Shouting at the Screen – Tribute to Jurassic Park

Man, isn’t Jurassic Park awesome?

jp lake

jp trex

ian malcolm

Obviously.

Right now it’s really hard to find the right thing to even talk about first. There’s so much to this film, a cultural giant that has loomed over our world like that first beautiful CG Brachiosaurus since it exploded on the big screen exactly 22 years ago today. I was born the year after, so I’ve never known a world without this movie, and I suspect the same goes for many of you. What should I say first, on this 22nd anniversary, to honor a movie that not only excited the world, but strongly affected my own life with all the times I saw it as a kid?

Well, I suppose you should first know that for a long time I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I was that one kid in your elementary classes who knew everything about them: the different types, where and how they lived, and even how to properly pronounce/spell names like Micropachycephalosaurus. I read every book and, later, every website I could find that’d teach me even a tiny tidbit of trivia. More importantly for this post, I watched every movie I could get my puny hands on, from BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs to Disney’s Dinosaur to all those Land Before Time sequels (Jesus Christ, they’re making number fourteen right now?!).

So naturally, when my parents decided to ignore the PG-13 rule and showed me the film at a ridiculously young age (first grade? Kindergarten? Earlier?!), I gushed over it. Sure, it was scary, but more than anything I was just so thrilled to see these people interacting with what really felt like real dinosaurs! That may go completely against the point of the film, but that didn’t matter. I adored it.

Recently, I rewatched it with my brothers and some friends, and it’s impressive how well it holds up. The scene with the Brachiosaurus is as captivating as ever, the build-up and reveal of the Tyrannosaurus rex remains one of the most thrilling in the history of monster movies, and those goddamn raptors still provide actually effective jump scares. Even in the visuals department, the 1993 CG doesn’t look prehistoric. Heck, it’s aged far better than most of the computer effects-heavy genre flicks that came in its wake. And man, just listen to that luscious, triumphant John Williams soundtrack!

All these years and viewings later, we can still enjoy every moment, from the beginning when a black guy dies first to the end when they fly the wrong way off the island.

“Mr. Spielberg, the sun sets in the west. If this island is west of the mainla-” “Shut up, it’s beautiful.”

Of course, the film is not perfect. People like to hate on Tim and Lex, and it’s not that hard to see why. They can be a load at times, especially when they almost get themselves killed through extraordinary stupidity when the T. rex first shows up and Ian Malcolm breaks a leg trying to save them. It doesn’t help that Lex is one of those ’90s teen edgelords (ooh, she’s a “hacker” and a vegetarian!) and Tim is an overbearing know-it-all. But I can’t help liking them, and not just because I’m charmed by the subplot where Dr. Alan Grant learns to deal with kids.

Think of which audience their inclusion was intended for: probably kids! And when I first saw this movie, I was a kid, like them! Heck, I was Tim! I was the dinosaur geek who would be in awe at the presence of a famous paleontologist like Dr. Grant, and I would have asked him a million questions too, and I would have screamed and needed saving when the T. rex broke through the fence. Whether critics and older viewers find them annoying or not, Tim and Lex weren’t meant for them. They were meant for all the young fans watching, including me.

That said, this is still one of the movie's funniest moments.

That said, this is still one of the movie’s funniest moments.

I saw this film at an impressionable age, and it affected me big-time. I could go on with all the memories I have about being “The Dinosaur Boy,” but those are for another time (when I’m dead and can’t feel embarrassed by my past anymore). These are some memories specifically related to this movie:

  • I was born a year after the first film and I was too young to be aware of The Lost World: Jurassic Park‘s release, but I still vividly remember seeing a Miami billboard advertising Jurassic Park III for the first time. Six-year-old me stood up in the car and cheered. I loved the movie (I was six, okay?), but all the other first-graders and I knew who the real winner of the T. rex and Spinosaurus fight would be.
  • A couple of years later I achieved what I thought was impossible: I visited Jurassic Park! Islands of Adventure became the coolest place on Earth. I walked through the iconic gate, freaked out in the River Adventure, and got to pet a dinosaur in the Triceratops Encounter (a sadly discontinued attraction). The place still gives me chills, even if I’m apparently too big to do half the things there.
  • This old Jurassic Park Institute website, tragically defunct now, used to be one of my favorite websites for dinosaur knowledge and news (another was Enchanted Learning, wonderful for kids). It had an extensive “Dinopedia,” Dino News, a Dino of the Day, and all kinds of neat info. I used to compile dinosaur facts, jokes, and trivia in my own, totally unlicensed Jurassic Park Institute newsletters, which I taped around the house each week. Just a nine-year-old’s cute arts-and-crafts stuff.

But here’s the biggest impact that the film had on me:

Stego

This is some kind of fuzzy Stegosaurus toy made for the release of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It was a present for my third birthday from a tia who probably scanned a Target shelf full of JP merch and said, “Eh, this’ll keep him quiet.” On the very day I got him, a door was accidentally shut on its tail, lopping it off, and I think that was when he developed a completely unique identity: “Stego.”

