November 17th, 2012

call of mordicai

Victor Kadmon. (88)

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel.

The Monster spoke then:
"Solve, et coagula."
We were Enlightened.

This was Jenny's pick for our Eleven-Books Club, & I think we might finally be hitting our stride, because I liked this one. As YA, it has a big perk-- which it shares with Seraphina-- in being a quick, smooth read. The last Frankenstein re-imagining I read was Ackroyd's The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein which left a sour taste in my mouth; because This Dark Endeavor is a prequel, telling stories of a teenage Frankenstein, I worried that it might undercut the original in order to tell its story...but my concerns were unfounded. There is a slight "faith versus science" theme in the book, which I also thought might taint the reading experience, but again, that wasn't pushed to the forefront. I think the nearest comparison in tone, ultimately, is to the Monstrumologist books, which I also liked. The Young Adult horror genre can't just be lazy with gore & violence, so they actually have to put some thought into the spooks...though I should not that the first half of this novel is decidedly a "dark adventure" novel; it isn't really until the end that things take a horrific turn. I'm also inclined to like this book because Victor has a similar sort of inner life to the protagonist of my NaNoWriMo from a few years ago, Gillick, in Watchtower Gothic. The big addition to this book-- besides being the New Adventures of Young Victor Frankenstein-- is Victor's twin brother, Konrad. The two of them adventure with Henry Clerval & Elizabeth Lavenza, both eventual victims of Frankenstein's Monster. I suppose the other reason I like this book is that it is about alchemy; you know that is my favorite. There are three "quests" that the kids go on; of the three, the flooding caves in the search for a coelacanth were definitely my favorite. That was some good Dungeons & Dragons right there; its got a plausible & weird MacGuffin in a really great & evolving setting. I also like the penultimate fight in this book quite a lot; even though I saw it coming the way it played out in practice was pretty tense. Yep, I was pleased with this, & I'm totally going to read the next one. Right after I finally get around to reading the third Monstrumologist book.

Twilight: the Requiem.

Um, the final Twilight film was actually really great? I've seen all of them in the theater, with varying levels of enjoyment. I think I'm pretty neutral on Twilight; I'm a snob but I'm also a fan of lowbrow culture, so I am willing to give it a fair shake. I really liked the first one; I think Hardwicke "got" that the books were inherently silly but also inherently sacred to the fandom. Stuck between those two extremes, Hardwicke directed a film that was true to the material but firmly tongue in cheek; it didn't mock the source text but it didn't take it seriously, either. When in doubt, it went cheesy & over the top, with eyes open. Robert Pattinson was perfect casting for Edward Cullen; if you listen to him poke fun at the series & at the character-- saying he play him as a bi-polar vampire filled with self-loathing rather than the Marty Sue Second Coming in the books-- that is pretty easy to see. I like Kristen Stewart, too; she's a legitimate freak. It is hard not to have a fondness for her after watching her squirm at all those award shows. The rest of the films were less interesting, though; they were played straight, by & large, & so came off just sort of blah. Except, oddly enough, the fight sequences. The special effects & fight choreography in these films is surprisingly hardcore. Also, while I think that the novels-- & thus, the films, as they by & large adhere to the plot of the books-- have huge problems with race, in practice is results in an interesting situation, in that actual non-fictional non-white actors are getting work. The Native Americans of the story are unresearched cardboard stereotypes, but the tribe in the movies are all Native American actors, treated as, well, characters, not props. Complicated, & as the last film goes further abroad, that same logic holds. Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part Two is silly & the first chunk of the film is the sort of sappy stuff you are probably thinking about when you think about the Twilight franchise, but that isn't the end of it. First, Lee Pace is in it, chewing up scenery. Lee Pace is definitely my dude crush. I think everyone knows that by now. Secondly, remember how I mentioned that the brawls & combat of these movies are surprisingly intense? Well, they surprised me again, because holy crap. The last battle...well, I won't say anything about it, but listening to the people in the audience seriously losing their minds was strong evidence for how compelling it was. & it really was!