So much universe, and so little time…

I discovered Sir Terry Pratchett almost by accident. I read The Wee Free Men sometime late in primary school, or early in intermediate, enjoyed it a whole lot, especially his autobiographical paragraph, and then looked at the inside covers and discovered that I’d started with, oh, just the 30th book in a series. Well.

First off, I was impressed that I even understood what was going on. Then I was awed that he’d written so many books. Then I wanted to read them all.

I didn’t actually, not for another year or so at least. His name sat with a pile of other authors who I wanted to read. Because I wanted to do this properly – for once, read a series from start to finish in the right order (of course, I was completely ignoring that there were separate storylines and threads, and that the Discworld novels were, therefore, ideal for not reading in the order that they were written in). Just before I started highschool, I ordered them all in from the library. They came in droves – and I ordered them in the way I wanted to read them, waited for the middle books to hurry up and arrive, read other books in the meantime … it seemed like a colossal endeavour. I was lugging two full bags of books from the library each week, and more than one bag (not plastic, made of cloth) ripped as a result of the weight as I walked in the hot sun, sweating the full 30 minutes back home. I devoured those books. As I started high school, they were there, in piles beside my bed, and I discovered, to my delight, that my Visual Arts teacher was a long-time fan, who owned all the audiobooks and had a collection of Sir Terry Pratchett’s books, and recognised the reference when I began an email with five exclamation marks (a sure sign of an insane mind). That was how I found out that Neil Gaiman was Neil Gaiman – the person who had written the screenplays for Stardust and MirrorMask, who also happened to be an AUTHOR, with other books! Through Good Omens, that door was opened.

I adore Sir Terry Pratchett’s works. I tried to make all my friends adore them – I foisted books off to them and made deals with them, and right now a friend of mine is about to raid my empty room (with permission) and borrow The Colour of Magic, because she promised that she would read the books one day.

What about The Shepherd’s Crown? What about all the other gorgeously funny, procrastination-enticing stories that I am sure he had fermenting in his brain with the leftover fruit the bat left as the century turned into that of the Anchovy? I’m selfish enough that I regret his passing, more for my sake than others. I want to read his books. I want to grow to adulthood with them; I want to know that no matter how much I browse through every second-hand bookshop, I will always have another one or two books to go, because he would be forever writing new ones. I want a constant, in a way that other people had Harry Potter from a very young age, or Lord of the Rings (both of which I was also reading at around this time; far too late). Of course, I am deeply sorry for the loss of others, knowing I am not the only one affected by his death, and definitely not the most profoundly – I never knew him as a man, only as a voice that talked to me out of the pages of books – an insubstantial ghost which hovered and layered tones of satire over Death’s announcements of wanting to FORGET ANYTHING. EVERYTHING.

But what I will do is take the two Discworld novels I have on my desk, borrowed from the library as a means of comfort in a strange city and a new institution that I am not especially thrilled about at present, and take out more. And reread them all. (In spite of everything else I should be doing) Because they are amazing, and funny, and mock the world in a comforting way that makes me smile, and roar with mirth, and get strange looks from other people.

May his legacy live long, prosper, and anthropomorphise into a brilliant, breathing thing. One that takes even rats into consideration.

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Prose Lullubies are not for the Fainthearted

My sister is six-and-a-couple-of-months-old, and we’re on page 194 of The Hobbit.

I bought a copy filled with some of the many drawings and paintings of the talented Alan Lee, with the intention of trapping her one day, while she was strapped in the car and unable to escape, and start reading. The first couple of times I tried to force books upon her as story-time reading were unsuccessful, she claimed that Gerald Durell was “boring”, despite her immense enthusiasm for animals, and declared Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone just as bad. However, she has maintained interest in The Hobbit for approximately a month now, and we both enjoy the experience, though sometimes she asks what words mean. And fair enough, Tolkien uses some rather advanced vocabulary for a year 1 student!

