24 June 2007

Night Watch (Fox Searchlight, 2004); Day Watch (Fox Searchlight, 2007)

Night Watch and Day Watch (now in limited North American release) are the first two installments of a trilogy based on novels by Sergei Lukyanenko. Central to the stories is the existence of "Others" -- vampires, shapeshifters and witches -- who live among humans. These others have long been divided into those who hunt humans (the Dark Others) and those who do not (the Light Others); while not exactly good versus evil, it makes for similar plot points. Those who do not hunt the humans watch the others, by day, night or twilight. What they are watching for is any sign that the balance has been tipped for when that happens, and the truce is broken, war will break out between the groups and no one will be safe.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these films. I wouldn't have bothered if I hadn't been tipped off, and even then I will admit that when a friend said to me, "Oh, you have to see this great Russian vampire movie...!" I was skeptical. But one night when I felt like renting "something different" I noticed Nightwatch on the shelf and grabbed it. Since then we bought a copy and when Daywatch came to town, we made sure we were in the audience on the first weekend.

The first thing you'll notice when watching the films in Russian with English subtitles is that the subtitles get into the act. The words crumble or turn to blood or use some other equally clever effect. Under the subtitles are two very entertaining films which use humor and violence as needed to carry along the otherwise dramatic story.

**** 1/2


Night Watch (on DVD) at Amazon.ca
Night Watch (paperback) at Amazon.ca
Day Watch (paperback) at Amazon.ca
Twilight Watch (paperback) at Amazon.ca

11 June 2007

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Corgi Books, 1991)

It took me a long time to get to this book, which had been recommended to me by three or four different friends. I've never read any of Terry Pratchett's other works, and if this is representative in any way, I don't think I'll bother. Similarly, like most of Neil Gaiman's works, I love the ideas, the worlds he builds, the alternate realities, but ultimately the writing is not well suited to the page.

Yes, sacrelige, I know. The man (Gaiman) is very entertaining and has a huge following -- myself included, oddly -- but I consistently find that his stories are those of a storyteller and they need to be read aloud. Good Omens is no different.

I love the idea of an angel and a devil, each of whom has adapted to life on earth over a couple thousand years, agreeing to quietly screw up armageddon so that they can maintain their comfortable lives. I even smiled at the many puns and page after page of wordplay. Never have footnotes been more amusing. However, after a few chapters, I just wanted them to get on with it. I'm sure, listening to the story being told, it would have held my interest, but reading it just got tedious.

In the end, it did pick up, and I enjoyed the last few chapters as much as the first; I just could have done without the middle.