Archive of ‘Review’ category

Sneakpeek (4): Who-ology Review (S1: 9,10)

I love writing these Doctor Who reviews. Here’s a piece from my upoming review, which you can find over at Reel World Theology sometime this month. Follow me on Twitter @Laura_Fissel, or Reel World Theology @ReelWorldTheo to make sure you catch the whole thing when it’s released! BE WARNED: SPOILERS GALORE. 

CHILD [OC]: Mummy? Mummy? Please let me in, mummy. Please let me in, mummy.
(A little hand comes through the letter box.)
DOCTOR: Are you all right?
CHILD [OC]: Please let me in.
(Nancy throws something that breaks, and the hand withdraws.)
NANCY: You mustn’t let him touch you!
DOCTOR: What happens if he touches me?
NANCY: He’ll make you like him.
DOCTOR: And what’s he like?
NANCY: I’ve got to go.
DOCTOR: Nancy, what’s he like?
NANCY: He’s empty.
This is the fulcrum of the story. Our “big bad” here (Whedon reference: check) is this child, once a little boy named Jamie. Nancy warns the Doctor that though the boy looks alive, he is actually a hollow, dangerous thing that can pass his condition to others by touch. Throughout the episode, we watch as this “empty child” searches for his origin (“are you my mummy?”). Each time he instinctively reaches out to connect, he only manages to spread his emptiness. The Doctor discovers a whole hospital full of people to whom this has happened. They all bear the same head-trauma, scar on their hand, and gas mask that is not covering their face as much as it has become their face. They are an extension of “Jamie,” who unwittingly controls them all.

What better setting to explore real-world brokeness than WWII-era London, at the height of the London Blitz? The city is dark and dust-covered. Sirens are wailing, warning people to get to bomb shelters. The troubled Nancy is surrounded by starving kids. The four-year-old Jamie, now our “empty child,” was killed. Even as Moffat takes us into a fictional story about aliens and time travel, the historical setting presents the undeniable reality that mankind’s brokenness has catastrophic consequences.

Sneakpeek (3): Who-ology Review (S1:8)

Today’s writing project combines two of my greatest loves: the Gospel and Doctor Who.
I am especially thrilled with how this review is shaping up for the next in my Who-ology series. Here I offer a rough rough rough cut of a couple of paragraphs from the piece. Look for the finished whole sometime towards the end of the month over at Reel World Theology. In the meantime, enjoy!

…there is Someone [who] is trustworthy to cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

If you’re like me, that verse has long lost its potency, thanks to the years and years of being quoted at when struggling through painful life circumstances. But let’s hold its truth up to something that we can’t accuse of being touchy-feely or hypothetical. Contrarily, it is raw and tangible (and God knew we needed it): Jesus willingly put himself into experiences just as dark, painful, and inexplicable as the ones we are facing. Not only did he experienced ultimate physical and emotional pain, but spiritual as well: “Why?” he agonized to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, literally sweating blood. And then again on the cross. But Hebrews tells us that he trusted in the end goal, the eternal perspective, and saw suffering through “for the joy set before him.” The Joy–that’s us.



Review: UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

This book is enthralling from page one. The telling of 95095130Olympic athlete-then WWII bomber-then castaway-then Pacific POW survivor Louis Zamperini is fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring.
Hillenbrand deftly unfolds Zamperini’s journey even as she paints a picture of WII in the Pacific and POW camps in Japan through the stories of the men who experienced them. Zamperini’s story is the center around which this book revolves, and it accomplishes its tribute to him while also honoring the lives of lesser known men who shared similar experiences to Zamperini.
I especially appreciated how Hillenbrand made WII history feel so accessible. I found myself riveted by long passages detailing B-24 aircraft used in WWII, and the missions men ran in them.
In addition to Zamperini’s incredible story, I suspect that Hillenbrand’s own fascination and passion for this project are to credit for the engaging nature of this read.

Highly recommended, and much more so than the 2014 film adaptation. Though a solid film, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is, to me, an incomplete picture of Zamperini’s journey.

Review: XENOCIDE & CHILDREN OF THE MIND, by Orson Scott Card

86489780765304742-lIf it seems unfair to review two books at the same time–then I do apologize. I don’t mean to offend, but I feel so similarly about them, and I read them so close together (via audiobook), that what I have to say about one, I have to say about the other.

I have to begin with this: I respect Card as an author. Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow have been in the top echelon of my favorites since the day my teenage self read them.

In both Xenocide and Children of the Mind, Card does something that feels quite different from these two favorites of mine, and also from Speaker for the Dead (book 2 of the Ender series, which I thoroughly enjoyed): instead of the moral or philosophical theme being the undercurrent of the story, Card uses these novels to directly deal with an array of philosophical ideas, one of which is this tiny, uncomplicated query: “what makes a person a person?”

Sheesh. Talk about light reading.

Honestly–Card poses some fascinating questions and presents inventive, well-thought responses to them. The ongoing plot of these two books–which include a continuing cast and situation–is intricate and complex. It juggles the personal growth and interpersonal relationships of about 15-20 people while handling huge moral quandaries. There are merits to these books, I assure you.

But I did not enjoy them very much, and certainly not as much as I enjoyed the first two of the series (Ender’s Game, Speaker). I think Xenoicde and Children could be absolutely riveting to a great many readers, but for my part: I found myself drifting, almost bored, through the long, scientific and philosophical conversations the characters exchange the majority of the novel. We are a party to the intellectual and moral struggling of almost every character, and although I can appreciate (to a degree) being allowed into the process, I found many of these long stretches of dialogue to be unnecessary and self-indulgent.

What kept me interested in the story were the characters I had come to know and love over the course of the series, and the relationships they formed. These connections felt overshadowed, and so diminished, by long philosophical discussions and scientific explanations. Perhaps it comes down to this: these novels had me so much in my head that when I wanted to feel with the characters, I found it difficult to emotionally connect.

I feel a deep emotional attachment to Ender Wiggin, the title character of the series, and so I know that Card can pull that kind of characterization off. I greatly missed the opportunity to form similar bonds with the characters from these novels, who were nonetheless intriguing.

I would recommend this series as a whole, but Xenocide and Children of the Mind were difficult for me to get through.

Nerdy Thursday: DOCTOR WHO: THE VAULT by Marcus Hearn

Christmas morning, I ripped back festive wrapping to reveal the brilliant blue of heavy, hardbound Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn. From the moment I cracked the cover, this book enthralled me in a way I did not anticipate.tumblr_mvef4ushg21qijoeyo1_500This lexicon for the first 50 years of Doctor Who is impressive in its scope and riveting in its presentation. Beginning in the 1960s, each page is bursting with text and visual artifacts that tell the story of the show’s development from year to year. For a fan, it is thrilling to see sketches of costumes, memos between producers, and photographs of the first show-related merchandise. But as an artist, this book has captivated me on another level.

Whatever else it is, Doctor Who has always been a collaborative effort. Combining the passion, skill, innovation and daring of countless people (many of them unlikely in their time in terms of age, ethnicity or sex), Doctor Who is an amalgamation of people’s creative dreams and efforts. And not only within the production of the show! Artists of all kinds from across the years have created beautiful things of their own in response to a show that has moved and inspired them. Hearn’s well-crafted book showcases this inspiring aspect of Doctor Who–once simple and unassuming, now a far-reaching cultural phenomenon.

This book reminds me that ordinary people can create extraordinary things; that art can be powerfully uniting; and that whatever the reach of my creative legacy, every artistic act has impact.

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