Posts By Elizabeth Lynn

The Fifth Wave (Movie Review)

5th Wave movie poster

Given the popularity of such film adaptations as The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent series, it’s not surprising that authors and filmmakers alike continue to capitalize on the young adult dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre of storytelling. The latest addition to the craze is here in the form of The 5th Wave. Adapted from the first novel of an intended trilogy by author Rick Yancey, this tells the story of 16-year old Cassie, one of the few survivors of an alien invasion that is intent on wiping out all human life on planet Earth.

Right away, the idea of an apocalypse caused by an alien invasion sets The 5th Wave apart from other YA dystopian films of recent years, in which the post-apocalyptic world is almost universally found to be the work of our own human race. Instead, this latest addition finds almost everyone on Earth wiped out by the first four “waves” put into play by the Others, the name given to the invaders by those few of the human race that are left. With such a unique concept and the possibility of a trilogy of films to mirror the planned trilogy of novels, this new series could be a serious rival to the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent (info here and here).

While Cassie’s (Chloe Grace Moretz) life appears normal enough – attending parties, doting over the high-school heart-throb Ben Parish (Nick Robinson), and hanging out with her little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) – her cozy Ohio cocoon soon crumbles as the Others begin to make their presence known. The first wave came as a global electromagnetic pulse that took down the power grid on a global scale and wiped out all electronics, including all vehicles and modes of transportation. While this wouldn’t seem deadly in and of itself, the death count rose from traffic accidents, trains derailing, and airplanes, commercial and otherwise, suddenly falling out of the sky.

The Fifth Wave by Rick YanceyThe second wave involved gargantuan steel beams being dropped onto all of Earth’s major fault lines, causing major earthquakes and massive tsunamis that wiped out about a quarter of the planet’s population – the approximate number that live on or near the world’s coastlines. The third wave was by far the most devastating in both the novel and film, involving a deadly virus distributed among the remaining population by way of the world’s birds and infecting and killing more than 90 percent of the remaining population. As devastating as this would be, this scenario is also unfortunately the most realistic – increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and “superbugs” could conceivably outpace our ability to fight off such bacteria and the diseases they cause.

Finally, the fourth wave comes in the form of what the survivors call the Silencers, body-snatched humans under the control of the aliens and intent on killing any and all remaining humans. It’s this wave more than any other in the film that causes Cassie and the other survivors to adopt a stance of no trust. The majority of the film, which has thus far received mixed reviews from critics and general viewers, follows Cassie’s journey to rescue her brother and escape the Others herself, along with her newfound comrades. While the novel received generally positive reviews when it debuted in 2013, the film has been described in turns as being highly faithful to the source material, but also leaving out some of the main elements that made the novel so captivating.

While The 5th Wave has been compared to other YA dystopian adaptations, the only definitive parallel can be found in the form of a strong and independent female protagonist, with Cassie now joining the ranks of Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior. And not only does the overall premise differ, this story also spans a larger scope – rather than the threats and action being confined to an enclosed Chicago or game arena, the threat is on a global scale with the plot and themes grounded in a reality that is terrifyingly similar to current realistic scenarios. But with two stories left in the trilogy, fans will have to wait and see where Cassie and crew will go from here.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook 

The Scorch Trials, a Step Away From the Book

Unfortunately for Thomas and his fellow Gladers, the maze was only the beginning. With an impressive opening weekend in the box office, the second installment in The Maze Runner series solidifies the latest dystopian trilogy as a hit. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is just the latest in a long line of dystopian fiction to hit the market. In recent years, the young adult dystopian genre has seen a boom of new books published and adaptations continue to hit the big screen at a continuous and steady rate.

Of these adaptations, some have risen to the top of the heap, while others have fallen to the side of the road. The Maze Runner adaptation was initially written off by many critics, and even a few fans, as another mediocre entry into a flooded market. As if to prove these naysayers wrong, screenwriter T.S. Nowlin and director Wes Ball have returned with an even more action-packed adventure straying further from its source material than the original.

The Scorch Trials sees Thomas free of the Maze but far from true freedom. Upon discovering that the omnipotent group known as World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department – or WCKD – had been responsible for trapping the group in the maze as a sort of experiment to fight against a post-apocalyptic threat, we once again watch as Thomas leads his fellow Gladers out into a desolate area known as the Scorch and fight to escape WCKD’s experimentation plan. After being rescued by a mysterious third-party group and becoming suspicious of their true intentions, Thomas and the group once again venture out into the Scorch taking us on a wild ride coming up against deadly superstorms, depraved scoundrels, and lethal “Cranks.”

