“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier: a book review

Because the style and emotional conveyance worked so effectively, “The Chocolate War” gets a 3.0 rather than a 2.5 star.

“What?” you say. “Only a 3? It’s a classic!”

Yeah, but age has worked against it, and being edgy and controversial doesn’t always make great art, and while this book could be great for kids in high school, it’s too damn bleak and bullyish. While argulably realistic, no one — not one character, students or teacher, bad guy or good guy or in-the-middle characters — got what they deserved. The good were punished, the bad guys never repented, and there was simply a lot of harsh language and sexuality here, all of which I was fine with, but given the plot and the story, I felt they were interesting character vignettes; powerful but little else.

It’s a book for boys. Girls are objects, don’t disturb the status quo, adults suck. If anything, it made me dislike organized religion, authority, and bullies more than I already do, and if that was the point, bravo.

But aren’t readers supposed to enjoy the books and lessons in them? Aren’t writer’s goals to give harsh reality checks in a way that make us want to keep reading? Fail.

I was never swept away, I could always find a place to put down the book and check my Facebook account, and the depth of the story honestly merited a short story, not a novel. You would have lost some of the brilliant character depth, yes, but that’s the trade-off, and I would have prefered it.

Robert Cormier was an incredible writer, and it does show it’s face here in “The Chocolate War.” But you can tell by how disjointed some parts are, how repetitious the second act was, and how confusing and unfocused the first few chapters were: this was a book he wrote off-and-on for three years while he was working a full-time job (which he admits in the back of the 30th Anninversy paperback edition).

I admire this author, but he has better stuff out there, and “The Chocolate War” came no where near the excitement and readability and appeal and execution that “I Am the Cheese” can tout.

Final words: Bland, not fun to read, not something you’ll be recommending to friends. You’ll hear about it because your school blabbers on and on about it or because it’s been on the banned book list for ages.

enjoyment at heart: 2.0/5

writing: 4.5/5

my sensible and critical grade: 3.0/5

MH

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card: a book review

Gavin Hood, the director of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, began filming an adaptation of the sci-fi classic “Ender’s Game” in February 2012. The film is slated to release November 1st, 2013, when I turn 28. It’s sure to be a better movie than book. This is my review:

ABOUT THE FILM ADAPTATION:

The first issue is the nature of science fiction: it has everything to do with other-worldly visuals and spectacles and deals with humanity and controversial ideas. All good science fiction films have these two elements. One of them – the ideas – comes across the best in the books. The other, by the very nature of our biological anatomy – the visual world of the story – will almost always be better realized in the film adaptations, no matter the descriptive powers of the book’s author. (Yes, being in a character’s head is always more achievable in books, not movies.) Even the weakest of set designers and directors of photography can plan out a visually comparable and interesting world with a mediocre director at the helm.

Furthermore, the reason why “Ender’s Game” will specifically translate better as a story on the big screen is because the book is slightly meandering in the middle and some of the vocabulary used in dialogue simply hasn’t aged well. Both of these elements will be improved by a modern, 21st Century, high-glossed special effects, Hollywood treatment. Why it’s taken decades to be made into a movie, I’ll never know, but I’m sure there’s some political or legal yarn worthy of its own 10-minute documentary when “Ender’s Game” surely comes to BluRay in 2014.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

So, the actual book. Why did it not blow me away? Maybe because I am 26. If I was 16, I’d probably orgasm over this, but the truth is, it does read a bit like a Z-flick, quarter-dollar comic from the fifties, or a barely polished radio serial. I think perhaps in telling such a simple story, it was overwritten, and ended up having long stretches of very cardboard dialogue. I know the point of these six-year old kids talking the way they did was to show how smart they were, but I still never bought they were six and seven and ten years old talking this way. Something struck unauthentic with me. Maybe too much time has passed since the late seventies when this came out. “Last One there bottles their own farts” to paraphrase. Yeah, that was in there.

Poo poo on you fart-mouth Magoo. I made that one up.

