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Wednesday Worlds of Danger

What I've Just Finished Reading

The Wheel of Ice is a Doctor Who novel by Stephen Baxter! It's all right! It reads like watching an episode of Doctor Who, only a little slower and with some of the drawbacks you would expect from a novelization of a TV show. In particular, the characterization is a little too -- cautious? Heavy-handed? Bound by fixed phrases and articles of clothing? I don't know what it is exactly, but I've seen it in the few other franchise tie-ins that I've read (Star Trek novels) and it's weirdly recognizable, even when it's being used for characters I've never actually seen on TV.

The best parts of The Wheel of Ice are the setting, a fairly likable semi-dystopian industrial settlement on one of Jupiter's moons, a brief description of the painful advent of consciousness in a manufactured life form, and the Doctor's companions, Jamie and Zoe. They are from some iteration of the classic TV show, but I had not met them before. Jamie is from the past and Zoe is from the future, and I like that Zoe finds it a little harder to adjust to being in the past than Jamie does to the future. He seems to have learned pretty quickly to take new information and his own ignorance in stride and adapt accordingly, while Zoe's futuristic STEM training has left her seriously resistant to the perspectives of her ancestors. They make a good team. I wish Stephen Baxter hadn't taken it upon himself to phonetically spell Jamie's Scottish accent -- he's obviously capable of giving him a distinctive voice using word choice and sentence rhythms -- but oh well. (There is also a Scottish computer voice interface, which I'm pretty sure is some kind of running sci-fi joke).

Other things: a long line of Josephines, the Doctor trying to be kind to a massive alien intelligence in agony, Zoe being awkward and cute with a kid, the tragic inevitability of death as a necessary condition of the present, lots of drive-by references to various Doctor Who aliens (and the Silurians). The pacing could have been better and the antagonists were pretty boilerplate, but I still enjoyed it, and I look forward to meeting Jamie and Zoe in TV form.

What I'm Reading Now

Sense and Sensibility is just as good as all the other Jane Austen books. Every sentence is a gem, and the Dashwood girls and their flawed, (mostly) good-hearted friends are incredibly lovable. Marianne frequently steals the show with her intense, So Important feelings on everything under the sun, but Elinor, who has to be cautious and practical on behalf of her mother as well as her sisters, can be quietly heartbreaking under her deadpan humor.

A few chapters ago, I would have said it was even frothier and more cheerful than Emma, but a character has just been revealed to be much, much more careless and dangerous than even the many red flags in the text suggested. It's not safe to be Marianne in the Dashwoods' world, and the reminder is kind of shattering. But Sense and Sensibility goes right on being hopeful and funny despite it, because what else can you do?

What I'm Going to Read Next

The rest of The Aerodrome, Pride and Prejudice, maybe this local-author fantasy novel I bought, a bunch of other things; I'm not sure.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ramasi
Jul. 29th, 2015 08:09 pm (UTC)
I always thought Emma is the most cheerful Austen novel. And Mansfield Park the least cheerful. I blame it on Emma being the richest of the protagonists, and Fanny the poorest, so with Emma the love story just doesn't have the same sense of urgency - if it doesn't work out, it's only the love story that doesn't work out, her whole life doesn't depend on it.

I think I liked Marianne more, even though as I real person she would be maddening. Mostly I like how in her careless, self-centred way she cares so much about her sister.

I love the minor characters in this so much. That whole family they hang out with, I don't remember their names.
evelyn_b
Jul. 29th, 2015 09:59 pm (UTC)
Mrs. Jennings, Sir John, and the Palmers! They are all so great. And the Miss Steeles, too, flawed as they are. And Col. Brandon is a deeply decent guy (so far).

Emma does have the least to lose -- she even says outright that she's happy to be a rich old maid, and I don't see any reason not to believe her. She might easily go on being comfortable and self-satisfied for another sixty years.

Marianne is self-centered in a normal, youthful way, but she's a good soul. Her immaturity is of a very different kind from Emma's, but just as nuanced and maybe a touch more sympathetic.
lost_spook
Jul. 30th, 2015 08:21 am (UTC)
I love Sense & Sensibility! I mean, I love them all really, but I have a soft spot for it, as it was the first Austen I read as a teenager, and I think the first real non-abridged classic, and here was this great thing all about three sisters (I was one of three sisters), and even though probably the rest are more polished, in many ways I'm still the fondest of S&S.

