The Rook – Picture vs Page

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

This story had everything that I loved. The paranormal, a mystery, a strong female lead, a dry comic wit, interesting characters, a supernatural secret service, and plenty of weirdness.

A warning though: be here some spoilers as this is a comparison between the book and the television series.

The biggest draw-back with the novel was its propensity to excessive info-dumping. In the form of diary entries, letters, re-tellings… and they went on for pages. You would get some sort of background information, flashback, or journal entry every 5 pages or so. It really bogged down the pacing of ‘The Rook,’ and frankly, had me losing interest many, many times. The subject matter was interesting and slightly relevant to the plot, but altogether longwinded and far too common in the narrative. I feel like this novel could have been 150pages shorter and been one heck of a read. The television series handled this a lot better; instead of lengthy letter reading, we get succinct video files. A more omnipresent form of narration meant we got to see things unravel for ourselves. This story is built better for television.

Consequently I had started this novel twice and abandoning it before getting 50 pages in because it was, well … scattered. At my third attempt, I pushed through as many pages as I could before I was again bombarded with all-too-many info-dumps. It wasn’t until I got just passed the halfway point (pg 260 or thereabouts) that I felt like the plot had a direction and a driving force for protagonist Myfanwy pulling the story into focus. I was hooked on the television series right away however. It is more in the tone of a spy thriller though… and to that end a lot of the paranormal happenings, and the outlandish comedy of some of these things from the novel were ignored by the small screen version to keep a more serious tone. A bummer really – I loved the concluding scenes of the novel, and there is nothing like that in the tv show.

I have a bit of a thing with amnesia as a storytelling device. It’s an overused trope and can either be executed poorly, or brilliantly. Thankfully ‘The Rook’ falls into the latter category. This wasn’t an ‘I bumped my head and my memories are slowly coming back’ type plot, but a part of a paranormal mystery. In the novel Myfanwy never gets her memories back, but the television show had her gaining back her memory in short snippets which I felt was a massive disservice to the story (and the abilities of paranormals)… but I guess it works better for a visual presentation. But Emma Greenwell’s portrayal of Myfanwy Thomas is definitely a highlight of the series. I was also bummed out at the special effects and how she uses her powers – like she was having a seizure – and the blackened fingers. I felt this was an unnecessary addition to add drama. I liked the fact her abilities were more covert like it was represented in the novel.

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Daniel O’Malley has a quaint writing style with a dry sense of humour. He has a gorgeous way of painting a picture for character descriptions, and I thoroughly enjoyed – and got lost – in the narrative. Again, my only gripe is – edit! Edit lots! I’m uncertain if all the information we get in ‘The Rook’ was relevant to the storyline. Is all that superfluous information going to be resolved in the sequel ‘Stilletto,’ or was it just that Daniel was so immersed in the world of ‘The Rook’ that all the details felt like they were important? There are no pacing issues with the small screen version, but I was repeatedly wondering why they made the tweaks to the story they did. The show felt a little bland. The humour is gone. The tension of Myfanwy having nowhere to turn, not knowing who to trust was great in the novel – but in the show, felt a little all over the place.

Where American agent Monica Reed (played by Olivia Munn) was an ally in the novel, she has become more of an antagonist, or an alternate protagonist in the tv series, I was most unhappy of the treatment of the storyline involving Monica, Myfanwy, and Marcus Kevler. The whole thing had me going hrmmm…

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The paranormal powers were so imaginative, scary, and hilarious in the novel. So many obtuse and unique abilities to rival the X-Men. There are a lot of characters in ‘The Rook’ too. Even with all the copious explanations and backstories, I didn’t start to identify all the cast separately until after the halfway point. It was much easier in the television series, but did not like the treatment and storyline of Conrad Grantchester (played by Adrian Lester.) It moved away from the ominous tone of the members of the Checquy, how Myfanwy has to face them… and the power struggle, political manoeuvrings that play into the novels epic conclusion. The tv show went in a different – and in my opinion, much watered down tangent.

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There are definitely great characters in this story and to delve even further into them would turn this post into a novel in itself, but notable appearance and interpreted by some great actors were also Gestalt (Jon Fletcher, Ronan Raferty, and Catherine Steadman) and Lady Farrier (Joely Richardson.) Also of note – I was extremely disappointed to see Gestalts pregnancy ignored in the tv show… I thought that was a great twist.