I feel that every kid growing up has something like Linus’s security blanket from Peanuts or Calvin’s stuffed tiger Hobbes in, um, Calvin and Hobbes. For my two brothers and I, Stego filled that role and became the fourth brother. I took him everywhere, from school to the movies to vacations all over the Americas. I talked with him about any problems I had and he regaled me with tales of life in dinosaur times. I even taught him how to read using Dr. Seuss books!

(… But he was scared of The Cat in the Hat because we once lost him at a Barnes and Noble and he was discovered reading the same page over and over while worrying if he’d never see us again. Yeah, Stego taught me much about responsibility.)

He may have been created as merchandise to encourage children to watch an age-inappropriate blockbuster sequel, but he became one of my best friends growing up. He may have three disembodied legs in a shelf somewhere around the house (they resist all superglue) and much of his fuzz is gone, but that sure isn’t because I didn’t love him. He may not accompany me on all my adventures or speak to me as he once did, but Stego will always hold a special place in my heart and my memories.

So Stego, this post is as much a tribute to you as it is to the series that brought you into being. Thanks for being an awesome friend for all these years. My brothers and I still love you, and you’re totally coming with us to Jurassic World.

And even though much of the paint on his face is gone, he still always bears a smile.

And even though much of the paint on his face is gone, he still always bears a warm, welcoming smile.

On that note, you may have thought that there was more to my writing about Jurassic Park than its 22nd anniversary and a heap of nostalgia. Yes, we are on the eve of the release of Jurassic World, but I’m not writing this just because I’m excited for the movie. I’m writing this because this is the culmination of fourteen years of eager anticipation.

What many people don’t realize is that the fourth Jurassic Park has been in the works for fourteen years. Sure, it pales in comparison to the 65 million years it apparently took to make the first one, but this means more to me because I was there for all of it. I was there in 2002, a year after the third film’s release, when Spielberg officially announced it was happening and he’d serve as executive producer. I was there when Ain’t It Cool News leaked a draft of John Sayles’s script, which involved five genetically-enhanced Deinonychus, each named for a hero from Greek mythology, getting trained for rescue missions. I was there when they said that script was scrapped because … just reread that.

I was there when Richard Attenborough died, preventing John Hammond from appearing in the film, and when the original books’ author Michael Crichton died, causing the filmmakers to consider calling it quits out of respect. I was there every time Sam Neill flip-flopped about playing Dr. Grant again. I was there every time a new screenwriter was announced and dismissed, every time someone involved said that the script was being rewritten, and every time the film fell further and further into development hell.

Eleven years passed since that first announcement. In all that time I went through elementary school, survived middle school, and graduated from high school. I made and lost friends and girlfriends, hilariously stumbled through puberty, developed a passion for writing, studied abroad and lived in London, and basically had a life (or at least the childhood and teenhood portions of it). So it’s not like my life was swallowed by an obsession with this movie. However, in that decade-long span, I would check up on its progress (or lack thereof) every several months or so. It wasn’t always at the front of my mind, but it was never too far.

My patience paid off in 2013, when they finally landed a director in Colin Trevorrow, who then co-rewrote with writing partner Derek Connolly a script by the team that wrote Rise of the Planet of the Apes. After all that time, some people were not convinced that a horribly-delayed fourth film for a series with only one popular film would be any good. Then they got some actor I’d never heard of two years before, yet another Chris in Hollywood, and now everyone’s hyped. And here we all are now.

My first reaction to this casting

My first reaction to this casting

Guys. I’ve waited fourteen years for this. I’ve spent two-thirds of my life waiting for a film that, at many points, looked like it would never happen. Now it’s finally upon us, and I can almost guarantee that no one you know is more excited than I am. So get on your merchandised graphic tee, strike up the “Weird Al” Yankovic, and hold onto your butts!

Sincerely,

RADDman (formerly the Dinosaur Boy)

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Writing on the Pages – The Maze Runner #03: Chapters 6-9

Hey, you! Before I go on with The Maze Runner, I’d first like to thank The Chosen One for letting me write something for his aptly-named blog Total Time Waste. Hopefully I’ll get to do more collaborations, both with my new friend here and with other people, and hopefully those collaborations won’t have to do with dreams about Jaden Smith screaming.

On that note, I’d also like to advertise a new blog by my friend sf1nley, Reading Disorder, which will also feature reviews of literature and anime. Welcome to the club, Sam! Can’t wait to read your stuff and do some posts together!

But enough about other people, let’s go back to me and my opinions.

CHAPTER 6

It was Newt – the guy who seemed to be second in command; the air reeked of his morning breath.

Wait a sec. Each time this guy’s name came up in the text I kept thinking of the kid from Aliens, but … wasn’t this that cute British kid in the movie?

Well, he is!

Well, he is!

Yes! I remember you now! You were cool in the film, stay cool in the book!

“When you bloody need to know, you’ll know, Greenie.”

I recently learned that “bloody” is apparently the British English equivalent of “goddamn,” which makes it a bit odd that British characters in American productions casually throw the word around. In Hollywood movies it’s a little rude to ask someone to pass the goddamn mustard, but if you ask them to pass the bloody mustard while effecting an English accent, it’s okay. I get that it emphasizes Newt’s seriousness while he shows Thomas, from the safety of some watchtower, what comes out at night in the Maze. I just wonder if our born-and-raised-in-Georgia author is aware of this linguistic fact.

