So a philosphoy textbook and a sci fi novel meet in a bar, hook up and then, 9 months later… Dune!

Dune: Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

So, as I may have mentioned, I love the TV movie miniseries Children of Dune more than any sane, reasonable person should admit publicly, thus proving any theories you might have been developing about me being a sane, reasonable person completely wrong.

Naturally, given my unhealthy obsession with that particular story, it was just a matter of time before I read the book. I had actually planned on reading the Dune books in order but I accidentally skipped Messiah.

Dune is complicated. I don’t just mean the world building, which is crazy complicated (like Tolkien level of crazy complicated) but like, from a narrative point of view and a readers point view and the authors point of view. It’s just complicated. The story itself is pretty amazing, and so intricately linked to the pages and pages of what is essentially philosophy that even though that much reflection and criticism and ideological banter should make the book miserably slow and cumbersome somehow doesn’t. I can’t really explain why political theory presented through the characters doesn’t bore me, but it doesn’t. Usually didactic texts make me crazy but for whatever reason, I really love it. I’m confused and conflicted by a book that I know shouldn’t be that good but just is.

I’d be interested to know what other people think about this book, if anyone wanted to read and share their thoughts.

Therefore, to flesh out this post a little more, I am going to talk about Irulan because she is one of my favourites in the miniseries. Which is why I was disappointed because in the book she’s pretty much Alia’s parrot almost until the end. Which is annoying and silly. In the movies she made it clear, that despite her rather miserable life, her husband’s children were her only concern and that she would die for them. She was strong, in a different way than Chani or Alia or Ghanima, because she lacked the ability to act, but she devoted all her time and resources to the children anyway, and that kind of sacrifice made her amazing to me. I was sad to learn that Herbert hadn’t treated her the same way.

This is leads me ask a bigger question about who stories belong to. Frank Herbert’s character wasn’t as wonderful as she could be, and in some ways there are traces of a male dominated understanding of the female characters throughout the whole story. She is such a unique and brave character in the books but never quite fulfilled her potential. I’m glad someone made her that way, even if it wasn’t the original author. I will always have my preferred Irulan now, because someone else gave her to me, and now she’s kind of mine too, because I’ve made a choice about how I will see her.

There’s a lot about what it means to be human, what it means to have power and what it means to believe in something greater than yourself in this book. So it’s lacking in what it means to be a woman, but it’s still a pretty powerful text.

Last movie I watched:

About Time. I think I need a support group for that movie. If anyone knows of you, let me know.

Last TV episode I watched:

Once Upon a Time. Which is so epic guys, just so epic.

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Eureka! I finally figured out… what I don’t like about these books.

The Land Of Stories #3: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer

This is a series I’ve been following pretty well, I think. I mean, I read them in order since I started this blog. And the whole time, something about them has bugged me about it. They’re funny and the plot has creative twists and the supporting cast are generally pretty wonderful and yet, something hasn’t seemed quite right about to me, the whole time. The voice, the narrative, the internal dialogue it all felt forced somehow.

But I think I’ve got it now. It’s not an authentic child’s voice. It’s written like an adult imagining how a child would talk and think and feel. And that will always leave it very flat to me I’m afraid. Goodreads seems to think it’s the bestest book ever written, but I don’t buy it. I’m a snob. I want Percy Jackson, I want Harry Potter, I watch Artemis Fowl and Alcatraz Smedry- I want language and personal thoughts and feelings and reactions that are distinct from all other characters. I don’t want to hear the writer coming through, bring his grown up speculations about pre-teens and presenting them like they make the characters deeper or better. I want to believe these characters could stand up and walk off the page, not think they’re puppets dancing along in front of their creator.

And it’s such a shame because there’s some really wonderful parts of the book. I love that Little Red Riding Hood is a narcissistic Queen in love with the frog prince. I love that Mother Goose has a goose named Lester and is a raging alcoholic. Goldilocks being a wild bandit is fabulous. Trollbella, the delightfully love obsessed childish troll queen is hilarious. Cornelius the fat, broken horned unicorn is just awesome. Grandma Pearl, the old lady that Connor and his crush kidnap from a train platform in London is my favourite character ever written for a bit of plot convenience ever.

I just can’t look passed the writing. I don’t need to hear Alex think “I don’t think Connor knows what’s going on” in one line and then Connor think “Something’s going on in the next one”. It’s lazy writing. I’m so over Alex monologuing for pages at a time about whether she can risk getting her heart broken, knowing what a broken heart can do to a fairy because you know what fourteen year old girls think about when they have a crush? Me neither, because I can’t speak for ever tweenage girl out there but it’s not a detailed risk analysis, that’s for sure. You could not tell Connor or Alex’s voice apart if there weren’t names, their styles and thoughts are so similar and while the supporting cast characters and fantastic, Even stylistic choices are poorly made. Sometimes five characters say line after line after line and the word “said” was used 5 times. It’s a creative story and the least creative writing ever.

Or maybe I’m being to hard on it, maybe I’m being a snob. That does happen. Like all the time. I’m a snob. Read it yourself.

Last movie I watched:

Circle of Friends. So cute guys. Benny is awesome.

Last TV shop I watched:

Witches of Eastwick. I don’t care if you don’t like it, I think it’s awesome.

Steam punk! I think. I’m pretty sure.

