peteg's blog

Charles Yu: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

/noise/books | Link

I bought this from Abebooks; the world economy is so weird right now that it's cheaper to buy a book from an American seller via the .co.uk site, in pounds: this cost me a total of $AU20 for a first US edition in perfect condition from a shop in New York, whereas the UNSW Bookshop wants $AU26. I'm a little surprised they didn't throw in a flight to London as that might be cheaper than the postage.

Anyway, I got this book on the strength of this glowing review in the New York Times. That writer is spot-on in linking Yu with Douglas Adams, especially through TAMMY, a clear evolution of Marvin for a jaded audience. I enjoyed his rendering of time travel as an internal experience, how it works via particular gramatical structures, especially the present indefinite. However this is an asymmetric view of time, for it does not treat the foreknowledge one might gain from returning from the future.

It's well written, sometimes amusing, but a tad disappointing as it doesn't add up to much more than a rumination on father-son relationships. The discussion of his parents' experiences as migrants is too cursory.

The Town

/noise/movies | Link

I splurged my Palace Cinemas membership freebie at the 9:05pm screening at the dear old Verona. I've grown to like the refurbishment, especially now that the Academy Twin is history. The attraction was Ben Affleck's direction, having recently seen Gone Baby Gone.

Well, yeah. I'm less convinced about Affleck as an actor than as a director; perhaps he should have cast his brother again. This is essentially a heist movie, trying to evoke a sense of community, milking the product-of-where-you-came-from meme. It is solid but not as good as Gone Baby Gone; the extra fireworks rob it of much moral complexity, and it is tad too predictably macho. Casting Postlethwaite invites a losing comparison against The Usual Suspects.

Again the female characters are underwritten; one could imagine Claire (Rebecca Hall) being a bit ballsier rather than caving (to Doug, to the FBI, etc.), and what happened to Irish omerta with Krista?

The contrasting Fairfax reviews by Byrnes and Schembri must say something about how Sydneysiders and Melbournites view themselves. Dana Stevens is a bit more scathing.