The Problem with Movies Based on Books.

I love movies and I love books, so why not combine both? Well, movies like City of Ember begs to differ. The Hunger Games and Harry Potter have transitioned to the big screen fairly well turning into successful movie franchises, yet they are the outliers. Movies such as the aforementioned City of Ember and  The Giver have outnumbered the more successful outings from books to movies. So why do they fail? Well, it’s simple. They have  two different audiences. This could also be said for movies based on video games.

   Movie goers and readers are different audiences. When you go watch a movie, you want to be entertained. You want the $13 dollars you spent to be worth it, understandably. When you read a book, you want to be immersed in the world, you want to relate to the characters, you want to be transported to different dimension. The authors of a book have a lot more time to set everything up, they can go the extra mile. Movie directors can’t, they have to cram 500 pages into under 2 hours and as such many things are cut out or changed to fit the time frame. When that reader goes to watch the movie, they will be disappointed to find that many of the things they like about the book are removed. They expect to see that amount of detail that the book had unless it’s books like Fifty Shades of Grey or the Twilight series. In those cases, the books were already bad. 

  On top of that Hollywood is concerned with one thing: money. As such books or book series ,to be more specific, seem like a potential cash cow. But that greed is where the problems begin.When a studio decides to turn a successful book series like Harry Potter into a movie or a movie franchise, they tend to focus on how much money they could possibly make. That thinking often causes the movie to be drastically different from the source material. They are not looking to appeal to the hardcore fan of the book, they are looking to appeal to everyone. And that’s ok if done correctly. The Harry Potter series does a great job of this. But too many times it goes wrong. Take for example, the aforementioned  The Giver. I unfortunately saw the movie after deciding to rent it as I had nothing else to do. I read the book as a young child and thought “why not?” That was not that the best idea. While the movie was ok, it lost many of the things that made the novel great. And it worked, making $67 million compared to its $25 million budget. The movie sold itself as this sci-fi adventure flick that took away many of the novels magic. Why was there a spaceship? Why was there a rebellion? Why was there Hunger Games-like peace keepers? Simple, teenagers want to see action, they want to be entertained. So Hollywood added it in to seem more action-oriented and keep them happy. Hollywood does not mind cutting a good chunk of the book and changing it as long as they make money. Although, it seems as if audiences are starting to get sick of this trend. Not necessarily that they are upset with the lack of detail, but it is becoming more apparent how bad the movies have become without that detail. For example, the Divergent film series is not getting a finale after deciding to split the last book into 2 movies. The first part of the finale failed to make enough money to justify the 2nd part.

   Making a movie based on a book that can satisfy both the fans of the book and casual audiences alike is not an easy task. Relatively few have been able to replicate the success of Harry Potter. It comes as a result of having two different audiences. Hollywood will often appeal to the more casual audience than the die hard fan as it will make them more money. But who knows what will happen in the future? Movies based on books have given us some solid movies and I hope that trend will continue. Now if I could only say that for video game movies.

What Makes A Book Good?

We all have books that we love and books that we hate. But what makes a book good? Sometimes, we have books that are good but we don’t like. For example, Titanic is considered a great movie, but some people don’t hold it in such a high regard. Good has such a subjective meaning. For book critics or reviewers in general there meaning of good has a more technical aspect, focusing more on plot, character, and cohesiveness. For the casual reader, good has a more entertainment aspect. This is what I think makes a good book. 

1. The characters 

   The characters of the book are a vital part of the book and what makes it good. They are the connection between the story and the reader. We don’t necessarily have to like them especially if that is their purpose, but they have to have a purpose to the story. They can’t just be there to fill out some pages with dialogue, they actually have to do something, affect the main characters in some way, or get a bigger point across. The main characters adhere to this at a much bigger level. They are after all the main characters, they are the ones who are the main focus of the story. Yes, they may be an asshole, arrogant, or stupid even, but they have to move the story along. For example, Holden in Catcher in the Rye divides many readers. He is arrogant and maybe to sarcastic for his own good, but that is what he was intended to be. The actions he performs lends towards the main theme of the book and serve a bigger purpose. If a book sets up a relationship, there has to be chenistry before the two get together. It cannot have small moments and then rushed just for the sake of having a relationship. Like I said before we don’t have to like the characters, but of course it certainly helps. Likable characters or characters that we connect with help keep readers engaged throughout the book. 

