Friday, April 5, 2013

The Host - Movie/Book

I've recently seen the movie - The Host.  It's based on the book by Stephenie Meyer.  I've mentioned previously that I was both looking forward to seeing the movie and dreading it.  We all know that the movie version of a decent book loses a lot in the transmogrification from word to image.  The translating can be good or bad, the necessary alterations might even change the tale.  Some attempts are best forgotten.
What's interesting in this, is first, seeing a trailer for the movie, I thought it would be decent.  I like the young actress chosen to play Melanie/Wanderer, Saoirse Ronan.  Then seeing the second trailer I realized they'd needed to add some action and drama and… it didn't sit well with my impression.  Of course it only added to my mixed feelings approaching a viewing.
I almost skipped it.
I'm glad I saw it in a theater.
I liked it.  I like the book more, but the movie did a decent job and told the story.
There is no way to know how I'd think of the movie if I hadn't read the book first.  It's not possible to forget the book to let the move stand separately.  So, I can't know if so many people are so critical of the movie because they didn't read the book, or they all wanted something on the Twilight level.  A lot of people get turned off as soon as the idea of Science Fiction comes up, alien invaders and what-all.  And of course if you have Science Fiction you need a lot of action and explosions or shoot-ups or something rather than just a story.
Going back to the book, it is a story.  The development of a character like Melanie isn't a cookie cutter process, given the conditions she must live in and deal with.  Our empathy for Melanie is something that needed to be developed.  We had to watch her grow into the character.   Then we had to learn of Wanderer.  We had to watch their struggle, their friction and then their cooperation.  Stephenie did a great job of it in the book, it still took a lot of words, but it worked.
In the movie you can't explain every little nuance of characterization, you had to watch it unfold.  Saoirse Ronan did an excellent job with the dual nature of herself.  The abbreviated story lines, from book to movie, are the elements of difficulty… again.  Each point in the book is developed with well-crafted verbiage, each trial, each footstep on whatever path is deliberate.
The movie holds the same deliberation but the brevity thwarts the needed compassion that carries the audience into the story.  For example - the imprisonment of Wanderer (It) in the cell-like cave - in the book it's a trial, she's cramped for space, in a little cubby hole where she can't stand upright, can't stretch out, can't lie comfortably.  The psychological torture that she goes through is painful.  The struggle with Jared hating her while she loves him, both of her, and what that does to her.  All of it (in the book) unfolds through days she can't count in the dark. (with no exchange of words with her brother).  Of course in the movie you need to show something so it's lit (rather than pitch dark).  And you need a faster progression.
When they first deal with Wanderer (in the book) they treat her with contempt, keeping her in the tiny, tiny cell.  Then they learn of her.  As she tells about herself, tells of her different lives on other planets, most of them learn compassion for her, or at least acceptance.  So when they later capture the Seeker (Diane Kruger) they automatically treat her with more compassion, even though she's nastily and tedeously tenacious (in the book), putting her in a larger cell.  Wanda/Melanie's reaction to that juxtaposition (even though she taught them) is telling and nicely told.
I don't know.
I can't decide.
Since I read the book a number of times I couldn't not know what was going on in the movie.
Okay… decision time… YES.  Reading the book, liking it, makes a difference in enjoying the movie.  I did enjoy it.  I loved how they had Saoirse play her role.  The 'voice' of Melanie was nicely done.
The FX of the Soul, when put into Melanie, was better than when they took the Seeker out of Lucy (the Seeker's human host).  Making it into a luminous FX creature… awww… I don't know.  I would've preferred a silvery look with a little bit of luminosity, but that's just me, I had an image left over from the book, my imagination.
Thinking through the movie there are so many parts where the brevity lessens or negates the emotional impact that I would recommend reading the book AFTER seeing the movie, if you didn't before.  One reason, of course, is that you now have character images to use while reading, even though Diane Kruger doesn't match the Seeker character (from what I remember).  I refuse to open the book to test myself.  The last time I did that I wound up reading the entire book again.
So, read the book.  See the movie.
If you saw the movie and didn't really like it, read the book, I think it will make you appreciate the story all the more.
Or, maybe, see the movie and then read the book.
I can't try that.
Aaargh, there's just so much, every time I flash to an image of the movie, I'm caught thinking of how the book told more about it, more depth, more emotion… It's one thing that Stephenie captures… emotions.  She does it by making characters to care for.
Crap… I'm going to have to read that book again… I feel it coming on…
Hopefully I'll get back to my main topic in my next blog, which (I hope) won't be so freaking long in coming.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On To a Fading Sun

Since it's been such a long time since my last blog, I'll finish off the thoughts of that one at this beginning.  Concerning The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey.  I liked it.  I can't say that I had any serious, set-in-stone, expectations about what Peter Jackson would do with the story but the movie was fun.  Some of the scenes were wonderfully enacted, scripted and played, for fans of the books, and others were silly to create fans for the movie.  I suppose it was a juggling act.  As I mentioned, regarding the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, there had to be certain elements added and enhanced to entertain a movie going audience, rather than a literary audience.

Considering that statement, I believe the books, the first four of that world of Middle Earth, were presented to a more literate world, and therefore a more interested public.  I know that they were first printed in Great Britain and the language is the English of that nation, but we in the United States could read and appreciate it as well.  Those books had a profound impact on the future of literature and gaming.  They still impact our sub-cultures, although I wonder how many have read the books these days rather than watch the movies.
Anyway, leaving movies behind, this blog is supposed to be about books… the books that fascinated me and continued to grip me.  Oh, here's a kind of side thought.  I've found that most of the readers I know only read a book once.  They may read a book twice if they really liked it.  It struck me as odd.  Maybe I'm the odd one.  I know I used to read The Lord of the Rings set once a year from when I first found it.  I read Glory Road by Robert Heinlein once a year as well.  There were many books I read repeatedly.  They were good and fun stories and reading them again and again was like visiting worlds I loved.  Yes, I suppose I'm the odd one.  Like I've said previously, I read The Host, by Stephanie Meyer several times in a row.  Waiting for the movie. 
Do we read a book just to say we did?  I read for pleasure, or because several friends in the YOTB group I'm in at the library insist I do.  (I'm glad I did)  That book was Rising Up by Pamela Bender, a fictionalized family saga.  (One of those stories to cry over and through).
So, back on track…
C. J. Cherryh… author.  I can't even list the number of books she's written.  If you want to know, go to her website, it's very well kept… she's webmaster.  She's one of those authors who I would seek out at the bookstore with the familiar yellow spine from DAW.  (Yes, back to when they had bookstores in the malls)  I know I did not keep up with her prolific writing over the years… don't know why.  (Well, my life took some of my time and money is always tight)   I still have bookshelves.  (I'm selling my house, so I'm starting to minimize my holdings.)  So when I was thinking of which book to mention here, I looked at one of the authors taking up a large amount of space… in the one paperback section.  I have many of her books in hardback, too.
The Faded Sun Trilogy: Kesrith (1978), Shon'jir (1978), Kutath (1979).
I've read these books several times over the years and again this last weekend.  I'm not a speed reader, I don't skim.  This is a science fiction story.  It's a story of conflict, peace and genocide, fears and policies… it's a futuristic story and an ancient story.  It's a story that stands in any time.  The characters and the various species are fascinating, even the humans. 
We meet the mri.  In their tongue it means 'the people.' 
C.J. Cherryh creates an intricate culture and reveals the elaborate details in bits and pieces as the story goes on.  From the kel, veiled and robed warriors, the sen, scholars, to the kath, mothers and caregivers… we learn of a culture that has existed for hundreds of thousands of years.  Humans have only known the kel, through a forty year war.  They've learned that they were mercenaries hired by the regul to war.
The regul are an extremely long-lived trader species with eidetic memories and elaborate, intricate, self-serving politics.
Okay, here's the back cover of the first book… I don't usually do this but in this case it's worth it.
"This is the story of three people: Sten Duncan, a soldier of humanity; Niun, last warrior of the mri, humanity's enemies; Melein, priestess-queen of the final fallen mri stronghold.
"This is the story of two mighty species fighting for a galaxy: humanity driving out from Earth, and the enigmatic regul struggling to hold their stars with mri mercenaries.
"This is a story of diplomacy and warfare, of conspiracy and betrayal, and of three flesh-and-blood people who found themselves thrown together in a life-and-death alliance."
That last statement is the most important for anything I've ever read of C.J. Cherryh's.  Her characters are flesh and blood.  They live in our imaginations for the manner of her writing.  A book can only hold so many words, and when a page or two draws you into a story and compels you to continue, you know a master is directing those words.  From the first you're frustrated for the mri Niun, trained by weapon masters but untried, a young warrior held back from war, while all his peers leave for glory.  And now the war is over.
Melein, Niun's true-sister, raised kel but then pulled into sen by Intel, She'pan, Mother, Priestess, Queen of these mri, to a separate life and training.  She is concerned for her brother but Intel keeps her close. 
Sten Duncan, human, a Surface Tactical Force officer, an expert at surviving in hostile environments and behind enemy lines.  Now he is aide to the human envoy, governor-to-be, George Stavros, heading to the planet Kesrith, aboard a regul ship.  We learn of his frustrations, anger, bitterness of war… all in recognizable human terms in alien environs.
The people, the worlds… the creatures called dusei… all of it woven into a brilliant tapestry of story.  Once again it was a story that held me, keeping me up late into the night and turning from one book to the next until I was finished.  I recommend it for the samurai-like nature of the kel, the comradeship and characters, the intrigue and stars.  There's nothing about it that I wouldn't recommend.  The, perhaps, unfortunate thing, is that having read these familiar books I might be digging into the next of her books on my shelves.  I'll wait and see.
If you want a copy of her early books, I recommend going to her website first -  C.J. Cherryh is an author to investigate from her first books through whatever she has currently.  She inspired me to read a little more often than she inspired me to write, but when writing I've often considered her worlds and style.