This book felt like this: soldier training, practice simulations, metaphors, naked little boys sleeping or showering.

And then: more Training, game simulations, blunt ideas, naked little boys again.

Then it got good after 300 pages. Then a simulation wasn’t a simulation, but was really Ender Battle Commanding, and poof, he killed the bad guys.

The middle of this book carried very little conflict and was exhausting, and I really disagreed with the choice to weigh the chapters how they were: less than 100 pages for the first seven chapters, and the following seven chapters were 200 pages. Could you have broken it up, Orson? Cut back on some dialogue? Made the training and jargon and repetition of the saggy middle more lively?

I do understand and appreciate the themes and societal/governmental statements proposed by “Ender’s Game” and Mr. Card, the author. I get it. Military is bad. War is terrible. Government shouldn’t control kids and monitor us from the womb. Liberty and blah blah. Kids play combat games like today’s “Call of Duty” franchise, don’t understand how serious war really is, and then you can put them at the controls, and they’ll probably do pretty good since their desensitized or indoctrinated. We make children fight our wars, in so many words. It speaks of innocence, the desire to be loved, compassion, friendship, honor , and asks if the ends justify the means to keep the human race alive.

Okay. But, just because the last five pages of chapter 14 were excellent in the conversation between Graff and Ender where all the shit is finally expose and Ender realized what really happened, doesn’t make the book a exceptionally well written. Graff’s speech is good though. Ideas = good. Flow = bad.

It does everything you’d expect in a basic sci-fi to do, and maybe “Ender’s Game” was once great for pioneering these ideas or doing it for a young adult audience first or perhaps it was really the best in its time, but over the past thirty years, it’s time to move over.

This is a book to respect but not love. One to read but not own. One that the obsessed fans of the genre will always praise however outdone it become by superior work.

This has never been a 5/5 novel.

Anything you tell me I missed, trust me, I didn’t. I liked the book, and I suppose it’s a classic, but so what? Graff’s ultimate deception and manipulation of Ender. Got it. The relationship between Ender and his siblings. Got it. What Ender ultimately wants to be and what he cannot be because of what other’s have made him into. Got it.

I didn’t get that awe-inspired impact from it, though the ending made up for the middle, and I like that Ender takes on the responsibility of attempting to right his wrongs and escape his demons by trying to find a suitable homeworld for the final Queen. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, read the freaking book.

But I’ll tell ya what I’m not doing: reading the other 8-plus books in this series. There are too many better books out there right now. No one should commit to this series in this modern time we live in, a time of literary abundance.

I tip my hat to Orson Scott Card, but in the end I say: “Have a good day, sir. My farts need bottling.”

MH

3.5/5

go here for info on the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Prometheus: a movie review

If you saw “Prometheus” and were let down, the link below delivers a few reasons why that could have been:

Click this if you want the movie spoiled or you’ve seen it already: Red Letter Media on YouTube

I gave it a charitable 7/10. I’m being generous, though you might twist my arm to a 6.75. Initially, when I just finished it, I liked it. But the more I thought about it, the bruises started to show. My 8 went to a 7 in the last third of the film. I did like it that the film was not paced like an action/fantasy, but more like a genuine sci-fi. I will likely continue to second guess my thoughts about how smart or not smart it was, but here are my thoughts right now.

I can understand people giving it a 6 or an 8, but anything higher or lower is too critical or too rewarding. There are problems on the most basic level of tension building and story-telling.

First the good: some amazing scenes are in here, and this is better than many films I’ve seen this year. It is the best shot Sci-Fi ever. Also, you don’t have to know or like the original Alien to enjoy this. But the trailer was so good, and I’m not a fan boy, and I still say this didn’t deliver how it “said” it would.

This movie was average at best, and the idiot writer from “LOST” the TV show should have never been hired to write this. It could have been legendary. It is forgettable. Beautifully rendered, but substantively illusive. The “LOST” screenwriter is not that smart, and delivered a faux-intellectual, psuedo-philosophical cheap gangbang.

