I try not to pay too much attention to literary prizes. It’s mostly because I like to decide what I read based on my own parameters. I don’t agree with lists that offer you a list of books that everyone should read. Who is to say which books everyone should read? Wo has the same taste as everyone else? It all goes back to the canon and who decided which books were deemed appropriate. I won’t go into it all again but I’m not the kind of person who automatically picks up an author because they’ve won a prize. However, I was super excited to get my hands on Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. There was an awful lot of pressure on him to create something great and it did concern me that he was writing about AI. After all, we’ve seen literary fiction writers crash and burn when they attempted science fiction. Although, at least Ishiguro has previous.
I quite a few books last week but not all of them really warranted a full size review. So, I decided that it was in everyone’s interests if I just shoved them all together in one post. That way, I don’t have to struggle to find the words to fill a whole post on a short book and you aren’t subjected to my waffle. It also means that I won’t make the mistake that I did earlier in the week and give me review the wrong title. Sorry for anyone who read my review of When No One is Watching and expecting it to be about Come Again instead. Not sure how that happened.
Monday was Star Wars Day. It’s that day of the year where every card-carrying geek sets out to prove their geek status by mentioning it as much as possible. I mean, if you don’t post as many Star Wars Gifs as possible are you even a real fan? Speaking of real fans, it’s also a day where the hardcore fans get to moan about how much the franchise has been ruined over the years. But has it really? We get it. The loyal fans who were there at the start don’t want to embrace change. They don’t want to admit that their way isn’t the best it can be anymore. They want to say awful things about Rian Johnson on the internet because they have nothing else in their life. If it makes you feel better then go for it. But, come on, are the more recent films in the Star Wars series really that bad? I set out to solve this once and for all by definitely ranking them from best to worst. Now, I did only use the main episodes in the Skywalker saga because we have to be honest, Rogue One would have beaten most (if not all) of them had I included it. So, it didn’t seem fair to count that. Even if it does include the single greatest Darth Vader scene in the franchise’s history.
When it comes to audiobooks the narrator is key. If you get a bad one it doesn’t matter how much you like a book. As I’ve said countless times recently, I’ve been using my audiobook binge as a reason to go back and reread books I’ve not read for a while. I’ve had the Audible edition of Fahrenheit 451 for a while now. I was really excited because it’s narrated by Tim Robbins. I can’t say he’s my favourite actor but you can’t not like Tim Robbins, right? So, I was excited to start listening and, after a weekend’s break, I started on my Monday commute. It should have been a book that I finished that day but I just couldn’t get into it. Robbin’s narration just didn’t engage me. He was too slow and laid back. There was no real fear or danger to his interpretation. His version of Montag just seemed like a bumpkin and that’s not how I imagine him. It took me ages to finish because I was so bored. And this is a book I genuinely love. It should have been easy but it wasn’t. In the hands of a different narrator, this story would have come to life. But, thanks to Robbins, I didn’t really care at all.
I didn’t read anything about the latest Star Wars film before I went to see it. I knew that whatever happened the majority of fans would hate it. Those hard-core fans who haven’t even tried to accept the new films in their life. The people who think they are bigger fans because their parents had sex at a time that enabled them to see them in the cinema. The people who so often complain that Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams shat all over their childhood with their last films. Man babies essentially. It’s not for me to say who is a bigger fan of the franchise but, it seems to me, if you loved the films as much as you say you do then nothing will ruin them for you. I was so confused by the criticism of The Last Jedi. I’m not saying it’s the best of the bunch but it was a really interesting film. The fact that it essentially said Jedi lore didn’t matter was a game-changer. But not everybody did. There was a lot of vitriol surrounding the release of Rian Johnson’s film. It definitely didn’t show Star Wars fans in a good light. So, you can imagine that Disney would have wanted to take steps to ensure that the last film in the saga got a better reception. But, as you’d expect, the reaction has been similarly cold. You see guys, this is why we can’t have nice things. But, and I’m going to get this out of the way now, I came out of the film having really enjoyed it. I know it was far from perfect and I had issues but, the important thing is, I had a good time. And I’ll happily tell you why.
