2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 2

I got a little sidetracked, but I want to finish my wrap of our last revolution around the sun, so I can move confidently into the future. Here are some of my thoughts on the arts for last year.

Some great films came out in 2014, and I even saw some of them. Here are some highlights for me:

Interstellar — A visual spectacular, with great acting, great emotional punch, and a storyline that’s interesting if not entirely successful. A thoughtful movie that trips here and there, but is well worth the ride. If you haven’t seen it, try to get to it on a big screen.

Mockingjay, Pt. 1 — Thoroughly engrossing, with great characters and excellent fidelity to the book. I was prepared for a disappointing “transitional” movie, laying the groundwork for the final installment, but it really delivered. Shortly before seeing the movie, I saw Jennifer Lawrence interviewed by Stephen Colbert, and she looked exactly like a young woman of her age—giggly, nervous, a little unsure of herself. Onscreen and in character, she is a dynamo, absolutely remarkable.

Maleficent — I didn’t see this in the theater, but caught it on Netflix. Surprisingly powerful and entertaining.

Big Hero Six — Another surprise. I expected to enjoy it, but in fact was quite taken by its charm, sweetness, and emotion.

Snowpiercer — Strange and powerful, and more than a little surrealistic. Does not stand up to logical scrutiny in the least, but I don’t think it was intended to. I was glad I saw it, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to see it again.

Guardians of the Galaxy — I already wrote about this, extolling its wit and humor. Suffice it to say that I loved Rocket and Groot, and rate this my favorite movie of the year.

What about books? That’s a little harder for me to write about, because so much of my reading (on the page or virtual page) was for critique, or for awards voting, or nonfiction that I dipped into but didn’t necessarily read from beginning to end (such as a history of World War II, an account of atomic disasters since the nuclear age began, and profiles of important players in the space program). I started a lot of pieces of fiction that I didn’t finish, sometimes because it didn’t grab me, and sometimes because something else would come along that I needed to read for one reason or another, and then something else, and so I never got back to the first piece. It’s a lousy way to run a railroad, and I want to do better this year. Like read more of the 1001 books I’ve added to my ebook library!

Audiobooks, now—those I’ve been enjoying, because I can read while I’m out walking Captain Jack. I don’t think any of my favorites are new titles, but they’re new to me, and that’s all that matters, right?

Stephen King’s Gunslinger series — Riveting, well told, and with terrific narration. I’ve listened to the first few volumes, and have the next one queued up in Audible for the near future. 

Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio — An award winner some years back. I’d never gotten to it, until last summer, when I listened to the audio version. Terrific, thoughtful storytelling, with an unnerving and scarily believable premise. Get ready for the next stage in our evolution, and the ensuing social chaos.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mysteries — Private eye stories told from the viewpoint of the PI’s dog Chet. Charming and funny, with great narration.

Larry Bond’s Cold Choices — A submarine thriller, told with realism and tension, as the crew of a U.S. nuclear sub risks everything to save the lives of the crew of a crippled Russian sub. This may be for submarine fans only, because of the amount of detail about life on a sub, but I enjoyed it.

A word about the Jack Reacher novels, by Lee Child, which I’ve been enjoying for a few years now in audio. The last few have been disappointing, including this year’s entry, Personal. If you’re thinking of trying a Reacher novel for the first time, I strongly recommend earlier novels, such as Die Trying, Without Fail, or Bad Luck and Trouble. And I can only recommend the audiobooks versions, because that’s the only way I’ve ever read them. 

Doh! How could I forget? (Sometimes when you read friends’ books in draft form, you forget to note when they’re out in the wild.) I don’t actually remember when these hit pixels, but I think of them as having arrived in the last year or so. Writer/artist Chris Howard issued a graphic novel version of his SF novel Salvage. Former Ultimate SF workshopper Lisa Cohen published a YA novel, Derelict. And for some completely silly, completely fun fantasy, it’s hard to beat Craig Shaw Gardner’s Temporary Magic novels, complete with Bob the horse!

And in case you didn’t catch it from my last post, yes, I’m still working on The Reefs of Time, and making progress!

Post your comment before you lose your train of thought. (Mine already left the station.)