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Read any good books lately?


Gabez
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I've been reading Discworld again lately. Recently finished Witches Abroad and Small Gods (which is unlike most of the others, but in my opinion very well done), and now I'm at Lords and Ladies, but I probably won't finish that in a while, since college is starting again. Also, I'm reading James Joyce's Ulysses, slowly but surely.

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I've just finished the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy by Philip Pullman. Incredible stories. Impossible to tell what will happen after Northern Lights (Uhh, Golden Compass for you North Americans). The Subtle Knife just flies off on this tangent, and all is wrapped up with Amber Spyglass.

 

I still can't believe there was a Christian backlash in the US so strong as to probably kill any chance of movie sequels to Golden Compass. Ironic considering it'd dogma and 'blindly following organised religion' that is the central theme.

 

Thank goodness I cane to this series late, and didn't have those agonising waits between books!

 

I don't have time to read very often, so this last month with my nose in those pages was a really nice diversion.

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I still can't believe there was a Christian backlash in the US so strong as to probably kill any chance of movie sequels to Golden Compass. Ironic considering it'd dogma and 'blindly following organised religion' that is the central theme.

 

I haven't read the book (although they're highly recommended) but in all fairness, the reason their probably won't be a sequel to the movie is because it did badly at the box office and...really, it wasn't that good a movie. From what I've heard, the movie didn't end in the same place where the book did which hurt things a bit as the director seemed to be focussing too much on giving us a cliff hanger ending like the first Lord of the Rings did without actually earning it. Most of the rest of the move was rather weak as well, which is a shame considering its ensemble cast.

 

Oh, and the movie played down the "religion is nothing more than a controlling establishment" theme considerably so that people wouldn't be offended and I have a feeling that hurt the movie as well since it was one of the main themes of the book.

 

Really, the movie just wasn't a decent adaption and was a poor movie overall. From what I've heard, there are talks of sequels, but I think the only reason they'd do it is so New Line didn't have a movie with a story that didn't actually finish.

 

Oh, and funny thing, Pullmans original Americanised title for Northern Lights was "The Golden Compasses", the plural suggesting he was talking about a pair of compasses, used to chart a course over a map or draw a circle. It somehow evolved with the US publisher to "The Golden Compass", suggesting it refered to the very uncompass like device the girl had. :p

 

Oh, and just to keep things on topic, I just read Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox. Enjoyable read, if a bit short, it was enjoyable, especially in the fact that it's one of very few stories about time travel that didn't actually end up with a paradox (despite the title of the book).

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Yeah I want to read the new Artemis Fowl as well -- and don't forgot I was the one who got you into that series, Joshi!

 

You're a bit wrong about the Golden Compass movie: whilst the reason that the sequels probably won't get made is because it did badly in the box office, the reason it did badly at the box office was because of Christian nuts. Probably, anyway. It did extremely well outside of America. And I don't think it's a bad film at all. I think it's a good film. Not as good as it could have been, but good all the same.

 

The director was actually forced to cut the ending off by the studio -- the proper ending was filmed, but a decision was made at the last minutes by suits.

 

I'm not sure one of the main themes of the books is "religion is nothing more than a controlling establishment": that's just too simple. Rather, it's "controlling establishments should always be rebelled against; religion is one example of an establishment that can be overly controlling." Pullman doesn't think that the church is the source of all evil. But parts of it have been in the past.

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Yes I remember you got me into that. :p And just to rub it in your face, my local Waterstones had a bunch of the new books signed by the author, one of which i managed to get my hands on (not like they were disappearing fast, Colfer's one hell of an underrated childrens author). ;)

 

And as for the Golden Compass, I guess it just comes down to preference. I remember looking forward to the film and then feeling a little let down when I saw it. The little girl's acting was fairly wooden, somewhat like Daniel Radcliffe in the first couple of Harry Potter movies and the battle at the end seemed a little forced (I'm sure it was in the book, but I feel the book would have led up to it rather better). And overall, even the polar bear fight wasn't enough to save the film (I like it, but I just felt the rest of the film pailed in comparison). That said, I do want to read the books, not because I believe that every book is automatically 10 times better than it's film counterpart, but because a number of the ideas in the movie interest me.

