And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily 01) by Tasha Alexander

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Emily agreed to wed Philip, the Viscount Ashton, primarily to escape her overbearing mother. Philip’s death while on safari soon after their wedding left Emily feeling little grief, for she barely knew the dashing stranger.

But her discovery of his journals nearly two years later reveals a far different man than she imagined-a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector who apparently loved his new wife deeply. Emily’s desire to learn more about her late husband leads her through the quiet corners of the British Museum and into a dangerous mystery involving rare stolen artifacts. To complicate matters, she’s juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond matrimony into darker realms.

My impressions:

I really liked the premise and the beginning of this one – mainly because it wasn’t your ordinary romance. A young widow is falling in love with her late husband – but only when she has enough time to explore and appreciate all aspects of his character. After his death. Of course she knows it’s too late but still she cannot help herself. Her husband admired her looks. He ordered her portrait with Renoir in Paris. He called her ‘Kallista’ (‘the most beautiful’ in Greek) in private. What not to love?

In the meantime Emily gets interested in the culture and art of Ancient Greeks and Romans, visiting regularly the British Museum, reading Homer, even learning koine Greek – I couldn’t approve more. She also starts to defy society’s conventions, to push the limits imposed by the ton. As a result she is becoming far more liberated than anyone, herself included, would ever dare imagine – a strange leap of faith but entertaining nevertheless. Staying with gentlemen instead of withdrawing to the drawing room with the ladies after a meal? Not a problem! Drinking port instead of sherry? Sure, why not? Going to Paris on a short notice with only a maid as a companion? Why not? She can afford it and who is to stop her? Certainly not her mother!

Still… after some time (roughly one third of the book)  the plot started to wear thin and Emily was turning into a Mary Sue. I was quickly bored by all the eligible bachelors sniffing after her and all her lady friends envying her good looks. Unfortunately, her fresh love for her late husband soon became a bit ridiculous as Emily suffered a few TSTL moments with regards to the merits of her two suitors. Her endeavors to unmask the villain were quite pathetic too. The fact that her husband SPOILER really stayed dead was another disappointment – overall I hoped for more twists and surprises.

Finally, this novel is just historically-flavoured, not historical. Alexander falls into the standard trap of authors who think that writing historical fiction is easy. If you think you can write historical fiction by plopping your characters who think and feel exactly like 21st century people into the nineteenth century with a few descriptions of clothes, a maid and a butler, you are just deceiving yourself. There was nothing Emily did or said that sounded remotely like she was raised in the 1880s and, after some time, it started to grate.

Final verdict:

The Lady Emily series is 11 novels long. I gather it must have been successful. Unfortunately it is not for me. Meh.

Posted in book review, chicklit, cozy mystery, crime, historically-flavoured, suspence | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Movie review: Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan

Product info (from Wikipedia):

Sometime in the 21st century, a series of crop blights on Earth threatens humanity’s survival. Joseph Cooper (Mathew McConaughey), a widowed former NASA pilot, runs a farm with his father-in-law, son Tom (Casey Affleck), and daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy, then Jessica

Chastain and finally Ellen Burstyn), who believes her bedroom is haunted by a poltergeist. Living in a post-truth society (Cooper is reprimanded at school for telling Murphy that the Apollo missions did indeed happen), Cooper encourages his daughter to carefully observe and record what she sees. They realize that a pattern of dust on the floor is created by gravity variations and are able to decode it as a set of geographic coordinates.Cooper and Murphy follow them to a secret facility, where Cooper’s former professor, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), continues to operate NASA in secrecy after it was officially closed down. Brand reveals that a wormhole which appeared near Saturn opens a pathway to a distant galaxy with potentially habitable planets. They hope it will allow them to find another Earth. Still will they manage to beat the odds?

My impressions:

Welcome to the world in which America, or rather the USA, are the only country that counts. Perhaps even the only country, period (I guess it’s a paradise according to D. Trump). Small wonder the Earth has serious problems and reacts accordingly. Crop blights, dust storms, water shortages and other unpleasant factors mean that soon enough even the blessed Americans will suffocate to death while being constantly hungry. And you know what? A small band of scientists, the hard core of disbanded and almost illegal NASA, have a solution. They’ve even sent 12 bravest, best and most suicidal astronauts to explore the possibilities offered by unknown alien forces in a form of a wormhole which leads nobody knows where. In other words they are grasping at straws.

