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Book Review: Germline by T. C. McCarthy (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Donald Corren)

August 23, 2012 2 comments

Silhouette of a man standing in a tunnel holding a gun.Summary:
Oscar is a reporter and lands an assignment with Stars and Stripes to go over to Kazakhstan and report on the new war between the US and Russia over resources needed for technology.  This is a new kind of warfare. One fought mostly underground, and with the soldiers permanently wearing suits. Plus they’re fighting side-by-side with Genetics–human-looking robots who are all female and all look alike.  Oscar started out just wanting a Pulitzer in between his drug addiction, which is easily fueled in Kaz. But Kaz changes people.

Review:
It’s been a while since I ventured in military scifi. I usually stick with the more sociological/psych experiment or cyberpunk areas of the genre, but this one just stuck out to me.  I think its combination of aspects is just intriguing–a drug addicted journalist, a future war on earth, underground warfare, and robots.  It certainly held my attention and flamed my interest in military scifi, plus it wound up counting for the MIA Reading Challenge, which was an added bonus.

Oscar is a well-rounded character. At first he seems flat and frankly like a total douchebag, but that’s because he’s a depressed drug addict. We learn gradually what landed him there and how he grows out of it with time.  It’s an interesting character development arc because although many arcs show how war leads to alcoholism or drug addiction, in Oscar’s case although it at first makes his addiction worse, it ultimately helps him beat it.  Because he ultimately snaps and realizes that the drugs are not helping the problems. They’re just making them worse. This is so key for anyone struggling with an addiction to realize. Pain in the present to feel better in the future. And McCarthy does an excellent job showing this progression without getting preachy.  Sometimes you want to throttle Oscar, but you ultimately come to at least respect him if not like him.  I wasn’t expecting such strong characterization in a military scifi, and I really enjoyed it.

The world McCarthy has built is interesting. The war itself is fairly typical–first world countries butting heads over resources in third world countries. But the content of the battles and the fighting methods are futuristic enough to maintain the scifi feel.  There are the Genetics of course, and they are used by both sides. It’s interesting that the Americans use only female Genetics, and that is explained later on.  There are also different vehicles and weapons that are scary but still seem plausible. Of course there’s also the suits the soldiers permanently wear, the front-line tunnels (the “subterrene”).  It all adds up to a plausible future war.

Now, I will say, some of the battle scenes and near misses that Oscar has seem a bit of a stretch. I know odd things happen in war, and anyone can get lucky, but. Everyone’s luck runs out eventually.  It seemed sometimes as if McCarthy wrote himself into a corner then had to figure out a way to make his main character survive.  Escaping danger is fine, and necessary for the book to continue. But it should seem like a plausible escape. And if you have one that seems miraculous, it seems a bit excessive to me to have more than one.

The audiobook narrator did a fine job, in my opinion. He didn’t add anything to the story but he also didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  I will note, however, that he pronounced “corpsman” wrong, saying the “s,” which is supposed to be silent.  This only came up a few times and didn’t really bother me, but some readers, particularly ones who have been in the military themselves, might be bothered.  Nothing else was mispronounced, and the voices used fit the characters nicely.

Overall, this piece of futuristic military scifi showcases both war and addiction in an engaging manner.  Some readers may be off-put by Oscar at first, but stick it out. It takes many interesting turns. Recommended to scifi fans, whether they generally like military scifi or not.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Movie Review: Fargo (1996)

February 19, 2010 8 comments

Woman next to a dead body in a snowy field.Summary:
A car dealer is in deep debt, and his wealthy father-in-law refuses to help him out.  Since his father-in-law’s one caveat regarding money is that he will never leave his daughter or grandson in trouble, the car dealer decides to get some men to kidnap his wife, and they will then split the ransom.  The plan, naturally, goes horribly awry.

Review:
I think this may be one of the more stupid critically acclaimed movies I’ve ever seen.

Let’s start with the plot.  Why is this man in massive debt?  Neither myself nor the person I was watching the movie with could quite figure that out.  It’s key to me as far as relating to the character to know how exactly he got into this debt to start with.  Similarly, why doesn’t the father-in-law consider getting his son-in-law out of debt taking care of the family?  It appears that the car dealer is in trouble, and you would think that the father-in-law would want to keep the man his daughter loves safe if for no other reason than to protect her heart.  Then there’s the fact that this is quite possibly the most predictable plot I’ve ever seen.  One of the kidnappers is crazy? Who’da thunk it?! *rolls eyes*

Moving on to the acting, it was terrible.  I’ve seen more facial expression and body language from stone statues than I saw on William H. Macy, who plays the car dealer.  The only way I can possibly comprehend Frances McDormand winning an Oscar for her performance is if she naturally has a bubbly, interesting personality, because it can’t be that challenging to play a character as boring as the pregnant police chief.  Then there’s the universally horrible midwest accents.  I’m friends with a woman who was born and raised in Michigan, and she does not sound like that.  She has a slight lilt to her o’s and a’s that is actually cute and attractive, not horribly mangled words such as what these actors purport midwesterners sound like.

It wasn’t until I looked up Fargo to find a movie poster that I discovered it’s supposed to be a “dark comedy.”  Oh, I laughed at parts of it alright, but not due to any comedic value.  You just have to laugh at a movie that’s this bad.

I don’t recommend anyone to see this movie, but it’s not excruciatingly painful to watch if you find yourself stuck in a room with it, which is the only thing saving it from a one star rating.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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