My 2021 Reading Stacks #4

Neil Gaiman books!

One fun side effect of neglecting this recurring feature for months: now I have a much larger accumulation from which I can draw “two of a kind”, such as this easy pairing.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read lately that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my recent reading results…

(…after the hiatus…)

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“Ender’s Game”: Kids Kill the Darndest Things

Asa Butterfield, Ender Wiggin, Ender's GameIf the stakes were catastrophic enough, the training techniques were sufficiently intensive, and the world were just that unforgiving, who’s to say preteens couldn’t be accelerated to maturity and transmogrified into hardened soldiers like today’s eighteen-year-old American military volunteers?

Thus is the foundation laid for Ender’s Game: in a future where millions have perished at the hands of insectoid aliens (the predominant taxonomic class of Hollywood aliens), Earth’s last hope — and who knows how many hopes were wasted before the story begins — lie in an interstellar military system built on targeting the most gifted junior high students for recruitment, instead of the older kids least likely to go to college.

So, about that big-budget sci-fi thingie…

Seven Happy Reasons for Much Ado About “Much Ado About Nothing”

Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Much Ado About Nothing

Wesley and Fred, together at last!

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Much Ado About Nothing the Best Romantic Comedy of the Year!

Seriously, in a world where romantic comedies are either R-rated sexfests or direct-to-video beneath-my-notice nice tries, how many true romantic comedies are the studios releasing theatrically per year now? Two? Maybe three? Of which I see zero per year at most. According to my personal moviegoing records, the last romantic comedy I paid to see writ large was 2003’s Down with Love. It’s been a while.

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“World War Z” First Trailer: Raise Your Hand If You Recognize a Single Moment from the Book

I wouldn’t call myself a horror fan anymore, but I dabble in minuscule doses under controlled circumstances, if I sense some sort of aesthetic at work whose quality isn’t measured by how many sanguinary “epic kills” are racked up for our carnival amazement. I read Max Brooks’ debut novel World War Z a while back and thought it was an exemplary exception. Styled as an assembled “oral history”, WWZ was a patchwork of short stories about human perseverance (or lack thereof at times) in the face of standard undead onslaught, attached to a Big Picture framework you could discern if you paid attention to the little details scattered throughout its varied first-person narratives. Brooks had a remarkably dexterous way of shifting across a full spectrum of cosmopolitan viewpoints across continents, at exploring different levels of survival competence ranging from blind luck to militarily prepared, and especially at extrapolating how governments other than ours might respond to such a nightmarish, supernatural threat. (Ever wonder what extremes China might consider? Brooks does.) Content extremity was kept to a minimum in most sections, opting instead for a more well-rounded, humanizing approach to the storytellers. It wasn’t Frank Peretti, but it wasn’t torture porn or splatterpunk, either.

This mosaic of unrelated characters has apparently now been funneled into the major motion picture World War Z starring Brad Pitt as the Main Character the book didn’t really have, Mireille Enos from The Killing demoted from failed detective to The Wife, and some cute defenseless children, because Paramount Pictures is reportedly aiming for a PG-13 rating so everyone can conscientiously keep a Blu-Ray copy on the family-blockbuster shelf next to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.

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