What can I say? He's one of my faves characters in fantasy film in a while.
:) I'm almost tempted to write fan fiction.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I had to laugh a bit at the timing as I finished up reading Shade by John Olson, because I took a break to watch SOUTH PARK spoof TWILIGHT (the teen vamp flick based on the insanely popular books). Tonight's episode featured some of my fave, though rarely reoccurring, characters--The Goth Kids. The story had the Goth Kids--with their nihilism, smoking, black hair, Gothwear, and desire to non-conform in full display--taking umbrage at the similarities (and increasing popularity) of the Vamp kids (whom everyone else just calls Goth cause they dress similarly). Vamp kids don't smoke, don't drink coffee, and wear fake plastic fangs. Goth kids think they're losers in Gothwear.
In SHADE, we see Goth kids and Vamp kids. And plastic fangs. So, I chuckled.
As someone who likes the Goth look (hence my most recent cinematic crush on Prince Nuada Silverlance of HELLBOY II: The Golden Army and his terrifically extreme pallor, white-blond hair, black leather, silver accoutrements, and black lips), and Goth music, and the melancholia that runs through the Gothiness of it all (I am, after all, a gal plagued by depression since the age of 9)--well, I loved having a Christian novel not simply add a Goth character, but depict a Gothy subculture as an ongoing part of the plot. If I weren't too old for jet black hair and fishnet, I'd so be there.
So, what is Shade about?
The usual things of contemporary dark fantasy with a Christian worldview: good, evil, heroes, villains, prophecies, hunter and hunted, and the real existence of another sphere of existence beyond the material/scientific, and the power of prayer and faith and a good heart in the face of overwhelming odds.
Or, more plot-related: Grad science student flips out when she experiences a psychic and physical attack (or does she?) and is diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. But the homeless man who repeatedly saves her from her "episodes" may be proof she's not crazy (or that they both are). He believes they are playing out a prophesied scenario in a fight against a terrible evil. Well, our grad student is gonna have to find out which is which--madness or supernatural goings on-- because her life is becoming a mounting ruin and corpses are piling up around her. Plus, there's a too-too-seductive tycoon who has a whole lot of interest in both her and her homeless protector.
We follow four principal characters:
~~ Melchi, who is homeless, huge, frighteningly fast, agile and strong, and childlike in his sense of self and good/evil. He is the ascetic, the spiritual seeker mortifying flesh while enriching the mind with classics (John Milton's work plays a part, as does Bram Stoker's). He lives like a wildman, like a crazy man, uneducated and often hungry and thirsty; but he sees some things much more clearly than the sane and the educated and the well-fed and finely-housed.
~~Hailey, a grad student in biochemistry whose life spirals into a crazy whirlwind of violence and possible hallucinations. She doesn't know if she's mad or being initiated into something much more horrible than madness itself. She wants to be rational, but rising irrationality around her makes her the focal point of events that are beyond her control.
~~Athena, the Goth girl with street smarts and Gypsy heritage. Her Goth crew also falls into the darkness swirling in San Francisco, so that her path crisscrosses--and sometimes smashes--into that of Melchi and Hailey. Her cleverness and gumption are her major modes of survival when things go all to hell.
~~Sabazios Vladu, the guy you are going to inevitably compare to Vlad Dracul. But we guess he is more than a mysterious, suave, seductive, wealthy, dangerous pursuer in the vampire mode.
Those are the main players. Supporting we have a genius scientist named Boggs who, like Hailey and some other characters, have faith (at varying places and levels) and become part of the mess on the side of good. There's also a detective who from the start makes us want to ask for Columbo, instead. Homeless folks help out. And a bookstore owner (cause, yeah, we love books, so a bookstore lady has gotta be good, right?)
The strongest part of the story is Melchi. His character is always interesting when he's center stage. The prologue with him undergoing rigorous training against the foe is a great hook. Because we start in pretty much in the heat of action, the story's pace is fast. For those who like action/thrillers/zooming narrative, you can have that with Shade
The weakest is Hailey. She's downright annoying. She's pretty stupid for a supposedly smart girl. I never find her utterly believable, and don't find her at all sympathetic until nearly toward the finale. I kept asking myself, "Why is this character not working for me?" I wanted to get at the reason I just didn't care if someone mashed her over the head so she could stop being a selfish whiny idjit. I may have to reread to figure that out, but it may be that while there is a certain consistency and graspability about Melchi's "self"--even though he is almost the LEAST realistic character in so many ways--Hailey remains this sort of undefined presence that is always tripping over her feet and needing to be rescued and never really feeling like someone with a mind trained to analyze, sort, come up with good theories, etc. In other words, I never believed she was a scientist or even all that bright. I think I really needed to see her, yes, confused about her life and state of mind, but also processing, processing, processing with as much rationality as a trained mind would.
