I haven’t been doing much reading of late. Or rather, I have, but it’s mainly been things like news or blogs (so purportedly-non-fiction). However, the other week, with a bout of bad weather closing in, I emerged from the library struggling to balance a stack of books.
They were all things I’ve been meaning to look up for a while, so it was good to get a round tuit.
Ender’s Game (graphic novel)
Since first seeing adverts for the movie version a couple of years ago, I’ve been pondering reading this without much passion. I spotted the graphic novel* version, which seemed like a good alternative. However, I found it somewhat … meh. I had a sense of there being some interesting ideas involved, but it didn’t really focus on the bits I wanted to know more about. Like “who are the aliens?”, “are these kids genetically engineered, or what?”, “WHY is it so important that they use kids?”.
It’s possible that some of these come through in the original novel and have been pruned in the conversion. If so, this seems a sad case of a work losing it’s perspective/tone in being adapted. The graphic novel comes across as cheerless, unemotional, and quite brutal in places. The way certain scenes are portrayed could be the difference—more than plot needs to be preserved to achieve an authentic translation**.
One thing I particularly found annoying was that, following the ending (which I won’t spoil), the remaining kids (who have spent the last few years being trained for war), essentially brush it off with a “Well, I guess we go back to school now. That’s what kids do, after all! Haha!”. This seems far too simple and abrupt, and I’d hope it was just an artifact of the graphic novel.
The Prisoner of Zenda
An old-timey swashbuckler (from the late 1800s), this presents an interesting variation on the prisoner’s dilemma. The hero is visiting a foreign country, and happens to resemble the current monarch. The villain drugs and kidnaps the king on the day of his coronation, so the hero is roped in as a double. The rest of the plot develops under the cloud of this cold-war-esque stalemate: neither the hero (impersonating the king) or the villain (holding the king prisoner) can denounce the other without revealing their own duplicity.
It’s otherwise fairly straightforward, and fun, but with an interestingly non-Hollywood ending (list of spoilers):
- The main villain is killed offscreen by one of his underlings
- The second-in-command villain (The Dragon in tvtropes idiom) essentially causes the villain’s downfall, and escapes with barely a scratch (apparently reappearing in later novels by the same author)
- The hero doesn’t receive any major tangible reward (e.g. money, title, position, etc), instead being satisfied with having an adventure (that he cannot admit to anyone) and saving the day
- The hero and his true love never marry, and never meet again, all for the sake of duty
Up next … The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
* Comic book. 🙂
** And it is a translation. The descriptiveness and depth of prose is replaced by visuals, staging, actions, etc. A graphic novel is closer to a film representation than a book (probably part of the reason comic adaptations have become so popular in Hollywood of late).