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#687

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Finished The Stand, working through this as a smaller palette cleanser.

I am struck by how dialogue heavy the story is. Science Fiction in the 30s was really about putting a bunch of scientists in a room and letting them speculate on something unnatural. I still think I like The Thing film more than this book, however… But the book is MUCH better than The Thing From Another World. That movie is butt.


#688

I read The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, which I ended up really enjoying despite almost never reading modern romance books. It got me into the genre and now I’m on the hunt for good junk foody romance novels with POC leads. I’m currently on the Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.

I also finished Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey, who also wrote The Answers which is one of the best books I read which was released in 2017. She has such a grasp on that young, disaffected woman which Lorrie Moore and Miranda July have written extensively about. So if you like either of those authors, check it out.


#689

I finished Mortal Engines a couple of days ago. I’m going to rant about it but uh. Suffice to say I liked it, it has issues but it’s a solid YA book with a cool setting that I really liked. I’ll probably read the like 30 sequels it has at some point.

Big silly nitpicky rant and some spoilers

OH GOD THIS MOVIE WAS SO TERRIBLE BUT THIS BOOK IS RATHER GOOD.

Warning: This will be nitpicky but I just…need to.

I’m a firm believer that a movie adaptation does not need to be faithful to the book it is based on to be a great movie. I love The Shining (I actually like the movie a lot more than the book but that’s a rant for another day) however Mortal Engines manages to fail both at being a good movie and a good adaptation.

THE BEGINNING

The first like 30 minutes of the movie are almost shot for shot from the intro of the book and it’s genuinely very good in both instances. London eats a small town, Hester boards, she tries to stab Valentine (in the movie she succeeds but he’s fine. It’s a change that I don’t really understand because it doesn’t actually change anything) and is chased off of London by Tom who is booted off by Valentine to cover his tracks. Tom and Hester group up because Hester is injured, they get picked up by another town who pretend to be nice and then are going to be sold as slaves.

I’m not going to go shot for shot through the changes the movie makes from the book because that’d be pointless. But I specifically wanted to recap this intro section because it’s so close to the book and because where it diverges is mostly meaningless (and awful product placement.) However the part where it splits from the book is not just signposted, the script writer literally wrote into the script criticism of the book at this point in the movie. In the book, Hester and Tom remove a floor plating from their room and jump out, escaping before being sold as slaves. In the movie, they attempt this but Hester is too injured to make the jump out of the room and instead they are rescued by Anna Fang moments later. This makes sense and is a change that on the face of it I kinda like because yeah, it makes sense. Hester could barely walk at that point how did she make that jump? But the script in the film is so fucking bad that Hester may as well at this point go “I can’t make the jump, i’m too injured” then turn to the camera and wink.

After this point the movie diverges in a lot of ways from the book, although it still follows mostly the same plot it just cuts out a bunch of stuff and ruins every single character then turns into Star Wars at the end because reasons.

SO

WHY THE MOVIE SUCKS

Okay, i’m going to get really nitpicky about specific changes that were for the worse that helped ruin this movie but to start with let me just summary and say. The movie sucks primarily because it’s written terribly. Almost every character is reduced to shitty one liners after the intro, worst of all being Anna Fang, Valentine is reduced into generic villain, but even the characters who are similar to their book versions are just written so poorly that what worked in the book doesn’t work on screen. Also Shrike’s name sound so much like “Shrek” when being said out loud that it’s hilarious. But overall it does stay surprisingly close to the book in plot up until the end, redacting a lot of stuff but rarely adding additional fluff. The way I’d break it down would be

First act: Most similar to the book, overall very good. If the whole movie as this good it’d be a great movie.

Second act: Starts to diverge from the book to shorten it down for the length of a film. The writing is generally very very bad here, primarily because this section focusses on Shrike and Anna Fang. The former of which is reduced to saying “Kill Hester” over and over and the latter of whom is reduced to saying shitty one liners.

Third act: It’s Star Wars but bad and has almost nothing to do with the book other than the location.

Also, I’m going to focus on story and characters here but keep in your mind that after the first act the cinematography gets terrible. Like genuinely it feels like a different movie also in terms of how poorly shot and edited the whole movie was after Act 1.

THADDEUS VALENTINE

Portrayed by Hugo Weaving in the film (doing his best Sean Bean impression) and uh yeah, the changes to him are central to the changes to the whole plot and basically what makes the movie so bad.

