The one thing that occurs to me about the great, classic science fiction stories is how the writers could tell such complex, thoughtful, exciting stories, and do it in fewer than 200 pages. The Man in the Maze does that to perfection.
It is a story of isolation and social alienation. I know that sounds strange; exciting and social alienation in the same description. The story is about a diplomat named Richard Muller. He is picked to go represent the human race to an Alien race, the first intelligent life humans had discovered. Something happens to him that opens a psychic ability and broadcasts his emotions, and feelings. Unfortunately humans can’t tolerate it and he becomes an outcast amongst his own people. He decides to put himself in isolation on an abandoned planet within a dangerous maze.
The maze is deadly to all who try to get through it, but Muller makes it through to the center where he can live in peace without any interaction with anyone. He sets up shop with supplies he brought as well as the local animals for sustenance. He believes he will live out the rest of his days there in his misery.
This is an extreme look at isolation and can hit a nerve with anyone. We all at one time or another feel isolated and want to be alone. It is strange how we hate the isolated feeling but contrive to be alone at the same time. This book highlights this part of the human condition beautifully.
After nine years Muller’s isolation is interrupted by earth coming a calling. Earth needs him for one more diplomatic mission. Another alien race has discovered them and is trying to enslave them, not knowing humans are thinking, feeling, people. Muller would be proof of that for these new aliens. The drama involved with the decision Muller has to make, coupled with the action of his fellow humans having to run the deadly maze to get to him, makes for a deep, yet action packed ride of a story.
Now I always have loved a good big book. I was excited when I got my last Harry Potter book and it was as monstrous as the previous one. Yet there is a stark beauty to a story with just a few named characters, a relatively simple premise, and galaxy spanning implications, told in a short amount of time. Silverberg manages to pack these weighty themes into an action packed tale with no feeling of rushing the pace. The Man in the Maze is a great piece of art to be enjoyed and cherished.
That’s not Silverberg to the right, just me.
When The Lord of the Rings came out I was amazed and pleased. There were only a few plot points changed, but the feel of the movie was the feel of the books. Previous to those movies I had been sure The Lord of the Rings could not be done correctly in movie form. So I had high hopes for The Hobbit. Unfortunately, instead of just a few plot points changed, they only kept a few plot points and changed the rest. (That is an exaggeration, but not a big one.) I will only go over a few of the really big ones in this review, (rant?)
Azog the orc. In the book The Hobbit, he was only mentioned a few times. In a description of the history of Thorin’s family and at the end when Azog’s son showed up at Erabor for the battle. The reason for this is that Azog was killed by Thorin’s cousin Dain many years, chronologically, before the events in The Hobbit take place. Azog was not even alive for Thorin and Companies adventures! As for the orcs chasing the company shortly after the run in with the trolls? Never happened in the book. (Or the appendixes in The Lord of the Rings.)They were not being hunted from the word go. They left Bag End and then ran into the Trolls, and then made it to Rivendell. All of that took little time in the book. The only time they were hunted was after they escaped the Goblin King under the Misty Mountians. They certainly were not chased by orcs in their escape from the elves prison in Mirkwood. That too never happened.
When I heard that Legolas was in the movie version of The Hobbit, I thought that could be conceivable since he is a Prince of Mirkwood so he might have been there. Instead of just being there he is a part of a lovers triangle with Tauriel and Fili, the dwarf. Seriously? I know Hollywood thinks every movie needs a love affair, but seriously? I do not have a problem when changes have to be made for movies, it happens, and mostly it can be ignored. This though is fairly extreme. I will have one last complaint tomorrow and finish up my little rant. I have been holding it in for a long time, thanks for letting me get it out.
Now that anyone who wanted to has seen the movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I think it is a good time to have a discussion without to many people screaming about spoilers. This essay is going to come in several posts because there is so much that can be said about the movie. Lets start with looking at it just as a movie and leave out the reputation of Peter Jackson, and more importantly the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
As a fantasy movie it is one of the best ever made. Lets face it, the movie was fast paced and action packed; the hero’s rode barrels down the river being chased by elves, (and orcs), giant spiders, intrigue. It was well acted and directed to be sure. Martin Freeman makes a most excellent hobbit, no complaints there. Most everyone involved did a wonderful job and even if that was not the case there was Smaug. Yep, did you see that dragon. Has there ever been a better use for CGI in any movie to date? I think not. Remember the scene where Bilbo (and the audience), sees the gold slide off the huge head of a sleeping Smaug, and then realizes the movement on the far side of the huge chamber was the dragons tail! A hell of an introduction huh. The dragon was amazing, exciting, and a little frightening at the same time. Between the look and feel of Smaug, coupled with Benedict Cumberbatch doing the voice of Smaug, it is unmatched in movie history to date. Just like the Lord of the Rings trilogy was. Star Trek, Star Wars, any other movie with CGI, just cannot stand up to it.
Peter Jackson can make an epic movie like no one else in the business today. He is to be congratulated on his accomplishments in that regard. Unfortunately this being a fantastic adventure movie is all that he is to be congratulated for because it is most definitely not a good movie version of The Hobbit. I will get further into that in my next post.