Spectre

I don’t feel just one way about Spectre; I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m ambivalent, since I did enjoy it overall, but … well, let me think through this with you.

First, perhaps most superficially, the intro song and credit sequence didn’t do it for me.  It had a hard act to follow given Skyfall’s opening, so I’ll give it that, but it felt pretty meh.

Plot-wise, Spectre builds on all of the little dribs and drabs of plot that were left hanging in the previous three movies (all the Daniel Craig ones: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall).  This meant that I felt a little lost going into it without having seen the others recently, but when I think back on the events of the previous movies I think the requisite hooks were there.

The Daniel Craig Bond films walk a tightrope that previous Bond films haven’t really walked before.  What I mean is, it’s unusual for a Bond movie to consistently build on what’s come before in any way, so this is a bit strange.  Personally, I think they could have done better.  They laid the groundwork for this film to some extent, but it seems like they sacrificed some continuity and clarity for the sake of trying to make more traditionally individualized Bond films along the way.  Of course, if they’d done less of that, then perhaps I’d be upset about how they undid the Bond movie traditions.

So Spectre is a bit of an odd fish.  It has excellent scenes, moments in which the movie offers up the beautiful set pieces that I’ve come to hope for (and even expect) from good Bond films.  But it also feels like it fumbles itself together at times, tries to make itself one whole thing out of a number of disparate scenes that needed just a little more narrative glue to make it all gel.

I have more thoughts to share, but…

There are *SPOILERS* after this mark.

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Concept: A Tintin Adventure Flowchart

tintinI think I’ve mentioned my love of Tintin previously.  But I’ve just had a fabulous idea, so you’re going to hear about it again.

Some necessary background: Charles Stross wrote an excellent book, The Jennifer Morgue (part of the Atrocity Archives series, very much worth reading).  He based the story (careful, spoilers) on a combination of real world events and James Bond clichés, and did it excellently.  He did this in part by analyzing the Bond oeuvre (I suppose I should say the Fleming oeuvre, but Fleming really didn’t have that much to do with most of the movies) and creating flowcharts of Bond film opening scenes and general plots.

Yes, you read that correctly.  He watched all the Bond films with a friend and wrote up flowcharts to describe what they saw going on.  Here’s the flowchart of a Bond movie opening scene, and here’s the flowchart of a Bond film writ large.

Now, I love Tintin very much, but there are some problems with the old comics.  Consider:

20140112153933!Tintin-mainCastI’m amazed that Castafiore is even included in the cast of characters.

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Yeah, that’s objectionable.

So I’ve been thinking that I should try writing new Tintin stories.  Well, not Tintin per se, but adventure stories like Tintin’s, without the same racist depictions and with better representation all around.  And Stross’ flowcharts have inspired me.  I plan to go through and re-read a number of old Tintin stories, and try to make a Tintin adventure flowchart that I can follow when the time comes.  It might turn out that this is impossible, and Hergé simply had too many different stories, but I suspect that I could pull something useful out of all this.  What do you think?  Are you interested?

Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell

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Tobias Buckell has made me very happy indeed.  I can’t decide whether I prefer Arctic Rising to Hurricane Fever, and I really liked Hurricane Fever (seriously, read my review).  It’s rare that I have the pleasure of reading a fast paced high-tension thriller set in a brilliantly developed near-future, let alone reading two of them back to back.  Buckell’s world-building is a tremendous draw for me.  It’s quality shines through in the ease with which he introduces the near-future to the reader; he keeps his obvious enthusiasm for the world he’s created tightly leashed, only revealing it in dribs and drabs, more often than not as an in-character rumination or observation that feels entirely appropriate.  Better yet, I didn’t find any gaping implausibilities.  I’ll admit that I didn’t take a fine-toothed comb to the books and their established background, but they hold together well enough to offer a compelling (and somewhat distressing) view of an imminent future.  If you want to treat yourself to a jaunt down “doesn’t this seem likely…” lane, and you want some hair-raising hijinks in the bargain, try either of these books.  If you don’t want to be spoiled for either book before you read it, be sure to read Arctic Rising first, though I did it in the opposite order and still enjoyed myself immensely.

Why did I enjoy it so much?  Well…

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Hurricane Fever, By Tobias S. Buckell

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I first heard about this book through Scalzi’s Big Idea feature on his blog.  I was captivated by Buckell‘s premise, a spy novel set in the Caribbean with a protagonist who actually lived and grew up there instead of simply going there to vacation, infiltrate, or establish a villainous lair.  It pays special attention to what it’s like to have your home relegated to the status of a playground for the wealthy, and how a pan-Caribbean federation might look in the near future.  Hurricane Fever is a fast paced delight that delivers on its premise and offers the best Bond movie I’ve read in years.  It’s a violent and active spy-thriller, and one in which the main character is more often mistaken for a member of the waitstaff than a tourist.  I found it both engaging and refreshing, and now I want to read Buckell’s other work.

Read on for more detail.  Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from undue spoilers.

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