Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Magicians

The Magicians is Harry Potter for the adult world. The sense of magic and wonder is still there, but instead of being wonderful and fantastic like chlidhood, it is worn down and jaded like adults normally see the world. This creates a curious juxtaposition of wonder and boredom, excitement and normalcy, which makes for not only a great fantasy story, but a critique on the entire genere as a whole. Astoundingly, despite the jaded feelings of the main character, the story is never brought down into a story of depression, but rather a fantastic look at what a realistic magical world would look like to us.

The biggest challenge for a fantasy novel released today is competing with Harry Potter, and Briliantly, instead of competing with Harry Potter, it tackles the fantasy genere from a different angle. There is no great adventure to be had, no main evil to be beaten, instead there is simply life to be lived, and the day to day adventures we have without even thinking about. I love the fantasy genere, but am usually jaded with the overly optimistic worlds because it feels very unrealistic. In the real world, nothing is gotten without sacrifice or struggle, and even then you have to fight to keep it; there is no happily ever after. The Magicians appeals to me for the same reasons Lord of the Rings does; everything is won only after a struggle, and there is no happily ever to be had, only an 'after'.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: The Hobbit

As a personal note, I have tried several times over the past few years to get into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however I have never been able to be completely taken in by the works, whether due to language used or the density of the material. The Hobbit, however, I first read over ten years ago and enjoyed it immensely, and I enjoyed it even more the second time around.

What makes The Hobbit so enjoyable is that, despite the fact that it is readable by people of all ages, the story it contains nevertheless is very mature, and while violence and gore is almost non-existant, death is still a very real possibility. The personalities featured in this story are classics; Bilbo makes a wonderful reluctant hero, though he is far more adventurous and daring than than his hobbit nature would lead you to believe. Gandalf is the quintessential wizard, though he is far more gruff than modern depictions have led me to imagine.

What sets this story apart from most novels targeted towards young adults is the real sense of loss present in the story. Particularly with movies made in recent years, any sense of loss or threat is either completely absent, or minimized to such a degree that it can barely be called a loss. Often, the one character who dies is brought back to life, completely negating any sense of sacrifice. The Hobbit will have none of this: a main character dies in a selfish war brought on by himself, the hero of a town is murdered, the entire town destroyed, and a chain of events set into motion that will leave most of the world shattered or dead. Compare this to The Princess and the Frog, where defeating a madman channeling the powers of Hell only costs the life of a firefly. There is a reason The Hobbit has stood the test of time, it is a classic in every sense of the word.

Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase begins in what seems to be an exceedingly boring fashion; the main character's life seems to be devoid of any joy or entertainment, and everything he does is extremely forced. As the story progresses, however, the only comparison that can be made is to Alice in Wonderland, for the story becomes so strange and surreal that it has only the barest of ties to the reality we know.

There are some very common elements of Japanese story telling; posession by spirits, a very heavy presense of an other world, characters known by certain characteristics of theirs, and a dominating, nearly obsessive goal that seems mundane or senseless outside of the story. It has a very humerous aspect to it, which is in no way deminished by the fact that the cultural difference makes everything extra surreal.

The characters are very typical tropes; the main character broken out of his duldrums by an obsessive quest, the strange friend who may or may not be totally real, and the nigh ethereal starred sheep. the main goal of the entire quest. Due to the difference in culture, and the overall strangeness of the tale, however, the characters never seem overly familiar or boring, they feel very fresh and alive. While the story's tone can be likened to Alice in Wonderland or something out of Dr. Suess, the plot itself reminds me more of a fantasy epic like Lord of the Rings, because of the overarching goal driving the characters.