Archive | March 2013

Book Review: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I’ve been kind of in the mood to read classics lately, so I decided to review “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll for this here blog. I’ve never read it before. Yes, can you believe it? A westerner who hasn’t read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” I didn’t know what to expect, really. A friend of mine told me once that the Alice in Wonderland series was very dark, but I didn’t get that at all from reading this book. He must have been smoking something, or I totally missed some grand sinister undercurrent.

 

Anyway, the book tells the story of young Alice who, while sitting outside with her sister, falls asleep and has a dream. I guess that’s a spoiler. The whole thing is a dream. I never knew that growing up (of course, I’d never read it). Every retelling I’ve seen on TV or in the theatre never gave me the impression with certainty that it was only a dream. I was always under the impression that Alice traveled to some strange new mystical world where magical things were commonplace. I guess not. She just nodded off in her sister’s lap.

 

Anyway, as an adult it was fairly easy to figure out that it was a dream. Lewis Carroll gave plenty of clues. There was a kind of discombobulated nature to the flow of the plot. Alice would be in one spot doing one thing, then things would kind of change in a vague surreal way so that she was now involved with something else: First she’s crying; then she’s swimming in a pool of her own tears with a mouse who showed up out of nowhere. There really isn’t a cohesive plot structure; it’s just a series of unrelated events with fantastical characters—talking animals, sentient playing cards, etc… The highlights were a game of croquet using animals for both mallets and balls, and a trial regarding stolen tarts. The Queen of Hearts, although she quite often yelled to have someone’s head chopped off, was far less sinister than I expected. Then, Alice woke up, and it was over.

 

Strengths … well, it gets a few points for being unusual. But that’s what you get for writing about a dream. It did capture the surreal nature of dreams fairly well. Well enough that I figured out it was only a dream. Weaknesses … well, since it’s only a dream, I really didn’t get too invested in the story. I found it kind of dull. Alice’s thoughts were interesting and did seem child-like, so that’s another testament to the author’s skill. The events in the story and the story itself were child-safe—not dark at all from what I could tell.

 

Anyway, I’ll give it three and a half out of five stars.

This review originally appeared on Goodreads on 2/17/13.

Reminder: Drasmyr Available In Print on Lulu.com

Yep, I did it; I took the plunge. My dark fantasy novel, Drasmyr, is now available as a hardcover book on Lulu.com for $24.99. It makes a great gift for yourself or others, particularly for those who want a physical copy of what previously was only available as an ebook. Get your copy today!

Movie Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is Hollywood’s latest magician movie. It’s been a while since we were wowed by “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist,” so apparently director Jay Roach wanted to get a new take on magicians. Unlike the aforementioned 2006 films, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is intended as a comedy. To that end, it has billed both Steve Carell and Jim Carrey, two of the bigger names in comedy. It also stars Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin.

 

The central character in the story is Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) one-half of a famous duo of stage magicians in Las Vegas. His partner is Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). Together they make one of the biggest acts in Vegas. At least, in the beginning. But then, sales start to decline. An up and coming unorthodox magician by the name of Steve Grey (Jim Carrey) a.k.a. “The Brain Rapist” is threatening to capsize their operation. They have to come up with a new act, and fast. But their first idea is a disaster. So much so, they wind up dissolving their partnership. From there, the story follows Burt Wonderstone and his decline into desperation, the subsequent reshaping of his character, and his eventual reunion with Anton Marvelton leading to their collaboration on the greatest trick in magical history. There is also a love-interest angle in the story, a young assistant illusionist named Jane (Olivia Wilde), but I won’t delve into that here as it follows pretty much the standard patterns.

 

Strengths: the movie successfully showed the evolution of Burt Wonderstone’s character from self-centered, egotistical, schmuck to a reasonably decent human being who even wins the girl in the end. It was also good for a few laughs. Jim Carrey had some classic moments, particularly at the end. Weaknesses: well, although the movie was billed as a comedy and it had access to the talents of both Carrey and Carell, it wasn’t quite as funny as I hoped it would be. Like I said, there were a few moments, but not enough, in my opinion. Also, Burt Wonderstone started off as such a jerk, I didn’t think he deserved to win the girl (not that he had any competitors) in the movie. It was just silly Hollywood being stupid following the standard: boy meets girl, boy is jerk, girl is repulsed, boy reforms, and girl falls in love. Whatever.

 

Although the movie was decent, there were no great moments. Nothing that had me laughing to tears. Overall, I’ll give it three and a half out of five stars.

Immortality

Another post on vampires? Actually, today, I’m taking a little detour. I’m not going to write about vampires so much as one of the defining characteristics of them: immortality. A vampire, whether it is Dracula, Lestat, or Lucian val Drasmyr, is generally considered immortal provided he or she is not slain by some pesky human or the victim of some other fatal twist of fate. With that in mind, I want to examine immortality. Why is it so appealing? Or, better yet, is it really appealing?

 

Clearly, at some visceral level, immortality is appealing. That’s usually one of the temptations to become a vampire (“Become as I. Strong. Immortal …). Writer’s wouldn’t use immortality as bait for us poor mortal humans unless some part of us pined to last forever. I think this is largely a result of the natural fear of death. Even if you are religious and believe in an afterlife with sunshine and flower-filled fields of leisure, you certainly don’t know it will be as you think. No one does. And because of that, there is always a threat of total annihilation as one contemplates one’s future death. The fix for such is, of course, to not die. And obtaining immortality somehow—be it through a vampire’s bite, or what-have-you—is a way to avoid death. Immortality, then, is a balm for the human condition. We fear death. We seek to avoid it. And so we set up elaborate fancies in which we imagine we will never die.

 

But is immortality all it’s cracked up to be? First, what are the positives? For me, I like to learn. I could learn advanced physics, and math, and a bundle of other disciplines that have always intrigued me. Curious about the nature of Infinity? You’ll have ample time to read up on the subject. Quantum Mechanics? All in due time. Intellectually, it would be great for the first few centuries or so. Then, I suspect, boredom would sink in. How much can you learn, how much can you know, before it all just devolves into meaningless drivel? I’m forty years old and some days I’m already tired of life; I can’t imagine what it would be like when I’m 4000. Yikes!

 

Worse, still, is the question of company. Would being the only immortal on the planet be worth it? If all the people you knew and cared about died, would it be worth it? I’d say no. That would be depressing in the extreme. Talk about loneliness. Soon you would become an introvert simply for your sanity: it would be too painful to befriend somebody, just to watch them die a few years down the road.

 

Finally, the last negative of immortality concerns the afterlife. If there really is one, and it really is quite nice, then becoming immortal would deny you such an experience. And that would hardly be good.

Reminder: Drasmyr Available In Print on Lulu.com

Yep, I did it; I took the plunge. My dark fantasy novel, Drasmyr, is now available as a hardcover book on Lulu.com for $24.99. It makes a great gift for yourself or others, particularly for those who want a physical copy of what previously was only available as an ebook. Get your copy today!

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