Final Thoughts on The Princess Bride

We all have movies that we’ve watched either growing up or even recently that become favorites. Sometimes when we revisit these movies they don’t live up to the memories we had of them. Other times they do live up to the memories and are just as enjoyable now, if not more enjoyable. The Princess Bride is one of my personal favorite movies, and continues to live up to memories I have of it.

The Princess BrideFor those who haven’t seen it or heard anything about it, The Princess Bride is a story within a story. The story you begin with is that of a boy staying home sick from school. His Grandfather comes over to read him a book. That book is the bulk of the story, although you do sometimes cut back to the boy and his grandfather at certain parts of the story.

The main story focuses on the love between Buttercup and Westley. While love is definitely the uniting theme the story has a bit of everything. There is comedy, action, fantasy, and of course romance. Over the course of the movie the idea is that true love will conquer everything this is in the way. Which is good as there are a number of things that get in the way of Buttercup and Westley; one of them believed to be death, arranged marriage to the prince, a kidnapping, the fire swamp, and even being mostly dead.

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, but to be honest it’s not because it is a particularly deep movie. It is just a fun movie with memorable characters, quotable lines, and a mostly lighthearted storyline. I’m sure you can nitpick the movie’s view of “true love” and everything, but a lot of the fun of the movie is that it’s not particularly serious. It is basically a modern (however modern 1987 might be considered today) fairy tale with a happy ending.

This movie has been one I enjoyed watching growing up and in all honesty is still just as enjoyable today. I’ve watched other movies that I had good memories of growing up that just didn’t really hold up to the memory upon re-watch. I’m happy to say that The Princess Bride wasn’t one of them. It will be a movie that I’ll enjoy showing to my kids when they get a little older and hope they’ll enjoy as much as their parents do.

Final Thoughts on The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, Part III)

Writing thoughts about a series of books is somewhat difficult. Once you go beyond the first book in a series you will lose anyone who wasn’t too interested in the series. Even if there were people interested in the series writing about follow up books opens up potential for spoilers for those who haven’t read up to that book yet. Regardless, here I am writing on Stephen King’s third book in The Dark Tower series, The Waste Lands.

The Waste LandsThe book picks up after the recruitment of Eddie and Susannah that took place in The Drawing of the Three. Roland, Eddie, and Susannah are on their way to the Dark Tower, but their group is not yet complete. Roland has been slowly going insane after saving Jake in the last book and creating a paradox. It soon becomes clear that they need to recruit Jake and bring him once again to Roland’s world. This is the focus of the first half of the book and while it does involve some of the story taking place in New York City, Jake’s recruitment is a much more supernatural tale than the stories of Eddie and Susannah.

The second half of the book is focused on finding a train to help take them over the waste lands that they are coming upon. Their best chance is a monorail that goes from the city of Lud. The only problem is that the once great city of Lud is a dangerous place full of warring factions and technology that seems to have a mind of its own.

I know I keep saying this with every subsequent book, but The Waste Lands is even better than The Drawing of the Three. It doesn’t have an out of character plot device to get angry about (like Roland’s nap near the water). I also like how the story gets back to a more supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi setting. Instead of spending a lot of our time in New York City, even if it was through supernatural means, we’re back in Roland’s world for the most part. Even the trips to New York City this time following Jake involves a more supernatural element than the stories of Eddie, Susannah, or Jack Mort did in the last book.

I think that part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was that more of Mid-World was revealed. The first book was largely focused on the desert and the trip through the mountains, the second book took place entirely on the beach or in New York and the only real part of Roland’s world that was added were the”lobstrosities” This book introduced us to more of it, even if it is a rather bleak and dangerous world it isĀ  an interesting one.

The worst part of the book is that it ends on a rather substantial cliffhanger, which would not have been too enjoyable right when it released. However, now that all the books in the series have been completed it is not really a significant drawback. Although it would not have been fun having to wait six years until the next book came out.

Overall, I’d say that The Waste Lands is a fine continuation of The Dark Tower series. I’d say that it is the best of the books so far. It retains the bleak yet slightly hopeful tone of the previous books while expanding on the world or interconnected worlds or however you want to say it. Characters feel like they get more of a chance to develop in this entry than either of the other ones. While I worry that this quality won’t last, I highly recommend The Waste Lands.

Final Thoughts on The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book II)

The Drawing of the Three is the second book in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Saga. Given that this is the second book in a series there is always the potential for spoilers from the first book, so read with that in mind. Of course there is always the potential for some spoilers from this book, but I try to avoid them as much as possible.