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The main plot of the story in the novel is that Myfanwy is basically an impostor, impersonating her pre-amnesia self as the timid paranormal agent (or rook) and discover the identity of which of her workmates was responsible for the attack. An attack which was a failed murder attempt (we find out later in order to cover up a covert takeover of the Checquy.) It is all about deduction, investigation, and following instinct; not to mention dealing with all the strangeness of the paranormal around her. Working out who to trust. ‘The Rook’ is definitely up there as one of my favourite reads. While the television show followed the same vein, much of the fear of the Checquy (and their awesome abilities) was removed, or humanised. I guess it makes it more palatable to the general viewing public and keeps the tone of the show in a paranormal spy thriller (and omitted all of the wit and comedy from the novel.) I hoped it could have stayed truer to the source material.

In the novel the characters are all colourful and fully realised – how can they not be with all the narrative O’Malley dedicates to each. The storyline is intriguing and was the driving force in me picking up this title. At 482 pages long – and the formatting is at a maximum to fit a lot of words on each page without it looking crowded means this is a long book. Which brings me back to the pacing… ‘The Rook’ felt waaaay too long.

But when all is said and done, O’Malley has written a marvellous novel and I will definitely be continuing on with the series, and I hope a lot of the elements introduced in ‘The Rook’ will be addressed in the sequel ‘Stiletto.’ The tv show has yet to be cancelled or renewed as yet, and I will be interested to see in what direction the next season will go: will it swing back to the tone of the novel, or continue on its path of power struggle and political intrigue within a covert spy organisation?

I’d love to recommend this novel to all, but knowing the issues I had with the pacing, I don’t think everyone will have the patience to see it through to the end. But if you can handle a slower pace and love paranormal detective stories, then ‘The Rook’ has a lot to offer. Otherwise the small screen adaptation is a cracker of a show and one I’d happily recommend.

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In the meantime, stay tuned for my book review of ‘The Rook’s’ sequel ‘Stiletto’ in the months to come. Another Aussie born author I’m glad to add to my shelves.

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – Blackbird Duology by Anna Carey

When there is no-one you can trust, people are trying to kill you, all you can do is rely on yourself… and survive!

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What a dynamic duology! I loved and devoured both of these books in quick succession. I would recommend reading these close together, or marathoning them, as ‘Blackbird’ ends on a cliff-hanger and if you get entranced as I was, you’ll be desperate to find out what happens next.

I will say that the whole memory loss/amnesia trope has been clubbed to death, especially in YA. However the majority of protagonists in this action/thriller genre tend to be male, so it was fantastic to read it from a female perspective. Especially since she is intelligent, resourceful, and follows her instincts. No fading wallflower or damsel in distress here.

One other note of contention that we never really get explained is how the protagonists get some of their spy-like survival skills. It was a bit of a reach for me to completely swallow this aspect.

But on the whole, I loved how quickly the series kicks off isolating the protagonist. The feeling of not being able to trust anyone is visceral and the writing style is punchy. Short chapters, so you can really power through these novels.

Once our protagonist begins to regain some of her memories, especially in ‘Deadfall,’ there were a lot of flashback scenes that pulled me from the narrative. I would have preferred different methods of revealing these memories to the reader though, because after three or four, to became too repetitive.

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There is a love triangle in here, but it does not devolve into an angsty mess. So I did not find myself rolling my eyes at this trope.

I have to say this is a solid four star rating across the board. The brief and punchy descriptive style of Anna Carey keeps the pace going from beginning to end and I was highly entertained and would happily recommend this to lovers of the YA genre. We get a decent amount of character development. The plot twists are pretty great and was completely satisfied with the pay-off upon completing the two novels. A fun cat-and-mouse type thriller.

