Category Archives: plot

Review: House Of Cards Book

 

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“All members of Cabinet are referred to as Right Honorable Gentlemen. There are only three things wrong with such a title…” – Michael Dobbs, House of Cards

I must admit, like most Americans, I hadn’t heard of Michael Dobbs or his award winning book series until Netflix released their take on the trilogy starring Kevin Spacey. When I first picked up the book and opened to the very first page, I was hooked. After seeing Netflix’s House Of Cards, I was pleasantly surprised to find it different. Much of the same characters are there but with a different twist.

Unlike the TV show, the book opens with Mattie (or Zoe to those familiar with the show) and not Francis. The story is set in the UK and deals with a Chief Whip in the British government. After not receiving the deal he’d been promised by the current Prime Minister, he decides to abandon all loyalty and punish those who’d betrayed him. He blackmails the weak, manipulates those around him, uses the media and even resorts to murder. His personality is snobbery mixed with charm and several pounds of cunning intelligence. By the end, two key characters are killed off and a Prime Minister replaced with Francis himself.

If you’re thinking this might be like the TV show, you’ll be either surprised or disappointed.

Key Differences

American Politics vs. British
The British government is a whole different breed an the American establishment. If you have no idea how the British government works, you won’t need to worry because this book won’t confuse. At first, I was bit a lost but after a few chapters I found my way. In the TV show, Frank is terribly liberal but with no ideology whereas Francis is a conservative with high expectations of reward.

Mattie vs. Zoe
In the show, I thought Zoe was a bit stupid and very vane. Mattie possesses more of a conscious and stronger morals. Zoe, other on the hand, is willing to do what it takes to get what she needs. For example, using her body to manipulate Frank.

Claire Underwood vs Elizabeth
In the show, I absolutely loved Claire. I very much missed her absence in the book. Francis is married to a woman with almost the same personality and conspiratorial evilness as Claire but she doesn’t take much part in the story. It isn’t until the second book that we see more of her.

Then vs. Now
When the book was published in the 1980’s, politics and technology was different. Things vastly changed when the web connected everyone and the middle east became more a threat. In the book, the Soviet Union is mentioned whereas in the show education is a key part.

I could go on with the list but I believe most of you can see how the story varies from the show. Which of course it would. One is British and written in the 1980’s and the second is American and filmed today. I have started reading the second book and will report on it soon.

Review: The Indispensable Heroes of Guards! GuardS

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When a book dedicates itself to fantasy’s expendable Red Shirt Army with the witticism of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, you know you hold a diamond. When I given Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! to read, I was a little weary to give it a try. The dull artwork of a strange looking dragon on its cover wasn’t eye catching. The summary on the back was about as appealing as a very moldy ham and egg sandwich. But, encouraged by my friend’s enthusiasm, I trudged on like a good soldier and opened the book.

Six words in, I knew I was infected.

Guards! Guards! is full of clever sentences that get right under your skin. It opens in a fictional place of Terry Pratchett’s own imagination called Discworld. Our unlikely heroes are the Night Watchmen of Ankh-Morpork who dedicate themselves to alcoholism and never running too fast lest they actually catch a criminal. It’s these four characters Vimes, Colon, Nobbs and Carrot drew me closer to the pages. I felt as though I were a part of their crew.

The plot begins when an incompetent secret brotherhood schemes to replace the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork with a puppet king of their own. In order to accomplish their evil deed, they summon a dragon using a stolen magical book and that’s when the mayhem starts. It’s up to Captain Vimes of the Night Watch and his rag-tag team to stop this dragon and restore order. My favorite character out of this crew was Carrot. Having lived his entire life in the underground caverns of the dwarves, Carrot discovers a whole new world when he steps foot into Ankh-Morpork. He volunteers with the Night Watch which we are told nobody would ever think of doing. His naive yet bold nature reminds me of myself when I moved out of my parents’ house and discovered the life of a city girl.

The voice and style of Guards! Guards! is marinated in Pratchett’s love of good British farce. A ridiculous cast of characters find themselves tangled in improbable scenarios and complications. The heroes and villains are silly enough for us not to take seriously yet so thoroughly well done they seem almost tangible. Our antagonist, the Supreme Grand Master, is a whimsical parody of an egotistical maniac driven by his hatred of humanity’s stupidity. Lady Ramkin, a potential love interest of our protagonist Captain Vimes, is overweight, hazardously confident and sharply eccentric with her fondness for dragons. The story is full of action and spotted here and there by extreme cuteness such as the scenes with the swamp dragons. Also, hidden in the text is a treasure trove of references to Hollywood films.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wishes a great read.

Adding Twists After Twist Like A Pretzel

“I bet you didn’t see this twist.” – Officer X

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I’ve been working on plot and character development for my book. It’s been a very rugged road so far with many bumps, unexpected hurdles, and hair pulling moments. I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed, but the moment it’s published and people say they love it… That moment will make up for it all. I’m counting the days til that day.

Twists are a lovely thing in a story. They make you go.. “oh! I never saw that coming!” or “Oh my gosh! That’s crazy!” They make the story ten times better. They make you want to go and read everything else by the author. I love twists.

One of my favorite storytellers who uses twists like a pro is Christopher Nolan. He isn’t an author exactly but he’s a great storyteller. I love the twists he adds to every one of his movies. Inception has to be by far my favorite for its uniqueness. The idea of going into someone else’s dreams. The idea of living in a dream. It’s intriguing and original.

And here I am going through my book and trying to Christopher Nolan it up. Add spice. It’s got some spice. And I think it’s an amazing story with the right amount of suspense and action. But my dilemma is how much spice should I add before it becomes too spicy? In other words, how many twists can I add to my story before it becomes ridiculous.

Oh by the way, he’s really the bad guy. And that other guy works for SpaceX. And that other guy wants to become president. And the real bad guy isn’t really bad but good. And there’s some random character I forgot to tell you about. He kills the entire world. The end.

Twists obviously can’t come out of the blue like some random object. Hints need to be given discreetly. The asteroid doesn’t just randomly hit Earth one day. It comes hurtling through space into our orbit. NASA freaks out. The government freaks out. Newspapers freak out. People freak out. Tension is built. Soon the question, “Will it hit Earth?” becomes “When will it hit Earth and where?” And cities become evacuated and people start going to church. Twists are like asteroids. They need to be built up but of course hidden. Like no one expects an asteroid to come hurtling through space.

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In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan does a famously well job of hiding the fact that Cooper is the one behind the bookcase. That Cooper is the one trying to communicate with Murphy, not aliens. He hides some hints in plain sight that you don’t expect. Such as the interview with Murphy when she’s old. The spacecraft that Cooper randomly finds on the ground. The sand particles forming lines on the floor. And S.T.A.Y.

I’m trying to figure out whether or not I should add more to my book. That’s the big question for me. I’ve decided that I should finish the rewrite and then worry about this. Which is probably a good idea. I don’t want to jump the gun. Especially when I haven’t even finished yet.