Young Adult Dystopian Fiction Avoids the Big Issues

The young adult dystopian genre has, in recent years, reached far beyond its eponymous target audience and found fertile ground in the imaginations of adults and children alike. With the expansion of the YA genre into film, it has only become more popular. This stems from a number of factors from authors being unconstrained by the genre conventions so embedded in fare aimed at adults to a general likability to characters that can carry even a bad plot at times.

That being said, perhaps the biggest aspect of this genre that makes it attractive is that it actually seems to talk about something. Whether that thing is oppressive government or fears of the rise of technology, they touch on issues in the way that science fiction is designed to. However, many of these stories seem to ignore certain societal problems that would open up their audience to a wider variety of themes.

Much of the dystopian YA literature available ends up discussing many of the same issues. For example, in almost every case from The Hunger Games to Divergent, the world our protagonists are in are split into rigidly defined but otherwise arbitrary divisions. Whether they are based on skill or geography, the divisions are usually imposed and unassailable, created by an oppressive regime with often vague motivations. Usually the characters have some sort of special talent that is frowned upon by society until such time as it becomes important, and global warming is often a past event that has driven society into a state of near agrarianism but otherwise left no sign.

While these are unquestionably important issues, it is easy to forget that YA novels are written for young adults. Dystopian futures are often chosen because many of the issues that are being discussed are analogous to the teen and tween experience. An oppressive and often arbitrary-seeming government is a good stand in for adults and their rules. Deep divisions with little wiggle room are both associated with social cliques and the regimented nature of schools. Global warming is just global warming, which is why it seems to be “over” in most cases and rarely does anything other than serve as catalyst for the backstory.

What we have in most cases is an inherently political genre that has been stripped of politics in favor of metaphors for the teen experience. While those metaphors are important, the sheer number of copycats that have risen in the wake of the success of early entrants into the genre, including Divergent and Insurgent (details here on finding those two on demand), end up diluting the effect of all of them.

There is also the fact that some issues are rarely, if ever, approached. Racism and sexism are often things of the past in these novels. While it is admirable that authors will often include people of color in supporting roles, and The Hunger Games did write Katniss as having “olive skin,” the implication seems to be that with the problems everybody is facing that other issues have fallen by the wayside. In reality, as social situations become more untenable, issues like racism and sexism tend to increase, not decrease. These are incredibly difficult subjects to handle, especially for the copycats that want to churn out a hit trilogy instead of address real social problems.

If dystopian futures are written to help us better grapple with modern realities, then it is vital to have the courage to deal with pressing issues rather than nebulous ones. Discussing race and sex helps us become more aware of the effects they have on minorities. It also allows minority readers and viewers to see their concerns being addressed and invests them more heavily in the text. Going forward, we need to use the freedom granted by the YA genre to propose worlds where we haven’t solved major issues off screen because they’re tough to write about.

Is Dark Places Another Cinematic Hit for Gillian Flynn?

Dark Places movieDark Places author Gillian Flynn is no stranger to exploring the shadowy side of human nature. After the success of Gone Girl in theaters, many people are anticipating this sophomore outing in films for the rising star author. While it is unlikely to match the almost perfect madness of Gone Girl, there is more than enough to indicate that Dark Places will be a wild ride for psychological thriller fans.

The new film starring Charlize Theron as Libby Day, sole survivor of the gruesome murder of her family 25 years prior, is presented with an opportunity to help a group of true crime obsessives, aptly named “The Kill Club,” uncover the truth of what really happened that fateful night. This triggers a series of flashbacks and an investigation that leads Libby to believe that her brother, whom she had testified against under pressure from lawyers and the media, was actually innocent and the true murderer walked away that day.

The premise is interesting and in the hands of a director more accustomed to risk than Gilles Paquet-Brenner it could really shine on the screen. Unfortunately while Paquet-Brenner is a fine director, he doesn’t have the willingness to try new things with narrative that Fincher did which helped make Gone Girl so good.

From the Library to the Megaplex, Five More Books Come to Life Onscreen

Filmmakers have long turned to novels as a consistent source of inspiration. Over the past few decades, the phenomenon has taken on a life of it’s own with a slew of record-breaking, billion dollar franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games (which continue to find new fans on iTunes and DTV). Recent films such as The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay point to the continued and bankable success of YA novels on the big screen.

