January 22, 2009

His Majesty's Dragon

An excellent revision of the dragon tale. The book is based in nineteenth century England and dragons are militarized as an Air Force. Mostly the book is concerned with preventing the attempts of Napoleon Bonaparte from invading England. This is an excellent series and will translate well to the Big Screen. Apparently, I'm not the only one to feel this way, because Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings) has purchased the rights and will be developing them soon. He said there will definitely be multiple movies so maybe this will be the next big series.

"This is the first book in a superbly written, character-driven series, Temeraire, which conjures the Napoleonic-era military replete with aerial corps of fighting dragons and their handlers. When Captain Laurence of HMS Reliant takes a French frigate as a prize, the cargo includes a dragon egg due to hatch before the Reliant can reach a British aviators' base. When the hatchling chooses the captain to be his handler, Laurence's naval career comes to an end. He is now an aviator and a member of a service more tolerated than admired. Within very short order, he finds himself bonded with Temeraire, a most elegant and intelligent dragon, more closely than he has ever been bonded with anyone before, and that includes the lady he had thought he would marry. Novik fully integrates dragons into late-eighteenth-century military tactics and develops a convincing armed-service social milieu that includes the dragon corps. But what keeps one turning the pages is the urge to find out what happens next to Captain Laurence and Temeraire, characters who win one's heart from the beginning." - Booklist

Dramatis Personae

Clive Owen as Capt. William Laurence- He was raised a gentleman's son with all the privileges of the nobility, including an education and travel. He ran away from home to join the Royal Navy at age 12, where he rose through the ranks until he became captain of his own ship. Laurence's personal habits were formed by his upbringing and his time in the Navy, which included observing the formalities of dress and personal interaction. He preferred his clothing to be well-kept and was distressed by the haphazard way in which aviators tended to pack. He was also unaccustomed to their casual social behavior.

Paul Bettany as Tom Riley- Riley is an officer in the Royal Navy , a longtime friend and colleague of William Laurence. In appearance, he had fair, freckled skin, and tended to telegraph his emotions on his face. He was ordinarily of an easy-going humor. He was Laurence's second-lieutenant when they found Temeraire's egg and as the ranking officer on the ship, he effectively was promoted to Captain when Temeraire chose Laurence as his Captain.

Lee Boardman as Berkley- Berkley is a heavy-set fellow with a red face. He was not particularly proper, but spoke freely and rarely wore a coat. He has a very loud, booming voice and older than most other new captains, due to his having to wait 6 years for his dragon to hatch. He has a sort of brotherly relationship with Laurence and they enjoy teasing and provoking each other.

Rachelle Lefevre as Catherine Harcourt- Catherine Harcourt was a tall, slender young woman with a wide, pleasant face, a snub nose and long red hair, which she usually wore in a braid. Her dragon's egg hatched five years earlier than expected and so she is much younger than the other new captains. She, Berkley, Laurence, and their dragons become a tight group of friends.

Lucy Lawless as Jane Roland- Jane Roland is a strong, confident woman and an experienced aviator. She has a distinctive scar across her face and neck that caused her left eye to droop. As an aviator, she habitually wore a uniform, including trousers, and was characterized as having a "mannish" stride. The combination of her scar and her unfeminine manners often caused stares when she appeared in public among non-aviators, but Jane simply ignored them, seemingly perfectly comfortable.

Dakota Blue Richards as Emily Roland- Emily's mother is the experienced aviator Jane Roland, who had flown with Excidium for years. Emily is to be Excidium's next captain when Jane dies. She has sandy blonde hair which she cuts in a bowl fashion, similar to the male cadets. She also wears boys clothing. Emily told Laurence she had been in the corps for three years. She was eager and helpful and demonstrated an ability to take initiative, which made him chose her as one of his runners.

Robert Pattinson as John Granby- a tall, lanky man, with dark hair and pale skin that was almost always sunburnt from spending so much time in the air. As he did not come from a Corps family, he had small chance of getting a dragon of his own, but he hoped that he would progress far enough to be able to give a son or a nephew a leg up. He serves as Temeraire's First Lieutenant. ßPin It

January 20, 2009

The Man with the Golden Torc

Another series from Simon R. Green and like Nightside, the story borders on silly. But that's the point. If you can't enjoy a bit of good-natured fun, then this isn't for you. This novel should be read as a comedy, not as a serious fantasy or spy book. And just as Nightside is a big wink at detective novels, this one takes a look at spy novels. There are obvious references to James Bond and lots(!) of pokes at the genre. For the movie, I would take it another step further and cast some actors from the 007 franchise into the Drood family.

