This series attempts to answer the age-old question: read the book? Or watch the movie?
The Subject: Last of the Mohicans
The Book: By James Fenimore Cooper, released in 1826, the second book in the Leatherstocking Tales.
The Movie: the 1992 film, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe (we’ll leave Hawkeye, the TV show starring Lee Horsley and Lynda Carter, for another column)
In 1757, during the French and Indian Wars, two young women, Cora and Alice, brave wilderness, warring tribes, betrayal, and brutal warfare in order to reach their father, Colonel Munroe. Guided by Major Duncan Heyward, they are betrayed by the treacherous Magua and rescued by the intrepid Hawkeye, and the last of the Mohican tribe, Uncas and Chingachcook. But their troubles are only just beginning.
The Comparison: (Note: Spoilers ahead)
If it weren’t the archaic language, Mohicans, the book, is the sort of adventure story that every boy would want to read. It starts with the two women, Duncan, and Magua, separating from British troops to attempt to find a safer path through the forest, only to be betrayed by their guide. Hawkeye (AKA: Nathaniel Bumpo), and the two Mohicans find them and are soon convinced to guide them through the forest. What follows is a heart pounding chase, filled with narrow escapes, shoot-outs, show-downs, and near-death experiences. When they finally make it to the fort, they find it is under siege. Colonel Monroe parlays with the French leaders and negotiates a peaceful withdrawal from the fort, only to be betrayed by the tribes, lead by Magua, who attack the departing troops. Magua seizes Alice and Cora and the chase begins again, leading Hawkeye, Duncan, the Mohicans, and Munroe deep into upper New York’s wilderness and into the heart of the hostile tribes. Through it all, there are brave speeches, noble stands, brutal violence, and surprising twists to keep the action moving along. While the narrative drags here and there, and there is some silliness, by the time I was done, I could well understand why Mohicans was such a huge hit when it came out. Cooper had written an action epic.
Mohicans, the movie, shifts the action somewhat – the beginning chase is much shorter, for instance, and some of the events from the first part of the book are moved to the second. But the biggest change is the focus: while the book is an action flick with the feel of an Alistair McLean gone early English lit, the movie plays more like an epic romance, complete with breathless romantic tension, epic declarations of love, and an Enya soundtrack. While it maintained some of the book’s action and definitely it’s brutality (the attack on the troops is devastating and almost frightening to watch), the movie is clearly about relationships – and in particular, Hawkeye (Nathaniel Poe here) and the dark-eyed Cora.
Daniel Day-Lewis is not the Hawkeye of the novel. In the movie, he is young, strong, silent, smoldering, and his chemistry with Stowe is hot enough to call for fire extinguishers, almost too good to be true. In book, Hawkeye’s a middle-aged (maybe mid-thirties, so middle-aged for the time) braggart, who knows the lay of the land, how to spin a good story, and has a deep hatred and respect for the ‘skulking Mingoes’ (Magua’s tribe). He’s a little too loud, a little too rugged, a little too honest, and a little too proud, and I absolutely loved him – I could clearly see how Cooper could write a series about him.
Cora was awesome in both the book and the movie: strong, steely-eyed, and determined to see her sister and herself through all trials. In the movie, she is proposed to by Duncan, who eventually gives his life for her when he sees that she prefers Hawkeye. In the book, Duncan is in love with Alice (who is pretty much the same wilting personality as in the movie), and while Cora has earned Hawkeye’s respect and admiration, but it isn’t the scout who falls in love with her, but Uncas, the son of Chingachcook and the pride of the Seven Nations – for good reason.
Conclusion: Read the book
The book is an epic adventure and as much as I liked the movie, the book was much more entertaining and had a more complete ending – when the movie ends, they are still standing in the middle of the woods, probably out of ammunition, and still completely surrounded by hostile tribes. In Cooper’s book, there is a truce and he is careful to show that even the worst of their enemies (Magua excepted) are reasonable human beings worthy of dignity. You’ll have to get through some language, but I thought the book was really good fun and, besides, you’ve already seen the movie, haven’t you?
Agree? Disagree? Hate both movie and book? Leave your opinion in the comments below!