Fortunately for them one of the best pilots turned farmer somehow deciphers the coordinates of their super-secret facility and comes with a visit. Then he finds out the twelve magnificents have disappeared into the black hole and nobody knows anything about their fate. So *drumroll* despite being burdened by two kids Cooper agrees to participate in the last mission, along with dr. Brand’s daughter, delightful Amelia, played by Anne Hathaway and two other crew members, one black, so the ethnic minorities shut their collective mouth up. Everything is fine but, at that point, you’ve only reached one third of the 169-minute movie. And believe me, it already managed to make me feel bored at least twice, forcing me to make tea and welsh rarebits. Those sentimental, teary good-bye scenes are really not my piece of cake and here the main lead spends wayyyyy too much time saying goodbye to everybody and their dog. Not to mention his long-dead wife.

Ok, let’s move to the good bits. I admit the journey through the wormhole was a slick CGI sequence, completely worth that Best Visual Effects award. I also liked the improvised chase of a drone across the fields and the shape and interior of Endurance spacecraft, clearly based on the International Space Station. The robots aboard had a sense of humour – a nice touch. Still…almost three hours of a space epic mean you either have to pack a lot of action and humour in them to keep your audience entertained or you bore some watchers to sleep. Unfortunately I suppose the director of Inception decided it was time for a bit of boredom.

Final verdict:

Too long, too lachrymose, too one-race-takes-it-all, Americans-are-the-greatest-nation movie. Watchable but only barely so. Meh.

Posted in drama, movie review, sci-fi | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Six of Crows (Six of Crows 01) by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

My impressions:

Basically it wasn’t a bad read if you are looking for a brainless fantasy version of Ocean’s Eleven-to-Thirteen. Which is sometimes fine by me. Really fine. Sadly the story wasted a lot of its potential along the way.

One of the most conspicuous mistakes: Kaz Brekker. He is supposed to be that criminal prodigy, a mastermind whose analytical skills are better than those of all NASA computers put together and then some. He plots as he breathes, he is super handsome despite that limping and he is so cunning that nobody has been able to cheat him yet. A genius teen boy. We-eell.

I always feel deeply for such characters because their creators cause them substantial damage. When the author slips, such a character seems more pathetic than ever. And authors are usually far less clever than their creations are supposed to be. A case in question? Kaz is being offered an enormous amount of money in order to break and enter the Ice Court. A heist of the century worth millions. Kaz is so happy with that opportunity that he never checks the merchant he is doing business with, never wonders whether his offer is legit. How can somebody so brilliant be also so stupid? Especially if you, as his creator, claim for one hundredth time that he is an almost diabolically slippery customer who knows pretty much everything about anybody – their preferences, their sins, the amount of money in their pockets.

Another problem with the premise: that super-drug that allows Grishas, magically gifted people, to perform impossible feats breaking the laws of logic, the laws of physics and everything in between. Hmmm…why sensible, down-to-earth people like merchants are after that drug is beyond me. Firstly it’s very addictive and Grishas who take it don’t have a long life before them. They will wither away and die in a matter of months. It means their owners/employers might get a wonder worker but only for a very short time. Mind you it’s hard to find new Grishas because they tend to stay in one country and they can protect their freedom pretty well too. There’s another matter: how you can control/motivate such a powerful creature to work for you especially if they are doing so against their will (as some Grishas are clearly slaves) ? We are talking here about somebody who can stop your heart in a blink or siphon the blood out of your body or make any metal you hold near your person melt into your skin. There are Grishas who can manipulate your mind, turn you into a puppet. There are Grishas who can pass through solid walls and disappear forever. Would you trust them enough to give them a drug which makes them practically indestructible?

So once again: why that merchant wanted the formula for the drug in the first place?

You can also criticize that book for the travesty of the Netherlands it presented. I think the author just made use of her licentia poetica because, after all, it’s a fantasy story aimed at younger audience; still she could have checked this and that two times over in order not to offend her Dutch readers (as she clearly did).