The logic was weak, the likability of characters hollow, and general satisfaction was lacking. Very little was answered, and you can’t just say “well, there moght be a sequel.” F*** that argument. Give me a single good movie before you rope me into a long string of ’em I have to commit to just to get to the “real” ending. There were plot holes you couldn’t ignore, and simply put: while a few loose ends are great for sci-fi, too many leaves the audience mad and leaves the film directionless.

Thematically schizophrenic, “Prometheus” can honestly blame nearly all of its problems on the WRITING: direction, photography, special visual effects, costuming, make-up, and set design and acting where all great or better than great. The characters, motivations, and logic are all the writers fault. Ridley Scott, your biggest mistake was who you hired to write the screenplay. It is a movie that thinks it is brilliant while everyone watching knows it’s barely in its “Honors Classes.” It’s no genius.

Did not deliever on medium to medium-high expectations. More a thriller than a horror, not that it mattered to me, but it might to you. Just give me a good sci-fi. Please.
7/10
MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Reviews

2012 Half-Way Recap: January – June Blog Review

2012 is almost half over.

I’m scared, too.

But in lieu of our inevitable ends, June marks the six month point, and I invite you to take a look back at the films and books I’ve reviewed thus far. Below is the list of months I recommend opening into new tabs, just to take a peek.

Enjoy:

JanuaryThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Chuck Palahniuk, The Descendants, and more.

FebruaryHugo, the Hunger Games, and more.

March The Fault in Our Stars, The Sense of an Ending, As I Lay Dying, and more.

April – My own novel “The Ghost of Casablanca”, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Blood Red Road, a Green Day analysis, and more.

May – The Avengers Movie, The Glass Castle, Kurt Vonnegut, John Green, The Maze Runner, Clockwork Angel and more.

JuneSnow White and the Huntsman Movie, The Things They Carried, Graceling (coming later this month), and more.

Keep checking in! More movie reviews and book reviews coming soon, including:

  • Prometheus (In theaters June 8th)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (in theaters July 20th)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten
  • To the Lighthouse by Viginia Woolf

Absorb everything…. it all has value.

MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Droppings, Personal Updates

“The Goats” by Brock Cole: a book review

We are all Goats at one time or another, usually in our early teens when we’re discovering what our identities truly are while the adults have laughable and incongruent perceptions of “us.”

Using themes of identity, friendship and trust, author Brock Cole’s “The Goats” illustrates a late 80s camp ground ritual where two thirteen-year olds deemed social outcasts are stripped naked and left for a whole day on Goat Island. So, what did Howie and Laura do next? And what happened when the kid’s and the counselors can’t find them the next day? Where have they gone and why do they not want to be found?

To begin, I must disclose I would not have read this book based on its previous covers. This book is about 24 years old. Yup. Third new cover right here. Clever, clever marketing to get new kids reading old books. I’m glad though, because this is worth reading for teens, and the premise and reviews I read for it are what got me. But not everyone puts that kind of time and energy into their information gathering. I was sold on the plot is my point, where other younger people would possibly hear the premise, think it was neat, then see an old cover and pass on it. What sillies.

It should here be mentioned that while the themes and ability to relate to the characters in “The Goats” are strong, the writing is far from award worthy, at times clunky and under-relished, and most of the threads come together in the last third or so of this book. That’s what books are supposed to do of course, but at times the reader will say “where is he going with this?” The part where the two protagonists are in the other camp of mostly black children felt very tagged on and screamed that the book was written in the eighties with lingering seventies social awareness. The middle 40-pages are a drag. It didn’t add much to the character development, which already left a little to be desired.

Having said this, the truth is, this is a good book. “The Goats” has a lot to say about simply being a kid where we don’t get much say and other powers rule what we do and who we are. Who can’t relate to that?

