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Book Review: Wolf Hunt: The Burning Ages by Sebastian P. Breit (series, #1)

Wolf standing in front of Nazi flag.Summary:
It’s the future, and the world is in another semi-cold war between NATO and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China).  A NATO group of British, American, and German naval ships is being sent to Brazil on a mission, but part-way there they are all zapped back in time to 1940.  With the chance to change history for the better, what will they decide to do?

Review:
I first want to point out that Breit is German and wrote this in English himself; it is not a translation.  I have to say that I wonder why he made that choice as the plot certainly seems to have more of a European than an American appeal, but I am impressed at his effort to write in his second language.

The summary of the book makes the plot sound fast-paced, but in fact it is actually distressingly slow-moving.  It takes about 1/3 of the book for the all-important time-traveling event to happen.  I spent the whole first part of the book just waiting and wondering when it was going to happen, because once the basic politics of the world and character traits were set up, it’s just a waiting game.  The naval mumbo-jumbo filling up the rest of the space just wasn’t necessary.  This issue carries on throughout the book with half of the sailors spending a solid amount of their time stranded on an island, for instance.  Since this is marketed as a fast-paced historical thriller, perhaps somewhat like the style of The Da Vinci Code it quite simply needs to move along faster.  Intense naval specifics and codes are not necessary.  Fast-moving plot is.

Breit also needs to invest in a British and American editor each, as the British and American characters say and do things that are just flat-out wrong in British and American English respectively.  One that really slapped me across the face is that one of the characters is from Boston, but everyone refers to him as a “Bostoner.”  People from Boston are called “Bostonians.”  I have never once in my life heard anyone say “Bostoner,” and I live in Boston.  Another example is at one point one of the Americans reads another American’s birthdate from off an id and says it the European way “11 September 2001,” instead of the American way “September 11th, 2001.”  This is one of those instances where the author needs to have his facts straight in order for the story to be believable.  Nothing makes me not believe a character is American quite like having him get a bunch of American English wrong.

Additionally, as a woman and an author, the way the female characters are handled is distressing to me.  Just one example is that a bunch of the stranded female sailors are attacked on the island by some of the locals in an attempt at rape.  These women who had the exact same training as their male counter-parts are apparently completely incapable of saving themselves, but instead have to be rescued by their male comrades.  But it gets worse.  Later when the captain of the ship is relating the event to another man, he asks if the women were alright.  The captain responds by saying that the doctor said they were fine.  The doctor.  Apparently nobody bothered to ask these women if they were raped (HINT: I’m pretty sure women can tell if they’ve been raped or not).  Plus no one seems to care that these women are clearly not going to be emotionally ok after almost getting raped, and not once do any of the female characters who were attacked say anything about it with their own voices. This is just completely inexcusable.  It’s a removal of women’s voices from ourselves, and it’s insulting to a female reader.

There’s the issue of European bias expressed through the American characters.  For instance, one American character expresses shame at how Americans only speak one language.  First of all, the rate of bilingualism in the US is actually rising, so following the arc of the future, there should be more bilingual Americans, not less.  Second, I’ve never once heard an American express woe in an all-encompassing way like that by saying something like “It’s so sad Americans aren’t bilingual.”  People say, “I wish I was fluent in another language,” or “I wish I was fluent in Japanese,” but they just don’t put it that way.  That whole paragraph sounded like a European using an American character as a puppet to say what Europeans think of Americans.  Yeesh.

I also have problems with the German characters though.  A bunch of them express the desire to stop the Holocaust not to save lives but to save the German people from harboring the shame and guilt for generations to come.  Um, what?  That’s your concern oh time-traveling Germans?  Having been to Germany myself on a student exchange and visited Dachau, etc… I can say that I have a hard time imagining any of the kids my age at the time (15ish in the early 2000’s) focusing in on that as opposed to stopping a bad thing from happening because it’s evil and wrong.  I can only imagine that generations even further along would be even more focused in on stopping a genocide as opposed to saving some broad idea of German honor.  It’d be like having a time-traveling modern American decide to stop the Trail of Tears to save us from shame as opposed to doing it to save innocent Cherokees.  The whole thought just makes my brain hurt.