Final verdict:

Do you want to hear a story about a group of teenage thieves who take on a special mission to spring a scientist from an impregnable fortress in a fascist land covered by ice ? Yes? Then it is your book. Don’t expect a lot of sense, just allow yourself to be carried away by the roller-coaster plot and you’ll have fun.

Posted in adventure, alternate history, book review, crime, thriller, YA | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The Osiris Ritual (Newbury and Hobbes 02) by George Mann

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A steampunk mystery adventure featuring immortality, artifacts, and intrepid sleuths Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes. Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, imagines life will be a little quieter after his dual successes solving The Affinity Bridge affair. But he hasn’t banked on his villainous predecessor, Knox, who is hell-bent on achieving immortality, not to mention a secret agent who isn’t quite what he seems….

My impressions:

After reading this one I was left with mixed feelings. On the one hand I truly enjoyed that mummy-unwrapping party and its aftermath. I also liked Newbury, a flawed agent of the crown who likes opium and laudanum too much for his own good. He made me think of Sherlock Holmes – just a little bit but still. Veronica Hobbes, his sidekick and almost a love interest, had every chances of breaking the damsel-in-distress mould. She was really, really close.

And then the inevitable started. Poor pacing. Too many coincidences. Predictable action. Predictable characters. Stating and restating the obvious. Telling instead of showing. Don’t even let me start on the whole ‘Victorian Egyptology’ issue which grated on my nerves more and more. The author is, perhaps, a fan of ‘The Mummy’ because he recounted slavishly the stupidest cliches from that movie, including mummification as a kind of sadistic ‘punishment’ *headdesk*. Let me just say this: mummification was very expensive. Egyptians knew simpler and cheaper methods to kill a traitor and they would never waste an elaborate coffin on them…

Final verdict:

It was a second part of a series. I managed to finish it but I am not eager to find the third or the first one. MEH. Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in adventure, book review, fantasy, meh, rating, steampunk-flavoured | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Zero God by Tommy Birk

I got a complimentary copy of this one from the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you very much!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A secretive and influential foundation based in Washington D.C., led by a charismatic charlatan, seeks to bring to fruition an apocalyptic vision of the future based on its extreme religious views. To this end they have placed a ‘Manchurian candidate’ into the political system, one who unbeknownst to them was involved in the rape culture of the Abu Ghraib prison controversy. An emotionally damaged small town lawyer stands in the way of national disaster

My impressions:

My initial interest in the plot (two runners! An earthquake! Divorce! Scandal!) was soon completely drowned by errors and flaws I was encountering practically on any given page. Yes, the sad truth is that I found too many fragments which clearly would profit from a help of an editor, professional or otherwise, to go on. Like this one:

„Stump owned and operated the Dubain Courier Journal. He wore his thinning hair in a military crewcut and carried his five feet eight inches with a military bearing. He‘d lost his leg to a landmine in the first Gulf War. He had never married. He said that he was wedded to the newspaper, and that it was his life and reason for living. He had nicknamed Rhonda ‘Tadpole‘ when she walked into the newsroom on her first day.”

Five sentences, some really short, all beginning with the same pronoun, “he”. It sounds like a rough sketch not a description of a character you expect in a decently-written novel. I was actually surprised the author didn’t turn that into bullet points. Do you want more?  Consider that short dialogue:

“Clubby said, “I‘ll be back in a few.”

Billups said, “Another bathroom break, Clubby? Better get your pros­tate checked.”

“No pee break. Just checking on Andy.”

Rhonda said, “Andy?””

The reviewer said (in her head, of course, and not expecting any answer): is there no more verbs in English, apart from “say”, which might be used in dialogues?

To  the list of  sins committed by the author I might also add: over – explaining and gratuitous repetitions, sometimes even in the same sentence (“The Balbach family‘s history of tragedy spawned a peculiar, though understandable, sense of collective Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, on the part of Andy‘s family”) infodumps  (Like the whole Andy Balbach’s family history – too long to quote it here but believe me, rather long and boring to go through), and typos that, inadvertently I presume, rendered the text rather cryptic (“Ten-Cubed did that to you. It scammed your life, sucked your soul, and stole what little god you had left. (…)However, there was more than no more god.” Hmmm…what god again and where it came from? More than no more?).

Mind you I quote here sentences from the first chapters of the novel which are usually reviewed and edited more times than the middle part or the ending.