 

I know there was a fair amount of controversy over the movie from Christian Fundamentalists, but I didn't know how far reaching it was. Still, at 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, the word of mouth on the film wasn't good either.

 

Still despite whose fault it was, the ending was rather abrupt and bad, which left a sour taste in my mouth (and made me wonder what happened to the couple of scenes I never got to see which were in the trailer, according to Weitz, it'll be put on the front of the sequel instead, should it be made) .

 

And as for the theme of the book, well I haven't read it so I guess I'm a little confused by it's themes. And just to clarify, what I said up there was what I thought the theme was, not what I believe (if we wanted to go into it, I wouldn't agree that religion is an institution we should break down because it's the root of all evil, I believe it's a tool used by the corrupt to do heinous things and should we get rid of religion they'd just find another tool).

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I definitely agree with what you said about religion... I recently read (to go back to topic) Arthur C. Clarke's "Songs of Distant Earth" (also an album, thanks Remi!) I loved it, but there was an anti-religious strand that bothered me. Religion was portrayed as the bane of humanity, and life without it was practically a Utopia. Bollocks to that!

 

I'm now reading P.H. Newby's "One of the Founders," and loving it.

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Early in the summer I bought "The Making of Star Wars" and it has all the "lost interviews" plus lots of cool artwork and such, its very interesting, covers the entire production.

 

I also just picked up Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, wanted to reread it before the new movie came out, and even though the movie was delayed I was still in the mood to read it.

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It was the movie that made me pick up the His Dark Materials books. As gabez says, it did very well outside the USA. I thought the movie was great, didn't think Lyra's actress was wooden at all. And there's no way the cutoff point (which gave the movie a happy ending) was anywhere near the cliffhanger that the book ends on.

 

Also, the real anti-establishment stuff comes in books 2 and 3, it's really not that big of a deal in Northern Lights.

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I definitely agree with what you said about religion... I recently read (to go back to topic) Arthur C. Clarke's "Songs of Distant Earth" (also an album, thanks Remi!) I loved it, but there was an anti-religious strand that bothered me. Religion was portrayed as the bane of humanity, and life without it was practically a Utopia. Bollocks to that!

 

People seem to attribute all the atrocities of the past solely on religion which is rather myopic. Attrocities were committed because corrupt people craved power and they used religion in order to get it. Had they not had religion, they'd have found something else to use as a scapegoat for their madness. If religion were not around, we'd still have the crazy and the corrupt.

 

It was the movie that made me pick up the His Dark Materials books. As gabez says, it did very well outside the USA. I thought the movie was great, didn't think Lyra's actress was wooden at all. And there's no way the cutoff point (which gave the movie a happy ending) was anywhere near the cliffhanger that the book ends on.

 

It was the first two Harry Potter movies that made me pick up those books, but by no means were they good movies. And yes, Golden Compass did well outside of the US, but they were still critically slated and the public view wasn't much better. I never attribute the quality of a film by how well it does at the box office, if anything I attribute the films marketting to that.

 

And it's not that fact that the movie had a cliff hanger, but simply that it didn't earn it. But again, these are just opinions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My dissertation tutor told me to read Don Delillo's Libra, about the Kennedy Assasination, and it immediately jumped into the category of 'favourite books of all time'. Now I'm reading Underworld by the same author, and it's even better. The man is a genius, it's really kind of dispiriting.

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  • 1 month later...
Good, now go read "And Then There Were None" and try to guess the solution. :)

 

I read this yesterday. Pretty scary but also not very believable. Lots of fun though.

 

HOW the killer did it was obvious, even to the last twist. I just thought the killer was someone else. I thought it was...are there any spoiler tags?

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Yes, there be

spoiler tags!

