Book review “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Regency England, the alteration has made water dangerous, turning it’s denizens into creatures of doom with one thing on their mind only: the destruction of man.
Giant lobsters, sharks, octopi, you can’t think of it or it’s out to kill people.
That’s the setting for this particular parody of Jane Austen’s acclaimed 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility, that was given a work-over by Ben H. Winters back in 2009.

I must admit, I never read the original Sense and Sensibility , so I can’t compare both. I have, however, read Pride and Prejudice so I have some inkling of Austen’s writing style and literary pace and Mr Winters seems to be doing both justice.

The original stars: the Dashwood sisters, as well as their love interests are still present in the book, but their many (mis)adventures have been rewritten and re-set in completely different surroundings. And I’m pretty sure Colonel Brandon wasn’t cursed by a sea witch to have tentacles on his face either.

In long standing tradition, I won’t share spoilers here (if you want those, you can just look up the Wikipedia page) either, but this is an amusing read. It’s entertaining to see what kinds of (natural) science people in the setting have come up with, many seemingly inspired by Jules Verne and other sci-fi adventures. A small downside is that you know how it ends, and that especially towards the end of the book, you start wondering what the heck is going on because not everything is well explained and things are a bit rushed to force the ending. But aside from that, it’s just a plain and simple fun read, comparable with watching a popcorn movie simply for the fun of watching a film. The pace is so moderate that you can literally just read it bit by bit when you have a little time and never have issues picking up where you left off.
Of course, you can’t take this book serious at all, and if you’re an avid Jane Austen fan, you may find this blasphemous. If you don’t like her works at all, you might find the pace and wording not to your taste here either.

Book review “Poster Art of the Disney Parks”

Post Art of the Disney Parks

This amazing book full of illustrations isn’t just a must have for fans of the Disney parks, but also for those that love beautiful, retro and vintage style posters. And that’s exactly what the many advertisement style posters in Disney parks are famous for.
It’s a great way to get acquainted with beautiful art of parks you’ve not visited yet, and get reacquainted for parks you have been to.
The book has been divided in sections introducing and elaborating of the particular poster art, and then displaying posters per land, Tokyo Disney Sea and California Adventure Park. Sadly it doesn’t cover any of the other parks of Walt Disney World such as Epcot, Animal Kingdom and the Hollywood Studios, or the Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris, but that’s pretty much the only thing you can hold against it for it is full of truly beautiful imagery covering all the other parks.

It’s especially great to see the differences , sometimes small, sometimes really significant, in posters for an attraction you find in all Disney resorts across the world, placed next to each other. And the evolution and different styles used. 90% of all Disney posters are still some kind of vintage style, Art Nouveau, Victorian, retro from the 1920s to 1960s, and even newer posters are often drawn up in one of these artistic styles, rather than properly modern art. Many of these works are obviously steampunk, dieselpunk, which makes this book extra attractive.

As it was published in 2012, nearly all posters from the featured areas are included, giving the reader a very good view on poster art in the Disney parks indeed.

Poster-Art-of-the-Disney-Parks-20000-Leagues-Under-The-Sea

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Authors: Danny Handke and Vanessa Hunt
Introduction by Tony Baxter
Published by Walt Disney Imagineering
Format: Hardback | 148 pages
Dimensions: 300mm x 394mm x 51mm | 1,610g
Publication date: 15 November 2012
ISBN 10: 1423124111
ISBN 13: 9781423124115

Book review: “The Dark Side of the Road” by Simon R. Green

The Dark Side of the Road

What do you get when you throw a snowstorm, a family Christmas dinner, a big old manor house, a murder mystery, horror and Simon R Green’s writing in a blender and hit the start button?
This book: The Dark Side of the Road.
Introducing all new characters in this stand alone (hopefully it won’t remain a standalone) Simon R Green returns with his own particular, or possibly better peculiar, take on traditional British murder mystery novels like we’ve come to know and love.
A lot of referencing has been done that this is SRG doing an Agatha Christie, and let me assure you, other than the fact that they both did “who dunnit” stories, The Dark Side of the Road has nothing to do with the creator of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best books the author has ever penned down. It starts off with a simple request to our main character: Ishmael Jones, who, in long standing SRG tradition, is more than he seems, from his employer. “Come join me for a good old fashioned Christmas meal with my family, keep an eye on things”. And of course, from that moment on you know that things are not going to be what they seem. For the longest time (which never feels as too long), things seem pretty normal, with a side order sense that shit will hit the fan any minute. The author does a great job creating both a feel of the surroundings as well as the all new cast of characters, which builds up a suspense in such a masterful way that you know something is about to happen, but you are still surprised over the circumstances things are happening in.

