I finally got around to reading From a Certain Point of View, a collection of short stories written by a Who’s-Who roster of big name SF authors, all from the perspectives of side- and background characters in the original Star Wars movie. Most of them offer backstory or imagine what happened leading up to various scenes in the movie. Some imagine what was happening elsewhere in the universe.
This collection is a gimmick and it reads like one. The stories are all pretty good (some are excellent, none are bad) but very few of them would stand on their own merits. It’s an entertaining read, certainly, but mostly forgettable.
But it did get me thinking more about the Star Wars Expanded Universe and my ambivalence toward it. I love the movies but I’ve never bothered about the EU. There are a couple reasons why.
I picked up this book expecting an exploration of the neuroscience and physiology of the effects of reading on the brain, and how reading in print and digital formats differ. I got that, and so much more.
Wolf presents a balanced account of the different effects of different mediums, both negative and positive, and how we might use this knowledge to do better for our children and ourselves. It’s a welcome perspective.
It’s also a deeply humanist and moral meditation of the capacities of the human mind and the importance of storytelling. It’s a clarion call to fulfill the responsibility we all bear toward our fellow human beings and to the future. This is a work of tremendous empathy and passion.
It may well be one of the most important works of our age.
I got really into the TV show American Chopper some years back. I don’t have any interest in motorcycles and I couldn’t care less about the family drama between the stars of that show. But I loved watching it. I loved watching genuinely skilled people create their visions.
I love watching master craftspeople at work.
There’s joy in witnessing that level of skill. This is why I love shows about carpentry, home renovation, car mods, tattooing. It’s one of the many reasons why I love music, dance, theater, and athletics. It doesn’t matter if any of these interest me personally, I’m fascinated watching people who love doing them. Any human endeavor which requires skill to do well, is worth witnessing.
Reading Nighttime Is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark reminds me of watching American Chopper. She crafts her stories. Her control of plot and pacing and structure, how she manipulates the reader to place suspicion on different characters at different times, her myriad misdirections, how she builds the tension. She shows her work and gives us a ring-side seat to her creative process.
I enjoy witnessing her craft.
That being said, Nighttime Is My Time isn’t a very good book. I listened to the audiobook and the narration by Jan Maxwell is excellent. But the book itself drove me a bit nuts.
I didn’t think I was all that interested in seeing the new version of A Star Is Born. I’ve rarely been happier to be proven mistaken.
This film is phenomenal.
I’m a fan of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, both. So perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that I ended up spending 2.25 hours sitting in a theater, losing myself in them.
I’m not going to offer a plot synopsis or go through specific scenes. There are a couple of points I want to make, but mostly I want to offer a list of all the reactions I had watching this movie. In no particular order:
What I find most interesting about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie. That’s mostly a good thing.
What I mean is: it doesn’t feel important. It’s the only Star Wars movie so far that isn’t significant. In the original trilogy, Lucas explicitly sought to create a modern myth, a la Joseph Campbell. There’s an inherent sense of weight to it. The new trilogy sought to bring the Star Wars universe back to relevance and so it has a sense of mission, as well as a similar sense of modern myth. Rogue One tells a tale of emotional, moral, and narrative consequence.
Solo doesn’t have any of that. It’s not important to the main trilogies and it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Which makes it one of the most fun Star Wars movies I’ve seen. It’s pure entertainment. It’s refreshing.
Kill the Farm Boy is a delight. It’s funny, unexpected, clever. It’s a quick read without sacrificing any substance. The characters are wonderful—interesting, infuriating, and sympathetic by turns—the world is well-rendered and the plot well-paced.
Did I mention it’s funny? Like, really funny. I have high hopes for the series this book sets up.
Fair warning: you better love puns.
I read an advance reader copy of the novel and it came with a summary of the planned marketing and promotional strategy. The marketing for this book emphasizes a comparison with the work of Terry Pratchett. This offers a good way to explore what Kill the Farm Boy is really about.
This review was originally posted on my Goodreads account in early February 2013. I’m reposting it here, given that I refer to it not infrequently.
I was astounded by this book. Madeline Miller’s achievement cannot be overstated. Here’s a novel that’s absorbingly readable for a modern audience, but that still has the poetry of Homeric sagas. What’s most impressive to me is the balance she finds between exploring the universality of human nature throughout the ages and maintaining the innate alien-ness that I experience every time I read The Iliad—the culture of archaic Greece was so very different from this world we live in today. She lets the truth of that age live and breathe without trying to tame or update it.