Novel Into Film

You knew it was coming. The annual, what books are being made into films this year segment of the blog. If you have been watching television you may have already been seeing the trailers for some of the upcoming spring movies. So here are the movies coming out this year. Please let me know if I have missed any.

March 4, 2011
Book by Alex Flinn

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
July 15, 2011
Book by J.K. Rowling

Winnie the Pooh
July 15, 2011
Book by A.A. Milne

Mr. Popper's Penguins
August 12, 2011
Book by Richard and Florence Atwater

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
December 9, 2011
Book by Brian Selznick

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules
Book by Greg Kinney

The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn
December 23, 2011
Book by Herge

Breaking Dawn
November 18, 2011
Book by Stephanie Meyers

Movies currently optioned or in production:
(italicized titles are currently in production and are a go)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

Across the Universe Book Review

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy has given up everything she has ever known, Earth, friends, Jason, in order to help colonize another planet. The one catch, it will take 300 years to get there. Wait, 301. So Amy and her mother and father are cryogenically frozen. But something goes terribly wrong and Amy is woken too early, 50 years too early. By the time they reach Centauri, Amy will be an old woman or possibly dead. She may never see her parents again.

Also on board are over two thousand workers who live on the ship as it hurtles through space toward their destination. After a terrible plague decimates the population, the people of the ship set up a system of control using leaders. Elder is training to be the next leader of Godspeed. He never questioned the way things were on the ship until Amy wakes up. Only Amy realizes that people should now walk around like zombies, Eldest runs the ship like a dictator, someone has changed Earth's history in the computers, and someone is trying to kill those who are frozen just like they tried to kill her.

Unlike some people, I make a very big distinction between science fiction and fantasy. Sci-fi is not fantasy for it doesn't contain magic and oh how I love some good old-fashioned sci-fi. Beth Revis does a stupendous job of bringing this world to life, the world of the Godspeed. Can you imagine living on a ship your entire life where you never felt a breeze, where the inside air is the same as the air outside, of never seeing the sun or moon or stars, of knowing about mountains only through pictures? Revis paints such a vivid picture of life aboard this ship and the reader can wholly relate to Amy who nearly goes mad with the idea of being trapped aboard a ship that does not contain any of those things that she loves.

My only criticism was in that I guessed who the "bad guy" was pretty early on. Some other things were obvious as well, but that is to be expected for we are Amy and we understand that people should not be walking around as zombies, so we feel her frustration and anger as she tries to get Elder to understand that things are not "normal". People do not act this way. This is a story of realization and discovery and asks the question, what lengths would you go to in order to make people happy? This is classic sci-fi with all the necessary elements with a rolling plot and impeccable timing and I look forward to hearing the author speak in Raleigh this week.

On a side note, the cover of this book is fascinating as it is double sided. I'll be honest, I may not have picked up this book if the kissing girl and guy had been showing. Take that book, I would not have picked it up. I don't like romance stories. But the cover with the ship schematics on it...that grabbed my attention.

Under the Jolly Roger Book Review

Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber by L.A. Meyer

Jacky Mary Faber is up to her old tricks. After leaving Boston in chaos, she signs on to a whaler, eventually finding her way back to London and her beloved Jaimy. Instead she finds Jaimy in the arms of another woman. Jacky's usual impetuousness send her running straight into the arms of a press gang and soon Midshipman Jacky Faber finds herself and her womanhood up for grabs. Being Jacky, she soon finds herself in a world of trouble that makes her a Lieutenant and then a Captain and eventually, for it was inevitable, a privateer with her own ship.

My dear readers, you need to begin reading this series, because I am going to continue reviewing them and as much as I don't want to give things away, I can't stop reading and writing about it. These books are so much fun. Jacky is wonderfully misbehaved and the trouble she gets herself into is delicious. L.A. Meyer's attention to detail made me smile. I don't even know if everything described in the book is what a real sailor would do, but there is such an air of authenticity, that real or not, I believe it.

