Uprooted

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley
I read stories by Naomi Novak before, and definitely loved her way of world building and kind of clean (fantasy sometimes can be quite fussy) tone of voice and writing. Uprooted was mentioned a lot in the past year, so I added it to my list and – when noticed that it was a hefty 600 pages – got even more excited. This author offered good fantasy stories, let’s do this!

Uprooted is a clunky, dull, stuffed C-History story that can’t even be brightened up by cool elements. The characters one sympathizes with are the horses.The victim that is around to give the main character a more human, caring side, is a more interesting character, but is only used for a sympathy vote. There is a romance that isn’t really a romance, and is there anything the protagonist enjoys? Is there something more she does than just being?

I don’t know if Novak wanted to make a Serious, Epic fantasy novel, but she ended up with a brick with some fantasy elements. A few, that is.

Uprooted, Naomi Novak, Random House 2015

Mascots

89 min.

netflix-mascotsOh dear, what is this? A mockumentary, although the people starring are small-mindedly human enough to be straight from reality. And what is it about? Sport mascots, the people that dress up as animals (and other things) at sport games. The featured mascots are preparing for a world championship of mascots and accompanying con. The people attached to that are ..maybe even weirder, and in the worrying way.

Especially when sex and furries are added. It moves the not-documentary from ‘people very passionate about an unfamiliar hobby’ to ‘how many weirdos can we gather’.

In the end this made me more curious about the people in mascots, the real ones. Surely they’re not as annoying and frown-worthy as this lot. And hopefully they perform without a dancing poop.

Mascots, Netflix 2016

Smoke

‘Thomas, Thomas! Wake up!’

Well, Dan Vyleta got the Victorian-feel of it down pat. Several times I paged back to the front to check the year of first publication.

This could be viewed as a compliment, but as I expected something else going in, it took me a long time to adapt. Smoke is as straight-edged as its characters, afraid of anything that could be viewed as sin or a wrong emotion, any form of entertainment that could ‘evoke’ something.

This element makes the novel dystopian, a strict society in which something or someone will give sooner than later. Not just that, but on top of the societal mystery, there’s a mysterious group that’s kind of powerful, but not powerful enough to have a clear enough message. Or maybe the smoke just got in between.

Even when adventure is added, the feeling doesn’t get very urgent. Power hungry people want to keep things the way they are, maybe some light sins aren’t that horrible, okay, okay. It could have been a short novel, a foundation for a television series, but as a hefty book there’s just not enough spark.

Smoke, Dan Vyleta, Weidenfeld&Nicholson 2016

Seventh Son

102 min.
If you would have told me that this was a movie from ten or even twenty years ago, I would have believed you as well. It’s a b-adventure movie, unoriginal plot with reel-thin plot and pretty people.
seventh_son_poster

There’s an unlikely hero who is found by a rude stranger to be his new apprentice. There’s witches returning you see, and witches have to be fought. Because they’re evil, except when they are the love interest.

What follows is just a lot of destruction and explosions and some semi impressive CGI use. Creatures are gathered to help the witches, while the hero only has his rude master. Nameless civilians are sacrificed, towns decimated, how did it end again? Oh yes, the good guys win, but learn about how every win comes with losing (people) as well. Just pause and stop the VCR when it says The End, there’s no after-credits-anything.

Seventh Son, Universal Pictures 2014

The Museum of Innocence

It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.

Brace yourselves.

Not for this story, but my opinion on it. A Nobel Prize winning author it may be, a deep, emotional romance in the loved city of Istanbul it may be, I only found egoism and sexism, with a dollop of patronizing ideas towards women.

The male main character starts an affair with a much younger, and poorer woman when he’s engaged to a nice, intelligent woman of his age and social standards. He steamrolls his mistress into many things, while not giving anything in return, only to throw a tantrum in any way but yelling when she disappears after his engagement party. There’s moping, pouting, dramatic thoughts and work-omitting behaviour. But don’t view it as that, he all has to do that because he’s so in love!

This goes on for years and years. Whenever there’s an interesting look into (high) society in Turkey of the seventies and eighties, the lens is turned back to the ever-suffering man. How dare she, how dare his mother worry, how dare his brother ask to come to work again, and so on, and so on. After eight years things turn in his direction again, but still there’s the woe-is-me tone.

An exhausting, frustrating novel that is interesting for about 10% of its pages: whenever Kemal Bey deigns to show a look at the world around him, instead of the one inside of his head.

The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk, Faber and Faber 2009

The Buried Giant

You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated.

I don’t even know why I gave Ishiguro another chance. Maybe because others did love Never Let Me Go and I just wanted to understand.

I still don’t, and I think I’ll be fine without his work, especially this novel. It’s too slow, the tone grates, it all feels like fighting through cold porridge: no satisfaction in the end.

While there is a kind of interesting element. There is a strange mist that takes everyone’s memories. Add in some mythology (this is the time after King Arthur), unreliable narrating and well, it could have been discomforting and exciting.

But no, everything trudges on until it suddenly doesn’t. Gone, done. As I am with this man’s work.

The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alfred A. Knopf 2015

Undermajordomo Minor

Lucien Minor’s mother had not wept, had not come close to weeping at their parting.

Uh, well, erm, what kind of book was this? Pretty early into it I already tweeted “This book is going to be awesome-weird or how-what-why-frustration-fueled-weird” and it landed largely on the side of the last option.

The blurbs call it darkly comedic, a fairy tale, a commentary. I only recognised the fairy tale part. There’s an unlikely hero (soft on the hero part), a strange village with a stranger castle with even stranger people inhabiting it. Mysteries happen as well, but somehow, along the way, the author seemingly decided to start unveiling them.

This turns things from a-bit-out-there to too neatly wrapped up, and with an unsatisfying end to boot. I don’t know why it was on my To Read list, but I’m not going to pass it on.

Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, Anansi 2015