Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Un Lun Dun review

Have you ever wondered what happens to unwanted items that get left on the curb?  Sometimes they get picked up, but sometimes they end up in Parisn't, or Sans Francisco, or UnLondon.  UnLondon is a land full of objects and technologies that are Mostly Obsolete In London and peopled by characters who aren't always actually people at all.  In a land where giraffes are feared predators and words quite literally come alive it isn't surprising that prophesies aren't always entirely correct.  But prophesy or no, someone still has to save UnLondon from the Smog.  Will a young girl, a half-ghost, a word-tailor, a bus conductor, and an empty carton of sour milk be able to get to Webminster Abbey in time to find the UnGun, or will their plans go up in smoke and feed the Smog? 

I liked Un Lun Dun from the moment I read the note to the reader at the beginning explaining that even though British and Americans sometimes use different words they can usually understand each other just fine, so British slang was left in for the American edition with a small glossary added to the back to refer to if needed.  I still think it's ridiculous that any book would feel the need to translate a British book into American English, even for juvenile fiction.  News flash: children pick up on new languages faster than adults anyways!

This note is typical of this novel in that it does not talk down to children or oversimplify things to make it more accessible.  I particularly enjoy the fact that this book plays around with the Prophesied Epic Quest trope which is something few adult books even attempt.  This book wasn't the most well-written or thought-provoking I've ever read, but it is certainly well above average writing and more thought provoking than many adult novels I've read.  Mieville's imagination in the creation of UnLondon is also so charming that I found the book well worth the read just for the ideas introduced: extreme librarian bookaneers, trash can binjas, smog-possessed could I not love it?  I've heard the book compared to Alice in Wonderland and Neverwhere, but it reminded me most of Phantom Tollbooth.  If you like any of those books, however, I'd give this one a try.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Need some dough

I am so lucky to have recently got a job that I love, but for the unemployed hordes I was so recently a part of I've written this special California Christmas song for this year:

Oh the weather outside's delightful,
But the economy is frightful.
And since there's no jobs to go,
Need some dough!  Need some dough! Need some dough!

It doesn't show sings of improving,
And a lot of people need to be moving,

The unemployed's spirits are low,
Need some dough!  Need some dough! Need some dough!

When we finally pass this fright,
How the country will be left all torn,
But if I get a job tonight,
Some hope in my heart will be born.

These times they sure are trying,
And, my dear, no one is buying,
But the shop windows are all aglow,
Need some dough!  Need some dough! Need some dough!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar Review

I went to see Avatar at midnight this morning (last night?) in 3d Imax.  Overall I'd give it a B+  if the narration ala Raymond Chandler had been edited out or the villain had wasn't so 2-D I'd have given it an A.

Mostly the movie is about the world-building and the CGI, and both of those aspects were wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed that I was able to pick up on bits of the Navi language.  The CGI was great, but if you don't like CGI you won't like this.  The only bit that really bugged me about the world building was how the avatars were grown suspended in fluid in pods, but apparently either their hair grows in braids around their nerve endings (?) or they occasionally took them out of the pods to play with their hair.

The plot was formulaic, but it was a formula I happen to like so I was okay with that.  Pretty much it was Fern Gully for Adults with aliens instead of humans.  A guy from a profession percieved as evil by a native group ignorantly stumbles into their world.  He makes a lot of gaffes but he slowly learns the ways of the natives from the tribe's princess who (of course) falls in love with him.  He comes to appreciate nature and acquire some sort of vague animism type spirituality.  The humans he used to associate with start to attack the natives and he can't prevent it.  He turns his back on his old profession to fight its evil machinery with the natives and save their sacred tree and the beautiful nature surrounding it. Like I said, Fern Gully.

The dialogue is actually pretty good, but I could not help but crack up at the narration which is often spoken in a husky batman-voice and is supposedly narration from the main character's vlog besides being written in a bad Raymond Chandler style.  The villain also bugged me because, especially at the end, he is so unsympathetic and flat.  I half expected him to ride a bomb down while waving his cowboy hat. 

Still, overall a great movie experience.  If you don't go into it believing the more extreme hype portraying it as the best thing since sliced bread and especially if you have a soft spot for movie about peace and nature overcoming the machinery of war and destruction you'll like it--and this is definitely one that you want to catch in theaters instead of netflixing.  If you can see it in 3D Imax, it was pretty cool.