Thursday, March 31, 2011

"And Another Thing..." By Eoin Colfer [Jeff's Preview]

Let me make one thing clear: I love Douglas Adams.

His "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" was one of the first books I'd ever read that was not a chore to get through. At the time - 5th grade, to be exact - I capital h Hated reading. But Adams had a pleasantly humorous writing style that I latched right onto.

The bewildered looks on my 10-year-old classmates' faces as I described the action and characters of the book - in my own, meandering, 5th-grade way, none the less - must have been very amusing to see. (Except, I guess, if you were my teacher at the time, who did not grade my presentation very favorably (though I've always been convinced that that was because of a conspiracy involving my teachers and their dislike of this boy-child who was so unlike the smart (and dull) older sister who they'd had just three years earlier.))

But I was hooked. He fit right into my conception of high comedic art. (On a crooked shelf crammed between Monty Python and Abbot and Costello) And, unlike so many other things you come to at the age of 10, he continued to be a source of mirth and inspiration throughout my life.

And when he died, I cried.

And when they announced that the guy who wrote "Artemis Fowl" was going to pen a new book in series, I was livid. "How DARE they?!" I raged. The pain of realizing I'd never get to read another new word by one of my favorite authors was compounded by the fury of being given impostor's words and told "here's more of the same". As if writing like Adams was something that could be figured out and passed on to another.

Next thing I knew, the book had been out for nearly two years and I realized I wasn't as mad about it anymore. Funny, that, eh?

So I'll pick this one up and give it a fair shake.

At its best, it'll read like it was written by someone doing a very good impression of Douglass Adams. At it's worst, I'll feel like I've invited a stranger over to my house and given him crayons and a first edition copy of "Dirk Gently" and said, "Go to town!"

But one thing that I won't allow this book to do is change how I feel about Douglas Adams.



FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): D


BUY IT: "And Another Thing..." By Eoin Colfer

"And Another Thing" Eoin Colfer [Tim's Preview]


Douglas Adams was my childhood hero. i love the guy. i came to him through a series of audiocassetted radio plays, rented from my local library. And through an aggravatingly difficult word-based videogame that's now legendary. I think my friend John first told me to check him out. After listening to the plays i went out and read the books, all three in the trilogy. A few years later, while dropping my older brother off for his first year at college, i spotted it. bright blue cover, green smiling planet with his thumb out. the...what? the FOURTH book? in the TRILOGY? it was madness. And of course that wasn't the end. and apparently it's still not.

I don't know Eion Colfer well, but i did read one of those Artemis Fowl books (a graphic novel version of it) a few years ago. i liked it, but he didn't come across as particularly Adams-esque. And that's the big test for this book. will it come across as pure Adams, partly adamsesque, a pale imitation, or something altogether different? I've always held that, since he started in radio, Adams' voice is stronger than most modern writers. And really, as amazing as the plot or the "journey" or what have you might be, it's the voice that carries it all. And I think its safe to say that Adams could write the autobiography of a coffeepot and we'd be celebrating it years and years later. He was a spinner, one of the best.

I've seen pullquotes of Colfer's recently that tell me he's probably up to the task. he can be funny, and i've a feeling he'll ease into Adams' meter ok.

There's this documentary i saw about Philip k Dick. A friend of his is talking about how much he misses him. He says something like "when someone dies, i think what you miss most is just talking to the person. the sound of their voice". That's why i'm hoping, even if i know it's a trick, that i'll be fooled into feeling like this great voice is back in my life again, for a little bit. Because I know Adams is a famed atheist, friend to Richard Dawkins, and would probably be aghast if i suggested that his voice was somehow still "alive!". But i'm not asking for that. Not really. After all, the radio plays were his voice being spoken by other people, weren't they? So maybe this has a chance. I hope so. Because Adams was my childhood hero, but he's sort of my adult one as well. And i like listening to him.


FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+*

*(because B plusses always seem better to me than A minuses. A minuses are snooty perfectionists, but they're not even that great at it. They're low enough to to be seen sniffling their noses at the 'lesser grades')

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"I Am Number Four" by 'Pittacus Lore' [Book]

Going into this one, I'll have known that this was a manufactured creation by James Frey (the guy who lied to Oprah about drugs!) Since then, he's gone from squandering his own talents to exploiting other people's. See, he runs Full Fathom Five, a book "incubator" which can take author submitted works, strip away their name, and publish them however they see fit, for no further compensation. [citation required, citation FOUND]

Egregious.

Was I able to overlook this fact while reading this book? No. The whole time, I'll have been thinking, "I am part of the problem". By giving my money to buy this book, I have supported this flawed system.

And how many rubber-necker / gawkers-at-the-horror like me do you think there are buying this book? Enough to line "Mr." Frey's pockets a few times over, probably.

My guilty feelings will be all-too-painful when, upon completion of the book, I'll realize that I'm curious about what happens NEXT! I'll be in quite the moral conundrum, when the second book in the series is released, I can tell you.

Of course, once the movie comes out, and these books become the next Harry Potter Twilight, I'll be able to say, "I read those BEFORE they were popular." Which won't make me any more popular. Especially amongst the 15-year-olds who are the target audience for these Young Adult novels. So: CREEPY!

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): C+




BUY IT: I Am Number Four at Amazon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TRON: LEGACY (2010) [Jeff's PRE-view Review]

It'll look cool. It'll sound cool. I'll WANT it to have been cool... but, alas, it is too much the progeny of its parent.

I think we can all be honest with each other - this is a safe space - once you remove your child-hood nostalgia, the original TRON was bo-o-o-o-o-oring!

Sure, it looked cool. And it sounded cool. And you'll WANT it to have been cool... but as you watch it today, you will find yourself falling asleep.

Even worse, you'll be watching it, for the first time since the 80s, with a friend of yours who has never seen it. And you'll have been going ON and ON about how awesome the film is and how you just can't believe they've never seen it, because it's SO AWESOME. Then TRON will  make a liar out of you.

Looking way into the future: In 2040, TRON: LEGACY will make liars out of a another generation of nostalgic movie watchers.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): C-


READ T's PREview 


BUY IT: Tron Legacy at Amazon

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil [1999]

Looking back, I should have realized what I was getting in to. After all, Kurzweil is a man who - if I remember correctly - is doing everything in his power to extend his lifespan so he can see technology evolve to a point where he'll be able to download his consciousness into a machine. And, thusly, live forever.

Wow.

So, it should not have been a surprise that some of his theories struck me as a bit... off. Even though he uses persuasive logic, and even though he arrives at his conclusions about the future in an unbroken chain of assumptions and deductions, I still found myself reacting, more often than not, with a derisive snort and a muttered "Yeah, OK!"

Of course, that's not to say the entire book should be discounted. He does make some interesting points and even if they are baseless assumptions about the end of humanity and the rise of machines, he'll still have made me think. Even as I discount his wild assumptions, out-of-hand, I'll come away with some questions about the future that I'd not thought to ask before. And I'll find myself mulling these over, long after I've put the book down.

Really, the best thing a book like this can be is disagreeable. Why bother reading a work such as this one that is preaching to your choir? Sure, you get to say, "TOO RIGHT!" a lot, and nod your head while you're digesting the oh-so-agreeable facts (to the outside observer, making you look like a bobble head and/or crazy person) but you only increase your stockpile of facts about a subject. No, a disagreeable book makes you challenge yourself to put - into clear thoughts - your own disputation of the author's theories. And to generate your own theories; to make up your own what-ifs. Make Uatu proud!

This book'll have made me do a lot of that. (Making up my own theories, that is, not making Uatu proud.)

Or, at the very least, it'll have given me some ideas for some short sci-fi stories. Either way: Win!