Funny, he finally uses an actual swear word in the text and he probably didn’t know it. Gotcha!

A large, bulbous creature the size of a cow but with no distinct shape twisted and seethed along the ground in the corridor outside. … It was too dark to make out clearly, but odd lights flashed … revealing blurs of silver spikes and glistening flesh. Wicked instrument-tipped appendages protruded from its body like arms: a saw blade, a set of shears, long rods whose purpose could only be guessed.

This description of the Grievers does not seem to precisely match its portrayal in the films, where it was just some giant metal spider thing.

griever film

I can only wonder how people who read the book imagined them … or I can just look up fanart!

griever fanart

No offense to Ben’s Blog, where this original fanart comes from, but I prefer the spider.

His desire to become a Runner had taken a major blow. But he had to do it. Somehow he knew he had to do it.

The narrative requires it!

How could a maze, with walls so massive and tall, be so big that dozens of kids hadn’t been able to solve it after who knew how long trying? How could such a structure exist? And more importantly, why? What could possibly be the purpose of such a thing? Why were they all there? How long had they been there?

Regardless of what one thinks of the book, it must be said that this is an awesome premise and a fascinating mystery. All that remains to be seen, after the set-up convinces us to open the book, is if the writing and characters are compelling enough that we want to find out, and that we want them to find out with us. So far, I believe so.

“Ain’t you lookin’ fresh?” Alby said. “Get a nice view out the window this morning?

… “Enough to make me want to learn about this place,” he said …

My thoughts exactly.

CHAPTER 7

Alby is showing Thomas around the Glade, starting with the first thing Thomas ever saw there.

“This here’s the Box. Once a month, we get a Newbie like you, never fails.”

Wait a sec, let me check something real quick. In Chapter 2, Dashner writes, “There had to be at least fifty of them …” If new people come once a month, that means the Glade gets twelve Greenbeans a year, and if there are at the bare minimum fifty, then this maze thing has been going on for more than four years by the time Thomas came in. And considering that there’s a graveyard, meaning quite a few people have died here, then the number increases to six, maybe seven, and who knows, maybe even longer! There weren’t nearly that many boys in the Glade in the movie, probably for the sake of convenient story streamlining. So what the heck is going on?

He pointed at the pitiful living quarters. “Homestead – stupid place is twice as big than when the first of us got here because we keep addin’ to it when they send us wood and klunk.”

Heh, they send you wood and what? Or is “and klunk” some silly PG-13 equivalent of the term “and shit” as emphasis, as in, “Yes, my mix tape has music and shit”? Nah, he could’ve easily used the phrase “and stuff” if he meant that, so I’ll just assume they live in a literal craphouse.

So Alby’s just aggressively showing him around their community’s four sections: the Gardens, where they farm crops and raise livestock; the Blood House, where they slaughter said livestock (and possibly people? Must keep that question in mind); the Homestead, the aforementioned dung building; and the Deadheads, the graveyard, of which Alby significantly says little until Thomas presses him.

“Two years, I’ve been here. Ain’t none been here longer. The few before me are already dead.”

Oh man, that “seven years” hypothesis just got a whole lot darker …

Or maybe they started out with thirty people or something and it’s only been about a few years? Yeah, didn’t think of that until now.

[Alby] was cut off by a booming, ringing alarm …

“Alby! What’s going on?”

“The Box, shuck-face, the Box!” was all Alby said before he set off for the middle of the Glade at a brisk pace that almost looked to Thomas like panic.

Man, this book moves at a brisk pace. In the movie it took several days for this to happen, and Thomas and the audience were given time to take in everything. At this point in the book, Thomas just came in yesterday!

CHAPTER 8

… Thomas was startled to realize he’d arrived just yesterday. Yesterday? he thought. Was that really just yesterday?

Yes, I just said that! Stop being more clever than me, book!

So the entire Glade is gathered around the box, waiting for the imminent and utterly unexpected arrival of a new Greenbean. How is Thomas handling this high-stress situation?

“Chuck, never wink at me again.”

He meets up with Chuck, who makes it a point to explicitly tell the audience that they are “buddies now.” Who needs to take time organically developing a relationship between characters when they can just nudge each other and have Thomas ponder about the usefulness of a friend in the Glade?

“Hey, look.” Chuck stopped and pointed to someone in the crowd. It was Gally, staring dead at them.

“Shuck it,” Chuck said. “He does not like you, man.”

“Yeah,” Thomas muttered. “Figured it out already.”

Yeah, figured it o- Darn it, book! Anyway, on the note of making character relationships obvious, here comes Gally, serving as filler while the Box takes a whole thirty minutes to come up.

Once the box finally comes up, Alby and Newt investigate and fall into bewilderment. At first it was only crazy because there were two Newbies in two days, but this surprise is almost too much for the seasoned leaders to comprehend at first. What could be so stunning and confusing?

“It’s a girl.”

AH! FEMALE REPRESENTATION!

And the boys react exactly as you’d expect:

“A girl?”

“I got dibs!”

“What’s she look like?”

Ah, teenage boys. You’re so predictable.

