Read, Watched, and Recommended

Read, Watched, and Recommended

Caelia and I watched Day 7, the most recent season, of 24, and I have to say that it is one of their best to date. After the terrible Day 6, this dramatic improvement in quality was needed in order to restore faith in both the series, and the format. Replacing the incrementally epic adventures for more intense and personal story-lines, the season further explores the character of Jack Bauer; with some wonderful writing such as Jack’s justification for his actions before a senate hearing in the opening hour:
I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because, sir, the truth is… I don’t.

I have recently finished reading the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, which I had received for Christmas. The reason for this unusually long time to read this duology is that the word count for each novel is the same as that of a conventional trilogy. This increased word-count does not imply that it is filled with unnecessary padding, as Peter explores the plot with multiple narrative threads through which he weaves the encompassing story arc.

Season 2 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has also proved to be a significantly impressive TV series. Building upon the strength of the first season, the second and most recent season continued to explore the impact of the coming apocalypse; as well as avoiding the potential trap of Terminator of the Week, which the series could easily fall in to. One aspect that stands out for me, are the standalone episodes can be just as compelling as those which develop the ongoing story arc.

I am generally ambivalent towards the fantasy genre, and find the atypical novel to be insufficiently developed to hold my interest. But Richard Morgan, a favourite author of mine, recently produced his first fantasy novel, and I have to say it is rather good. Dispensing with many of the clichéd tropes from the fantasy genre, The Steel Remains is a wonderfully dark and gritty fantasy noir novel, with an uncommon twist to the lead character. Needless to say, this is classic Richard Morgan, and an awesome novel to boot.

Also watched during the past couple of months was the first two seasons of Alias, in part recommended by J.J Abrams‘ work on Lost. While the characterisation and interaction is flawless, I found the plotting and setting to be frustrating. My greatest criticism was the premise that Sydney Bristow as an undercover agent for the CIA on the same assignment as her father, and would later work alongside her mother – also Jack’s former wife and double agent for the KGB – who turned herself in. Can you say emotional involvement? For a show steeped in contemporary spy culture, to blatantly disregard such a prominent aspect that runs counter to current espionage etiquette was frustrating. I fully acknowledge this is intended as work of fiction, but to incorporate and reference such real-world institutions as the CIA and Echelon means you also should also recognise crucial aspects in working there.

A film I had recently received as a birthday present from Frank Darabont‘s The Mist, based upon the Stephen King short story of the same name. Overall, I felt it was an extremely well executed film, focusing upon the people and their reactions, in an apocalyptical situation. Unfortunately, in the final minute of the film I managed to lose all sympathy for the central character and thought “what a schmuck”, which is a shame as until then I was very impressed the character’s passage through the story.

A recent recommendation was Burn Notice, an action/drama/comedy series (now into its third series) from first time writer Matt Nix about a “burned” (a compromised agent who is excommunicated from his organisation) agent stranded in Miami. What makes this series stand out from the rest is the amount of thought and research that is invested into each storyline, as well as Michael Weston’s (Jeffrey Donovan) deadpan narration.