Audiobook Review: Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization

 

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Nevewhere by Neil Gaiman

Dramatization written by Dirk Maggs

Narrated by James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Anthony Head, David Harewood, and more

Runtime: 3 hours and 48 minutes

Goodreads Synopsis:

Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere.

My Review:

I’ve read a lot of great reviews on this book, and I certainly enjoyed it. However, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, and therefore, to my fullest regret, I can not give this review five stars.

Gaiman has never disappointed me, and I’m not saying Neverwhere was a disappointment, but  the abridged version was far too rushed for the entire story to be as compelling as Gaiman originally wrote it.

Let me start with the story. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a brilliant story, and I was completely captured with London beneath and London above. The premise of the story, a second London in which all memories forgotten, and all of the people who have fallen through the cracks exist, was a thrill. It had everything you love about fantasy – mystery, danger, a little bit of nonesense. I highly recommend the story of Neverwhere

This version was abridged, which I knew before starting. I know that abridged versions can’t possibly tell the story with the same suspense as the original, but I felt this one was shortened too much. The original audiobook is over 12 hours long and this version comes in at less than 3 hours. A fraction of the time means a fraction of the story.

The storytelling itself was very good. It was told by some popular Hollywood voices such as Christopher Lee, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head…. and more. Neil Gaiman even makes a small appearance. They told the story very well and I had no difficulty with understanding the character’s roles; it was easy to recognize their emotion and predicament simply by the use of tone and expression of the narrators. It is a dramatic reading, so you can expect to get the full effect of the story that is told. It is much like watching a film with your eyes closed. They even used sound effects in every scene. In fact, the sound effects were as much a part of the story as was the voice acting.

The audio mixing was well done, but I had a hard time understanding the actors at times when the sound effects were too dominant. I was listening with my headphones and I was constantly adjusting the volume up and down because the voices would get lost in the sounds of splashing water or sometimes the sound effects would be deafening loud. The sound effects helped lay out the scene, but they interrupted the story at times beyond their usefulness.

I was enjoying the story and nearly addicted to listening to it; I was more than happy to have to wait for the bus to arrive to my stop since it allowed me plenty of time to listen to the story uninterrupted. I made my way through the first 6 chapters and was giddy to begin the last one. I was on a long car drive, so I knew I would be able to finish it without stopping. To my disappointment however, the story was already done. The last 28 minutes of the story, all of chapter 7, were bloopers and additional readings from the cast. I felt cheated out of more story. Granted, the bloopers had me laughing out loud at times, but I was much more interested in learning more of the story.

Ultimately, Neverwhere was worth the read. I still highly recommend this story to anyone with any interest. It’s a compelling story and the voice acting is very well done. I’m sure I will return to it often for a quick read. Some of the sound effects were distracting to the story, and the abridged version will never be a match for the full version, but Neverwhere is engaging fantasy for all book-lovers.

I give Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization a 3 out of 5 stars. 

3 Stars

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Book to Box Office: Fifty Shades of Grey

Here’s a Book to Box Office I’m not quite sure what to do with. I’ve decided to combine my review of the book and film here.

I realize this isn’t the only source you can get opinions about this highly controversial series by E.L James, but I’ll be damned if I don’t make my peace along with the rest.

It wasn’t that I was never interested in reading the book after it hit the best-seller list, it just wasn’t the science-fiction I was used to and therefore missed my opportunity to form an opinion before the hype of the novel became so notorious. That said, these are all of my original thoughts while reading the book and watching the film, despite what has been written about them online.

50

The first thing I realized was that I really hated Kate, and I kind of hated Ana for putting up with her. Why were there two extremes of terrible role models in this book? The only other woman that takes presence is Ana’s mother and she’s just a hopeless romantic who chooses to nurse husband number 4’s wounds rather than attend her daughter’s graduation ceremony. Are we afraid of having strong, female protagonists? I understand this was fan-fiction and Ana is just another version of Bella Swan, but at some point someone has to stand up for this misinterpretation of women.

Kate probably could have been a great character. She’s strong-willed, confident, a fighter. But she was mostly represented as a bitch who makes Ana do her bidding and who questions Ana’s relationship without actually trying to offer advice besides “be careful”. Do something Kate!! She’s the closest one to Ana, yet seems so distant. Now that I think of it, this book could be re-written without her and I’m not sure it would really make a difference.

And Ana, well, she’s all kinds of messed up. Honey, it is NOT okay to let a man control you if it’s not what you want. Sure, I don’t argue exploring one’s sexuality within a defined relationship and with a trusted partner, but this was so far from that. Ana’s inner dialogue constantly let the reader know, that while she was thrilled to have the attention and to feel him there, she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted. Even Christian Grey was aware that she wasn’t totally comfortable with his behavior.

And Grey, well he has issues, a bad past or whatever. This is not an excuse to take a woman in bed or elsewhere when she hasn’t given full consent. She was attracted to him, obviously he’s attractive. And the things he did to her felt good. okay. This doesn’t make them right. Not to mention Christian’s unnerving stalker qualities. Why does no one question these things? Why doesn’t Ana?