I love the fiction genre, and when I was younger, my parents read me a lot of books – they steadfastly continued throughout my entire primary schooling – till I was 11! – and almost the complete Anne of Green Gables series was narrated to me, night after night, in Hebrew. I derived great enjoyment from the experience, and have very fond memories of my mother, muddling words and nodding off as her voice grew hoarse, with me poking her awake gently and demanding that she finish the chapter, though I, at the time, had formed and enforced some very stubborn, weird views on what I was allowed to read in English. I love passing on my enjoyment and seeing my sister drop off to sleep.

But I have to wonder, should I have started with something more benign? The Colour of Magic, perhaps, or The Spiderwick Chronicles, or even renewed the Anne of Green Gables tradition? Because The Hobbit has some pretty gory images, some rather gruesome, violent scenes, and a lot of talk of beheadings and enemies and evil. And I don’t want my sister gaining a binary perspective of the world, seeing everything as direct oppositions. On the other hand, she’s interested, and I want to foster that – because isn’t her interest an indication that she is ready to be read these stories? Although, possibly I should be waiting until she can read them herself…

 

What do you think?

-Let’s call me Lily

Reviewing Thor’s Dark World

I’m so glad that I didn’t watch this in a cinema, because they would have kicked me out 🙂 Watching Thor: The Dark World for the first time a couple of days several weeks about a month ago (er, yes, apologies, and this is the one where I gripe, so you can skip it if you don’t want to read that), I was struck by an inexplicable urge to laugh. Especially in the first act of the film.
Thor has always been an outlier in the Avengers; neither enhanced by science in some way, nor gifted with a preternatural ability which has been transformed into a weapon, he is a literal god. Asgard, with Yggdrasil and the nine realms, is vastly different from the rest of MCU and its distinctly recognisable, human, heroes. I suspect that the purpose of the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy is to expand upon the notion of other worlds, other cosmos, and will act as another way of integrating the two distinct sensibilities of the futuristic and the mythical together. In saying that, however, when setting the foundations of Asgard in Thor, director Kenneth Branagh cleverly made the decision to humanise his gods; creating a scenario not unlike Greek mythology, wherein gods are sometimes foolish and scandalous, just like human beings. Marvel has expanded on this in Thor: The Dark World, imparting new knowledge, including the fact that these so-called immortals can, and do, die.
When I first heard the subject matter of Thor: The Dark World was ‘dark elves’, I thought “uh oh”… because I have read Lord of the Rings, I have read The Silmarillion, I have read about Lord of the Rings through (some of) the History of Middle Earth series, and I have watched the films. And while the LOTR trilogy does not encompass the development of Middle Earth and the separation of the different strands of elves, it was still structured upon this knowledge, and directly adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, which are heavily reliant upon Norse mythology. Thus, to use characters such as the ‘dark elves’, when there is already such a strong visual trend which has remained ever since the LOTR trilogy was screened, and which continues in The Hobbit trilogy, was somewhat of a risk, in my opinion. I was prepared for some similarities, I figured that they wouldn’t matter too much in the main scheme of things. However, I was still apprehensive.

Dark Elves – a cross between cybermen and space-knights?

