Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Movie Review: Fire and Ice

Someone had started a discussion about Ralph Bakshi over at AW, and since I’m only vaguely familiar with his Cool World, I decided to better acquaint myself with his work. I was able to watch the entire movie of Fire and Ice on Youtube, and now I’m paying the price for it with a groggy brain. This may or may not be a side-effect to watching the movie.

The rundown (edited from wiki): From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana and her son, Nekron, send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarol in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana, for Nekron’s sub-humans to kidnap Jarol’s daughter, Princess Teegra. Teegra makes an escape and comes upon Larn, the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf to save Teegra and to stop Juliana.    

If you think this sounds like every other epic fantasy then you’re right, it is. Not only that, it reminded me A LOT of the Taarna story from Heavy Metal the film, except I found Taarna to be much more interesting since it was a girl kicking ass rather than a girl constantly getting her ass captured. Geez, can’t these princesses keep themselves put of trouble? Though, Teegra (does anyone else find their names too similar?) isn’t all bad, she has some smarts and manages to elude her captors a few times and has a sense of dignity (despite her lack of clothing).

Taarna also rides a bird-dino hybrid, and funny enough, the heroes in Fire and Ice also ride similar creatures. Coincidence? Perhaps. Also, after watching Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal 2000, the violence in this film was rather tame, which isn’t terrible, but I was expecting a lot more gore. Or maybe it’s just me.

Nekron was the biggest disappointment. It would have been nice to see him more than just a bad guy, but a human as well, because the potential was certainly there, and don’t you just hate it when you see a missed opportunity fly by? Nekron could have been forced into this whole ‘world domination’ attitude by his mother, but perhaps deep down, that wasn’t what he truly wanted. Then Teegra comes along offering friendship and forgiveness, forcing him to see things in a new light. He would be conflicted: Stick with his mother’s plans or risk making new friends and allies? Now doesn’t that sound a bit more entertaining?

On a positive note, the setting and world is quite lovely, rich with detail and life. I like how the environment was just as deadly as the bad guys, and every step our heroes take could be their last. Also, I found the artistry to be very well done, though, there were times where I wondered what happened to Teegra’s nose. 
Can you spot her nose?
But alas, cool environments are not enough to make up for cardboard characters and overdone plots. Thus, I’m giving this 2.5 out of 5 stars. However, I won’t let this hinder me from seeing more of Bakshi’s work; it’s just clear to me that high fantasy may not be his niche.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: Bone Dance

Quick summary: Sparrow, a trader of old and extremely rare videos and CDs in a post-Armageddon Minnesota, gets caught up in an internecine fight between two Horsemen, the last survivors of a group of powerful telepaths who caused the apocalypse.

*WARNING: Possible Spoilers*

I'm not going to go into the worldbuilding in this review of the book, because it didn't strike me as the most impressive overall. However, that's not to say it's bad. I just want to focus on the best (and worst) bits of the book, which of course, is all in my opinion.

This is the first book I’ve read from Emma Bull, and I have to say I’m quite impressed. The writing is rich with imagery, there’s some bits that make you go ‘Wow!’ And I honestly wish I wrote some of this stuff, haha. For example, on page 270:
The drums hammered at me, cut openings in my skin, laid their rhythm-eggs in the bloody wounds and sealed them up, to wait for hatching.
 Another kudos is that this book is very well written omni-1st person. I know that sounds odd, most folks don’t think of 1st person PoV as being omni, but it can be when the narrator is retelling the story as an auto-biography. At certain points in the story the narrator (Sparrow) foreshadows or offers a bit of information that he couldn’t possibly have known at the time.

I think the 1st person narration works is because it’s written like limited 3rd person. At first I thought this was 3rd person because of the way Sparrow describes his surroundings – but in a good way!  Also, there’s good justification for this story being written in 1st person, which I can’t say the same about other novels, but I don’t want to spoil it.  

However, like all books/movies, there are some issues. One was pacing. For the most part, this novel had a thriller’s pace (i.e. fast with lots of shit flying at the MC), but towards the end it hit a speed bump and never fully recovered. Sparrow had to literally drag himself to come face-to-face with the antagonist Tom Worecski, and it just didn’t have the same build-up as previous scenes. I felt like the first encounter with Tom held far more tension, rather than ‘might as well get this over with’ tone.

The climax was equally anti-climactic, but when do dues ex machina climaxes ever feel worthwhile? Here we have Sparrow who has just built-up his persona in the hopes he’ll be a match for Tom and what happens instead? A god rides Sparrow, destroys Tom in the process, all in order to get into Ego, because for some reason, a supreme being can’t get into a building. It’s certainly not the worst ending I’ve read, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it makes me shake my head. But I suppose the point of the book was Sparrow’s journey, learning to accept who he is and his place in this world, which I can respect, but doesn’t make me any less disappointed in the climax.

