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Was that a movie?

Last night I went to see Flight of the Red Balloon (Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge). It seemed promising, an homage to The Red Balloon, starring Juliette Binoche, directed by someone from Taiwan, and with good ratings and quotes on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie starts with a reference to The Red Balloon, but quickly the balloon is left behind and it's occasional appearances later in the film have nothing to do with the the rest of the film. Much of the film is set in a small cluttered apartment in which Song (an asian nanny), the boy, his mother, and occasional visitors live moments in their ordinary lives. The characters make meaningless chit-chat in what seems like unedited real-time conversations. There is a small amount of conflict, but it is too slight and peripheral to save this film.

I might have forgiven the movie if I could have enjoyed Paris. However, the shots of the streets of Paris are too few and dreary.


Short stories

This evening I've been going on a short story binge.

I just finished reading las's In the Shadow of the Fryolater at The Town Drunk and couldn't help laughing.

The complete absorption of Emma's boyfriend Benny in his multi-player computer game reminds me a bit of one of the main characters of "Save Me Plz," which I heard today courtesy of EscpaePOD, after having read it recently in Realms of Fantasy. The reading was well-done, but having read the story so recently, the ending was still fresh in my mind. "Save Me Plz" is a cute story, but it only partially worked the second time.

I also listened to "Neils Bohr and the Sleeping Dane," (also on EscapePOD)a really unusual story about World War II, golem, and Neils Bohr. My only surprise was that this wasn't held for the upcoming PODCastle, their sister fantasy site. Although there was some discussion of science in this story, it didn't seem to be a science fiction story - at least to me.

Adventures in PODcast listening: Escape POD

I just recently subscribed to Escape POD. I've never listened to audio books, and barely listened to broadcast fiction on the radio. But with my recent forays into short fiction (thanks douglascohen for the impetus), I decided to give it a shot - after all, I saw that Escape POD had previously carried stories by the likes of Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress.

My first story was James Trimarco's "The Sundial Brigade." I'm now hooked on Escape POD! Great story and reading. The story is set in the distant future. Floods had ravaged Earth, and Martian colonists had come back to rescue Earth and the remaining people. But now the Martians want to experience what Earth was "really" like, and have set up museum cities to show what it was like to live in a certain place and time from Earth's past - and all the residents have to live "true to period" while always being under observation by the Martians.

The story-line drew me in and kept me listening eagerly until the end. The characters were well-motivated and plausible. Sufficient description made me feel like I was in the city with Antonio, without dragging down the story. I could probably read a novel set in this world!

I'm looking forward to my next listen from Escape POD.

On Vox: Don't miss out on Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain
Tobias S. Buckell
Tobias Buckell's first novel is an awesome science fiction novel, full of: swash-buckling adventure, steam punk, nanotechnology, and even a star ship.

More importantly, the characters have depth, seem plausible, and captivated my interest. And they're not all white! Actually, most are shades of brown (being either Aztec or Afro-Caribbean).

The preface to this book intrigued me, but then the first thirty pages seemed to drag. I started wondering if this was really a fantasy novel, and a bad mish-mash of cultures. I kept reading, however, for the promise of the preface, and was rewarded in spades, as the steam punk kicked in, adventure kicked into gear, and explanations that made sense were provided.

I'm looking forward to reading his second book, Ragamuffin.

Originally posted on

On Vox: The long touch of short stories

I used to read short stories fairly often. My teen years were spent with a subscription to "Fantasy and Science Fiction." Even later, I continued to read short stories collected in anthologies.

But in recent years I found myself reading almost exclusively novels. I stumbled upon the Vision anthology accidentally--My friend Kate Baggott won second prize in the 2007 University of Hertfordshire Writing Award, and I won a copy from her blog.

Since reading these stories, I now have a renewed interest in short stories. I picked up an issue of Maison Neuve, and might start reading science fiction short stories again.

Vision is an interesting anthology. The prize-winning short stories are all excellent. I loved some of the short-listed stories as well, but others not so much. Even when reading stories that did not work as well, however, I liked seeing what the author did with the vision theme. Sometimes the vision is an integral part of the story, as in the first prize "The Snow Child" by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, about a Finnish woman's vision of a child. Other times the vision is only one piece of the story, as in Kate Baggot's "The Three Wives," in which the third wife taps into the world of visions.

Originally posted on

On Vox: Curiously fascinating

I picked up the curious incident of the dog in the night-time based on a recommendation. The idea of a book told from the point of view of an autistic teenager seemed unusual.

What I didn't expect was such a fast-paced emotional read. I finished this book in less than a week, which is unusual for me these days. At first I was drawn to the story of this boy who is trying to figure out who murdered the neighbor's dog. And I loved the quirkiness - he decides whether he's going to have a good or bad day based on how many red and yellow cars he sees on the way to school - after all, it's no less arbitrary than someone deciding based on the weather (if that person spends the day inside).

But this book is much more than a mystery. Although we do learn "whodunit", we also go on an emotional roller coaster, as Christopher learns the truth about his family and explores outside his comfort zone.

Originally posted on


I haven't been writing much lately, but I have been reading.

  • John Scalzi's Old Man's War - When he turns 75, John Perry joins the colonial defense forces. He won't be able to return to Earth, but he's looking forward to having a body fit enough to defend humanity, and to the colonial property he'll get at the end of his tour of duty. This book has been nominated for both a Hugo and a Campbell. At first I enjoyed this humorous and fun book, but was surprised that it was up for awards.... but by the end there was no doubt to me that it deserves both nominations, and maybe the rewards (I haven't read all nominees).

  • Marjorie Liu(webpetals)'s Tiger Eye - A paranormal romance, I was expecting something like the second book in this series (Shadow Touch), which was heavy on the action-packed adventures of an x-men-like group and light on the romance. The romance played a much stronger role in this book, and the adventure was not as satisfying to me.

  • Sarah Monette (truepenny)'s Mélusine - Felix Harrowgate starts this book as a wizard, a member of the royal court, and lover of the king's brother. Mildmay the Fox goes by many names, and is a cat burglar for hire. Felix and Mildmay have their lives turned upside-down and intertwined. This book has been nominated for a Campbell. Parts of this book are deeply disturbing, dealing with rape and madness, but lighter moments kept me going at first, until I was drawn into the story and couldn't put the book down.

Currently I'm reading Marjorie Liu's The Read Heart of Jade (ARC - it's due out at the start of July). So far, it's satisfying on the adventure side, and the romance isn't unduly overwhelming.



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