And rightly so. Not only did the ‘dark elves’ of Thor look similar to the elves of Lord of the Rings (with their cybermen masks off, that is), they also spoke in the same-sounding Elvish tongue, which was subtitled, as in LOTR and The Hobbit, and used script which, again, was very similar to the script which Tolkien invented. I was expecting a magnificent villain; the dark elves depicted as having been denied the right to rule by the Aesir, and now dispossessed and living in darkness while they waited for the right time to strike back and reclaim their homeland. This could have been nurtured some wonderful ambiguity and caused a degree of sympathy for them. There was not. Additionally, the dark elves were not fleshed out in the least. This is something which I could have passed off without more than a slight pause, usually – after all, elves do tend to be quite static in their various interpretations over the years. However, in combination with their other deficiencies, it simply emphasised an overall lack of depth. I thought I would be watching something with a vaguely original premise and realistic characters, rather than flexible cybermen. I was hoping for rich detail and history and a culture. At the very least, I was expecting a convincing performance from Christopher Eccleston as Malekith.
I was to be disappointed. The entirety of the dark elves component of the film was pushed to the background – I’ve heard that several Christopher Eccleston scenes were cut out of the final film product, and thus reduced the audience’s knowledge of the dark elves and their engagement with them. They were simply two-dimensional fighters who existed to only to put Asgard at risk and fight some battles in a way that would reunite Thor with Jane Foster. What’s more, the plot was ridiculous. Hello, LOTR, anyone? Did the first 20 minutes not ring a bell for you? For me, it was like watching the start of Fellowship of the Ring all over again – there is a voice-over, there is a battle epic in scope as the fate of the world is decided, there is a Macguffin (which possesses people and corrupts them just like the One Ring, and moreover, is not as pretty), there is the victory at a great cost, there is the question of what to do with the Macguffin, and the answer “we must bury it where no one will ever find it!” (I told the screen to throw it in Mount Doom, but apparently they didn’t hear me). Then there is the inevitable, oh, oops, our plan didn’t work, here it is again (very conveniently) for Jane to encounter. Overall, the first part was unexciting and felt rather unoriginal. And then, times passed …. and we were thrust into a Star Trek fusion! I swear, that was really what I thought! Star Trek: Into Darkness just popped into my head, with Khan and the last of his race on this spaceship, except here they were all alive wanting vengeance. There were several other moments where I was unexpectedly thrust into what seemed to be another movie. For example, I was vividly reminded of Stardust when all the windows were blown out, where I felt it had been used to a greater effect and was more dramatic, because it was the first time I’d seen it happen.
To sum things up, I agree with what critics have said – Thor: The Dark World was a very unbalanced film. There were parts that I liked (and I shall talk about them in due course), but the aforementioned were not those.
What did you think about the villains of Thor: The Dark World? Do you agree that the opening sequence lacked originality, or are you all bristling in defense of the director, Alan Taylor?
Do let me know!
Let’s call me Lily

Asimovian Suggestion

Where stars are sparse and the cold creeps in
Where suns shine cold and the spherical planets crowd close
Where frozen clouds rain hail on ice
And only shrunken shrubs survive…
There, bereft of human company and material comforts
There, wandering in eternal snow –

Life.

The first line is a quote from Isaac Asimov’s book “Further Foundation”. Isaac Asimov is a figure to admire, in my opinion – he wrote over 470 novels in his life, ranging from subjects of science fiction to Shakespearean analysis. Also, he was a genius. (Unfortunately for me, I think that the first line is also the best in the poem)

The Sign of Three in Review

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This episode was a collaboration between all three writers, who each contributed a sequence to create the whole extravaganza that was John Watson’s Wedding (and stag party, plus some crimes).

That sentence was ambiguous, as I am attempting to find a coherent way to review this episode. It is hard. Let’s start with…(someone else’s words!!)

The best man’s speech was masterful. As a reviewer said:

Sherlock’s speech itself was equal parts awkward, embarrassing, funny, heartwarming, and sincere, which means it was pretty damn great. And even though there were several moments where I clutched at my face and willed Sherlock to stop talking out of sheer embarrassment for his character, the sentiment was there.

– Kaitlin Thomas

His speech also serves as the thrust of the plot, as scenes that he described melded into intriguing, sometimes hilarious flashbacks, all the while serving to display Sherlock’s admiration and respect and love for John to the audience; of both the episode and the wedding reception. While it did get slightly confusing for me (during the mind palace part, but we’ll get to that in a moment), I really liked the plot device used, as it is new to the series and created a more nostalgic, reminiscing tone which was perfect for a sentimental (oh, and it WAS, Sherlock was really revealing his hand here!) best man’s speech which dwelt on the core of Sherlock and John’s partnership – “I can solve your case, but John Watson will save your life”.

