Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More Conan!

After reading the third Conan treasury, published by Del Ray, I just had to go back and read the other two.  The first, The Coming of Conan the Cimmarian, is a collection of short stories about Conan.  They don’t follow any type of chronological order, however it is interesting to see how Robert Howard’s depiction changes over time.  These earliest stories almost obsessively contain women as sexual conquests of Conan’s, and also have an extremely negative viewpoint towards the blacks in the stories.  I understand Howard is a product of his times, and the fantasy aspect of the women, but it is heartening to see him become less pejorative as his writing progresses.

That said, these stories are excellent, but don’t provide a whole lot of development of the Conan character.  On the contrary, the three stories in the second collection, The Bloody Crown of Conan, do a great job of fleshing him out.  This treasury of novellas really delves into who Conan is, and shows him to be a very intelligent man, with subtleties not expected of a barbarian.  Oh, he’s still the toughest mofo to ever swing a sword, but he also expresses great leadership and diplomacy too.

I’m sure there must be collections that put the stories in chronological order (to Conan), and I am anxious to check them out sometime, but for Conan the way the author originally wrote, the three books of this series are the way to go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shaun of the Dead

After watching (and enjoying) Zombieland, I just had to add Shaun of the Dead to my Netflix queue, and it didn't disappoint. The movie follows Shaun, a 29 year old slacker who is just slogging his way through life. After he screws things up with his girlfriend, ticks off his housemate and neglects his mother once again, Shaun decides to get his life in order.  As it happens, on the day of Shaun's big decision, zombies come to life where he lives. 

At first Shaun doesn't even realize what's happened, but he and his best friend finally run into their first zombie in the backyard.  After fighting off some zombies, Shaun and his friend turn on the news and see how widespread the problem really is.  With his new take-charge attitude, Shaun decides to rescue his mom and ex-girlfriend and take them to a safe place - The Winchester, Shaun's favorite pub.  What follows is equal parts hilarity and horror, as the group moves through the city, bumping off shuffling zombies, making their way to the pub.

I won't give away any more of the plot, for those of you who haven't seen it yet.  There is also a pretty funny little twist at the end that I really enjoyed.  I won't make any comparisons to Zombieland other than to say I probably enjoyed them equally, but in different ways.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley (film)

To be fair, I didn't even watch the whole movie.  I just don't think it's a book that is easily adapted to the screen. The book is quite cerebral and the pace is slow and that doesn't translate well into a feature film. Maybe I'm jaded, having just read the book, but all I could think throughout was how much was being left out - important things that gave life to Ripley's character.  The movie didn't capture the almost sadistic pleasure Tom Ripley takes in scamming people - his sociopathy.  Instead, Tom only appears to be an opportunist.

Maybe if I had seen the film before reading the book I would have appreciated it more, but I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't have thought it was particularly good.  However, based on a recommendation from a friend, I am going to watch Ripley's Game, which has gotten better reviews.  I just don't know if I'll watch before, or after, reading the book.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Conquering Sword of Conan

Until recently the bulk of my knowledge of Conan the Barbarian was from the comic book that was popular in the seventies and the epic movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the eighties. That is, until I was introduced to Robert E. Howard's original Conan the Cimmerian in this treasury showcasing the last five Conan stories in the order they were written.  This collection is the third of three published by Del Ray covering the entire span of Conan's adventures.  It also includes such extras as author's notes, early drafts and a map of Conan's world.

This is not your Governator's Conan: this marauder is not just some monosyllabic barbarian, hacking his way across the world leaving piles of bodies in his wake. Rather, he is at heart a barbarian, having been brought up as one, but also a learned man, gaining a wide knowledge throughout his travels.  Conan speaks (and reads) many languages, knows customs from a great range of cultures and has done many things for a living, including thief, corsair, soldier, trader and mercenary.  He is also a leader of both strength and subtlety.

The Conan stories are considered heroic-fantasy, as they focus mainly on the hero as human, but also include some supernatural elements that do not dominate the plot.  In some ways I prefer this style to more pure fantasy stories because it is easier to identify with the human element than it is to relate to magical creatures.

I will absolutely go find the first two books of the series, as I greatly enjoyed this one, even though it is not my usual fare.  It has also inspired me to go back and re-read some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' works, as the historical legacy of Tarzan's has suffered a similar fate as Conan's: the mass media representations are what people remember, and not the original intent of the authors.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

New Style

What do you think of the new style of my blog?  I think it looks cleaner and is easier to read than the old one.  But what do I know?  I'm colorblind!