“You know what’s predictable? Deez nuts.” “OOOOOH!”

Newt silences the bunch by telling them he thinks she’s dead, and they drag the unmoving body out of the box. Everyone looks at Thomas, suspecting he killed her or something, and Alby, who reasonably finds the entire affair suspicious, rather unreasonably accuses Thomas of knowing her. Meanwhile, Dashner lovingly describes how pretty – pardon, “beautiful” – this sixteen-year-old girl is, taking care to point out her number one feature is her skin color: “pale, white as pearls.”

… The girl shot up into a sitting position. … Alby cried out and fell backward. Newt gasped and jumped up, stumbling away from her. …

Burning blue eyes darted back and forth as she took deep breaths. Her pink lips trembled as she mumbled something over and over, indecipherable. Then she spoke one sentence – her voice hollow and haunted, but clear.

Oh man, now that that ridiculous crap is over, I am stressed and hyped. She’s not dead, the freaking leaders of the club are spooked, Dashner’s writing gets vivid again, and all after so much has already happened in the past five pages, what could she possibly say?!

Everything is going to change.”

Come on, book, we talked about this already! This cliche is the important thing she had to scream to the world? This “dark and stormy night”-level overused trope is the five-word mantra that’s gonna shake up the whole thing?! With this and the silliness with Chuck and Alby in this chapter, can’t the author realize that show is always more effective than tell and –

Clutched in her hand was a wadded piece of paper.

… Scrawled across the paper in thick black letters were five words:

She’s the last one.

Ever.

Oh.

Um.

kermit panic

CHAPTER 9

So recap: the day after Thomas arrived, another person comes in the Box, which is highly unusual and, to some, even suspicious. It gets even stranger when it turns out to be a girl, and it gets scarier when a note in her hand reveals that she is the last person they’ll ever get in the Glade. After a moment of shocked silence from the boys (and Alby calling for “med-jacks,” meaning doctors), what’s the first thing they say?

“Who said Clint had first shot at her?” someone yelled from the crowd. There were several barks of laughter. “I’m next!”

As uneasy as I am, this is probably realistic.

“You know what’s realistic? Deez nuts!” “HOHO, IT MAKES A COMEBACK!”

At least Thomas feels “sick” from their reaction and Alby threatens banishment to anyone who touches her (other than the med-jacks hauling her away, of course).

Thomas’s gut clenched. He knew that he and the girl were connected somehow. They’d come a day apart, she seemed familiar, he had a consuming urge to become a Runner despite learning so many terrible things. … What did it all mean?

Wait, what does wanting to be a Runner have to do with the girl? Is he the only boy in the gang who wants to run away from her?

Alright, let’s conclude this with some brief initial thoughts on Chuck. In Chapter 8 he meets up with Thomas and lightens the mood with some comedy, and in Chapter 9 he playfully calls Thomas a psycho and takes him to get some food. He’s all jokes, which even includes scaring people in the john, and Thomas sees him as the one friend he’s made so far.

Thing is, he’s still really sketchy.

“This is crazy. How can this be for real? Somebody sent us here. Somebody evil.”

Chuck paused. “Quit complaining. Just accept it and don’t think about it.”

Note the pause. Thomas asks the really big questions and even dares to say their placement there was by someone “evil,” and Chuck had to stop to think before using the ol’ “don’t think about it” misdirection. You know, because it always shuts up people who ask a lot of questions.

Shockingly, Thomas asks something else, “one of the million questions bouncing through his brain.”

“So where does the electricity come from?”

“Who cares? I’ll take it.”

What a surprise, Thomas thought. No answer.

This goes on for almost three pages. Thomas asks how he can become a Runner, and Chuck says, “Not that again” and even “roll[s] his eyes dramatically, leaving no doubt as to how stupid an idea he thought that would be.” Thomas ponders if they’re criminals with wiped memories and they’ve been placed in the maze as punishment, and Chuck says, “Huh? … Where did that happy thought come from?” He then dismisses it by pointing out that he’s only 12 or 13 … which is fair, but then he dismisses any line of questioning about their lot in life.

“It’s better than -“

“Yeah, I know, living in a pile of klunk.” Thomas stood up and pushed his chair back under the table. He liked Chuck, but trying to have an intelligent conversation with him is impossible.

Chuck is a suspicious character who is deliberately dodging all questions and trying to persuade Thomas that there is nothing wrong with being entrapped in a maze, surrounded by cyborg slug monsters, and monitored by an unknown party’s cybernetic insect sentinels. It’s so jarring because this is not at all how they characterize him in the movie, and it makes even less sense because he’s the Greenie before him. Chuck has only been here for a month, and he’s already desensitized? He doesn’t care that he can’t remember his age, his last name, his anything, and that he knows even less? How did Mr. Nice Guy get like this so quickly?

Of course, maybe he doesn’t care and has just adjusted his mind to be used to this new life. Maybe I just can’t understand why because I feel I’d be more like Thomas. But it’s still weird to me.