I’m still trying to decide whether to do this in chronological order, or filming order…oh, what the heck, I’ll just label everything! Who says a review has to have a middle or an end, anyway 🙂

Sherlock at wedding

I loved this gorgeous still with the flower petals – as always, the cinematography was sublime.

The Stag Party

Was just a hilarious affair overall. Really, I think that this episode was quite heart-wrenching, as the writers made us laugh and laugh…right until the end, at which point Sherlock (nope, hang on, that comes under a different heading!). I’m not sure whether drunk Sherlock was my fidgeting favourite part about that, what with his amazingly accurate deductions of “??death ?skull?deaded??” and his “clueing for looks”– fidgeting because I get embarrassed for actors/characters, even though I know the actor’s are only acting – or whether it was his utter determination to get it just the right amount of drunk using scientific methods, or whether it was the fact that they ended their stag party at 9 pm, the lightweights! Or it may have been John’s outsmarting Sherlock for once and fooling him into getting drunk. Actually, let’s go neutral: my favourite part about the stag party was the techno-version theme tune that played during this scene.

The Wedding Preparations

The SMILE. Let us first of all consider that smile. That very, very psychopathic smile

The SMILE. Let us first of all consider that smile. That very, very psychopathic smile

As expected, Sherlock goes a bit overboard with the wedding planning, interrogating boyfriends, learning how to fold napkins from youtube, and ensuring a boy’s good behaviour by bribing him with gruesome pictures of beheadings and murders. Cumberbatch shows  talent (as always) in portraying Sherlock’s vulnerability at being left behind in this episode, especially as characters all stress that John is going to change his ways irrevocably and abandon Sherlock now that he is marrying Mary. The elaborate planning that he is involved in, to me, displayed his wish to not only make sure that the wedding was perfect to please John, but also a way of keeping himself involved in John’s life.

Additionally, I continued to like Mary; her little manipulation of both John and Sherlock was amusing, and also intriguing, especially when compared to the canon version of Mary Morstan. In this episode I expected some more background about Mary, but had to be satisfied by a sentence. I’m looking forward to see how dramatically Moffat and Gatiss will alter her character further…

The Best Man Request

This rather poignant sequence continued to build upon the theme of Sherlock’s character development, as he admits to treasuring John Watson’s company (his labelled best friend in Series 2) and the honour he felt at being chosen to give the best man’s speech. Juxtaposing this was again the humour which pervaded the episode, as we are treated to snippets of Molly realising that John will ask Sherlock to be his best man, and what that means to an audience who will be completely unprepared for his tactlessness and disregard for social awareness. She then warns Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson of what she feels is a legitamate threat to the wedding, and throughout the episode we see quick cuts of their table, as they react to his sometimes questionable statements cringingly (along with me).

The Crimes

I was a bit dubious of the whole ‘belt so tight that I couldn’t feel myself being stabbed’ bit, but I have been reassured that it is credible. In which case – ouch?? Why do these royal guards abuse themselves that way – it seems illogical, especially since they won’t be able to concentrate as well if they’re in constant pain! And what a step, for Sherlock to admit he hadn’t solved a case; that was a piece of character development as well.

Apart from that, though, I felt it was a very impressive tie-in, especially as John Watson’s official blog then featured the new cases mentioned…except for the most intriguing, The Elephant in the Room. The individual cases themselves served a purpose in highlighting parts of Sherlock’s speech, and thus certain admirable characteristics of John. But then, taking them all together (after a bit of a wait) and using the Best Man’s speech as a ruse – brilliant, just brilliant!  That very intense part with Sholto, showing the motivation that blame could be to commit suicide (kind of) and how the responsibility to other’s welfare and happiness could change someone’s decision…I thought they did this aspect really well.

