palm to palm &c.

Jul. 20th, 2017 10:39 pm
tempestsarekind: (martha at the globe)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
Ever since watching the R&J episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, I've wondered what Jade Anouka was like as Juliet. Turns out that in creating their new Teach Shakespeare website, Shakespeare's Globe posted a handful of - snowy - clips from their 2013 Playing Shakespeare production. Here you can see the lovers' sonnet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sf-L9hlcRQ

(I'm afraid I don't remember the name of the actor playing opposite her - and the website isn't great on metadata.)

The website, with more videos, is here:
http://teach.shakespearesglobe.com/romeo-and-juliet-videos?previous=/library/category/video-9
selenak: (Default)
[personal profile] selenak
For once, I manage to write my book reviews on a Wednesday.

Sam Bourne: To Kill the President

It was to be expected: the first Donald Trump era thriller (that I've read). Which takes full advantage of the fact that when previously any critic worth their salt would have complained about the one dimensional characterisation of the villains and the lack of realism in the US voting someone like that into power and then the Republican Party falling in line, followed by no checks and balances from any institution after even the Supreme Court caves due to the stolen seat being filled by the new President's choice, now all this looks like, well, realism.

Spoilers from an age where reality beggars caricature )


Philip Kerr: March Violets.

This is the first novel of a mystery series which I heard/read about via The New Yorker. The article in question was enthusiastic enought to overcome my instinctive squick at the premise, to wit: hard-boiled/noir detective novel set in the Third Reich. Basically, what if Philip Marlowe was German? Wandering those mean streets as a cynic with an ethical core takes a whole new meaning if the authories aren't just corrupt but a dictatorship preparing for war and genocide. Our hero is Bernie Gunther, former policeman who quit the force in 1933 for the obvious reason given that the novel positions he has ethics, and became a private investigator instead. Kerr serves up all the usual hard boiled/ noir tropes - untrustworthy millionaire clients, corrupt cops, shady dames -, complete with Chandleresque language, and he did his research - the novel's setting is Berlin in 1936, around the Olympic Games, and in addition to the well drawn Berlin geography, there are some great nods to Fritz Lang's movie M via some of the supporting cast, gangsters (given that Bernie Gunther originally gets hired to recover some diamonds, though of course it turns out it's far more complicated and what everyone is after is something else altogether. The brief appearances by historic figures (Göring and Heydrich, to be precise) are drawn credibly, which is to say their vileness comes across without Kerr employing sledge-hammery moustache twirling; in fact, he uses Göring's bonhommie manners to make him chilling.

As opposed to To Kill a President, this actually is a good novel. But. I still struggle somewhat with the basic premise. This is the first novel of what according ot the New Yorker article I'd read are twelve so far, and already I'm having to suspend disbelief about Bernie's continued survival. There's no reason why Heydrich at the end of this first novel shouldn't have gotten him killed, for example. And since we're in 1936, Bernie would still have the possibility to leave the country, and given what happens to him in this novel, it's hard to wonder why he doesn't, given he has no dependants who'd suffer for it. Yes, the decision to emigrate wasn't as easy as hindsight would have it if you weren't rich and didn't have friends abroad, but again, some truly harrowing things happen to Bernie in this novel which would serve as an incentive to get the hell out of Germany if ever there was one beyond the general situation of the country.

With this caveat, I'll keep reading.

Spider-man: Homecoming (Film Review)

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:43 pm
selenak: (Henry Hellrung by Imaginary Alice)
[personal profile] selenak
Okay, that's it. As Civil War made me suspect, Tom Holland is my platonic ideal of Peter Parker, at least in his teenage phase. Also, while I had liked the first Raimi/Maguire movie and parts of the rest while increasingly disliking other parts of those films, and liked the first Garfield without thinking it needed to exist while extremly disliking the second one, this latest cinematic go at Spidey was a complete delight to me and I love it.

Ramblings beneath the cut )

Doctor Who and Orphan Black 5.06.

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:03 pm
selenak: (Missy by Yamiinsane123)
[personal profile] selenak
Spoilery Doctor Who talk about the big casting spoiler. )

On to Orphan Black. Which was a good spy hijinks hour that moved the plot forward.