But the books-as-movies concept isn’t just for kids: some very adult books have also reached blockbuster status, 50 Shades of Grey and Gone Girl being two prominent examples. Any fears associated with film adaptations of beloved literary tales have faded in favor of mass audience approval and enormous payouts. If you’ve been to the theater recently you’ll know that this trend of big budget book adaptations shows no sign of stopping anytime soon – so lets look at some more books that have been optioned for films and see if we’ve got another blockbuster hit in our midst.

Artimis FowlArtemis Fowl

This purchase of the book rights to the successful Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer by Disney was made back in 2013. They grabbed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Robert De Niro to produce the film, which was to be adapted to a screenplay by one of the Harry Potter series’ screenwriters; Michael Goldenberg. They made the same announcement that they were in pre-production earlier this year as well, so it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing the film hit theaters for a year or two yet.

UnknownBefore I Fall

This dark, high school version of Groundhog Day penned by Maria Maggenti was released in 2010, and Fox optioned it for a film almost immediately. It’s a promising page-to-screen adaptation because Maggenti herself is likely to be the screenwriter; given her past employment as one in both film and television we can expect to see her working on this film and ensuring it stays true to the story. The film hasn’t gotten past the development stage yet, but they’ve announced a director, Gina Price-Bythewood, so it appears it’s still moving forward.

Looking Back on Arthur C. Clarke’s Predictions

Looking Back on Arthur C. Clarke’s Predictions

080318-clarke-hmed-3p.rp420x400Born almost 100 years ago, Arthur C. Clarke showed an interest in space travel and futuristic ideas at a very early age, which manifested into predictions which captivated the general public. He began writing science fiction as a teenager, and his works became immensely popular as his career progressed, culminating with his screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, largely considered his most popular work. He was even regarded as one of the science-fiction genre’s “big three” alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Throughout his career Arthur C. Clarke made many futuristic predictions about life and technology, an astounding number of which have come true and are now considered essential to life in the 21st century.

In a 1964 BBC interview titled “Horizon”, Clarke admitted that it was difficult and virtually impossible to accurately predict the future, but that any prediction that did not seem astounding could not possibly be true. He went on to predict that, by the year 2000, communication satellites would make it possible for people to communicate instantaneously, regardless of distance and regardless of exact location. He believed telecommunication would make travel and commuting unnecessary for business, except for cases of pleasure, and allow a doctor in England to perform surgery on a patient in New Zealand.

Haunting Reads for the Halloween Season

Halloween, the season of creepy monsters and cavities, is also the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Whether you like to be scared stiff by your reading material or prefer a romantic ghost story instead, the literary world contains ghouls and goblins galore if you know where to look. From classic tales of the macabre to modern supernatural thrillers, a good Halloween book offers both tricks and treats. Celebrate the holiday with some of the spooky and supernatural titles mentioned here.

Horns by Joe Hill

Recently adapted for a UK movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, this supernatural grindhouse thriller follows Ignatius Parrish in an unpredictable and suspenseful battle for his own soul. Ig’s small town reputation catches up to him in a unexpected way the morning he wakes up from a night of heavy drinking to find a pair of unmistakably demonic horns growing from his skull. Written by the son of Stephen King, this thriller has dynamic pacing and a climax that will leave you gripping the edge of your seat.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

This intensely poetic and nostalgic novel from the mind of fantasy genius Ray Bradbury focuses on one autumn in the lives of two twelve year old boys. Set in the year that “Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show” visits their small American town, it follows the two boys, one of their fathers, and the mysterious carnival leader – a haunting presence known as “Mr. Dark.” Bradbury’s title comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, uttered by a witch as she completes her spell. This novel holds secrets and terrors for the protagonists and for all readers who possess the kind of romantic Halloween spirit that still inspires dreams of running away with the circus.

Outlander TV Review

1410465192_0.pngThe Outlander novels, written by Diana Gabaldon, have transcended multiple generations and are generally recognized as one of the bestselling series of all time. With the first installment arriving in 1991, and subsequent novels appearing every few years after, it helps that the Outlander fan group has had decades to grow. Throughout the years, the novels have attracted many readers that enjoy romance, but have also found a place in the hearts of those who enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction and even mystery novels. Gabaldon has made it abundantly clear that her works are genre-bending, and she’ll have words with anyone who tries to push her series into the romance section.

It’s no surprise then, that a book with such a vast audience would soon find itself invited to be transformed on television. Following the success of shows which provide romance, fantasy, and action all-in-one, Starz pinpointed Outlander as a potential hit. It appears they were correct, since the series premiere pulled in over 5 million views in the first week, and the success of the following episodes have since led Starz to already commit to a second season. The show, which is available only with a Starz subscription (local channel info here), has been the best performing series the network has produced yet.