Blackbird’ was optioned by Lionsgate back in March 2015, but there has been no news since the announcement. I can see how this would have appeal to the public as an action/thriller, especially since there have not been a lot of releases in this genre of late, so I guess we will have to wait and see if it comes to fruition, and what type of Hollywood treatment it gets. But it is certainly a film I’d be interested in seeing. But in digging further into the screenwriter attached to the project, Daniel Mackey (of ‘Aim High’ fame,) he hasn’t been involved in anything listed on the regular movie production sites since 2015. Plus ‘Blackbird’ is no longer listed on Lionsgate’s website as movies in development, so while it is optioned, at this point in time it is not being actively worked on. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Blackbird’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-blackbird-1-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

Deadfall’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-review-deadfall-2-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

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One of my favorite quotes from ‘Deadfall’ – the final book in the Blackbird duology (posted the review last week.) It totally sums up the tone of the novel. Dark, mysterious lots of fun and action.

Book Review – ‘Deadfall’ (#2 Blackbird) by Anna Carey

Move over Hannah, the Gallagher Girls, Spy Kids and Barely Lethal, there’s a new girl in town.

Deadfall (#2 Blackbird) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

A week ago, you woke up in Los Angeles with no memory of who you are. The only thing you knew: people are trying to kill you. You put your trust in Ben, but he betrayed you and broke your heart. Now you’ve escaped to New York City with a boy named Rafe, who says he remembers you from before. But the two of you are not safe. The same people who are after you are tailing Rafe as well. As the chase heats up, your memory starts to return, but your past cannot save you from the terrifying circumstances of your present, or the fact that one wrong move could end this game forever.

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Again, like the debut of this duology ‘Blackbird,’ I was gripped from page to page. This is one action thriller that keeps your attention.

I was still wondering where all this instinctive training exhibited by our protagonist Sunny/Lena came from. Combat, lock picking, pickpocketing. They are skills that take ages to master, so that aspect of the story pulled me a little from the narrative – like please – Sunny/Lena has to fail at something. Believeability suffered by our protagonist miraculously having all these awesome skills in her arsenal. It was fun reading about, but felt like either another novel in this series was needed to explore this aspect, or a bit more care was needed in the existing two books to explain it away sufficiently.

I think because of all the action and pacing, some emotional connection between the characters was sacrificed. I was invested in their story, their survival, but not so much their relationships. I didn’t care for the characters themselves either. I felt like I needed more emotional development, some more backstory and a chance to see bonds develop further before the novel ended. Consequently, as with a few of the plot twists (which I did not see coming) left me with acceptance, rather than some emotional reaction.

There is a little bit of character development – but it’s mainly from the amnesia fading and the characters getting some of their old lives back – this story is more a survival, cat-and-mouse chase than anything else, so don’t expect paragraphs of naval gazing, wondering about their place in the universe.

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I did happen to roll my eyes at the Sunny/Lena-Ben-Rafe love triangle. Though it was handled intelligently and didn’t turn into a big angsty mess, I am starting to find this trope overdone in YA.

The best way I can sum up the main cast would be: Ben is a great redemption story. Rafe was a faithful golden retriever, Sunny/Lena was never-say-die….

We get a lot more flashbacks, and brief flashes of alternative character perspectives dispersed throughout the narrative, and while giving pertinent plot points to the story, left the book feeling a bit messy and all over the place. I would rather a few poignant flashbacks and leave out the other points of view entirely to keep the narratives strength and remain connected to Sunny/Lena.

But you definitely get a pay-off at the end. I love how it was all resolved. Anna Carey can shape a great tale, and I am eager to purchase her dystopian Eve trilogy.

Carey’s writing style is fairly brief and punchy, she doesn’t dwell on the superfluous and pushes the story forward with bare needed description and facts, and short chapters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours.

Overall it was engaging, entertaining, and intelligent and definitely one of the better YA novels I’ve read recently – I highly recommend this to be read shortly after the debut ‘Blackbird.’

I know ‘Blackbird’ was optioned for a movie by Lionsgate back in 2015, but there has been no news on its development since the initial announcement, but it’s certainly a movie I’d like to see. 🙂

Overall feeling: Love me some teen super-spy action!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Blackbird’ (#1 Blackbird) by Anna Carey

A girl spy cat and mouse.

Blackbird (#1 Blackbird) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Things I Know Are True: 
I am in Los Angeles

I woke up on the train tracks at the Vermont/Sunset station

I am a teenage girl 

I have long black hair

I have a bird tattoo on the inside of my right wrist with the letters and numbers FNV02198

People are trying to kill me

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This was a great action/mystery. I was gripped from the very start. The whole amnesia thing is entirely overdone, but it worked for ‘Blackbird’ and it took me a quarter of the way it to work out ‘Sunny’s’ role in the plot.

