Thursday, December 20, 2007

From Cathedrals to Catastrophe

I had just finished reading the fourth book in Sharan Newman's medieval mystery series when La Otra Hermana y su marido dropped by the house to forage for food; finding none, they suggested going to see I Am Legend. So I went.

It was terrible. Except for Men in Black (and possibly Enemy of the State, depending on my mood), I'm not generally a big fan of Will Smith's movies; I Am Legend was no exception. I didn't read the book, but the film's plot was horribly unoriginal. It essentially combined 28 Days Later with Castaway, and threw in a scene from Old Yeller for good measure. There was even a sad and badly thought-out attempt at theology: Will Smith says at one point, "God didn't do this. We did." (Therefore, what, don't try to find a cure for cancer? Because it might create zombies and destroy the world?)

The movie did have its moments, though. Some of the gestures and behavior patterns of Smith's character are funny and yet heartbreaking, like talking to mannequins and reciting dialogue from Shrek. The routinization keeps him sane in his isolated existence as the last man left alive in a post-apocalyptic New York. (The amazing set of overgrown, deserted city streets is the only other cool thing about the movie.)

The fourth book in the Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series, however, was quite good. It's been a few months and countless boring articles on research methodology, so I forgot what happened in the third book. But the great thing with a mystery series is that the reader is quickly caught up to speed on the relevant histories of the main characters.

Strong as Death was a different spin on ye olde story of a group of pilgrims making a journey of faith and finding out that they're all connected in sinister ways. The Crusades usually figure in there somewhere. There's usually a monk with an unholy past and a rich widow. Did Chaucer start this trend, I wonder? Regardless, it's a standard scenario in any medieval mystery series. Newman just added some good twists involving secret Jewish heritage (more came out of the woodwork! Just when we thought the drama died down! And of course, it being a murder mystery, anti-Semitic mobs keep coming after half the characters in the book.)

So now, of course, I'm re-hooked and have to wait for Book 5 to arrive from the library.

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