So, before anyone gets confused by the mention of cybernetic insect sentinels, one appears at the end of the chapter. It’s called a “beetle blade.” Check out this detail that closes the chapter and today’s post:

He caught a gleam of red light sweeping the ground in front of the creature as if it came from its eyes. Logic told him it had to be his mind playing tricks on him, but he swore he saw the word WICKED scrawled down its rounded back in large green letters. Something strange had to be investigated.

“WICKED”? Really? And in case it was too subtle, Dashner made sure to go all-caps on it (all reasonable people use all-caps!). This …

Fine, I’ll do it.

I couldn't put into words my disbelief at how ridiculous this is, so I just copped out and put this.

I couldn’t put into words my disbelief at how ridiculous this is, so I just copped out and put this.

That’s all for now! And I don’t just mean that about the post, I mean that the next post won’t be about The Maze Runner! Yep, finally doing something other than Writing on the Pages. Here’s a hint for what’s next: it is one big pile of shit.

… Wait, I don’t mean that the post will be shit, it’s a quote, a reference, please …

Darn it, it’s a tribute to Jurassic Park, happy now?

RADDman

And that’s what I was referencing!

Writing on the Pages – The Maze Runner #02: Chapters 1-5

Hey, you! Today we begin The Maze Runner by James Dashner, the very first book featured in Writing on the Pages (partly because I want to exploit its popularity with the teenyboppers for views, partly because it’s a birthday gift from a friend who’s waiting to hear what I think of it). Time to find out if it’s all it’s cracked up to be or just another spacetaker on the crowded YA dystopia shelf!

But first, just letting you know how this will go down: I’m gonna quote lines from throughout the chapters and write my impressions as I go along. Okay, now we can quit stalling.

 

CHAPTER 1

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

I was taught that the first sentence of a story needs to be compelling. If the reader isn’t invested from the get-go, then they don’t have much reason to continue it … right? I don’t know about you, but I believe that if you start a book and lose interest in it, you shouldn’t feel forced to finish it. Life is too short to spend too much of it on something you don’t even care about.

Damn, stalling again at the first line. With all that said, it’s got my attention!

 

Minutes stretched into hours, although it was impossible to know for sure because every second seemed an eternity. No. He was smarter than that. Trusting his instincts, he knew he’d been moving for roughly half an hour.

Boy, I’d like whatever instincts he has. Wouldn’t need this watch anymore. Also, does that measurement include all the time he was unconscious? For all he and his instincts know, he’s been moving for days.

Pleb.

Pleb.

He screamed, called for help, pounded on the walls with his fists.

Nothing.

Thomas backed into the corner once again, folded his arms and shivered, and the fear returned. He felt a worrying shudder in his chest, as if his heart wanted to escape, to flee his body.

Someone . . . help . . . me!” he screamed; each word ripped his throat raw.

Aw, geez, first line of dialogue and it’s already a melodrama. Maybe it’s the spaced-out ellipsis and italics, maybe it’s the fact the narration already described that he screamed for help. Either way it really deflates the tension.

 

Hands reached down, lots of hands, grabbing him by his clothes, pulling him up. The world seemed to spin, a swirling mist of faces and color and light. A storm of emotions wrenched his gut, twisted and pulled; he wanted to scream, cry, throw up. The chorus of voices had grown silent, but someone spoke as they yanked him over the sharp edge of the dark box. And Thomas knew he’d never forget the words.

“Nice to meet ya, shank,” the boy said. “Welcome to the Glade.”

In contrast, this section was really well-done. The description of Thomas’s confusion is vivid and fittingly chaotic, the words a “swirling mist” themselves. All of it leads to a plain statement that seems matter-of-factly to the point of being obvious, but actually explains very little. Don’t you just hate it a friend invites you to something with their other friend group and they spend the whole time exchanging inside jokes that sound completely alien to you? This is just like that, but you’re also almost completely amnesiac and surrounded by scary things. It’s another, more frustrating type of bewilderment in an experience that’s already crazy for Thomas. Cleverly done.

 

CHAPTER 2

What, already? Chapter 1 was barely over three pages! Oh, is this that writing shortcut BS where they give the illusion of progress by splitting chapters into halves or thirds? Come on, man, fifteen- or twenty-page chapters shouldn’t be that daunting if your target audience is in high school.

 

“As he rotated in a slow circle, the other kids snickered and stared; some reached out and poked him with a finger.”

Well, that’s rude. I’ve seen the movie, so I already know that the same thing happening with Thomas once happened to all these kids. Is his presence really so unusual that some of them feel the need to be like those jerks at a turn-of-the-century freak show? It’s a small detail, but it’s really weirding me out.

patrick touch

“A tall kid with blond hair and a square jaw … A short, pudgy boy … A thick, heavily-muscled Asian kid … A dark-skinned boy …”

I can see that the Glade is multiracial, but it’s odd that Dashner tells the race and skin color of two non-white characters while the first two do not have theirs described. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the tall and short kids are white, but then why would he want us to know that the muscular one is Asian and the one who greeted Thomas is black? Is it just a subtle, probably subconscious byproduct of how our culture teaches us that whiteness is normal? Or am I just looking too much into it when it’s just trying to introduce characters?

 

“I told ya, shuck-face,” a shrill voice responded. “He’s a klunk, so he’ll be a slopper – no doubt about it.” The kid giggled like he’d just said the funniest thing in history.

