BOOK: Watership Down (1975)

Watership Down Year: 1975 Author: Richard Adams Length: 953 minutes / 15.88 hours In an ever-increasing list of books I failed to read as a child, I finally managed to get to Watership Down. While I am aware that many people speculate the true meaning of the book to be an allegory for Nazis or Communism, or whatever, the prologue provided by the author in this edition stated that it was merely a bedtime story for his children. With this in mind, I’m sure many subconscious influences led to some of the themes in Watership Down. Either way, the story seemed to be a rambling series of events that didn’t have much of a point or purpose. Let’s be clear: I like rabbits. I think they’re cute, and I even own two of them. Therefore, I appreciate the little details of lagomorph mannerisms sprinkled throughout. And yet, there were a few confusing choices made in this book, like giving a somewhat-confusing “rabbit language” that rarely...
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MOVIE: The Dark Tower (2017)

The Dark Tower Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours Like many “best-selling” books and book series made into movies, I don’t have the time to sit down and read them all before their film adaptations are released. The Dark Tower (2017) is no different. In fact, I was only made aware of the Dark Tower series shortly before the movie was announced. Therefore, unlike the diehard fans of the series, I had no expectations for the film other than the understanding that there would be some interesting fantasy/sci-fi elements presented on the big screen. Unfortunately, at a measly 93 minutes of runtime, The Dark Tower felt a little . . . light. Sure, all the essential elements of the story were there: the gunslinger protagonist (Idris Elba), the magical “Man in Black” antagonist (Matthew McConaughey), and the conflict of good vs. evil. And yet, so much of the plot seemed glossed over that the entire movie felt like a trailer for...
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BOOK: Captains Courageous (1897)

Captains Courageous Year: 1897 Author: Rudyard Kipling Length: 356 minutes / 5.93 hours Captains Courageous is one of those classics that I just haven’t read, for whatever reason. I got the sense it was about being at sea, probably in the same vein as Moby Dick or Treasure Island. And yet, I don’t know if I could tell you what happened in this book. Sure, the main character was picked up by a fishing vessel, and eventually, they learned how to deal with the harsh job of being a fisherman, but that’s pretty much it. The series of fishing adventures seem to be loosely tied together, and the overarching plot was weak at best. Part of me wonders if the audiobook version of this classic was to blame. Not only did the narrator have a bit of an accent, but she did all the different dialects of the various characters based on their ethnic origins. While I would usually love this attention to detail, more...
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BOOK: Notes from the Internet Apocalypse (2014)

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse Year: 2014 Author: Wayne Gladstone Length: 323 minutes / 5.38 hours The main concept behind Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is interesting: one day, the internet just stops working. All the computers and phone lines still work, but the internet has just gone missing. The story that results should be considered a satire since I hardly believe people who have hidden behind a veil of anonymity for so long will do the same deplorable things in real life just to get their “internet fix.” Bringing the reality of our connected society to its extreme logical conclusion in a world without internet, Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is a harsh mirror of what we’ve become, even to the point of cringing at it. I was a little taken aback by the amount of vulgar language, overt sexuality, and lack of common decency by the characters in this book. Of course, in a book about the internet, these types of people run...
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BOOK: Rumors of Another World (2003)