To begin with, Valentine is somewhat mysterious to start with. We know he’s the Mayor’s right hand man, he boots Tom off London after he hears Hester claim Valentine killed her parents but otherwise is charismatic and generally comes off as a very affable and likeable person. He is outspoken about the class divides in London having risen up from being a scavenger to the upper echelons of society himself. Both the movie and the book do this, it’s great, he’s a great character.

Valentine murdered Hester Shaw’s parents long before the start of the book to take a piece of a weapon called MEDUSA back to London, which is used to rebuild the weapon which they intend to use to murder lots of people and basically make London an unstoppable monster. The big change the movie makes to Valentine’s character is that this is his plan. Valentine does this in secret somehow, murders the mayor, stages a coup and takes London off course towards Asia to start firing off Medusa willy nilly and kill everyone and “save London” because they’ll have so much to consume.

In the book this is the Mayor’s plan and Valentine is being blackmailed into doing it because he wants his daughter to grow up in high society and have a better life. This is much better for a variety of reasons but the main one being that book doesn’t reveal this until much later (in fact Valentine isn’t even in most of the book) and it is foreshadowed by an earlier encounter with a bunch of pirates which didn’t make it into the movie (which is fine because it’s rather superfluous other than this foreshadowing.)

These changes aren’t inherently bad but the way they are handled in the movie it basically just results in Valentine being an incredibly charismatic but evil villain the whole way through with absolutely no depth to his character outside of that. In the book what he did to get where he is puts strain on him and his daughter’s relationship in a way that builds and results in his eventual suicide by refusing to escape with Hester and Tom, despite Hester’s somewhat forgiveness of him seeing how hard he is trying to save his innocent daughter.

LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER

It’s heavily implied in the book that Valentine is Hester’s father and not her mother’s husband. But this only comes up like once in a conversation between Valentine and his daughter, Hester never learns about it and it’s kind of a non-thing. It’s only really there to show that Valentine was willing to kill someone who might be his daughter in order to build this life for his definite daughter.

In the movie, this revelation is made during the climactic battle between Hester and Valentine on the back of a ship during a fucking dogfight and oh god everything about it is the worst. He literally picks her up and dangles her over the edge of the ship and almost line for line repeats the Darth Vader father revelation from Star Wars. It’s insane and goddamn I hate it.

SPEAKING OF STAR WARS

The movie changes the whole final sequence so that instead of it being a struggle for survival for each of the characters and the big climactic defeat of the villain being caused by the fact he was literally meddling with powers he didn’t understand (in this case, old tech than they haphazardly rebuilt and didn’t know how to fix when it broke) to being a generic big budget action sequence that copies more and more stuff from Star Wars. There’s literally a sequence where a bunch of fighters are taking out guns so that someone can do a trench run. The action cumulates in Tom flying into the heart of London and blowing up the engines. It’s just bad and generic and literally just Star Wars. It’s boring as hell. As mentioned earlier, it’s also just not shot well at all and it’s a mess. They do these weird awful zoom ins every time a scene takes place inside MEDUSA and it’s hideous and I have no idea why it’s the way it is.

Other stuff:

ANNA FANG

I’ve mentioned a few times in this rant that Anna Fang only speaks in one liners in the movie but I can’t get across exactly how shitty it is. She’s damn cool in the book and the way they translated that to the movie was basically “she has a snarky one liner for every situation.”

VALENTINE’S DAUGHTER

Katherine I think is her name? I literally just finished this book an hour ago and I don’t remember. One of my complaints about the movie at the time was that she is a nothing character who does basically nothing. In the book she is a nothing character who does basically nothing but she also has a pet wolf. She exists solely to give Valentine a reason for being blackmailed, which in the movie isn’t even a thing so she may as well have been cut out of it entirely. She sucks in both though so whatever.

HESTER SHAW

She is constantly described as ugly and deformed after what Valentine did to her. In the movie she has a kinda cute scar but that’s it. This sucks but again, whatever. It’s a movie, that’s how this shit rolls unfortunately. It’s hard to market your movie when the protagonist looks like Two Face in TDK.

All in all, I’m glad I went on this journey of reading the book after seeing and hating the movie. It was fun in its own weird way. I definitely enjoyed it more than being excited for an adaptation of a book I liked only for it to suck at least. That movie was bad but it led me to reading a good book so it did something of worth.

FOR NOW THOUGH. I’m finally reading Record of a Spaceborn few and i’m so excited to get into it. A Closed and Common Orbit is probably my favourite book that I’ve read over the past like 5 or so years.


