Friday, February 28, 2014

Ender's Game, the movie: quick review

I realize that I'm a bit behind the curve on this one, but it took me until last night to get around to watching Ender's Game, the movie.

I generally spend a lot more time reading than watching movies, as most of you will know. I basically watched Ender's Game for two reasons: First of all, I wanted to defy the bigots who staged the Ender's Game boycott. Secondly, I recently finished reading the Orson Scott Card novel of the same name--and I wanted to see how badly the movie would butcher the book.

As the last sentence of the preceding paragraph suggests, I didn't expect much. I've seen too many novels mangled by Hollywood over the years--like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.

In this case, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did the film preserve the plot and spirit of the novel, the movie also made some worthwhile improvements.

Let's start with the age of the main characters. In the novel, the youngsters trained for combat against the alien "buggers" are prepubescent children. In the movie, they are teenagers, high school aged, more or less.

This seemed to me a logical change and one that Card should have made in the novel. The interactions among the preteen characters in Ender's Game strain the reader's credulity. Young kids simply don't talk like that. 

Secondly, a bit of the dialogue in Ender's Game comes across as a bit hackneyed and dated. This is cleaned up in the screenplay. 

Finally (and this is a minor point), I prefer the name "Formics" to "buggers". (Card introduced the former name later in the Ender series.) The name "bugger" strikes me as a bit too cliched, and redolent of science fiction B-films of the 1950s.

So Ender's Game, in summary, is a winner. You'll enjoy the movie, and you'll irk the fascist boycotters while you're at it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"The Maze": new novel on Amazon Kindle

My latest novel, The Maze is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle.  

Amazon promotional blurb:


Amanda Kearns is a hard-driving executive with a broken heart. Her male subordinates think she is a “machine”; they have no idea of the real, hidden Amanda. 

Hugh Jackson is a software salesman with a defective heart—a condition that will kill him in a matter of months or years. 

Evan Daley is a young college graduate adrift in a career for which he is ill-suited; he struggles with the scars of a barren, loveless childhood. 

Amanda, Hugh, and Evan were expecting another routine day on the job at the Lakeview Towers office complex just outside Columbus, Ohio. But this massive structure hides a secret—a hidden passageway that plunges the unwary into a labyrinthine network of endless, twisting hallways: the Maze. 

Trapped inside the Maze, Amanda, Hugh, and Evan must battle their way through perilous corridors filled with half-man, half-wolf beasts called “manwolves”, killer robots, and demonic wraiths known as “watchers”. 

But they face their greatest challenge in the snowy, earth-like wilderness on the other side of the Maze. Here a group of ragtag rebels and settlers struggle against a tyrannical demigod known as the Director. The Director is determined to enslave or annihilate everyone within his reach, using a combination of worldly and unworldly weapons. 

Amanda, Hugh, and Evan each find love and momentary comfort on the other side of the Maze. But they cannot escape the ultimate battle with the Director. The three Ohioans find themselves forced to choose—between the draw of love and loyalty, and the instinct for self-preservation. 

A riveting emotional tale wrapped within a fantasy adventure, THE MAZE is sure to appeal to adult readers who fondly recall childhood “parallel universe” stories like “Through the Looking Glass” and “The Chronicles of Narnia”. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Advice for reading Shakespeare

A younger person whom I know offline recently complained to me that she doesn't like to read Shakespeare because the plays are “boring and difficult to understand”. She wanted to know if I had any advice.

I did, and I do. These tips may help some of my readers who are also struggling with Shakespeare.

1.) Remember that the plays were meant to be performed, not read. Shakespeare never intended for his plays to be read like the latest James Patterson novel. In many public libraries, you can borrow recordings of the plays, performed by professional stage actors. Since each role is played by a different person, this format really brings the play alive. (I also recommend attending live performances, of course; but this will not be practical for everyone.)

2.) Start with the most accessible, popular plays. In other words, don’t make Timon of Athens the first Shakespeare play you read. Start with the best known ones: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear.

You will also find extensive commentaries and summaries of the most popular plays—much of it available online.

3.) Buy an annotated edition. Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain. This means that there are many competing editions. But some editions are better than others.

You should buy an edition that has annotations—or sidebar explanations—of the many unfamiliar words and historical/cultural references that you’ll find in any of Shakespeare’s plays.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Faith and horror fiction

In an age of moral relativism, horror fiction is a genre that deals in moral absolutes.

It has become trendy to claim that evil—like God—does not exist.

Horror fiction, on the other hand, explicitly acknowledges both. Consider this quote from last year’s horror film, The Conjuring:

“Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

Polyglot empires

The Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was swept away with the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, was one of history’s more diverse polyglot empires.

During the First World War, commanders had to issue orders in more than fifteen languages.