So many books!

I am currently ploughing through a list of books that I am going to call my Roadblock List. I am calling it this for a couple of reasons. It started out as the ten books I had to read for a slow challenge. Not a time thing, but to read all ten even if I didn’t like them. I need to do that occasionally, so I can find something to like in what I think I dislike, and to broaden my range. In particular, My Sister’s Reaper is a book that I had no interest in. It was okay, and there were some things to like. I didn’t hate it as I had though I would.

Anyway, that was the list at first. Then I splurged on books and bought like four in a day. So I put them on my list to make sure that I read them sooner than next year. Then I had a bunch of holds and some preorders come in. And I went to the library (building) for the first time in yonks. So the list got pretty long.

Last Sunday, I finished two of the books. Yesterday, I finished two more, plus one that wasn’t on the Roadblock List. I am making headway!

I had been reading several of them at the same time, so now that I’ve finished the ones I already started, I’m actually on page one of the rest. (except for Pale Fire, but then, try to pin down what page you’re on in that book…) At least, I was when I first got up. Now I’m on about page 10 in Guarding the Princess and page 9 of Siren’s Secret. I’ve been using Ivona Reader so I can listen to books while keeping my hands free for whatever else I’m doing. It is awesome, if you’re into that kind of thing.

DON – a review

When I was a kid, my mum and I both loved the movie Dave. Kevin Kline is a fun actor (we also like French Kiss) and it’s one of the now-rare comedies that is free of nastiness and vulgarity. It’s just about a nice guy who is nice.

Mistaken identity stories often rely too heavily on the reveal–not towards the audience reveal, but in-universe. It’s like the painful misunderstanding arc in romantic comedies. He said, she said, you lied but so did I. Ugh. But in Dave, there isn’t so much a reveal as there is an end to the charade.

Don has a similar title and a similar plot, but the similarities are not terribly strong. Dave certainly comes out as the superior film.

Like many Bollywood films, Don clocks in around three hours. Unfortunately, even with all of the plot twists and character stories, it doesn’t need all of that time.

Both movies have a nice but unsuccessful guy take the place of an unsavoury lookalike. In the case of Don, that unsavoury lookalike is a murderous drug dealer. Where the titular character of Dave referred to the nice guy, Don is the drug dealer, and a good chunk of the beginning revolves around him with no sign of good guy Vijay. To the point that it feels like the story is a very different one and the movie is over by the time that Vijay does show up around the 45 minute mark.

It’s interesting to see the story start that way, especially if you just watch the movie without knowing what it’s about. But it is definitely weird to see Shahrukh Khan play a bad guy. I kept expecting him to break character and reassure the audience.

Don has a long introduction, the end of which puts his character out of the film entirely. Two of the characters who show up during this introduction are there solely to be killed in order to give another character, Roma, a reason to want to kill him. One would have done it, but they needed the second to have a sadly bland musical number. After Vijay is finally brought in, we also learn about a man who is father to Vijay’s ward, and if you can’t guess by this ridiculous sentence, his story only confuses things more. Really, there are just too many characters.

If the film was shorter, with a few less characters, it would probably have been better able to utilise the premise. Vijay infiltrates a gang by playing Don, falls for a female lieutenant seeking revenge on the boss, and ends up busting the gang and a dirty cop. Instead, you get:

DCP D’Silva and Inspector Malik are after druglord Singhania, so they target Don, a deadly man who works for him. Don kills Ramesh and then his vengeful fiancé Kamini, which incites Ramesh’s sister Roma to try to get close enough to kill him. Before she can do that, Don is captured and replaced with his doppelgänger Vijay, who does the job only so that little boy Deepu can go to school. Deepu is alone because his father Jasjit was forced to steal diamonds and failed thanks to D’Silva; Jasjit went to jail, which resulted in the death of Jasjit’s wife Geeta and Deepu’s quasi-orphaned status. Jasjit is now out of jail and hunting D’Silva while Vijay masquerades as Don under the scrutiny of gang members like Narang and Anita, and falls for Roma, who attacks him at the best opportunity. Then Singhania comes in person, and it all goes to hell.

This is just a sample of how knotted it can all get.

I’m running long, and I’ve pretty much covered everything I wanted to say, so I’ll just end with a small note about the songs. Even the big dance scenes seem oddly quiet and underplayed, like Peter Lorre humming. Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself missing the dance-y beats from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, or even Endhiran–I hated that movie, but the music was great. The music in Don made me feel like I was watching Dil Se, or Jab Tak Hai Jaan without the romance or pathos.

Bwah

Big family day. I should have saved yesterday’s blog post for today! I was tempted to skip today and call it even, but I can’t do that.