I dumped the book after 30 pages of torture – I don’t think I deserved even that much.

Final verdict:

Dear Author,

Everybody can write and publish nowadays but not everybody should.  Apart from that, employing a professional editor and/or a proofreader really makes sense.

Kind regards,

Your prospective readers.Rating icon. A stack of books and the words a total failure and an outline of a skull and bones drawn over them.

 

 

Posted in book review, contemporary, suspence, thriller | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ice Blue (Black Ice 03) by Anne Stuart

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Museum curator Summer Hawthorne considered the exquisite ice-blue ceramic bowl given to her by her beloved Japanese nanny a treasure of sentimental value—until somebody tried to kill her for it.

The priceless relic is about to ignite a global power struggle that must be stopped at all costs. It’s a desperate situation, and international operative Takashi O’Brien has received his directive: everybody is expendable. Everybody. Especially the woman who is getting dangerously under his skin as the lethal game crosses the Pacific to the remote and beautiful mountains of Japan, where the truth can be as seductive as it is deadly….

My impressions:

I admit I didn’t notice it reading the book for the first time but the second time opened my eyes. The author reveals the identity of the main baddie from the very beginning. Already in the foreword Stuart admits she’s modeled Shirosama on the guru of the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for Tokyo subway sarin attack. In my humble opinion that way the author shot herself in the leg. Let me explain.

The whole Black Ice series is about strong, ruthless men being overcome by love when they meet the right woman. Not a bad premise but in order to make it work you have to persuade your reader that the heroes are really bad boys, as likely to murder a woman as to embrace and kiss her. In Ice Blue it was ruined for me by the author herself.

The first chapter shows us the main female lead, Summer Hawthorne, mingling with guests during a party and smearing Shirosama in her head. She hates the guy’s guts, accusing him of manipulations and greed. Small wonder, her own mommy dearest, one of Hollywood celebrities, is one of his victims. A red herring? Hardly.

In chapter number two, Summer is being abducted right after the party and we don’t doubt who is responsible – the albino Shirosama and his band of plump, brain-washed, violence-inclined followers clad in white frocks.  Once again we are perfectly right. Indeed, Shirosama will chase Summer across continents and make her life disagreeable till the very end just to clasp his greedy hands on that precious Hayashi Urn. Still I wonder: what is the aim of all that? Wouldn’t it be better if the author left us guessing and second guessing the identity of the black hat? Imagine Summer wavering: Takashi or Shirosama? Shirosama or Takashi?

Then Summer is left in the oh-so-handsome-attractive-and-manly presence of Takashi O’Brien and under his protection. Ha. The fact that we are pretty sure about the identity of the main baddie makes itself felt immediately. Even though Takashi is pondering over breaking Summer’s neck more than one time, there’s no tension because we know that he can’t and won’t do it. That action would devoid murderous  Shirosama of his raison d’être and finish the premise off. In this novel there’s no suspense whatsoever, sad but true.

We are left with just the romance story arc. Summer is physically attracted to Takashi from point zero.  Then Taka has an opportunity to admire his girl naked while she is bathing in the awe-inspiring wooden cedar bathtub. He is not impressed – until he is, almost despite himself. Well, if I was in Takashi’s shoes I would take the tub and dump the girl but it’s only me and my mad, unrequited love for wooden bathtubs. Returning to the book: appearances play an important role. Too important I suppose. I wish those were characters. And I wish there were less telling more showing. Oh well.

Final verdict:

I can’t help being disgruntled and dissatisfied by this one. Meh.

Posted in book review, chicklit, contemporary, crime, romance | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When the Earl of Rule proposes marriage to her sister Lizzie, Horatia offers herself instead. Her sister is already in love with someone else, and Horatia is willing to sacrifice herself for her family’s happiness. Everyone knows she’s no beauty, but she’ll do her best to keep out of the Earl’s way and make him a good wife. And then the Earl’s archenemy, Sir Robert, sets out to ruin her reputation…32106

My impressions:

Overall it was a nice read: quick, funny and as historical as it is possible when it comes to Regency romance. I consider it a big asset of Georgette Heyer books, you can never say they are just historically-flavoured or inaccurate. Heyer also had a wicked sense of humour and never hesitated to make use of it, another huge plus.

