World War Z (The Movie)

Spoilers!

To start off this is a movie review and I understand that since this is a book blog it’s rather odd to do this. However, in my review of the book World War Z  I promised that I would post my thoughts on the movie after I had seen it. After having seen it I can confirm that the movie was what I had feared. Something Awful.

I feel that the writers of this movie essentially took a copy of World War Z, threw it in the air and hacked it up with a knife, and whatever pages the caught (which wasn’t a lot) was put in the movie. There were only about three instances from the book that were actually in the movie. It begs the question of why even give the movie the same title as the book. The only thing the two had in common was the fact that they had zombie, and even the zombies in the movie were different from the book! In the book the zombies are literal walking corpses that decompose as time goes on.  They can’t run and hold no superhuman abilities.  This is not the case in the movie. In the movie they’re more akin to the zombies in 28 Days Later. They’re fast moving and are capable of feats that a normal person is not capable of. Also while the zombies actually eat people in the book, in the movie they just bite and run off. It is is also worth note at the lack of blood or gore in the movie. I’m not saying that they needed the same amount of gore as they had in the Saw Franchise, but if you’re being bitten in the thought you usually tend to at least spirt a tiny bit of blood.

Another problem with the movie when compared with the book is the movie’s complete lack of political scope. Half the point of the book was the problems that arise for the still existing government when dealing with the undead hordes. In the movie it’s mentioned in passing that the US President as the Vice President and several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are dead and that’s it. Well How are other countries faring and who the hell is in command of the US? While the movie makes it seem that most governments are collapsing the UN is still functioning, at least with the help of the US military. In the book the UN is more or less destroyed and is only brought back to functioning capacity years after the war against the undead begin. I find it hard to believe that in this situation that the US military would devote any resources to a failed organization such as the UN.  Only two other countries are mentioned, Israel and North Korea. Israel somehow builds a superwall around much of their nation. This does happen in the book, but in the movie it’s built within a month, while in the book it takes at least 6 to year for them to set it up, which let’s be honest is more realistic for a country rather than a single month. North Korea’s answer to the problem is to pull out the teeth of every single citizen so when one person is infected they can’t bite anyone. At this I actually leaned forward in my seat, shaking my head trying not to scream in the theater. In the book the entire population disappears. Most in the book believe that the entire population went into underground bunkers and continue to live there. I like this situation much better than the one discussed in the movie as it leaves a lot of potential open for future use.

Another problem with the movie was the main character, played by Brad Pitt. The character, Gerry Lane, is a completely hollow individual who, after having worked with the UN for number of years, somehow has the same capabilities as a Navy Seal. Some of the things he does in the movie are just so far above and beyond what a normal person could do that it seems like he can solve the entire global problem on his own. The character isn’t helped by the fact that Brad Pitt can’t act, but then again in an action movie all you need to do is be able to run and read so I wasn’t expecting too much from him in the first place.

To put it simply, the movie was an abortion. They had a chance to redefine the entire zombie genre and they blew it. This is unforgivable. I would not recommend this movie.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

 

Spoilers!

My Significant Other suggested this book to me while we were discussing the subject of “practical love” with a friend of ours. I mentioned how odd it is when in many cases people’s’ grandparents often didn’t marry for love, but because a person could give them the best chance of survivability in the real world. This is in contrast to today’s world where people can truly marry out of love rather than survivability. To simplify, let’s explore the following situation: You have two people in your life you can marry. The first candidate is rather beautiful and you’re truly in love with them. The catch is that the person is rather unskilled so while you’ll be married to the person you love they may not be able to adequately provide for you and your future children. The second choice is someone you may not be fully in love with, but they can provide for you and you’re future family. Who would you chose?

The Good Earth tells the story of a young Chinese peasant, Wang Lung and his arranged wife, a former slave from a great house named O-Lan. It goes on to describe their life together as their fortunes go up and down from destitute poverty and famine to extreme luxury. Throughout the story various aspects of Chinese Culture Pre-World War Two is described in beautiful detail.

Wang Lung is the main hero of the story and his character is a testament to an almost Ayn Randian vision of hard work and success. Throughout the story he is constantly striving to better the fortunes of himself and his family through perseverance and hard work. At some points famine and hardship severely hamper his fortunes, but again through perseverance he overcomes these hardships to become a wonderfully rich man. Despite all this at times he loses focus on his family which later comes back to hurt him.

O-Lan is his quiet wife. She is a former slave and it is mentioned how rather average she is when it comes to looks. Despite all this she is an immensely strong character who endures any hardship with barely a word. At one point in the novel she gives birth by herself and later in the day is back in the rice paddies harvesting the crop. She also is reminiscent of an Ayn Rand character in that she is the strong female helping to support the hero with little to no attention to her own needs. She was hands down my favorite character as she seemed to be one of the strongest female characters I have ever encountered in a story. She did this all with barely speaking a full sentence in the entire story!.

The story is absolutely breathtaking in its scope. The writing is beautiful. The story is written so simply, no large or complicated words are used, this fits with the story of poor uneducated peasants. The authors description of the home village of the charachters in the Anhui Province of China as well as the description of the people who inhabit it and who come into contact with the main characters show a startling realism rarely encountered in most stories.  One of my favorite aspects of the story was the authors description of the various Chinese Traditions that are performed throughout the story. Her descriptions of the traditions are simple, but while keeping the simplicity she manages to explain the purpose of the tradition without losing the gentle flow of the tradition’s place in the story. All these aspects as well as many, many others come together to create a beautiful tapestry that actually brought tears to my eyes at times.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Spoilers!