2. The World

   This is another part of making a good book. Now it is not as big as the characters, but it can certainly aid the book. Some books often rely on a cool setting and world like Ready Player One to ofset its problems. This is of more importance to science fiction and fantasy where new world are often created and often the attraction to new readers. For those genres, they often set the book in a place with a long history and rich lore. Now the author does not need to make a brand new world to immerse the reader. Books in historical fiction, like The Things They Carried, mostly do a great job of putting the reader there at that event. To make the reader immersed in that world, to make them feel like they are actually there is not a small feat. While it’s not the most essential part of the book, creating a world with depth and immersion will be a great asset.

3. The Plot

   The plot is well, the story of the book. This is one of the most important parts of the book. Now a lot can go wrong. Too many authors often create an interesting premise only to do nothing with it. Sometimes the author can put too much subplots and end up with a mess by the end. Sometimes the author tries to seem smart by adding so many twists, you have no clue what just happened. Sometimes the plot takes five years to move along and loses the reader to boredom. Sometimes the plot gets so ridiculous that anything written before makes little to no sense.You get the point? The plot can have twists or it can be straightforward serving only as a way for the characters to develop. If there is a twist, it has to make sense within the story. There should not be a twist just for the sake of having a twist. There should be small evidence hidden or implied before it is revealed. In my opinion, the books that have a concise plot with some subplots but stay organized often are good. The story has to change the characters in some way. I mean it seems kinda obvious right? Now, the book does not need to have twists or anything new to be considered good. Many books often use the same plot but with different characters, setting, etc. If you’re gonna use something that’s been done before, execute it to a servicable degree. Now can the plot have those things mentioned above. Absolutely. As long as the plot stays concise and not convoluted for the sake of shock value.

   That’s the basis of what I think makes a good book. There are many more factors that go into a book, but that’s the general overview of it. Does a good book pass with flying colors of the things I mentioned above? Of course not. Like people, there is no such thing as perfect. Many good books often only excel in 1 or 2 of those areas. For example, Ready Player One is one of my favorite books of all time. The world is absolutely fantastic, but the plot and characters are fairly basic. In this case, the characters and plot are done well enough that the main attraction of the book can ofset its basic characters and plot structure. No book is perfect and no book should be. Well, I guess that’s it. See you next time. Ok, no more outros. It’s a bit weird.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Review

                                       

   Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff follows Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, two teenagers who have recently broken up. When two rival mega corporations fight over their inhabited planet, they are forced to evacuate on a fleet with an enemy warship in pursuit. Things get more complicated when a spreading plague mutates and the AI designed to protect them may actually be their enemy. As more and more information is revealed, Kady realizes there may be only one person she can trust: her ex who she had recently broken up with.

Illuminae is uniquely told told through logs, documents, and transcripts. I was surprised at how cohesive the story was with the different writing style. Even with all he documents and having paragraphs only in surveillance logs, Kristoff and Kaufman do a great job of keeping the story together. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, there is a good amount of events happening at once. It seems as if they tried to jam a bunch of traditional sci-fi conflicts into one book. The plague mutation alone could be the main conflict in another book. Wisely, Kaufman and Kristoff decided to focus on one central problem, using the others to complement the main problem. They do a fantastic job of moving the plot. However, I find that the book takes a little bit for the book to pick up. About the first 100-200 pages are to build the world and set up the story. But once it gets past that phase, the action never stops. It is a nonstop thrill ride till the end of the book.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are badasses. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. They are well written characters who have to deal with the constantly changing  conditions. The way they react is real. The dialogue between them is real. I could actually imagine teenagers saying that to one another. The moments they have together feel earned. Kaufman and Kristoff take the time to set things up between them, to carefully progress their relationship, instead of rushing it. I was surprised at how much development Kady and Ezra received considering the unique approach to writing and the authors should be acknowledged for it. The supporting characters of the book are well done as well. AIDAN is one of my favorite characters in the book. Yes, the AI is one of my favorite characters in the book. His or…its interactions with Kady are great and their chemistry slowly develop as the story moves on. There is an actual arc to it, actual character development instead of a traditional AI villain. By the end, you begin to feel for AIDAN and that is fairly hard to do with something that has no physical presence.

