The Girl with All the Gifts

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

The Girl with All the Gifts

Our greatest threat is our only hope.

20161 h 50 min
Overview

In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a teacher find a girl who seems to be immune to the fungus, they all begin a journey to save humanity.

Metadata
Director Colm McCarthy
Runtime 1 h 50 min
Release Date 23 September 2016
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

I am admittingly not a fan of zombie movies. There are some great ones out there, but for the most part it’s more of the same. However, The Girl with All the Gifts is based on a very good book. And for the most part, the film manages to stay true to the book. There are some changes, some major and some minor, but it is relatively the same story. What really shifts is the tone, which was adjusted (by necessity) to better fit the film format. The change is by no means bad, but the story feels different played in this different light.

The most obvious change is the pacing. You go from a book that took me personally about 6½ hours to read to a 110-minute movie. The opening sequence of the book is a slow build-up that takes about 1/3 of the page count. As opposed to the movie where that whole sequence is completed in under 30 minutes, closer to 1/4 of the running time. And that is with a bunch of scenes and sub-plots being cut out on top of the faster pacing. The rest of the film follows similar pacing changes.

Then there is the tone. The book starts out from Melanie’s POV. We do see scenes excluding her, more often as the book goes on, but it primarily focuses on her. The wording used is being given by a kid. Even though we know the world is dreary and bleak now, we are still seeing it through the bright eyes of a child. The movie does not, really cannot, do that. The audience gets a full, direct visual of how messed up all this is from the very first frame. That level of post-apocalypse bleakness is a lot more direct thanks to the visual element.

And then there are the story changes. Anytime a book is adapted to a film, this happens. And for The Girl with All the Gifts, it is pretty low-key. The changes could have been much, much worse. There are two major changes, the first of which is a character’s backstory being cut. It was not necessarily essential to the plot, but it would have helped a lot. The other big change was the ending. While the end result is ultimately the same, the way it plays out is a bit darker. It is pretty equal in quality compared to the book, but some people seem to prefer one vs. the other. Overall, The Girl with All the Gifts is one of the better book adaptations out there and a great way to experience this story if you do not want to read through a slow-burn horror novel.

May 31, 2020

The Girl With All the Gifts

Published Post author

The Girl With All the Gifts Book Cover The Girl With All the Gifts
The Girl With All the Gifts
M. R. Carey
Horror
Orbit
January 14, 2014
Paperback
461

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

 

Zombies are kind of a basic concept. There is really only one thing you can do with zombies and George A. Romero did it back in 1968. But even going back as far as Night of the Living, a good zombie movie is never really about the zombies. The tones addressing racial inequality are what made that movie profound. The zombies are just the catalyst of the story. The same thing can be said of other top-notch zombie stories like Shaun of the Dead and the first few seasons of The Walking Dead. This is something The Girl With All the Gifts understands and manages to do right.

Now, this is a story where the zombie apocalypse has already happened. The zombies themselves are not the traditional slow-moving kind either. This is more of a cross between 28 Days Later and I Am Legend (the book, not the terrible Will Smith version). But despite those similarities, The Girl With All the Gifts does use some new ideas. Without spoiling anything, it has a bit more of a sci-fi touch than traditional zombie stories. But that is still far from the most profound differences that make this story unique.

The first key thing is the characters because that is where readers will start. Melanie is the main character and she is a child. Telling any story from the perspective of a child can be extremely difficult. Even more so when the book is aimed at an adult audience. This story is through the eyes of a child who has grown up in a world very different from ours. And as the story progresses, we learn more about the adult characters who remember the way things used to be. While some characters are less developed than others, no one is left on the sidelines. Readers are given a level of detail that makes them feel less like characters and more like people.

The other big thing is the philosophical implications of the story. Ultimately, the question it addresses is, “What does it mean to be human?” There are many other themes present as well. Themes of loss and what people are willing to do to regain their pasts. Themes of hope for the future and what sacrifices people are willing to make to make that future reality. What abstract terms and concepts like “good” and “evil” really mean. And so, so much more. Rather than simply a good horror book, The Girl With All the Gifts is just a good book. Even readers who normally avoid the genre can get something here.

May 24, 2020

Sojourn (The Legend of Drizzt #3)

Published Post author

Sojourn Book Cover Sojourn
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Wizards of the Coast
May 1, 1991
Paperback
309

Far above the merciless Underdark, Drizzt Do'Urden fights to survive the elements of Toril's harsh surface. The drow begins a sojourn through a world entirely unlike his own--even as he evades the dark elves of his past.

