Banned Book Month is over! Novel Ideas returns with the granddaddy of military science fiction, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Or possibly Bobby H. In this week’s episode we discuss the politics of authors as represented by their books, the lack of characterization in this book, the strange lack of war in a book about war, and how despite a paucity of women, this book still acknowledges women better than most classic sci fi. We also talk about the fun, if not so good, movie, colorful windbags, people and their similarity to potatoes, puppies, and other “P” words, and how we would react to giant spiders holding guns.
The music bump this week is “The Ballad of Rodger Young” by Frank Loesser, the sweetest sound in the galaxy.
This is definitely a Ben book rather than a Gabs book. Be warned, there are two chapters of actual war in this book about war, most of the rest is conversation.
Gabs: 7/10 for someone looking for science fiction, 4/10 for someone who doesn’t usually read that genre.
Ben: 9/10 for someone like me, which is to say someone with a prior interest in military minutiae and science fiction. Then again, this is one of my favorite books. Maybe closer to 7/10 for a generic sci fi fan.
Welcome to Middle Earth (or possibly New Zealand), as we discuss The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien this week on Novel Ideas. This is an obscure fantasy tale with an even more obscure feature length movie that no one has seen. Also, the Peter Jackson movie that everyone in the world has seen. In this episode, we cover the big issues, such as: world building, the logical way to divide an epic story in three parts, and the lack of female characters. We also cover more philosophical questions, like whether elves bang, if Gandalf is shy, and Tom Bombadil’s ADHD. I also attempted a tweak with my audio processing, so if it sounds weird on your listening device of preference, please leave a comment.
The music bumps are from Howard Shore’s excellent score to the movie version of Fellowship, specifically the theme that probably comes to mind when you think of that soundtrack.
We went and saw the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games” and probably unsurprisingly, we have thoughts about it. A general warning before we get into specific comments on the movie: there will be spoilers here. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to find out about how it’s different than the book, then don’t read this yet. (Although if you have read the book, then you should check our podcast on it below!)
Gabs: Overall, as an adaptation, the movie does a pretty good job. Anyone who was overly offended by adaptations of “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” will largely not have the same issues here. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this particular adaptation is better than anything you can find in the Harry Potter movie pantheon. There are not the same completely pointless changes and the feel and tone overall works with the tone of the book, unlike the completely bizarre teen romance created from the awesome creepy mystery of “The Half Blood Prince.”
Ben: I agree that it is a solid adaptation of the book into film. No major issues with it, just a couple of minor ones, and I’m almost afraid to mention them because I don’t want to turn this into a catalog of fanboy nitpicking. My first thought is that it was completely unnecessary to cut to a shot of Gale’s face after Katniss leaves District 12 (as you can tell because we didn’t talk about Gale at all in our podcast coverage. He’s not important to the first book!). I thought that during the training period they should have focused a little bit more on the strategy that they had as a team instead of making spontaneous decisions in the heat of the moment – such as Katniss and Peeta holding hands during the tribute parade and Peeta throwing the weight in training.
Gabs: The movie added some elements that worked well for the transition to screen, such as having Caesar Flickerman explaining certain aspects of the games or strategies of the tributes. This was a good way to deliver exposition without making it obvious and helping any viewers who hadn’t read the books. Some of the exposition was clunky, like Haymitch telling Katniss things about sponsors or the mines under the platforms, which she would obviously already know. The added thread of Seneca Crane’s interactions with President Snow did a great job of displaying the feelings of the Capitol and gives us some dramatic presence for his death in the next film.
Ben: I didn’t like the casting for Gale. As soon as he walked on screen, I immediately hated him. Thresh was far more articulate in the movie because his two five-word sentences were actually complete sentences. I was disturbed that after Thresh brained the girl against the side of the Cornucopia, the audience around us fucking cheered. It helped support the point from our podcast about American audiences having the potential for enjoying bloodlust entertainment.
Gabs: One of my main beefs centered around Rue. The actress did a fine job but we didn’t see anything of her. All the information she provides Katniss with about District 11 is cut out and it really undermines one of themes of the book, that all the other districts have it just as bad. The other weak point about Rue was that it made her death a lot less meaningful. We’ve seen her utter a handful of lines over the span of five minutes. Why should we care? The movie did seem to be driving some of the Roman Empire stuff home pretty hard. I particularly liked the end of Seneca Crane. He wasn’t killed outright, but shoved in a room and presented with a bowl of nightlock. Honor suicide. How very Roman.
This a book podcast so we don’t want to say too much more about the movie and we remind you to check out our more extended thoughts about the book the movie is based on in our previous post. As we will probably say many, many times in the future: the book is always better.