29 Dec 2015

Reading & Seeing 27

I hope you all had lovely Christmases, it was a particularly good one here (the cooking went well, we played lots of games and drank eggnog - which equals success in my book)!

This Reading & Seeing has been sitting in my drafts folder for some time so I thought I'd get on with it before we end up in January. It's a bit of a bumper edition, the last few months have been rather cultural it seems...!

Star Wars: the force awakens
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few months, the hype around this was crazy and, thankfully, it managed to live up to the perfect film I'd wished for. There's an excellent set of new characters (I am crushing hard on Rey especially, but also Finn and don't even get me started on BB8) and the script is ace (none of that 'trade embargoes' yawnathon a la episode 1), dare I say it, it's actually pretty funny. Aaaand, aside from that there's a ton of original Star Wars film references (scene changes, similar-ish set pieces, not to mention some of the original cast). If Star Wars was never your thing, this is a good time to start getting into it. You don't need to have seen the previous 6 films (in the case of episodes 1-3 I wouldn't bother) but of course it does add a bit of depth to the story. Because Mitch and I are little nerds we watched it at the Science Museum as they've got a 70mm film projector. I can happily confirm that my viewing experience wasn't hindered in the slightest by watching it in 2D. How much did I love this film? I neeeed to see it again on the big screen!

James Bond just really isn't my cup of tea, so why did I watch it you ask? Well, I actually liked Skyfall but Spectre not so much. The opening scene is the best bit but then it descended into this fairly predictable, clich├ęd, action romp. Some bits were incredibly cringey (I was squirming in my seat after they fight the big guy on the train) and, in my opinion a big mistake, the revealed the bloody villan in the trailer! What happened to less is more? Good points? Ben Wishaw and he gets more than 5 mins screen time in this one and that can't be a bad thing!

Mockingjay part two
The last of the Hunger Games films and, IMHO the weakest of the lot. It's not bad though it's just that mockingjay is the dullest book. The film was entertaining: the special effects were good, it's pretty true to the book and they handled the last bit (glimpse into the future) v.nicely. A not too shabby send off for Katniss and Co.

The Farm
Daniel's parents retire to an old farm in Sweden, his mother's homeland, a rustic but idyllic setting, or so he thinks... six months after the move, Daniel's father calls to say his mother is having some sort of breakdown. She then unexpectedly arrives in England armed with v.troubling stories on corruption, murder and accusations about their neighbours in Sweden but also Daniel's father. Crime isn't really my thing but I really enjoyed this, it's well paced, clever and suspenseful, most if the time I didn't know who to believe. Most of the action takes place in Sweden, and although it's messed up, it reeeally made we want to go there!

The first book in the Southern Reach trilogy wherein four women (known only by their professions) set out on the 12th expedition to explore the mysterious and hostile environment of Area X. This was exactly my kind of SF. Vivid descriptions, only a handful of characters to deal with and a whole bunch of questions that go unanswered. Also, how lush is that cover? As you can probably guess, I am itching to get my hands in the second book.

Lock In
Set in a future where a proportion of the population suffers from a disorder known as Hadens. Sufferers of the condition exist in a ''locked in'' state - they're minds function as normal but their bodies are completely unresponsive. In order for Hadens to exist within and interact with wider society their consciousness is transferred to human shaped transport units (I imagine them to look a bit like electionic manniquins) known as threeps. And that's just the start of it. The story follows the first week of new FBI agent (and Hadens victim) Daniel as he attempts to discover the truth about a suspicious suicide. Due to the back story of Hadens and the complexity of the disorder A LOT of explaining takes place in this story which slows it down and messes up the pace. I found it really annoying, sort of like 'oh, and another thing about Hadens which we didn't mention earlier', which is a shame because the crime drama at the centre of it is pretty good. There's also A LOT of tech talk about code which was completely lost on me and I found to be quite boring. I stuck it out and it did pick up about two thirds in but meh, I've read a lot of good SF this year (Harry August, Station Eleven, Ready Player One) and Lock In was clunky and dull in comparison.

The Humans
December's book club choice. It's written from the perspective of an alien (of a way more advanced civilisation and from a planet many many light years away) who is sent to earth to carry out a mission: to destroy all evidence that humans (or rather one human - mathematitian, Andrew Martin) has solved the riemann hypothesis. The alien and his species have been told that the humans are primitive, violent beings, unable to handle the repercussions and possibilities of such a discovery. In order to carry out his mission the alien takes a human form and attempts to live among us, learning about us as he goes. The alien's observations are spot on, some are very amusing and some are quite beautifully sad. Reading about human nature from an outsider so to speak, does really make you think about stuff - the good and bad that people do (to the planet, to each other) and it's sad because ultimately we are all the same, we have to live here together on this earth (it's the only home we've got after all). Some members of book club felt that the story was a little lacking, that the plot was just a vehicle for the writer to make his observations about humanity and at certain times in the book I could see their point. However, overall I found it a great easy read, thought-provoking and amusing with a sentimental ending, that on this occasion, I wanted.

Currently on at the Science Museum and certainly worth a look if you're interested in space travel. As the name of the exhibition suggests it's all about the Russian Cosmonauts. A lot is made about America's space story so for me it was great to read about the Russian achievements - after all they can claim a lot of acolades: first man in space, first women in space, first space walk as well as being the first to launch space stations. The highlight for me was seeing the actual craft that Valentina Tereshkova landed back on earth on June 19th 1963 (it's tiny and also kinda of crazy to think that people were sent into space in such fragile looking things). The tickets are a little pricey (£14) but seeing as how the actual science museum is free (and you get to see a lot of old and new stuff they use on the ISS) I was happy to pay. Lastly, the shop at the end is freaking awesome. They've got some great poster art plus a cutesy little bar selling Russian food (icecream weirdly enough) and beer in v.cool shaped bottles.

Joanna Newsom
I'd never seen her live before, and I confess I'd not heard any of her new album but I am so so glad I got to hear it for the first time live! She's a fantastic lyricist and so muscially talented, switching between her instruments even during the same song! The icing on the cake was Peach Plum Pear at the end - an oldie but a goodie which brought back lots of happy uni memories :)

Derren Brown
Having watched a good many of his shows I knew the type of thing to expect but damn, it's something else to see him live. The audience is under strict instruction not to say what goes on so all I will say is: if this particular show is televised, watch it. Just how does he do what does???!!!! He is one handsome mysterious man.


  1. Peach Plum Pear is so so good!

    I'm finally seeing Mockingjay II next week but agree with you that it's by far the weakest book.

    1. I love it, and it was such a surprise because she saved it right till the v.last song :D

  2. Star Wars TFA was amazing!! Love that Rey is the main character and love John Boyega as Finn. All my friends are thirsting for Oscar Issac which I get but John is such an awesome actor, and his eyes remind me of a young Denzel Washington.

    1. I actually dressed up as a female Obi Wan to see it. You can see my costume on my Instagram - @margbarajas

    2. It's sooooo good, the choice of actors is spot on! I love your costume, you look ace :) you've just got yourself a new instagram follower too!


Ta v.much :)

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