 

Sojourn is a bit different from the previous two books. Drizzt is now living on the surface, which has opened a whole new share of problems. From not knowing what a skunk is (hilarity ensues) to not speaking the language, Drizzt has his work cut out for him. The first book was about where Drizzt came from. The second touched on who he is. This third installment sets up who he will be. Which some readers may already know, if you picked up the Icewind Dale trilogy before this. Either way, Sojourn establishes itself as a series of stories rather than one big one.

As the previous books established, drow are evil. And that’s the extent of knowledge most surface-dwelling folk have about them. So, it is a bit tricky for Drizzt to make friends. A lot of people take one look and are all torches-and-pitchforks if he doesn’t move on immediately. But a few are willing to help teach the young drow about the surface world, and himself. Sojourn takes place over roughly 7 years as these adventures gradually move Drizzt closer to the Icewind Dale.

This book can be divided up into the various early adventures of Drizzt. For existing fans of D&D, the book is a little easier to understand. Most of the monsters Drizzt fights are fairly common and the various adventures are set up similarly to quests in a game. This feels like something R.A. Salvatore did purposely to appeal to the fanbase while also writing a generic-ish fantasy story. With the plot involving Menzoberranzan wrapped up at the end of the last book, Sojourn can focus 100% on Drizzt. There is one storyline that connects the events of Sojourn, but it is relatively minor compared to Drizzt’s previous challenges.

On the whole, the Dark Elf trilogy is a strong story of characterization. While characterization is important in any story, it’s rare to see it higher on the priority list than the plot. So-and-so’s quest for vengeance or yearning for true love typically comes second to stopping armageddon. But this is a prequel, so we known Drizzt will be ok. Physically, that is. He is a very different person at the start of this trilogy than at its end. Finding out not only what he is but who he is was not an easy road for the dark elf. It’s no wonder this fan favorite is still having novel adventures more than 30 real-world years later.

May 17, 2020

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 5

Published Post author

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 5 Book Cover The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 5
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Aneko Yusagi
Light Novel
One Peace Books
August 23, 2016 (English); April 25, 2014 (Japanese)
Paperback
400

Naofumi is off to the Cal Mira islands, where he plans to continue leveling up. Soon after arriving he meets a mysterious young man named L Arc Berg. But how will this curious new character impact Naofumi s adventures? Surrounded by mystery and intrigue, Glass makes her second appearance. Aneko Yusagi's epic fantasy continues in volume 5!

 

Volume 5 of Rising of the Shield Hero begins a new story arc after Volume 4 but takes things slowly. Now that Naofumi is no longer a wanted criminal, he can start getting proper support in being a hero. The government and other heroes (albeit reluctantly) are now willing to help him. That takes him to the Cal Mira islands, where a special event allows people to level up quickly. The anime watchers, the last 4 episodes of season 1 cover the events of this book. And the episodes were in a bit of a weird spot, narratively speaking.

The anime episodes that covered Volume 4 gave that story arc a different ending. And it felt like a real ending; a true season finale. Especially with the changes they made to the story compared to the books. And then it just kept going with a few more episodes. Most light novel adaptations cover three to four books, so it was surprising that Shield Hero season one covered five. The tone and pacing also felt a little off. After Volume 4 was covered over 8 episodes, we are back to a whole book being covered in just 4 episodes like at the beginning of the season. Some odd choices, but maybe they did not know if they were getting renewed until later or some other real-world factor.

Regarding Volume 5 itself, this was another solid entry in the Shield Hero series. It is a bit more light-hearted and low stakes than the previous two entries. There is some major action at the end, but most of the book has Naofumi and co. returning to a sense of normalcy and staying there, at least for a short time. It is nice to have a series that is not high stakes all the time.

The slower pacing provides more time for world-building, character development, and other changes not directly related to advancing the plot. It becomes even more apparent here what advantages Naofumi has developed over the other heroes, despite doing things “wrong” from their point of view. And now that he can talk to people without fear of being arrested, gathering more information on the world state and the Waves is easier. The next story arc does start to come into play towards the end of this book, but it is more setting things up for the next novel than truly kicking things off. The overall different tone may turn some readers off, but the next book will likely get back to the action.

May 10, 2020

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 4: Dabit Deus His Quoque Finem

Published Post author

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 4: Dabit Deus His Quoque Finem Book Cover The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 4: Dabit Deus His Quoque Finem
The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Carlo Zen
Light Novel
Yen On
November 27, 2018 (English); June 29, 2015 (Japanese)
Paperback
318

A devil wanders the battlefield in the guise of an adorable young child and her name is Tanya Degurechaff! After returning from the sandy southlands, Tanya receives an incredibly suspicious order from headquarters to embark on a training exercise. In reality, command has sent her on a covert mission to initiate a border conflict with the Federation. Soon the Empire finds itself embroiled in another fight it cannot back down from, even if it means making the entire world their enemies!