(Below, the attractive Mr. Olson.)
So, what did I want from Hailey?
I needed her to be more like the set-up: smart, even if deranged. I mean, maybe more along the lines of that nutjob dad in FRINGE--yes, he's nuts, but he works things through and comes to amazing conclusions. I needed her to work things through and show herself a person who wasn't so flaky and self-centered, even if maybe paranoid schizo (if that makes sense.) Or if she was going to be selfish and a flake, to somehow be also really bright and observant and maybe funny. A balance.
Although, it does suddenly occur to me that consistency of STATED characterization may be a problem. Both Hailey and Boggs are supposed to be the smart gals here, but the quick-thinking Athena outshines them in the smarts department. We see one instance of Boggs being scientist-ty (and I liked it a lot, too), and then she stopped being that character and became this sort of, "I come when called like a chauffeur or butler" person. That irked me. I wanted her to be consistently the genius I'm told over and over she is. And so with Hailey, when we see her at the start, she's supposed to be bright, but also a bit unassertive and the goody-goody-girl. There was this hint of something in her past (but we don't get that backstory). I even wondered if she had been raped/assaulted by the whole way she behaved with the "date" in the opening. That went nowhere, though. And maybe that is part of my problem with her: Expectations set up; then fuzzied out.
And I really wanted to tel her to get good athletic shoes so she'd stop tripping over every rock in sight. :)
If Hailey's character had come up to the level of sharp delineation and distinctiveness as Melchi's, if she had invoked more sympathy in me, this book would just have skyrocketed to another level for me. If she had worked, the romantic element itself would have soared. But the romance stumbled in places because she just really...well...I didn't think she deserved the guy for most of the book.
So, out of the three gals we see a lot, only one worked for me. Because she seemed more real.
And even with Hailey limping along (in more ways than one), the story worked as this dark urban action-fantasy for me. (And urban fantasy is definitely a place I like to sink my teeth into. Pardon the Vladdy pun.)
Gals are gonna love Melchi, who is not a typical romantic hero (given the stench and poor grooming and that whole living in a crime-riddled park thing). But nobility of spirit overcomes even that...in fiction, anyway. And there are some lovely moments that warm your heart here.
Athena was cool. I like her. She's like this urchin who won't give up and can play people. How she works out some problems is interesting and fun. We sympathize loads with her. Well, I did.
Sabazios (pronounced like that oily gland in people: sebacious) needed a tad more oomph, too. He was hypnotic (especially to Hailey), and he had some interesting system going (won't spoiler it for ya), but someone of that, er, stature in baddiness seemed a bit less interesting than he should have been in certain situation. I actually wanted to hear more about why he liked Woolf so much. :)
The sense of paranoia is nicely done. We do sense that, sorta like X Files, we should trust no one, or nearly no one. As it should be in a thriller.
The ending--which rocked at some levels!--while having a sufficient sense of "closure" to make it satisfying, definitely leaves a door open. This screams for a next installment. And I'll be buying it, especially if Melchi and Athena, the gutsy gypsy, are back.
I think you should pick it up and give it a try if you're a fantasy fan or a thriller fan.
Or maybe you just wanna root for the scrappy Goth Girl and the sexy homeless hero. (And feel free to root for the ditz heroine. I won't hold it againt you.)
No, really. Buy it. Support Christian urban fantasy so Big Mama Mir has more of it to read in future. Really!
If you'd like to join the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, visit the site: CSFF official site.
EDITED TO ADD: I noticed over at Shannon's blog in her review of SHADE that she says it's not as scary as touted. I agree. I think some scenes have a terrific tension and that rising sense of paranoia (appropriate for the theme) works. But it's not like one of those that keeps you sleeping with the light on types of scary novels. It's got tension, not out and out frights.
And I agree with Becky Miller that the conversion scene seemed out of the blue and the finale rushed. But I do think the author set up the character's obsession with LAW over GRACE sufficiently to explore that aspect at some point. I do think it needed a bit more space, or at least to have come up once or twice (no matter how slightly) in conversation, so that it was set-up for the confrontation when it came.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"You will not fear the terror of the night." —Psalm 91
A monstrous waking nightmare is pursuing graduate student Hailey Maniates across San Francisco to Golden Gate Park where she is rescued by a towering homeless man. She seems able to read her rescuer’s mind, but is it just a delusion? Doctors diagnose her as a paranoid schizophrenic and attempt to prescribe away her alleged hallucinations. But too many questions remain around Hailey and the man who saved her. He appears to suffer from her same mental condition and is convinced that some type of Gypsy vampire is trying to kill them both.