Except for one thing, which I didn’t like: the mind palace. First of all, at the start I couldn’t figure out what was going on at all – a friend had to explain it. Even then, the 5 way conversation befuddled me, especially after it turned out that some of the time Sherlock was only predicting the women’s responses (I think?). I propose that they should have visualised in in a different way – maybe more ethereal, like a kind of shadow world, or that they shouldn’t have done it at all and kept the mystery of Sherlock’s mind palace forever.

The Wedding

Oh, wow, I’ve covered a bit of it already, haven’t I? whoops. Carry on!!

Mrs. Hudson has had quite the life,I’m beginning to think, eh? What with that husband of hers and his drug cartel and everything. And, when Sherlock says to take the glass away from her 🙂 It’s a bit like she’s his slightly embarrassing, loving aunt/other maternal figure.

Sherlock using his deductions to help the maid of honour, Janine, played by Yasmine Akram, find the best one night stand was amusing, and did anyone catch something odd going on between those two? There’s certainly a dynamic I’d love to see explored! (Plus, another female character, yay!)

The episode begins with Mrs Hudson catching Sherlock ‘dancing’, as he composes a waltz for the Watson couple. Well, at the end you see him perform it for them as they dance… while he, heartbreakingly, finds out that there is no one for him to dance with at all – that was a very sad ending all of a sudden! Because you kind of realise that the whole episode has been leading to the moment that Sherlock truly acknowledges (as he does with his inscription for the waltz, which addresses them both) that he is giving John away (as cliched as that sounds, sorry.) Which is a bit sad for him, and us.

Also: Mary’s pregnant! WOW! Did not see that coming! At all! Nowhere in canon does it mention children…and I was expecting Mary to die soon anyway, so, double wow! Pregnant Mary, this will be interesting.

Also: Where has Magnusen disappeared to? A bit odd, he seemed very menacing right there at the end of the first episode.

So (cough, cough), this is my very informal review-thingy for The Sign of Three (it doesn’t deserve a real term). I realise it’s a dramatic change of tone from The Empty Hearse review I did, and I apologise if it’s not what you were expecting. To appease you, here are some other reviews 🙂 Enjoy!

The Empty Hearse in Review

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First of all, as a season opener, I have to say the plot was rather shabby. Although Sherlock is a character-driven series (as were the books, though to a lesser extent), I did expect something more than a very V for Vendetta reminiscent Guy Fawkes Day terrorist attack. However, in saying that, the reunion scenes, especially that between Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and Sherlock, really capture how much the detective has been missed, and the first snippet of the The Sign of Three really highlights the almost paternal relationship between the two men, as Lestrade shows exactly how much he is willing to give up for Sherlock (even though Lestrade’s first name is not a detail to remember, Sherlock’s opinion, which is another reference to Conan Doyle’s lack of continuity, as various police constables trot through the canon with remarkable alacrity).

The more comedic elements, such as the night-long battle of Sherlock’s lack of tact and John’s temper, craftily edited to suggest the expulsion from each establishment, free the episode from becoming too angsty. I think we have to recognise the hilarious Sherlock-ness of fixating  on John’s Moustache, even while knowing it will result in more violence. (It was an awful Moustache, it deserved to die at the blade of a vengeful John Watson.) In much the same way, Sherlock himself manipulates John into a position where talking about his feelings to Sherlock, acknowledging his grief over Sherlock’s ‘death’ and forgiving him, does not impinge on his pride. This is a rather clever move from Gatiss as well, I have decided after some consideration, as at first I thought the scenario was a bit unlikely. However, I reconsidered, and now think that it was ingenious, allowing the friends to keep their relationship intact even while appreciating the not inconsiderable puerility of Sherlock, as well as being an action that I can see Sherlock doing (not to mention, this reconciliation allowed the characters to stay true to the foundations laid by canon and previous series).