I went to the library at last, something I have been meaning to do. I got a couple of books, including a fat book that contains all the Jig books by Jim C Hines (or goblin books, whatever you like). I have a big fat reading list right now, and I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to recheck some of my Overdrive reads at a later date. The Mysterious Benedict Society is incredibly dense for something that should be an easy read. I feel like I’m getting a lot of anvils and repetition.

Bel Canto was one of those books I checked out on a whim and then forgot to read until my loan was almost over. That book is… For some, it should not, not, NOT be read quickly without resting with another book or long periods of no reading. For me, it was actually good this way. Zip, like a band-aid.

Funnily enough, I do not rip off band-aids, that hurts more and leaves welts. I peel the band-aid back a bit and rub lotion onto the skin and the band-aid to weaken the adhesive. Anyway.

I zoomed through A World Without Princes because I wanted to read my preorder without waiting, and because it is just that good. I don’t feel like I ate my cake too fast and now have no cake. I enjoyed reading that book so much I wrote a review on Goodreads.

Right now I’m skipping between books I don’t have strong feelings about, but are coming due. Technically, there are only four. Then I have five left for a challenge I set myself (not the same as the old ones, these books won’t expire), and then three I bought and want to read as soon as those first two plates are clear. Which will have to wait for my library books, even if they aren’t due ’til June.

It’s late. I need to go to bed.

Humanity’s Strongest Soldier

Not that I have seen Attack on Titan. I tried, and got kind of bored halfway through the beginning. Also, mystification averted my interest to another question. The same mystification that forced me to stop watching House. Asking why and coming up with real world logic that prevents the drama killed that show for me. I should not know more about legal or medical matters than people who write about them.

But I digress (as usual). What I’m on about today is to do with fictional heroes who are under the age of twenty, often under the age of seventeen. Some are nine. In particular, the Chosen. The characters who are not content to lead their stories, but who were created by people who think that for this character to be the lead, they have to have MASSIVE justification.

That justification shouldn’t be necessary. If you want to write about a group of people who save the whole world from an alien force, you get the Avengers. You don’t get the Junior Defenders. …and nobody got that reference, so just… trailer. It’s not an age thing, just have a reason. Why is a fifteen-year-old more effective than a regiment of men and women?

This stuff is particularly prevalent in anime. In that case, it’s probably that although a significant portion of the relevant consumers are over twenty, the majority of anime is aimed at kids and teens. There and elsewhere, people continue to think that kids and teens will not accept protagonists not of or near their age, never mind that adults do. (coughcoughHarryPottercoughcough)

Why do people think this? When I was a kid, I hated books about children. TV too, though probably to a lesser extent. Justin happened after I grew out of Power Rangers, but he was infamous. I started reading YA at seven or eight, adult fiction at twelve (if not before). It is only now, when I am in the adult fiction category that I read a lot of middle grade fiction. There has to be something in that.

That was a little off the point, but then, I don’t really write my blog to make points. It is a place to talk without being interrupted or challenged by people who haven’t listened enough to form an intelligible argument.

Shouldn’t a writer always consider the why? Take a bloody oath to first, serve the story. Your story is that a chosen person will come from the garbage planet, ascend to the sparkling silver city, and save its people from slavery so that the other garbage people can ascend and everyone can live HEA together. That’s a fun story. I’d read it. Let’s say you’ve decided the chosen is a child… twelve, maybe.

Now tell me why. Is it because minors are the only ones who have enough free time to explore, or that there are robot guards who ignore children? His father knows the way to the ascension station, but only the kid can fit in the tiny pod, designed for the very small citizens of the silver city? Give. Me. A. Reason.

Too many kids in fiction are the strongest, the chosen, the best at archery. Not just the best, but better than adults, including adults who have done the same things for much longer. I know it’s escapist fantasy. It doesn’t signify. Accomplishment has no value when there is no context. No one is impressive as the best with no realistic comparison.

Someone I knew once wanted to give a character the ability to imagine a picture and draw it exactly as she imagined it. This isn’t a great artist. It’s a wireless printer. And it would piss off anyone who actually puts freakin’ effort into their art.

On that note, I am going to click ‘Publish’ and have a cup of tea.

Funny Phase

…oh dear, I realised just after typing the post title that I made a horrible pun. Hopefully no one will groan too hard.

I’m working on some phases (getting quite a lot done in a short amount of time, too!) and one of the ones I wrote today is pretty funny. The story is one I mentioned a while back on this very blog, one of the ones that had an audition. Brave in Ribbons, with a bit of updating and logical inference. Lots of the latter, actually. I can’t turn my brain off, so I keep changing things or trying to explain things so that it all makes some kind of sense. Main character’s name is Julie now, btw.