 

The Saga of Tanya the Evil is back to having a Latin subtitle. “Dabit deus his quoque finem” translates to “God will give an end to these things as well”. A well-fitting phrase considering Tanya’s antagonistic relationship with Being X. This one does not pick off immediately where the last book left off. It has been a few weeks and Tanya receives new orders to return to the capital for her next assignment. For you anime watchers, the books are now past the events of the TV show and into the events of the movie. I have not actually seen the movie myself at the time of this writing, but it is my understanding that it more or less covers the events of Volume 4.

Going back to the WWII allegories common in this series, this is the point where Russia enters the war. The not-Russia country in Tanya’s new world is a bit blunter compared to the other European nation counterparts. The country’s political stances and history are practically a mirror image of real-world Russia in the same era. Just with magic and the mixed WWI-WWII recent history of Tanya’s new world added in.

While there is still plenty of action in Dabit Deus his Quoque Finem, things start to get a bit more political here. One aspect of military stories is how much the scope can increase as the main character climbs the ranks. When the MC oversees a small unit of soldiers, a single battleship, or a similar command, readers typically see the conflicts they are directly involved with. But as they are promoted and more involved with the big picture, there is less time to devote to them. Audiences are shown other pieces of the big picture because that context is now required.

This series takes it a step further by having more and more nations enter the war as it goes on. This forces the story to divide its attention between even more points of view. Tanya and her troops spend plenty of time winning battles, but the lead-up to those events is becoming equally important. Tanya continues to be plagued by his/her knowledge of Earth’s military history and the fact that many of her superiors are not listening to her ideas. And, as usual, her attempts to get away from the frontline spectacularly backfire as people misinterpret her intentions. Dabit Deus his Quoque Finem is another fantastic entry to this series, but the war is far from over.

May 3, 2020

The Fugitive

Published Post author

The Fugitive

A murdered wife. A one-armed man. An obsessed detective. The chase begins.

19932 h 11 min
Overview

Wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to death, Richard Kimble escapes from the law in an attempt to find her killer and clear his name. Pursuing him is a team of U.S. marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard, a determined detective who will not rest until Richard is captured. As Kimble leads the marshals through a series of intricate chases, he uncovers the secret behind his wife's death and struggles to expose the killer before he is recaptured, or killed.

Metadata
Director Andrew Davis
Runtime 2 h 11 min
Release Date 6 August 1993
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

The Fugitive stars Harrison Ford playing Dr. Richard Kimble, a man falsely accused of murdering his wife struggling to prove his innocence. Pursuing him is US Marshall Samuel Gerard, played by Tommy Lee Jones. That premise alone makes this film fantastic. What a great pair of actors to put against each other in an action-thriller. The plot, in and of itself, is simple. But the execution is top notch. Both Ford and Jones settle into their roles well in what is a peak performance for both actors.

Even though Kimble and Gerard are against each other, the film does not make Gerard feel like a true antagonist. He has nothing personal against Kimble. He is a US Marshall; chasing after criminals like Kimble is his job. What makes it work is that both characters are smart. It quickly becomes a game of cat-and-mouse with Gerard chasing Kimble, who himself chases his wife’s murderer. And it really works because Kimble has the benefit of a head start and is skilled enough to stay there. Kimble is just slightly more capable than Gerard, which is offset by Gerard’s better resources and experience.

As fantastic as the actors are, the film’s writing and direction is just as powerful. Granted, The Fugitive does have the benefit of being a big budget movie ($44 million). One of the big things here is that the action sequences are not overused. When they happen they are intense, but the movie is not one giant gunfight. There is not even that much fighting; the action more comes from chase sequences. Definitely more “thriller” than “action”. And these scenes are paced well enough that the movie has room for good, significant plot between them.

I was not aware that this film was based on a TV show until after watching it. Several changes were made, such as the events taking place over a few months instead of several years and Gerard’s character being a US Marshall instead of a police lieutenant. Despite the characters having more of a larger than life presence, my understanding is that the film is still pretty faithful to the source material. It ultimately relies on its characters and their interactions to make the film good. Rather than overused action sequences, which many action movies (even good ones) are often guilty of. This all makes The Fugitive a very rewatchable film, even more than 25 years later.