Another enterprising aspect of this episode was the titular group; ‘The Empty Hearse’. While many fans saw the 3 alternative scenes of Sherlock’s survival as a breaking of the fourth wall and a nod to the fandom, I see it as something serving multiple purposes, the primary one being been mentioned by Moffat in an interview. As a Conan Doyle canon fan, I can see how clever this is. On the one hand, Gatiss is paying tribute to the original stories, which created the illusion that Sherlock Holmes was amongst the 1982 London population, and a real personage. When Conan-Doyle ‘killed off’ Holmes, to the horror of the fans, groups emerged, explanations of Sherlock’s survival were submitted, and fanfiction was written. Fanfiction was also published – for the duration of the Great Hiatus, the Strand Magazine had 20,000 less subscribers, as readers were forced to use their own imaginations to supplement the lack of forthcoming Holmes stories.

Thus, the scenes that Gatiss has included in ‘The Empty Hearse’ are genuine re-interpretations of what was happening with the canon, simply modernising the context as always. That fans can see themselves in the episode just shows how masterful Gatiss was in depicting events to overlap into modern fandom. I also enjoyed the nod to Conan Doyle’s somewhat sloppy re-animation of Holmes in the canon, as the simplest of theories presented in the episode was declared the true one (yes, now we know for sure!), and Sherlock, when confronted with Anderson’s disappointment, responded with “everyone’s a critic!“; a collective nod.

So I can certainly say that after a bit of rumination, I really liked this episode. Not to mention that I feel that Mary Morstan-Watson (played by Amanda Abbington) is a brilliant addition to the cast.

For a bit more reading, you can look down here:

I’d be really interested what all of you felt about the way the plot/character divide was in this episode, and whether you approved of it or not!

– Let’s call me Lily

On Harry Potter – Shipping and Favourites

This has been sitting in my drafts for a while now, and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m pretty sure that it was extrapolated from a favourite Harry Potter book survey, and possibly a discussion about fanfiction vs. canon. The opinions I have here still stand true to what I believe, so I’m posting it 🙂

As a teenager who came into the Harry Potter scene a little late – I refused to read chapter books until about Year 5 – I think I’ve had a slightly different experience than those who grew up with the books, so I thought I’d share my view.

First, in regards to “which book is better?“: Well, it really depends on what you enjoy reading, and at what age you are, because at the age of 8 – 10, you’d probably think that Philosopher’s Stone is the best book ever, but if you were older, you might read more deeply into the book and discover that there isn’t too much to read into yet. Because J.K. Rowling developed her world over time, the latter books will be more sophisticated by the nature of the knowledge that she has backing them, whereas the first books will seem quite stereotypical in some areas. I think that’s actually one of the things that appeals to fans: they can see the quality of the writing and narrative increase over time. But, as I said, when people say “favourite book“, it doesn’t necessarily mean “book written the best“, in fact, it usually means “book that I am most emotionally attached to, because of the circumstances I first read it in and what happened afterwards“. Hence, I think quite a few people will say that the first book is their favourite, because it started everything for them. On the other hand, polls generally show that the last three books are the most popular.

Secondly, in regards to shipping. I am quite abnormal, in that I don’t ship. At all. But I think that people need to realise that fanfiction is completely different to the canon books. It was not logical, in the books, that Dumbledore and Harry have a romantic relationship. And, to be perfectly honest, if that were to have happened, how many people would have read the subsequent books? Not many. The purpose of fanfiction is to entertain yourself and others in the fandom by thinking “what if?” and following a different train of logic to J.K. Rowling’s, or to continue it in a new direction, or to stretch it acroos the 19 years that are missing in between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and its epilogue. What has happened is that, over time, people have abandoned that idea of a logical alternate plot, and instead focussed on creating fics with as much PWP as possible. Which, I think, is in contrary to what fanfiction is (should be) about. Therefore, I don’t have particular ‘ships – I enjoy reading stuff that has a good plot, and involves interesting and new ideas. If that ideal fic IS a Dumbledore/Harry fic, well, then so be it!

Plus, you can always scroll over the parts that are more explicit that you wish to read.

What are your thoughts? I’d be especially interested in hearing how you chose your favourite books, and for what reasons!- Let’s call me Lily