The Enterprise, long over-due for repair and relaxation, is unexpectedly sent on a mission to the fringe of the Federation world to deliver a diplomat intent on halting hostilities in two far worlds and preventing a Romulan take-over. Not only is the Enterprise under-powered and over-strained, but the diplomat's abrasive manner lends serious doubts to the efficacy of his mission. Things turn dangerous when Kirk rescues a stranded space-traveler - a woman who casts a curious spell of pacifism over his crew. Suddenly, Kirk is facing not only Romulans and hostile natives - but his own mutinous crew!
Mutiny on the Enterprise is a good, solid addition to Star Trek. The characters are well portrayed, the pacing is good, and the story line feels like an episode for the original series. I loved the fact that, though Captain Kirk is never really fooled by the woman he's taken on board, he is nevertheless susceptible to her powers of argument - a touch of smart humanity that more careless writers wouldn't add.
The only draw back (which isn't really a negative, so much as an observation) is that the author doesn't do much more with the story than present it. This is a fun adventure and not much more. The Star Trek morality-play hallmark is missing - or perhaps I just missed it. (Totally possible - I was overly charmed by the single-entity planet that Kirk and loyal crew are marooned on.)
Summary: A good entry into the Star Trek series, with the cast and crew well represented. This book won't rock your world, but it's an enjoyable way to get your weekly Trek fix.
Character ratings: All As and Bs.
By Barbara Hambly
Summary: While on a peaceful mission at Starbase 12, Spock uncovers a Klingon plot to destroy the Federation by going back in time to murder a man. But before he can relay the information to Kirk, Spock disappears along with the Klingon ship. Meanwhile, back in 1860s Seattle, Washington, Aaron Stemple comes across a strange man who has lost his memory - and may not be human. Stemple takes a huge risk by taking the man in as his nephew, Ishmael - little realizing that the danger comes, not from the alien, but from those seeking him. Can Kirk find Spock before the Klingons do?
Ishmael is quite possibly the strangest crossover book in the history of Star Trek crossovers. Barbara Hambly takes advantage of the fact that Sarek was played by Mark Lenard, who also played Aaron Stemple in the romantic dramedy series, Here Comes the Brides. In Brides, Stemple is the somewhat unscrupulous businessman who puts up money for Jason Bolt's bridal scheme - with the proviso that, should any of the women go home before the year is up, Stemple will take over the considerable Bolt property. Hambly sets the story in season 1 of Brides, and changes the terms of the bet for her own purposes: in Ishmael, Bolt will lose the bet if any of the women remain un-betrothed by the end of the year.
Ishmael has a lot of fun drawing Spock into Seattle's romantic intrigues, while still maintaining the tension of Kirk's desperate search for his missing first mate. The Trek cast are pretty strong, focusing, by necessity, on Spock, Kirk, and McCoy. The Brides' cast doesn't fare quite as well. While Stemple and singleton Biddy Cloomb get sympathetic treatment (especially Stemple, who is played as a misunderstood loner rather than the more acrimonious figure in the TV season one), the smooth-talking, charismatic Jason Bolt of the TV show suffers, coming across as a desperate schemer - a surprise, considering he's the hero of the show. One gets the impression that Hambly didn't like him very much, but perhaps she's approaching him from Stemple's POV.
All in all, Ishmael is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of fan-fiction that seeks to answer some of the questions left open by the end of Brides and tie Spock more firmly to his human past. While sci-fi and action take a backseat to character and relationship building, this is a satisfying outing, especially to fans of both shows.
Bonus: keep a sharp lookout. there are cameos from other TV shows, such Doctor Who and Bonanza, sprinkled liberally through out the book.
Star Trek: all As and Bs.
Here Come the Brides: Mostly Bs, except for Jason, a definite C.
By Chuck Miceli
There is a storm coming, and her name is Amanda.
When infant Amanda died, her parents abandoned their luxurious home, leaving the room untouched. 18 years later, a small group of clever students stumble upon a anomaly - the atmosphere in Amanda's bedroom is stable and unaffected by outside weather conditions - they convince their brilliant professor to study the incident. Little do they know that they are about to witness the unleashing of a supernatural force - and they may not survive to tell the tale.