(The 1996 film of it is pretty lovely, too. Actually, the most recent BBC adaptation was great as well. But definitely the best film Austen I've seen, and I don't mean that as a slight in any way.)

(I may have seen way too many Austen adaptations, really. :-D)
evelyn_b
Jul. 30th, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
What's your least favorite Austen adaptation? Or do you enjoy them all too much to have a least favorite?

I'm hoping to watch a bunch after I get done with the re-read. I haven't seen that many -- just Pride and Prejudice and then another Pride and Prejudice I didn't like as much, and Clueless.

S&S is so enjoyable, and just a little scary, and the relationship between the sisters (and among, though Margaret has less to do) is so satisfying. I cared a lot less about the "suitors" in this one than in e.g. Persuasion, for some reason, except for Willoughby, who caused me to say "What the fuck, Willoughby?" out loud in a Smoothie King by turning back up again where he had no business in the world to be. But the Dashwoods and the rest of their friends are just great.

I'm not sure yet which Austen book I'm the fondest of, because I have liked them all so much.
lost_spook
Jul. 30th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
What's your least favorite Austen adaptation? Or do you enjoy them all too much to have a least favorite?

Ahaha, no I don't enjoy them all that much!! These are all the ones I have seen, as far as I can remember. I might get some of the dates muddled, but hopefully they'll be identifiable:

Mansfield Park

Nobody has done a good MP yet! This is a shame. i'm sure you could. You'd just need a bit of courage and willingness to go with the book.

The 1980s one is v stilted, though it has some good moments and a v good Mrs Norris and Mary Crawford. The 2007 ITV one with Billie Piper was just forgettable. The film (1999?), however, is well worth watching, but it uses Fanny as a double for Jane Austen, completely changing her character. It works in itself, but it isn't a good way to adapt MP. Somebody needs to make it and just love Fanny for herself and trust a good actor to bring out her best qualities. *cough*

Sense & Sensibility (1996) = ♥ It has Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant, and everybody is great and the smaller roles are played by people like Robert Hardy, Elizabeth Spriggs (has no rivals for Mrs Jennings, obv) & Gemma Jones, and they give Margaret stuff to do too. (Has one key scene missing, but I can see why.)

Sense & Sensibility (most recent BBC - 2009???), also lovely. (Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield in the leads, I think, with Dan thingumy from Downton and David Morrissey. (4 eps)

I haven't watched any earlier BBC adaptations of it.

ITV Northanger Abbey (2007) is an adorable thing of adorableness. Some of Isabella and Catherine's reading material gets a bit extreme (The Monk, Andrew Davies??) but it's a delight. With elicity Jones and JJ Feild. *awards it all the hearts*

BBC 1980s NA is a weird thing. It has a great cast, but nothing about it works, sadly. Except the final kiss. It's not bad watching, but this one time ITV beat the BBC.


Pride and Prejudice (1995) is the all conquering adaptation to beat all adaptations, but you knew that. The 2005 film has some nice stuff, but it can't begin to compare. Also it does not have as good a Mr Bennet, obviously a major crime.

The BBC 1980 P&P is quite nice, but v stilted - v much theatre. It has some good stuff, but nothing that raises it above the 1995 at any point.


Emma The latest BBC adaptation with Romola Garai (2010???) is the best I've seen. V in-depth, moves quite slowly, but all v nicely done.

The film with Gwyneth Paltrow is not great. Even Ewan McGregor isn't good! It does have Jeremy Northam, though. But, yeah. :-/

The ITV 1996 with Kate Beckinsale I cannot now remember a thing about. I think I might have wound up a little disappointed with it? But it was still better than the film.


The BBC 1995 Persuasion is the one for me! Lots of people do like the ITV 2007 one, but it's just not right in comparison for me. The 1995 has Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, and is perfect.

