The Drawing of the Three

The gunslinger came awake from a confused dream which seemed to consist of a single image: that of the Tarot deck from which the man in black had dealt (or purported to deal) the gunslinger’s own moaning future.

I really thought I had read more from these series, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered this book if I would have. So here we are, the second book in the Dark Tower series. Now I definitely understand people’s confusion about trying to tell this story/these stories in just one movie.

As usual with series, it’s a bit of a challenge to not spoil previous books, especially because I can’t remember anything from the first novel. Luckily, in these editions is a handy ‘Here’s What You Missed’ part before the story picks up again.

What you probably should know, starting these series, is that this is eerie Stephen King, not straight shooter/thriller Stephen King. There’s fantastical elements but also some that veer quite close to horror territory, and there’s not many straight plot lines. If you don’t mind that and are looking for (the build up of) an epic, I’d definitely recommend trying this series.

The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King, Sphere 1990

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015

De geniale vriendin

Vanochtend belde Rino.

Naar mijn idee is de meeste hype over Elena Ferrante (wie is het echt?) en haar boeken alweer voorbij, maar zoals wel vaker gezegd: soms lees ik het liefst gehypete media ver na de hype, zodat ik ze neutraal kan ervaren. Voordeel met boeken is dat ze dan ook makkelijker in de bieb verkrijgbaar zijn.

Ik ben nog steeds vrij van mijn TRL, en De Geniale Vriendin leek licht genoeg tussen wat ik net had gelezen en nog ging lezen. Plus dat het gewoon een titel was waarvan ik net genoeg wist om het te herkennen in de bibliotheekkasten.

Enfin, dit is pas het eerste boek uit een serie, maar ik vermoed dat de anonimiteit van de auteur flink heeft bijgedragen aan de hype. Want ja, men krijgt een eerlijk kijkje in naoorlogs Napels, armoe versus rijkdom, de rol van meisjes en vrouwen en hoe sommigen daar uit proberen te klimmen. De levens van Elena en Lila in fijn detail, met Napels als heel de wereld. Een variatie van afwijkende karakters komt langs, en het is allemaal makkelijk weg te lezen. Maar wat wordt er gelezen?

Met een mannelijke auteur was dit alles waarschijnlijk een Groots Literair Werk genoemd, waar deze boeken weer als pulp en vakantieverhalen worden genoemd. Er is weinig meer dan het opgroeien van de twee meiden, en in hun opgroeien zit protest tegen de rol van vrouwen, het gezin als bouwsteen van de samenleving, hoe (gebrek aan) geld verschillende soorten rijkdom in de weg zit. Het is een interessante en frustrerende blik op recente geschiedenis, maar het eindeloos meeslepende en verslavende heb ik niet ervaren. Voor wie dat wel doet: er zijn nog drie andere boeken.

De geniale vriendin,  Elena Ferrante, Wereldbibliotheek 2013

Dear White People

10 x 30 min.

Ik kreeg het niet voor elkaar om de film te kijken, maar gelukkig hielp Netflix (weer eens): nu is er ook een serie.

dear-white-people-netflixMet hetzelfde gegeven: zwarte studenten op overmatig witte campus die in mindere en meerdere mate tegen racisme ingaan. Hoofdpersoon is misschien wel Sam met radioshow Dear White People, maar – heel fijn – anderen krijgen elk ook een aflevering. Iets met ‘verschillende, nodige invalshoeken’ en zo.
Zo leer je waarom sommigen “zo min mogelijk zwart” willen zijn, of hoe het is om waarheid te ontkennen voor je eigen veiligheid.

En door het evenwicht van continu activisme en ‘ik wil gewoon leven, hoe dan ook’ wordt Dear White People geen eenzijdig pamflet. Hoeft ook niet; de ervaring van met de neus op de bittere feiten gedrukt worden gebeurt toch wel.

Dear White People, Netflix 2017

Rogue One

133 min.

Definitely more fun when you watch it without knowing too much of the Star Wars universe and stories. And don’t act like it’s an international embarrassment if you aren’t rogue-one-posterwell-versed in its material.

Anyway, there’s another female brunette who needs to fight the baddies. She doesn’t want to at first, but Things Change and she realises that the Rebellion needs to succeed. After a dark (literally and figuratively) first half, it’s for the viewer clear as well.

In my mind Star Wars movies have always been different shades of sand colours, so the beautiful shots of the beachy planet definitely left me pleasantly surprised. So did the tempo, never giving you the feeling that there’s filler or that you’re stuck in your chair for another [x amount] of minutes. And yes, it is watchable with nary a clue about its background.

Think Indiana Jones in space, think explosions, narrow escapes and aliens and you have an entertaining two hours at the ready.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm 2016

Half A King

There was harsh gale blowing on the night Yarvi learned he was a king.

Like with Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie is one of those fantasy writers I’ll always try a book from. Even when I know that they’re seemingly unable to write solo books, ending up in me having to wait for the next (and the next) book. At least Abercrombie sticks to trilogies (for now?).

Main character Yarvi is a cripple, a failure, no matter how royal his blood is. The only reason that he still becomes king is because he’s next in line. But in the harsh world of Joe Abercrombie’s books nothing stays good and whole for a long time, and Yarvi has to go on a mental and physical trip to reclaim his place in the world.

As always, it’s a quick, appealing read that leads past strange characters and surroundings. The only thing that is keeping me from immediately picking up book two and three (Abercrombie published these series in a year and a half) are the absolutely great reviews for the second book and the terrible ones for the third. Will I manage to give up on the story before the end? Until then, Half A King is a proper Joe Abercrombie story for your less-than-fresh fantasy needs.

Half A King, Joe Abercrombie, HarperVoyager 2014

The Incorruptibles

We rode through fields burning like the plains of Hell – Fisk on the black, Banty on the roan bay, and me on Bess, the mule, leading a string of ponies.

The disappointing news: it’s part of a series. The good news: a darker fantasy without becoming overly gruesome, some tense world building without it being on the level of George R.R. Martin.

Two men need to lead a bunch of scouts, soldiers and other along a river boat full of important people. The boat is fueled by a jailed demon, the mountains are full of ancient, sardonic creatures and the family’s guest turns out to be the one reason for or against war with neighboring countries.

This is a gray, grimy fantasy, and – except for the reminiscing, oh-so-different story teller – pretty trope and cliché free. It’s up there in creations from Joe Abercrombie. There’s story and there’s world, neither of them are just very pretty.

The Incorruptibles, John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz 2014