Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'One Tree Hill: The Beginning'

The Book: One Tree Hill: The Beginning

The Author: Jenny Markas

How I Found It: We've been through the whole "I love One Tree Hill as a guilty pleasure thing" already, yes? Good. Stop laughing.

The Review: All right, all right, so every once in a while I need a Brain Drain to clear my head. Midterms have passed and I just read the terribly upsetting Proof. This was short, quick, and fun, and after spending a bit exploring Babysitters Club Snark Fest, reading something way below my age level seemed like an appealing way to kill a few hours.

The last time I read a book based on a TV show would probably have to be tenth grade-ish. I loved Roswell and, before and after watching all three seasons, read both the books the TV show was based on and a large part of the ones written after (the three in the Loose Ends series, and five out of the eight books in the post-series ones). I freely admit that being a freshman in college makes me pathetic for reading books like this one, but whatever.

Okay. So. Rule #1 of TV novelizations is that they can be great, they can be out-of-character when it comes to the show, or the writer could just have no idea what the show's about in the first place. I think this one has a little bit of everything. Let me count the ways.

Part One of the book takes place in the summer between sophomore and junior years for the core five-- Nathan, golden boy son of Dan Scott, a former basketball player who also has another son Lucas, had illegitimately by his high school girlfriend Karen, who's crushed on by Dan's older brother Keith. Lucas' best friend is Haley, the one whose nickname I stole and who waitresses at Karen's cafe; Nathan's girlfriend is Peyton, an artist who lost her mom at an early age and as a result is Dark and Twisty; and Peyton's best friend since childhood is the ditzy (at first) Brooke, a rich girl who's pretty much the town bicycle at the show's start. Part Two is a prose version of the show's pilot, not the original content of the first half.

I'll summarize the original content half-- Lucas and Nathan both play basketball, Lucas by himself on the river court and Nathan whilst exercising in the off-season. Nathan and Peyton are together, at first in their more romantic phase and then where the show picks up, when they're having issues. (The more romantic phase part was actually cute to see, as Nathan does show Peyton in season four that there was a point where he really was into her.) Haley is working a minimum wage job at a local hot dog stand, and Brooke is involved with a college guy named Rusty.

There were definitely some parts of the book that made it clear the author hadn't seen enough of the show to really know the characters, and parts that made it obvious that OTH canon has been established over a long, long time (since 2003). Some things, like the whole subplot of Skills having an abusive stepdad and coming to live with Lucas, are invalidated by the fourth-season episodes that show Skills as having two very happily married parents. However, this novelization was written during the show's second season, so none of that was established yet.

However, some parts had glaringly obvious out-of-character errors. First off, Jake is mentioned twice-- once during the basketball game and once as part of the little bus joyride from the pilot. Where he's the one pouring the beers. Okay, I can deal with him not being mentioned much-- he didn't really become part of the show until mid-season one, and this is supposed to be the first episode. But mid-season one, which had already passed when this was written, establishes Jake as a responsible single teenage father who does not participate in this behavior! They even say in maybe the first five minutes of the pilot that he wasn't part of the bus thing, and it wasn't because his parents paid the cops off or anything! *steps down off soapbox*

Second, I had some issues with the way Brooke was portrayed. Brooke's a polarizing character-- you either love her or hate her. It's a little bit of both for me, depending on which season we're in. Anyway, I could deal with the author portraying her as drunk most of the time, as Brooke was supposed to be a huge party girl, at least in the beginning. But boy crazy as Brooke was, I don't think there's any way she would have gotten involved with an abusive boyfriend (Rusty). Brooke is the one who gave the otherwise-responsible Haley a lecture in season three when Haley and Nathan very unwisely had unprotected sex (that in all likelihood led to the conception of their son). I know some people paint her in an unflattering light, but I'd at least give the girl credit enough that she'd know when to get out of something like that. (Though Peyton attacking the guy after the hitting was definitely true to form.) Also, the part where Mouth held her after Rusty hit her at the carnival? Mouth was supposed to have a crush on her, but I don't think that would've happened.

Third, the party scene definitely showed the writer hadn't paid much attention. A couple reviewers have pointed out that Lucas and Haley only see Nathan's place at a party for the first time in early season one, specifically 1x06. So them going to a party at Nathan's house was wrong, as was Lucas (allegedly) talking to/getting near Peyton at the party. But the least believable part was Dan calling Keith and Whitey to break up the party before the cops came-- no way in hell would Whitey hide the evidence of underage drinking, he who condemns the players for the bus incident later on. And no way in hell would Keith help!

Okay, this is becoming a tiny bit of a rant. Anyway, parts of it were good, but some parts were glaring instances of Did Not Do The Research. Also, the way the characters were portrayed in the original half was at odds sometimes with the way they acted in the half taken from the pilot. (Also, Brooke wasn't even in the pilot, so the couple parts where they mentioned her as part of the action were inaccurate.)