The Hunchback Assignments but Arthur Slade

In Victorian London Mr Socrates, as part of the Permanent Association, goes to France to see a monstrous child he’s heard rumours of. As part of a traveling show, he finds a toddler in a cage. But not just any toddler. His hump and disfigured face make him look barely human, but his ability to shift his face into other people’s faces makes him more than a demon; it makes him useful. So Mr Socrates adopts the boy and brings him to England, raises him to be the perfect agent. And when Modo is old enough, he is thrown into the streets of London, alone, with a mission to stop the greatest threat the British Empire has ever seen.

This book was super readable (or in my case listenable). It’s fun, fast paced and the characters are great. Modo is a sympathetic character, who makes mistakes and recovers from them as best he can, who is loyal (possibly too loyal) and struggling with his first crush. In a super cute way. He gets home sick, he gets sad, he gets tired just like most people. His supporting characters are great. Olivia is a strong willed, wonderful young woman, who also makes mistakes out of compassion. Tharpa, Modo’s martial arts teacher, despite some troubling colonial undercurrents, is a great mentor figure, even as he doesn’t quite belong in with English world of London any more than Modo does. Mr Socrates is a semi-father figure, who is both distant and cold and genuinely fond of Modo. I guess just a regular Englishman, or at least the stereotype of one. And I love them all.

The bad guys were evil (and also kind of scary). The plot was clever and twisting and very driven. But the really interesting thing, for a nerd like me anyway, is Modo himself. He is marked as different because of his disfigured body and I think it’s important. Slade does a good job of weaving Modo’s awareness of his face into the story, a constant reminder of his own self loathing and, no matter what he’s doing and how happy he is, he can’t quite separate himself from his face. And this is important I think, particularly because there are kids who have to live in a reality where they feel like they’re someone other than they appear to be, but they can’t detach from their own physical selves, even when it’s painful. That matters.

There are a bunch of them out there, so I’m looking forward to that, you know, whenever that happens.

Last movie I watched:

I have no idea. Maybe Mockingjay Part 1. Wasn’t that good.

Last TV episode I watched:

How I Met Your Mother. And now I know.

A case for reading things in order

Still Life: The Book of Elsewhere Vol 5 Jacqueline West

Normally, I don’t mind so much just picking up a book at random and just going with it. But this series was too good for that. Of course, it’s a little late now, because once I’d started it it was too good to not finish it. So I wrecked it for myself. And am therefore also going to wrecked for everyone else by talking about it.

Olivia lives in an old house with her two, absent minded, math obsessed parents, three magical talking cats and a street full of magical neighbours. But that’s not even the most interesting part of her life. The house used to be owned by Aldous McMartin, an evil wizard who can trap people and things in Elsewhere, a painted world that he has created. Aldous painted himself into a portrait but now has been freed and wants Olivia and her friends out of his house. Most of this has already been established by the time we get to the start of the fifth book and most of it is devoted to the final mystery of Aldous and getting rid of him once and for all.

This story was great. For many, many reasons. And there wasn’t a single character I didn’t love. How often does that happen?

Olivia is a pretty standard heroine, with lots of good virtues like selflessness and bravery and what have you but likable and fallible none the less. The three talking cats are my absolute favourites from Horatio who is the Dumbledoreish mentor figure (That’s right, Olivia gets mentored by a cat) to Leopold the ever loyal soldier, to Harvey the enthusiastic play acting, literature loving trouble maker. They are all charming, and hilarious. The other paintings, mainly Morton and his family are adorable, and West does a lovely job of writing a genuine young child’s voice without making him whiny. Rutherford and Walter make great contrasting sidekicks, and Mrs Dewey and Mr and Mrs Dunwoody, who mostly appear in the background, are just wonderful. It’s also unusual and fun to have a child who’s not an orphan leading the charge.

Aldous as a villain does a great job of making the whole book seem threatening and scary, and despite not appearing to the very end, his presence is felt throughout the story.

I wish I’d read this series in order, because it was just so fun and well written and filled with awesome characters that I’d been able to go through the story with, the way it was meant to be told. But it’s my own fault of course, I can accept that.

It would make a really good 5 season cartoon. Someone should get on that.

Last movie I watched:

Tangled! So sweet, I forgot how lovely that movie is.

Last TV episode I watched:

Xena. I don’t know why they keep introducing so many men for Xena and Gabrielle. It’s obvious they are each others soul mates.

Something about myths

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

William is an orphan and he works in a abbey for enough food and shelter to survive. It’s not much a life, but it’s all he can do, unless his brother Hugh comes to claim him from London. But his destiny changes when he finds and rescues a Hob caught in a hunter’s trap and a mysterious masked man and his servant arrive at the abbey. The dying abbot has a secret, and William finds himself swept up in a world he never would have imagined.

But, despite the back of the book cover sounding like description I just gave, this novel reads like a cross between a myth and a story. There are sweet little humourous moments, mostly provided by the Hob, but generally it’s a pretty ideological story in which a good man (or boy in this case) faces a series of challenges and is both helped and hindered by supernatural forces/God and succeeds essentially because of his inherent goodness.

The book is slow, methodical and beautifully written. Certainly compared to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, it’s not nearly as readable, but as a mythological tale, it’s much more telling. It’s layered, blending the pre-Christian British myth with Biblical stories, and it kind of feels like Britain to me. I mean, at least what it feels like to visit Britain. I think that’s probably what I loved most about it.

There isn’t that much else to say about this book. You should probably read it yourself. Inside with tea as you watch the rain or snow lashing against your windows.
Which, let’s face it, is pretty much every day of this whole entire winter.

Last movie I watched:

About Time. Always About Time. Because it is beautiful

Last TV show I watched:

Downton Abbey. I FORGOT HOW GOOD THAT SHOW IS.