Of course the whole story was a bit fairy-tale-ish: Horatia, an intrepid teenager, was astute enough to know what’s good for her even at a tender age of seventeen (compare that to Lydia Bennet, ‘married at sixteen’). She visited a man on her own and proposed to him even though he was almost twice her age and inclined to marry her elder sister. That man, allegedly a jaded aristo, let Horatia have her way in almost every aspect because he was so taken by her wits…what’s more he spent vast amounts of money on her family which was close to ruin due to her older brother, Pelham, a notorious gambler. No, I am not a big fan of Marcus, Lord Rule. He sounded unbelievably noble and his interest in Horry was rather strange, smacking a bit of paedophilia.

Still…reading about the adventures and misfortune of Horatia, Lady Rule, I couldn’t help comparing her to Lady Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire, a historical figure I’ve written an essay about. It’s roughly the same era and these ladies share many common traits – both were married very young to an older but respectable man, both loved gambling and both had different marriage troubles. There was one vast difference, though: whereas Horatia, the fictional Lady Rule, was helped by menfolk only, notably her brother, her brother’s friend and her brother-in-law, Duchess of Devonshire could count only on female support, mostly her servants. The same was also true in the case of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, another 18th century English lady whose life and two marriages, very adventurous but also sad, were objects of my other essay. In her pursuit of divorce she was helped by maids, and other women, rarely by men.

And here it comes, the vast gap between even the best fiction and the reality. I’m really at a loss why Ms. Heyer, as scrupulous as she was when it came to different historical tidbits concerning conveyances, clothes and mores of the Regency era, never noticed that it would be only natural for her female heroine to have female helpers and/or friends. After all Horatia had two older sisters, a mother and numerous female servants. Why no one of them ever came to her help or even enquired about her problems is beyond me. It is sad that a female author didn’t believe in female solidarity at all.

Final verdict:

A funny historical romance starting as a marriage of convenience between a quick-witted teen and an aristocrat of 35. I would recommend it wholeheartedly if only it featured more significant female characters…or could pass a Bechdel test…

Posted in book review, chicklit, classic, historical, romance | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cosmonaut Keep (Engines of Light 01) by Ken MacLeod

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Matt Cairns is a 21st-century outlaw Programmer who takes on the shady jobs no one else will touch. Against his better judgment, he accepts an assignment to crack the Marshall Titov, a top-secret orbital station operated by the European Space Agency. But what Matt will discover there will propel him on an extraordinary and quite unexpected journey.

Gregor Cairns is an exobiology student and descendant of one of Terra Nova’s first families. Hopelessly infatuated with a lovely young trader’s daughter, he is unaware that his research partner, Elizabeth, has fallen in love with him. Together, Gregor and Elizabeth confront the great work his family began three centuries earlier-to rediscover the secret of interstellar travel.

Ranging from a gritty near-future Earth to a distant alien world, Cosmonaut Keep is contemporary science fiction at its highest level, a visionary epic filled with daring individuals seeking a place for themselves in a vast, complex, and enigmatic universe.

My impressions:

Reading this one was like sifting rabble from gold. You theoretically knew there must be a gold nugget or two there somewhere but you saw just the rubble. You theoretically knew it should have been worth your while but, after a chapter or two, you were feeling bored. Yes, I mean here a book which was a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel. It somehow didn’t work for me although, once again theoretically, it should have.

Conceptually the book was interesting. It is divided into two parts, an important piece of info which makes the narrative far more understandable. The “present” timeline takes place in an alternate world where the EU is part of a larger Communist bloc (no kidding) and where alien technology, specifically a starship and drive, are being discovered. It follows one Matt Cairns as he goes from Edinburgh, Scotland to Area 51 in New Mexico to a space station and the future. The “future” narrative takes place on a world called Mingulay, which is inhabited by humans and saurs, intelligent descendants of the terrestrial dinosaurs. Everything is peppered with delicious tidbits like dice in a form of a Schrodinger’s cat and, after a while, you can spot connections of these dual timelines.