April 26, 2020

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 4

Published Post author

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 4 Book Cover That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 4
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
FUSE
Light Novel
Yen On
December 11, 2018 (English) | May 7, 2015 (Japanese)
Paperback
320

Rimuru is gaining more and more power with his monster country, especially now that he has demon lord and dwarf allies. But then he has a dream about Shizue-a grief-stricken plea to save her former students...

 

The 4th volume of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime covers episodes 20-23 of the anime. Episode 24 dealt with a side story not featured as part of Volume 4’s main plot. This is the point where we start to see some disconnect from the books. The anime skipped over a fair amount of material from Volume 4. Some of these events were watered down in the anime and get summarized quickly. Others are skipped over entirely, removing sub-plots from the story. Overall, about half of Volume 4 was cut from the TV show.

The first part of this book deals with the aftermath following the big battle at the end of Volume 3. As the Jura Tempest Federation continues to grow, Rimuru’s life becomes more political. At the beginning of all this, he was just some guy. Now he is the ruler of a country with thousands looking to him for leadership. A little self-reflection on this fact makes Rimuru realize the full implications of his new position and he starts to make additional arrangements to ensure the Federation will be a lasting thing. At the same time, his own desires and a promise to an old friend also start to influence his choices.

Compared to the first three books, the stakes are not high here. There are stakes, but not on the level of Rimuru and co. being wiped out if they fail. In this book, their lives are more everyday (or as close as possible for them) instead of being thrust into another massive battle. The story here also expands on Shizu’s backstory and what Rimuru’s promise to her ultimately means. Getting extra development for a character whose personal story is already wrapped up is rare, but the way FUSE does it works well.

One annoying thing about Volume 4 is the cliffhanger. The book ends on a high note, but it’s still singing once you reach the last page. But overall, this was a solid volume in the series. Not having any major events happen let FUSE spend more time world-building instead. The cliffhanger does show that Rimuru will be back in the action during the next book. This cliffhanger is another piece of content cut from the anime (though they do foreshadow it). Presumably season 2 will start with it. With a new season of the show confirmed, here’s to hoping the anime continues to adapt these books well.

April 19, 2020

Exile (The Legend of Drizzt #2)

Published Post author

Exile Book Cover Exile
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Fantasy
Wizards of the Coast
December 1, 1990
Paperback
306

Hostile in ways that a surface-dweller could never know, the tunnel-mazes of the Underdark challenge all who tread there. Among these souls are Drizzt Do’Urden and his magical cat, Guenhwyvar. Exiled from his drow homeland, Drizzt must fight for a new home in the boundless labyrinth. Meanwhile, he must watch for signs of pursuit—for the dark elves are not a forgiving race.

 

Exile begins “shortly” after the end of Homeland (10 years, short for an elf). Drizzt has forsaken his home city of Menzoberranzan and left to survive in the Underdark with only Guenhwyvar by his side. He immediately faces two key issues. One, the Underdark is crazy dangerous. In the Dungeons and Dragons game, most of the monsters there are fairly powerful and have the Evil alignment. Two, a guy can only spend so much time alone before the madness starts to set in. Given that the drow are the poster children for evil, it is nigh-impossible for Drizzt to make friends with the few non-hostile beings he encounters.

But even in the darkest depths, Drizzt is still able to find small glimmers of light. Like the previous book, Exile is primarily about character development. There is still a good vs. evil conflict but it is secondary to Drizzt’s personal story. The only person he ever felt true kinship for was left dead in Menzoberranzan, leaving him feeling truly alone. As someone who has only ever known the wicked drow society, Drizzt begins to wonder if he is the only Good being in all this world. He has sacrificed everything to keep his life and, more importantly, his morality intact.

Exile is filled with more action than Homeland, given how dangerous the Underdark is as Drizzt wanders through. Drizzt finds many more enemies than allies on his journey of self-discovery as he continuously comes out ahead. Which is one of my gripes not only with Exile, but prequels in general. We know Drizzt is going to be ok in the end because the Icewind Dale trilogy (chronologically later) was published first. It takes away from the sense of danger and suspense, but there really is no good way around that. At least, not for Drizzt and Guenhwyvar. The other characters are all fair game for tragedy, which helps significantly.

In a trilogy, the second installment is usually the weak link (with some exceptions). Exile breaks this trend by expanding on what Homeland built instead of being filled with fluff. With Menzoberranzan behind Drizzt, the story can focus more on him now. The politics of the drow city still play a role here, but they are less of a key focus. The plot related to the city is resolved by the end of this book, but it seems unlikely this is the last time Drizzt will ever hear from his fellow drow. In the meantime, the remainder of his origins will conclude in the third and final book highlighting Drizzt’s beginning.

