Thursday, May 9, 2013

When We Wake

What might the world look like a hundred years from now? In When We Wake, the first novel in a young adult series by Karen Healey, Tegan gets to find out. After getting shot and dying, she is reawakened from an experimental cryonic stasis 100 years later. To Tegan, mere moments have passed, but the world around her has changed and all her loved ones are long gone. She might as well be starting life over. There's a lot to catch up on. Some of the world has changed for the better, but the oceans are still rising and the planet is still heating up. There's new technology and different laws and new social outcasts. But adjusting to a different way of living isn't Tegan's biggest problem. She's technically government property, and her leash is tight. Can she begin her life anew and live like a normal teenage girl, romance included, or is she destined to be a human guinea pig in a world where everything may not be quite what it seems?

When We Wake has a partially similar premise to A Long, Long Sleep in that both deal with characters waking up from stasis a lifetime later. But that's the only similarity. Each book takes its plot in far different directions. Personally, I enjoyed A Long, Long Sleep's version better, and you can read a review of that here.

Preferences aside, I found the premise of When We Wake to be interesting, and the delivery is decent. Tegan narrates, and as you get further into the book, you realize she's telling her story to someone (besides you, the reader, that is). The story takes place in Australia in a world suffering from global warming, so the setting is kind of different than your usual young adult fare. I enjoyed the book for the most part, but there were a few things that made my reading experience less than optimal.

I'm just going to say it: I'm skeptical of global warming. Yeah, I know, I'm one of those people. I realize this is fiction, and I can't make a big deal about this when I'm perfectly fine with other types of apocalyptic scenarios in other books. I just don't believe any of those are likely to come true, and while I also don't believe the earth is going to burn up anytime soon, this story feels a little too close to today's politics, like it's pushing an agenda: here's what the earth will look like in a hundred years if we don't do something about it, and here's what we need to do. (I can't believe Australia would be the place everyone would want to go, but admittedly, I'm not too familiar with topography.) The book might feel preachy because many of its characters are activists working for change, but I can't fault the author for choosing those characters to write about. Activists are people, too! (*gasp*) So, at least the author has created a consistent world where her characters are entwined with the politics of the times. I appreciate that. I'm just not a big fan of people trying to be so politically correct.

The book is fairly clean as far as morals go. The F-word is used, but not very much. There's no sex, but there are a lot of references to gay relationships and one instance of a sex change. Again, I felt like the book was pushing agenda: equal marriage rights and sexual freedom. Yep, I'm one of those people, too. I love you, no matter your sexual orientation, but I still think we were created to be male and female and that is the natural way of things. Are people gay? Yes. Are they immoral? Not necessarily. It really depends on what you do with yourself. Is it natural to be gay? Obviously not: look at how our bodies are created. I'm just saying, the natural order of things is male and female.

So, one hundred years from now, will we all be accepting of our differences and learning to deal with the effects of our large biological footprints? We can't really know, but I doubt it. What I don't doubt is that there will always be societal problems and natural disasters to deal with, and people will always speculate about the aftermath. So, annoying as I found the preaching to be, I still enjoyed the book as quasi-dystopian, border-post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, speculative fiction. Three stars.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Iron Man 3 in Theaters Now

I've heard mixed reviews, but you know, I really loved Iron Man 3. I love superhero origin stories foremost, but next to that, I like to see my superheroes suffer and stumble in the dark and still come out triumphant. I can't relate to them when they are flying about saving the world. But I can relate to them when they are doubting and hurting, confused, alone. I'm not a masochist, really! Sure, I like to see that raw edge, yet at the same time, that grittiness means nothing if it's not followed by victory, or at least hope. Iron Man 3 nicely balances its depiction of raw humanity, groaning against the earth, with a triumphant goodness that makes you want to pump your fist in the air.

In Iron Man's origin story, I liked him well enough. He was funny and cool. I didn't like his morals much, but he started to change. In Iron Man 3, I love him. He's still rough around the edges, but Pepper Potts has centered him. He doesn't chase other women or act like a rich, spoiled brat (well...okay, less so than before, at least). He and Pepper have a great love story (though a little modern for my tastes--there's been no mention of marriage). He still aggravates her and makes mistakes, but in the end, she's the most important thing in the world to him. And he's learned to apologize...sort of. Pepper, on her part, is a hugely forgiving woman. She knew what she was in for when she became Tony's woman, and she can handle him because she's her own woman, too. She can wear the suit and kick butt. She's not a complainer. She's a doer. And she can roll with Tony's sense of humor. If you didn't like Pepper before this movie, I don't know how you can't after it. She's totally sweet and totally tough. She doesn't get a ton of screen time, but she uses it well.

Of course, I'm talking about the actors as much as the fictional characters. To me, Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr., and Pepper Potts is Gwyneth Paltrow. I can't picture anyone else in those roles. Robert Downey Jr. brings such a crazy energy to his character. His lines are fast-paced, sort of mumbly, hysterically funny, and so well-timed. His interaction with his machines (Jarvis) and the suits is believable (within the world) and humorous, especially when putting on his newest creation involves a high-speed, piece-by-piece, body-bruising, groin-punching, airborne suiting up. Great physical comedy, which I love!

The story of Iron Man 3 works for me, but Tony Stark's personal journey through his anxieties and distractions to what really matters: being the hero and keeping Pepper safe, is what struck all the right chords. I'm not at all familiar with the Iron Man of the comic books, so if this story diverges from that or not (which I know now that it does) doesn't matter at all to me. I enjoyed the plot and the villains and the twists. I enjoyed seeing the heart underneath Iron Man's bravado exterior. The kid Tony interacts with is a brilliant touch for humanizing the Iron Man.

And I absolutely loved the short little punchline at the end of the credits. I don't want to spoil it for you. It's a little different than the usual fare you might expect. It's not really a preview of movies to come. But it's funny, so be sure to stick around for the last laugh.

Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13, mostly for action and violence. (I did not find it appropriate for the four-year-old girl sitting in my row.) Most middle school kids should be fine. Incidentally, I had a lot of great previews in front of my showing of Iron Man 3. Marvel has its own corner of the movie market, and they are doing brilliantly, though DC's new Superman was also previewed. Superheroes are definitely in.

Iron Man 3 just came out this past weekend, and if you've been on the same Marvel bandwagon as the rest of us, support some little town's local theater (Cheaper tickets! Everything said, $10 is still an awful lot to pay for the big screen.) and see it now!