Against reason, Hailey finds herself more and more attracted to this strange man. But what if he is a fantasy? What if he is the monster?
The author had this to say about SHADE in a TitleTrakk interview:
Shade isn't your grandma's prairie romance. It's pee-your-pants intense, mind-bendingly complex, chillingly nightmarish and a tad bit weird. Okay… Maybe more than a tad. There's more going on beneath the surface than even the most brilliant reader will be able to pick up on, and it could very well be frustrating to readers who are used to having their stories served to them in nice bite-sized chunks. I'm not just nervous about it's release; I'm chew-my-fingernails-
And I'm excited. I've waited ten years to be able to publish Shade. It's more vulnerable and unfiltered and ME than any book I've ever written. I can't wait to get people's reactions. They aren't all going to be positive reactions, but I think they'll all be good. And I think the story will rumble around a lot of heads for a long long time.
If you are the type who needs to sample a book before reading, how about the first ten chapters?
Remember to catch the SHADE trailer.
Other bloggers on this tour:
CSFF Blog Tour
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Monday, November 17, 2008
A new month, a new blog tour, a new novel. This month's featured bit of SF is John B. Olson's Shade .
If you like modern and scary, this blog tour offering should be up your alley--contemporary and creepy.
Here's a taste of how the book opens:
A moonlit night. Silver-frosted shadows frozen in the stillness of an early Minnesota fall. A weathered farmhouse looms over a fog-cloaked bog, leaking soft candlelight from a second-story window. Flickering silhouettes beat against the window panes. Clacks and sharp cries, injecting the silence with echoes of
Rising out of the mist, a dark shadow rolls through the clearing. Blotting out the farmhouse. Obscuring the moon.
“Recite the Gateway Prophecy. Now!” A hooded man swung a staff in a sweeping arc toward a young boy’s face.
“‘The ancient enemy’”—the boy ducked and hopped backward on feet bound together with new hemp rope—“‘in the last dark days of hunt shall rise up to destroy the Standing.’” The boy twisted his staff upward, deflecting the next blow in one fluid motion that circled his staff beneath his master’s defense.
“‘Only the long-awaited shall stand.’”
The man sprang back, spun around, and swept at the boy’s feet. But the boy leaped into the air even as he brought his staff down on the man’s shoulder, pulling back on the blow an instant before impact.
“Good!” The old man smiled against the strain of another swing.
“‘By becoming the enemy, he shall shield the world from the enemy’s dark—’” The boy flinched, just managing to parry the next blow. He shuddered as a cold shiver crawled up his spine. Something . . . something dark . . . touched his mind like a foul stench.
Read all the excerpt HERE---
Visit John Olson's site HERE.
Drop by and say "hi" to my tourmates:
CSFF Blog Tour
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Friday, November 14, 2008
I posted this cause, well, Elven manliness and all, but also cause I really like this song: Mordred's Lullaby sung by Heather Dale.
The poisonous intent of Mordred's momma twisted her son, and Nuada, sadly, got all twisted up, too.
A baddie, but a hottie.
If you rent/buy the DVD, make sure to see the deleted full-length version of the scene of his spear dance. Niiice. (But Del Toro was right to edit out the "dancey" bits.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
May God bless you all in a multitude of ways for your unselfish service.
This Veterans Day, consider donating to a charity that aids veterans, such as the Disabled American Veterans (rated 4 stars with Charity Navigator). You can also browse the charities for one that you can connect with.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Some time back, I wrote a detailed review of EXPOSING THE DARK by Luminous, a CCM cd that I just had on repeat for months! Loved it. Still love it.
Well, just got a heads up from the band that they have a new moniker--The Luminous Sky--and a new cd is done. Color me sooo excited. :)
You can sample the title track "Beautiful Revolution" at the band's site. Youtube has a sneak peak as well. Sounds promising to me! My cd player's repeat button better start warming up now.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Okay, I really wanted another piece, but my budget couldn't accomodate $325. But it could accomodate the much more modest piece (and price) called "Hope" by Sara Butcher. And it had a special connection to me. Earlier this year--and I thought I had blogged about it--God gave me "hope" as my word for the year. And it was very appropriate. I finally ditched a 4-year long depression. I started focusing on becoming healthier (and exercising!) Then hubby got laid off and hope remained buoyant (supernaturally). Then the economic crisis hit,and yet we hope to see great things happen for us and our nation.
