Tag Archives: action

book review: matter

Matter is one of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. So it’s a far-future adventure full of interesting post-humanity and alien ways of living. There’s a group of people living in a gunpowder/artillery tech society on the 8th level of a Shellworld, and they’re at war with the similar folk on the 9th level. Now this Shellworld is maintained by aliens as habitats for these cultures. The aliens aren’t supposed to interfere technologically or what have you. Basically because it wouldn’t be very polite. But our viewpoint characters are three siblings from this primitive culture and their king/father has been assassinated to dastardly ends. One of these characters left long ago and is now a posthuman member of the Culture. One sibling is trying to get a hold of her to get her help, while the last is the prince-regent who’s oblivious to the fact that his regent is the guy who killed his king.

It’s a good adventure tale (and the ending is satisfyingly abrupt for someone like me who gets a little bored of action sequences in books) but the theme of the different layers of significance is what makes it compelling for me. Everything is insignificant at some level, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything. It seems like an important thing to remember sometimes.

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Now that I’m getting excited about heading to Nanjing time is dragging on a lot slower than I’d like. Also, I just reread Catch 22 and man what a book that is. I’d forgotten how well it worked. This was only my second time reading it (the first probably being back in my undergrad days) and the cacophony and chaos of the timeline and the impossibility of everything just made me so happy. “This is a brilliant piece of work” I kept on thinking.

Since I’ve started trying on occasion to take my writing seriously, the things I read have been shifting into new categories. The main new division (within things I like) is between “I could do that” and “I would love to be able to do that.” And the main thing that separates the two is energy. Huge amounts of bounding energy in the prose. The kind of thing that isn’t scene setting or describing each motion of a character but lines that describe someone and burst into action. Traditionally, I run out of actions. But I’m working on it.

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hongkong action theatre

I just watched the last of my 5 Wong Kar Wai (Wang Jia Wei in Mandarin) DVDs. I bought the set in Beijing and have been really good about spacing them out a bit. My least favourite was Ashes of Time which was a sword fighting kind of thing. I mean it was okay, but nothing great. And there was Days of Being Wild. That one was good, about a guy who treats women badly and is looking for his Filipino mother. I liked Happy Together better, which was about a couple of gay HKers in Argentina. Chungking Express is the most famous one and it’s neat how it is really two movies stuck together with the tiniest bit of glue. I love the cans of pineapple thing; if I was a character in a story that’s the kind of thing I’d want to do.

But my favourite movie as a whole was tonight’s: Fallen Angels. It had a killer in it, but it was no standard HK action flick. It was about how he works with a partner he never connects with. There’s also a mute character who breaks into businesses at night and assaults people into accepting his business. It feels like it’s going to do the Chungking Express thing and be two movies living on one disc, but it actually pulls them both together. These movies never really let you know where they’re going. I find myself just having to ride along with them and only think about it afterwards. You know, like everything else.

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