"Green pulls out all the parodic stops to introduce supernatural field agent Shaman Bond, aka Eddie Drood, black sheep of an ancient, superpowerful family that protects humanity from its nightmares. And a good secret agent he is, partly because he has the best toys, from the golden torc that becomes impenetrable armor to a souped-up classic car. Called home for the first time in years, he comes to suspect there's a traitor within the family and discovers he has been declared a rogue. Fortunately, he has bolt-holes his family never suspected and tricks to stay alive while he investigates. He goes to former enemies, who know him as Bond, for help and discovers possible common ground with a few. For there's a bigger enemy to deal with, amid the truth behind the Droods' power, the family traitor, and the nasty things the Droods' major opponents do. Green sustains a good spy thriller's breakneck action with lots of magic, strange creatures, and even some character growth and romance. His new series star is one fun character." - Booklist

Dramatis Personae

Tahmoh Penikett as Edwin Drood- An agent of the Drood family, a super-secret family that watches over humanity and protects from all things magical, inter-dimensional, alien, or anything else that pops up. Eddie, unlike most of his family, prefers privacy and independence, so he doesn't live with the rest of his family, much to their consternation.

Nora Zehetner as Molly Metcalfe- The Wild Witch of the Woods and one of Eddie's greatest rivals. They've fought each other to a standstill too many times to count, but both agree that it was nothing personal; it just goes with the job. They somehow find themselves paired together while Eddie looks for whoever framed him and caused his expulsion from the family.

Gary Oldman as Mr. Stab- "The notorious uncaught serial killer of old London Town. He'd operated under many names, down the long years, and I don't think even he knew the number of people he'd murdered since he started out with 5 unfortunate whores in the East End in 1888. He still dressed in the formal dark clothes of his times, right down to the opera cloak and top hat. "

Tania Raymonde as Subway Sue- "A luck thief, she drifted unseen among the passengers using the Underground trains, quietly leeching off a little luck off everyone she brushed against. Which is why so many people miss their trains or end up on the wrong platform. To look at her, you'd think she was only one step up from homeless, buried under layers of charity clothes, but that was just so no one would notice her. There was always someone willing to pay her good money for the stolen luck she hoarded. "

Amanda Seyfried as Girl Flower- "an ancient Welsh elemental, she is made up of rose petals and owl's claws. Treat her right and she'd be soft as rose petals to you. Mistreat or wrong her, and the owl's claws would come out. She dressed in bright pastel colors, in gypsy styles, and wore some many bracelets, they clattered deafeningly every time she gestured. "

Helena Bonham Carter as Janissary Jane- mercenary and veteran demon fighter; "she wore her black hair cropped short so no one could grab it during a fight, and if her scarred face had ever been pretty, that was a long time ago. "

Mark Boone Junior as Blue Fairy- A half-breed; his mother was human and his father was elven, and he is rejected by both sides of his family. He was once "quite a dandy in his day, but he hadn't aged well. " He was fat, most prominently in the jowls and cheeks.

Jim Broadbent as The Armorer- Eddie's Uncle Jack, he is in charge of R&D within the Drood Family. He is the person to see if you need a weapon or any other bit of technology. He is obviously a nod to the 'Q' character in the James Bond movies. His lab is full of assistants that are always present in the background, testing gadgets and whatnots (and usually they fail hilariously).

Pierce Brosnan as James Drood- Another of Edwin's uncles, James took Edwin under his wing after the death of his parents. This left James as the father figure in Edwin's life. His nickname is The Gray Fox and he is considered the ultimate agent of the family. His character is representative of James Bond himself.

Billy Connelly as Jacob Drood- The ghost of a long-deceased ancestor that haunts one of the outlying buildings on the Drood grounds. He is a trouble-maker too and is a kindred spirit for Edwin (pun probably intended in this book!) There is something he needs to do before he can move into the afterlife, but he can't remember what that is.

Maggie Smith as Martha Drood- The Matriarch and head of the Drood family. She controls the family with an Iron Fist and is responsible for sending agents where they're needed. She doesn't agree with Edwin's choice to live away from the family and believes in doing so, he's putting himself before the family, which is a cardinal sin to the Droods. She is an obvious nod to 'M' in the Bond movies.