There is really no big flaw that I can find in Illuminae besides its slow start. I mean the plot is something we have seen before, but it is executed extremely well and in a way that I have never seen before. The main characters are well written,well rounded, felt real, and badasses. After the slow start, it continues at a breakneck pace and from then on it keeps getting better and better. If you are looking for a YA that deviates from the regular formula, look no further than Illuminae. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Scythe by Neal Shusterman Review

Scythe by Neal Shusterman is the first book in a brand new series. The book is set in a dystopian world where death is non-existent and the world we know today is called the Age of Mortality. Disease, war, and hunger are a thing of the past leaving designated people called scythes to kill in order to manage the population. It is a fairly interesting premise and the book delivers an entertaining ride that does enough to deviate from the standard YA plot.

Scythe follows Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova (very…unique names). After showing compassion and strength, the two teenagers are chosen to become apprentices by a scythe called Scythe Faraday. They reluctantly accept and discover only one of them can be chosen. At first, they simply do as their mentor says hoping one of them will be chosen and the other released back to their normal lives. But after an event occurs, the one who is not chosen will be “gleaned”, as they call it, by the other.

Rowan and Citra are well written characters. Both are compassionate, strong, and develop as the story progresses. They are thrown into something they do not want to do, to do something that goes anything human, and they have to adapt to those circumstances. Shusterman does a fantastic job of creating the two main leads as complex and three-dimensional characters. But I feel some of the best characters are the scythes themselves. Scythe Curie and Scythe Faraday are extremely well done serving as more than just the teens mentors. They both have their own way of gleaning and understand the horrible deed that they were assigned to do. But you don’t ever get the feeling that they lose their humanity after doing it for so long, they know what they are doing is wrong and often make the gleanings for the victim and the aftermath for the families as easy as they could.

While most of the characters in Scythe are well done and develop as the story goes, it is obvious who is evil and who is good. There is no gray area, no moral ambiguity between the characters, mostly. The main villain of the novel, Scythe Goddard does a good job of making you hate him, but that’s all he is. He is exactly the same person from start to finish. Goddard’s junior scythes: Rand, Chomsky, and Volta mostly suffer the same fate. I say mostly because Volta is the outlier. From about halfway through the book to the end, Volta turned into one of my favorite characters. I won’t say more as it gets a bit spoilery (is that even a word?).

Shusterman has a great writing style, simple as that. He does a good job of building the world that the characters inhabit and fleshes out the scythes, establishing their lore. You never get lost, each actions are concise and well written. You can picture each setting and each action. The dialogue between the characters feel real and natural. He asks some interesting questions with this book, mainly the moral right and wrong of killing one another, but it never slows down the story. Overall, I just loved his writing style.

One of the weakest parts of the novel is the romance between Citra and Rowan. While the moments are few and kinda cute, it came out of nowhere. The problem is that the moments are few. In other words, it was under developed. How can I believe they like each other when they have barely known each other and in those times, they seem to not care about one another? While they gradually warmed up to each other, I never interpreted their words and actions as lovers, but good friends. Still by the end, they shared some sweet moments with each other but it was definitely sudden. At times the book can be predictable. You think it’s going to go one way and it goes that way. But Shusterman adds some nice twists and a tantalizing ending that definitely got me excited for the sequel to be released later this year.

In conclusion, I loved Scythe. The characters, the world, and the writing were all absolutely fantastic. While at times, it became predictable and the romance was sudden and under developed, the book was entertaining from start to finish. It asks some interesting questions, but never lets it drag down the story. I will definitely be picking up the sequel later this year. I don’t have a rating system planned out yet so I’ll stick with the traditional stars.

RATING : 5/5 STARS