Rumors of Another World Year: 2003 Author: Philip Yancey Length: 272 pages Having been a Christian for some time, I was familiar with the name Philip Yancey. I knew he often wrote books about Christianity and how those of us in the faith should examine some of the more challenging topics of our belief. When I picked up Rumors of Another World from a friend, I was expecting an examination of the afterlife promised us in God's Word. Part of me was planning to use this book as a bit of research for my own fictional writing, or at least to give me ideas on how to incorporate a heavenly realm into it. In the end, this book was not what I expected. It has been a long time since I've read any Yancey, but I don't think this is his strongest work. My primary issue with it is that it tries to speak to too many audiences. If it either focused on trying to convince...
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BOOK: The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara Year: 1977 Author: Terry Brooks Length: 1,600 minutes / 26.67 hours Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: an unassuming character is given the task to use a magical item to destroy a great evil that once terrorized the world. To help this character on their quest is their best friend, a magic-wielding individual, a ranger with a love interest, a dwarf, and some elves. Look, I get that The Lord of the Rings redefined the fantasy genre in the 1950’s, but why were fantasy writers still replicating this formula twenty years later? I only half-paid attention to this derivative plot, mostly because I already had an idea what was going to happen. Now, I will admit that The Sword of Shannara isn’t completely a 1-for-1 rehashing of The Lord of the Rings, but enough of it is similar that it feels almost too familiar. The plot does divert from the Tolkien formula, but probably not until about halfway through....
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BOOK: Valkyrie (2009)

Valkyrie Year: 2009 Author: Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager Length: 268 minutes / 4.47 hours I first gained awareness of “Operation Valkyrie” when the film starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie (2008), was first released. It makes logical sense to me that not all Germans involved in the war were Nazis, and not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s tactics. It is then the logical conclusion that some of them would attempt to assassinate the leader who had brought their country into a sweeping, global conflict. While this assassination attempt failed, I was still curious about the inner-workings of the plot and the people who would go so far as to try and kill Hitler. My expectation of this book was for it to be an in-depth analysis of the many facets of the operation. From Hitler’s security concerns to the backgrounds of the lives of the individuals involved, I was expecting this book to be a non-fictional examination of the assassination that never succeeded. Instead, I was a...
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BOOK: The Other Side of Magik (2006)

The Other Side of Magik Year: 2006 Author: Michael Lingaard Length: 411 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The “fish out of water” plot device is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, it’s an interesting way to provide exposition in a fantasy world when an individual from our world comes to visit, but often the differences aren’t fully considered. Of course, there are good examples of this form of storytelling. From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Marvel’s Thor (2011), both directions of the “world swap” transaction can provide entertainment. Unfortunately, The Other Side of Magik tries to have its cake and eat it too. If The Other Side of Magik had merely focused on the adventures of a single teenage boy unknowingly thrust into a parallel dimension, it could have made sense. Instead, while the majority of the story was in the “magik” realm (of which I still don’t like that spelling), occasionally it would swap back over to our world and give the...
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MOVIE: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours Having only seen the original Ghost in the Shell (1995) film (and its 2008 remake), and not having read the manga on which it was based, most of my comparisons of the 2017 live-action adaptation are from the anime film adaptations that came before it. For its time, the original Ghost in the Shell movie was revolutionary. Along with similarly violent anime films like Akira (1988), Ghost in the Shell showed the world that animation wasn’t just for kids. The adult and more psychological aspects of these films are what helped set them apart as some of the groundbreaking films in the anime genre. Regarding the live-action remake, I think it honestly took too long to get here. The concepts of cybernetically enhanced humans are surprisingly close to realized technology today. Given that these ideas seemed quite futuristic in the early 1990’s, the fact that they are plausible within the next...
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BOOK: Angels and Demons (2000)

Angels and Demons Year: 2000 Author: Dan Brown Length: 416 minutes / 6.93 hours While Angels and Demons is not nearly as popular as its sequel, the famous (if not infamous) The Da Vinci Code, the elements which led to its successor’s success are certainly all contained within this first book in the Robert Langdon series. Of course, just because you have the materials to build a nice house doesn’t mean that it magically becomes a mansion. Despite containing many of the elements that made The Da Vinci Code so good, Angels and Demons feels a little underdeveloped in quite a few areas. First, the protagonist, Robert Langdon, is supposed to feel like an “Indiana Jones”-type character, but with a specialty like symbology as his background, I just can’t buy the action-hero transformation of this everyday academic. Add to this the almost repetitive nature of his “discoveries” wherein he makes an assessment, then goes to the location of the assessment only to find that he...
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