Essentially, while reading this book I had a difficult time getting over the disturbing nature of each character. The sex scenes weren’t all together bad, but how the story led into these scenes simply made me angry. I was engaged with the development of Christian for a small portion of the book. He seemed to be developing as something more than the handsome and rich gentleman every woman already fantasizes about. I guess his past misery will stay a mystery. In the meantime, just know that he’s 1. really hot 2. filthy rich 3. a good guy at heart. He really is boring isn’t he?

I don’t mean to bash this book. With all of the negative reviews out there, a secret part of me wanted to prove to everyone that this was a revolutionary piece of literature. I’m glad a first time novelist was successful, I’m glad fan fiction got a nod, I’m glad that kinky sex was unabashedly described in this top-seller book. Only, I’m being a little extra harsh here because this book is in such a great place to bring exciting change to the literary industry. Instead, it followed the unimpressive characters – women who are only admired if they are weaker than men and men who are sexy, dangerous, and (honestly!) just misunderstood.

I give Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James 2 Stars

2 Stars

Regardless of my disposition on the book, I went to see the film with an open mind. Again, this film is in a unique position to cater to female sexual fantasies when most film caters to men and their fantasies. Also, sexual awareness and acceptance of new and different sexual behaviors is another viral topic among millennials. The film was bound to break some kind of record, and hopefully make a solid point to film companies and moviegoers.

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It might be because I watched the movie after a ten-hour shift, but I couldn’t help but yawn. It was still boring, but thankfully it didn’t anger me the way the book did. It truly made a difference cutting out all of Anastasia’s “inner goddess” nonsense. With a female lead, I was pleased that the script or Dakota Johnson’s acting or a combination of both allowed Ana’s character some more depth than the book. She started out the squeaky, shy girl as expected, but the relationship really developed her blooming ferocity. Her relationship with Christian really drove her to decide what she wanted and Dakota Johnson really understood this. Slight changes in her behavior meant Ana was defining herself as a woman and wasn’t going to simply accept all kinds of abuse. Whereas in the novel, Ana’s inner voice would tell herself “I already knew I would.” There was more maturity without this kind of dialogue.

The sex scenes were mild. While there was a lot of female nudity, most scenes were short. It’s a good thing too because honestly there was no passion, no chemistry, absolutely no desire in these scenes. It was almost painful to watch. Perhaps the true pain was Christian’s (Jamie Dornan) stale personality, if he even had one. Dornan made it almost impossible for there to be any hint at chemistry between the two. He seemed far removed from the character and solely focused on the stone-like personality that Grey often hid behind.

I give Fifty Shades of Grey directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan  a 2.5 Stars

2.5 Stars

All in all, I agree with many critics of both the book and film. The series by E.L James pushes exciting, new boundaries. The actual story, its writing and plot, don’t quite deliver any exemplary points. Nothing that says, “look here, look at this one important thing.” Mostly there is a continuing tragedy in the submissiveness of women and the social conflict of men overpowering women and getting away with it. The film takes some positive strides with a little rebellion in Ana’s character, but in the end of it all there’s not much to take away from the book or the movie

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I Kill Giants; issue 1

Comic Book Review:

I Kill Giants

Issue: 1 of 7

by: Joe Kelly + JM Ken Niimura

IMAGE Comics, Inc.

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No Synopsis available. Read the series information here.

My Review:

Luckily, I got my hands on the Image Firsts edition of I Kill Giants. Unluckily, there is anniversary edition of the graphic novel out there, which I don’t yet have.

The story of Barbara Thorson, fifth grader and giant slayer, was the everything and more I wanted from a comic. Are all comics this good? Why have I just started reading them?

Joe Kelly writes a brutal story of young Barbara. Stuck in the fifth grade dealing with motivational speakers when she already has a job (killing giants) is only the start of her problems. Thorson doesn’t exactly fit in. She spends her time with her nose in a book or playing Dungeons and Dragons. Her imagination gets her in to trouble, and Principal Marx is all too familiar with her misbehaviors. Readers share a mix of sympathy and empathy for Barbara, even though it seems she brings some of her problems on herself. A peek into her home life proves that all is not well in the Thorson household, and it becomes evident that Barbara’s pain envelopes her.

It’s not an easy read. There is something disturbing about Barbara’s obsession and her willingness to create enemies. But there is something fascinating about her bravery as well. There is some swearing which may seem mature content, but it hardly seems fair that these portrayals of reality should be disguised for youthful readers. Kelly is honest and insightful in his writing. I Kill Giants #1 is moving, inspiring, and heartbreaking. I can’t wait to read the rest and see just what Barbara does.

Niimura’s pictures are stunning as well. They accentuate the story Kelly writes through rough lines and misplaced frame. The black and white images seem harshly drawn or even difficult to understand what is taking place in the image. In one instance, a frame is placed oddly through the center of another character’s head – seemingly trying to sever they boy from Barbara. I really enjoyed the graphics because in many ways they seemed to define Barbara beyond the typical misfit. I Kill Giants goes above and beyond the stereotype of misfits and their woes. Barbara is flawed, and we wouldn’t want her any other way. She’s the young hero, come to save the world one giant demon at a time. Whether it is a fantasy or not, we’re rooting for Barabara.

 

I give I Kill Giants  #1 by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura a 5/5 stars!

5 Stars