Read more... )

New Release – Waters of the Deep

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:10 am
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)
[personal profile] alex_beecroft
Like busses, no matter how much I try to schedule releases so they’re regular, it always ends up with a long time of nothing and then a glut, so coming soon we have: Foxglove Copse and Heart of Cygnus Five, followed at a distance by Pride of Cygnus Five and Contraband Hearts.

However, today is the release day for Waters of the Deep

 
Charles and Jasper are brought in to investigate a fatal stabbing in (the cotton-mill town of) Paradise. But this time the only troublesome ghost in the case is their own adopted child Lily. So what’s leaving the glistening trail in the woods? Why did the vicar’s daughter suddenly kill herself? And what is happening to the extra cow?

This is the second novella length story in my Unquiet Spirits series:

  • Buried With Him – short story,
  • The Wages of Sin – novella
  • Communion – short story
  • Waters of the Deep – novella

Charles and Jasper have been living together for a while, having moved in to Jasper’s house and adopted the ghost girl, Lily. They’ve made a name for themselves as the people you call in to investigate when disasters happen that seem to have supernatural elements. But domesticity has been wearing on Charles, especially when he is ridiculed in the public papers for it, and it may take a murder or two to save their relationship.

~

If you haven’t read the previous stories in the series and you would like to get them for free, sign up for my newsletter

You’ll receive links for Buried With Him, The Wages of Sin (including Communion) and two other novels for free:

 

My Newsletter

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

5 Reasons to love the 18th Century

Jul. 16th, 2017 06:20 pm
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)
[personal profile] alex_beecroft

My new novella, ‘Waters of the Deep‘ is coming out tomorrow.

It’s a gay historical supernatural murder mystery set in the 18th Century, and I’ve noticed that when I say this to people they generally reply “oh, right; the Regency period.”

While I would certainly like to read Pride and Prejudice, the GBLT version – where Darcy and Bingley end up together – the Regency is very different in terms of dress and social mores from the 18th Century proper.  The French revolution 1789-1799 may have lasted only 10 years, but it made a huge impact on the culture of the time.  In Britain, at least, society became much more anxious, much more inclined to self-discipline and morality, self restraint and prudishness – as if by being conventionally virtuous they could stop the same thing from happening there.

Before the French Revolution, British society had been noisy, bumptious, rude and confident.  You see a glimpse of it in Jane Austen with all those crass, vulgar, big-hearted old people who embarrass their more refined children and grandchildren.  In Patrick O’Brien’s series of sea-faring novels set in the Napoleonic era, Jack Aubrey’s father, who damages Jack’s prospects of promotion by being loud and annoying in parliament, and damages Jack’s prospects of inheritance by marrying his chambermaid, is also a nod to the livelier, cruder days of the 18th Century proper.

Five reasons to Love the 18th Century.

 

  1. Start shallow and work up 😉 The clothes! This was probably the last period in history when men were allowed to be as gorgeous as women.

http://www.antoinettescloset.com/realmenscloths.htm

This is the era of the poet-shirt with the big baggy sleeves and the neckline down to the navel, with or without ruffles or lace, as you prefer.  Rich men wore multi-coloured silk outfits with wonderful embroidery, contrasting waistcoats and knee breeches with fine silk stockings underneath.  Poor men wore the classic highwayman/pirate outfits complete with tricornered hats.  Did you know that a good calf on a man’s leg was considered such a desirable form of beauty that some men stuffed calf-enhancers made of cork down there?

  1. Pretty deadly gentlemen. The nice thing about all this male peacock display is that it could not be taken for a sign of weakness. All these gorgeously plumed lads had been training to fence and fight and ride and shoot since they were old enough to stand up.  Ever seen ‘Rob Roy’ where Archie Cunningham slices and dices Liam Neeson as Rob Roy, while wearing an immaculate ice-blue waistcoat and extravagant Belgian lace?

There’s something very attractive about a class of men with Archie Cunningham’s ruthless intelligence, masterly swordfighting skills and love of expensive tailoring, but with the ‘evil bastard’ gene turned down a little.  One of my heroes in the Unquiet Spirits series – Charles Latham – teeters on the edge of that refined man of honour/dangerous sociopath divide.  He is less murderous than simply spoiled, privileged and entitled, but at times it’s a struggle not to want to box his ears. Bless him.

