Author Topic: What are you reading lately?  (Read 132909 times)

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,627
  • Karma: +92/-19
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1530 on: July 30, 2018, 02:09:30 PM »
We had a semi-local author happen to be in the shop the other week, and so, hell with it, I read the book of his that we had in stock:  Bird Box[/i].  And it was OK.  The Wikipedia page naturally has, like, the entire plot, so don't read the whole page if you might want to read the book.

Bird Box is a sort of atmospheric horror novel.  The basic premise is a Weird Tales kind of thing with real legs:  There's something, and if you see it, you go homicidally / suicidally crazy.  And soon most of the world has gone mad and died or killed off the rest.  The survivors don't know what the something is, or what the best ways are to protect themselves, and so on.  The story follows a young woman who has two small children.

The atmosphere in Bird Box is pretty good.  It's not long, and it moves right along.  You can easily read it in a weekend.  Nothing in the writing or story is a catastrophic failure.  There are bumps, but it keeps going.  It's brisk enough and interesting enough so that it escaped from some traps.  It's not near the top of my list of post-apocalyptic SF / horror, but I liked it a lot better than World War Z, for instance, for what that's worth.

Some hitches:  It's written in present tense.  For me, that almost never works.  The protagonist-narrator isn't concretely reliable, although the author (probably fortunately) doesn't get tricky with that.  She's just on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and understandably so.  There's one section that's written from a different perspective in a way that's inconsistent with the rest of the book, but it didn't bother me too much.

This is not a MacGyver kind of How We Survived The Apocalypse book.  A lot of the story is devoted to how the survivors cope with the problems they're faced with, but they don't come up with a lot of clever adaptations, and some of what they do doesn't seem to make sense, and yadda yadda.  On the other hand, they're believably non-expert at it, and the author doesn't belabor stuff, so it's easy to glide past possible objections.  Plus, the narrator's experience is sufficiently surreal that occasional lapses in realism just seem to fit in pretty well.

For me, the biggest drawback by far is that the premise is more interesting that the story.  The real suspense in a story like this doesn't come from wondering if the characters will survive.  We've all seen this kind of story at least a dozen times, and what matters is the variation.  So the questions are (A) will anything interesting happen and (B) will we find out what's actually happening / what the something out there really is, etc.

Nothing terrifically interesting happens, but what does happen manages to happen sufficiently interestingly.  Meanwhile, no, the numinous mystery remains a numinous mystery.  As usually happens.

A bad explanation would be SO MUCH WORSE than no explanation, so it might be for the best.  Good explanations of impossible things are difficult, let's face it.  Still, the premise ends up being more interesting than the book.  :whatever: 

Tons of people say it's best to leave many things to the reader's imagination, because your imagination will come up with something scarier than the author ever could!!!  I happen to think that's a bullshit cop-out, but I don't think it's what was going on here, so . . . sure, fine.

The author, Josh Malerman, has like five books coming out from different publishers, and film treatments in development, and his band seems to be breaking through, and they provided the theme song for a show called Shameless.  So he's got that going for him, too.  I'd give another of his books a try, so, you know.  Bird Box wasn't bad, but it feels like it's not going to be his best book, when all is said and done.

mo

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12,662
  • Karma: +135/-55
    • x
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1531 on: July 30, 2018, 03:13:26 PM »
Showtime Shameless? (nsfwish) That's a pretty big credit.

Streaming Netflix has a lot of series/movies with a great premise that fall apart for one reason or another, but the premise is so impressive it's a little aggravating. I assume the reason is there is a lot of writing that can be acquired relatively cheaply, but there aren't a lot of ways to successfully scrimp on production.

I've often thought it would be a good exercise to watch one of these films up to a certain point and stop, then write your own ending to develop a different story. The problem of course is knowing which film and where to stop. Once you've seen the ending, your writing will be tainted by it.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

mo

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12,662
  • Karma: +135/-55
    • x
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1532 on: July 30, 2018, 04:47:41 PM »
Quote
There's something, and if you see it, you go homicidally / suicidally crazy. The survivors don't know what the something is, or what the best ways are to protect themselves, and so on.

How would it be known that it was the act of seeing the thing that caused the victim to go crazy, as opposed to like, infection by proximity?

Or maybe it's known only to the reader, not to the survivors?
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

pdrake

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,380
  • Karma: +21/-48
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1533 on: July 30, 2018, 05:21:14 PM »
The movie will be on Netflix in December.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_Box_(film)
you'd be surprised how much a nutsack can stretch. you have to stretch it yourself, not a woman. they don't do it quite right.

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,627
  • Karma: +92/-19
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1534 on: July 30, 2018, 05:21:46 PM »
There's . . . a certain amount of confirmation, in the story.  The survivors are convinced that that's how it works.  Honestly, it doesn't seem to rigorously make sense, but that sort of works with the story.

