I meant to review both EVERNIGHT by Claudia Gray and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan this weekend but I was somewhat incapacitated by extreme fatigue. Why? I’m not sure. I was fearful of coming down with some sort of illness, but after having slept all day Sunday, I awoke this morning chipper and ready for work (albeit out in New Jersey–the commute was surprisingly easy this morning). Saturday I hung out with Katranna, wherein we discussed our favourite types of books as she cooked me food (she’s so awesome) and had tea.
Floating about the brain this morning is the stigma of science fiction/fantasy. All over my Twitter account is this article about SciFi channel changing their name to SyFy in order to shed its association with “geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games.” Firstly, excuse me, but I’m a geek and quite proud of it. I am also dating a geek in medical school and while we love our video games, he’s also decidedly not dysfunctional (well, more than usual) or antisocial (he’s actually more social than flitterygibbet little me). I generally find that geeks and nerds are the most interesting sorts of people to talk to.
Secondly, the name “SyFy” is simply ridiculous. No one, but no one, is going to read that and think “Hmmm, I wonder what that stands for. Perhaps this television station is full of interesting, non-genre related programming!” I’m not sure why network execs think that this move is going to prevent them from being “held back.” There is an audience for everything and while science fiction and fantasy are certainly somewhat niche, so are chick flicks and Lifetime television (there’s a stigma attached to those as well). Know thy audience; it will probably serve you better in the longer run. What have been the big blockbuster movies of the past five years? Comic book and fantasy movies. Spiderman, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter. Ain’t nothing wrong with science fiction and fantasy; they seem to be pulling in the big bucks. SciFi Channel has seen an increase in viewers in the past year, but I think in these rough economic times, it’s because science fiction and fantasy is a great form of escapism.
Thirdly, I take umbrage with the assumption that genre consumers are by and large 1) male and 2) antisocial and dysfunctional. I am girl, thank you. I am also probably freakishly well-adjusted (despite my attempts at the contrary). I am a girl who likes to read and write fantasy and graphic novels with two lovely parents who would rather have me shot than mooch off them by living in the basement (of which southern California doesn’t have any). Science fiction and fantasy is not merely elves and sorcery and other tropes and clichés; it can span anything from Charlie Kauffman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Haruki Murakami’s THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE to TV’s LOST.
More on fantasy as mode on another day. I did promise to review a few books after all.
Reviews of the following after the cut
- The movie Tropic Thunder
- EVERNIGHT by Claudia Gray
- THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan
Review of Tropic Thunder
Bear and I saw this at his friend Big Spoon’s house while fending off his hyperallergenic cats. I’ll say this: I’m not a fan of Ben Stiller. I never found his comedies particularly funny as a whole; certain shticks will have me in stitches, but overall, the majority of his movies either leave me cringing or yawning.
Tropic Thunder was bit of a yawn. There were some exceedingly hilarious bits, like the trailer for the faux-movie Satan’s Alley (featuring MTV’s Best Kiss Winner Tobey Maguire!) and Tom Cruise’s performance as Les Grossman. But as much as Tropic Thunder tried to be a metafictional satire of the movie industry, it was completely bogged down by…I’m not sure what. It isn’t as though the humour is sophomoric; in fact, it’s quite sophisticated in spots. It’s just that the movie failed to illuminate in hilarious new ways the foibles of the industry. There are some smart and scathing satires of Hollywood out there. This is not one of them.
However, that isn’t to say that this is bad. It’s not. There are some truly virtuoso comedic performances in here: Robert Downey, Jr. is especially amazing. The blackface? For the unenlightened like me, it was completely convincing. So was his Australian accent. Robert Downey, Jr., I love you.
The thing is, I’m a fan of absurdism but Tropic Thunder is less absurdism (a là Monty Python) than over-the-top. Over-the-top ridiculousness can be funny for me, but only if it’s played straight (as in Little Miss Sunshine). It is most assuredly not played straight in Tropic Thunder. Therein lies the majority of my problems with Ben Stiller’s films: concept funny, execution less than funny. Still, if you’re in the mood for some laughs, there are worse movies than this to watch.
Review of Claudia Gray’s EVERNIGHT
I started reading this when I was waiting for Bear to get into town last week. Sarah Rees Brennan had reviewed it on her blog, and because I trust her judgment, I decided to keep reading. I was forewarned about two things: it is a vampire novel and the heroine is redheaded (two very tired tropes for me).
EVERNIGHT is eminently readable. Despite the fatigued clichés, I continued reading. We’ve seen books like this before: shy girl falls in love with beautiful bad boy. One, or both of them, has a secret. This storyline never worked for me in the first place, but ZOMG when I got to the twist I went “WOW.” It immediately went from being old to fresh and new. Gray puts her main characters through a big reversal and I will say that it actually worked for me. (Still less sold on vampires overall, but I was amused enough by her worldbuilding to continue.)
Gray’s sequel STARGAZER is due to be released next week and I will probably be giving it a read.
Review of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan
Another book I couldn’t read fast enough (the last being Patrick Ness’s THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO). And unlike KNIFE, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH didn’t make me want to throw it at the wall after I was done: no awful cliffhanger, just beautiful I-must-know-what-happens-next-OMG suspense.
Mary has been told by the Sisterhood all her life that their village was the last bastion of mankind since The Return. Outside the fences the Unconsecrated lurk in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, hungry for living flesh. But Mary wonders if there isn’t more to the life that’s been offered to her: marriage to someone she doesn’t love and a lifetime of raising children with the spectre of death hanging omnipresent over their heads. Her mother used to tell her tales of the ocean: a vast, endless body of salty, undrinkable water and it’s been a secret dream of Mary’s to see it one day. Then one day, a visitor from Outside arrives in their village, proof that they are not the last humans on earth, causing Mary to question what other secrets the Sisters have been hiding from her.
BEST ZOMBIE NOVEL EVER even though Ryan never once says “zombie.” There are other great books with zombies in them (Max Brook’s WORLD WAR Z comes to mind), but this is a truly wonderful work of narrative fiction. WORLD WAR Z is comprehensive but THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is Mary’s story. THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH reminded me a bit of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD: a similar theme of holding out for hope in the face of utterly devastating odds. Also similar to THE ROAD is the story of a group of people leaving desolation in order to survive and what they have to endure. Very, very good. And very, very dark. In Mary’s world, there is no escaping; only surviving and while the ending is “happy”; it isn’t the perfectly packaged Disney-fied ending sometimes found in other YA novels.
I absolutely cannot recommend this enough. I would also recommend sleeping with an axe beneath your pillow in case of the zombie apocalypse. And make sure you have lots of food and water stocked.