Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I originally read this as a teen after falling in love with the film. I have to say, it is very different than I remember it from my first read. I remember thinking that it was very dry and dull for the "good-bits" version. After getting half way through the book this time, I began to wonder if I was crazy or if I had read the actual book by Morgenstern. It's very likely that I simply didn't understand much of the subtle humor at that tender age.

I have to say, that they did a pretty decent job adapting the book to film. The flashbacks from the book were handled very well, and in a way that didn't lead to overly long and dull exposition. It's very hard for me to not compare the book to the movie in this review, I have watched the film times beyond counting (I'm on my fourth copy: one loaned and lost, a second the tape busted on, and a third scratched). I'd have bought the anniversary edition, but it didn't have enough bonus material on it. It is a favorite movie in my house, in fact, it's one of the movies that I'd bring with me to a deserted island.

Ok, back to the book itself. I was inspired to reread it because of the Twitter Geek Girls Book Club, a book club for girls that aren't into chick-lit or romance novels (at least not only those). Goldman's approach of "abridging" a historical satire to make it enjoyable for his son and recreate the story that his father read to him is endearing. His use of asides adds to a feeling of intimacy with the author, and the characters in a round-about way. The reader can feel his nostalgia emanate from the page, in much the same way that I have a soft place in my heart for the movie. So much of the book was in the movie that it is very hard for me to separate my feelings for the two.

There were several parts of the book that I wish had made it to the film, though I understand why they did not. Inigo (most everyone's favorite character) returns to the Thieves' Quarter after encountering the "Man in Black", a place that he hates. He is wishing that he could wear a sign that says, "Be careful, this is the greatest fencer since the death of the Wizard of Corsica. Do not burgle." That struck me as quite funny, most likely due to the use of the word burgle.

If you are looking for a gently funny book with action and adventure, or if you are simply a fan of the film, I suggest picking this book up. I plan on trying some more of his works. If The Princess Bride isn't your sort of thing, remember he also wrote "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kraken by China Mieville

Hello again, everyone. It was time to shift genres, high fantasy wasn't doing it for me anymore. I have been a fan of China Mieville since I read Perdido Street Station. This book is different than the other works I've read by Mieville. For one, it is set in what appears to be modern day London. The result is that people new to his work miss out on the beautiful landscapes he creates when he builds a world. However, new readers still get to enjoy his wonderful descriptive phrases and rich characters. Another difference is an increase in humor, though it is often subtle. I admit a certain fondness for the unsubtle line, "My Google-fu is strong".

We being our tale in the Darwin Center at the National History Museum on a tour with curator, Billy Harrow. The only object on the tour that any of the visitors are really interested in seeing is the preserved giant squid.This desire is stymied by the fact that the squid, and its entire tank have mysteriously disappeared.

Through this disappearance, Billy is surprised to learn of a giant squid cult that worships the Kraken, and its brethren, as gods. (This will not surprise fans and devotees of the Cthulhu mythos.) He also becomes aware that they have made him a profit of their faith, no pressure there for the unassuming young man. He also become aware of a London he has never known, a kind of magical and mystical second London hidden in the commonly seen city. The search for the missing squid becomes a battle for the continued existence of the world and all those residing upon it.

In many ways this is an adventure tale, it is also an ends-of-the-world story. No, I did not make a typo when writing ends, as we all know someone is always predicting the end of the world. It is no different in the universe created here by Mieville. The difference in this universe is that it is a real possibility that the predictions might become reality. There are several points at which the story takes a rather surprising turn. Part of a speech given by the ultimate villain of the story really spoke volumes of truth to it, my friends will probably know the part that speaks to me.

I listened to this book on audio, and for the most part the audio served me well. The ending seemed to take a little too long to wrap up for me, though I think this was influenced by listening to it rather than reading it. Mieville is frequently deep, and I think the ability to reread a passage would add much to the story. I will have to reread it in textual format, I know I missed some of the subtly by not looking at the text.

Though I did not enjoy this book, quite as much as Perdido Street Station. I'd recommend reading it.