Chance Kelly as Sargeant-at-Arms- The butler and first line of defense of the Drood estate. He is a no-nonsense, militaristic man with a penchant for big guns. He is always in a bad mood and also disagrees with Edwin's lifestyle. He was a personal torment to Eddie when he was growing up on the estate, as the Sargeant cracked down hard on Eddie when he tried to goof off.
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January 19, 2009

Old Man's War

John Scalzi is another of my new favorite authors; think Robert Heinlein with a large dose of humor. Old Man's War has the potential to be a great movie. Its driven by the characters and doesn't get bogged down by the science. Not to mention the characters are very likable and would translate well to the big screen. My biggest concern is that most of the characters have light green skin and are about 20 years old. Their bodies are enhanced and do not age. I'm not sure how almost a full cast of green people would be accepted by an audience. I would make the skin tone very subtle, so that it would be easier to get used to. Also, the beginning of the novel (and thus, the movie) the actors would need to portray 75 year olds, so special effects like those used on Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would need to be used. After their new bodies are introduced (which are nearly perfect; every man has a washboard stomach and every woman is stunningly beautiful) they will shed the special effects.

"With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds. Scalzi's blending of wry humor and futuristic warfare recalls Joe Haldeman's classic, The Forever War (1974), and strikes the right fan--pleasing chords to probably garner major sf award nominations." - Booklist

Dramatis Personae

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Perry- John Perry is the main character of the story and we follow his journey as an seventy-five year old Ohioan to a "young" soldier on the front-lines of an intergalactic war. He's a widower, has a sarcastic sense of humor, and is retired from advertising.

Summer Glau as Jane Sagan- Jane is in the Special Forces, a part of the Ghost Brigade. While not Kathy Perry, her body is from the DNA of John's wife. She was 'born' into the military, with no memories of a prior life, as is the case with most soldiers. After overcoming the shock of seeing herself in one of John's wedding pictures, she becomes curious about 'her other life.'

Simon Woods as Alan Rosenthal- Alan Rosenthal is one of the members of the "Old Farts" and Harry's roommate. He was a theoretical physicist on Earth. He is the only member assigned to the same unit as John and becomes his best friend during basic training.

Elijah Kelley as Harry Wilson- Harry is one of the first people John meets in the military. He's a retired physics teacher from Bloomington, IN. The new science being used off of Earth is fascinating to him and he's good at explaining complicated technologies in ways the others can understand.

Arielle Kebbel as Jesse Gonzalez- Another 'Old Fart,' Jesse hails from San Antonio, TX. Her husband left her on their 30th anniversary, but she has a good sense of humor about it. She is assigned to the same unit as Harry.

Channing Tatum as General Szilard- Head of the Special Forces of the military.

Freddy Rodriguez as MSG Antonio Ruiz- Master Sergeant Ruiz is the Drill instructor for John's unit. He is the typical hard-case that one associates with Drill Sergeants. He never gives a compliment and is prone to screaming in your face, even for a job well done.

Justin Timberlake as Lt. Arthur Keyes- John's commanding officer. He has a history with MSG Ruiz and becomes a good friend to John. ßPin It

January 16, 2009

The Lies of Locke Lamora

"On a distant world, orphan Locke Lamora is sold into a crew of thieves and con artists. Soon his natural gifts make him an underworld celebrity, leader of the flamboyantly larcenous Gentleman Bandits. But there is someone who covets Locke's talents, his success, his very life, forcing him to put everything on the line to protect himself. With a world so vividly realized that it's positively tactile, and characters so richly drawn that they threaten to walk right off the page, this is one of those novels that reaches out and grabs readers, pulling us into the middle of the action. With this debut novel, Lynch immediately establishes himself as a gifted and fearless storyteller, unafraid of comparisons to Silverberg and Jordan, not to mention David Liss and even Dickens (the parallels to Oliver Twist offer an appealing extra dimension to the story, although the novel is no mere reimagining of that Victorian classic). Fans of lavishly appointed fantasy will be in seventh heaven here, but it will be nearly as popular with readers of literary crime fiction. This is a true genre bender, at home on almost any kind of fiction shelf. Expect it to be among the year's most impressive debuts." --Booklist

Dramatis Personae

Craig Horner as Locke Lamora- His appearance is average in every way, "medium height, medium build, medium-dark hair cropped short above a face that was neither handsome nor memorable." He is the leader of the Gentleman Bastards and an excellent thief and actor. However, he is useless in a fight. Father Chains refers to him as the "properly evil brain...a fantastic liar."

Daniel Cudmore as Jean Tannen- He is the muscle of the gang and Locke's best friend. Father Chains calls him "a plain old bruiser...a standup brawler to keep friends out of trouble...a real rabid-dog bastard with steel in his hand." His carries with him the Wicked Sisters, a pair of hatchets that are his weapons of choice. As a child, he was an overweight kid, "pear-shaped," and he's still large, albeit with a great wealth of muscle hidden under his fat.