To sum up, Breit shows ability as a writer that needs to be worked on and honed.  I’d recommend either getting a good editor who can handle both British and American English or switching to writing in German.  He also needs to work on tightening up his plot.  Normally I’d say, nice first effort keep trying, but due to the opinions and biases and presentation of women present in this first attempt, I’m afraid I can’t say that.  It’s readable, but why would you want to read it anyway?

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Ebook from author in exchange for my honest review

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Movie Review: Metropolis Restored (1927)

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Robot surrounded by blue rings.Summary:
Fritz Lang’s classic silent film tells of a future dystopia in which the elite few who live in a shining city are supported by the low-class masses in the depths of the earth performing mundane jobs.  Joh, the son of the mayor, becomes curious and goes to the slums below where he becomes infatuated with Maria, a peace-loving woman the masses look up to and adore.  The mayor along with the sinister inventor, Rotwang, decide to steal her likeness for a robot in order to bring the masses back under control.

Review:
This classic film has inspired art, music, and other films for decades, so I suppose I was expecting something mind-blowing.  Instead I found myself and my friend creating a drinking game to go with watching it, because it is just that ridiculous of a movie.

Now I have an appreciation for older films, including silent ones.  What made the film disappointing had nothing to do with the trappings of the time–the overly expressive facial cues, the odd choice of dress, the exaggerated movements.  It had entirely to do with the plot.

Supposedly the “moral” of the story is “between the brain and the hands there must be the heart–the mediator.”  Ok, so, this whole incredibly unequal society is a-ok and the only thing that will work for everyone, it’s just that there has to be a mediator between the elite and the lower class?  That’s a bit….depressing.  One wonders why such a film has remained so popular for so long with such an awful final message.

Plus there’s the whole Maria and her double plot that makes almost zero sense.  Although the robot double was supposedly made in order to make the lower class rise up to give the elite an excuse to be violent against them, her first task is to go to an elite club and dance sexually before the men causing them to abandon the women they usually sleep with.  What does that have to do with anything?  Why was that even included in the film?

In the end, I’m a bit baffled as to how this has remained such an inspiring classic over time.  Although it wasn’t dull to watch, there was nothing mind-blowing about it.  Overall I would recommend it to fans of silent films and those wondering what the fuss over Metropolis is all about, just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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Movie Review: The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)

October 26, 2010 4 comments

View of people and limbs through a glass.Summary:
Two American girls on a road trip through Europe get a flat tire late at night in Germany.  They walk to find help, and stumble upon the residence of Dr. Heiter, a first-class surgeon who separates Siamese twins.  He promptly kidnaps them, along with an unfortunate Japanese tourist, and announces to them that they will become part of a first-time experiment.  He will fuse them together mouth to anus to create the human centipede.

Review:
This independent film mixes two great horror movie classics–kidnapping and a deranged doctor–and combines them into a great idea.  It doesn’t quite attain the heights such a great idea should have, but I can easily see it becoming a cult classic.

Dieter Laser, who plays Dr. Leiter, does an excellent job.  His facial expressions are magnificently creepy.  He is actually German, so his German is perfect, as well as his German accent.  Akihiro Kitamura’s performance was also well-done, particularly given that he mostly just gets to yell in Japanese and whimper.  The actresses who play the two girls–Ashley C. Williams and Ashlyn Yennie–have painfully annoying voices.  It was a blessing that they were the two end sections of the human centipede, because it shut them up.

Given how incredibly idiotic and annoying the two girls are in the beginning of the film, I can’t help but suspect that the writer was trying to make us feel less sympathy for them.  Possibly with the hope that it would soften the blow of the gross idea?  Maybe.

As far as the grossness inherent in three people being sewed together mouth to anus, they could have taken it much further than they did in the film.  Only bits and pieces of the operation are shown, and the human centipede wears bandages so strategically that you don’t really see much of the actual connection.  It’s more about the viewer imagining it than actually seeing it.  Although the scene where the front unit of the human centipede (the Japanese man, Katsuro) must first *ahem* use the restroom post-surgery is quite gross, it is simultaneously hilarious.  If you have a bit of a quirky sense of humor, the horror and gross-out factors of this film are greatly lessened.  In fact, I found The Fly to be much more disturbing and disgusting than this film.

Overall, if you enjoy gross-out, B-level horror films, you will have a fun time watching this movie.  It’s short, interesting, and different.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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