It was good, but it could have been better had one of the actual writers of the show taken the reigns. Parts were cutesy, parts were "... ummm..." Recommended to fans of the show who don't mind a couple inaccuracies here and there (I did enjoy it despite the flaws, and it only took me about two hours or so to read). It's good for those of us who sorta miss the old days now that Lucas and Peyton were Put On a Bus (or, more specifically, Put In The Comet).

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'Proof: A Play'

The Book: Proof: A Play

The Author: David Auburn

How I Found It: Knew vaguely of the movie, but was assigned a scene to perform in acting class as the character Catherine that made me cry when I acted it in front of the class.

The Review: To start off: I am not good with math. Numbers bug me, math escapes me, and this inability to do math makes me suck at science. The closest I will ever get to being a math or science geek is watching The Big Bang Theory every Monday.

I think that was what initially drove me away from the movie of the play-- all I knew was that the main character was a daughter of a famous mathematician and no siree Bob was I spending more time with math than I had to.

However, I'm glad I shied away from seeing the movie when I was fourteen or so-- I don't know if I would have liked it then, and that would have deprived me of the beautiful, beautiful experience of reading this play.

The play has only four characters and a very minimal set: the entirety of the action takes place on the back porch of an old house at varying times. The four characters are Robert, a brilliant but bipolar mathematician who passes away before the play begins; Catherine, his youngest daughter everyone believes may have inherited his disorder; Claire, her older sister who wants Catherine to come live with her just in case she is unstable; and Hal, a former student of Robert's who wishes to look through the 103 notebooks Robert left behind.

When the play starts, Catherine is shaken by what could be a dream or hallucination of her dead father, something the hallucination Robert warns could be a sign of bipolar disorder. Hal wakes her to tell her he's done looking through Robert's workspace, but that he believes there could be something important in the notebooks. Catherine accuses him of wishing to pass off her father's work as his own, but Hal vehemently denies the claims and even tries hitting on her. Things escalate until Catherine finds that Hal did take a notebook-- but the one in which Robert wrote about her during a lucid period. (Trust me, this is only the first scene in the play that made me cry.)

The play is so much more than the first scene, but I don't want to give anything away. I haven't read very many plays, but I think that this one has become my favorite-- even surpassing The Laramie Project, a beautiful work I still believe everyone should read. Laramie drew me to tears three times; Proof did at least five. The two flashback scenes in particular are absolutely heartbreaking. My mother felt worst for Catherine throughout the movie, but for me it was Robert, who wants desperately to believe he is lucid and working in the flashbacks, but instead learns the opposite.

This play had me at hello; from the moment I read the scene in acting class, I was dying to read the rest. I read it this afternoon in probably less than an hour or so; I know I'm going to read it many times after this. Don't let the math scare you; it's not as much a part of the play as you'd think. I agree with a reviewer who said that this play is for anybody who has ever been passionate about something-- for me, it's my writing, and I could perfectly understand the emotions of the characters. This is not a play about math; it is a play about human interactions, and it is a play about love.

I recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to read a gorgeous, perfectly done play (it even won the Pulitzer). And to anyone who needs a good cry.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'On the Origin of PCs'

The Book: On the Origin of PCs

The Author (And Illustrator): Rich Burlew

How I Found It: Carrie Vaughn plugged the online strip in a blog entry. I spent the entire weekend glued to the archives. I've been caught up since the summer and ordered this book-exclusive prequel.

The Review: I don't play Dungeons and Dragons, but I do enjoy epic fantasy stories a whole lot, and I'm game for parodies of the things I love. I started reading the comic as a way to kill time, but I soon found myself absorbed in how it took on the cliches of epic stories and roleplaying games.

The basics of OOTS is that it follows the exploits of six adventurers, The Order of the Stick, on their quest to defeat Xykon, a "lich". The Order consists of Roy, a Fighter with an MBA, whose father's Blood Oath is what leads to the quest to destroy Xykon in the first place; Haley, a Rogue who acts as the second-in-command; Elan, an annoyingly peppy and slightly dimwitted Bard; Durkon, a Dwarf Cleric who's been with Roy the longest of all and is convinced trees are out to destroy us all; Vaarsuvius, an androgynous Elf obsessed with arcane power; and Belkar, a Halfling Ranger who's pretty much psychotic.

They're a ragtag bunch, but they're wildly funny. Burlew made this book to explain their backstory, and though it's short, he does a great job of keeping the backstory true to the characters. We learn how Haley abandoned the thieves' guild, how Roy came to take his father's challenge of defeating Xykon, why Durkon left the Dwarven lands, just why Belkar joined the Order, how dense Elan could truly be, and how Vaarsuvius was still ranting away prior to joining the Order.

My only complaints about the book are that I wish it was longer, and that I'm STILL waiting on an explanation of why Haley and Vaarsuvius are so close.

Anyway, if you're a fan of the series, it's definitely worth a read, even though I'm late to the OOTS bandwagon and most have read it already. But if you've never read the comic, I have to agree with Mr. Burlew and say read the online strip first-- Origin of PCs will be so much funnier when you know the little jokes, such as an ink blot covering Vaarsuvius' answer about his gender. ('He' is just an arbitrarily assigned pronoun-- what I believe V is. Word of God states that just like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know.)