But it is always possible I was unfair to the later one because of me being in love with the earlier version and also it had Rupert Penry-Jones in, who had played a character who'd wound up being v tiresome in Spooks, so I didn't feel like seeing him in anything else just then.

Again, I've not seen any of the earlier BBC versions. Maybe one day! They are usually quite stilted, but frequently also have some great turns from the supporting cast.


who caused me to say "What the fuck, Willoughby?" out loud in a Smoothie King by turning back up again where he had no business in the world to be.

Not quite what any of the Dashwoods said, but pretty much everybody's sentiments in the book, too! :loL:
newmoonstar
Jul. 31st, 2015 07:50 am (UTC)
Oh dear, someone is mentioning Jane Austen adaptations- must squee! And someone else has seen the older TV versions! It's a miracle! *excessive squeeing*

I wholeheartedly endorse the 95 film versions of S&S and Persuasion! Though the one caveat I have in my otherwise worshipful adoration of the 95 Persuasion is that you really have to have read the book before you watch it, otherwise it's impossible to follow the plot. That was actually the reason I read the novel in the first place- to try & make sense of the movie, which I could tell was very beautiful, but confusing! (It was the first Jane Austen I read as a teenager, & I'm so glad I did, because I fell in love with it, and it's now one of my all-time favorite books. ♥) But despite that small flaw, I still recommend the 95 film to people over the 2007 version! Better they get intrigued & read the novel like I did, rather than watch that thing that called itself Persuasion, but just wasn't anything like it.

Do give a try to the 1971 ITV adaptation though! Despite the dreadful, historically inaccurate sets & costumes, it's an extremely clear & well-done adaptation, and the cast is superb. I like the leads as much as Amanda Root & Ciaran Hinds, actually, though I can't remember their names any more!

And I know it probably makes me a terrible person, but the 1980 version of Pride & Prejudice is actually my favorite.

Also, 'WTF Willoughby?!' needs to be put on a T shirt, lol. ;)
lost_spook
Jul. 31st, 2015 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see all the really old adaptations, but I have a lot of old TV I wnat to see and the literary classics do seem to suffer from a particular brand of stilted theatricality that the other old TV series don't. But not so much that I don't want to see them! There's always something awesome about all of them.

The 1980 P&P was lent to me by somebody whose favourite it is, so you're not alone. I enjoyed it, but both it and the 2005 serve to show just what an excellent TV adaptation the 1995 is, technically. But Elizabeth Garvie and her Mr Darcy are both v nice, and I was totally amused by Edward Arthur actually trying to make Mr Hirst a notable character. I just don't think I can say that it had anyone who was better than the 1995 (well, apart from having Mr Hirst be non-negligable!). But I enjoyed it. I just had to tell my friend that, nope, 1995 version still rules! (It has the best Mr Bennet, now come on! And since it's Mr Bennet I'm in love with... ;-p)

I did enjoy the 1980s MP, but it was very frustrating - in many ways, it's the best adaptation of the three, which made the flaws in it rather annoying. It's so nearly there and then it isn't. I think if they could only have got younger actors for Fanny and Edmund, they might have done it. Still, as I said, some lovely character performances, and also some surprisingly great dancing.

But all the adaptations have something cool in them. I do mainly enjoy the BBC versions the best (I like multiple episodes!!) and, actually, some of these aren't films - the 1995 Persuasion was a feature length BBC2 effort, and the three 2007 'films' were in fact ITV adaptations, too. The S&S film is the only one where I prefer a film version; I'm not a fan of things getting a bit too Hollywood, but Emma Thompson and Ang Lee did a wonderful job; it's the definitive one for me too, even though the last BBC one was very enjoyable & a nice alternative adaptation to have. But I seem to remember not enjoying the film of Emma at all, and the film Mansfield Park is really good as a film, but not as an adaptation. (Fanny is not Jane Austen, despite the whole turning down the proposal incident. I forget the actor's name, but I love her performance, but such a confident, witty Fanny just fights with the text.)

Anyway, yes, yay! (Well, you KNOW I will watch all the old TV quite happily. :loL:)

Also, 'WTF Willoughby?!' needs to be put on a T shirt, lol.

