Review: The Road Back; Rogue One; Goldenhand; Yellow Fever

The Road Back (Remarque) - Bleak, very bleak. Which is to be expected, given the subject matter--German soldiers returning home from WWI--but didn't make for an easy read, that's for sure. What I found most striking was the complete absence of religion, as well as near-absence of bed-rock love, aside from the camaraderie between some of the surviving soldiers. There's no larger framework into which the characters can fit what happened to them and so come to terms with it in the aftermath. (It makes for a very interesting contrast with The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, that's for sure.) But all in all, worth a read if you're interested in trying to understand how alienating the effects of war can be.

Star Wars: Rogue One - Easily the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy, although oddly enough it's weakest when it most tries to be a "Star Wars movie". If it had dropped the "abandoned/orphaned child trying to connect with/save their parent" storyline and gone purely war/heist movie the whole thing would've been stronger--it would've given more room to flesh out the side characters and perhaps smooth out the pacing a bit. (Also, the scene with the octopus was entirely gratuitous, geeze.) However: the CGI was well-executed, the planets were beautiful, the space battle at the end was quite well done (although the Red squadron cameos from episode 4 were a little distracting), and the droid was probably the best character in the movie.

But definitely worth seeing at least once, and it does do a nice job of explaining in-universe some of the things in episode 4 that were originally caused by technology/budgetary constraints--so good on the writers for managing that.

Goldenhand (Nix) - Okay, so this was a major disappointment. I've been a fan of Garth Nix's "Old Kingdom" series for years--I like the world-building, the characters, and the way he managed to keep each book compartmentalized enough that they didn't feel like prequels/sequels, but rather individual stories that happen to share premises and characters (well, aside from Lirael/Abhorsen, which is really just a single book split in two). That's not the case with this book. At all. It felt like a solid quarter of this book was spent either reiterating things from past books or (far too many times) previous scenes within the same book. Most of the book (I"m not going to call it a story) was spent simply maneuvering the characters into the same location so that they could fight an army assembled by a bit character from a previous book, only without any development of said character--or any of the others.

The prose was flat instead of solidly workmanlike, the romances were completely forced, and I only skimmed the last quarter of the book because I'd stopped caring at about the halfway mark, which was not the case with anything else I've read by Nix. Frankly, this felt like a book that was forced by the publisher, with the writer jamming together two ideas what would've worked as a couple of short stories (perhaps a novella, for the one), but just didn't fit into any kind of compelling whole. Which is really sad. I bought this book sight-unseen because I enjoyed all the past ones so much. I think the next one I'll just borrow from the library--if that. (And if there is a next one.)

Yellow Fever (SPN) - To end this on a happier note: this really is a very convincing episode. Dean's growing terror is played mostly funny, but also mostly straight. The subtle touches are especially nice, like how he keeps grabbing at Sam's sleeve when frightened/startled, but then will make himself let go a moment later. Hallucinated!Lilith is properly creepy, the snippet from Gumby is a nice touch, we get to see socked Winchester feet, and the visuals are stunning at times. Also, the ghost's brother feels fully alive, which is impressive given he gets only one brief expository scene.