#692

I read half of Count Zero a while back, but stopped when I got busy. I’m now getting back to it. Count doesn’t have the tone of Neuromancer, and I think it suffers for it. There’s just so much to the FEEL of Neuromancer that elevates it to masterpiece, and yet Count Zero seems to drift in those moments of dream-like flow, but pulls out of it depending on the character. I’d say Turner’s perspective is most like Neuromancer’s tone, but Count Zero comes off more simplified, which is intentional but… I dunno, it isn’t GRIPPING me like the way Case’s story did.

God, I wish these Brazilian Covers for the books would come to the states. I’m listening to Count Zero through Audible, but I would gladly buy these to have them on my shelf.

Artist is Josan Gonzalez! https://citadel9.com/

By the way, does anyone have some more recent Cyberpunk work that has gone under the radar? I plan to read more foundational stuff, but I wanna explore the queer/POC side of the genre too.


#693

Those covers are fantastic.
I backed one of the artist’s ‘The Future Is Now’ books on Kickstarter, it’s wonderful.


#694

Trouble and Her Friends is a good one. I read it not too long ago and liked it quite a bit.


#695

I’ve heard of that one!

I saved When Gravity Falls and the Eclipse trilogy to my wishlist too. Though, I may finish the Sprawl trilogy with Mona Lisa Overdrive and Burning Chrome before I tackle the next… Unsure yet!


#696

I recently finished The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
It’s an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, complete with an English country mansion, full of characters who all have secrets to hide, and a character who must solve a murder that doesn’t look like a murder. Throw in a liberal amount of time-looping, and Quantum Leap style body-hopping, it makes for an entertaining (if a little meandering) whodunnit.


#697

nice covers! my gibson paperbacks from the 90s are boring in comparison.
Been a while since I’ve read these but besides Neuromancer, Burning Chrome stood out to me, it’s a collection of short stories
Cyberpunk:
Recently I read Autonomous by Annalee Newitz and Id reccomend that.
Always reccomend Schizmatrix by Bruce Sterling in terms of classic cyberpunk, though definations may vary on what genre it’s in…


#698

My main takeaway from 1Q84 is that my man loves writing about sex!


#699

Finally started Seth Dickinson’s second book, The Monster Baru Cormorant. No opinions of it thus far but the first book was one of my favorite’s of the year when it came out way back in 2015.



#700

I’m reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I really like it moment to moment but I’m about 30% through it and waiting for it to click as an overall thing for me, not sure I will stick with it. Has anybody else read it?


#701

I’ve read it, was a good read but not quite enough to be that memorable.


#702

Gravity’s Rainbow, attempt #8


#703

I read it last year and kinda felt the same way even by the end. There we’re definitely lots of individual parts of it that I loved but overall it didn’t really click.

I just picked up her second book last week, I’m hoping that’s better overall.


#704

I’ve been working my way throught the Horus Heresy series and while the quality varies wildly from book to book, I generally think there’s some really good stuff to be found. The best books so far have been the ones that more overtly deal with the inherent cruelty of the Empire and the Emperor of Mankind in particular, and fuuuuuuuuck there are some soul rendering bummers hidden throughout that whole awful universe. The fall of Horus is a great opening trilogy to the series, but I found that the stories of Magnus and the Thousand Sons, Lorgar and the Word Bearers and, to my surprise, especially the book “Betrayer” which centers around Angron and the World Eaters.

The more Primarch centric stories in general are really fascinatig to me, because you have these theoretically infallible demigods, who are venerated and worshipped by their soldiers, yet all of them are so crushingly flawed and tragic. The more I read from the series the more it solidifies just how awful and doomed the Empire was even before Horus fell from grace.

Also, giant space marine sword fights are kinda great.


#705


Finished American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett.

It’s a triller/horror novel set in a small town. The horror leans towards the cosmic/wierd fiction of unknowable beings from strange dimensions.

Reminded me a bit of Stephen King, and also Neil Gaiman … (a kind of lighthearted approach to horrible things that reminds me of Gaiman).

Been a while since I’ve read a page turner like this, enjoyed it and makes me want to read something like King’s The Dark Tower again.


#706

Good luck. I managed to do it on my third attempt. The trick was to realize that a postmodern novel requires a postmodern reader (i.e. i skipped/skimmed the boring tangents).


#707

I have heard that Pynchon intentionally included utter bullshit just to fuck with readers and critics, but I can’t actually confirm whether or not that’s true


#708

Any good zombie fiction recommends besides I am Legend (I know it’s vamps, but Romero has said he ripped the book off) and World War Z?

I’m looking for something that’ll get into the nitty gritty details about the collapse of the world. Like a contagion novel about zombies. Any ideas?