Friday, January 4, 2013

Home for the Holidays

This holiday season, all of my family came to visit at some point--and at one point, there were 8 adults all hanging out in my (relatively small) house.  We are fairly diverse in our interests and occupations, but when I looked at the books that everyone had brought with them, I realized that our literary interests tend toward two genres--science fiction and fantasy.

And, in fact, our big family outing was a group excursion to see The Hobbit, followed by a discussion of the film over ice cream.

Here are some of the things that my family read and watched this holiday season, along with some of our thoughts about these texts:

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit:

"[The film] is overwrought with violence and quite juvenile.  It's neither for children nor adults; in fact, it's almost like they were trying to bring the Shrek genre of movies into The Hobbit.  But I did like the question and answer scene with Gollum--I thought they did that very well.  Also, who will finally teach the orcs how to fight?"

[note: some major spoilers follow]

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy:

"I'm very much looking forward to the newest Wheel of Time book and now respect Sanderson as an author in his own right.  The magic system is one of hte best that I've read and keeps me on my toes."

Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed:

"I enjoyed this film, but there is no way I would get on the boat at the end of the movie.  The probability that someone who exhibits multiple symptoms of mental illness actually invents a time machine appears to me to be so low that I just wouldn't get on that boat."

Note: This comment provoked a rousing discussion about whether this statement was logically sound.

Rian Johnson's Looper:

"An entertaining movie; however, once you start to think deeper about the time travel mechanics and count the loops, it starts to unravel around you." 

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus:

"A recommendation from a friend who read it in 2 days.  After reading the first few pages (the prologue), I'm very intrigued as well and can't wait to find out what's in the tent."

N.K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon:

"I loved Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, and so I was thrilled to receive the first of her latest series as a Christmas gift.  While I'm finding the names a bit challenging to keep straight, I really love how the novel deals with the incredibly difficult issue of how sometimes, certain acts are viewed by different cultures in fundamentally different and irreconcilable ways.  Once again, Jemisin is using fantasy to address provocative real-world questions."  

What did you and your family read or see over the holidays?  Let us know in the comments!

By Jen Miller


  1. Is it possible to change a grade in a Fantasy Matters review? In hindsight, I was way too generous in giving The Hobbit a B+. I focused on what I liked in order to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. I forgot my own standard: Would I pay money to see this movie again. The answer is NO. That should elicit a failing grade, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I'm holding out that the trilogy will get better. But I received a much needed slap in the face for recommending the movie to a good friend: "Just saw the hobbit. Hated it!" Nothing like friends and family during the holidays to put things into perspective.

    1. Mark--I put a note on your original review, directing readers to your comment here for your revised grade.

      For what it's worth--the general consensus about the movie among my family was that the movie on its own was just fine (somewhere in the B range), but that as an adaptation of Tolkien's novel, it really stunk. It all depends on what you're grading on...

  2. Whoever it was liked Mistborn, excellent taste. :D I reread the last two Wheel of Time books to gear up for the finale (good to catch up on some minor plot threads, but Sanderson did us all a favor in returning the point of view to the characters we know! So if there's some more minor viewpoint characters Jordan focused more on I still might have forgotten the details, oh well.)

    I saw Toy Story 3. Still have not seen 1 and 2, oh well.

    I was captivated by Hannu Rajaniemi's "The Fractal Prince"--anyone who cites both Christian Bok and Douglas Hofstadter is a winner for me already. So I read the prequel, "The Quantum Thief" and was underwhelmed. When I start reading an SF book with lots of made-up jargon I trust that I can dive right in and it will make sense in time, but this didn't really deliver in terms of explaining the backstory to us lesser mortals. Ah well.