It was nice to have a Young Adult book told in the third-person past tense, which is simply how it was decades ago. Today, YA is frequently and abusively first-person present tense. I also enjoyed Brock Cole’s framing device of showing what Laura’s mother or the camp counselors were doing every few chapters, as they tries to reunite with the missing kids, all the while speculating about what they’ve done, etc. Again – further showing the reader how adults view kids, sometimes rightly, sometimes way off base.

All in all, this book illustrates what sexuality is and what we perceive it to be in young teens. What bullying is. What survival is. How kids silently hate their awkward years. How some decide to play in the system and some almost leave it—or do leave it. This book also makes a believable friendship blossom that will surely last a lifetime between the two main characters. You want to know if they stayed friends, dated in the following years, changed their ways, grew stronger, lost contact with each other, etc.

While I found the author’s decision to call Howie and Laura “the boy” and “the girl” for symbolic reasons understandable and reasonable, I didn’t think it was all that necessary and lead to some confusion and dull sentences. This could have almost been an awe-inspiring short story of 30-pages, but the author wrote a short novel, practically a teen novella. And he pulls it off. It’s good. I can say that, and middle-schoolers should read this book, often banned for mild language and nudity in the first two chapters, none of which is highly sexual or violent in any sense. It’s just an example of censors not liking kids being nude, but why are they nude—that what makes this book worth reading.

The book is likely worth more than a three, but it didn’t entertain me enough or do anything that hadn’t been done. It’s a better story than a three, but that’s what it got.

182 pages. 1987. SquareFish/Macmillan Press.

3/5

MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: a book review

What really hit me about this book is it’s readability. They’re short stories, kind of, it’s literature, definitely, but you don’t have to go to college or be a snob to love this book.

While meticulously crafted, O’Brien’s storytelling prowess and very personal style never comes off as pretentious or glory seeking or overly “warish” like other war books can be, and the vignette style of presentation, blending truth with fiction, is presented in a very specfic order of set-ups and pay-offs. This is a book of absolute truth and honestly while not everything in the book was actually non-fiction. As Tim O’Brien will tell you directly in the book: this is because the “what happened” and “what it felt like” are two differnt things, and he wanted to covey the real emotions and hauntings and regrets and joys he had experienced while in Vietnam.

Some of these stories, half in fact, take place before he ever went to Vietnam or after he came back, adding to the dimensionality of it all. By not focusing hundreds of pages on a few months in another world, he shows the reader years and years of his life and how everything affected each other. His elementary school girlfriend, the day he was drafted, then later, his conversations with his daughter twenty years later.

Much more powerful than a few months of stories in paddies like other authors, not to detract from their service, just their writing.

I found it to be a total success — something staggaringly original in style and design and craft, while somehow being easily digestible literature of the highest regard. This is a book any one can and should read, because it’s not just about a single war; but about choices, ghosts, and simply humanity. I was awestuck by this book, and while the first three-quarters of the book hit me harder than the last quarter, I will not give “The Things They Carried” a 4.5.

It is a 5/5, and if you want to be moved and know what your mind does in a foreign country during war, and not just when the guns are going off, prepare to be deeply affected and entrenched in cleverly written stories that move and flow and blossom.

5/5

MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

“The Search For Wondla” by Tony DiTerlizzi: a book review

Overall, excellent read for kids 10+ and even people into their late teens and early adulthood if they enjoy sci-fi and fantasy.

Be a kid again. Screw everyone else. Read what you like. Get taken away to another world with great art.

Author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Tony made a terrific book, but one that’s a bit too long and overly-described. Every moment is logged and it didn’t have to be. Some moments and sceneriers did not need to be so heavily described as it slowed down some action, and given the story it’s telling, well, 400 pages would have been more than enough, but this book is over 460+.
Still incredible art, though, and a clever blend of post-apocolyptic, future-dytopia, adventure/quest/coming of age Epic, a la: Star Wars, Never Ending Story, and the video game Fallout 3. You get a likeable female protagonist, all of 12 years old, trying to find another human being on a planet, surrounded by fantastic creatures and robots. But this planet has a history. Oh yes, it does.
And it also has a sequel book… and a movie in the works.
Of course.

