THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS by Michel Faber

I finished Michel Faber’s novel about a British pastor who leaves his wife behind to spread the gospel on a distant planet, Oasis. Though it is a book about aliens and their reception of The Book of Strange New Things (what they call The Bible), it is ultimately a story about human relationships. About the complexities of human nature, our beliefs and drives, and our delicate bonds with each other. The pastor’s wife Beatrice writes him letters of support – which quickly turn in tone as the world around her drastically changes in his absence.

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Though the plot revolves around this deeply religious couple, it is not slanted towards endorsement of Christian doctrine nor against it… it simply was a part of how these two people experienced the world, deeply wound around their faith, as much a part of their experience in life as their race and culture. It’s a strange, infectious story that defies your expectations of what should happen with the premise of a foreign missionary – using the tension of our expectations to build the action in the plot. It’s hard to explain, honestly, without spoilers – and so I will just leave you to muse on this idea.

Highly recommended for readers looking for an usual story. The actual book was four stars. But the lingering impressions and explorations it invites you to take on your own are five stars.

Rating: 5 stars.

Now… if you’ve read it… or you don’t mind spoilers… follow me…

 

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American Remakes of Korean Dramas

So, this weekend I sat down and watched some experimental television… aka, some American attempts to remake Korean Dramas.  There were pros and cons.

First up was The Good Doctor.  The ABC remake stars that cute, odd kid who played Norman Bates (to perfection) on the Bates Hotel.  I figured he could pull off the role and I was correct.  He’s a believable savant.  The first episode has promise, though personally I didn’t feel the emotional connection to his tragic backstory quite as much as I did in the original.  The drunk father, the trauma of loosing the pet rabbit, the horror of finding himself without his only lifeline – his brother – at such a young age… we got the same backstory, more or less, with a few new embellishments that seemed unnecessary.  The doctors seem great, so far, and they’re the most important thing.  I really liked the casting of the female doctor – she’s gorgeous and has the wide eyed innocent face required for the part.  Her boyfriend, the current top dog, is also excellent with his confidence and capabilities currently unchallenged.  And I’m willing to watch more to see how it plays out.

Will we get those same super-sweet, painfully sincere moments that the original gave us?  Will there be piggyback rides and drunken confessions?  There better be my favorite character -the lovable male nurse who always had the new doc’s back and took care of all the kids in the hospital… I can’t wait until he’s introduced.

Honestly… there’s a lot to look forward to.  The dude who remade this was also responsible for HOUSE, the only other medical show I actually liked in the history of medical shows… so I have all my fingers and toes crossed.  I’m hoping he won’t be too jaded to see how important the sincere and kind moments were in the original and try to crop them out of this remake.

UPDATE:  A few weeks in… and I’m not in love with the American version.  It just feels like another generic medical show… somehow they’ve stolen the skeleton of medical plotlines from the original but left the heart far behind.  Eh.  

 

Next, and also by ABC, was the remake of God’s Gift: 14 Days.  Retitled Somewhere Between.  It started out pretty strong – with the first two episodes moving along well… but then started dragging its feet and I admit I didn’t finish it.  They stuck to the story line, however, almost exactly, which was a pro.  Unfortunately, the intensity required for the roles was somewhat lost on our American actors.  Especially in certain scenes… when our male cop-turned-investigator was supposed to show us real sorrow, regret, or pain… eh, didn’t pull it off.  He seemed really uncomfortable.  When our lead female, the wide-shouldered mom with the awkward bangs is supposed to be frantically searching for her daughter, near desperation to save her, and running wild… she came across as wild, but I didn’t buy the fear.  The daughter was delightful, the political husband great as the conflicted man with secrets.  Supporting cast was all decent.  But without the fire under their asses, it’s hard to keep running through the plot with these actors when you feel like you could just slow down and walk.  The editing was somewhat awkward with the crime/action scenes as well, making them feel unthreatening and unsuspenseful… murders are happening!  I should be biting my nails off, not somewhat confused.

For me, the most noticeably enjoyable thing was the diversity of the cast members.  We’re talking a rainbow of colors, and I loved it.  But not enough to actually watch the whole show, mind you… it just wasn’t good enough to devote hours to.

Still – here’s hoping they keep trying.  Why?  Cause there are more unique plotlines happening in Korean dramas than American dramas, for one.  Cause American’s need to practice their acting skills and start stepping up their game with giving us believable emotional range.  And cause, if nothing else, it may cause people to seek out the Korean versions… and become K-Drama fans.  We could always use more, honestly.

P.S.  Super NOT excited to learn that there are several American shows getting K-Drama makeovers… though who knows.  I will reserve my judgement until I watch the K-Drama version of The Good Wife and tell ya then.