Now that Brad Pitt has been exploring space in Ad Astra, it’s become pretty clear that the Ocean’s 11 gang aren’t the best people to send into space. Matt Damon obviously had a tough time during The Martian. Brad Pitt had to face up to his daddy issues. And, way back in 2002, George Clooney was facing his own demons in Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris. The film was based on the 1961 science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem. By 2002, the book had already been turned into a Soviet television film and a film adaptation by Andrei Tarkovsky. Though the earlier film is critically acclaimed, Soderbergh claimed that his version would be more faithful to the novel than Tarkovsky. Unfortunately, the author hated both versions. Well, I guess you can’t please anyone. With the release of Ad Astra recently, there were plenty of critics who were bringing up Clooney’s space adventure. Well, I guess the two are science-fiction films that dealt with the deep stuff. It felt right to watch it for today’s post.
I watched Ad Astra a few weeks ago but I put off writing my review. I decided that I needed a bit of time to really get to grips with my feelings about it. I mean I’m still getting over the fact that this film appears to have been named after my go-to Pizza Express order minus the chicken. And the fact that Brad Pitt, yes Meeting Joe Black Brad Pitt, was making huge waves with his two performances this year. It’s not that I think Pitt is a bad actor but he’s spent a lot of years sorting of staying under the radar. There have been a few films that have grabbed people’s attention but, for the most part, he hasn’t exactly been doing award-worthy things of late. But then Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood showed us that Brad was here to play. His role in Tarantino’s Hollywood fairy story was magnificent enough to stand-up to the powerhouse that is Leonardo DiCaprio. So, when everyone started claiming Ad Astra offered one of his best-ever performances, I wasn’t as full of disbelief as I once would have been.
I remember going to see Men in Black at the cinema. Or at least I remember my friend being obsessed with the bloody cow at the beginning. She’s a bit of a weirdo. But I do remember enjoying the film. I would have been 9 so the silliness will have appealed. And we all know that the 90s was peak Will Smith time, right? Thanks to a bunch of underwhelming sequels, the first Men in Black film has become something of a classic. People have started to view it through rose-tinted glasses. In my review of the latest installment of the franchise, Men in Black: International, even I did it. So, after all these years, does Men in Black really stand up? Or have we all just been hit with a huge wave of nostalgia? There was only one way to find out. And it meant me having to put off starting Stranger Things until I’d watched it. Which now means I’ll stay up way too late watching season 3. The things I do for the sake of this blog.
One of my best friends works for Vintage books so she is constantly offering to pick up cheap books for me. I know I know. I’m making it sound like a bad thing when it’s not. The only problem is that I never remember to ask her. I buy the book myself and then have to put up her with telling me she could have got it for me. So, when I heard about Ian McEwan’s latest book dealing with AI, I knew this was one of the times I should take her up on it. I was a massive fan of Ian McEwan as a teenager but I’ve lost my way over the last few years. Basically, everything after On Chesil Beach has remained unread on my shelf. And I’ve been okay with that. Sweet Tooth and Solar I wasn’t that interested in but I did really want to read The Children Act and Nutshell. Honestly, I did. I just never got round to it. But this one sounded interesting. An alternate reality 1980s where AI technology exists. Part of me was worried, though. AI has become a bit of a thing in literature recently and I wasn’t sure that McEwan was the best to add to the conversation. But, I couldn’t let my friend down again.
These days I have such a focus on reading the ever-increasing number of unread books on my shelf that I so very rarely indulge in rereading old favourites. And, as Oscar Wide put it so wonderfully, “if one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” As book lovers, we should all take time out every so often to read books that have already given us joy. I know people who will never reread books and I get it. If the thrill you take from reading is to find out the end of the story then reading something again is futile. But, I always think that rereading gives you a chance to really appreciate a book. To really take in the intricacies of the writing style. Although, I do tend to struggle when reviewing books I’ve already read. Even if I’ve never reviewed them before. I don’t know why. I guess already knowing that you like a book means it’s difficult not just to gush about it. Plus, I’ve never been that good at it anyway I suppose.