The whole thing kind of feels like a first novel, to be honest.  Apparently it wasn't, even though it was his first one published.  But there are a lot of approaches to writing a story, and Malerman says he originally wrote not quite as a hobby but just for his own satisfaction.  That definitely produces a different sort of novel than if, say, you're imagining the audience and trying to satisfy them.

Myself, I have probably eight or ten "novels" that are just finished enough to stop bugging me.  There are big chunks that I haven't bothered writing because they weren't the parts that I most wanted to write.  I know what happens in those bits, so it doesn't bug me.  I've often heard that if you don't feel like writing a part of the story, then the reader won't enjoy reading that part, either, and you should find a way to skip it.  That doesn't always work, but there's certainly a fat chunk of wisdom in there.

I'm sure I've said before that to me a horror novel is basically an adventure novel, the struggle of the characters against some essentially hostile force of extreme danger, usually something that can't be reasoned with or placated.  And in an adventure story, I want the protagnonists to be heroes, as such -- I want them to be clever or mighty or extraordinarily determined.  Not hapless or helpless or merely lucky.  I want them to realize their predicament; I want them to try to win; I want them to at least have a chance to win because of their own agency, because they tackle the problem in front of them.

Bird Box has some of that.  The main character is pretty overwhelmed, but she doesn't give up; the struggle itself is murky and sometimes downright peculiar but not dull.  So it worked for me, even if it wasn't always completely convincing.

The WWZ movie, for instance, fails because the struggle is mostly really dumb, both in terms of the hazards and how the characters fight back.  The way the Israelis are watching the city wall but fail to notice the enormous zombie pile against one side.  The way Pitt has a satellite phone that he uses to call his wife but not to report in on what he's learned about the zombie problem.  The way they decide to use screeching rusty bicycles to 'sneak' past zombies at a comically low speed.  The whole plane crash scene, and how a hand is lopped off like the human wrist were as strong as a ripe banana.  And so on.

That's no good.  Bird Box is more on the adventure side.  As a reader, I personally wanted to know more about the problem and see the characters do more to fight it or cope with it or whatever, but so it goes.

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,627
  • Karma: +92/-19
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1535 on: July 30, 2018, 05:22:37 PM »
Quote
The movie will be on Netflix in December.

That was quick.  :trance:  Still, I have a feeling he may have gotten the film rights sold before he got a publisher lined up.  That's a heckuva good way to do it, if you can.  More $$$, less hassle, most of the time.

mo

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12,662
  • Karma: +135/-55
    • x
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1536 on: July 30, 2018, 05:30:05 PM »
There ya go. Bullock and Malkovich, that's pretty serious.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

mo

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12,662
  • Karma: +135/-55
    • x
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1537 on: July 30, 2018, 05:42:50 PM »
Maybe you should look into how this Netflix thing works and submit some of your stuff. Maybe talk to that author, if he's approachable.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

pdrake

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,380
  • Karma: +21/-48
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1538 on: July 30, 2018, 08:17:54 PM »
Quote
Film rights to Bird Box were optioned by Universal Studios in 2013, prior to the book's release.[1][2] Scott Stuber and Chris Morgan were set to produce the film, with Mama director Andy Muschietti attached as director.[2] Screenwriter Eric Heisserer was in negotiations to pen the script.[3] In July 2017, Netflix acquired the rights to the book after Stuber became head of the feature film division of Netflix and will develop the movie with Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich starring.
you'd be surprised how much a nutsack can stretch. you have to stretch it yourself, not a woman. they don't do it quite right.

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,627
  • Karma: +92/-19
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1539 on: July 31, 2018, 10:00:22 AM »
See?  There ya go.  That's the way to do it.  Money for nothing, etc, etc.  But he knew a guy in LA who yadda yadda.


When he was here, we were talking about movie deals, the ups and downs, and he was looking at a rack of paperbacks.  He asked if I'd read anything that was right there, and I said, well, yeah, I've read The Wolf's Hour, by McCammon.  And I said, "It's funny that there's never been a movie of that, because it's a shoo-in.  It's almost like it was written to be a blockbuster film."

He said that was funny because when he met the producer who bought the rights to Bird Box, the guy had a shelf of books behind his desk, and they were all books he'd optioned, and one of them was The Wolf's Hour.  Apparently that guy's been trying to get the film made for decades.

Shouldn't be that tough.  Dashing Allied spy in WWII Germany is actually a werewolf, has a showdown with basically Hermann Göring on a Nazi murder train set up for hunting exotic animals.  What's Tarantino doing that's better than that?  He could pass Spielberg for most WWII blockbusters, if he tried.