  1. Science!

For the first time in history ships and the provisioning of ships had advanced to the point where navigation was relatively reliable.  Enough food and water could be stored aboard so that voyages could continue for months or even years at a time.  From the perspective of the West, this was an age of exploration and discovery, when the old superstitions of the past were for the first time being investigated to see how much was true about them. In Jasper and Charles’s world they are rather more true than in our own.

  1. Filth, pamphlets and pornography.

Unlike Jane Austen’s time, when a well brought up young woman could be horrified by the idea of acting in a play, or writing to a young man who was not her fiancé, the 18th Century was much more… robust.  Filthy, in fact.  Literally filthy – streets full of horse manure and dead dogs, through which live cattle were lead to slaughter at the markets every morning (sometimes escaping to break into banks and terrorise the bankers).  But also redolent with filthy language; swearing, f’ing and blinding, referring to a spade as a spade, and various bodily functions by their Anglo-Saxon names.  The 18th Century style of vocabulary in a gentleman’s coffee house would be too crude for me to subject refined persons of the 21st Century to.  But because of this overabundance of filth you do also get a great sense of vitality and humour, of people who are unashamed and determined to squeeze the last particle of enjoyment out of the world.  People who cannot be cowed.  Their pornography reflects this; bumptious but strangely innocent (or perhaps just plain strange.)  Very much not safe for work link: http://joyful-molly.livejournal.com/57556.html#cutid1

5. The Gay Subculture.

By the early 18th Century urbanization had reached a point in London that there were enough gay people in one place to begin to recognise each other and form a subculture of their own.  There were well known cruising spots such as the Inns of Court, Sodomite’s Walk in Moorfields or Birdcage Walk in St. James’ Park.  The technical term for homosexual people at the time was ‘sodomites’ but they called themselves ‘mollies’, and there were molly houses where they could go to meet up and ‘marry’.  Famous mollies like ‘Princess Seraphina’ – a London butcher – spent a great deal of time in drag.  He seems to have been accepted into his community without a lot of fuss, as there are records of him dropping round to his female neighbours’ houses to have a cup of tea and borrow their clothes.

I really recommend Rictor Norton’s ‘Mother Clap’s Molly House’ http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/ as a great guide to that culture; scholarly but easy to read, generous and fascinating.  So fascinating I had to set at least one of my stories around a fictional molly house in Bermuda.  That’s Desire and Disguise, in the ‘I Do’ anthology, in which an unwary straight guy stumbles into the house by accident and gets a little more than he bargained for.  You might also be interested in this ‘choose your own adventure’ site:

http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/forbidden/index.html

Mother Clap’s molly house, you’ll be relieved to know, was so called because it was run by a gay friendly lady called Margaret Clap, not because that was something you were likely to get there!

In short, the 18th Century in which the Unquiet Spirits series was set could not be more different than the prim and refined era of the Regency novel.  I can’t offer a comedy of manners, only a fair degree of lust and violence, badly behaved ghosts, bad language, and dangerous men in gorgeous clothes. But if you enjoyed The Wages of Sin, this is both more of the same and something a little bit different. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

face, meet palm

Jul. 16th, 2017 02:07 pm
tempestsarekind: (brighter than sunflowers)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
So way back in series 5, when Amy tells us that her favorite story as a kid was the story of Pandora's box, and I commented that this was clearly the TARDIS (as I said back then, "a box full of monsters and hope")?

How has it only just occurred to me that in "The Eleventh Hour," Amy is repeatedly told not to open the door to the room where Prisoner Zero is hiding - and she does it anyway? And yes, she lets out the monster - but she also opens the door to the thing that will save the planet, because if she hadn't opened that door, and seen Prisoner Zero's true form, she wouldn't have been able to remember it, and use the psychic link (with the Doctor's help) to turn Prisoner Zero into a perfect copy of itself.

Monsters and hope, on day one. How did I miss it?

in other media news

Jul. 16th, 2017 01:25 pm
tempestsarekind: (dido plus books)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
The trailer for Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time film came out yesterday (or at least, I saw it for the first time yesterday):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4U3TeY2wtM

My first, entirely shallow thought was that it needs FAR more Gugu Mbatha-Raw in it. But as I chewed on this shallow thought over the course of the day yesterday, it became a little less shallow - because it touches on the main thing that's not quite sitting right with me about the trailer:

It starts with Chris Pine.