And God has been good to me. He keeps hope alive in me for even better things, despite my natural tendency to be a freakasoid worrywart.
Here she is:
Thursday, November 06, 2008
~~4.5 Stars for Story~~
I wholeheartedly recommend PRINCESS SOPHIA'S GIFTS. This lovely picture story book will cheer the hearts of its readers, especially the hearts of the parents, siblings, and loved ones of those with disabilities--as well as disabled children and adults themselves.
An older, rawer tradition of fairy tales included acts that brought great harm and injuries to its heroines/heroes--such as the Armless Maiden or the sightless wandering Prince or the comatose Beauty or the Beast Prince. But often, in tales, there are magical restorations of the lost body parts or healing of the curses.
This tale set in a happy fairy-tale kingdom depicts a lovely ruling family of which Princess Sophia is the youngest and most cheerful of all. We move from the happy status quo to tragedy, and then to a spiritual encounter and its consequences, and then to a kingdom-wide quest. Lastly, as in so many classic tales, we reach the final realization, the wisdom, the "moral." The story's weight comes from the author who speaks from a place of personal experience: Diane Hovey's own child went through the suffering that little Princess Sophia did, and like the fictional princess, came out of her choking incident with disabilities that could not suppress her natural exuberance and beauty.
To be fully honest, this is not a perfect telling: The one very obvious flaw in how the tale is told--and the reason why this is not a double-five-star review, but a 1/2 star is taken away from the story--is that once Princess Sophia is, like other fairy story princesses, gifted in special ways, we do not see these special attributes/gifts used during the quest. In order to understand the purpose of the spiritual gifting, we need to see the Princess interact with those who encounter her as she travels. That would then be punctuated by the meeting with the sage...who brings the climactic epiphany forth.
The artwork, though, gets a full five stars. I've followed the art of Sara Butcher for a couple years now (and became so enamored of it that I commissioned a piece of watercolor art from her two years ago), and I can testify that her ability to capture spirituality in a fantasy setting is brilliant and utterly captivating. There is grace. There is illumination that seems magical and filled with cheer. There is gorgeousness in the depiction of women with flowing hair.
You can see images of some of the book's illustrations--a bit larger than here--at Sara's site.
I very much appreciate how Sara incorporates different ethnic types in the tale--not just the usual Northern Euro types we have seen over and over; you know, those illustrations of fantasy tales in picture books we grew up reading. Princess Sophia is fair and flaxen-haired as a young child, but we see all colors of hair, and we see one lovely figure in Native American appearance and garb, another in African appearance and garb, another with Indian (as in India) garb and darker hair, another with mahogany-red hair who reminds me of lovely Irish maidens of myth. The variety adds an accessbility to all manner of children, and I like that.
The final piece of art in the book is a strong statement of a different sort of happy ending. I won't give it away, but it could make a powerful poster for certain children in certain circumstances. Happy endings take unexpected forms in PRINCESS SOPHIA'S GIFTS.
If you have a disabled child--especially a girl--in your family, you really should get this book. If you love warm-hearted stories and beautiful artwork, you should get this book. Christmas is nearing, and this would be a terrific addition to any child's library.
Whatever crits he got about characterization meant squat to me. Gimme a cool plot and a fast pace, and I'm there. I can enjoy a plot-driven novel as much as a character-driven one (sometimes MORE). I simply don't tend to reread them. Character-driven novels wear better on repeat reads. Plot-driven ones are great for that immense thrill the first-go-round.
I read my first Crichton novel an embarrasingly long time ago--The Andromeda Strain. I liked the film way back when--gosh, I'm getting old. What a crush I had on Arthur Hill and James Olson (double crush)after watching that. I even enjoyed the overtly-PC newer tv version. I was rivetted by RISING SUN (liked the film quite a lot less so than the novel, but Sean Connery makes up for loads). I remember plowing at breakneck speed through JURASSIC PARK when it came out in paperback. It got me through the boring waits of jury duty. (The film was fun, but the book ruled.) I read DISCLOSURE over a long, long night of reading. (The film was okay.) And so on.
I even tuned in to a new show of the 90's called E.R. cause he was involved. (It's about to close shop this season. How appropos.)
Basically, the guy knew how to keep you turning pages. That's a skill I'd love to have. (And he was easy on the eyes, too. Good looking and tall.)
