“Battle Royale” the Movie

April 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | 1 Comment

Battle Royale, while released in Japan in 2001, evidently was not available in the US for some time.  I’m happy to report that you can now get it on Netflix, along with… a sequel!  We watched it (the first one) last night and I thought I’d share a little.

The production values were quite high and better than I’d expected.  The film is in Japanese with an option for English subtitles.  There are a couple of spots in which the subtitle extends off both edges of the screen, and also a couple of spots when we had to go back because they flashed past too fast, but otherwise they’re in white with black outline and easy to see.  There is one scene at the very end that appears to have been translated by a different person, or perhaps not edited, because it doesn’t make as much sense.

The plot follows the book closely, with a few subtle changes and a slightly different ending.  Man, is it graphic!  It doesn’t take long before the blood starts flying.  Every time a character is killed off, the score is flashed on screen, in kanji right above the subtitles.  The movie is fast-paced, and there are a couple of scenes that wouldn’t make much sense without a familiarity with the book.

We found the book to be really funny, in a dark sort of way.  The movie had little of this humorous vein.  I found it more affecting – in the beginning schoolhouse scene, I actually found myself tearing up!

The book and movie versions of Battle Royale, while more similar than one might have expected, are two different beasts.  If you loved one you’ll probably love the other.  It helps to have a solid background in slasher films, though.

“Sandman Slim”

February 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Fiction, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim is a hilarious and profane joyride, a novel with enough juice to make a series, and something I hope someone is making into a film right now.

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On the first page we learn that the protagonist, Stark, has returned to Earth from years of living in Hell.  What follows is a rip-roaring revenge story packed with supernatural beings, great action sequences, and more costume changes than the film Elizabeth.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, though – you’ll have to enjoy it for yourself – but if you’re into vampire stuff, you might enjoy Sandman Slim for a slight change of pace.

“Genesis”

May 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Fiction, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

Genesis is a little marvel of a book.  What seems like a fairly standard sci fi “alternate future” turns out to be an utterly unpredictable stunner.

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There are only two things I can really tell you about this book without spoiling the story.   One is the fact that it’s really short and you can read it in a couple of hours.  The other is that, while it should be a movie, I don’t think there would be any way to pull it off.

Pick up Bernard Beckett’s book.  First, you can check out his cuuuute author photo.  Then you can enjoy an exciting exploration into some pretty cool concepts.

“Anathem”

April 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Fiction, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Nine-Hundred-Page Neal has done it again.  If you like ginormous science fiction novels that contain entire carefully realized universes, Anathem is the book for you.  If you’ve read anything else by Neal Stephenson, you’ll most likely have begun to feel the urge to read this the moment you heard it was out.  He has a tendency to develop diehard fans, because nobody else can do what he does.

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What Stephenson does is to lead the reader down the garden path, until what would have seemed like impossibly abstruse scientific concepts are actually comprehensible.  In the case of Anathem, he includes three capsule lessons in the back that can be incorporated into the story, or ignored if one isn’t that curious.  This is a clever technique in that it makes the reader feel just that much more alert and intelligent, and he is able to take the plot into places it couldn’t have gone in less capable hands.  Reading Stephenson’s books feeds your brain in the way that simple consumption of genre fiction can’t.

Anathem revolves around the idea of a monastic community that reveres science and rational discourse, while the secular world is the place for dogmatic religious ideas.  While the book is a classic space opera in some ways, it’s really about the nature of consciousness.  The conversations on this topic are absolutely irresistible.

Now, there are some tropes common to most sci fi.  I haven’t read much of it lately, so it took me about 100 pages to get rolling in this book.  For some reason, I tend to get irritated with the character names and their attempts to sound alien, yet familiar.  It also takes a while to get used to all the neologisms – Anathem has a 19-page glossary, and I found myself keeping a bookmark there to make it easier to refer to.  Once I had absorbed this material, I got sucked into the story, making this massive tome a fairly quick read.

I must share my favorite quote from this book, which is a massive spoiler, so only read it if you’re not planning to read the book:

“Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs,” I said.  “We have a protractor.”

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