It really is a case of you don’t know who and what to trust. That tone comes across strongly in the narrative. It’s disorientating and adds to the tension of the storyline. Sunny, our protagonist, with no memory, framed and chased, strangers trying to kill her – the premise is set up in the first few pages and continues right to the end. I read this in one complete sitting and was thoroughly entertained the entire way.

I found Sunny to be observant, intelligent and possessing great instincts. I would have like to get some resolution to how she obtained these skills. Though lightly alluded to, it’s never explored. I’m guessing all the answers will come in the sequel ‘Deadfall.’

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It’s hard to peg the characters, or comment on character development because of the twists and turns of the plot – It is something I’m going to have to wait until completing ‘Deadfall’ before commenting on – as the story ended on a cliff hanger and the story is only half told.

The writing style is easy to read, but thought like it lacked some sophistication – though I feel it would not hit its YA market if the narrative voice developed a more complex structure. So, Anna Carey has written the perfect novel for this niche. It is just my opinion that it could have added a better dynamic if the clues were a little more obscure and Sunny had less support… more Bourne-like to add some more complexity – but it would push this out of its appeal and into a more adult market.

While the premise of ‘Blackbird’ doesn’t feel all that original, it is still an engaging read. It reminded me of a lot of the teen action movies like ‘Tracers’ or ‘Alex Rider.’ Though it was nice to read from a female protagonist’s point of view as opposed to a male one which dominates this genre.

The novel does feel unfinished – there are many clues dropped, many flashbacks out of context that are not resolved. The story ends on a cliff hanger and I’m bummed that I now have to wait to purchase the follow up ‘Deadfall.’ So my advice is to buy both of these together if you have difficulty in waiting to find out what happens.

I feel if there was more resolution, a bit more solid character development this would have been a 5 star read – but because of the feeling of incompletion I am only awarding it 4.Definitely something I’d recommend to younger readers who love cat and mouse, spy, action type mysteries.

Overall feeling: I want to do the Mission Impossible dance around my room

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Love Interest’ by Cale Dietrich

A great satire with heart.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 377

From Goodreads:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

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This book far exceeded my expectations. I’ve see blazing reviews and some flaming ones, and after reading the blurb, I was definitely interested, but didn’t have lofty predictions. Some parts of the book are cheesy, some ironic, but I didn’t expect the subtext of hopeless desperation through most of the novel. I was in tears more than once because of the helplessness that the characters faced, but still managed to have hope. It was heartbreaking.

The Love Interest’ does a great job of presenting stereotypes and tropes and throwing them into the harsh light of day to show that they really don’t exist. The characters have layers and motivations and aren’t simply the label that has been given to them.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgCaden is a fun protagonist. He is determined, a little stubborn, but compassionate. It was a great mix, and I was relieved that even with the fact that he is the protagonist – he also is not. That he is not ‘the chosen one’ or ‘the solo hero of the world.’ It takes a team – and you get a strong sense of that.

Dylan (‘Dyl’) kept surprising me… and for all the right reasons. I think he is my favourite character from this story. We never truly know his motivations because the novel is told only from Caden’s perspective, and this narrative adds delicious tension – as it does between all the cast – for each are pretending, hiding secrets, tenuous with trust. As hard as it was to peg Dylan, he also felt the most genuine.

Our female love interest, and target of the boy spies, Juliet fell a bit flat for me. She has skills and towards the second half of the book really shines; but during the first half felt more like a prop to tell Caden and Dyl’s story.

I think the only thing holding me back from giving this a perfect score is that I would have loved to see more complexity in the female characters, and maybe a bit more angst develop between the Caden and Dyl. But that’s me being picky, because I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Love Interest.’

There are a number of plot twists and events that I did not see coming. I was literally questioning “What?” out loud and re-reading the paragraph. It’s been a while since a book had done that to me, so I have to applaud Cale Dietrich in causing me alarm. Brilliant!

I think the reason behind such polarising reviews is because on the subtext of irony – on the surface it’s a love triangle, Dyl and Caden are gorgeous teens, parentless, and forced into becoming spies for a corporation – it’s very YA. But underlying that plot, the narrative flies in the face of all those tropes. Right up to the last page. It is amusing, touching and poignant.