 

4/5        

 MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

“Snow White and the Huntsman”: a response to the film

Considering how much was done right in this film, the few things that were mishandled, poorly written, or ill-executed really hurt my ability to recommend “Snow White & the Huntsman.” At times, one could argue that more could have been accomplished if they dropped the “Snow White” angle in the title and really went out there to create something new and special in the “Good-vs.-Evil-Kings-and-Princesses” genre”, especially considering how much artistic license was already taken to change many things. Despite these liberties, certain elements of the original Snow White tale were forced into this film to the overall detriment of the viewing experience, like pushing a square block through a circular hole.

To begin, this movie had quantitatively more strengths than weakness. The setting, dialogue, acting, costuming, sound design, set design, beautiful on location filming, and make-up were all top notch. Just looking at any freeze frame of this film, one instantly notices the money they had to throw around. There are a lot of good things to be said about this film, and its ability to create a mood was obvious. The action sequences were relatively clean; and the general style of the film — taking big chances in this regard — panned out nicely due to the exquisite team of producers and post-production special effects people making the world feel real. Truly great fantasy stuff here. Pretty stuff.

Now, after all of that praise, how could a few negatives bring down the ability to recommend the film?

Well, the few bones I have to pick with this film, while not many, are massive qualitatively, including some obvious, flagrant omissions; these issues cannot be defended or expalined and fall directly in the writers and director’s realm of blame.

The first 20 minutes of this film are rocky. Too much time is spent with the Queen’s back story and the escape of Snow White felt rushed. All the while we are being forced voice-over narration from the Huntsman? Why the voice-over is the Huntsman seemed very arbitrary. Why not any character? Why not Snow White? The narrator and whose character in the film it is matters, and here, it felt tacked on. Also in the first act or so, none of the characters, none, are easily relatable or easy to empathize with. It’s not until the Huntsman is introduced (around 30-mins) in the beginning of the second act that this film was saved. Thank you, Chris Hemsworth for playing the role so well. What little dimensionality there were to any characters, you brought it.

The direction with Charlize Theron didn’t work for me, at least not in the first half. In the first act, as she was often being directed to scream and flail at a “10”, where for the remainder of the movie she was at a 7 or 8 in intensity. Never pop that cherry of villain-rage so early. Basic Movie laws. BUILD it.

The second act moved along well enough, and the casting of all the dwarves worked well. It could have blown up in their tiny little faces, and I applauded, once again, the special affects work here. Most of these “dwarves” were played by 5 or 6 foot-tall Hollywood A-listers and B-listers. Cleverly done, a la “Lord of the Rings” perhaps with scale models, stand-ins, and brilliantly smooth “After Affects.” They really look like dwarves, not like pasted faces on tiny bodies.

The next issue was the inclusion of the apple from the old fairy tale. I think this should have been omitted from the film. The way in which the poison apple is used here seems inconsequential since it occurs at the ¾ mark rather than the ½ way mark, and then, within 10 minutes or so of screen time, she is kissed by the Huntsman and is back. Poof. Just like that. There needed to be 20 minutes at least where Snow White’s childhood friend and the Huntsman discuss their equal love for Snow White, try a few things to get her to wake, travel to the Keep where they promised they would take her, etc. It all happened to quick. In a time where many characters could have received some due development, they flushed the opportunity. As if not having Snow White in the film for more than ten minutes would have audience members walking out. Please.

The biggest sin was that when she did wake up, after the kiss, the Huntsman had already left the room, and this kiss IS NEVER DISCUSSED. Snow White just wakes up, she doesn’t know why, the Huntsman doesn’t know he was responsible, and they never discuss it. Ever.

Inexcusable.

If the director and the writer were going to go through the painful lengths of including the dwarves and the poison apple and the “mirror, mirror on the wall,” they needed to keep the love story and find its closure. It is such a simple inclusion that they pissed away, focusing all on style and mood and sights and sounds. This movie is a sights and sound movie. Not a tale which can find its value in the merits of its storytelling.