The Drawing of the ThreeThe book itself picks up after the events of the first book. Roland has met the Man in Black and after a rather strange meeting sets off to find the three people that are supposed to help Roland on his quest. This meeting took place on a beach near the Western Sea and that is where Roland begins this book.

To be honest though, the beginning of The Drawing of the Three is almost enough to put you off the whole book. It starts off with Roland waking up on the beach of the Western Sea in the water and being attacked by what the characters call a “lobstrosity.” This “lobstrosity” almost kills Roland and he winds up losing two fingers on his right hand and the big toe on his right foot. What is really infuriating about this turn of events is how Roland thinks about how water is a gunslingers worst enemy because wet bullets are useless.

If this were the case what was Roland doing that close to the sea? It seems unlikely that he would have just wandered too close by accident, since that just isn’t in character for Roland. The whole setup just seems like a way to make Roland weaker and need to rely more on those he is supposed to recruit to his cause. Which is okay, but the way it was done just really didn’t make sense to me.

If you can get past that though, then The Drawing of the Three winds up being a better book than the first. In the book Roland is to look for three doors that connect to the tarot cards that the Man in Black showed him at the end of the last book. The three cards were are “The Prisoner”, “The Lady of Shadows”, and “Death”. All three of these characters are found in New York City from different time periods.

These members of Roland’s group also all have their own struggles and bleak aspects to their stories, which fits in so well with the bleakness in the Dark Tower series. Eddie Dean, “The Prisoner” is a prisoner to his heroin addiction and the New York City underworld. Odetta Holmes, “The Lady of Shadows” seems to be kind, gentle, and intelligent, but harbors a split personality named Detta Walker who while still intelligent is the polar opposite of Odetta.

The last member “Death” is Jack Mort. Unlike the other two cases Jack’s door is not labeled “Death”but rather “The Pusher.” Also unlike Eddie or Odetta, Jack is not really intended to become one of Roland’s allies, but is rather slated for death, which should be unsurprising. Jack is a sociopath who likes to randomly injure or kill random strangers by pushing them into moving vehicles or dropping things on their head. Despite not being one to join his group Roland is still able to make use of the man for his quest.

The doors allow Roland to see through the eyes of each of these characters, talk to them in their minds, control their actions, and even appear in the world himself. Roland uses all of these things in different ways for each of the three characters. To top it all off Roland is suffering from severe infection and fever from his wounds given to him by the “lobstrosity” at the beginning of the book.

If all this sounds like a very strange ride, you would be right. However, it is the mix of strangeness, bleakness, and fantastical that makes the book so interesting. It is a book full of flawed characters who wind up caught up in something bigger than themselves. It is a book that travels through different times and different dimensions and yet still manages to work.

As I said earlier I’d place The Drawing of the Three as a better book overall than King’s first entry into the series. If The Gunslinger piqued your interest at all, even if you didn’t think it was the best book, I would give The Drawing of the Three a try. It’s still the same world with the same bleak, dark outlook with a sliver of hope even when it comes to “our world.” Don’t expect that to change, but it continues to interesting story that is introduced in The Gunslinger and makes it even more intriguing.

Final Thoughts on The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book I)

I have been behind on giving my thoughts on books for awhile, but with looking at Stephen King’s The Gunslinger I will be caught up on my recently finished books. The Gunslinger is the first book of King’s Dark Tower series and it is a stranger work. It’s a strange world that appears to be a mash-up of old westerns, post-apocalyptic, horror, and fantasy. Some spoilers will probably be present in these thoughts, so take care in venturing forward.

The GunslingerThe book follows the Gunslinger Roland of Gilead and his quest to catch “the man in black” who he has been chasing for a long while. He hopes to catch him in order to achieve his ultimate quest, to find the Dark Tower.

The book starts off presenting itself in what seems to be a western setting. We see a lone gunman walking through the desert with his mule. He’s chasing a man in black, which in westerns are typically the bad guy. Yet you continually meet things that make the setting seem a bit off.

Little things like a bird singing “Beans, beans, the magical fruit.”Like the gunslinger questioning the humanity of the man in black he’s following. Telling a story of how the man in black rose somebody up from the dead and even how a number of people are surprised with Roland’s possession of a non-mutated mule. You begin to realize this isn’t just a western despite what the initial setting may have led you to believe and you probably should have known better since you’re reading a Stephen King book after all.