Laughing at your own joke: always a sign of class.

 

Thomas looked back at his captors, feeling awkward but desperate to ask questions. Captors, he though. Then, Why did that word pop into my head?

Gee, could it be because you were trapped inside a cage in the dark for God knows how long, can’t remember anything about your past, and now find yourself in an unfamiliar place surrounded by giant metal walls and hostile strangers?

 

“Shuck it,” Alby said, rubbing his eyes.

Oh, I get it now! “Shuck” is a mix of “shit” and “fuck”! Cute way of dodging that R rating for the movie, Dashner! Totally not lame at all.

 

Thomas slid down the rough face of the tree until he sat on the ground again; he shrank back against the bark and closed his eyes, wishing he could wake from this terrible, terrible dream.

This moment comes after several pages of the group leaders, Alby and Newt, hassling him with completely unfamiliar terms and throwing vague comments alluding to death. As if this wasn’t rough enough, the chapter ends with a piercing shriek in the distance and a reaction from Newt that basically amounts to, “Can’t the doctors shut him up?”

The heroes of other fantasy and sci-fi stories are stoic and brave, and when they find themselves someplace unfamiliar through unknown means, they demand to know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Thomas seems to be doing his best not to break down and weep. Some might say he’s being kind of a wuss right now, but dammit, the kid can’t even remember his last name. The only thing he knows besides his first name is that he’s in serious danger that will only get worse.

So far, I strongly appreciate the realistic reaction that our protagonist is having towards all these developments. There’s something to be said for escapism, but I do know that if I awoke in a cage and found myself in a situation completely out of my control and largely beyond my understanding and can’t even remember my own freaking last name … hell, I’d shrink back and wish I could wake up. After all …

if you aint scared

So far, I feel that my responses aren’t as thoughtful as they could be. Let’s see if I can spend a little less time mocking the book and more time finding more positive and analytical things to say about it.

CHAPTER 3

Klunk’s another word for poo. Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.”

Thomas looked at Chuck, unable to believe he was having this conversation. “That’s nice” was all he could manage.

Um …

That’s … nice …

Okay, I just needed to get that out of the way. In this chapter we are properly introduced to Chuck, the Greenbean (Glade slang for new guy) before Thomas and his guide for the night. I remember him from the movie, but as “Chunk.” I didn’t call him that because he’s described as “short and pudgy,” but because I would swear that his actor, Blake Cooper, looks just like Chunk from The Goonies.

chuck-maze-runner-chunk-goonies (1)

I also may have thought that the movie characters were actually calling him Chunk.

 

He stood up and walked past Chuck toward the old building; shack was a better word for the place. It looked three or four stories high …

Whoa, I don’t know how you define shacks, Dashner, but that building, even if it is “about to fall down at any minute,” is three or four stories high. It just doesn’t sound right to call something that tall a shack, even if it is somehow technically correct. The tallest thing I’d call a shack is probably Shaquille O’Neal.

 

“Listen to me, Greenbean.” The boy wrinkled up his face, folded his arms. “I’ve seen you before. Something’s fishy about you showing up here, and I’m gonna find out what.”

A surge of heat pulsed through Thomas’s veins. “I’ve never seen you before in my life. I have no idea who you are, and I couldn’t care less,” he spat.

I can’t help but feel that this is a parody (sorta) of YA conventions, namely the sudden development of a rivalry with some random narrative-designated jerk, a boy named … Gally? Really? Not quite the same ring as “Draco Malfoy,” is it?

The bigger question is: is it a parody? I can’t tell for sure, but even if that is not at all what Dashner intended when writing this scene, I’m enjoying it too much to care.

 

He lightly slapped Thomas’s shoulder, then stepped back, gesturing up the stairs. But Thomas knew the kid was up to something. Losing parts of your memory didn’t make you an idiot.

Never mind, the author knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s so much fun to watch. Your genre expects you to throw in an amnesiac teen protagonist? Okay, but he reacts exactly as an amnesiac teen in an unnatural situation like this would (as I explained in my previous post). Is “jerk rival” a typical trope? Sure, as long as Thomas points out how silly and exaggerated this is. Does that jerk then try, without any subtlety, to get our hapless protagonist in trouble? “Screw you, I’m James Dashner and losing parts of your memory didn’t make you an idiot.”

Does this look like a face that gives a damn?!

Does this look like a face that gives a damn?!

 

Thomas hated these people. He hated all of them. Except Chuck. … He realized that Chuck might actually be his only friend in the world.

Oh ho ho, it is humorous, because earlier he told Chuck that he doesn’t need friends, and now he accepts that Chuck is his friend! What irony!

This doesn’t take away from Dashner’s newfound street cred, though. While I saw that coming from a mile away, I thought it’d come back as an ironic echo closer to the climax or something.

 

CHAPTER 4

Though it was hard to make out from where he sat, there was something odd about the stone edges of the exits to the outside corridors.

The remainder of this chapter reveals that this is the giant door that leads to the Maze, which I already knew from watching the movie. However, I can only imagine how compelling this must have been for people reading it for the first time. I honestly don’t have much else to say about this chapter other than that if there are two things Dashner excels at (so far), it’s imagery and making build-up for that imagery.