I'll miss the little frisson of excitement when a new Crichton-controversy-igniter of a book came out. (What? You don't remember the brouhaha over this one or that one?)
Bye, Mike. I hope in your last moments, your eyes and heart turned toward Heaven.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
No matter who got your vote, as good citizens we ought to work for a better future; as Christians, our job is to respect authority, honor those in positions of honor, and pray that our leaders will be wise and good and will do right, so we may live in peace. And to always remember that what comes is ultimately in the hand of God.
Most voters claim the economy is our number one issue. I think sin always has been and always will be our number one issue. When the country is off track, sure enough, I'll bet you can find some sin at the root of it.
The current woes are in part the outcome of personal and corporate vices--greed, vanity, coveting, selfishness, spendthriftiness, gross ambition, gambling (of the housing speculative sort, for sure), ruthlessness, to name a few.
Let's focus on virtues that will help each of us, our families, and our nation--and globally. Kindness. Forgiveness. Generosity. Self-control. Hope. Faith. Mercy. Prudence. Fortitude. Frugality. Simplicity. Humility.
Virtue can solve the problems caused by vice.
Please, let's pray for our next president and our leaders at all levels. Pray that they will be upright and strong, guided by wise and godly counsel, able to unite where possible. Ask God to open eyes and ears. Pray that the Spirit will move mightily across the land and the Earth, and that hearts will turn.
And pray the nutjob haters don't get our new President. We know they're out there (as they always have been.)
Let's put our trust not in princes (or presidents or senators or judges). Let our trust be first and foremost in the One who knows what is to come and knows the end of all things, who is able to heal the deepest wounds, and who alone is able to change the hearts of men and women, even those in positions of power.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.--II Chronicles 7:14
Monday, November 03, 2008
“Why don’t you give yourself to God once and for all… really…, now?”--Saint Josemaría
I wasn't aware that the Opus Dei founder had been canonized. Just looked it up after hearing him referred to as "the blessed."
I don't know much about the fella, but I always thought the organization was much-maligned (and probably unjustly). The idea of sanctifying work seems to me very Biblical and beautiful.
Anyway, I happened upon a program with excerpts of him speaking publically, and I find him rivetting. His manner is very warm and appealing, his speech is accessible and eloquent, with a sort of playfulness and cheerfulness that I'm sure anti-Opus-Deites--those who imagine the dour and the self-flagellating and repressed filling the ranks-- would find surprising. Even on film, he radiates a love of God and of people that is palpable. I may not be Catholic (not for decades) anymore, but I could imagine myself having been very taken with him as a young Catholic girl and wanting to attend one of his appearances.
When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there — the words and deeds of Christ — is something that you should not only know, but live.--St JoseMaria
Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail by detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life.
—God has called us Catholics to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life.
You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, “Lord, what would you have me do?...” And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, “The Will of God!”
Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Now, I gots me a hankering to pray more fervently for revival and awakening. It's one of my daily subjects for prayer, I just feel re-invigorated.
So, here--passing along some free online writings on the subject of prayer (most Christian classics) that are listed at Just Pray dot Org--
A Humble Attempt (to Promote the Agreement and Union of God's People Throughout the World In Extraordinary Prayer For a Revival Of Religion And The Advancement Of God's Kingdom On Earth According To Scriptural Promises And Prophecies Of The Last Time), Jonathan EdwardsMethod of Prayer, Madame Jeane Guyon
Saturday, November 01, 2008
From author/editor/publisher Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press and Where the Map Ends:
On Election Day, November 4, between noon and midnight EST (GMT -5:00), we're going to have a book surge on Amazon (USA). If you're thinking of purchasing MLP books this month (you know, for Christmas gifts...), consider doing so in that time window. The surge is primarily for "Summa Elvetica" but we'll watch the Amazon rankings for all three MLP novels.
...I'd like to sweeten the deal by offering free e-book products to anyone who purchases during that window. If you purchase one or more MLP novels during the surge, e-mail me proof of that purchase and I'll send you information about how you can download your gift.
Buy 1 MLP novel during that time and get your choice of one of my $4.99 e-books for free: either the new screen saver or "Into the Breach: The Marcher Lord in History." Buy 2 or more MLP novels (or 2 or more copies of the same one) during that time and get your choice of one of my $14.99 or $15.00 e-books for free: either "A Marcher Lord Gallery" or "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist."
And if you are a reader of REALMS OF FANTASY, maybe you can write a review or start a discussion HERE.