Stardust – Film, Print, & Audio Review

Stardust – Film, Print, & Audio Review

Stardust

How many of you have read a book, seen the movie, and also had the OCD to listen to the audiobook? I can’t say that about many creative works, but I can for Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Film

I first watched the Stardust movie when it came out in theaters and thought it was a cute story with some interesting actor portrayals. None more outlandish or hilarious than Robert DeNiro as the cross-dressing skyship captain. I walked out of the theater, thought to myself “that was an interesting movie,” and then went home, thinking little more of it.

Print


A few years later I was working at a bookstore and saw the illustrated book version on the shelf. I don’t usually do this, but I grabbed it and read the whole book that night. Which was better? The movie was superior in many ways, but the book had a lot of redeeming factors, such as the illustrations and the flow of the narrative. It read like an adult fairy tale, which was what the author intended.

Audio

Seven years later, I heard in a podcast that the ultimate, best version of the story is the audiobook read by the author, Neil Gaiman. I gave it a shot, listening to it on my iPod on my long walks to class. Gaiman’s voice might as well be velvet. He does a great job with the various voices and his British-ness definitely added a whimsical feeling to the words. Although the movie’s climax makes more sense, the audiobook is definitely where I would start if I hadn’t read or seen anything Stardust.

Will Audio Be King?

Audiobooks are quickly becoming a more popular media type for creative works. Audiobook sales at Audible have increased as much as 40% between 2015 and 2016. Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is only one of many examples of audiobooks done right. There are some full cast versions of books that I’m told are stellar. Likewise, authors can often bring their own characters to life better than anyone else could.

Another thing to consider is the increased availability of audiobooks at public libraries. Did you know you can get digital versions of audiobooks for free from the library without leaving your house? Using Overdrive you can put it directly on your phone or iPod. Welcome to the 21st Century, people!

Is Audio going to continue to grow? Have you listened to an audiobook recently that you loved? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

Working From Home: Paradise or Peril?

Working From Home

Working from home has its many ups and downs, but if done right it can be a highly fulfilling way to work. How!? How do I do it!?

‘The Routine’

Routines aren’t just for morning people. I once read that human beings have a certain amount of mental energy during a given day and no more. After that energy is exhausted, they feel drained and slog their way the finish line of their beds. Many highly successful people cite this as the reason they work under such stringent routines. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have/had a way of wearing the same thing every day. That’s one less decision to make. It’s what the New York Times called Decision Fatigue. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, only opting to switch every six months or so. That’s one less decision for me. Find your routine to get started and stick to it.

‘The Diet’

When I work outside the home, I often eat out at restaurants because it’s easier in many ways. This, however, is not a healthy way to live your life. Working from home, I’m able to make healthy meals whenever the mood strikes me. This does wonders for the waistline and for the pocketbook. (Does anybody actually have a pocketbook anymore?)

‘The Loneliness’

Yes, working at home often means working alone. Yes, that sounds scary to those of us who are extroverts. Luckily, the internet is, apparently, a ‘thing.’ Skype, Slack, Trello, Asana, and countless other pieces of software (often made or owned by Google) make working from home a little less lonely. But what if you’re a creative type who works alone? No person is an island, as cliche as that is. Making relationships with other people that do the same thing as you is extremely important, if for no other reason than to squash that feeling of loneliness.

‘The Cabin Fever’

Go to the gym. Keep in contact with friends. Don’t fall into the trap of sitting around in your pj’s and watching daytime television while doing your work. You’ll accomplish more if you get dressed in the morning as though you’re going to work and prepping for the day. Keep fit. Keep social.

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse, but by stacking the deck you can make it highly fulfilling. Do you work from home? What do you do to keep sane and produce?

Guns, Germs, and Steel: Necessary History

Guns, Germs, and Steel: Necessary History

History in a Nutshell

Jared Diamond’s ambitious work attempts to cover tens of thousands of years of history in about 450 pages. All told, what he created was nothing short of astonishing.

Writing Style


Guns, Germs, and Steel might read like a textbook in places, but in retrospect I still took away quite a bit from my reading. Diamond’s expertise is primarily with the New Guinean people, but the breadth of knowledge displayed in the book covered every part of the globe in some way. My main criticism is that parts of the book dragged and felt labored. The information itself was usually interesting, but because he was making a scientific case, he ended up beating a dead horse in some chapters, circling around to the same topics again and again. In that way, instead of 450 pages, I would be just as happy with 300. However, I may be in the minority here.

Key Takeaways

Diamond’s main purpose in writing Guns, Germs, and Steel was to show through strong research why some societies flourish and conquer wide swaths of land while others remain hunter-gatherers in nomadic tribes. However, the science presented was sound and the arguments convincing. But, at times Diamond seemed deeply irritated with our society’s colloquial views of, for instance, why the United States has become a superpower while other countries or peoples have not. This anger pours out into his writing.

In my opinion, it was unnecessary and detracts from the point he was trying to make. However, the raw information presented is convincing, which leads me to still recommend this book to lovers of history, geography, and anthropology.

History and You

Why does this matter? Why should you even bother reading history? Well, I would argue there’s no better genre to read if you want to write better stories. Consider George R. R. Martin and his series, A Song of Ice and Fire (made into HBO’s Game of Thrones). Much of what transpires in the series is based on historical events, although with fantasy elements added in. A large part is based on the War of the Roses which took place in England between 1455 and 1487 A.D.

***SPOILER ALERT***

However, in season six of the HBO series, a very major event was based on The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which a number of plotters attempted and failed to assassinate King James I of England. Guy Fawkes was one of those involved.

***END SPOILER ALERT***

My point here is that George R. R. Martin is widely credited with having amazing storytelling skills. He uses history, not as a crutch, but to inform his writing in a way that adds flavor and realism the reader can’t help but enjoy.

Nerd Alert

In my case, I’ve used a number of historical events to inform my writing. From Jim Crow laws to the Battle of Asculum, historical references can be found in the subtext of my books. Really, this is as much for my readers as it is for me. I enjoy reading about history and feel it adds something to my writing. Likewise, my readers often tell me they like the added subtle references, almost as if they are Easter eggs. Ahem, Nerd Alert!

Point Taken

‘Okay, okay, so I should read history, but where do I start?’

Anywhere. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a bit dry for your first outing, but it does provide a reference point for just about anything else you could think of reading in the future. Don’t want to start there? Check out my reading list to see if anything strikes your fancy.

Are you a history buff? I want to hear from you! I’m looking for recommendations for books to read, so jump onto that comment box and let me know what you’re reading!