Micro Review: A Very Harold and Kumar 3d Christmas

Some big laughs, some small laughs, a few dragging areas.

The big, broad stuff didn’t really hit with me – much like poop on a windshield, it kinda slid right off. But there are a few moments in AVHaK3X that really work, just really subtle moments of comedic timing where exactly the right pause or look is given.

3 out of 5 Neil Patrick Harris as “Neil Patrick Harris”es.


Micro Review: Earth Unaware (Novel) by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

I have mixed feelings about reviewing Earth Unaware (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy from my buddy, who, until recently, was relatively high up with a bookseller.  I saw the plain white cover of the ARC at his apartment, and picked it up with no small degree of glee.

“Ooh!  This isn’t due out until July!”  I squealed.

“You want it?  Take it.”  My buddy said.  He’s more into swords and magical rings than real life stuff like bug-eyed (literally) aliens and lasers.

Orson Scott Card was, at one point, my favorite writer.  I read Ender’s Game in one day, finishing it on a family vacation sometime around two or three A.M., with a flashlight under the covers.  I loved his short stories, the Alvin Maker series, the other Ender books, his one-offs like Enchantment and Magic Street and Lost Boys.  So, it was with great excitement and joy that I began reading Earth Unaware.

Unfortunately, Earth Unaware is not a good book.  It’s not a bad book, either.  It’s not even really a book.  Unbeknownst to me (I was Unaware?), Earth Unaware is a novelization of a comic book that Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston wrote earlier.  And it reads like a novelization.  There are obvious bits of padding, description of scenes that would work better in a visual medium, and stereotypical characters that read as if they were in a series of panels printed on cheap wood pulp.

So, that’s one reason why Earth Unaware isn’t really a book.  Another reason is my experience upon reading about a third of the novel, then stopping for a break.  I peered at the cover.  The book says it’s the story of the first Formic War.  A third of the way into the book, and the Formics/Buggers weren’t even on stage yet.  I thought to myself, “Huh.  Well, I suppose once the aliens do arrive, the pace must really pick up.”  I thought back to Ender’s Game, and the description therein of the first Formic War.  Space battles, hand to claw fighting in ships, the Razing of China.  It seemed like a lot to fit into the rapidly diminishing pages.

And, of course, it was a lot.  Too much, perhaps.  Because Earth Unaware isn’t a complete story.  It’s the first of (probably!) three novels about the First Formic War.  I’m glad that Ender’s Game didn’t follow that trend.  The whole first book of the Ender’s Game trilogy would have been Ender Unaware: The Kindergarten Adventures.  It would have ended with him beating up the kindergarten bully, and (perhaps!) a teaser where the Battle School teachers show up at his house.

And then there’s Mazer Rackham.

You might remember Mazer Rackham.  He’s the venerable sensei of Ender’s Game, the man who single-handedly won the Second Formic War.  He was also a useless old bugger who didn’t play by the rules in Ender’s Game, so he was assigned to a fleet that wasn’t supposed to see any action.  He never mentions any First Formic War experience.

Well, in Earth Unaware, he shows up as an elite-of-elite soldier, the creme-de-la-creme of all of the Earth’s warriors.  I understand that in the later comics, the ones past the three that this book is based upon, he gets pretty involved in the resistance, and is (almost) single-handedly responsible for winning the First Formic War.

And then he’ll go on and win the Second.  And in Ender’s Game, only the second will be brought up.

I don’t know.  It could work, in the long run, and the subsequent novels.  But it takes a lot of plot convolutions and sharp changes in character to get from the Mazer Rackham of Earth Unaware to the Mazer Rackham of Ender’s Game.  It’s probably not worth it.

There’s a concept called “fan service”, where a writer will include bits of extraneous, plot-superfluous lines, costumes or characters, simply to satisfy long-time fans, who are (presumably) waiting around, twiddling their thumbs, until something familiar shows up.  Mazer Rackham in Earth Unaware is anti-fan service.  He shows up, and fans initially cheer, but then the Earth Unaware version begins to ruin the old version that we love.

Is Earth Unaware anti-fan service?  No, it doesn’t retro-actively ruin the old books.  It does take the First Formic War from the realm of the imagined, implicit to the land of fleshed out, explicit.  And sure, something that fans have imagined for over twenty years cannot possibly live up to those expectations when it finally comes out.  The book is not bad.  It’s just not good.  But for me, who imagined for twenty years what this aspect of the Enderverse’s history would be like – that’s a shame.