I’m going to be blunt, this novel was a huge disappointment for me. It had so much potential and promise and it just didn’t deliver for me. The characters were for the most part uninteresting and the story dragged in a lot of places. This coupled with the idea that I don’t believe that Mr. Dick did a lot of research into some of the key players of the Nazi Party forces my disappointment in this book.

It tells the story of of a world where, due to the the successful assassination of FDR by Giuseppe Zangara in 1933, the Nazis and Imperial Japanese are able to beat the Allies and more or less conquer the world. The majority of the story takes place in California which is under the rule of the Japanese. Other locales include Germany and the American Midwest, which has become a buffer zone between the German held east coast and the Japanese west coast. A major plot point is the sale of American “antiques” by the wealthy Japanese who are immigrating to the west coast. These antiques, when not forged, are items that display popular American Culture from before the war. This nostalgia for the Americanism from before the war almost displays guilt from the conquerors for what they did to achieve supremacy over the world.

Another major plot point is the almost novel-within-a-novel. Many characters in the book have been influenced by a book they have read known as The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by the fictional Hawthorne Abendsen. This inner book is also an alternate history about the Allies winning the Second World War. In this alternate reality after winning the war, the US and the UK go into a cold war that sees the UK eventually overcoming the US. I won’t lie, this aspect of the book was actually interesting and it was my favorite aspect of the story, but it failed to make up for other aspects of the story. 

My first problem with the story was the characters. It’s inherently hard to like them or even to hate them,they’re just there! They’re nothing more than automatons that talk and feel occasionally. I understand that you don’t have to love the characters in a story, but you should at least feel something towards them. My second problem with the story was how at the end of the novel nothing is really resolved. The ending is completely open. Now keep in mind this isn’t necessary to a good story, after all it could be the set up to a sequel. Now I have heard that Philip K. Dick did indeed intend to write a sequel, but never got around to it. If this is indeed the case then I can let this go. My biggest problem was the historical aspects of the novel. This is keeping in mind that Mr. Dick claimed to have done extensive research into the Axis Powers. At one point in the story the current Fuhrer of Germany, Martin Bormann dies and two factions arise in the attempt to replace him. One faction led by Josef Goebbels intends to nuke the Japanese Home Islands in an attempt to conquer the rest of the world. The second faction lead by Reinhard Heydrich wishes to keep the German-Japanese Alliance in place. First off, the fact the Heydrich not only was one of  the main architects of the Final Solution as well as having helped to organize the mass persecution of Jews during the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) as well as having the nickname The Man with the Iron Heart makes me doubt that if he had survived the war with the Nazis winning that he would be for a peaceful coexistence with the Japanese considering that the Nazis considered them a lesser race. I also found it hard to believe the Martin Bormann would have succeeded Hitler as Fuhrer considering that Herman Goering was always considered the second in line to the Nazi “throne”. Also for all Mr. Dick’s “research” he very rarely mentions the Nazis at all. While this annoyed me, I must mention that his main focus on the Japanese aspect of the War was rather refreshing as most alternate histories alway focus on the Nazis rather than their Japanese counterparts.

Despite having a lot going against it. The book did have some positives. I found some of the technology mentioned in the novel interesting, such as a rocket plane that makes the travel time from Europe to California only a matter of a few hours rather than a day. I also enjoyed the description of the Nazis and Italians draining  the Mediterranean Sea and turning it into farmland. These, however, did not make up for the rest of the story.  There was a lot of potential in this book, but he just didn’t pull it off, I’m sorry to say,

Shogun: A Novel of Medieval Japan by James Clavell

Shogunimage

May contain Spoilers!!!

Shogun is a very different novel from what I’m used to. First, while I love historical fiction, I feel that this went beyond the what we all expect from most other historical novels. What I mean is that the characters and their actions seem both larger than life, but also immensely human all in once. Secondly, the style of the writing is both exceptionally delicate in the descriptions of the places and emotions the story takes place, but also harsh and dynamic when an important action takes place. Lastly, the amount of research and attention to detail in this story is not only breathtaking, but also shows the immense dedication this author gave to this story. I’m sorry if the first two points are rather confusing, but this book is very hard to put into words.

The story takes place at the end of the Sengoku Jidai, or the Warring States Period of Japan. It’s the story of an English sailor who is shipwrecked in Japan and how he gets sucked into the intricate intrigue and politics of the feudal samurai who rule Japan in the name of the Emperor.  The Englishman, who takes on the Japanese name Anjin (Pilot in Japanese) finds himself going native as he discovers the many differences between his native homeland and that off the alien Japanese. One funny instance of this occurs when Anjin is forced to take a bath. Eventually Anjin finds not only love and loss, but eventually new world look during this great adventure.

This novel presents many interesting questions for the reader through the actions of the main character. For instance, what would any of us do should we find ourselves washed up on the shores of a foreign land with little to no one who can speak your native language with you? Do you adapt or try to keep a semblance of the life you left behind? The language barrier the main character has to break through is also an important and interesting point of the novel. As Anjin slowly learns Japanese he is also slowly becoming more Japanese than English. This offers a beautiful way with which to see the  major character changes Anjin goes through as his life begins to change.

Overall this was a brilliant novel and I eagerly suggest it to anyone who not only has an interest in politics or history, but also a good old adventure story! Also, if you have the time to find it, a brilliantly done miniseries based on the book was made during the 70s. This makes a wonderful companion to the book as well.