Okay, that's a bit facetious. But it does feel wrong to start with Mr. Murry, and not with Mrs. Murry or Meg. One of the things I really loved about A Wrinkle in Time as a child was how thorny and prickly the beginning of the book is: not just Meg getting in fights at school (although that was Important), but Meg's feeling of not fitting properly into her own skin, in contrast to her beautiful and brilliant mother; her desperate worry about Charles Wallace - and then, the nastiness of the people in their insular little town, who sneer at Mrs. Murry and snicker that her husband must have just run away, who make fun of Meg's beloved baby brother for being different. One of the things I loved about the book is that we don't start with the adventurer, making his scientific discoveries: we start with his family, who don't know what's happened to him, who have to hope and believe that they aren't in the sort of tawdry, shabby story that the snickering neighbors think they're in.

And obviously, this is just the trailer, so who knows what the actual movie will be like, or how it will begin. But it feels a bit as if all of those rough, important edges have been sanded down, and the story has been made smoother and glossier than I'd like. (This extends to the look of the film as well, though I haven't written about it here: I want Mrs. Whatsit to be tramping around in rubber boots and muffled by layers and layers of ill-fitting clothing - utterly unremarkable before becoming utterly magical. I want things to be sort of shabby and ramshackle around the edges. That may be expecting something one is not likely to get from a big Disney film.)

on the new Doctor

Jul. 16th, 2017 12:20 pm
tempestsarekind: (amy and her boys)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
Still not ginger. :)

Otherwise, not very deep thoughts )

Versailles (Season 2)

Jul. 16th, 2017 04:09 pm
selenak: (Max by Misbegotten)
[personal profile] selenak
Since the other Borgias left me in the mood for over the top historical melodrama, and since it was available, I marathoned the second season of Versailles. (My first season review is here.) Aka, the show with the general accuracy of The Tudors (which is to say more than than the all around anachronistic crack like Reign, but generally not that much, though the occasional clever use of historical fact actually happens), produced by Canal just as Borgia, with the main selling point to internet fandom that there’s canon m/m prominently featured, courtesy of Louis XIV.’s brother Philippe d’Orleans, aka Monsieur, played by the increasingly gorgeous Alexander Vlahos. The second season tackles the affair of the poisons, one of the most notorious events in the reign of Louis XIV., but just as it did in the first season with just about any historic event fictionalizes the hell out of it, including, mystifyingly, changing the name of the main supplier of the poisons in question. Instead of La Voisin (first name Catherine), we have “Madame Agathe”. (Otoh the black mass celebrating renegade priest gets to stay Father Etienne Guibourg, which means the first time he is introduced in a seemingly benign undercover identity, the more historically versed parts of the audience know who he is and what he’s infamous for.) In terms of historical characters, we also get introduced to the delightful Liselotte von der Pfalz, the Princess Palatinate, and may I say that I was hugely relieved the Versailles version is great, because the original is one of my favourite figures of the era, due to all those vivid letters she penned for the folks back home, and as Versailles’ first season unfortunately reduced Monsieur’s first wife Henriette to a very passive, agenda-less character, which the original definitely was not, I was a bit afraid something similar might happen to Liselotte, the second Madame. But no. She’s blunt, no-nonsense, determined to make the best of a bad situation, as all versions of Liselotte should be. (Mind you, this show still obeys the Hollywood rule of plain and beauty, so when Monsieur’s lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine, ridicules Liselotte’s fashion and looks, it’s not clear what he’s on about since the actress is pretty – whereas historical Liselotte cheerfully admitted to her plainness in youth and weathered stoutness in age, comparing her looks as a middleaged woman to a roasted pig – and so is her wardrobe.)