And then given out to all the S&S characters to reveal at key plot moments. :lol:
evelyn_b
Aug. 1st, 2015 04:29 am (UTC)
This is an amazing list. So many adaptations! The ones that have been recommended to me the most are the Emma with Romola Garai and the '96 Sense and Sensibility. I will have to see the adorable ITV Northanger Abbey and the perfect BBC Persuasion, too.

And I'm curious about these stilted BBC past productions. The only stagy vintage BBC thing I've seen (besides Original Who) is I, Claudius and I loved it, so hmmm. But I doubt the Jane Austen adaptations will attempt that kind of over-the-topness.

Somebody needs to make it and just love Fanny for herself and trust a good actor to bring out her best qualities.

Fanny is the kind of character a lot of creative people seem to bristle at, for reasons that are understandable, but yes. She needs sympathy and understanding, not rewrites to make her perkier (and/or Jane Austen).
lost_spook
Aug. 1st, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
*nods over Fanny*

And I should probably put in a disclaimer or something before you get too high expectations of the 1995 Persuasion and wind up hating it. (I know somebody who finds it very annoying, but they're very hard on book adaptations for not including every last word.)
newmoonstar
Jul. 31st, 2015 07:25 am (UTC)
I bought a copy of The Wheel of Ice last year because it was in the bargain bin for $2 & never got around to reading it. Maybe once I finish some more Third Doctor episodes I'll get around to reading the novels again. (So much Doctor Who! What's a fangirl to do?)

I really liked reading Sense & Sensibility. I always felt sympathetic toward both Elinor & Marianne, and one of the things I love about the 95 film adaptation is how it featured the sisters relationship as the central focus. The two television adaptations may be more scrupulously faithful to the events of the novel, but I don't at all mind condensing things to make them better suited to the pacing of a film- that's the art within adapting something to another media, I feel. A few years ago I did a massive watch-a-thon of every Jane Austen adaptation ever made, & I usually preferred the films to the miniseries, despite the fact that TV minis can include more of the novel because of the extra run time. But I don't have anything against stagey old TV, and really loved the 80s versions of P&P and MP, and the 70s version of Persuasion. (Just ignore the day-glo colored costumes in the latter miniseries- it was 1971, and costume designers didn't know any better!)

evelyn_b
Aug. 1st, 2015 04:36 am (UTC)
Day-glo costumes! O: Well, I guess I'll have to look at that at some point. (I will probably watch some of the other ones first, unless Day-Glo Persuasion is available for free on YouTube.

I've heard rumors of a Hollywood Pride & Prejudice (1940s or 50s, maybe?) that moved the time setting to mid-late Victorian era, simply because the filmmakers didn't like the boring Regency fashions and wanted everyone in massive ballgowns. But I've never actually seen it -- was it on your watch-a-thon?

So much Doctor Who! What's a fangirl to do?

It's the best problem! :D
osprey_archer
Aug. 4th, 2015 02:39 am (UTC)
Commenting quite belatedly! Your comment that it's not safe to be Marianne in the Dashwoods' world reminded me of this post about Sense & Sensibility, but I kept not being on the computer where I have it bookmarked so I could link it...

Also I really enjoyed the recent Sense & Sensibility miniseries. Marianne and Elinor live in a cottage by the sea, and it's absolutely gorgeous. (Also the acting and so forth are good. But the cottage! The cottage! The sea!)
evelyn_b
Aug. 4th, 2015 04:26 am (UTC)
Interesting! It might have reminded you because the "Someone Else" in that conversation is actually me, trying to be anonymous on an anonymous forum. :)

I love the sea! And potentially, cottages! So I should probably watch that miniseries at some point. I have just picked up the Kate Winslet version from the library, so I will probably see that one first. But there will be time!

osprey_archer
Aug. 4th, 2015 02:19 pm (UTC)
Ha! Well, no wonder it reminded me of you then. YA dystopia writers could learn something from Jane Austen: they might not to be quite as subtle as she is, because it's very easy to miss the grimness underpinning lots of her stories, but I think a little more subtlety would make a lot of YA utopias both more believable and more creepy. There's a lot of potential in unspoken rules that have devastating consequences if they're transgressed.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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