GENIUS… MILLIONAIRE… CRIMINAL MASTERMIND…

His name is Fowl. Artemis Fowl.

All that and he’s twelve years old.

Fowl is the evil hero of Eoin Colfer’s series of children’s novels.

I have written before about my overall dislike of the unlikeable protagonist and anti-hero, however I confess I make an exception for Fowl. He is the classic brainy villain that is dangerously simple to romanticize. Sort of a Dr. Evil for the middle school set.

In truth then, I dislike reading about characters who wallow pathetically in their unhappy, unsatisfying lives or crushing ignorance. Both of these problems are best exemplified in my utter loathing of William Faulkner’s writing.

I can enjoy, even relate too, a reprehensible person like Artemis. While he is “differently moralled” to say the least, he is not intentionally cruel. What he does is not always legal or moral, but I can understand someone who goes after what they want with all their resources. Think of the story if Richie Rich or Johnny Quest had sociopathic tendencies.

While I am fond of young Fowl, I see myself in Captain Holly Short. She’s a fairy, one of the “People” who are basically all the mythical creatures that humans don’t realize are real and living underground. Short is a member of the elite law enforcement group LEPrecon. As the first female LEPrecon officer, she has much to prove.

Fowl manages to kidnap Holly and plans to ransom her for gold.

I love how clever this book is with all the mythology and campy humor. Get this: the LEPrecon techie guy is a centaur named Foaly. Punny, very Punny.

There are five novels in this fun series, plus a companion book with two short stories and extras, and a graphic novel adaption. Much thanks to Kate for recommending the book. Now I’m hooked on them.

Originally published October 3, 2007 on my old blog.

UPTOWN LOCAL AND OTHER INTERVENTIONS


I bought Uptown Local and Other Interventions by Diane Duane for two reasons. First, Diane Duane wrote my favorite Star Trek novel. No surprise, it’s Spock’s World, but I don’t just love it because I love Spock. Telling the grand tale of Vulcan from it’s formation as a planet to Kirk’s time (as we think of it in the Federation terms) and interwoven with a complicated plot involving inter-planetary politics and, of course, involving the crew of the Enterprise is an impressive feat of writing. I’m not ashamed to say, multiple points in the book move me to tears.

So when John Scalzi put out a call to his blog readers to buy digital copies of her books from Ebooks Direct while she was dealing with the fallout from fraudulent activity on her bank account. Banks don’t care if you need money to eat and stuff while they sort out the details and I was more than happy to trade a little cash for ebooks. Did I mention, I love my Kindle?

I got Uptown Local and a book by Diane’s husband Peter Morwood which I haven’t read yet.

First, I should say, I love short stories. A well written short story, especially in fantasy and science fiction, the world building and story telling in a small number of words creates a distilled flavor that packs a punch most full length novel can’t match. Almost all the fantasy I’ve read has been in the form of short stories. Maybe that’s because so many fantasy novels are super long and intimidate me. Short stories give me everything I need – dragons and magic and a connection to mythology – without reading for weeks.

One difficult thing about reviewing short story collections is not spoiling the stories. I loved this collection. Some of the stories are set in the universe of Diane’s Young Wizard young adult novels. I want to pick those up based on the strength of these stories. Modern settings for magical stories dominate the collection. The couple revolving around food were very cool and connected to each other but not interdependent. The characters and settings are well developed, again, hard to do in smaller word counts. Establish mythology is played played with and even a famous (dead) writer is called into action to save his hometown.

What happened with Diane’s bank account was terrible and I wouldn’t wish such frustration on anyone, but I’m glad I tried one of her non-Trek books. I won’t be waiting for such an event to pick up some more.

JANUARY 18TH, 2012 I WANT IT NOW! A MEMOIR OF LIFE ON THE SET OF WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY


If I hadn’t stumbled across I Want it Now! on promotion for Kindle, I wouldn’t have sought out Julie Dawn Cole’s memoir. Shamefully, I wouldn’t have recognized her name. Gene Wilder is the only actor’s name I knew from the movie. I suspect most Americans, outside of hard core Wonka maniacs, would say the same. And, while I love the movie, I’ll admit, I read this book in part because I’ve had a wee crush on Gene Wilder since I first saw him as Willy Wonka. Those blue eyes and that charisma drew me in even before I knew about crushes. I read Gene’s memoir, Kiss Me Like A Stranger, a couple years ago. It is among my favorite memoirs and made me feel as though those feelings are not misplaced. He’s every bit as complex as Wonka, but young Julie was nearly Veruca’s polar opposite.

What I learned from the book is while Juile is best known in America as Veruca Salt, she went on to have a successful acting career in British television and theater. At the time she was cast for Wonka, she was commuting hours each day to attend a school for the preforming arts. I admire the dedication to her craft at such a young age. She spent the ten weeks of filming away from her family in a foreign country and speaks candidly about how hard it was while also a wonderful experience.

The bulk of the book centers around the filming of Willy Wonka and Juile’s relationships with the other cast members. It’s truly a memoir of the filming filled with her personal recollections. It’s so sweet how she reveals her long-ago crush on Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, and how she and Denise Nickerson, who played Violet, would vie for his attention. It put me in mind of my childhood sweetheart in the innocence of it. Michael Bollner, the German boy who Augustus Gloop, did not get to know the others as well because he did not speak English.

One fascinating aspect of filming I would never have guessed is how a majority of scenes were filmed in chronological order. The four children were kept from viewing sets ahead of time to capture genuine reaction. Thinking back on the film’s elaborate sets, I could imagine how much fun it would be to film. The most overused word in the book is “magic” or “magical.” Co-author Michael Esslinger admits as much in the foreword. I tend to notice things like reuse of words in books, and this was no exception, but I honestly don’t know how any other word could fit. Walk onto those colorful sets, told to explore. Imagine, in the chocolate room, many of the props were actually eatable. Magic, no?

After recounting her tales about the Chocolate Factory, Julie covers her acting career, highlights of her personal life, and recent reconnection with the other Wonka kids. A potent reminder one can be famous elsewhere and relatively unknown in the States even among confirmed anglophiles.

I enjoyed the book. The rare and personal photos throughout are worth it alone for those with a strong attachment to the film. I did find the long captions were redundant, sometimes pulled directly from the text, but it is only a small criticism in an overall delightful book. I suspect it was a deliberate choice to appeal to anyone looking to thumb through for the pictures without reading every word. Many of the important points would be covered if one were to do this, but it is a small and light enough to read word for word.

One warning: You will come away a strong urge to watch the movie and it’s not currently offered streaming on Netflix.

EARLY THOUGHTS ON STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

Since Netflix added four of five Star Trek series on streaming over the summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the addition of the fifth series, Deep Space Nine. Of all the shows, I’ve seen the fewest episodes of DS9 and heard about several sure to make my geek heart flutter in excitement.

Tribbles! Vulcans playing baseball! Worf’s wedding!

I’d been working my way through the first season on DVDs from Netflix when Chris and I moved in together and we went to a shared, streaming only account. I’m pretty sure the announcement had already been made about the shows going on streaming. I do hate waiting for disks by mail as much as I love instant gratification.

As promised, October first, Sisko, Odo and Quark were added to the streaming Trek lineup. No surprise, Chris and I both dug right in. We skipped ahead to the gems mentioned above, plus a beauty of an episode called “Far Beyond the Stars” which places Captain Sisko in 1950s New York City living the life of a science fiction writer for pulp magazine Incredible Tales. Much like Dorothy in Oz meeting people from the farm, the crew of Deep Space Nine populates this world. Could easily stand among my top ten favorite Star Trek episodes of all time.

After skipping ahead to the must-see episodes, I went back to where I’d left off in the disks. As of today, I’m around five episodes into season two. Two or three of them, I’d seen before.

So far, I have mixed reaction to the show.

I do like the characters. Even my least favorite of them, Dr. Julian Bashir, is growing on me after a rough start. I adore Quark and Odo. Jake Sisko and Nog are handled better than Wesley Crusher was in The Next Generation, written like teenagers and not used as a plot device to save the day with stunning technobabble.

The episodes I love, I really love. Not just those later season ones I watched out of sequence. The Forsaken might be my favorite Lwaxana appearance. Move Along Home is stellar and If Wishes Were Horses echoes the classic Trek theme of thoughts becoming disturbing reality. I am mesmerized by these stories and a few others which excite my imagination and reinforce exactly why I’m a dedicated Trekkie.

Where I’m not yet sold is the tales dealing with the day to day operations of the station, Bajoran politics and fall out from the Cardassian occupation. I don’t find those stories particularly compelling in part because they don’t tend to feel like Star Trek to me. Like my best friend Kate says about her dislike of Deep Space Nine, it’s like Star Trek without the trek. Conceptually, Star Trek was always about going out into uncharted territory, encountering the unknown and moving on. It seems funny to live on a space station and deal with shop keepers and trading ships bickering over cargo. Sometimes the action seems drawn out as if to allow the story arc to last. I am not saying it’s bad. It’s not. I am saying I don’t connect to the story telling style as Star Trek.

Having been assured, both by watching episodes from later in the series and by Chris who counts DS9 as his favorite Trek series, that the show continues to get better as it progresses, I have no intention of giving up on the show. I’m interested enough to keep going for my own sake even if only to see what happens to the characters. Bottom line, as I always say, when it comes to a choice between experiencing more stories in the Star Trek universe or not, I’m always going to take the story.