Anyway. The phases I was writing for chapter five went on a curve after a particular change. The bodyguard she had, which turns out to have been her cat all along, would not have been kept a secret by her grandfather. He’s upfront, for all that he has a part in a masquerade. He wouldn’t let a guy just run around in a cat shape while his granddaughter had no idea. So this guy has been sneaking into service. Wants to protect her.

Why shall have to come up later. For now, the phase I wrote after they all find out some of this is the funny thing I have to post.

[tail end of phase 75] She asks if she’s in danger, and why Ash cares.

(076) He says yes, and then tells her quite simply that he loves her. She is taken aback. If she was a few years older, Ash says, she would have struck him. She says that she’s glad she isn’t, if she’s just going to go around hitting people after her birthday. Maybe there’s a fountain of youth in the March Lands, so she can stay thirteen forever and stave off her violent future.He grins, saying that she understands him completely. She scoffs and says that he is only a cat after all. Cats love people, but only humans say that they love anyone.

Of course, he isn’t a cat, but Julie doesn’t know the word when someone says what he is. She might have said different things. And she probably would have hit him.

Almost at 100 phases, which will be the 1/3 mark. But right now, I’m gonna take a break to read A World Without Princes. Just got it yesterday~

Can the protagonist be happy?

Some protagonists aren’t even happy in the end. Especially in epic-level fantasy. I think in books like A Game of Thrones, character happiness operates in a manner not unlike that in Gloom. That’s funnier if you’ve played it.

YA isn’t much better, especially if the book is the first in a series. I finally got my hands on a copy of Scarlet, and it reminded me of the bittersweet ending of the first book. Quite a lot of that book was predictable, not just because it was a fairy tale retelling. The protagonist starts out repressed, unappreciated, and in fear of prejudice. She ends confident, but scarred by trauma, a victim of prejudice, and a fugitive.

Then there are books like Airman, which I have talked about, but will reiterate a bit here. Life for the protagonist is AWESOME, so good that it’s almost boring–except for the fact that anyone who has read any books before it knows that something horrific is going to happen and all of the awesome will die. Urchin of the Riding Stars (which is paint-by-numbers in just about every way) does the same thing, but much, much faster, and loses the pathos. This kind of protagonist usually gets a happy ending, though. Urchin ended up getting most of his awesome back, and more besides.

I’m sure I have read books with protagonists who are happy and end happy without having to lose everything in one fell swoop. But the last five books I have read (that weren’t kids books for Owen)

  • Urchin of the Rising Star
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
    • I don’t know where I would put this. Her adventure started right away, so she didn’t have a chance to be unhappy or happy. She just sort of… was.

Skipping Book 2s…

  • Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From the Circus (And Joined the Library)
    • I must like like long titles. Fizzlebert is unhappy with his name and wants to be normal. It is far more interesting than that plot ever is, since AF Harrold is brilliant. But still, unhappy protagonist.
  • The Agony of Alice
    • Alice starts off feeling like she’s growing backwards, thinks she has the wrong teacher, and worries about not having a mother to model herself after. Sad.
  • Wool Part 1
    • The setting is dystopian. Need I say more?

But if I go back a bit more, I remember Cart and Cwidder, which had… a happy protagonist who loses his happy life. …he doesn’t die, his life just changes and he’s unhappy. To be fair, it’s not precisely that storyline, but it is close. He does end happily.

I’m going to keep thinking about this.

Refresh please!

I was going through a bunch of books today, and I realised that there are a lot of recycled elements that I am just pretty much done with. I have blogged about characters who are sad, outcast, and orphaned. On different occasions, and hopefully not all of those at the same time (though they often are).

Character growth and development are good. But why do they all have to start in the same place? It’s like everyone writing these days has a graphic of Maslow’s hierarchy tacked on the wall. With a dart buried into “love/belonging”. They even beg reader sympathy with the same things, regardless of genre. Mean girls exist in Fantasy novels. Outcasts abound.

This keeps the character growth either limited to a Cinderella path (weak to strong/friendless to well-loved, etc.), externalised, or non-existent. Some Cinderella paths are external, like friendless to well-loved, and poor to rich. Even if the main character earns these things, they are not character development. They are a change in conditions. UNLESS she was friendless because of a character flaw. The majority of outcast characters are not outcasts by choice–if they say that they are, it is almost always revealed to be bravado.

This was just a thought that came to me. Other things I was thinking at random:

  • Post-apocalypse/dystopia is now considered a GENRE. What?
  • Strength in female characters continues to be measured, seemingly primarily, by how unpleasant they are.

Need to do some work now. Blah.