On to more spoilery musings beneath the cut. )

Nominations and observations

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:32 pm
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
[personal profile] selenak
Emmmy nominations: as a fan of The Americans, I'm pleased that Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright were all three recognized at last. Will root for them accordingly, which is all the easier since frustratingly, Bates Motel' final year went without an Emmy nomination again. Freddy Highmore has been fantastic throughout, and especially in this last installment where the show had to at last enter the same narrative territory as Psycho, and succeeded with flying colours, very much because young Highmore has managed to make an iconic role his own. (Very Farmiglia would have deserved nominations in all preceeding years, but I can understand she didn't get one this year, since she played "only" Mother, not Norma anymore.) My loyalties might be slightly split for best actor because of Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul, and I'd be happy if he wins, too, but if I had to decide and push came to shove, I'd go with Rhys over Odenkirk. Speaking of Better Call Saul, I call fail on the nomination of Jonathan Banks for best supporting actor over Michael McKean (Chuck). Or for that matter Michael Mando (who plays Nacho). Look, I get the Mike cult, and Banks is always solid, but Mike really did not have all that much to do this season. Whereas Nacho got core emotional dilemma stuff, and the actor rose to the task. And McKean may have played the most disliked character on the show, but I don't think the most fervent Chuck hater on the planet would dispute he did so amazingly, and this season, it was a lynchpin performance, with Chicanery and the s3 finale as the two particularly outstanding episodes in this regard. As for the utter lack of nomination for Rhea Seahorn as Kim, don't get me started. Though, again: makes it easier to root wholeheartedly for Keri Russell and for Alison Wright in their respective categories.

_____

Yesterday there was a lengthy interview with Christopher Nolan in one of my regular papers, apropos his upcoming movie Dunkirk. Two issues caught my particular attention: a) he mentions having written the script for a movie about Howard Hughes, only to be foiled by the Scorsese/Di Caprio movie "Aviator", which made it unlikely for a few years studios would finance another movie about Hughes, and now when the time would have been right again, Warren Beatty struck first and made Hughes a non-subject for a few years more. But, quoth Nolan, he hasn't given up and swears this script is the best he ever wrote. To channel some writerly frustration, he added, he put some of his Howard Hughes characterisation into Bruce Wayne in his three Batman movies. And suddenly Bruce's utterly self indulgent hermit phase between movies II and III as well as his bizarre rewriting on why things didn't work out with Rachel in I as voiced by him in II appears in a new light. :) Or maybe Howard Hughes' decades in Las Vegas hotel rooms do - clearly the cover for a secret vigilante identity. Come to think of it, old Hughes sueing unauthorized biographers does resemble the Frank Miller version of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns somewhwat, no?

Anyway: b) the other particularly interesting-to-me Nolan statement was that in preparation for Dunkirk, he watched All Quiet on the Western Front (classic 1930 film version of Erich Maria Remarque's WWI novel, directed by Lewis Milestone) and was amazed such a movie was possible in 1930. But, says Nolan, it probably only was because it was an American movie based on a German novel, because an American director would never have presented American soldiers in this way, and the Germans wouldn't have made the movie to begin with, "so hooray for one culture speaking for another in this case", ends Nolan. Thinking about it, I concluded he was right that the German film industry would not have made All Quiet on the Western Front in the early 1930s - the book had been a big bestseller in Germany, but the movies were utterly dominated by the UFA by then, and the UFA was owned by Alfred Hugenberg, hardcore conservative who'd go on to support Hitler in his 1932 and 1933 election campaigns. As it was Goebbels orchestrated an anti All Quiet on the Western Front campaign when the movie was released in Germany - SA guys loudly protesting in the cinemas, white mice released, I kid you not -with the result that the movie was quickly withdrawn and most Germans saw it only once the Third Reich had come and gone. (My paternal grandparents back in the day did see it in the cinema, but they had to travel to Belgium to do so, which they did because not only did Granddad own the book, but he regarded it as a matter of local pride - he was born and raised just a few streets away from where Remarque, the author, had been born and raised in Osnabrück. And my grandfather, who'd lost his father in WWI when he, Granddad, was still a toddler, always regarded the book as a way to figure out what his father might have been like.)

