Listening

I've mentioned audiobooks. And you don't even have to get a subscription on Audible to find a good story to listen to. There are some many audiobooks that you can listen to for free on Youtube and on Open Culture. Take, for instance, one of my favourite short stories, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, narrated by none other than Leonard Nimoy. It has everything you want on a cold rainy afternoon - hot blazing sun, bloodthirsty lions, psychotic children, and tea.




 Reading

Audiobooks are nice and all, but if you rather listen to the beat of the rain on your window, that's fine too. That's why printed books were invented. I don't think there is a specific genre that is reserved for rainy days. Any book will do, as long as you're enjoying it.

But, if you want your mind to take you some place warm and sunny, again, you can't go wrong with Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine, and The Golden Apples of the Sun are the perfect means to escape the dull and wet reality. The first is the story of two brothers, and their many adventures during their summer vacation. The second is a collection of short stories that will make you feel warm inside.

Of course, if you're totally down with the rainy, chilly July, you'd want to read something that fits the mood. Creepypasta by Jack Werner is an obvious choice, but any Gothic mystery will do just fine. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have had their fair share of Gothic adventures, like The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventure of the Speckled Band.  






Crafting 

I've already mentioned knitting. You can also crochet, scrapbook, or do anything that gives you a sense of accomplishment. I, for one, am an expert watch repairman.. woman? Person? Okay, I may not be an expert, but I'm pretty good at it. Today, for instance I worked on a couple of wristwatches of mine. It's delicate work that requires a lot of precision, and patience, and it's definitely something that will keep you occupied for an hour or so.




What do you do when it's too cold and too wet to go outside? What are your hobbies guaranteed to keep your spirits up on a dull Sunday afternoon?




21 July 2017

The X-Files: Cold Cases (Audiobook Review)

Title: The X-Files: Cold Cases
Author: Joe Harris
Adapted to audio by: Chris Maggs
Published by: Audible Audio, Unabridged Audiobook
Publication date: July 18, 2017

Starring: Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, and William B. Davis

Source: I pre-ordered this book on Audible.

The series that had a generation looking to the sky gets a breathtaking audio reprise in an original full-cast dramatization featuring actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to voice FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter - and adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), Cold Cases marks yet another thrilling addition to the pantheon of X-Files stories. Featuring a mind-blowing and otherworldly soundscape of liquefying aliens, hissing creatures, and humming spacecraft, listeners get to experience the duo's investigations like never before.


Set after the events of The X-Files: I Want to Believe and providing additional backstory to the incidents that pulled Mulder and Scully out of reclusion prior to 2016's miniseries revival, a database breach at FBI headquarters allows an unknown group to access and capitalize on those investigations left unsolved - dubbed cold cases - by the secret department once known as The X-Files. As friends and foes of the agency long thought gone begin to inexplicably reappear, former agents Mulder and Scully come out of anonymity to face a growing conspiracy that involves not only their former department but the US government and forces not of this world.


How long have I been waiting for this! How many times have I checked my calendar, counting the days before I could download this audiobook to my tablet! But it's finally here, and last Tuesday, I sat down, and I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. I just gobbled down this audiobook like it was a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, with whipped cream and strawberries on top.


Jumping back into your fandom like


The X-files: Cold Cases is an audiodrama that is based on X-Files: Season 10 - a series of comic books that were written by author Joe Harris, under the creative supervision of the series creator Chris Carter. It stars most of the original cast, including the actors playing the Lone Gunmen. 

WARNING: Some spoilers for pretty much the whole show, and the feature film, I Want to Believe. 


In Cold Cases, we meet Dana Scully and Fox Mulder living and working under fake names, as they are still hiding from their enemies, presumably after the events of season nine finale. The two of them are pulled back into the limelight, however, after a cyberattack on the FBI database. It seems that whoever was responsible for the attack was targeting FBI agents that were connected to the X-files, an infamous project outside of the FBI mainstream. Soon after the attack, Scully is abducted by a mysterious group of shapeshifters that call themselves the Acolytes, and Mulder gets a visit from an old foe, who was thought dead. 