 

OK, so I

totally guessed the fake death, and I knew that it was one of the people under the sheets. My guess was either Justice Wargrave, or Mrs. Rogers. I went for Mrs. Rogers, even though some evidence pointed-to the contrary, and for a while I really thought I had him with Philip Lombard. But it was Justice Wargrave. I knew that the killer would fake his death a few pages in (thanks to the back of the book: "Only the dead are above suspicion") and I knew I was right by the time Blore died, but I wasn't expecting Justice Wargrave to be the killer.

 

 

So, almost had it. I had the HOW, not the WHO.

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Hmmmmm!

My book never said anything like that on the back! I checked out the movie versions and it looks like only the Russian one from the 1980s kept the original ending. Sucks...

 

Dama Agatha adapted the book into a play, in which she changed the ending to

Wargrave revealing himself before Evra Claythorne commits suicide; at that point, Lombard, having survived Evra's shot ("Woman can't aim straight enough" apparently), kills Wargrave; I think they both then hang themselves, or get married. I can't remember. There's a lot more dialogue in the play

 

 

So maybe the films used her ending. Although some films just changed the setting and kept the story intact.

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In the 1945 movie, Wargrave does reveal himself and Eva only pretended to shoot Lombard. Wargrave commits suicide before finding out, expecting Eva to either hang herself or get hanged when they find her alone with 9 corpses. There's then a happy ending.

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  • 2 months later...

Here's what I read from September 2008 till today.

 

California Girl - by T. Jefferson Parker (8/10).

 

Four brothers in California all meet and get acquainted with the one, same girl, who, a few years later, turns-up dead. By this point the sixties are in full-sway and one is the detective assigned to the case, one a reporter, one a Priest and one somewhere in Vietnam. It's great in that the characters are well-defined enough to each react to the death in a different way that makes them question their beliefs and foundations. It's a thoughtful read, not a flat-out thriller.

 

And Then There Were None - by Agatha Christie (8/10)

 

Ten people arrive on an island, invited by a mysterious stranger. As they eat dinner without their host (who is absent), a voice booms that accuses each and every one of them of a murder, and says they will all die before the week is up.

 

Even though a little mechanical and not entirely believable, the book is the world's best-selling mystery and probably deserves it. It's just one of those books that'll make you smack your head when the killer is revealed. Personally, I figured out how the killer was doing his/her thing early on, but the identity came as a surprise, I must admit. Very scary book, I might add. I loved it.

 

Old Flames - by Jack Ketchum (9/10)

 

Two horror novellas that twist and turn. I won't tell you what they're about but they're lots of fun. I liked the second one better - "Right to Life" makes a strange, disturbing case for life in the abortion debate (or so I interpreted it, anyways). The first is a little conventional, but then again it isn't. Some people might find them boring but I loved them so much I already bought another two Ketchums and am halfway through Off Season.

 

Being John Malkovich: The Original Screenplay - by Charlie Kaufman (8/10)

 

It's interesting to see how the script went from this strange mess to the final film, no less strange, maybe a little less messy. The brains are there, the beginnings of the writer that would go on to write Adaptation., Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and this year's Synecdoche, New York.

 

Little Scarlet: An Easy Rawlins Novel - by Walter Mosley (7/10)

 

It's a little like a sequel to Do the Right Thing. Set in LA after the "black riots" of the 1960s, it follows an African-American detective as he tries to track down a white man believed to have been the last person to see a murdered black woman alive. It helped me understand a little bit what it feels like to be discriminated against. But there's this obsession with this writer with "white halls," "white ceilings," "white white white". It kind-of gets annoying.

 

Nine Stories - by JD Salinger (7/10).

 

Just nine stories that could only have been written by the man who wrote The Catcher in the Rye. I think a lot of it is just, "I wanna eff with your mind," but it's also a little fun when he does that, I have to admit.

 

The Secret Adversary - by Agatha Christie (7/10)

 

Fun in the Christie sense. The new protagonists Tommy and Tuppence are a fresh breath of air away from Poirot and Marple. They're just a pair of dimwits way in over their heads. The romantic subplots were dumb, though. The ending was a surprise. I love how she used cliches to both lessen the work (unintentionally) and make it better (intentional).