“Why are you guys so secretive?”

Okay, I had to include this, I just like that he said that.

CHAPTER 5

So, how does the book follow up the big, discomforting reveal that everyone’s trapped within an enormous maze?

 

“The bathroom,” Chuck whispered.

“So?” A thread of unease stitched along Thomas’s skin.

“I love doing this to people. Gives me great pleasure before bedtime.”

Great, just what we needed to cap off what had to be an exhausting, disturbing day for Thomas: pranking someone in the potty. Dashner, can’t you go two more than two chapters without mentioning poop?

 

“Who’s that!” yelled the boy from the bathroom, his voice scratchy and laced with anger. Thomas had to hold in a gasp when he realized it was Gally –

Never mind, I approve.

 

Without warning, Chuck suddenly popped his head up toward the window and screamed at the top of his lungs. A loud crash from inside revealed that the trick had worked – and the litany of swearwords following it let them know Gally was none too happy about it.

Satisfied.

But … really, you’re just writing “litany of swearwords”? I’m personally not a big fan of strictly enforced PG-13 standards. If only they’d actually show some of the swears, or at least some kind of and colorful language …

 

“I’m not a dong, Greenie,” Gally spat.

I beg your pardon!

(And naw, man, I won’t even bother trying to put it in context. He called himself a penis, end of story)

 

“I know you,” Gally added without looking back. “I saw you in the Changing, and I’m gonna figure out who you are.”

Yeah, have fun with that, you dong.

 

Sorry, I thought this would be censored, or at least pixelated.

NSFW

Suddenly, the Glade, the walls, the Maze – it all seemed … familiar.

And it’s back to the plot, which is at least thickening. Thomas has this sudden epiphany that this place is not as foreign to him as it initially seemed. Damn, maybe I should have just come into this book fresh: this scene wasn’t in the film, and it seems so intriguing here but I already know the answer … Well, if it’s fresh for you, then isn’t this awesome?

I think these five chapters are enough for now (or perhaps more than enough). Seeing that this blog is just starting and this post in particular is a prototype, what do you think of the style? The length? The use of a Spongebob quote? (There’s one for any situation, I’m telling you!) Please let me know in a comment, I’d really appreciate it!

RADDman

Writing on the Pages – Maze Runner #01: A Little Background

James Dashner has made a name for himself in the world of YA literature. He’s written five different novel series for young teens, totalling at 17 so far, with the most famous being his Maze Runner. This series, consisting of three books, a prequel, and another prequel coming in 2016, became a New York Times bestselling series and built up a legion of devoted fans. Despite the first one coming out as recently as 2009, it is already being adapted into a blockbuster film series, with one film already out and the next one about to be released. It’s fairly popular in its own right …

Apparently. Um, I first heard about it when someone asked to show me the trailer for the adaptation.

I’m hardly being edgy and original in saying that by this point I’ve become a little jaded with YA fiction. You can only read so many teenagers-rebel-against-an-authoritarian-dystopia novels before it starts to feel repetitive. I’m even more tired of seeing movie studios hastily adapting any series they can get their clumsy paws on in increasingly desperate attempts to make the next billions-grossing summer blockbuster franchise. If you don’t know what I mean, think I Am Number Four, The Mortal Instruments, and that unholy attempt at a Percy Jackson film series.

Wait, they unleashed a second one?!

Wait, they spawned a second one?!

So I didn’t expect much when my friend sat me down to show me this, especially because I’d never heard of The Maze Runner before. What did this blackened, pessimistic soul think? Exactly what you’d expect me to think.

I thought it was awesome. For one thing, there was color. How many of these YA dystopian features feature any sort of shade in the rainbow that isn’t black or very very dark gray? As for actual content, every new line of dialogue was a fresh idea and a total mystery. What, so these kids don’t remember their names?, and they’re trapped in this huge maze?, and there are Grievers and what?, it was just one thing after another and I was fascinated. I knew I was gonna watch this.

So I saw it at my university’s on-campus movie theater, in a packed auditorium with a few buds. I’ll give the film credit for being as exciting and engaging as promised, even if there were some really silly things about it. And as I discovered that friends of mine had read the books, it turns out that this is an unpopular opinion among fans. One of them, a friend henceforth referred to for privacy’s sake as Bimmy, strongly believed that my experience with The Maze Runner should not be limited to an unsatisfying Hollywood adaptation and decided to buy the book as a birthday gift to me, which means that I at least feel obligated to finish it. And here we are now!

Before me is the copy that Bimmy kindly gave me:

20150523_195133

Time to judge a book by its cover: honestly, if I had seen this on a shelf at a bookstore, I wouldn’t have given it much of a thought. I can’t put my finger on it (though it may be the PowerPoint WordArt font used for James Dashner’s name), but something about it just seems generic. Again, I at least like the presence of color, but otherwise there’s not much else to it that catches my attention.

“The Kill Order”? How seriously am I supposed to take this series?

The back is fittingly mysterious, with most of the text being excerpted quotes from the book and the rest being vague sentences. The sense of genericness also creeps in here, with that cliched line, “Everything is going to change.” Well, duh, that’s how stories happen. You could just as easily have this line on the back covers of Odyssey, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Green Eggs and Ham.

Near the bottom are the lines, “Join the #DashnerArmy for exclusive content. DashnerArmy.com” Sounds legit – I feel that I can trust anyone whose legion of devotees calls itself an army.

So as I said before, I received this book as a birthday gift. Thing is, my birthday was more than half a year ago. And because of my aforementioned obligation to read books gifted to me, I know I have to read it at some point! So it’s time to put it off and start reading it.

… In the next post!

RADDman

Allow Myself to Introduce … Myself!

It’s curious how we live in a world where it’s almost a social requirement to be caught up on pop culture, but we often consume media alone. You can now get friends by marathoning shows in what were once nerdy genres, such as Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and Doctor Who, but it’s rare for people to actually watch TV together – unless it’s as family time, or a party for a season premiere. Book clubs are a thing, but it’s not exactly as if you can get away with being hunched over someone’s shoulder as they read. And man, how many people even listen to albums anymore, let alone host listening parties for them? We often talk with people about the latest in entertainment, but other than films (most of the time, anyway), we usually partake in them alone.

Of course, some people are perfectly content with watching/reading/listening to something by themselves. They don’t need to hear other people’s opinions or make it a point to talk everyone’s heads off about every piece of entertainment they’ve been enjoying (or not enjoying). That’s fine, more power to them.

However, there are some who feel that part of the experience is to chat about it with others. It can be interesting or just fun to talk with people about what we liked and didn’t like, what was dumb and clever, what we hoped for and hope for now. It’s also cool to see a fresh and unique perspective that you otherwise never would have conceived, which can transform something plain or forgettable into something amazing and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, even life-changing. Conversation like this can add so much to a piece of entertainment, whether it’s laughter or tears or memories worth telling as stories.

(And besides, isn’t it a pleasant surprise to find that someone has read the same book as you?)

So yeah, people can totally check something out without discussing it with anyone. But it doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. It can be a shared one, where more than one person can get a good time out of something, even if that something was bad. And this is the driving idea behind Space Cadet Glow.

As of this first post … oh, almost forgot: hello! … there’ll be three different sections that posts will fall under (besides random announcements like this). And not only will I take requests for any of them, I’m begging for them!

  1. Writing on the Margins – I read a book and break it down, chapter by chapter or section by section, with analytical (or, um, not-so-analytical) comments. It’d be kinda like opening a book to find it littered with scribbled annotations, which I think only add to the experience of reading it.maze runner cover
  2. Shouting at the Screen – A section that encompasses TV shows, movies, and maybe even stuff from the Internet and video games. With the former, it’ll be similar in format to Writing on the Margins, where I break a series down an episode at a time. With the latter three things, and honestly just with anything else covered in this blog, I just want to write a unique perspective on whatever I choose to discuss – unique meaning “hasn’t already been said a million times.”firefly cover
  3. Talking Over the Music – My music-loving brother and I listen to an album and break it down track by track. Admittedly, it looks like he’ll be doing most of the talking. Unlike what you might think after what I said would be done with books and TV shows, each post would not be about a single song from the album – not unless there’s a heck of a lot to say about the song.kerrang american idiot

All that’s subject to change. There might be more sections in the future, some of the current ones might be discontinued, or this blog might fizzle and die of author’s disinterest within a month. But hey, there’s no adventure without a little risk!

As for a little bit about myself, so that your first impression of me isn’t “disembodied voice,” I’m RADDman! I started this blog because I like to write – I do fiction mostly, but also reviews and the like – and because I didn’t want to be bored this summer. I hope that doing this blog will give me and others a good time, sharpen my writing skills, and encourage me to read more books. And I named this blog after a lyric from my favorite album, The Wall by Pink Floyd, just because I thought it sounded cool.

Now, as a special treat and because humans like visuals, I’m gonna kick off this blog by including whatever I happen to find at the top of /r/me_irl, a subreddit where people post pictures that capture who they are without actually being pictures of themselves – “selfies of the soul.” No matter what it is, I’ll post it up here and cement it as part of this blog’s legacy. So what’s the very first selfie to define the soul of Space Cadet Glow?

We're in trouble.

We’re in trouble.

Regardless, if you’re up for it, come along for the ride! There will be praise, complaining, eureka moments, immature puns, YA garbage, Marvel probably (you can’t escape Marvel these days), and an active real-time chronicle of my descent into otaku trash! It could be fun. If you never try, you’ll never know …

Cya soon, with the first real entry,

RADDman (me)

P.S. A special thank you to my younger brother for providing guidance in the direction and presentation of this blog, and to my youngest brother for helping me come up with the name. This may not be the first blog on WordPress, or even the second, to use the name Space Cadet Glow, but it’s a cool name and at least everything else will be a little more original. I’d also like to thank everyone who pitched in with ideas for a blog name (including the aforementioned younger brother), I appreciate the enthusiasm and you all rock. Finally, I express sincere gratitude to one of my closest friends, for kindly taking a little time to read and give constructive feedback on this and the next two blog posts. This friend’s comments gave me insight on how to write these posts in a way that doesn’t suck. Thanks, everyone!