Author Chuck Miceli crafts a tightly plotted, swift moving thriller, using an unusual (and terrifyingly effective) weapon: the weather. A fishing trip turns deadly when a water spout suddenly appears, a clear road suddenly becomes icy, a courthouse is literally attacked by cyclone - all these frighteningly familiar scenarios become tools in the hand of a supernatural power. True story: I've had nightmares since reading this book about the water spout.
But weather is only one part of what's going on: there is the mystery of Amanda's parents, one of the students is accused of murder, and another is presumed dead - but may not be. And Miceli adds lots of fun details about weather tracking and patterns and keeps you guessing about who will survive. Throughout it all is the question: is Amanda trying to communicate? Or is she trying to kill?
This is a fun, brisk adventure, with a mystery at it's core, and anyone who enjoys old fashioned horror/thrillers is sure to enjoy this one.
Note for younger readers: some strong language, gruesome killings, some sensuality, and one brief bedroom scene.
Disclaimer: This review was part of a book exchange for reviews.
The Restore Coaching series is a collection of three booklets, each dealing with an aspect of divorce/separation caused by domestic violence. Jenna Brooks, an DV advocate with over a decade's worth of experience, brings her knowledge, compassion, and typical unflinching honesty to these issues, offering insight, support, comfort, and a path forward. Brooks' philosophy is that the best way to recover from divorce, domestic abuse, and parental alienation is to move ahead, building a life of dignity and worth that every woman deserves.
Not suffering from any of these tragedies (being a single, childless woman whose history of romantic entanglements is so passive as to be rather boring), I read these books from the point of view of some one trying to help a friend in need. Its a heartbreaking, difficult subject to read about. The pain and confusion caused by this kind of abuse and neglect can take years to repair. Women coming out of these situations can create defensive barriers - emotional and physiological - which are complex and painful to dismantle, and off-putting to the well-meaning friend.
But that is not to say that these victims are without hope. Indeed, the over-all view, while frankly admitting the obstacles and the difficulties, is still an uplifting one. This series isn't a self-help one so much as a chat with a best friend who has been there and back and survived to the tell the tale. Brooks' experience has taught her not only how long a road there is to recovery and restoration, but that such healing is possible and achievable. With faith, hope, love, and a resumption of dignity, women can shed their tormented past and create the life they deserve. Of that, Brooks' has no doubt.
There are three books in the series:
1. How to Help a Battered Woman (which I thought was the most striking of the three)
2. Alone Again... Happily: A Post-Divorce Coaching Session
3. Banished: The Alienated Mother
They can be read as a series or as stand alone.
The New Commitment series, Book 1
(Previously titled Deadline for Danger)
By Christine Bush
Dedicated reporter Frankie Ann dreams about covering more than just the Garden Club news for her paper - she wants to investigate the hard stories, like the pier burning in her home town. But even as she covers the safe stuff, a case of missing newspaper ads woman thrusts her into mystery full of mistaken identity and murder. But even as the dangers intensify, Frankie is determined to unravel the mystery - with the help of the handsome new police chief. But will determination be enough to keep her alive?
Frankly, Deadline for Danger is a much better title for this throw-back adventure/romance. Reading like a Nancy Drew mystery, Bush keeps a brisk pace and a sense of fun pervades the whole story. The characters are very likable, especially Frankie, and while the mystery is not Agatha Christie level, it's entertaining, like a Saturday afternoon TV movie.
Summary: Some weak prose, but this is a fun way to pass an afternoon. Recommended.
By Harper Lee
Synopsis: A young woman returns home to the Deep South from New York City to discover racial bigotry running rampant in her hometown - affecting even those most dear to her.
The first and most important thing to know about Watchman is that it is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. While the names, places, and faces are familiar or similar, Watchman reads like revisionist history or the parallel yniverse theme so popular in sci-fi shows. Instead of asking 'What became of Scout?', it asks, "What if Mockingbird never happened? What if the Atticus Finch we knew and loved was the figment of a lonely little girl's imagination?"