There have been so many reincarnations and adaptations of this cult classic TV-show. We're talking about books, novelisations, comics books, games, and movies. But this is the first time that The X-Files has been adapted into audiodrama, and I was both excited and nervous to see how it would work out. There are elements of these stories that are dependent on the visual medium, like the special effects, and those small, quiet moments between Scully and Mulder that can only be shown on-screen. So it was interesting to see how The X-Files would fit in this format.  

This turned out to be an amazing audiodrama that exceeded my expectations, and left me craving more. Four hours is just not enough, damn it! What is it with the new X-Files seasons being so short? 

This audioplay is a non-stop, four-hour thrill ride. It's fast-paced, and there's never a dull moment between all the action. The story is thrilling and unpredictable. It's dark, violent, and scary. But it's also chock-full of the dry, deadpan humour  that the show has always been known for.  

The performances from the original cast are excellent. You don't get a feeling that these are just actors reading lines into a microphone; they're all giving one hundred percent in their performances, just as they would if this was another season of the show. I would say that the star here is David Duchovny. You can hear that he's having fun playing Mulder again.  




Even Gillian Anderson, I feel, has more energy here than she did in season ten. She brought back that witty, and cocky Scully we remember from the earlier seasons. Mitch Pileggi as Deputy Director Skinner, and William B. Davis as Cancerman are great as well, and it was so great hearing their voices again. Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, and Bruce Harwood are hilarious and adorable as The Lone Gunmen, although Frohike's creep factor has been dialed-up for some reason. 

As for the rest of the cast, most of them are doing a very good job. Their performances are emotional and life-like. There are. however, some rough patches. For instance, the Russian and the Arabic accents are laughable. They're so cartoony the aren't even offensive. But the most disappointing part is that neither Robert Patrick nor Nicholas Lea came to reprise their roles as John Doggett, and Alex Krycek respectively. The actors who got to portray these characters are good, it's just that both Patrick and Lea have very distinct voices, and hearing someone else voice their characters is just not the same. I can never buy anyone other than Nicholas Lea being pummelled by David Duchovny. 




Cold Cases is an audioplay that consists of five episodes: four mythology episodes, and one monster of the week. The latter is a welcome return to a classic episode from season two, and it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, while also being pretty gross, and disturbing. It would have been right up there with some of the better monster of the week episodes, if it weren't so short (about thirty minutes). But in this format, it works very well.

The meat of this audioplay, however, is the mythology. And let me tell you right now that this mythology is so much better than the one we got in season ten. The X-Files has always had a very complex mytharc that, not only involved cool science, and juicy conspiracies, but also asked questions about family, spirituality, government control, and life beyond our Solar System. Most importantly, the mythology has always been driven by exciting stories, and strong well-developed characters. 

While I liked the mythology in season ten quite a bit (more than most other fans), I still felt that it was disconnected from the original mytharc, and that it was lacking something. Now, having listened to Cold Cases, I realise how poorly developed the season ten mytharc is. 

The reason the mythology in Cold Cases works is because it's a continuation of the original mythology. Harris always takes us back to the original mythology by bringing back old characters - alive or dead - and making them relevant again. He takes the plot lines of the first nine seasons of the show, and he builds upon them. For instance, black oil plays a major part in this story, as well as Skyland Mountain - the iconic sight where Scully was abducted in season two. 

But it isn't just a display of intertextuality, where the writer invokes our nostalgia and plays on our heart strings by showing us something that we know and love (I'm looking at you, J.J. Abrams). Harris brings back all the familiar iconography of the original show, and uses flashbacks to connect his own story to the original mythology but he does it to expand the established mytharc, and to challenge our beloved characters, and to push them in new directions. The story connects so much better with the first nine seasons than the season ten mytharc.