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+


BUY IT: The Age of Spiritual Machines at Amazon

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360 game 2011]

This sequel will turn out to be "more of the same".

Which, in this game's case, will mean, "It's cool. And kinda creepy. And it's really fun to shoot limbs off of these thi-WOW!DIDYOUSEETHAT?! WHAT WAS THAT?!?! I'm freaking scared!!!" Follow that with a couple days in which I'm too busy to play it at all.

Those days then stretch into months.

And when I remember I've not finished it, I'll load it up only to realize I've forgotten the controls ... and what my missions were - and, really, the whole point of why these undead/mutant/weirdos are even crawling all over the ship. So, I'll wander around the spaceship, all the while complaining, "Was the camera so jittery last time? Was everything so dark? I can't see a THING!" And then I get a bit nauseous and stop playing after 15 minutes and put the game aside.

Probably forever.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): C+


BUY IT: Dead Space 2 at Amazon

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Meltdown" by Ben Elton

Oh, Ben Elton. You are nothing if not consistent. Churning out book after book of enjoyable, heavy-handed morality tales! I do so love them.

Let's see ... he's already skewered the  "big issues" of: The environment, healthcare, drugs, pregancy, TV reality shows ... (and more!) ... so what will "Meltdown" be about?

From that cover, I'm saying this one is a comedic/satirical romp through a world-gone-mad of out-of-control economics. He'll show those Wall Street fat-cats a thing or two. SKEWERED!

"Meltdown" will have all the laughs and over-the-top poignancy of a Ben Elton book. i.e., by the end of it, there will be no disputing where  Mr. Elton stands on the issue. (As it will have been beaten into my head at every possible instance.)

But in an enjoyable way.

It won't even feel like his stock-standard approach to these books/subjects is wearing thin. Maybe by the next one.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): A




BUY IT: Meltdown at Amazon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Harmony" a Novel by Project Itoh [2010]

As I pull this book up on my Kindle, I'll wonder, "How did I ever even hear about this book?" And, with that, I will be on such uneven ground that it'll cause all kinds of problems for me, while reading this story.

I'll be going into this one 100% blind. I honestly won't remember why I added this book to my wishlist, in the first place.

Did I hear about it on a blog? As a "people who bought X also bought Y" list of recommendations, having bought and enjoyed whatever X was?

And yet, I won't read the back-cover copy, either. I'll think of it as "An Adventure!" I'll applaud myself for taking a risk! (Never realizing that this is the lamest kind of risk-taking anyone can ever partake in. ("Oh!", says Mr Knievel, "So, the risk you're taking is that you don't like a book? That beats MY canyon-jumping hands-down, that does!") Shut up, Evel! Let me live my own, non-be-motorcycled life!)

As a reward from my novelistic dare-deviltry, I'll spend way to long trying to understand - and come to grips with - exactly what kind of book this is ... too long "finding the tone". Then, just when I think I have it nailed down, the book will do something which will make me reevaluate what it's trying to tell me. So I'll spend a lot of time understanding my own thoughts about this novel.

Still - if I may judge a book by its cover (and why would you begrudge me that? After all, you are allowing me to judge a book on nothing but speculation, already!) - it looks like it's going to be dystopian novel. I tend to like those, so I'll probably like a lot of this one. Plus, it seems to have been written by a Japanese fellow. Now, one of my favorite books, "Battle Royale", is dystopia + Japanese, so that bodes well.

In the end, I'll realize I liked it ok, but would have liked to have known a little bit about it going into it.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B




BUY IT: Harmony at Amazon

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Hangover

I won't be looking forward to this one. Then I'll realize my bar is set so low, that I might actually be surprised by it. But THAT realization will mean my bar is re-set slightly higher - assuming I'm going to get SOME enjoyment out of. At which point, I'll have to adjust my expectations lower, again.

