The success of Gone Girl lead to a series of imitators. Some of them are full blooded and can stand on their own, but a lot of them are pale. Gillian Flynn’s book was not thrown together, but was carefully constructed and plotted – and she and other authors alike are probably sick of the endless comparisons. When you have a book like Darcey Bell’s A Simple Favour, which is a blatant facsimile of Gone Girl with all the good parts taken out and a thousand idiotic kitchen sinks thrown in, you have to make the comparison. A Simple Favour literally could not exist without the intervention of Gillian Flynn, and humanity is collectively stupider for it.
Constance Wu is one of the finest actresses working today: magnetic, funny, tough and vulnerable, she deserves to have her own movie. In Crazy Rich Asians, that dream has come true for us all. Crazy Rich Asians is a fun rom-com based on – and changed from – the first instalment of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy. It’s exactly like a lot of things you’ve seen before, but it never matters when it’s done as well as this.
The Old West holds an intoxicating allure to the modern mind. Between both versions of Westworld, Back to the Future Part III, City Slickers and The Legend of Curly’s Gold alike, as a society we can’t help going back there. Whiskey When We’re Dry, John Larison’s debut novel, is a return to a well that we can visit any number of times without ever exhausting the supply. The West was boundless in the imagination, and can fit many stories; Whiskey When We’re Dry is one of the more meditative examples.
It’s no secret that the world is in political turmoil, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, set in the seventies, feels as painfully relevant as it does. Much can, and has, been said about the movie’s propping up of the police force as an institution despite its systemic racism, but it is a powerful piece of cinema and well made indeed.
Ian McEwan is a writer of often exquisite novels that don’t always translate to the screen. On Chesil Beach is the second McEwan adaptation scripted by the man himself released to cinemas this year and, while it showcases the always excellent Saoirse Ronan to great effect, it doesn’t quite add up to itself.
Sometimes the best thing about a movie is its title. The Spy Who Dumped Me is not that movie, being much funnier than the moth eaten gag that it boasts for a name. Kate McKinnon is consistently the strongest element of every film that she features in, but The Spy Who Dumped Me is one of the first to properly utilise her. This is one of those films that will get overlooked despite its good nature, its reinforcement of positive female dynamics, and its more-competent-than-it-needs-to-be action choreography. Spy comedies may no longer be all the rage, but The Spy Who Dumped Me is a better example of the genre than Cars 2.
Constant Reader Chronicle is a new feature that aims to cover a single Stephen King novel, in chronological order, each month. It will skip novels undertaken as part of the Dark Tower cycle and the Mr. Mercedes novels but will otherwise cover every major work that Stephen King and that pesky Richard Bachman has committed to the page. Given that Carrie is such an iconic place to begin a career, this entry will contain fairly comprehensive spoilers. The remaining entries will be spoiler rated on an individual basis.
Stephen King’s first published novel is the prototypical King. The seeds of so many future books are present here, often in the most embryonic form, and Carrie predicts a bright future for its author that came true in perhaps the most lucrative way imaginable. You have a girl with a Shine (although it is not, of course, called that yet), a small town filled with people both decent and awful, and a cavalcade of carnage concentrated in the climax. Though parts of Carrie flirt with a form that wouldn’t ultimately come to be associated with King, this is an exquisitely realised first release.
Boy Swallows Universe is the buzz in Australian books right now. It’s going to sell itself, as all of the pull quotes and window displays tell us. First it’s about one thing, then it’s about another, then you turn the page and years have passed, but one thing is certain: Boy Swallows Universe is an Australian novel that is at least in part about children who have to fend for themselves in the face of their parental figures’ involvement in drugs. We certainly haven’t published one of those before. Cynical though that sounds, Boy Swallows Universe isn’t bad, it just isn’t up to much and is up to too much all at once.
The President is Missing is a trap, a lie of a novel. It’s the best title for a political thriller ever, and it is squandered on a book where we know where the president is at all times. It seems like a no-brainer: Former President Bill Clinton and Former Author James Patterson team up to write a political thriller. It is a no-brainer, but the brains are lacking from the book itself, rather than the reader.
In Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda, the only thing worse than the title was the character of Leah. Leah got angry at Simon for no reason on more than one occasion, and her motivations were entirely shadowy from start to finish. She was the least defined of the entire Simon crew and the least worthy of the reader’s attention. Leah existed to make Simon feel bad, and he had enough to feel bad about in the first place.
A book is the crystallisation of a moment in time. To add anything to that runs the risk of disturbing the balance of the original story. In Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli, answering the call of “the readers who knew something was up, even when I didn’t”, has written a novel solely to pander to fans of an obscure “ship”. The balance has been disturbed.