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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The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter


You too can construct a magical potato box.

The Long Earth is special, and I don’t say that just because it opens with a diagram of a potato in a box of electrical components.  It reminds me of Pandora’s Star, but without the epic not-exactly-space opera and intricate plotting.  They’re actually very different books, and The Long Earth requires nowhere near as much investment of time and energy as Peter F. Hamilton‘s sprawling story… but there is a crucial way in which they are the same: unlike with most books, I’m not angry when these two finish with a teaser rather than a conclusion.  Somehow, as with Pandora’s Star, when this happens in The Long Earth I simply take it in stride and look for the next book.

Maybe I’m tolerant of The Long Earth’s odd ending because I’m so partial to its strange mix of writing styles?  Pratchett‘s almost flippant whimsey leavens the still-serious storyline that he and Baxter have put together, and their look at the ramifications of partially accessible parallel Earths is engrossing.  The fact that they know how to establish a good set-up for future conflict (and how to pull you into reading about that) only makes things better.  I certainly plan to pick up the next book as soon as I go back to the library.

So what sort of book is this, if it’s like Pandora’s Star, but not?  And what if you haven’t read Pandora’s Star to know what I’m talking about?

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