I think I am jealous of L.A. Meyer though. He has found such a wonderful character in Jacky, a character that a reader wouldn't mind following for years and years. Considering how much she has accomplished in three books (six years), one can only imagine what she will do in a lifetime. That is, if she doesn't find herself at the end of a hangman's noose. I am jealous that he found such a strong voice and brilliant plot ideas.

Please someone, say I am not the only one who has been reading these books!

Dark Materials: Reflecting on Dystopian Themes in Young Adult Literature

In December the New York Times ran an opinion peace regarding Dystopian young adult fiction and the reasoning behind it. The opinions expressed by writers and educators are as follows:

Paolo Bacigalupi, author of 'Ship Breaker', believes that the obsession with dystopia is because young people see the truth in the world around them and want that honesty and truth-telling in their fiction.

Maggie Stiefvater, author of the 'Shiver' trilogy differs in her opinion, stating that rather than truth, teens are looking for escapism. These dystopian worlds are not theirs and for that reason, they are enjoyable.

Jay Parini, poet and novelist and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College says, "They [teens] feel trapped, forced into a world of tests that humiliate and unnerve them. And so we have "The Hunger Games” books by Suzanne Collins, or any number of young adult novels that eerily reflect aspects of our current world -- or the least attractive aspects of this world."

Scott Westerfeld, author of the 'Uglies' series and 'Leviathan' is under the impressions that teens are intrigued by the idea that the "system", the very thing that gives them rules and regulations, may fall apart. What an idea that in the end, all those tests and rules don't matter because it is about survival in the end.

Andrew Clements, author of 'Frindle' and most recently 'Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of School' series believes that in a world where we have video game death and constant news feeds, the world is darker and in consequence, so are readers. It is the same as reading horror stories, we live in a scary world, therefore we create and read stories that are even more terrifying.

Lisa Rowe Fraustino, an associate professor at Eastern Connecticut State University proffers that we as humans find some kind of comfort in the darkness. "The more we understand how small and powerless we really are against the immense forces that control our existence, the more we yearn to feel meaningful."

Finally, Michelle Ann Abate professor and author of 'Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism' raises the questions "Is the role of these books to educate young people about the world in which they live, including its unpleasant aspects. Or, is it their responsibility to shield children from such elements?"

As for this blogger and writer and lover of Dystopia since I was twelve, I think that it is that Dystopian sci-fi asks the right questions, or more importantly THE question. What If? It is a question that scientists and philosophers and writers have been asking for thousands of years. The question has spawned great literature, momentous scientific achievements, and allowed people to dream of a future different from their own reality. Dystopian sci-fi is the darker side of that question, but it is still the same one. What if, in the future, we run out of a gas? What if the sanctity of life was completely taken away? What if our obsession with beauty and cosmetic surgery was taken to a point of normality? Teens think about these things all the time. They wonder what their world will be like. In the news we watch the rise and fall of nations and leaders, the destruction from a bomb, the constant talk of climate change, and teens wonder, what will their reality hold. Dystopian sci-fi is not a truth, it is one author's answer to one question, but is a question that must be asked and my favorite part of being a fiction writer is that I can answer that question.

Why do you think Dystopian sci-fi is so popular?

Brain Jack Book Review

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

In the not too distant future, the world is on the brink of war. A cyber war. Unknown enemies have destroyed Las Vegas, leaving behind a nuclear wasteland, Neuro-transmitters are all the rage, but seriously addicting, and terrorists threaten national security through hacking. Seventeen-year-old Sam, hacker extraordinaire, is the best at what he does, so good that he is enlisted to work for National Security, fending off would be hackers and hopefully preventing another incident like Vegas. But there is another threat, one that no one expects and this time the enemy is themselves.

In the vein of M.T. Anderson's Feed, Brian Falkner takes the idea of Internet downloaded directly to the brain to a whole different level. With the aid of well-thought out and visualized technical jargon, Brain Jack takes on a life of its own, rolling from one hack to the other, until the true enemy is brought to light. The basic concept...if you can hack a computer, could you hack a human brain? If you could erase the memory of a computer, what about a human brain? If you can add files, what about creating new false memories? The implications are mind boggling.