Final Verdict: 2 out of 5 compound eyes.

Micro Review: Species (Film)

Yes, that Species.

Species is the least sexy of the supposedly sexy movies that came out while I was an impressionable teenager who was too young to rent them.

It has a laughably implausible plot, featuring alien DNA that can interface with our own, a top secret laboratory that is guarded by an open door, a glass cage and a chain link fence, and a crack alien-hunting squad that consists of Michael Madsen, playing Michael Madsen, Forest Whitacker playing a magical black man (one who is literally magical, instead of figuratively magical as is so often the case), Alfred Molina as the nerdy scientist and Marg Helgenberger as the smart scientist.  Oh, and Sir Ben Kingsley.

The two things that really stick out, as seen from a world that has moved nearly 20 years on?

1.  The AIDS metaphor really is in your face.  Sex-as-death is the motif, with one character killed shortly after he has unprotected sex after he specifically asked about protection.

2.  Hey, the young alien is played by Michelle Williams!  When did Dawson’s Creek start?  HOLY CRAP WAS THAT DAWSON IN THE TELEVISION COMMERCIAL THAT THE ALIEN FLIPS PAST?

I am convinced that it was.

Three out of five deaths by tongue.

Lehigh Valley Road Runners Summer Series 5k 2012 #1 (May 9)

The weather had been iffy all day.

Of course, if it had rained, it would have cooled down the awful heat.  Nearly 80 degrees.  How can one be expected to run 3.1 miles in weather that’s almost body temperature?  (Body temperature of a lizard.)

And I had just run the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon (10 days before.)  How can one be expected to be fully recovered in 10 days?

And the trail was wet and soft.

And my shoes were too… slippery?

Alright, what I’m building toward is that I’m not quite happy with my time at the first Lehigh Valley Road Runners Summer Series 5k race.  (Say that five times fast.)

I followed my usual 5k plan, which is to start fast and see how long I can hang on.  As a measure of how fast I started, I hung on to the eventual winner for a quarter-mile.  Of course, once Robert hit the hills, he scooted up them like they weren’t there – and I hit them like a wall.  Painful to get up and over.  (But fast enough to come down.)

Amby Burfoot (you may remember him from such feats as, oh, I don’t know, winning the Boston Marathon(!)) directed everyone through the first turn, up through the covered bridge, which was every bit as painful to run through as it was during the half marathon, but smelled less like urine.  I am told that he directed Jeff Dengate and Warren Greene to make a left instead of a right, up into the woods, and then giggled to himself as they wisely followed the spray-painted arrows instead.

This is me going over the covered bridge during the half marathon 10 days ago. I think I smiled less during the 5k. I hope I didn’t stoop as much.

The far side of the creek proceeded much as always.  Pain built up steadily from mile one to mile two.  I tossed a cup of water on my head at the water stop.

One thing was fun, though.  I was steadily reeling in fifth place, and got within striking distance while atop a hill.  At the bottom of the hill was a man with a camera, taking pictures of the runners.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “If I pass this guy here, I will have a series of photos of me doing so.”  So I did.

I’m really pleased with myself in that last photo, though you can’t tell.  You can tell the guy I passed is not super pleased.  At all.

The rest of the race I ran fearfully, thinking that I was slowing with every step, and that I was going to be revenge-passed by runner 324.  It didn’t happen.

Up the last hill, down the other side and the hard right onto Robin Hood bridge, I heard some heavy breathing off my shoulder.  I was doing my own heavy breathing, trying to keep to the 3 steps per breath pattern, though it kept slipping to 2 steps per breath.  Back under the bridge by the LVRR clubhouse I picked it up for my final sprint.

Yeah, you can tell that I’m feeling the pain in this photo.  Don’t I know it only takes two muscles to smile, but about a hundred to grimace in agony like that?

My final time was 19:20-something.  The official results aren’t up yet.  I was hoping for a sub 19, but maybe that will just have to be my goal in the next three races.  On the upside, I did finish fifth out of about a hundred and fifty (including many old people, tweens, and moms pushing strollers).  Also, I did pass that one guy, and didn’t get passed after the first half mile, so that’s a net of one for me!

Also, the food afterwards was good – a lot of slaws this time.  Carrot, traditional cabbage, red cabbage.  Final rating?  Five out of five ks.