Why ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ gives almost all I wanted – book review

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★★★★ The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey is a perspective-flipping zombie road novel with a very great deal to recommend it. It starts off extremely tight-focused, homed in on one little girl and her experience of her bizarre, locked-box (Pandoran?) school, then explodes outward in a way most zombie stories don’t- digging into the science of the zombie infection, zooming into the epidemic hypocenter, and giving us a haunting sense of closure. All the gifts indeed. Yet- I can’t say I loved it. I’ll get into why after I say everything that was so good. There’ll …

Why The Maze Runner outruns all logic – movie review

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★★★ The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Dash is a good name for a book about running) is an infuriatingly good example of taking great liberal splashes of all the great stuff that went before (LOST, Truman Show, Hunger Games), and not learning the key lesson from any of them. It is fun, it is rollicking, but by the end (and after reading the synopses of its sequels on wikipedia) I just feel like it’s empty, like a jester’s sad bauble-bladder deflated of all air. Disappointing. But, if you’re not burned out still on the let-down cop-out ending of a …

Why Game of Thrones is a knockout bracket – TV review

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Before the last US election (2012) there was an intensely mad and squabblish Presidential Primary for the GOP, during which a whole heffalump of oddball candidates popped their heads up, beat the crap out of each other in televised debates, then died dramatically politically. At the end one victor was left standing to go up again his highness, Barack Obama, to become King President of all the realm. As it with the GOP, so it goes with the GOT (Game of Thrones). GOP & GOT Perhaps it is utterly obvious that everything we see in GOT is a knockout tournament …

Why Iron Man 3 had a soft-boiled spine – movie review

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I enjoyed Iron Man 3. Probably you did too. It broke all kinds of records, already made over $1 billion worldwide, and is currently sitting at number 5 in the top 5 highest grossing movies ever (behind Avatar, Titanic, Avengers, and Deathly Hallows). Not bad. But is it any good? Clearly it is. But come on, is it really any good? Is it solid? Does it twirl where it should twirl, stomp where it should stomp, and hard-boil eggs to a perfect yolky solidity? Uh, no. It does not. Here’s why. You shouldn’t have taken the last Reece’s piece! *** …

Why ‘Cloud Atlas’ is no ‘Magnolia’

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Cloud Atlas is not a normal movie. It’s epic, glorious, ambitious, complex, etc, but as you’ll have surely heard from other reviews, it’s not a normal movie at all. Rather, it’s a kind of sprawling poem, in film, that ruminates on weighty issues like the ‘natural order’ behind slavery, and the revolutionary forces that rise up against it. Over nearly 3 hours, it tries to blur 6 stories together, cross-cut over time and space, from 1849 on a South Pacific island to Neo Seoul in 2321, aiming for a climactic coda similar to Magnolia’s crowning ‘rain of frogs’. But in …

Why Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ needs rebooting

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Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is a blistering assault of techno-punk babble, metaphoric memetic conspiracy theory, and hubristically confident authorial voice, half-baked into a bun so undercooked it’ll likely stodge up your wind-pipe and throttle you. But also- brilliantly ambitious, stunningly complex, exciting, hilarious, and (still) so razor-cool you’re likely to embolize your brain on its bleeding edge. Let’s try to square that circle. Snow Crash was Stephenson’s 1992 breakout sf debut, which catapulted him straight to stratospheric comparisons with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, such was its hip density. To its supporters, it predicted a virtual internet …

Why the ‘Hunger Games’ was too calorie-lite

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I found the Hunger Games movie to be kind of disappointing. While I was watching it my mind wandered. I wondered how much time was left, and when we would get to the good stuff, only to realize the ‘good stuff’ had already happened. So why was this? Why did the movie fail to really engage me, while the book had me gripped? I think it’s largely down to two reason. ** SPOILERS ** Both halves of the movie are off, in different ways. In the first half we see Katniss’ world of District 12, which should set the life …

Why ‘Prometheus’ failed to deliver fire

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Prometheus was the titan who brought fire to humanity, kick-starting our ascent to civilization, for which he was punished with an endless fate of stomach-bursting (thanks to a liver-hungry eagle). There are clear parallels to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a story of genetic ‘fire’ disseminated on Earth by a god-like super-tech alien, who dies a hideous death for the privilege (with some delightful stomach-bursting to come later). Prometheus the movie is massively ambitious, with stunning atmosphere, effects, and scope, though it does not really deliver on its premise. There are serious problems with editing and structure, as Scott seeks to stitch …

Why Pixar’s ‘Brave’ missed bullseye

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There’s something wrong with Pixar’s Brave. It’s not anything to do with the acting, the animation (which is pretty stunning, especially around Merida’s fluffy hair), or even the surface level script. The problem is deeper, in the structural bones of the story, and I’ll tell you why, with SPOILERS abounding. First off, what is Brave? It is a classic-style, though (to my knowledge) brand new fairy-tale. It features a teenage princess, who doesn’t want to do what her very nice mother expects her to do (get married for the sake of her Scottish highland Kingdom), so by happenstance takes action …

Korean Story BOX

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My wife Su Young Lee (we got married last month) has just published her first book. It is pretty unlikely the audience of this blog will read it, but it’s still such a great accomplishment that I can’t not crow about it. The title is- 韓国語ストーリーボクス -Korean Story BOX, and it’s basically a mid-level fun textbook for Japanese students interested in learning Korean, filled with all kinds of insider insights on Korean culture- such as the lowdown on face lotion BB Cream (I hear it’s very popular with Japanese ladies), how Japanese are loath to schedule social engagements on a …