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Cultural Update: May

My pile of unread books is only very slowly inching down, and I really must avoid buying any others.

Today’s link-magic: Having The Talk with your kids…..

A child who has experienced that talk, may also end up with a wedding that looks like this.

Books

The Quiet War Paul McAuley There are some fabulous things about this book. The vision of settlements on Saturn and Jupiter is probably the most wonderful settlement of the solar system I have ever read. And it fascinating to see another take on the issues of ecological disaster and genetic engineering – very different from that in The Windup Girl even coming from similar premises. Some of the characters too are great, though at times it suffers from the same problem as a number of recent books, that some of the characters aren’t quite likable enough. Over all though, some very interesting ideas and depictions; a very thoughtful book, even if I didn’t find the ending ultimately as satisfying as one might have hoped.

Films

District B13

This film has some of the most awesome fight and chase scenes you could hope for. Brilliantly choreographed fights and parkour with a pumping soundtrack, they are an absolute delight to watch. The lead characters’ athleticism is also impressive. Set in a near future (well 2010 envisaged from 2004) it also takes on a number of issues around class and race which are prevalent in modern France, with a progressive spin, so the story itself is not bad either. That being said, some of the dialogue is woeful (although the subtitling may have been partly at fault) and the acting range of the leads is not as impressive as their fighting/jumping/athletic skills. Nonetheless, well worth watching if you are looking for a good action film – well ahead of most Hollywood types.

Television

Games of Thrones first half of season 1 I really really really wanted to like this. While I haven’t read the books, any sword and politics type drama is worth hoping for. And I wasn’t disappointed by the first episode, especially its shock conclusion. But the next two or three episodes were a bit too ponderous, and I found myself worried that I would lose interest. The characters were a bit too stereotyped: the boorish king, the plotting queen, the arrogant prince,the stalwart loyal friend, the barbarian and his noble queen… I think that the challenge in the first half of the season is to stick with it through the slightly less compelling parts – a story this complex takes time to weave, and the pay off will arrive (as I will discuss next month no doubt).  The two most compelling characters in the first half of the season were Catelyn Stark and Tyrion Lannister – both had rounded personalities and complex motivations. I imagine that to follow the destiny of Arya Stark will be a fascinating story, but one which, most likely, I will have to end up turning to the books for, as I don’t know whether we will see the series lasting that long. Otherwise, it is beautiful to look at, and I think the couple of slow episodes in the early part of the season will be compensated for by the pay off.

 

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