By this point I was going to give the film a 7. But then the ending happened. Oh, my.

Who do you think she got with? Answer: Neither. That’s right.

In the final moments of the film, when Snow White is supposed to bring the land out of its cold rapture and into a Spring for the animals, the plants, and mankind, there is decidedly NOT a montage of any kind showing the lands and the hills and the forests blossoming into their former glory. What? Did they run out of cash? Futhermore, at Snow White’s coronation and crowning in the final minute of the film, she JUST TRADES GLANCES WITH HER CHILDHOOD FRIEND AND THE HUNTSMAN.

The doors closed, the music crescendoed… roll credits. No epilogue. Something that could have given us all emotional closure in 90-seconds of fottage was not necessary apparently.

Can you see why I’m mad? In Snow-Freaking-White, part of it is the Prince Charming bit. She needs that love and the audience needs that closure. No satisfaction is to be found in the end of this film regarding who she picks and if she will ever really have love. Did they not want to choose team Jacob or Team Edward? Get the eff outta here. What a strike out.

They should have either changed everything in this Snow White tale and called it something else, or made the intelligent decision to play their cards closer to the chest and pull out a more traditional Snow White tale, still one with the style and mood and special effects all there. It was a real waste of money considering this will be soon forgotten and very few people’s “Favorite Snow White Variation.”

Really Let-down. Had a lot of faith. Really wanted to like this and give it a 7, but those last 30 seconds are unforgivable.

6.5/10

MH

2 Comments

Filed under Movie Reviews

“A Devil Inside”: a movie review

Firstly, this cover is misleading. No one looks like this in the film. This character doesn’t exist. Strike one of eight. Making one of your letters in the title backwards doesn’t make you spooky, that makes you the 90s metal band “Korn.” Strike two.

God, Eff off, A Devil Inside, for serious.

When your film is in and out of the theaters and on DVD in under four months, hey, you got a problem of quality. Overall, this is how you do a bad “exorcist” movie. This is the kind of film that makes the public think horror is dumb and the sub-genre of exorcism is not scary.

To begin, this film is one hour and fifteen minutes of actual movie. Over seven minutes at the end of the film are the credits; the slow, slow credits—part of which ask you go online after the film for “more about the unsolved case.” Well, shit, glad I didn’t pay 12 bucks for a seventy-five minute film which then gave me enrichment study homework. What a crock. It’s like Downloadable content that XBOX360 games ask you to buy after you buy the 60 dollar game. Put it in one package please. Doing it in stagnated pieces is lazy. You’re wasting my time or money, and sometimes both.

This film had no style, rehashing everything that’s been done in the shaky-cam, mediocre-college-actor genre that better films like “Paranormal Activity” and “Cloverfield” have already done. Something here reminds me of “Insidious” and “The Last Exorcism”, but both of those films, regardless of your opinion of them, were at least more original and clever. This film was not clever. The mood was never quite right. The pacing was never quite right. It’s difficult to put your finger on it, but if you see it, which you shouldn’t, you’ll feel what I’m talking about. Something just wasn’t done correctly here and feels sloppy, inarticulate, uncrafted. Very few details are given about the plot, what made this situation “special” or this story worth telling, and the characters are given the bare minimum of backstory and dimensionality.

Only at the one hour mark the film become something fresh and inventive, and that lasts for about fifteen minutes. Whoopie.

Just when it gets good, when an additional 15-minutes could is almost expected to follow and could wrap-up with a stately denouement and resolution, we are left at the Climax, with no way to know who lived, who died, how the demons went from body to body, or what ever happened to Maria, the protagonists mother (whose acting was actually pretty good for being possessed). The actress playing Maria kept this Phoned-In Money Grabber from dying at the front door of the genre club it desperately wanted to be a part of.