Harry and Luke Treadaway as Calo and Galdo Sanzo- Twins who were Father Chains first recruits. Chains says "they are silver in all trades and gold at none." They have olive skin, black hair, and hooked noses. They love practical jokes and provide much of the comedy relief in the story.

Ben Walker as Bug- Bug is the junior member of the Gentleman Bastards and is still in training. He's 12 years old and eager to prove his worth to the senior members of the gang.

Sam Elliot as Father Chains- Raised the four senior members of the Gentleman Bastards and is responsible for their education. His name refers to his act as a blind priest chained to the temple of Perelandro who relies on the charity of passing citizens for survival. He is described as "a man of late middle years with a chest as broad as a scrivener's desk and a beard that clung to his craggy face like a pad of scrubbing wool."

Jim Carter as Capa Barsavi- The head of the guild that includes thieves and other criminals. Capa is a title, similar to Godfather. He's a big man with a dark beard that is braided into "three whipcords of hair."

Eliza Dushku as Mazca Barsavi- Capa's daughter and would-be successor. She has dark hair, a heart-shaped face, and wears glasses. She and Locke are very close friends.

James Purefoy as The Gray King- The villain of the story. He sets about bring down the current crime guild in order to set up his own. He is a master manipulator and uses others to forward his own plans. He is anywhere between 30 and 50 years old, lean, rangy, and gray at the temples, with the typical olive skin of most of the characters in the book.

Cillian Murphey as The Falconer- A bondsmage, he is essentially a wizard. The bondsmagi are mercanaries and have a policy that anyone who kills one of their numbers will be hunted along with their family and friends. He looks to be in his twenties, balding, and has a pet falcon (hence the name). ßPin It

January 14, 2009

The Devil in the White City

I don't read much non-fiction, but the premise of this book was too compelling to pass up. It follows two story-lines; one with Daniel Burnham and his struggles to complete the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the other with H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who used the Fair to lure his victims. It displays many examples of American ingenuity from both men. The stories never quite touch, so some work would be needed to adapt this book to Hollywood to tie them together. But overall, this would make an excellent movie. There are quite a number of characters in this book, but few have much "face-time." This would allow most roles to be filled by unknowns or little known actors. There is already an adaptation in the works, once tied to Tom Cruise's production company. Creative differences stalled progress with the adaptation, but other parties are interested in the screenplay.

"Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing." - Amazon.com review

Dramatis Personae

Daniel Craig as Daniel H. Burnham- Burnham was the chief architect and supervisor for building the Columbian World's Fair. He was known for his steady blue eyes that seemed to exude confidence. They only exception was with other famous architects; he was not granted entry into Harvard or Yale and his lack of formal education left him feeling unequal to architectual giants of the day.

Tom Cruise as H. H. Holmes- Holmes used his good looks and charm to lure women into his confidence. Much is made of his affectionate touches to an arm or shoulder. Back then, this was considered being forward and improper, but the women he preyed upon were new to the city and thought it exciting and progressive. He was only 5' 8" and 155 lbs, striking a small figure, but his dark hair, striking blue eyes, and confident bearing caused many women to notice him.

Bill Hader as Benjamin Pietzel- Holmes' right-hand man. He was said to have smooth features with a sharp chin and would have been considered handsome if not for a certain "hungry gauntness" and they way his eyelids covered the tops of his irises.

Robert Carlysle as John Root- Root was Burnham's partner and is often credited with being the creative side of their company. While always putting on a brave face, Root often struggled with depression and was often sick. He died of pneumonia before construction on the fair was completed.

Ian McKellan as Frederick Law Olmstead- Olmstead was the foremost landscape architect of the time. He also designed Central Park and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in NC. His inclusion to the fair was pivotal for many reasons, not least of which was the weight his name brought to the project. He was nearing retirement while designing the Fair and often missed work due to health problems.

Colin Hanks as George Ferris- Something was needed to top the Eiffel Tower from the World's Fair in Paris to ensure the Chicago Fair was greater. In response, Ferris designed a great wheel from which people could ride and view the grounds from a great height, known as the Ferris Wheel.