By now you probably know that Watchman's Atticus is not the sterling character that Mockingbird had him out to be. As Jean Louise (formerly Scout) learns to her horror, he's heading the segregationist movement in town, speaks White Supremacist with a lawyer's ease, and even dabbled in the KKK (though not as an active member - even this Atticus draws the line in horror there). Where Jean Louise is sickened by segregationist activity, Atticus views this as a means to keep the Federal Government from leaning to heavily against state's rights - as well as keeping the poor naive blacks in their place. Watchman doesn't effectively dispute his points: it's essentially about a little girl learning that her father is simply a flawed man.
Mockingbird's greatest strength lay in the idea that change could come from within. Living in the north as I have, the idea is prevalent (if not openly stated) that the South would never have come around had it not been for Northern interference, that all white men and women were united in their efforts to keep their black brethren under their heel. Mockingbird told us that one of their own could stand against the tyranny of racial hate and that their own could bring about segregation's demise. It was a story that treated all its protagonists with respect and dignity, and voiced the rather shocking opinion that a white Southern man might be anti-segregation.
Watchman offers no such assurances. Even Jean Louise, in voicing her contempt for Atticus' white superiority, admits something close to it: "They are simple people, most of them, but that doesn't make them subhuman," and even she fails to notice that while she's calling her black acquaintances by their familiar names, every one of them refers to her as 'Miss Scout' or 'Miss Jean Louise.' Her character, far from redeeming white Southerner, rather reinforces the two rather trite ideas that seem common to books on racial hatred: that change can only come from the young and/or those trained on the outside. In this case, Jean Louise had to spend years in New York City before she could recognize the bigotry in her home town, making her either the most blind heroine since Helen Keller or astonishingly self-absorbed. Neither is flattering.
I do wonder what I would have thought about the book had it not been about Scout and Atticus. While the story cannot take place in the same universe as Mockingbird, the editors clearly relied on the fact that readers have already read and loved the first book. Without the idea of saintly Gregory Peck hovering in the back of our mind, would Jean Louse's revelation feel as devastating? And I wonder, too, at the publisher's wisdom in releasing this book in the wake of riots in New York and Baltimore - with the current tension between the races, is it really wise to tear down Atticus Finch?
Summary: Watchman is a retread of an old idea - sometimes you can't go home again - and adds nothing of substantial value about racial tensions. Skip this and stick with To Kill a Mockingbird.
In Ice Trap, Captain Kirk and his crew are dispatched to icebound Nordstral to investigate a mysterious outbreak of insanity only to quickly discover that there is much more going on than they first supposed. A team of research scientists have already disappeared - and even the otherwise friendly natives have no clue about their whereabouts. While Kirk and McCoy take on the medical mystery, Uhura and Chekov lead a team composed of Enterprise crew and untrustworthy outsiders in the frozen tundra to find the scientists. But with the planet undergoing massive instability, both teams risk never coming back alive.
LA Graf has a great sense of pacing and paints an impressive picture. The landscape is so barren and cold that I had to layer on extra sweaters just to get through some of the scenes. As it true with Star Trek books, the author (actually a pen name for two, possible three collaborators) gets most of the cast correct, but falls a little short on one. Chekov is so intense and rigidly capable in Ice Trap that he almost seems like a different character from the lovable TV version played by Walter Keonig. This is more than made up for by the attention paid to McCoy (whose childhood secret is revealed) and Uhura, who plays a meaty role in this outing.
Summary: Ice Trap is a great book filled with thrills and chills - sorry, had to do that - and feels just like one of the original Star Trek movies (by which I mean the even ones, not the odd). Highly recommended.
Character Ratings: Except for Chekov (who is an excellent character in this, but just didn't feel like the original), all As and Bs.
Lucky Code: A Guide for Winning at Life
by Gaynete Edwards
From the back: Down on your luck? Need a lucky boost? This book offers a frill-free approach that dismisses the premise that luck is attained through charms or birthright, and instead provides readers with easily digestible A to Z chapters containing powerful codes to increase their chances of success and, of course, lots of luck! Our thoughts and actions shape the course of our lives. This book teaches you to direct them in such was that you cannot lose!
Ms. Edwards provides just what she promises: an fun, fast-paced, and easy-to-read guide book to living a 'lucky' life. Each tenant is listed in alphabetically (such as Code C: Character Building, Code D: Dress for Success, or the creatively named Code I: Indebtedness - Just a Fancy Word for Gratitude), and gives the reader an explanation of the Code, actions to apply it, and inspirational quotes for encouragement. This book is encouraging while putting the emphasis on personal action: if you want your life to change, you have the ability to do so. "Luck", according to Edwards, is merely the organization of your life in such a manner as to create positive results - a definition I can really get behind.