Some of you may say that “realistic endings” where everything is not wrapped up is more real and better. While that’s left to debate, this doesn’t do it well. I like movies that don’t put a bow on everything. Most people in America today who what to be intellectually-challenged when enjoying a film would agree, but this film ends shockingly in spite of itself and just for the sake of “oh, that would be a crazy ending. Like, real life, where, ya know, you don’t know what happens.” Yeah. Okay. It can be done well when a theme or irony or metaphor is in place, but this had none of that.

When the best part of your movie is the tail end of the third act, and then you don’t FINISH your third act, well, you should be ashamed to call yourself a full-length picture. On top of all of this, pieces of the trailer were re-edited in the final cut, and really, the best movie of “A Devil Inside” is the freaking trailer.

Save yourself the trouble. Don’t even get this on REDBOX unless you are a die-hard horror fan or just HAVE to know how this film stacks up to the other of its sub-genre. Hint: in the bottom half.

Because the ending was better than the whole film, it gets a 5 instead of a 4.5

I would rewatch any, yes, any exorcist movie again before this one.

5/10

MH

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie Reviews

“A Wild Sheep Chase” by Haruki Murakami: a novel review

Alright! Okay! I missed something! What the hell! What. The. Hell!

What the f*** did I just waste a week of my life reading? Why couldn’t I stop? Why was I enthralled? What was lost in translation?

I loved “Norwegian Wood”. That one, five star. This?! “A Wild Sheep Chase”?

Less of a novel and more of a parable or a very long allegory. I didn’t get it. Super-weird, surrealistic overdose. Prepare for a timeless wandering where you can’t place the decade this was written in or confirm any character’s motivations. Aimless themes. Half of Murakami’s books are better than this. An incomprehensible tale of philosophy and self-actualization that only carries weight for the very curious and open-minded reader. Only they will take something away from it, and even then, everyone will argue about what it “really meant.”

Skip it, skip it, skip it.

I felt like I was stuck in a dream but couldn’t wake up. I’ve never so willingly subjected myself to crazy sh*t before. Something kept me reading, likely the philosophy and the mood/environment descriptions taking on characterizations all their own, but that’s where the praise stops. It stops HARD.

Read if you like subtle symbolism, Japanese history, alcohol, cigarettes, more cigarettes, descriptions of cooking and eating food nearly every chapter, non-sense dialogue, and a lazy, unmotivated protagonists who rarely exhibits the proper emotion: rage, confusion, or doubt given the irrational and insane things occuring in the world around him.

No amount, I mean no amount of spirituality or literary beauty can save this one. It’s full of set-ups that barely paint the character and we never see pay-offs later in the plot. There are loose ends with characters. This was barely fun to read and is frustrating as all hell. But, again, something kept me reading. I guess it was a morbid facination with the fantasy elements of this shitshow, but I guess I also just wanted to read the whole thing so I could properly critique it and tear it apart and back up my claims.

How this book can be given above a 3.5 staggers me, and all the 5 reviewers are literary elitist that want to be in some sort of “I get it” club, like since I don’t appriciate his crazy sh*t, I’m uncultured or incapable of higher thought. No matter the language this novel is in, no matter who describes their opinions and interpretations to me, I will never change my star rating for this book. It’s a book that depends entirely on the readers interpretations. Only certain things are “fact” in this brain-pounding novel, and besides the ideas or reinvention of one’s self, people can make up any reasonings and answers for this creative writing experiment and support whatever arguments they want. You cannot be right, you cannot be wrong. You can only be mind-fu*ked.

Nothing feels present day Japan or America culturally, and nothing feels like past decades of Japanese or American cultures. It’s “timeless” and odd in its own way, if those are even the right words.

You can not compare the two, but Norwegian Wood by Murakami runs literary, thematic, and emotionally-statisfying circles around “A Wild Sheep Chase.” I need a brandy like the Sheep Man.

I could not recommend this book to anybody, ever. It was “okay” only: a two star. I gave it and extra 1/2 star for rediculous originality mashing reality with bat-sh*t crazy fantasy.

Fu*k this book.

2.5/5

MH

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews