William Golding, The Inheritors (1955)

I’ve read Sapiens by Harari recently, and it rekindled my interest in the earliest history of our species. Shortly after that, a review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman on Weighing a pig doesn’t fatten it led to me reading that novel and I was very happy it did. Robinson managed to create a believable impression of the culture of people who lived long before anything could be written down. Scientists use the pieces they find to speculate and search the furthest corners of the world for tribes that continue to live the lives of hunter-gatherers… but only a novelist can make me feel a sense of connection with people from so long ago!

In the discussion below his review, Bart mentioned William Golding’s The Inheritors as one of the sources of Robinson’s inspiration, and I was curious. Golding is one of my favourite writers, Lord of the Flies one of the books that influenced me the most. He left his mark on how I think about the nature of evil, its presence in society and individual, the fragility of civilization, and of religion. I’m slightly less pessimistic on these issues now, but I hold Golding in high esteem.

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Still worse than comics… Jessica Jones, Season Two

Piotrek: It’s been a month since Jessica Jones’ Second Season’s premiere and finally we sit down to cast our judgement 😉 I must admit the show did not induce particularly strong feelings in me this time, contrary to the first encounter. Not disappointment, but also not enthusiasm. After an awful Iron Fist and mediocre – at best – Defenders, we got thirteen watchable, but largely forgettable, episodes of superhero TV. As a new industry standard, it’s cool, but in comparison to, say, Marvel’s The Punisher, to stay within Netflix/Marvel universe, nothing special.
My main problem with Season One was that it did not show us Jessica doing the actual detective work, that the Killgrave was defeated largely by his fascination with our heroine, not her skills and efforts, and that the show was not as connected with other Netflix Marvels as it should have been, given its source material. No Murdock, Patsy as a poor substitute for Jessica’s true best friend – Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel… it was not bad TV, but not a great adaptation of one of the most interesting comics I’ve ever read.
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Ola: I’ve forced myself to watch the second season of Jessica Jones only for the purpose of this review :P. I actually think I preferred the first season, despite its vivid and undeniable inferiority to the comic books. The second season suffers from a bad case of an ideological bout of righteousness. Don’t get me wrong – I supported “#Me too” action, because I thought it was an unfortunately necessary, if overly heated and not always fair, debate. But hitching the JJ2 wagon to “#Me too” action seems, firstly, unnecessary, and secondly, in bad taste. The storylines of Alias, i.e. Jessica Jones comic books, can easily defend themselves. They don’t need additional repetitions or variations of the themes already covered, abundantly, I might add, in season one.

Robert Jordan (1990-2005), Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (2009-2013) – The Wheel of Time

The text below is partially a translation of one of the early, Polish posts, and uses two of my mini-reviews from Goodreads. I re-post it in a slightly expanded version to reiterate my dislike of the series that remains, for some reason, very popular 😉 People often wonder – is it worth one’s time? With 15 books and 12K pages (!), it’s not an easy decision, especially if one is a completionist. I’ve suffered through it all, and it took all of my willpower to get to the end. After that, I not only refused to acknowledge the greatness of Jordan, but also to read any more Sanderson. Well, the second rule I broke last year with Elantris, but it won’t happen again any time soon.

I’ve undertaken the task of reading – or, rather, listening to, and for hundreds of hours, The Wheel of Time, to familiarize myself with one of the most famous series in the world of epic fantasy. Also, with my new Audible account, I wanted to spend my credit-a-month on the longest books available 😉

According to Wikipedia, with 80 million volumes sold, it’s the second most popular fantasy series after Tolkien, and, at least in 2016, GRRM was still trailing behind with 70 million. Published 1990-2013, after Jordan’s death it was finished by the young and talented Brandon Sanderson. And it sounded interesting – long, complete series, no risk I’ll have to wait years to see the conclusion… with a series of heroes I was told I’ll be able to follow from farm-boys to rulers, and even accompanied by a nice soundtrack.

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Wonder Woman (2017) – votum separatum

wonder-woman

There’s been a lot of talk about Wonder Woman, very favorable reviews (one of them, by Piotrek, on this blog), fan hype and critical acclaim. The movie’s heyday is already past, with Justice League on screen and other superhero movies crowding the benches. So why do I come back to it now?

Well, probably partly because I’ve been recently reading Moses Finley’s seminal work, The World of Odysseus – very highly recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greece. And partly because the movie sits like a thorn in my side, its popularity and acclaim, when confronted with its painfully stereotypical message, truly baffling.

Wonder Woman has been hailed as the first superhero movie with a woman as a lead. This is surely something laudable? After all, thanks to this movie we’ve read about subversive feminism and whatnots, discussed chainmail bikinis as a source of empowerment or subjugation, depending on one’s stance, and so on. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand, saying the film was very good, although noting at the same time that she “may be desperate – […] just happy that the Amazons had wild hair”. It’s been called the best of DCU movies so far, and while it in itself is not a big feat, it definitely forces comparison to other movies. It all seems highly beneficial to a summer flick which on its own is rather mediocre. We’ve all probably heard the voice of reason, saying, “it’s not perfect, but better this than nothing”, “it’s a step in right direction”, “I’ve seen worse”.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise — and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Piotrek: This from Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie got 93% freshness rating from critics and 90% from the audience. Points are slightly lower, with 7,5/10 from critics and 4,3/5 from regular movie-goers. On imdb it’s 8,2/10. From sites and reviewers I follow, not a single one disappointed voice. See Angry Joe and his crew, their enthusiasm is contagious. Just as everybody, they describe T:R as non stop fun, great comedy, a new direction for both Thor and Hulk. Also as two hours of fan-service. And I agree, but I’m not as sure it’s good fan-service as they are. Or, to be more clear, it might be very good fan-service, but for me it’s not enough for a 10/10 rating. I’ve enjoyed the movie, I’ve laughed a lot, several scenes are superb – arena duel, some of the fight sequences (one using this!), Dr Strange’s cameo, Gatling-shooting Valkyrie… and more.

I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie though, and it’s Ola’s fault. I’m not talking about the scathing review I’ve heard before I had the chance to go to the cinema, but several collected comic book she made me read, with storylines that supposedly inspired T:R.

Ola: Thank you! To keep things simple, cinematic adaptations of their source material generally can be judged based on faithfulness/originality, which gives us three basic categories: 1) faithful to the original, keeping its spirit (if not the whole content) intact despite the difference in medium – Watchers are a good example of this case, 2) better than original, expanding the material in ways unique to the new medium and/or times it had been adapted in –  I know my choice will be controversial, but Guardians seem a nice enough example here, or 3) worse – for whatever reason cannibalizing/trivializing/creating serious misconceptions about the original. Thor: Ragnarok falls firmly into this last category.

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Justin Cronin, The City of Mirrors (2016)

Cronin City of Mirrors

And so we arrive at the final chapter of the story originated in The Passage. I enjoyed the first installment, was disheartened by the second… And the third was my first DNF in years – actually, the first since Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, the review of which can be found here.

As I am an (almost) compulsive reader, DNF-ing a book is a big deal. I usually try to finish even those books which I don’t enjoy – there are plenty of examples of such instances on the blog, for example here and here, and here… DNF is a big thing for me. It’s sort of a final, irrevocable verdict, an emperor’s finger pointed down, the sword falling and lions waiting. DNF-ing a novel means for me that the work in question possessed no redeeming quality, no point of access, and that I considered reading it a total waste of time.

romans booingJean –Léon Gérôme Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down) , 1872

So now it’s time to explain why the conclusion to a trilogy which has begun with such a promise was a complete letdown.

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Angus Watson, Clash of Iron (2015)

I’ve reviewed volume one here, now I’m back with a few words on the second one.

22875122More of the same… good, bad and mediocre alike. I’m unimpressed and I won’t stay around for the final one. Maybe the author is better suited for s/f? Or contemporary military thrillers? The plot is not dumb, jokes would be ok if they suited the epoch, but  my immersion was broken every couple of minutes (I listened to the book on Audible), because there is nothing authentically ancient here. Actually, this was a final straw – after thinking about it for some time, I’ve suspended my Audible subscription, instead of going for the third Iron novel. I still have a supply of unread books there, including Bernard Cornwell’s, author as (ok, more) readable as Watson, and historically accurate.

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