Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: I Am A Barbarian by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Story: A young barbarian is spared from death because a child named Caligula, the future emperor of Rome, wants him as a slave and playmate. As the barbarian grows up alongside the increasingly mad Caligula, he tries to stay true to his code of honor, while secretly fearing that he will one day be crucified for offending his master. When Caligula finally becomes emperor, the barbarian will see up close all the horrifying ways that Caligula’s insanity will affect the already troubled Roman Empire.

My Thoughts: I’m guessing that this book takes a lot of artistic liberties with history, but I also wonder if its depiction of the depravity of a troubled Roman Empire is somewhat accurate in spirit. It’s certainly a fascinating and disturbing read. None of the characters are paragons of virtue, but the comparatively mild flaws of the barbarian who tells the tale are contrasted effectively with the significantly more malevolent flaws of his Roman captors. I wish, however, that I could have understood the barbarian a bit better. The story ends on a grim note, so whether or not you would enjoy this book will partly depend on what you think of books with tragic endings.

Content Overview: Violence is pervasive, including the numerous cruel executions Caligula participates in, such as having people beheaded as entertainment during a meal, but it is not described graphically. The sexual promiscuity and perversity of the Romans is referenced frequently, though always with tact, and no problematic details are given. There are some mild swear words.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Movie Review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole

The Story: When two owl brothers are kidnaped and taken to be the slaves of an evil owl king, one brother resists this tyranny while the other brother works to win the favor of his captors. The good brother escapes with a friend, and they set out to find the legendary guardian owls who defeated the evil king in the past. As the good brother learns how to better fight back against the forces of evil, his treacherous brother is surrendering more and more to the darkness, and they will meet again in the war that’s coming.

My Thoughts: This film has some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. While that alone would not be enough to recommend it to most people, the simple story is solid enough and has enough original ideas to keep the amazing visuals from being wasted. For example, plenty of family films have lessons about “unusual heroes,” but this movie puts a twist on that idea that is more unique and relevant than most. It also depicts good versus evil in a stronger, clearer way than modern family films tend to do.

The story has a few holes, but nothing that ruins the film. While the Owl City song that randomly pops up in one scene felt out of place, it is quickly forgotten after its awkward appearance. The ending demands a sequel, but due to the box office failure of this film, a sequel is unlikely to be made. Perhaps mainstream viewers were not quite ready for a serious, rather than goofy, anthropomorphic animal world, but those who appreciate animal fantasy and fantasy in general will find much to like.

Content Overview: It’s a bit more violent and scary than most animated family films I’ve seen, so parents should be aware of that. Aside from some political correctness, the film has a surprisingly good worldview.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The Story: A man named Christian learns that the city he lives in is going to be destroyed, and after he can’t convince his wife and children to leave with him, he heads off on his own. A man has pointed him in the direction of the Celestial City, where he can be saved and have eternal life, so Christian begins a pilgrimage to reach the city. Many dangers lie ahead, but he is determined to reach the end of his quest.

My Thoughts: This book is filled with numerous famous characters, from the main character Christian to villains such as Apollyon, the Giant Despair, and the nasty inhabitants of Vanity Fair. While the style of the book is archaic, which made it a bit of a challenge to read, the effort it takes to get through it is well worth it. It’s not a page-turner to modern eyes, but it is filled with brilliance that can be enjoyed and learned from.

The story’s pace wavers a bit towards the end of part one, heading off on a long series of theological rambles. Fortunately, the theological rambles are fascinating to read. The second part covers mostly the same ground as part one, but has enough unique details to keep it interesting. Everyone who likes fantasy, Christian fiction, or theology should take the time to explore this classic work.

Content Overview: This book is safe for most readers. There’s occasional mild violence, such as monstrous villains being beheaded or otherwise slain. Mildly scary scenes are common. A few vague references are made to sexual immorality and seduction.

Friday, November 1, 2013

National Novel Writing Month 2013

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) starts today. I enjoyed participating in NaNo last year, so I decided to do it again this year.

Here’s a brief overview of the novel I’ll be working on.

Title: Reincarnation

Logline: After being drawn together by unusual circumstances, two strangers with similar nightmares search for the source of their dreams.

Are you going to write a NaNo novel this year?