 

Murder on the Links - by Agatha Christie (7/10)

 

A fun mystery novel, but I figured everything out a good twenty pages before Christie lets on. It relies too much on things like chance for me to say it's "great" though. Still, most people seem to be surprised by the identity of the killer.

 

The Man in the Brown Suit - by Agatha Christie (6/10)

 

One of those off-series novels she writes. It basically follows a somewhat boring protagonist as she decides to find "some adventure" in the high-old Romantic sense. I have to admit it was just fine. The stuff of early-20th Century English girls in their daydreams.

 

Poirot Investigates - by Agatha Christie (2/10)

 

Just bad. Plain old BAD. Some short stories that make no sense, that aren't any good, and that are just so goddam boring. Avoid.

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - by Agatha Christie (9/10)

 

I have to admit that at this point I'd begun to doubt Agatha Christie - the last two were mediocre, and the two before that were only "good". But this was great, even better than And Then There Were None.

 

I wrote down a list of all the suspects, and then re-wrote wrote down why I thought each was the killer, then presented the argument against (hey, it was a slow weekend). And then I circled the killer's name, thought "Gotcha," shook my head and said "Nah, impossible," then got sucker-punched. Highly recommended. So simple, yet so brilliant.

 

The Big Four - by Agatha Christie (3/10)

 

A stinker. Just forget it, it's deus ex machina after another and half the time you're thinking it's a James Bond story.

 

The Mystery of the Blue Train - by Agatha Christie (5/10)

 

Not bad, not good. I actually don't remember that much about it, even though it's been barely a month. Which says how "meh" it is.

 

The Big Sleep - by Raymond Chandler (9/10)

 

Tired of Agatha Christie, I decided to go ahead with some Tim Schafer recommendations (Chandler is one of his favourites) and read this. Man, it's just so good. It's so freaking convoluted but it falls nicely into place (well...not entirely). It's a totally hardboiled novel, with a detective that's more badass than most "awesome"/Kratos-ish video games characters put together. And it's just so funny.

 

Raymond Chandler, wow. Definitely reading more of his work.

 

"Shakespeare" By Another Name: The Life of Edward de-Vere, the Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare - by Mark Anderson (6/10).

 

Basically makes a case for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, having really been Shakespeare. Good case, but it wouldn't hold-up in court; it also twists facts around too much. Move along.

 

Rosebud: the Story of Orson Welles - by David Thomsen (7/10)

 

It's one of those "intellectual" biographies. The author basically loves the man's work, likes the man, and hates anyone "dumb" (he uses the word "intellectuals" maybe ten times in the book). There's this really silly tendency to put "conversations" between himself and the publisher about Welles that explains things, with dialogue like "In walks the publisher extraordinaire, brandishing a legal letter." This is the publisher talking. Ugh.

 

The Life and Death of Harriet Freane - by May Sinclair (8/10)

 

It's not a biography. It's a novella about a girl called Harriett who can't stand the change that's going on around her life, and resolves to be "beautiful". Very stream-of-consciousness. Reading this made me feel like I was in that zone between being asleep and awake, neither here nor there.

 

Peril at End House - by Agatha Christie (8/10)

 

I went back to dame Agatha, hoping this wouldn't suck - and it didn't. Although I figured it out really early on, it was a lot of fun. Not a classic but it's really pretty good. But Poirot? Eat your heart out. I figured this one out before you did, mon ami. Way, way before.

 

Slaughterhouse-Five - by Kurt Vonnegut (9/10)

 

Woo, Kurt Vonnegut. This could have been a preachy book. This could have been a boring, super-serious book about the horrors of war. But it isn't. I know it works because, right now, my heritage is getting it in Gaza (850+ dead and counting), and I'm telling you, the fact that this book flits between being so very dark and actually having a sense of humour about it works. Probably one of the best novels I've ever read, and definitely the first political one to move me like this since Animal Farm.

 

Phew.

Edited by Kroms
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I've recently been in the mood for graphic novels, so I read Bone 5 and 6 (lovely stuff) and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (very good). After seeing the trailer for Watchmen, and reading the hype about the book, I would like to read that as well.

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