Also, in the end, all these characters popped up out of nowhere with impeccable timing to help Sparrow. Now I thought Sparrow was supposed to go alone, but it seemed he was being followed all along.

However, because I enjoyed most aspects of this book, I’m going to give it 4 out of 5 stars. Rounding up a 3.7 star. I will certainly check out Emma Bull’s other books, such as her popularly acclaimed War of the Oaks.  

One last point I want to make. Despite this story occurring in a post-apocalyptic world and having bioengineered humans, this is NOT a science fiction. Now I’m talking tone wise, because there are quite a few scenes that are surreal and mystifying, giving this an “other worldly” feel. Also, the technology plays, at best, a minimal role. I suppose the best way to put it is: It feels like a fantasy world, unlike our own.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Living in a Monty Python world?

I was going to blog about something else, but my brain has been eaten by zombies, so going to cop out and go for pointing out the stupid (which is never hard to do).

 NY Archbishop Fears Gay Marriage Will Make Us Asian

The actual blog post

Once, there was a time when people said stupid stuff and others would just laugh at them and move on. Now, you get to be the target of  newscasters, Twitters, and blogs (and yes, I know the irony of this post).

How is this even news? Seriously. It's so absurd, it feels like it came from a Monty Python movie or something equally ridiculous. For me, I had a good chuckle at this, because I didn't take it seriously - I mean, how can you? The guy is clearly out of touch with reality, probably could use some help...and an atlas. He's on par with those crazy old ladies that keep a hundred cats in their home and who believe they can talk to their kitties. So why aren't crazy cat ladies seen more often in the news?*

I wouldn't be surprised if this were the result of a mad lib:

(adjective) (noun) will make us (noun).

Because this is the only way it can make sense. Or perhaps he's just an attention whore and thought up of the most ridiculous thing to say (a-la mad lib) to get viewers, kind of like how Lady Gaga dresses up in meat. Well, it worked.

Now back to your 'the world is a horrible, horrible place' and 'who-gives-a-crap' news. 

*Note: I'm not talking about ladies who throw cats away.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Being Experimental

I've put my novel aside for what will be a duration of 6 months. Long time, right? This was recommended to me by my undeclared writing mentor, because the novel has a few kinks that need working out, a lot of which I should be able to pick out with fresh eyes. Because you know how after staring at your manuscript for umpteen hours that you become blind to all the mistakes in it.  

So, in the meantime, I'm experimenting with short stories. And you know, it's quite a lot of fun playing around with styles, POVs, and pacing. It's nice, too, because if you mess up, you only messed up on a few thousand words. Better that than to mess up a whole novel. And that's the great thing about experimenting with short stories: you can apply what you learned to novel writing.

Yeah, there will be some techniques that won't be carried over, like ambiguity about the main character, since you sort of need to know the character if you're going to stick with them for an entire book. But you may learn a new narration technique that works for you, and it may really jazz up a novel. For me, I'm learning to reign back on some crazy metaphor use so they don't stick out like sore thumbs in my writing.

So if you're stuck on your novel or needing a break, but don't want to take a vacation from writing, try playing around with short stories. Not to mention, there are LOADS of markets where you can submit a short story and make a bit of cash. Check out Duotrope's Digest for magazines (mostly eZines) where your short story might pertain to.

btw, I've updated my reviews page with Pirates of the Caribbean 4 movie review. So check it out!
I'm also going to recycle a few reviews from Amazon, because my book review count is looking pathetic.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Awsome webcomic: 5ideways

 EDIT 7/5/2014: The web domain that formerly hosted the comic is now a food recipe blog. 

I know, I know. I've been particularly lazy about making blog posts, but there seems to be only so many hours in a day and my hours keep getting sucked away. One of these days I will reclaim those lost hours! Well...hopefully. Anyway, while researching about penanggalan (it's a vampiric witch that can detach its head from its body, entrails attached) I found this uber awesome webcomic: 5ideways!

I don't normally read webcomics, probably because I'm not much of a comic person, but this one had me hooked from the first sentence: Something went wrong the night I died.

The comic has an anime style, set on a post-apocalyptic earth where the majority of humans have either been eaten or transformed into monsters. We follow Tom and Alex as they try to find other survivors. They happen upon a girl named Emerald who isn't what she seems. They also team up with their old general from the army, who is now trapped in the undead body of a kid, and Axolott, a humanoid covered in mouths - mouths filled with fangs. The story is narrated by Tom's dead girlfriend, Corey, although, something has taken her form and still communicates with Tom. For better or for worse.

The bad news: This comic is unfinished and remains unfinished since 2008. Sadly, the artist has moved on to other comics, although, there is hope that she'll return to 5ideways. I just didn't want to see such an excellent piece of work fall by the wayside. (ha! get it?) The characters are real and very interesting,  I especially enjoy the banter between the general and Axolott, and the setting is creepy fun! And who knows, perhaps reading this will inspire you to come up with a topsy-turvy universe of your own.