April 12, 2020

Into the Storm (Destroyermen #1)

Published Post author

Into the Storm Book Cover Into the Storm
Destroyermen
Taylor Anderson
Sci-fi
Roc
June 3, 2008
Paperback
416

Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker---a Great-War vintage "four-stacker" destroyer---finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover---and emerges somewhere else.

Familiar landmarks appear, but the water teems with monstrous, vicious fish. And there appear to be dinosaurs grazing on the plains of Bali. Gradually Matt and his crew must accept the fact that they are in an alternate world---and they are not alone. Humans have not evolved, but two other species have. And they are at war.

With its steam power and weaponry, the Walker's very existence could alter the balance of power. And for Matt and his crew, who have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear: They must decide whose side they're on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner.

 

Into the Storm features a group of WWII-era US Navy sailors suddenly stuck in a strange new world. This is a world where mass extinction never wiped out the dinosaurs, drastically changing Earth’s evolutionary history. The premise gives the story the feel of The Land That Time Forgot, which probably inspired Into the Storm somewhat. Only in this story, there is not a clear path back home for the characters. The story starts with a real basis in history and moves onto fantastical elements from there.

One of the great things about Into the Storm is its basis in real history. The USS Walker was a real ship that saw service during WWI. And the Second Battle of the Java Sea is a real battle from WWII. The ships that wind up in Anderson’s new world were not present at the actual battle. The historical USS Walker was decommissioned prior to the war, as was the USS Mahan. Their disappearance likely resulted in Earth’s history remaining unaltered, with a Japanese victory, in this book. The remaining Allied ships were sunk, and their surviving crew members captured.

So, the fictional Walker and Mahan are now in this strange new world. Both ships are outdated and damaged with limited supplies. But they are not alone. Now we get the good guys, the Lemurians, and the bad guys, the Grik. The Lemurians are peaceful lemur-people. The Grik are humanoid but have more in common with a Spielberg velociraptor than anything else in terms of temperament. These two do not get along. And now here comes the USS Walker with military technology far ahead of what either side possesses. The Walker’s crew is in a strange new world that will forever change due to their very presence.

As the first book in a series, Into the Storm does a lot. Characters are introduced, worldbuilding is established, and the plot starts pushing forward. Anderson does a fantastic job juggling all those aspects to make his story feel alive. Is this anything new? No, not really. But it is reminiscent of great works of literature and seems on track to be highly entertaining. Despite the sci-fi premise, it still feels like a Navy story. Maybe not full-blown Master and Commander, but still the Navy. By the end of Into the Storm things are just getting started and I am excited to see where they sail next.

April 5, 2020

Contagion

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Contagion"

Contagion

Nothing spreads like fear

20111 h 46 min
Overview

As an epidemic of a lethal airborne virus - that kills within days - rapidly grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself.

Metadata
Runtime 1 h 46 min
Release Date 8 September 2011
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

They say life imitates art and that seems true where Contagion is concerned right now. There are a lot of pandemic/illness movies out there, but Contagion is the most realistic one I have seen. Most other films seem to be zombie movies, post-apocalypse scenarios, or comedies. The next closest film is probably Outbreak, but even that is grossly unrealistic compared to Contagion. Outbreak is a bit more fun as a movie, but far from being mistaken as a documentary. It Comes At Night is also a close second but carries a very different tone. The Andromeda Strain also merits mention, but the overall story there is very unlike a pandemic.

This is not the first film where director Steven Soderbergh used an ensemble cast and this film would not have worked without it. In any story where society as a whole is affected, it is easy to get too focused on one area. Many such stories focus on just one group of survivors or scientists looking for a cure. In Contagion, we get a little bit of everything. The character cast consist of scientists, government officials, and members of the public in different locations worldwide as events unfold.

The spread of the virus itself is incredibly realistic. At first, very few individuals grasp how bad this is going to be. As things get worse, governments on both local and federal levels are more worried about their bureaucracy than the outbreak. You have individuals who are looting for food and medicine, an individual spreading misinformation for his own personal benefit, and people both in and outside of world governments forming “us vs them” mentalities as supplies begin to grow limited. And throughout all that, the film bounces through the entire cast pretty evenly with limited character development so that the pandemic itself remains the key focus.

What is really great about Contagion is the sense of realism. This is not a film that necessarily has a happy ending. The characters do not find a cure and just declare “the day is saved!” and the film ends. Even after working towards a cure, which takes time, they still have to produce and distribute it. They know more people will die in that time, but there is nothing else they can do at that point. Ultimately everything winds up being ok, but the question “for how long?” looms over the audience as the film ends.

March 29, 2020