Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

The Man Who Was Thursday

In Novel on December 8, 2009 at 12:57 am

The Man Who Was Thursday

Author: G. K. Chesterton
Publisher: Penguin Classic

This book was written in 1908, yet it felt so post modern and cinematic (before movie languages were established). I’m surprised it was never adapted on silver screen. I could easily imagine a Triplets of Belleville treatment: a bizarre, nightmarish and grotesquely comedic visuals with caricatured but iconic characters.

It started off as a thriller story about an undercover policeman infiltrating a secret Anarchist society, with some amusing philosophical discussion on chaos vs. order, nihilism and the most dangerous and destructive criminals being the intellectual, educated kind.

Our hero’s descend into the underground secret Anarchist society is a ‘down the rabbit hole’ experience. From then on the story takes on a wild, fantastical turn. The hero took a misty boat ride that is like traveling to another dimension. There he met the highest order of the anarchist society: a motley crew of seven men who’re named after weekdays. The president is Sunday and was described as a frighteningly giant and fat  (is it wrong that I just kept picturing Jabba the Hutt?). I found Monday, aka ‘The Secretary’, oddly attractive! He’s a slim, handsome, pale and goth looking guy with a devilish smirk. The hero also went on great lengths to describe how scary this one guy with dark spectacle is, because it reminded him of people putting coins on corpse’s eyes…that imagination is lost for us contemporary readers (it’s sunglasses, duh!).

Later on the story turn into a chasing game that’s perfect action comedy gold. It’s a blast to see the band of colorful characters chasing each other. At one point there’s even a flying elephant!

The chase eventually escalated to a garden party that’s like a Borgesque Christian allegory. My jaw drop at the sudden nonsensical and fantastical resolution, but the transition was neither abrupt nor unbelievable. I kept thinking of Alejandro Jodorowsk’s Holy Mountain.

Even though the author is a devoted Christian, he pointed out the “神又係佢,鬼又係佢” paradox in Christian theme.

The book is like a lot of things I’ve read/seen before but never together all at the same time, not to mention it predated them all. Somehow I had the impression of it being a detective thriller (because of the author’s Father Brown series), so I’m pleasantly surprise by how fun and crazy it gets.

The packaging of this Penguin “Boys Adventure” edition is just too cool to pass by. Why can’t more books be in this dimension as well?

Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)

In Animation on June 10, 2005 at 7:22 am


Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones
US Release: June 2005

Finally it’s released in US theaters. I love the book by Diana Wynne Jones, though it was a long time ago since I read it and my memory is failing me on the details. But my impression was still strong, hence I was very disappointed with the Miyazaki adaptation. He took too much artistic liberties yet didn’t do a good job, particularly with the characterization and changes of the story, both plot and theme-wise. First of all the entire part about the ongoing machinery and war destruction was entirely Miyazaki’s own insertion as a ‘war is senseless and stupid’ commentary that wasn’t even concluded in a satisfactory way.

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Troll ~A Love Story~

In Novel on January 6, 2005 at 2:59 am

troll-thumb.jpgTroll ~A Love Story~ (2000)
Johanna Sinisalo

Originally titled ‘Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi‘ (translated as ‘Not Before Sundown’) in Finnish, it finally got translated and released here four years later. It won the highest Finnish literature award Finlandia. The story set place in contemporary world with a slight alternate history twist: mythical creature troll‘s existence has been scientifically proven and identified as real but extremely rare species since early 1900s. The legends of troll are originally found in Norse Mythology and Scandinavian folklores. I’ve read stories about Finnish trolls before: the Moominvalley by Tove Jansson ^^;;! In this book trolls are not that cuddly at all, they are 2 meters tall demonic cat+ape-like creatures who hide out in forest and caves.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

In Novel on December 12, 2004 at 3:27 am

johnstrange.jpgJonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
Susanna Clarke

Finally finish this 800 pages book after spending the past month reading it, absorbing the richly detail world setting, investing in the colorful cast of characters and stories-within-stories that’s full of mysteries and twist and turns. Now I feel a sense of lost and wish there’s a sequel!! >0The writing style is witty, fun and easy reading, and I can totally see why some critics called it a “Harry Potter for adult”. The book start out slow with seemingly episodic events, then they weaved together as the pace pick up. You can read the summery here.

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Winter Rose

In Novel on November 11, 2004 at 2:34 am

winterrose.jpgWinter Rose
by Patricia McKillip

After finishing Johnathan Strange I wanted to read more about faeries. I picked up this book based on the reviews saying that: 1) it is a retelling of the Scottish Tam Lin legend, and 2) the author is acclaimed to be a modern day Hans Christian Andersen. However it didn’t live up to my expectation. The weakest part, which is the major problem I have with the book, is the portrayal of the central Tam Lin character. In McKillip’s story, two sisters are enchanted (both figuratively and literally) by a man with mysterious past. But this man came across as totally boring, hence I cannot comprehend nor get into their strange fascination with this…bland nobody. McKillip’s prose is flowery, they’re borderline pretentious for my taste but they did illustrate a certain sensuality and aesthetic atmosphere. A lot of dreamy descriptions worked on a metaphoric level. I like how she depicted the rose thorns and the brutal winter storm (reminds me of Andersen‘s Snow Queen). The ‘mystery’ in the story is also quite engaging. Though another weak point for me is the villainous character of Snow Queen/Faerie Queen, who didn’t feel much of a ‘character’ as her presence was too other-worldly and metaphorically, hence less frightening and interesting (compare to another much more entertaining modern Tam Lin retelling I read before: Diana Wynne Jones‘s Fire and Hemlock).

Two George MacDonald Fantasy

In Novel on November 10, 2004 at 2:48 am

princessgoblin-thumb.jpgThe Princess and the Goblin (1871)
by George MacDonald

I found these expensive luxury UK import Children books on bargain at a bookstore for only $5 each. They’re all richly cloth bound with very nice paper and printing. Inside are classic illustrations from the 19th century edition. So I picked up two that I’ve always wanted to read, which are two victorian children Fantasy novels by George MacDonald, who’s known to be one of the first and most influencial Fantasy writers from the 19th century. The Princess and the Goblins was also known to be Tolkien and C.S. Lewis childhood favorite; I can definitely see the influences.

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