Another thing that makes this story work is that it focuses solely on the original characters. There are a few supporting characters, like Assistant Director Morales, but they all serve a purpose, and their role in the story is limited to a bare minimum. Harris understands that The X-Files doesn't need new, cool characters, especially if he won't have the time to flesh them out to make them interesting. 

The story ends on a cliffhanger (because of course it does). But cliffhangers on The X-Files are never just a way to make the audience come back the next week, or the next season. Each time the credits roll just when Cancerman is about to say something menacing, or when the monster is about to reveal itself, we are reminded of the ambiguity and the uncertainty that plagues Scully and Mulder's work. There are no definite answers; there is no closure, as each new ending is just a beginning of some bigger, more complex story. On the X-files, finding an answer to one question, always means creating more questions. And the ending of Cold Cases captures that ambiguity perfectly. 

Of course, not everything is perfect, and there are few goofs and inconsistencies scattered throughout the story. For instance, in one dramatic scene, Scully encounters a woman who starts speaking German. "I don't speak German!" says Scully. While we know, from the season four episode, "Unruhe", that Scully does, in fact, speak a little German.




It's also unclear as to how Scully and Mulder went from being pardoned by the FBI in I Want to Believe to once again hiding from the world, and going so far as to change their identities. Something big must have happened in that time period, and it sure would have been nice to know, what.

As another reviewer on Goodreads said, if you're new to The X-Files, this audiodrama is not the best introduction to this complex and confusing world. But if you're familiar with the show and know your way around this universe, I can't recommend this book enough. 

I've got to say, the creative team behind The X-Files is spoiling us. Now, I want more audioplays. A whole podcast with nothing but X-Files mysteries would be so cool. 

Plot: 4 stars
Story: 5 stars 
Characters: 5 stars 
Performances: 5 stars 

Total: 5 stars 


That was my review of X-Files: Cold Cases. I have one more book review for you, guys, before I start my new series of book reviews, titled Before They Were Blockbusters.



14 July 2017

What's New? July 2017

"O, summer fair! I would have loved you, too,
Except for heat and dust and gnats and flies.
You kill off all our mental power,
Torment us; and like fields, we suffer from the drought;
To take a drink, refresh ourselves somehow - 
We think of nothing else, and long for lady Winter.
And, having bid farewell to her with pancakes and with wine,
We hold a wake to honor her with ice-cream and with ice."


Excerpt from "Autumn" by Alexander Pushkin


I can really relate to this poem. Summer is my least favourite season of all the seasons. I hate the weather, I hate the incessant roar of lawnmowers in the morning, and most of all, I hate wasps. But, I'm not here to nag about how much I hate summertime. I'm here for a quick update on what I have been doing this summer.

Well, the first thing I did when I went on vacation was quit drinking... coffee. No more lattes, no more moccas, no more instant Nescafés. The first few weeks were difficult to get through, but it's been over a month now, and I no longer feel like I'm addicted to coffee. I think it's safe for me have a cup of coffee from time to time without falling back into my old unhealthy habbits.

One healthy lifestyle choice led to another, and I renewed my membership at the gym, so instead of sweating on the beach I'm sweating in a small room full of other sweaty women. But, I have my Spotify, and a new pair of cute bicycle shorts, so it's all good.

Most of the time, though, I'm sitting right here, in front of my computer screen. But, instead of binging Buffy the Vampire Slayer like I did last year, this time, I'm actually doing stuff.

Camp Nanowrimo 2017
Lat November, I finished the first draft of my old/new X-files fanfiction, and now I'm working on the second draft. It's going better than I thought. I finally figured out what the story is about, who the main villain should be, and what genre the story fits in.

I started out strong, but at the end of my first week, my old pals, Self-doubt and Procrastination paid me a visit. To get rid of them, I had to use heavy artillery - Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. It's a collection of essays on creativity, published between 1965 and 1990. I love this book. It's autobiographical, but it's full of wisdom and pep-talks, and it feels like Bradbury is speaking directly to you.



