Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monster Island - Pithy Goodness

From what I read of Monster Island, I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the writing and the story. The writing isn't particularly clever of interesting in itself, but it is very concise. By the end of the first chapter it was clear to me that the author was writing simply to tell a story. He wasn't trying to impress his readers with fancy language or clever literary devices, and he wasn't trying to amaze them with long, detailed descriptions of characters and environments. The writing was just a necesary medium to communicate with the reader, and the author clearly knew exactly what he wanted to say. As I was reading there was one block of text that really stuck with me, because I was fully expecting it to turn into a long rambling speculative monologue:
"If the Warlady died there would be nothing to hold the Women’s Republic of Somaliland together. Clan factions would tear it apart. How long could a country in the middle of a civil war resist the dead?"
After the author posed the question, he simply moved on with the story. It was as if he was saying, "you think about it," rather than "this is the question I am going to answer for you." This sort of direct connection with the author made reading Monster Island alot more fun. It may also be a large part of what makes blogging and reading bloggs enjoyable for so many people.
It would be interesting to see a novel written in this sort of direct-connection format and then moved to book form. The reception of Monster Island was probably much different than it would have been had the novel simply been in book form. I can sure for certain that if I had purchased a book like Monster Island only to find it written in that short pithy style, I would have felt, at best, cheated. But I also would have blazed through the novel fairly quickly and probably enjoyed it more much than a novel with a more traditional writing style. It will be interesting to see how peoples expectations for novels in general change as blogging becomes more of a standard method for communication.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why are Zombie movies so popular

A big part of what makes the zombie genre so much fun is that it puts us in a situation where we have to fight for survival against an enemy that's incredibly similar to ourselves. Often times the reason zombies make such appealing villains is this similarity. The key difference is that because the zombies are not "human" or even really alive we don't have to empathize with them at all. It makes no difference to us whether the zombie are subdued or simply destroyed. The hero's methods for overcoming the zombies never bring to question his or her principles; they must be defeated in any way possible.

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

What struck me most about Mary Shelly's Frankenstien was the believability she managed to achieve in the monster's personality. The progression of emotions the monster goes through as he's rejected by humanity again and again really brought him to life for me. When he's first brought to life, rather than being a typical angry monster-type character, he spends most of his time marveling at the wonders of nature. Even when he's run out by the first town that he meets he maintains a positive attitude. Rather than take the easy way out and make the monster react angrily, Shelly uses this as an opportunity to tell us about the monster's character - he's a true optimist. It's only when the monster is rejected by the people that he idolizes that his anger starts to get the better of him.
I found the monster's tale interesting not simply from a character perspective but story wise as well - after all it's only once the monster is introduced that the novel truly becomes horror story. I also found the monster's tale much easier to read and enjoy than any of the chapter's about Frankenstien. While I enjoyed Frankenstien's back-story I didn't find him to be as likeable of a character as the monster. Most of his time in the novel was spent either in complete bliss or complete despair. There was very little middle ground for him to transition between the two states and really develop a personality in the way that the monster did.
Also although I thought her story within a story method of storytelling was interesting, I didn’t think it made the novel much better than it would have been had she just narrated it traditionally. I enjoyed the novelty of having a fictional narrator initially but as I got more and more into the story, knowing that the story was literally being told by someone who did not exist somehow pulled be out of it a little. I am fairly certain other people would have different reactions to this style of writing, and I definitely don’t question its validity, it just didn’t do much for me personally.