The world Roland inhabits is a messed up place, “the world has moved on,” as Roland says. The world is a bit of a desert waste land, at least the part of it we see Roland moving through here. Exactly what caused this destruction and mutation of animals and people we are never really told. This is just how the world is as far as we know.

The book seems to follow three parts. The the first part is an introduction to Roland and the world he inhabits. Most of it involves him telling a story about a trap that the man in black left for him in the town of Tull.

The second part features him meeting the boy Jake (who came from our world after he was pushed in front of a car and killed) and traveling through various dangers on the quest to chase after the man in black. During this part we also see some of the past of the gunslinger and a little about why he is chasing the man in black.

The last part is when the gunslinger has finally caught up to the man in black. The first and last parts, aren’t as long as the middle. The bulk of the story takes place in the second part where the Gunslinger and Jake are traveling to find the man in black.

The world of The Gunslinger is a rather bleak and dark one. As I’ve already said, the world Roland inhabits “has moved on.” It is past its prime. We see this in the desert wasteland that Roland wanders through. We can see this in the trap laid for the gunslinger at the city of Tull, the mutated animals, demons, the danger of running out of food and water, mutant humans, and of course the man in black himself.

In this bleak world, Roland seems to be a ray of hope, but even he isn’t the valiant knight seeking to right the wrongs. He’s more of a duty bound soldier doing whatever it takes achieve his goals. So even the ray of hope has a bleakness to him. Like he is worn down by his never-ending quest and longs for it to be over, so he marches on.

Roland’s willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish his quest is a fairly significant theme of the book. He is willing to sacrifice, and usually has to, those close to him in order to catch the man in black. Roland doesn’t really manipulate or use these people and often is very conflicted in the decision he has to make. It is just that his goals are more important than anything else, no matter what he may feel about it.

Overall, I’m not really sure I’ve read a book quite like this. It was strange, yet intriguing. It kept you interested in figuring out what was going on next, even if you couldn’t understand everything when it did happen. It is not a book for those who like happy or uplifting tales. It is also not for those who like simple or straight forward stories either.

As I said I found it interesting and am looking forward to seeing how the story plays out in the subsequent books of the series. That said, I wouldn’t call The Gunslinger my favorite book either, but I found it unique and quite different than anything I’ve read before.

Fun for the Weekend – The Sword of Shannara

I have a confession to make. My favorite fantasy series is not J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Despite knowing many people who hold it up high and knowing that critics laud the book with praise, it is still not my favorite fantasy series. Instead my favorite series is Terry Brook’s Shannara series of books.

It all started with me reading The Sword of Shannara somewhere around 7th grade. I had found the book at my grandma’s, having belonged to my uncle. So I read it and found myself engaged in the world of heroes, magic, and unlikely heroes. Soon after I began to see if there were any other of the books at my grandma’s house. I enjoyed it in a way that I hadn’t when I had tried reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit in elementary school.

Over time I’ve had three versions of the book and read it at least half a dozen times if not actually closer to a dozen. Perhaps it was for this reason that when I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time that I just didn’t become engrossed in it. I read it and enjoyed it moderately, but something about it just didn’t grab me like the Shannara series did.

My lack of ability to enjoy The Lord of the Rings really made me laugh as I realized, when I became older, that many critics disliked The Sword of Shannara because they thought it was copying The Lord of the Rings too much. I had never thought of this before, and while I admit some similarities, there are just as many differences as there are similarities. However, even if it is a copy I find myself liking the copy more than the original.

Perhaps you aren’t too interested in the comparison to The Lord of the Rings and instead want to know what The Sword of Shannara is about. At its heart like many fantasy novels it is a story of the battle between good and evil in the mythological world of the Four Lands. The evil takes form in the Warlock Lord who is the evil threatening to destroy and conquer the Four Lands. However, there is one talisman that can stop him, the titular Sword of Shannara, the only catch is it must be used by a descendant of the Shannara family line, of which there is only one. The half-elf Shea Ohmsford is the last descendant of the Shannara bloodline. So it is up to him and his brother led by the Druid Allanon to find the Sword, use it against the Warlock Lord, and to fight his armies before he destroys those who stand against him.

As I said this is my favorite series of books and this is the one I would recommend starting with. I’m sure you can find it in a local library, but if you’re more of a book buyer you can find it in paperback here or you can buy a hardcover that includes The Sword of Shannara and the two next books in the series The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara here.