Even when you find out what exactly is going on, he keeps on building, expanding the atmosphere and keeping the reader glued to the pages. Fair warning though for those with health issues: make sure to put it down every chapter after the first crime happens, else you risk getting some serious jump scares in later chapters.

This is probably one of his most descriptive books to date when it comes to delving deeply into the perpetrator. Some things that have been described in his previous books were never as scary as they are in this particular novel.

What I loved the most about the Dark Side of the Road isn’t the blending of several genres, the atmosphere or the suspense, which are all masterfully done, but the leading character. Ishamael Jones isn’t, like most of the male Simon R Green leads, practically invincible, relying on special powers or armour. Of course he has traits that set him apart, but for all of them he is still vulnerable. With him I got far less of a “oh he’ll save the day at the end, because he’s all powerful when push comes to shove” feeling than I get with other leading men. And that, combined with everything else, makes the Dark Side of the Road such a fantastic book.

For everyone that loves murder mysteries, and that can stomach some pretty scary scenes, this is a definite recommendation. And avoid looking at at descriptions on online stores, they may contain spoilers.

Movie review: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 may seem like the umptieth Disney movie, especially the umptieth digitally animated one. Considering it’s by the team of Frozen, people may expect something along those lines. Nothing is less true as Big Hero 6 is one of the best things released by the Disney Studios since well, quite a while (possibly since Princess and the Frog, which was full of excellent Dieselpunk elements).

This Marvel/Disney collaboration is proof that both companies should work together more often, because this feature film is not only a magnificent feat when it comes to animation, but also has the same kind of imaginative storytelling and feel of adventure that Marvel movies have become famous for in the last decade.
Based on an old, rather obscure Marvel title of the same name (which I think may be re-released soon [but that’s just my guess!] considering the success of the movie), Disney reinvents both story and characters in the fictional, high-tech and futuristic world of San Fransokyo where traditional Japanese influences are crossed with the best of futurepunk and futuretech. Zeppelins cloud the skies alongside vehicles that have only been dreamt up in sci-fi settings. Japanese battlesuits, monsters and robots are go hand in hand with Tokyo style streets, traditional San Francisco trams whilst Japanese and Western architecture stand next to each other. Some of the background scenes are done so realistic that for a second you think you’re watching an actual live action movie rather than a digitally animated one. The use of colours is splendid, and the detailing on backgrounds as well as characters is amazing.

A lot of criticism has been made on this movie online, especially on sites such as tumblr. One of them being that Disney is stuck on the same character design over and over. Let me tell you something: once you are watching the movie you will see that this critique is entirely unjustified. Whilst the character Honey Lemon may look slightly like Rapunzel in some of the portrait type promo images, in the movie she is very much an original character. Also: most of the male and female characters have distinctively different body types, which is something that can only be encouraged. The characters are well developed for their part in the movie, and are as loveable as the casts of many other Disney movies people have come to love over the years. Even though the movie is all about science, robotics and superheroes, it has more than enough features to be interested to those that don’t much care about these topics as it is pretty well rounded as a whole and there is much more to the story than a bunch of students going after a villain. The only thing that can be said against it is that it is a mite predictable, but in the end of the day, it’s an animated Disney movie, so some measure of predictability is to be expected.

In short, Big Hero 6 is a fantastic piece of cinematography for animation fans of all ages. Fans of sci-fi, futurism, futurepunk and colourful animation in particular will find this movie appealing. And as this is a Marvel collaboration, yes, there is a Stan Lee cameo, and yes, you really should wait for all the credits to end, because in Marvel tradition there is a last piece of film to come after that. But I won’t say more, you’ll have to go see and hopefully enjoy this movie as much as I did for yourself.