Still the characters seemed far less enticing than the whole sci-fi stuff, surrounding them. I mean here especially female characters but in reality it applies to all of them. I couldn’t connect with any of the heroes or heroines and, after a while, I stopped to care about their fate and adventures. What is worse than a bunch of characters which don’t make you feel anything? Incomprehensible pseudo-scientific babble which made itself felt particularly in the first 70 pages. Or a love triangle.

Final verdict:

I wanted to be charmed by this one but it left me sorely disappointed. Meh.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in book review, dystopia, fantasy, meh, rating, sci-fi | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Deploying invulnerable twenty-fifth-century soldiers called Skins, Zantiu-Braun’s corporate starships loot entire planets. But as the Skins invade bucolic Thallspring, Z-B’s strategy is about to go awry, all because of: Sgt. Lawrence Newton, a dreamer whose twenty years as a Skin have destroyed his hopes and desires; Denise Ebourn, a school teacher and resistance leader whose guerrilla tactics rival those of Che Guevara and George Washington and Simon Roderick, the director who serves Z-B with a dedication that not even he himself can understand. Grimly determined to steal, or protect, a mysterious treasure, the three players engage in a private war that will explode into unimaginable quests for personal grace…or galactic domination.

My impressions:

If you like space operas this is your story – a clever mix of military sci-fi, politics, moral ambiguity, and a little bit of human drama to bind the whole thing together. It is a long book but, fortunately, a stand-alone, so far so good. What it lacked? Well…perhaps a tad more of dragons? For a book with the word ‘dragon’ in its title it was strange that you meet that creature (and learn about others) only near the very end. It is also strange that the main character, Lawrence Newton, was so exceptionally stupid in so many scenes, especially those concerning his childhood.

The conspicuous lack of female characters was also kind of strange. One of the resistance commanders, Denise, was female (and a kindergarten teacher, imagine that!) but we weren’t shown (or told) a lot about her. In Zantiu-Braun, however, there were no female Skins. None. Other crew and personnel was male, too, and finally it seemed that there is not a single woman in all of Z-B, allegedly the biggest corporation in the world. How was that possible? Thousands upon thousands of squaddies, pilots, technicians, engineers, officers, ancillary personnel, executives, and every single one of them male. Did all the women stayed at home? Or maybe they worked only in schools and such?

Final verdict:

I would give a solid recommendation to this one if only not for the lack of females. Meh.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in book review, meh, rating, sci-fi, space opera | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Movie review: Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve

Product info:

Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is caring for her dying adolescent daughter.While she is lecturing at a university, twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear across the Earth. U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) asks Louise to join physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to

decipher their language and find out why they have arrived. The team is brought to a military camp in Montana near one of the spacecraft, and makes contact with two seven-limbed aliens on board. They call the extraterrestrials “heptapods”, and Ian nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Louise discovers that they have a written language of complicated circular symbols, and she begins to learn the symbols that correspond to a basic vocabulary. As she becomes more proficient, she starts to see and dream vivid images of herself with her daughter, and of their relationship with the father. Is she seeing the past? Or maybe the future?

My impressions:

It was one of the best, if not actually the best sci-fi movie with aliens I’ve ever seen.  Adapted by by Eric Heisserer from the 1998 novella, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang it managed to capture the atmosphere of that fantastic and intricate story. Imagine that: hardly any CGI, hardly any violence, two nerds versus two aliens who are seen through a kind of slightly opaque screen and still I was rooted to my sofa almost the whole time. Mind you I’d read that novella first so I roughly knew what was this movie about.

To be honest if I compare to this one all other popular sci-fi movies I’ve watched and liked, like Interstellar, the Star Wars series, Dune or Close Encounters of the Third Kind all of them seem like plastic toys next to an object of art. It is a thinking person sci-fi, introspective, philosophical and existentially inclined. It keeps you entertained too, believe it or not.

Now if I was to recommend it I’d say: watch it by all means but preferably at home. If it is not possible choose at least a small cinema which doesn’t sell coke and popcorn so nobody distracts you. The story is not linear and you’ll have to think a bit while watching this one.

Final verdict:

A fantastic movie based on a fantastic novella. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I read that the screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, had unsuccessfully been pitching his adaptation of Story of Your Life for years, and by the time producers Cohen and Levine approached him about a potential sci-fi project, he had largely given up on the idea.

Posted in movie review, one great movie, psychological, sci-fi | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments