Sunday, September 30, 2012

Consider Phlebas (book, 1987)

Links: TVTropesWikipedia, Amazon, Google Play.

Well, that was disappointing. I guess I was expecting something with a bigger scope, that would put The Culture (Iain M. Banks' fictional spacefaring society) up front and center. Instead what I got was a story that read like a mediocre Forgotten Realms tie-in novelization starring a Drow IN SPACE! who happens to be a Chaotic Neutral long-lost cousin of Drizzt Do'Urden. Or, to come at it from a different angle, like you took Captain Kirk away from Spock and Bones, stripped him of his moral compass, and then put him through a series of wacky Flash Gordon-style space opera adventures. The book has an actual Wacky Wayside Tribe of dark-skinned human cannibals IN SPACE! and I don't know that it's possible for me to keep respecting any work that goes off and does something like that. The ending was... well, better than the rest of the book in some ways, but it artlessly makes a heavy-handed point about the brutality of war. Score: 1 star out of 4.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.3).

Well, that was an interesting take on a horror movie. Unfortunately, I can't really say much without spoiling everything. It's basically a deconstruction of slasher horror films, but not in the way you might expect: Scream, for instance, simply parodied the slasher genre conventions for laughs; this film instead asks why the genre conventions exist in the first place. And while this film has its morbidly funny moments (two words: happy frog), it also has entirely too much existential dread to qualify as a "horror comedy". (If you don't mind partial spoilers, you can watch the trailer. I recommend stopping at 1:38, when it says "THIS APRIL".) The film is co-written by Joss Whedon (who's having a good plot day in addition to the snappy dialogue one expects) and Drew Goddard (most notable in this context as a writer on late-season Buffy and Angel; faint praise, I know, but he did co-write Conversations with Dead People, the best ep of season 7). If you like Whedon and you like horror, this is a must-see. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

P.S.: If you don't mind moderate spoilers, here's a pithy description in ROT13: vg fgnegf nf Sevqnl gur 13gu zrrgf Phor, gura gheaf vagb Erfvqrag Rivy zrrgf Gur Arireraqvat Fgbel.

P.P.S.: If you have seen the movie or don't mind major spoilers: gur napvragf ner hf (bhe pbyyrpgvir vq); bhe vzntvangvba pnhfrf gurve svpgvbany havirefr gb rkvfg; gur evghny pbzrf sebz bhe guvefg sbe fcrpvsvp ubeebe zbivr sbezhynf; gur snpryrff betnavmngvba pbaqhpgvat gur evghny ercerfragf gur zbivr fghqvb flfgrz; gur napvragf evfvat ercerfragf gur natel zbivrtbvat choyvp erwrpgvat nal zbivr gung qbrfa'g fngvfsl gur penira oybbqyhfg va gurve vq.