… Million Eyes begins!
Yes, yes, yes, I totally realise that I’m making it sound like my forthcoming conspiracy thriller novel Million Eyes is going to be the next BIG thing. I’m under no illusions how unlikely and pipe dreamy that is. I’m confident that a lot of people will enjoy Million Eyes given the subject matter, but the chances of it setting the world on fire are statistically slim. But hey, we authors have to be hopeful of, at some stage, hitting the big time. Otherwise we’ll never get there.
[By the way, this article includes spoilery thoughts on the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Game of Thrones and new Netflix film Bird Box.]
A little moan about Doctor Who
Anyway, yes, hello 2019. For sci-fi and fantasy fans, this is the year that Game of Thrones’ final season airs, Star Trek Discovery Season 2 comes to Netflix, and the last movie in the main Star Wars saga is released. Unfortunately—and grrrr—it’s also another year set to skip over Doctor Who. I’m just bingeing through Jodie Whittaker’s debut season now (it’s not groundbreaking so far, but it’s nice). I’m all about quality over quantity but the gaps between seasons and the continual reduction of episodes in each (was once 13, then went to 12, now it’s bloody 10) are getting tiresome and stink of BBC purse-tightening—even though Doctor Who is the only sci-fi show the Beeb makes.
Where I am with Million Eyes
As for Million Eyes, 2019 is going to be the year I release it. Or at least start the process of releasing it. I’m not going to nail myself to a 2019 release date just in case miracles really do happen and I’m snapped up by a publisher who has other plans.
I say ‘miracles’. I’m slightly closer to one of those than I was. I’m waiting on a publisher who read the synopsis of Million Eyes and was “intrigued” enough to ask for the first two chapters. After reading those I got an email saying they were “definitely interested” in reading the full manuscript. A full manuscript request has only happened to me once before and it’s generally a good sign. I’m probably still more likely than not to get a rejection, but I live in hope! I sent the full book on 9th December, so now I’m on tenterhooks, biting off fingernails and soon fingers, while I wait to find out what they think.
Meanwhile, I’m forging ahead with the sequel, whose working title is The Lady with the Apples. Can’t recall if I’ve mentioned that before.
More nice feedback for Scuzzling
I got my feedback from Conville & Walsh literary agent Emma Finn, who shortlisted the opening chapter of my work-in-progress novel Scuzzling as part of the Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition 2018. She said that I managed the world-building of the novel with confidence, had a great imagination and a nice, assured writing style, and that she felt the opening had a strong, intriguing hook. I’m obviously over the moon to get comments like that from a literary agent! (Shame none of the ones I’ve submitted to want to pick up Million Eyes—but alas!)
Thoughts on Game of Thrones ending
Ah, Game of Thrones. What a journey it’s been. I won’t lie. I haven’t read the Song of Ice and Fire books and I have a friend who insists that they’re heaps better than the show. But it’s the show that’s taken the world by storm and, in general, it’s always received high praise from critics, viewers and book readers. And to be honest, I don’t think George R. R. Martin is going to finish the book series anyway. I’ve read reviews of the last two books that were released, which state that the story gets increasingly complicated, the characters keep on multiplying, and there’s a tendency for the narrative to meander. And that’s not to mention that the books are getting bigger and bigger as they go along. That, coupled with the continual postponements of The Winds of Winter’s release and George R. R. Martin’s admissions that he’s been struggling (he even told Outlander author Diana Gabaldon that he’d killed off a character who he later realised he needed), make me think that Martin’s lost control of his story. I might be wrong. But I know readers of A Song of Ice and Fire who have now totally given up hope.
So it’s always been the show that’s interested me. Admittedly I agreed with some of what was said about Season 7. While it was an amazing season full of spectacular game-changers, the pace had totally changed. The producers said that they were getting to the end of the story, hence the reduced number of episodes. But I didn’t expect that to mean that they were going to speed things up so much to get there. Game of Thrones has always excelled at slow, moody, character-centric episodes as well as big, fast, bombastic battle episodes. But Season 7 was all about the latter. I’m not as fussed about the ‘fast travel’ arguments because, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s never been established in-universe exactly how far different places are from each other, or how fast ravens and dragons can fly. What bothered me was a feeling that the story was being rushed.
It certainly didn’t dent my enjoyment at the time and, to be honest, there is an argument to say that the pace of the story did need a bit of extra gas. After all, while Daenerys has had some very rich storylines, so much about those storylines felt like setup. Her goal was always to travel to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne, but she took six whole seasons to do so. Admittedly it’s great to see so much happening for her in Season 7.
I do also agree that some of the characters now feel like they’re wearing ‘plot armour’, i.e. they’re safe from being mercilessly killed off (like GOT has done so famously in the past) on account of their importance in the overall story. I remember back at the end of Season 5 during the onslaught of the Sons of the Harpy in the stadium thinking that Daenerys’s time might be up. And, a season earlier, that Tyrion might actually get beheaded for Joffrey’s death (although that might’ve led to actual real-life riots). But I wasn’t really worried about anyone in Season 7. We did lose a dragon, which was unexpected. But the main cast seemed pretty safe. Perhaps that’s inevitable when you get to this stage of the story, or perhaps it’s a sign that the story’s running short on twists (or that perhaps they’re being saved for the last season).
My hope for Season 8 is that the producers go back to pulling the rug out from under us. I can’t hope for a slightly slower pace—there are only 6 episodes this time around—so I can only hope it doesn’t feel rushed as it heads into its last lap. I also hope the ending is satisfactorily tidy. I don’t expect happy endings for everyone. For a show like GOT, that wouldn’t make sense. And George R. R. Martin always said that the ending of his book series would be “bittersweet”. But considering there is no sign of a sequel series on the horizon (looks like any spin-offs are going to be prequels), I really don’t want anything to be left hanging.
