31 January 2012

Stuff I've Been Consuming 1

  • Hyperion, Dan Simmons
  • Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi
  • Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi
  • Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith
  • Young Adult, Jason Reitman
  • The Descendents, Alexander Payne
  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher
  • No Strings Attached, Ivan Reitman
  • Friends With Benefits, Will Gluck
  • War Horse, Steven Spielberg
  • Haywire, Steven Soderbergh
Month one of the Fiftyfifty.me Challenge went well as I forced myself to start the year off right with seven movies and five books. We've got almost 300 sign ups and some people are powering through so many movies and books that I'm way intimidated. But in a good way. I think.

My fiftyfifty.me Pinterest is here and we've realized it's one of the easier ways to keep track of everything -- and by far the prettiest. I also use a Google Doc to track everything because I like saving more info for posterity and really, spreadsheets are the answer to any and all questions.

Let's talk about Hyperion, the book I started 2012 off with. Despite the stellar reviews, a high recommendation from a friend who knows his sci-fi, I struggled with it. What annoyed me the most was the structure, which is based on The Canterbury Tales, with each of six pilgrims telling their backstory as they travel to the planet Hyperion. While Simmons is rightfully lauded for his ability to write so many compelling voices -- and in varied styles -- I was bored bored bored. I felt like all I was being given was backstory, with no plot to move the book along.

After a few tries, I made the executive decision to quit the book halfway through -- returning later to finish it out of pure guilt. All I wanted to know was the fate of the characters and Wikipedia provided that in ten minutes. Good enough for me. I'm sure the rest of the Hyperion Cantos could be very good but I couldn't do it. The world was more interesting than the the story, and I didn't like being force fed all this stuff over hundreds of pages of frame story. My friend assured me that even non-scifi fans would like Hyperion but after reading (most) of it, I need to ask him why he made such a strong recommendation. Your taste are now suspect friend person!

For an example of world building that seamlessly worked into the story, turn to Under the Never Sky. I blew through Veronica Rossi's debut in one sitting and aside from her stellar writing, I was impressed with how smoothly she integrated backstory, an intriguing universe, and characters you cared about. Unlike with Hyperion, I wanted to return to Aria and Perry's world immediately. Can't wait for the sequel.

I already talked about how 2011 was a horrible year for movies. A late contender for best of the year, Young Adult is fantastic. Some people don't like protagonists that are unlikeable or mean but I love'em. The pairing of narcissistic glam queen Charlize Theron and dumpy Patton Oswalt is perfect.

The early months of each year are traditionally the dumping ground for crappy movies so for this upcoming month I'm gonna try to just stick to Netflix and indie stuff. Well except for Act of Valor. We've already got plans to watch this two hour commercial for the SEALs as soon as it hits theaters. Frag out! And oh yeah, in the head to head battle of No Strings Attached versus Friends With Benefits, the latter wins in a landslide. There can be no argument.