Last year, when I heard a lecture by Elizabeth Bronfen on war movies in Zurich, she compared the aesthetic and thematic treatment of All Quiet on the Western Front with what WWII movies and news reels quickly established as standard in US movies, and it really is strikingly different. Not being an expert on war movies, my lay woman opinion would be Nolan is right in the American part of his statement as well, that an American movie about US soldiers like All Quiet on the Western Front at the time and for some time to come would never have been made. Probably not until the genre of Vietnam movies started, and that came and went again; more recent US movies, no matter about which war, which present US soldiers being lured into a war by propaganda and then fighting pointless battles and dying with no heroic justification or reward whatsoever (i.e. not even saving a comrade's life or turning a battle, or getting an epilogue declaring that their cause lives on or their sacrifice is remembered or what not), don't come to mind, either. Or am I missing something?
tempestsarekind: (Default)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
Another day, another wish that someone would cast Daveed Diggs as Christopher Marlowe…

*Yes, this is a Massacre at Paris joke. of sorts.

(This is one of the things I don't understand about the continued attempts at making Shakespeare a sexy rebel instead of the guy who kept his head down: Marlowe is RIGHT THERE, being completely extra - as the children say - writing scandalous stuff, actually being the innovator people want Shakespeare to have been.) (I'm thinking of that monstrously stupid moment in Anonymous - which one? you say - where all the other Elizabethan dramatists are gobsmacked that "Shakespeare" wrote AN ENTIRE PLAY in BLANK VERSE, like they hadn't all been doing that. But that's just the most egregious example that sprang to mind - although that moment in the Will trailer where someone gripes at Will, "You can't just make up words!" and he's all, "Well, someone must!" comes pretty close: making up words is what Elizabethan dramatists did; it's not some province exclusive to Shakespeare's genius!)

(yes, yes, I know, Shakespeare has "pre-awareness" or whatever they're calling audience recognition these days. But I find it hard to believe that anyone who's actually thinking about watching something like Will wouldn't watch a similar show about Marlowe instead, if you could just get someone to make it.)
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
The concluding episode in my Hugo reading marathon!  Huzzah!

The Craft Sequence, by Matt Gladstone, consists of five novels so far.  We get all of them in the Hugo Voter Pack, and, due to time constraints, I have read only the first one. 

By which I mean, I have read the third one, Three Parts Dead.

Read more... )

On reflection, I think my ballot goes Vorkosigan, Craft Sequence, Temeraire, October Daye, Rivers of London, The Expanse.  Temeraire might have been more fun than the Craft Sequence, but I think this was much cleverer. 

Here ends the Hugo reading for 2017!  I may read the zines for my own interest, but there's no way I'm going to have time to review them.  And it would be nice to read something for enjoyment, rather than critically and with the intent to compare it with everything else on the ballot.

question: am I a masochist?

Jul. 13th, 2017 09:19 am
tempestsarekind: (all the world's a stage)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
I ask because the Folger Shakespeare Library dropped a link to this podcast interview with Craig Pierce and Shekhar Kapur, where they talk about creating the new TV show Will, into my inbox this morning:

http://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/tnt-will

Will I listen to it? (Another way of asking the same question as before.)

...I mean, I probably won't, because between the two of them, these men are responsible for three films that I really don't like - the Lurhmann Romeo plus Juliet and Kapur's two Elizabeth films, which lucked out by having Cate Blanchett in them, but are not actually, like, good, or nuanced, or even comprehensible. But if you have a higher tolerance for this whole "Shakespeare is totally punk rock, yo, not all stuffy like the Man says!" thing, here you go.

whaaaaaaaaat.

Jul. 12th, 2017 10:03 pm
tempestsarekind: (geoffrey (not) at work)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
"We also learn that Will’s father was gruesomely disemboweled for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith and embrace Protestantism. He periodically appears to Will à la Hamlet’s father’s ghost, one of many references to the Bard’s work that have an Easter egg-y, Shakespeare in Love aspect.


from this review of the TNT show Will:
http://www.vulture.com/2017/07/will-tnt-review.html

I…
I just…

I mean, look. I watched Due South and Slings and Arrows (to say nothing of, y'know, Hamlet), so like, in theory, I really love it when characters talk to the ghosts of their fathers, or others that they care for deeply. I just…don't trust this show to do a decent job of it? There's already so much nonsense piled up in the trailers I've seen; where would they even find the space for an actually illuminating heart-to-heart between Will and his unexpectedly deceased dear old dad?
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines

The next Series in the Best Series category is The Expanse, by James Corey.  The Voter Pack contains an excerpt from Leviathan.