Written with a breezy, optimistic, and no-nonsense manner, Edwards is witty, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Best read with a journal, this book is highly recommended for anyone looking to up their game in life.
For more information, visit the author's website.
By Christoph Fischer
When Greta Weissensteiner of the sleepy town of Bratslava in Czechoslovakia, falls for a Berliner bookseller, little does she know just how much her life is going to change. The Weissensteiner family has always been lucky, using their Aryan name to balance against the prejudice against their Jewish faith. But as their society starts to disintegrate and war begins, can their luck hold?
The first novel in the Three Nations Trilogy pulls you into a world gone mad. The Weissensteiners’ comfortable life as congenial outsiders begins to crumble as Nazism takes hold, forcing the family to make compromises, compromises that are not enough when World War II starts. The book follows Greta, an idealistic young Jewess whose Aryan husband takes her son and deserts her for Berlin, her stoic father and fragile sister Wilma, their extended family, and the eccentric aristocrats that try to shelter them. Fischer walks you through each loss, following the family as they are forced underground, lose their business, friends, members of their family, and then finally each other. But the real test of the famous Weissensteiner luck begins when the war ends.
Much care went into the research behind this book and the historical data is relayed in news bulletins that seem frighteningly current. But despite the horrors and cruelty of time, which Fischer never shies from, the overall message is that, no matter how chaotic the world is, good people can still be found and family is worth sacrificing for. The luck of the Weissensteiner family will not save them from the ravages of war, but their faith in and love of each other may just be enough to see them through it.
This series attempts to answer the age-old question: read the book? Or watch the movie?
The Book: Captain Blood, (1922) by Rafael Sabatini.
The Movie: Captain Blood, (1935)starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone and directed by Michael Curtiz.
Plot: Doctor Peter Blood is a retired Irish adventurer who is falsely condemned of traitorous activities during the Monmouth Rebellion in England. Condemned to slavery, he is sent to Port Royal where he is purchased by the cruel Colonel Bishop, and falls in love with the Colonel's lovely, kind, and strong-minded niece, Arabella. When a chance Spanish raid on Port Royal offers Peter a chance to escape, he takes it and goes on to become one of the best known (and most principled) pirates of the Caribbean. His daring exploits and clever campaigns become the stuff of legends, but Peter has left his heart behind in Port Royal. Can the man whose ingenuity is world-renown ever find a way to clear himself and win the heart of the girl he loves?
Unlike Sabatini's other pirate novel, Sea Hawk, the movie follows the plot book very closely. Energetic acting by the charming leads, Curtiz's fast-paced direction and action-packed script doesn't attempt to hide the brutality of war, slavery, and piracy, yet still manages to make Blood a sympathetic character that you root for. In short, it's a great movie.
But time constraints caused some of the book's events to be edited out, including most of great pirate exploits in the book. Also, Arabella Bishop suffers in the movie. Sabatini wrote likable, strong women and Arabella is no exception: she is fair-minded and not afraid to stand up to either Peter or her peers, whether it's tending to sick Spanish soldiers or telling off some of the most powerful men in the room. She is as strong a character as Peter, though secondary. De Havilland's role is reduced to a somewhat petulant, one-note character, who is too proud to admit when she is in the wrong. A shame, really, when the real Arabella was a truly refreshing, smart character.
Conclusion: Toss-Up - Read and Watch
The book is epic and fun, and though it suffers a little in prose (English was not Sabatini's first language and it shows a little here and there), the characters are engaging, the action exciting, and the plot is entertaining. The fact that I've read it three time might just show you how much I like it.
The movie is a classic - big ships, big action scenes, good fencing scenes, grand drama, star-crossed lovers, top-notch directing, a solid soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and it made stars out of then-unknowns Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Both the movie and the book were enormously successful when they debuted and with good reason - solid entertainment like this doesn't come too often.
“A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad--Few realize it. That is why there are so many madmen in the world.” - Captain Peter Blood
Now Available on Amazon Prime!