John Goodman as Detective Frank Geyer- He "was a big man with a pleasant, earnest face, a large walrus mustache, and a new gravity in his gaze and demeanor." He is responsible for tracing Holmes' and searching for his victims, in order to prosecute him. ßPin It

January 8, 2009

Alas, Babylon

I enjoy a good post-apocalyptic novel and this one was one of the first concerning the aftermath of a nuclear war. It is also one of the best. You won't find mutants or zombies, blood-thirsty cannibals, or crazy Mad Max punks. This is a very realistic story about a family adjusting to the collapse of civilization as they know it. The story provides many examples of how life would change. Of course, the shipment of goods would stop. You wouldn't be able to just go to the store anymore to buy your food. Besides, how would you pay for it? Paper money is worthless without a government to back it. Also, the loss of electricity would mean no more TV, no more reading light. And because the water company relies on electricity to pump and filter the water, it would also mean no more water. You'll have to live of the land for food and water. But you'll also have to worry if that food and water has been contaminated by fallout. Refrigerators are useless, so you can't store your food and diabetics relying on insulin shots (which must be refrigerated) will have a very hard time getting their medicine. There are many things we take for granted and this story does an excellent job of bringing them to light. The novel was written in 1959, but surprisingly, it doesn't feel dated as other novels of this genre from that time, such as Nevil Shute's On the Beach.

"In Fort Repose, a river town in Central Florida," an early December Friday dawns warm and peaceful. There are rumblings of potential crisis from the outside world--"The Russians had sent up another Sputnik, No. 23, and something sinister was going on in the Middle East"--but the citizens of Fort Repose bask in their small-town peacefulness. Then Randy Bragg, the younger son of a prominent local family--lawyer, Korean War vet, and unsuccessful candidate for the state legislature--receives a Western Union cable from his older brother, Mark, a colonel in the Strategic Air Command. Mark's cable includes a code phrase used by the brothers since childhood to indicate imminent disaster: "Alas, Babylon."

Pat Frank's classic post-apocalyptic novel remains "an extraordinarily real picture of human beings numbed by catastrophe, but still driven by the unconquerable determination of living creations to keep on being alive." --The New Yorker

Dramatis Personae

Josh Halloway as Randy Bragg- The protagonist, and the descendant of an old Florida family. When the novel begins, he is a failed candidate for political office, living off his family's land and the occasional work as a lawyer in the small Florida town of Fort Repose. He is obviously educated, but at heart, he's still a country boy. I pictured him as similar to Matthew McConaughy's character in A Time to Kill.

Guy Pearce as Dan Gunn- Fort Repose's doctor, and Randy's best friend. A bitter divorce has left him disillusioned, but after the nuclear war, he becomes a hero, throwing himself into the difficult work of serving as a doctor to a community in turmoil.

Radha Mitchell as Elizabeth McGovern- Randy's girlfriend. A smart, resourceful, attractive woman, her parents have moved to Fort Repose from the North. After her mother dies of diabetes, she and her father, Bill McGovern, move in with Randy.

Mark Valley as Mark Bragg- Randy's brother, and an officer with the Strategic Air Command in Omaha. He warns his brother that nuclear war is imminent, and sends Helen and their children to live with Randy.

Gretchen Egolf as Helen Bragg- Mark's wife, and the mother of Peyton and Ben Franklin. Her husband, fearing imminent war, sends her to Fort Repose from their home in Omaha, where she moves in with Randy on the day before war breaks out.

William Hurt as Bill McGovern- Lib's father. He is a retired industrialist; in fact, he was president of a manufacturing company. His history in the manufacturing industry has provided him with mechanical know-how and this makes him a valuable member of the group. After his wife's death, he and Lib move in with Randy.

Victoria Tennant as Lavinia McGovern- Lib's mother, who suffers from diabetes.

Terrence Howard as Malachai Henry- Randy's neighbor, who works a farm with his family. He is something of a mechanical expert.

Harry Belafonte as Preacher Henry- Malachai and Two-Tone's father. Preacher is an older black man, but still healthy enough to plow his land. He is the head of the local black church.

Andre Braugher as Two-tone Henry- Malachai's lazy brother, and Missouri's husband, called "Two-Tone" because his face has two shades of color. Two-tone is unreliable. He spends most of his time sitting on the porch getting drunk.

Sherri Shephard as Missouri Henry- Two-Tone's wife, she lives with him on the Henry farm, and cleans houses for a living.

Robert Duvall as Adm. Sam Hazzard- A retired military man, he lives near Randy on the River Road, and operates a ham radio as a hobby.

Kathy Bates as Florence Wechek- Randy's neighbor, a gossipy older woman who runs the telegraph office in Fort Repose. She is good friends with Alice Cooksey.

Cherry Jones as Alice Cooksey- The Fort Repose librarian, and Florence's best friend. She comes to stay with Florence when news arrives of the war.

Rona Mitra as Rita Hernandez- A poor but beautiful woman who lives in the slum known as Pistolville. She is a former girlfriend of Randy. ßPin It
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