I'll be honest here; I haven't really given this one a fair crack.  One big reason for this is that for some reason the Epub version on my Kobo is missing two or three lines from the bottom of every second or third page, which makes it hard to read.   But even in between that, it's not really holding my interest.  So far, all the characters seem to be of a particular 'antihero' type - the hardened cop, the hardened ship captain whose career has stalled - that doesn't do a lot for me.  I don't really care about the story.  And every time I think that something slightly interesting might be happening, there are missing lines.  This is not the fault of the book, but I really can't keep reading like this.

So I've read three chapters, and I think I'll call it quits.  I don't think it would be going high on my ballot even if I read further, because everything else on the ballot so far had me hooked within a few pages and this one doesn't.  So I think I'll leave it off the ballot entirely, unless The Craft Sequence annoys me so much that I need to put it below No Award, in which case I'll put this in fifth place, to distinguish it from the actively offensive stuff.

Incidentally, regarding The Craft Sequence, the voter pack consists of the first five novels in the series.  I'm not going to be able to read five novels by Sunday, especially since we have to drive to a funeral in the La Trobe Valley on Saturday, which is going to eat our entire day.  So I think I'll just see how far I get by tomorrow evening (and try to finish the first book, at least), and review based on that.
 

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 6

Jul. 13th, 2017 07:53 am
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
Last novel!  Hooray! And I liked this one quite a lot, which means that now I have a problem at the top of my ballot...

But let's get on with the book.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers, is a very sweet, kindly sort of book.  It feels like an epilogue, and I believe it takes place after another book set in the same universe.  There is not, now I think about it, a lot of obvious conflict.  It still kept me reading until after 1am on a work night because I needed to know what happened to everyone.

The book tells two stories in parallel.  The first story centres around Lovelace / Sidra, a ship's artificial intelligence system who is now trapped in a synthetic human body.  And she does feel trapped by it - she no longer has unlimited memory and access to the Linkages, which seem to be a futuristic extrapolation of the world wide web.  Her narrative arc is partly about coming to terms with her situation and figuring out how people who are not AIs (humans or aliens) work, and partly about her remaking her situation to a point where she can be content with it and have a purpose that appeals to her. 

She is helped in this by Pepper, an engineer who was once a slave called Jane 23, and the second story is hers.  This story starts when Jane 23 is ten, and, almost accidentally, escapes the factory which has been her entire world (quite literally - she does not know what the sky is, and is alarmed by this gigantic 'room' without walls).  Running from feral dogs, Jane 23 is rescued by a stranded spaceship and its AI, Owl.  Owl takes her in, and... basically teaches her how to be human.  And, over time, how to repair the ship and get off this planet.  This may sound unlikely, but Jane has been working to sort and repair broken machinery for her entire life as a slave, so while she has few other skills, she is very, very good with engineering.  I must admit, while I liked Sidra a lot, and sympathised with her struggles, it was Jane's story that kept me up until 1am wondering if - and how -  she would be OK.

Note that Jane's story is fairly disturbing - the treatment of the child slaves is chilling (we never do find out what happens when they turn twelve, but I suspect they are killed at that point), and she spends years scavenging for metal and for food, and mostly killing and eating feral dogs.  Which is something you may have a visceral reaction to.  (I just tried replacing feral dogs with feral cats in that sentence and was completely horrified and grossed out, so, yeah.)

With half the story being about an AI raised by humans and the other half about a human raised by an AI, Chambers is clearly saying a few things about what makes us human, but I'm not entirely sure what those things are.  It's clear that humanity is not limited to humans; the AI, Owl, is clearly appalled by Jane 23's treatment, which, while it was at the hands of AIs called the Mothers, is clearly something that was decided and organised by the humans.  Compassion, empathy and friendship, are clearly important things, and things that AIs can share with humans and aliens.  Another important thread is the ability to lie, something that Sidra can't do at the start of the story due to programming limitations.  Once she is able to do so, it seemed to me that her relationships with humans and aliens changed for the better.  But it is clear that AIs have free will, at least to an extent.  Sidra can choose what she wants to do and how to spend her time, provided it does not go against one of her programming restrictions.

