‘Fairy Tale’ by Stephen King, A Review With a Long, Self-Serving Preamble

Stephen King was fundamental to my formative years in storytelling, and I know I’m far from alone in that. His writing has touched millions, and his reputation has preceded him for many more than that. You know all of this.

(If you really just want the review, scroll down to the subheading. You can’t miss it.)

When I was discovering fiction writing as a central part of my life, I found myself connecting with and inspired by his stories more than many other writers’. Like the literary elite, who might still puzzle over what it is about King’s work that people like so much, I’ve spent much of my studies thinking about why his work resonates with me. Is it the fascination with the dark and macabre? Is it some deep-seated psychological need for me to gaze into the unknown? Do I ironically find delight in terror? Wait, is there something wrong with me? I think if it were any of these things, any horror author would do, and that’s at least not how I work. 

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Re-Reading The Handmaid’s Tale, a Review

At the end of 2018, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. After 15 years (and this time picking it up because I wanted to, not because I needed to for a class), I found it extraordinarily powerful and prescient. I then wrote this review but never posted it. Oops. I figured I’d post it now with some edits because these thoughts weren’t doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive.

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The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

I acknowledge it’s unfair of me to review Dan Simmons’ entire Hyperion Cantos together because it’s a long, complex journey with highs and lows in terms of both narrative drama and writing quality. In many ways, it’s less a four-book series, and more a duology of duologies. Unfortunately, the first two books are far superior than the latter two, which mainly serve to button up the universe. If these books interest you at all, I might recommend reading only the first two; however, the Endymion books might compel you, and you might find yourself beginning to resent them and questioning whether it was worth beginning the series in the first place.

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Thor: Ragnarok, A Review In Questions

I grew up reading comic books and was firmly in the Marvel camp, more specifically with the X-Men.

For the last couple years, I haven’t watched any Marvel movies (save for the X-Men movies, but they’re in their own bubble universe). It wasn’t for lack of desire. I just missed them at the theater, and then I missed them at home, and before I knew it, I was like seven movies behind. I wasn’t going to jump back in with the latest at that point, and the new ones kept coming out.

So the lady and I have been catching up, and we finally got to Thor: Ragnarok. I liked it. It was fun. Trouble is I feel like the filmmakers did everything they could to not make a Thor movie while making a Thor movie. I don’t think they were subtle about this (there is no other reason for them to cut Thor’s hair than for it to be symbolic).

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Before I picked up Neverwhere, I’d never read any Neil Gaiman. I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

I went for Neverwhere because American Gods seemed like too much of a commitment (but I’ll get to it), and it intrigued me as an archetypal urban fantasy novel, a genre I’m trying to get more into.

Everyone seems to love Neverwhere. It seems to occupy a space of underground reverence (no, that’s not a pun). All of my friends on Goodreads have given it five stars, and nobody will dare utter a bad word about it.

So I will. I’m sorry to say I thought Neverwhere was just okay.

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Ranking Marvel’s Netflix Series

I recently caught up on all of Marvel’s Netflix series, and I found myself compelled to compare them to each other. It makes sense. Following the formula set by the Avengers film sequence, each superhero has his or her dedicated series, and then in 2017, they came together to form The Defenders.

First a note: All but one of these series have only produced one season, so things could change. The creators could right the ship or sink it. I don’t expect my rankings will change too much, considering these first seasons will always exist, but crazier things have happened. Also, this is all spoiler-free, so if you haven’t seen all of them yet, never fear.

Here’s where I see them standing, worst to best.

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The Last Jedi Reaction

I saw The Last Jedi a couple weeks ago, and like most of you, I hrmph’d out of the movie theater, feeling an immediate need to reflect upon what I’d just seen. For those first 24 hours, I experienced strong emotional waffling as seemingly warring factions in my brain attempted to win out. I expected this tension would continue to evolve, but it didn’t really. I think both of my minds are right.

I’ve decided The Last Jedi is a really good Star Wars film in its own right, but in context of the series and its surrounding culture, it’s mediocre and even harmful.

This is less a review and more a reaction. That said, I spoil the hell out of the film because I found it really unsatisfying to discuss my points in general terms, which leads me to my first point [final spoiler warning].

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Pulling Strings by Nick DeWolf

PULLING STRINGS is easily one of my favorite novels of 2017. Not only is it smart and meaningful, but it’s also fun as hell. It is a novel in that place where genre fiction and literary fiction blend, a novel you might see a literature professor and his or her student run into each other and discover they have something in common.

The synopsis goes something like this: Agent Colt has a psychic ability to fire kinetic mind bullets from her fingers. She’s a legend at the Department of Scientific Investigation (which doesn’t exist … but it could!), and she has led a storied career that the new recruits talk about in hushed tones. Now, however, she’s approaching retirement, working a cushy detail out of a field office in Middle America. It’s boring compared to her heyday. Then a new case comes in, and she thinks it could be her swan song. Little does she know the target she’s hunting is the most dangerous psychic she’s ever encountered.

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In Defense of Passengers

Last night, I watched Passengers, the film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence whose characters wake up far too early on a colonial spaceship that’s en route to a new planet. I think it’s a film that certainly has its flaws but is ultimately worth a viewing for any fan of character-driven science-fiction. It’s a film that, given a fair shake, deserves attention for some solid storytelling and acting. But critics panned it.

With such an interesting premise and two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, you might think it was a solid bet. So what happened?

It’s conjecture, and a film’s failure and success is contingent on innumerable factors, but I think Passengers is another film where the critics got it wrong. What’s more, the film sufficiently and specifically addresses the most substantial problems in the second half, which makes me wonder if the critics who panned it checked out after a major development in the first half in which a character does something utterly, morally repugnant, something that is a huge risk in the realm of storytelling, something good stories have to do to be memorable and effective.

Spoiler alert

I spoil the hell out of the film below, so if you haven’t seen it and plan to, you may want to wait to read this until you do. But before you go, the bottom line is Passengers is a wonderful film, and you should watch it. If you’re interested, don’t be like me and let the critics dissuade you.

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