Reading
I'm slowly moving down my summer TBR. I've already finished Three Parts Dead, and Zen in the Art of Writing, and now I've started "Deny All Knowledge": Reading the X-files - a collection of essays about my number one show (I'm going to have a very X-files heavy summer).



I also renewed my subscription with Audible, mostly so that I could pre-order the upcoming audio book, X-files Cold Cases, written by Joe Harris, and narrated by all the original cast (who-hoo!). While I'm at it, I also got Stephen King's It narrated by Steven Weber. Weber is, of course, the handsome and talented actor who played Jack Torrance in the mini-series, The Shining from 1997. Or, as I like to call it, "the only good adaptation of The Shining". I'm really enjoying this book, but the audio version is over forty hours long, so it's I'm taking my time with it.



Summer movies
I have a feeling that this is going to be a good movie summer. I've already seen Wonder Woman, and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, and now I'm planning on seeing Spiderman: Homecoming, and War for the Planet of the Apes. 





Studying
Yes, unfortunately, I haven't been spared from this unwholesome activity this summer. The finals didn't go as well as I hoped (I flunked), and the re-exam is in August, so it's back to studying anatomy and periodontology for me.






7 July 2017

Book Review: Three Parts Dead


Title: Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence, #1)
Author: Max Gladstone
Year of publishing: 2012
Published by: Tor Books
Source: City Library 

You can also read my review for Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence, #3).

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.


Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs


A vampire, a sorceress, and a chain-smoking priest walk into a bar...

Three Parts Dead is Gladstone's debut novel, and it's the first in the long Craft Sequence series. Every novel is a self-contained story, that takes place in the same shared universe, which is something that I like about this series. You don't have to read the first two books to enjoy the third.

Here, we follow Tara Abernathy - a strong-willed young Craftswoman who has been kicked out of the magic school. Injured and disgraced, she comes back to her home village. But her home bliss doesn't last long as she is soon hired by an old Craftswoman from a prestige necromancy firm. Their first mission takes them to the city of Alt Coulumb, where they must resurrect a recently deceased god without whom the city that worships him will fall apart. Tara's first case will involve murder, conspiracy, vampires, and it will bring her face-to-face with demons from her past.

For a debut novel, Three Parts Dead is really good. It's a straightforward, confident novel, with an exciting story, which rests on a foundation of a well-realised world. Gladstone borrows elements and tropes from an array of different genres, such as fantasy, steampunk, and vampires, and incorporates them into his own unique universe. And he does it, for the most part, successfully.

There are some inconsistencies; some details that I wish would have been explained better. For instance, Alt Coulumb is a modern city with skyscrapers, and most of the attributes of a modern, post-industrialist society, but the city's only means of transportation are horse-drawn carriages. Can it be one of the setbacks that the city is facing after the devastating God Wars? Or could it be that the citizens simply prefer not to pollute their city and their lungs with exhaust gas? It's discrepancies like this that make it kind of difficult to understand this world sometimes.

Nonetheless, I really like this "post-war fantasyland", as Gladstone himself describes it. It breathes with life and colours. It's diverse, in terms people, cultures, and philosophies. I like the hostility between the clergy and the Craftsmen. There's a great deal of politics, and legal stuff that make this world more real, and down-to-earth.

Just like in the case of Full Fathom Five, I ended up liking the world more than the story itself. It's a solid story, a competent mystery with a lot of dark turns and juicy conspiracies. Some questions are raised about morality, duty, faith, and corruptibility of the church. However, the book doesn't delve very deep into these subjects. The characters here deal with quite heavy issues, but once the main conflict is resolved, these issues kind of... well, I wouldn't say go away, but the discussion kind of stops there.

The language is beautiful, but it lacks the poetry, the nuance that made Full Fathom Five so great, but that's more of compliment to Full Fathom Five than a critique of Three Parts Dead.

All things considered, this is a confident entry in a series with a lot of potential. I can't wait to go back to that world.


My rating

Plot: 4 stars
Story: 3 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 3 stars

Total: 3 stars

You can read more about the Craft Sequence on the author's website, MaxGladstone.com