Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reccomended Read: The Host

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Yes, The Host. By Stephanie Meyer.

Yes, I’m a serious writer and I’m recommending a Stephenie Meyer book. Just bear with me and let me get on to my argument for why this weird little big story is worth your time.

What it’s about:

The Host begins after the human race has already been taken over by parasitic aliens called souls who colonize worlds in order to “improve” them, making them more peaceful, eliminating money, providing free health care, etc. A soul named Wanderer is put in the body of a girl named Melanie so the aliens can find out if Melanie was part of a larger human resistance.

But Melanie has no intention of vacating to make room for Wanderer. Though she can’t regain control of her body, she fires memories of her loved ones at the soul inside her until Wanderer falls in love with them too. Together,  strike out to locate the last stronghold of humanity.

They find a small settlement led by Melanie’s conspiracy theorist uncle Jeb, who was paranoid enough to hide out when things started going downhill. From then on the story becomes a psychological drama as the remaining humans struggle to deal with their new alien roommate.

Why it’s awesome:

The extraordinary thing about The Host is that Meyer seems to have struck upon the perfect situation to expose every facet of human nature, good and bad. Wanderer, later referred to as Wanda, is fundamentally gentle and self-sacrificing, while Melanie (reduced to a voice in Wanda’s head) is passionate and violent. Melanie stirs things in Wanda that, as a peace-loving soul, she shouldn’t feel, while Wanda’s kindness and courage earn her Melanie’s frustration and eventually respect.

What really makes this book a petri dish of humanity is each human’s reaction to the alien presence. Some treat her as an enemy who’ll endanger their small colony. Others warily accept her. Some can’t figure out how to distinguish Wanda’s consciousness from Melanie’s, but others can tell exactly which one is in control.

Wanda slowly learns that the human tendency toward extreme emotions like violence also allows them to feel love more deeply than any other species she’s encountered. The same love for his makeshift family that motivates Ian to try to kill Wanda also drives him to protect her when he realizes that she’s a person too.  Doc’s need to heal forces him to commit atrocities against Wanda’s people. Jared’s love for Melanie prompts his hatred for the alien that took her away.

It takes an alien to make the scattered survivors realize what it means to be human. Through Wanda, we see that the ugliness of humanity is tied inextricably with what makes humanity beautiful.

And for those of you who are worried, there’s no creepy pedo-werewolf stuff. The ending is one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever read, mostly because Wanda has to fight tooth and nail every step of the way to get it. She earned her ending, and in every way it’s perfect, poignant and wonderful.

The movie comes out on March 29.  I’m already in love with the cast and I can’t wait to see how it comes out.

But mostly I can’t wait to see this pretty boy:

Ian has spoiled men for me forever. So has Jake Abel.

Filler vs. Plot: “Legend of Korra” and “Supernatural”

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ImageOnly a few short months ago, I declared to pretty much anyone that would listen that “Legend of Korra” was set to outstrip its predecessor, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” My evidence for this? The lack of filler.

“Avatar” took a while to find its groove, especially in season one. There were a lot of random daytrips, a healthy dose of sillyness, and a lot of character expansion.

Going into “Korra,” the writers decided they wanted to take a more streamlined and direct approach to the show, diving right into the action and staying with the main plot. I thought that this would be a change for the better. The action popped, the intensity didn’t let up, and the fight scenes were to die for.

But after a while, it felt like something was missing.

While filler does little to advance the plot, it works wonders for underdeveloped characters. Often you get to see the world of the story from a different perspective, or characters learn something important about themselves that will change the rest of their journey.

For instance, Sokka in “Avatar” would still be an obnoxious sexist if he hadn’t met Suki in the Kyoshi Warriors episode. Toph and Katara would still hate each other if they hadn’t come to understand each other in “The Runaway.”

As awesome as the first season of “Korra” was, it was sorely lacking in that department. Asami is struggling under a lack of personality—pretty much she has daddy issues and drives cars. Just one Asami-focused episode might have pulled her out of that. And come on, Commander Iroh had what, three lines? Not cool, man.

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I want to like you, Asami! I really do!

Prepare yourself, I’m about to make a weird analogy.

So the way I see it, the plot is like a water snake. At first you’re like, oh, it’s a stick. Then it becomes increasingly clear that it’s a snake. You can only see the coils that break the surface occasionally. Then finally the head rears up and attacks you.

The first five seasons of “Supernatural” nailed the balance between the overarching plot and the week-to-week story.

Take season two of Supernatural. [SPOILERS AHEAD] The snake under the surface are the kids with psychic powers. Every so often, coils of the snake break the surface—a psychic kid here, a revelation there—until BAM, good ol’ yellow eyes (a plot snaking through since season 1) throws the psychic kids into a crazy deathmatch and (literally) all hell breaks loose. [END SPOILERS]

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I’m pretty sure he couldn’t see a thing through those contacts.

Because “Supernatural” knew exactly when to reveal the larger plot and when to focus more on their monster-of-the-week format, we got both character and plot development.

In Avatar, the snake was always on the surface. We didn’t have time to think we were safe, or go on a side adventure, or wonder where the series finale was headed.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 came out, a lot of reviewers were enamored with the quiet little scene where Harry and Hermione dance in the tent. The moment meant nothing to the plot, but it offered us a glimpse of what these characters mean to each other and reminded us that they’re just kids dealing with a terrifying situation.

Which leads us to another intangible: Heart.

You’ll hear it all the time in movie reviews, but it’s really hard to pinpoint what gives a story “heart.” I’ll probably go into more detail in a later post, but for the purposes of this one, well-done filler helps give a story heart. It gives you a chance to slow down and dwell in the world of these characters, kind of like hanging out with co-workers over coffee instead of in the office.

We got plenty of great character moments in “Korra,” but no full episodes. The closest thing to a filler episode was “The Spirit of Competition,” which was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise all-action series. It didn’t advance the plot, but it gave us insight into Mako and Bolin’s relationship, and let’s be honest: Who doesn’t want to see more of Bolin?

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“You’re not my brother! You’re a brother BETRAYER!”

Exploring the balance between meandering filler and plot can alter the flow and feel of a series. Chime in with your comments and let me know what you think of filler episodes/moments in movies/TV/books!