October 24, 2015

'The Heart Goes Last' - a winner of a novel by Margaret Atwood

WATKINS GLEN, New York - All of Margaret Atwood's books have a certain weirdness about them.

The Heart Goes Last is no exception.

Set in a near semi-dystopian future, it starts out calmly, with a couple living in their car. It's almost pedestrian in the way the tale unfolds. But like all of Atwood's works, you get hooked into the lives of the characters quickly.

A handful pages later, there is no way to put this book down.

The Heart Goes Last critiques how we deal with problems - personal and cultural - in society, today and maybe tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.

And like most Atwood tomes, the good people and the bad people shift roles back and forth, sometimes several times. It's not hard to follow, or swallow. But when the shifts come, they are unexpected.

The novel takes a dim view of our computerized lives, how easily we can be manipulated by authority, and how in the end, most people opt for safety and security over freedom.

Margaret Atwood
But in the process readers get to meet Marilyn Monroe and Elvis impersonators, criminals, oversexed couples and a charismatic leader named Ed.

Really, his name is Ed. Not grand wizard, just plain old Ed.

The Heart Goes Last is a good read, fast-paced, and offers lots of interesting life lessons/observations and cultural critiques.

It's on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

October 5, 2015

'The Martian' - a movie for the 21st Century

ACIDALIA PLANITIA, Mars - Okay, a dateline is supposed to be indicative of where the author wrote the story (or in this case blog). But, admittedly, I did not visit this off-planet location, where most of the action in the movie, The Martian takes place.

It's a whopper of an action-packed science fiction tale. But unlike Star Trek or Star Wars, this is based on real NASA-style science with enough special effects and drama to keep you in your seat for the more than 2 hours of running time for this film. 


The basic story and plot is simple enough. If you watch the movie trailer, you will get the drift. Unfortunately, the trailer gives away way too much. But I won't do that here.
Jeff Daniels

What I will say is that this movie is full of humor with the drama. And just when you think it is going to be predictable, it surprises.

The acting by Matt Damon and the balance of cast is superb. You should recognize most of the faces - even Jeff Daniels, who, I swear, is wearing the same suit he did as TV Anchor Will McAvoy on HBO's The Newsroom.

Matt Damon
The timing of the release of the movie at almost the same moment as scientists discovered water on Mars is as creepy as it is uncanny. As teenager I was steeped in novels by Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.  I dreamed of being an astronaut and going to Mars. I missed that spaceship a long time ago. 

But perhaps The Martian will help reignite space exploration by the U.S. Certainly the Chinese and other nations are passing us by. Or already have.

Interestingly, the Chinese space program plays a big role in this movie.

Recommended without reservation - a good movie and worth seeing on the big screen.