Dietrich’s writing style is effortless, I read the book in one sitting, fully engaged the entire was through. I did have a slight pet peeve of the boys calling each other ‘man’ in their dialogue with frequency – like when girls get called ‘babe’ or ‘baby,’ it’s just something I find irritating. But that’s my personal problem and didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of ‘The Love Interest.’

The overall plot is, for the most part, easily predictable. However, Deitrich crafts angst beautifully, teasing you over and over again driving the story forward with a thrilling pace. I was also honestly surprised at the amount of action and James Bond styled gadgets. So while guessing the end was easy – the journey to get there is filled with surprises, laughter, tears, and hot bodies.

Although having a gay protagonist is not anything ground-breaking, it felt genius in this context. It was also dealt with in a respectful manner, and in a way anyone coming to terms with their sexuality should be treated. There was no fear or discrimination against their orientation, and it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I was really invested in the boys pairing up.

I was a little ‘iffy’ on the world building, and the relevancy for the organisation – and indeed the use of agents like Caden and Dyl. It is all so much overkill. But that too is a sarcastic pun at YA tropes. So you can either take it literally, of view it in the tone it is written, dripping with derision and satire.

Definitely giving ‘The Love Interest’ two thumbs up, and recommend this to all my friends. It’s a great adventure with tones of love and irony.

Overall feeling: tickled my fancy.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film vs Novel – Total Recall

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You never decide to die – but you must decide to live!

I can’t believe I haven’t compared this trio yet… one of the first books I ever read back in high school when I was mad about all things Piers Anthony.

Now I didn’t picture the Mars landscape or Douglas Quaid quite like they are in the film adaptations, but nonetheless I geeked out over all three. The closest character I’ve come across in the literature to Douglas Quaid would have to be Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt – they both have that rugged, balls-to-the-wall leading man vibe (so if you enjoyed one, you may get a kick from the other.)

The book is certainly true to the classic sci-fi adventure, and is woven with plenty of mystery and intrigue, gadgets and an alien planet… and for the young pimply teen, I ate it up!

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The 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger remains pretty true to the novel, while the 2012 release with Farrell, Beckinsale and Biel is clearly a loose adaptation. Although I can’t fault the special effects and storytelling of the latest cinema release – I was definitely engrossed. But I did miss the traditional ending that brought in a whole other dynamic into the story… because it’s all about the twist!

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I can see how the Farrell version kept with the secret agent/ political intrigue trope and left Mars out of the equation completely to give it an edgier feel and concentrate on the action scenes. Although when picking up the book, the fact it took place on another planet was the big draw card. But still, this mammoth film was able to produce top quality entertainment with some of my favourite actors. I’m just sad I didn’t get to a new experience on many of the other elements this film left out.

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With Schwarzenegger’s adaptation, although cutting edge effects at the time, seems somewhat camp now – and even when I first watched it I laughed out loud… especially the suffocation scene. In the book I remember the desperation as they were losing consciousness – instead I was giggling away at the bulging eyes and comically horrified expressions. I’d could explain the scene more, but given it’s near the conclusion of this story I don’t want to spoil you… and those of you who’ve only seen Farrell’s version will have no clue what I’m writing about. So go read the book, or watch the earlier film adaptation, the original story line will blow your mind!

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Another notable mention – we also got Sharon Stone while still blazing the trail of her burgeoning career (Playing Quaid’s wife).

This franchise is also famous for the three breasted woman (which they keep in both films) although the context in how he appears is completely different in each, illustrates just how different each creation is. So this is by far the most difficult comparison I’ve done to date in picking a winner. Farrell’s film adaptation has the eye candy, SPFX and political intrigue going for it, Schwarzenegger’s remains true to the original story, but loses some of the seriousness of Quaid’s dilemma through the limitation of SPFX, but the performances are great from all actors – (not like now, when all that runs through my head every time I see Arnold is ‘I’ll be back,’ or ‘It’s not a tumour.’)

The novel captured my imagination about being a spy, walking in the shoes of a big action hero, and exploring life on Mars (if only we had a female lead).

Hmmm… I guess it will have to be the novel for the win by a very narrow margin, but really it’s like comparing apples, oranges and a banana! Because really, all of them are awesome!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.