I don't know where to put this book on the ballot.  It was far and away the most enjoyable one to read of the novels in this category, but I don't think that it was as creative as Ninefox Gambit or The Obelisk Gate.  I still want to put it at the top of the list, because I want to encourage books that I enjoy reading.  But I'm not sure if it ought to be first or second.  Then again, I suspect a LOT of people will put Ninefox Gambit first (I'm expecting that one to win, actually), so maybe it doesn't need my vote?  I shall have to ponder this.

17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
"What's this?", you say?  "Best series?  What happened to best novel?"

Well.  I was supposed to read Becky Chambers' book, A Closed and Common Orbit next, but I just thought I'd have a teensy look at the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, His Majesty's Dragon, and the next thing I knew it was 2am and I was 200+ pages in and realising that I had to work in the morning.

(OK, I realised that well before this point, but I just didn't care...)

So I wound up reading that first.  A quick note on the Best Series for me, by the way.  I've actually read everything in three of the series (serieses?) nominated this year, so I already know how they are ranked in relation to each other, and will write about them briefly here, but it's hard to review an entire series, so I probably can't do them justice. 

Read more... )

Temeraire is going up to number 2 on my ballot, pushing October Day and the Rivers of London down to 3rd and 4th place.  Bujold remains unchallenged in 1st place.

Also, I've bought the second book in the Temeraire series.

The Other Borgias

Jul. 11th, 2017 05:49 pm
selenak: (Borgias by Andrivete)
[personal profile] selenak
Aka the European-produced series which debuted exactly in the same year as Neil Jordan’s The Borgias did, and got three seasons as well. I had seen the pilot back in the day and hadn’t liked it much, but as Amazon Prime put it up, I thought, why not. Also back in the day: at least two articles proclaiming Borgia (with each of the seasons having subtitles “Faith and Fear” (s1), “Rules of Love, Rules of War” (s2) and “Triumph and Oblivion” (s3)) being the superior show with more “historicity”, which put my back up, since I happen to be fond of The Borgias (well, fond of the first two seasons and two or three s3 episodes). That was another reason why I delayed watching Borgia beyond the pilot until this year.

Having now accomplished this, here are a few impressions: Borgia on the one hand does use a lot more actual events from the historical characters’ lives than The Borgias did (including such very Renaissance trivia as Lucrezia’s later father-in-law, Duke Hercole d’Este of Ferrara, collecting nuns with stigmata, I kid you not) , but on the other hand is no slouch when it comes to breathtaking dramatic license. (Cesare Borgia did many gruesome things, but I don’t think ordering pants made of the skin of his enemies was one of them. Also, I really doubt that a bunch of 15th century cardinals would have conspired to replace the Pope with his daughter, no matter how impressive a job she did when the Pope made her regent while he was indisposed. Michelangelo creating the David in Rome instead of Florence is almost harmless as an invention by comparison. And then there’s the drug addiction plot complete with cold turkey conclusion…) The first season suffers from several instances of telling over showing when it came to some important relationships. However, this was mostly remedied in subsequent seasons. And it was really interesting to see both the differences and similarities in the storytelling choices based on the same basic material. Not to mention that the series Borgia actually includes the decline of the family fortunes; Rodrigo dies mid s3, and the rest is Cesare’s falling apart until the series finale ending with his historic death and some other spoilery (not for history) stuff.

One of the biggest differences is the overall emotional arc for the Borgia family. In The Borgias, we start with the featured members more or less affectionately close to each other (even the Cesare-Juan relationship isn’t yet worse than mild fraternal rivalry), and end with them having outwitted and outplayed all their enemies, but lost each other in the process, or have their former closeness turned dysfunctional. In Borgia, otoh, we start with the Borgias dysfunctional and estranged (this Rodrigo hasn’t yet admitted to his children that they are his children but still employs the “niece and nephews” excuse even in private), it gets worse except in one regard from there until Juan’s death at the end of the first season… and then it gets better. From mid s2 onwards, there are family reconciliations all around, and for the rest of the show, the strong affection the Borgias have for each other are often their saving graces, so to speak. When near the end of the show Lucrezia’s third husband, Alfonso d’Este, ruefully observes to his wife that the D’Estes are worse than the Borgias and that she can show them how to be better (as in, a family), he’s not kidding.

A lot more spoilery ramblings and comparisons ensue )

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