Amazing. From the beginning I was sucked into this world Falkner has created. Part action flick, part meditation on the powers and perils of technology, Brain Jack is a fast, fun read. Sam is one of those teens we all extremely bright and talented person who walks, talks and lives for technology. He is vibrant, intuitive, and leaps off the pages as well as the other characters in this novel. My two favorites being Dodge and Vienna. The prologue captures the reader and doesn't let go. In fact, I think I will let the book talk for itself. You can also find this prologue on Amazon. I highly recommend making this and The Tomorrow Code part of your collection.

Right now, as you read this prologue, I am sifting through the contents of your computer. Yes, your computer. You. The one holding this book. I am reading your e-mails, looking at your digital photos and images you have downloaded off the Net opening your most private documents and having a good read, or a good laugh, depending on the content. To be honest, most of it is utterly boring. Except for a few files. You know the ones I mean. I know you don't believe me, and I prefer it that way, but think about this. When you bought this book, you used a credit card or a debit card. That created a record in the massive computer systems that the banks use. The systems they claim are impregnable. But they are on the Net. And nothing is impregnable on the Net. So I monitor hose systems for transactions with the ISBN of this book--that's the International Standard Book Number. You'll find it on the publisher's copyright page on page iv. Have a look now. It's 978-0375-84266-2. When your transaction went thought, I got an alert from one of my monitoring programs, and, as I had nothing better to do, I dug a little deeper. I got the credit card number from the transaction log, and that, with just a quick poke around in the "highly secure" databases of the bank, gave me your home address and telephone number. I cross-matched that with the Internet service providers in your area to find your broadband connection. Then I checked to see if you have a static IP (that's the electronic address of your home computer). You don't , so I raided your ISP's DHCP server to get your current IP. It didn't take me long to find out where your computer lives on the Internet. Your router's firewall was a joke--and not even a very funny one. The built-in firewall on your PC was another story, though. That held me up for a couple of heartbeats. I has to use your peer-to-peer-file-sharing client to slip a Trojan past your security and gain remote-administrator access, shape-shifting a little as I did it so as not to attract attention from your antivirus software. No matter. It took me less than ten minutes from seeing the transaction to obtaining complete access to your hard drive. So now, while you're reading this, I'm looking through your computer and having a great time. You could turn your computer off, but you'd already be too late. I could delete a few files, but I probably won't. I could change your passwords and lock you out of your own system, but I can't be bothered. And I won't crash your system or delete the contents of your hard drive or anything like that. I am not malicious or evil, or even particularly bad. I'll just quietly leave and erase any trace that I was ever there. But i know you now. I know who you are. I know where you live. I know what you've got. And if the time comes that I need something from you, something that you might or might not want to give up, I'll be back. That time is coming Sooner than you think. But in the meantime, don't worry about me. I'm not worrying about you. Right now, I've got a much bigger problems to think about.

James Frey and the Formula to Success

Author and professional liar James Frey is up to his usual shenanigans, duping the American public and minimizing literary merit. Let's begin at the beginning shall we.

James Frey was caught embellishing the details of his book A Million Little Pieces. Unapologetic, Frey did go on Oprah to plead his case and kind of apologize, but it was clear, Frey had sold over a million books and if it was a lie, so be it. Fast forward a couple years. A best-selling author James Frey walks into your college campus and promises you fame and fortune. He is starting a new publishing venture and promises that he has discovered the key to success and he wants you to come one board. Young author's (and some old) desperate to be published, sign on to James Frey's contract which will pay them $250, Frey has complete creative control, must be published under a pseudonym, and the author is not allowed to proclaim their authorship of the book for a year. Why would anyone sign such a contract? Because Frey has found the key to success and your book will be published. Isn't that enough? (read this great NYT article and this one) The Author's Guild has expressed serious concerns over these contracts.

So what is Frey's motivations? Apparently, he wants to produce the next Harry Potter. Mr. Frey has been aggressive: only developing ideas that have serial book potential, as well as obvious film, TV, merchandising and digital marketability. If it isn't going to be a TV show or movie then forget about it. All the buzz surrounding the book and film? A lot of that pre-published buzz came from Frey himself. He is determined the create the next commercial success and the fact that young writers are lining up behind him in hopes that he will make their books (not them) famous is enough. Should it be any surprises that Jobie Hughes (the true author of I am Number Four) was a huge fan of James Frey before working with him? In fact, I can imagine that only big fans of Frey's ego would be allowed to work with him.

