Monthly Archives: November 2009

The House of the Devil

I would ask why all my favorite movie stories happen at the Alamo Drafthouse, but I know why: because it’s the kind of place that builds good industry relationships, and so it gets all the cool stuff that is mostly reserved for the red carpet premiere set. I am jealous of this lack in Dallas, but I do get to go to Austin now and again and relive the awesome all over again. In this particular case, I watched a movie called The House of the Devil, which is presently only in release in New York, Los Angeles, and one screen in Austin. Not that this was carpety or star-studded, or that it even particularly had stars[1], but I still appreciate on some level the exclusivity.

What we’ve got here is your basic 80s Satanic cult flick, in which a girl takes a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse, only the situation keeps getting weirder and spookier and tenser. Generally good stuff, and it was definitely made as solid homage to the genre, with every detail spot on down to the film stock quality. And it was good. It just… I feel like I watched a movie someone made in the early 1980s. As that was the apparent goal, I must admit that they nailed it; they did[2]. But somehow, I feel like the 25 years that have elapsed since then requires some kind of advancement in the state of the art. Not the film, or the special effects (of which there were almost none beyond the ones based on violence), but the plot. Like, maybe a modern twist, some hint that this was not in fact an old reel someone dug up, but an actual new movie? I liked it, don’t get me wrong. The slavish devotion to nostalgia just made it feel empty.

[1] The biggest name was a pre-credits cameo by Dee Wallace.
[2] Seriously, the only detail that felt wrong during the opening credits was that the release date Roman numerals started with MM instead of MCM.

The Gathering Storm

This has been a strange experience, probably from start to finish. The last time I read a Wheel of Time book, I think Robert Jordan wasn’t sick yet. I had certainly never heard of Brandon Sanderson. And it’s probably been that long or longer since I last bought a new book in a bookstore, instead of used or (rarely) Amazon. But, it’s been four years since that last book, which I suppose leaves a lot of room available for changes of this type. It’s just weird, is all I’m saying. Anyhow, expect no particular spoilers, but also expect me to think you’re familiar with the series. If you aren’t, this wouldn’t really be the right place to start anyhow.

The Gathering Storm is an accurate title for a good book. The Last Battle is drawing closer day by day, and the Pattern is unraveling at the same rate as Rand al’Thor himself. ‘Cause, y’know, Fisher King metaphor. And nobody else’s life is much better, at least what we saw of them. All of the characters were visited, but Rand and Egwene were the mainstays; I think I can therefore expect a lot of Mat and Perrin in the next book, due out a mere year from now. Anyway, that’s plot if you know what’s been going on, and if you don’t, I still wonder why you’d bother to closely read a review of the twelfth book in a non-standalone series.

The thing is, we all know that plot review is boring and completely disregards the s’redit in the room. How did Brandon Sanderson do at (all too literally) ghostwriting from Jordan’s notes? And you know… it’s hard to compare. The plot was much tighter even than the previous book, much less than the several that preceded it. But then again, Jordan swore for the last years of his life that he’d be finishing the series in one book. So plot tightening was, one hopes, guaranteed. Plus, there’s no guide to who wrote which sections[1]. So all I have are sense impressions. Some of the language is different, but not in a way that was bothersome. I mean, I noticed it, and it took me out of the trance for a moment, but, what can you do? The characters were mostly the same, though there were outliers. Mat especially seemed a little off, but I think it was mostly because he didn’t have any plot moves to make, and that he will thusly seem far more familiar in the next book.

The biggest weirdness came in the Egwene scenes. Not that she seemed not herself, but the way she talked was… there was a lot of lecturing in there, and some pontificating as well. You know what it reminded me of? Take away the solid characterization and plot points, and just look at tone, and it kept reminding me uncomfortably of the polemics Terry Goodkind has been placing in his characters’ mouths for the past five years. She never sounded objectivist[2] or crazy, but the manner in which she spoke and all of the people around her took careful notice and nodded wisely while stroking their ageless faces? It hurt what was otherwise the best sequence in the book.

But, to break it down: this is really a minor complaint, and it did not hurt the book or even plot surrounding said complaint. And my other complaints, mentioned and un-, are far more minor still. Whether Sanderson or Jordan had more words typed, this was an excellent Wheel of Time novel that has me as excited for the next release as I last was over a decade ago in my college days. I think I may even reread the series, before the last book drops, to get it all in one gulp. But that’s a couple of years out, so, we’ll see.

[1] Jordan had been writing at the concluding volume[s] for months or years before he died.
[2] I toyed with saying “Randian”, but, you know.