Read another book for 2008:
11) City of the Beast by Michael Moorcock (2007, Planet Stories). This reprint of a novel first published in 1965 (as Warriors of Mars, under the pseudonym Edward Bradbury) is the second of Paizo Publishing's move into resurrecting pulp science fiction and fantasy fiction that has fallen out from under the radar (under their Planet Stories imprint). Some of their titles are truly amazing, including two volumes of reprints of the first lady of fantasy, C.L. Moore (the first is her classic Jirel of Joiry stories, and the second collects her Northwest Smith fiction), some wonderful fiction from Leigh Brackett (perhaps better known from her work as co-scenarist of such movies as The Big Sleep and The Empire Strikes Back), a lesser known novel from Robert E. Howard, fiction from the oft overlooked (but undeniably influential) Henry Kuttner and more.
City of the Beast is pure entertainment. A tightly written, action packed homage to the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this story is pretty straightforward (and the plotting is a full speed ahead, rollick of a roller coaster): Michael Kane, a physicist and fencing master, becomes victim to a poorly constructed matter transporter device and finds himself flung across time and space to an ancient Mars, peopled by feudal-style societies (who live amongst the remains of an ancient super science they do not understand). While there, he falls in love with a beautiful Martian Queen, and participates in a battle against the Argzoon, a group of barbaric, blue skinned giants who are acting contrary to their history and uniting to assault the Martian kingdoms... It's all a lot of fun, derring-do amongst manly men and capable women. The novel (the first of three, with others slated for reprinting this year, I believe) falls into that realm of science fantasy known as sword and planet, and it's a hoot... At 160 pages, it really rockets along, and upon completion, I really wanted to read the sequel, which is (alas) not yet available...
Yesterday evening, Trista and I also saw a pair of movies.
First up, the Tim Burton version of Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was playing at the local second run theatre (aka: the Cheap Show), and since we'd been meaning to see it, we did. What a fun, gruesome, and oftentimes hilarious experience! Loved it (then again, I'm such a sucker for a good musical).
Then, we went home and watched Kind Hearts and Coronets, on DVD (one of the maaaaaany Criterion discs I own but have not yet watched). Essentially, our protagonist (Louis) is born to near poverty (his mother married outside of her class/station and was disowned by the rich D'Ascoyne). At her graveside, Louis makes an oath to her mother to have revenge upon the family that so shunned them. To do so, he aims to become the next Duke D'Ascoyne. However, there are a few family members in the way...
This story of revenge and murder makes a nice bookend to Sweeny Todd, though (for my money) it's got a much quirkier sense of verbal wit and biting black humor to it, and it has the incomparable Sir Alec Guinness in a tour de force performance as all eight remaining family members standing between the film's protagonist and his dukedom (that this actor is best known for his role in Star Wars is a shame). It's homicide played against a comedy of manners. This movie is a delight.