But then I'll remember that a lot of people I know - people who would not normally like this film - liked it. Then I'll think, "Yeah, but THEY went into it not expecting to like it! So if I go in thinking I'll enjoy it..."

And thus, I will enter into a cycle of cyclicality. A Carousel of Expectations, if you will.

My thoughts on this movie will remain SO ambivalent and in flux - yo-yo-ing up and down - that it will be merely a matter of chance and random luck if I actually enjoy this film at all. (The same kind of luck you experience when jumping onto a real moving carousel and find that you've been skewered in the back by the horn of the one wooden, ride-on unicorn that most of those rides include, for the more "fantasy-minded" of children. (e.g., "Wow, there was such little chance of this happening and yet my spleen is now a kabob.")

Look, people. This is a lose/lose situation for me, anyway. If I don't like it, well: a) Everyone'll just say "You don't like anything, Jeff" and make my heart hurt because I realize my friends believe I am dead inside or b) I'll still have wasted 100 minutes of my life.

But, as I've always said that, "I don't like 'those kinds' of movies", and I DO like it, I'm a traitor to my own mind.

So, in the end, no matter if I like this movie or not, whenever in conversation the subject of this movie come up, I will be forced to say, "The Hangover? Nah. I never saw it."

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): D+




BUY IT: The Hangover at Amazon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Devil

During this movie, I will have only one thought: "How did I end up here?"

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): F-
















BUY IT: Devil at Amazon

The Day of the Triffids [Book - 1951]

Being a new John Wyndham fan, since very recently having  read "The Midwich Cuckoos" and "The Kraken Awakes", I will attack this book with gusto before remembering that those previously-read works all ended rather terribly. (For the characters, not the reader.)

So, I'll try and adjust my mindset - to be ready for the worst. In the back of my mind, I will be saying "this won't end well", but will still have an even deeper hope that I am wrong. (I won't be.)

Also taking place in my brain will be the effort to reconcile the events in the book with the filmed version from 1962 - even though I saw that version over 20 years ago and don't remember a single thing from it. "Do I remember this character?" "Do I remember the plants (for I DO remember the villains are plants!) looking as described?" "DO I remember the locations? Names? Action? No and No and then No No No will be the answers, but I'll continue to try and remember. This distraction might possibly be a disservice to the book, but I won't be able to help myself.

Even now, I have a fuzzy mental image of a washed-out, too-blue too-green frame of film of someONE running from someTHING. Therefore, I will read this book in the faded colors of a 60's sci-fi B-movie. So that's pretty cool.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): A-




BUY IT: The Day of the Triffids at Amazon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Despite (or because of) warnings to not raise my expectations, I will find this to be the best Resident Evil movie released in the last couple of years. It will perfectly fit the Resident Evil-shaped void in my soul that has been growing larger with each passing day that I don't see a Resident Evil movie.

At least once during the movie, I will turn to my wife and say, "I'm really glad that Milla Jovovich decided to embrace being an action movie star." I might then try to equate her to a young Sigourney Weaver. I might, then, launch into a "bit" about how weird "Sigourney" is, as a name. (Though I will only do so if it is a slow part of the film. But, c'mon! Look at that poster over there ---> Does that look like the poster of a film which will go more than 30 seconds without action?)


Any failings I find the movie to have, I will write off as my own fault for neglecting to see the film as the director intended: In 3D. 

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

TRON: LEGACY (2010) [T's PRE-view Review]

When the first footage for this TRON: LEGACY movieshow leaked, i was unimpressed. everyone i knew got angry at me. they yelled at me for hating everything. they threw fruit at me.
More footage leaked. More boring, dull visuals were offered. This lead me to suspect the story would be equally dull. but i was at least going to give it a chance. Jeff Bridges can't be all bad. I offered this altered opinion forth. It wasn't good enough. More anger from friends. More fruit thrown. I was pantsed.

Tron will live up to my expectations. And i'll throw fruit at everyone i know.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): D+