To be fair, without its commercial film making appeal, this book may never have been published. It wasn't until Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg expressed interest in the film, did any publisher take ti seriously.

The book I Am Number Four has received mixed reviews with one thing for certain, it will not be winning any literary awards any time soon. It has made no significant cultural impact either, and is unlikely to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight. But it is being made into a Hollywood film with director Michael Bay at the helm, which promises for a lot of action and explosions.

Hughes has walked away from the project. He hired a lawyer, and they prepared documents requesting 20 percent of all future proceeds related to “The Lorien Legacies.” Hughes and Frey’s legal dispute have reportedly been settled, but the terms are unknown.

Here is my major issue with Frey. His key to success states that the author is a nobody and that you do not need to have a good book in order to have a best-seller, take it from him. Now, as an author I would be rather offended that someone is telling me they don't need my help, my name, or even literary quality to attract the masses. Also, how offensive is it to the art of writing and all the labor and love that goes into it, for a man to come forward and say that none of it matters, all that matters is the formula? But then, he also says he loves books, so which is it?

Personally, I would love for my future books to be wildly popular and (maybe) made into a film, but not at the expense of literary quality. I would rather write something brilliant that isn't a best-seller, but really connects with my readers in a way that they will carry the books with them forever. Commercial success is grand and all, but I refuse to sell my soul/book to obtain it. So in case you were wondering, I will not be reading the book as a matter of principle and I will not be seeing the film either.

A Crack in the Sky Book Review

A Crack in the Sky (Greenhouse Chronicles) by Mark Peter Hughes

Eli Papodapolous has lived in the domes all his life. Built by his grandfather and run by InfiniCorp, which his entire family runs, Eli's life is one of ease and comfort. However, something is wrong. The domes are hotter than ever, the sky advertisements are just plain weird, and the Foggers (those trying to bring down InfiniCorp) are trying to recruit him. Eli wants the truth, but not if it means betraying his family. Meanwhile, Tabitha is a traitor and she has learned that she must take care of herself to survive and escape InfiniCorp's relearning program, a high-tech brainwashing scheme. Neither Tabitha nor Eli realize that their quests are the same and they will need each other to find the truth.

A Crack in the Sky is a book with a very clear message concerning global warming, but a fresh voice, interesting what ifs, and fast paced plot save this would-be sermon. Eli is a character that children can relate to. He wants to please his parents and his family, but there are questions that demand answers and not even his loyalty can thwart his curiosity. This leads him on a path that is self-destructive, but with hints of a promise towards salvation. Tabitha too has questions, but perhaps believes a little too quickly what she is told and trades one lie for another. When confronted with possible truths, Tabitha loses her faith in everything which is possibly worse. There is also a third character, an altered mongoose who speaks with Eli telepathically and is their miraculous savior due to gifts that she isn't sure the full depth of.

The story itself is rather obvious. The domes were built to escape the global warming, a temporary solution until things cool down, however things aren't cooling down and the domes are beginning to lose their battle with the changing planet. Instead of letting people know of their impending doom, InfiniCorp chooses to keep everyone in the dark, brainwashing them into nonchalance. When Eli probes, it becomes clear that humanity will die a slow death completely unaware of what is happening. The company has chosen to be comfortable even though there were plenty of opportunities to take the harder less comfortable path that could have brought back the planet. Very preachy.

Again, the characters and plot twists are fun and interesting, a mash up of Dune, Logan's Run, and The Matrix. Hughes clearly thought a lot about the book, global warming, and characters thoroughly, making this far better than that Empty mess of a book. The cover art is beautiful, by Per Haagensen. I could have done without the author's note at the end, which was basically a note to young readers reminding them what the "message" of the book really is and that the series is fictional. It's as if the author doesn't trust his reader's enough to get it and to do their own research if they have questions. Another nice addition to the dystopian sci-fi genre.