Thoughts on Star Wars ending
While my expectations for GOT’s final season are very high, my expectations for the final film in the Star Wars saga couldn’t be lower.
I do appreciate that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are improvements on the prequels in some ways—the acting is better, the dialogue is better, the characters are better, the humour is better, the FX are better. But both films are an enormous disappointment in the way that really matters—story.
The prequels had great, complex stories. They were let down by poor dialogue (which someone should’ve told George Lucas he cannot write) stiff acting (Hayden Christensen, I’m looking at you) and an overreliance on CGI. But in spite of all that I love them. All the mystery and treachery and political manoeuvring involved in the rise of the Empire and the downfall of the Jedi was brilliantly handled. It was this that actually made me like the original trilogy more.
But The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were just remakes. The Force Awakens was almost a direct remake of A New Hope. We literally had all the same plot beats, settings and character moulds in there. We had a new Luke (Rey), a new Tatooine (Jakku), a new Darth Vader (Kylo Ren), a new Empire (the First Order), a new Rebel Alliance (the Resistance) and a new Death Star (Starkiller Base). It was about the First Order trying to bring down the Resistance and vice versa, with yet another plan to destroy the baddies’ ultimate weapon (a plot that had already been rehashed in Return of the Jedi—and was criticised for it). And the story hinged on the characters getting a map to Luke Skywalker’s location to the Resistance, which was being carried inside a droid called BB-8. You know, just like A New Hope hinged on getting blueprints to the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance, which were being carried inside a droid called R2-D2. Sure, the details are different, but in remakes they often are.
I wasn’t expecting Han Solo to die. That shocked me when I saw it, and I thought it a brave move. But, to be honest, even that plot beat mirrors A New Hope. In that film it was Obi-Wan who died, killed by lightsaber by the film’s main villain, at a similar point in the proceedings. The more you unpick The Force Awakens, the less imagination you find.
Still, I came out of The Force Awakens having enjoyed it. It was on reflection that I realised it wasn’t that great and, on second viewing, it felt tired and like I’d seen it all before. I literally cannot fathom why the powers that be thought it a good idea to come up with a new enemy that was exactly the same as the Empire. It was as though nothing of consequence happened in the thirty years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and we were right back where we started.
However, I didn’t enjoy The Last Jedi full stop. It was, for me, the most disappointing Star Wars film yet. I’ve never watched a film in which so much happened but none of it meant anything. The story didn’t move forwards at all. We were literally at the same point at the end as we were at the beginning, minus a couple of dead characters.
The whole film was about the Resistance trying to escape from the First Order. Just like the Rebels trying to escape from the Empire in The Empire Strikes Back. We got Luke, in exile on a remote planet, training Rey to use the Force. Just like Yoda, in exile on a remote planet, training Luke to use the Force. We got the Battle of Crait, basically another Battle of Hoth. Then we got scenes in Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room. These played out almost identically to the Emperor’s throne room scenes in Return of the Jedi, proving that the writers were not just plagiarising Empire.
Yeah, okay, so the writers pretended to be innovative by having Kylo Ren unexpectedly kill Snoke. But all that does is expose Snoke as a totally uninteresting villain with no backstory worth noting (unlike the much more interesting and mysterious Emperor). They again pretended to be innovative by revealing Rey’s parents to be ‘nobodies’, unconnected to any previous franchise characters. But that’s not innovative. That’s boring. So now Rey and Snoke are boring. WIN.
And after Ren kills Snoke, what does he do? Offers Rey a chance to rule the galaxy with him. An offer Rey refuses. So, after that little Return of the Jedi interlude, we’re back to watching Empire again. Dammit, even some of the dialogue is just repurposed lines from past films.
To add insult to injury, there’s the totally pointless subplot that occupies like a third of the movie, in which Finn, BB-8 and new character Rose go to the city of Canto Bight to find a codebreaker. It’s padding. All of it. Padding—in a Star Wars movie? Oh my dizzy days.
The Last Jedi is cobbled together from various bits of the saga and made to look pretty. The filmmakers are telling exactly the same story. It’s unfathomably lazy. No doubt it’s all going to end in Episode 9 with Kylo Ren being redeemed (or killed) and the First Order being defeated at last by the Resistance. Perhaps we’ll get yet another all-powerful superweapon for our heroes to destroy in the process. Blah, blah, blah.
So, if you hadn’t already guessed, I’m not that excited about Episode 9. I wish I was. But since both 7 and 8 were uninspired retreads of past films, I’ve no reason to believe that Episode 9 will be any different.
Thoughts on Bird Box
As if this article wasn’t already long enough, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on a film I watched over Christmas: the new Netflix sci-fi horror film Bird Box, which has got the whole world talking.
It was good. Very good, actually. But frustrating. The frustration being that we never get to see the film’s villains—the ‘creatures’—or even find out what the hell they are. The filmmakers are saying the movie is stronger for not showing the creatures and that the story is actually about Sandra Bullock’s character’s relationship with her children. I disagree. And the fact that the film has left so many people asking questions about the creatures signifies a failure on behalf of the filmmakers in my view. People have said that when a film shows its monster at the end, it’s often disappointing. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show it. It means you need better monsters. To me, Bird Box played like a mystery. In the end, it was a mystery that wasn’t solved.
Right, I think I’ve babbled on long enough. Go, get on with your day and I’ll see you soon. (I have new conspiracy articles in the works…)