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.

The Rook Season 1 2019

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…

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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.

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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.

The Rook Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Revisiting Roswell

Revisitng Roswell Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Throwback to just over 15 years ago and I had a steady diet of CW television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, and of course Roswell.

I was having a moment (feeling despondent and procrastinating) so I thought I take a trip down memory lane and watch an episode or two – but I ended up binge watching the entire 3 seasons. Oi vey!

Revisitng Roswell Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleWhat alarmed me was how much more discerning over content I am now that I’ve been professionally writing for over 10 years. While I was filled with nostalgia and angst, quietly slobbering at Jason Behr, and wished Liz (played by Shiri Appleby) was me, the construction of the episodes delivered a sting I was not prepared for.

 

Revisitng Roswell Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There were some major issues with plot, continuity and believability. And don’t get me started on complexity.

The construction of each episode was great – they all told an important story, and even the scenes were framed perfectly… but the transition of scene to scene was shaky at times. Rational thought seemed to get tossed out the window. What happened to the path of least resistance and all that? I know it was manufactured the way it was to create drama, but couldn’t we have at least addressed the elephant in the room? I think this aspect was compounded at times by the special effects. Many were executed marvelously, where others resembled cheap, fake looking digital renders. I understand there is a budget for the production of each episode, and I’m subconsciously comparing it to today’s standards, but couldn’t they have filmed it in a different manner to eliminate the nasty look of the spfx? Some episodes were brilliant, where others screamed poor production and plot holes.

I’m still wondering about the whole alien abilities thing – which are supposed to be human abilities – when the human race have evolved to use a higher percentage of their brains. It’s not an unheard of mythology. But their abilities kept getting redefined and the past retconned on a number of occasions. Grrr!

Sometimes the cast were emotional, motivated, and complex; and other times, stereotypes… guest stars and supporting cast were often reduced to a cliché as well. But I think that is more a television thing than a Roswell thing. We are still viewing characters over-stylized into a role for easy identification. That’s the bad guy because he wears black and has a scar… I hate it when things get dumbed down for an audience. Especially in science fiction. You expect it in something like comedy, where you can overact, over-emphasize everything; but in sci-fi, it’s meant to be challenging, though provoking. Even if it is a teen drama. I would have liked to have seen the complexity set up at the beginning and slowly grow as the characters are tested with roadblocks each episode.

Revisitng Roswell Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

Again, the issue of spfx let me down with believability – it’s hard to get sucked into an imaginary world when your spitting out your cup of tea laughing at sub-par digital rendering. So to goes for terrible dialogue and poorly constructed scenes. You want your characters to explore and find themselves in a precarious position, not feel like they were placed there by the author and have their options removed by some unseen hand of God… that’s cheating!

I know this is sounding over-critical and ranty. Roswell will continue to remain one of my favourites (faults and all) but I think it’s a great exercise in constructing a scene, and writing a novel for that matter, to actively and critically watch shows. You start to see what works and what doesn’t. What is relying on the actors’ good looks or interpretation of the character, and what is bad screenwriting. Other times elements of production let down the story – the way it’s edited together, the treatment… there are so many aspects to focus on. So many tools you can use to objectify your own writing and potentially improve it.

I love reading books and casting a critical eye over them; but a television episode is usually a story told in 45 minutes, and to that end, you don’t have to invest so much time to flex your critical eye. It’s fun to mix it up in different mediums: movies, plays, short stories, novels, tv shows… keep it interesting.

Nonetheless Roswell is a guilty pleasure, the tween in me still swoons over the love-stories, and the geek in me salivates with the science fiction elements. There are constant nods to other icons in geekdom that felt like they were a personal call out to me as a viewer. I was distraught when the series was rushed to an end. It had so much potential, but seemed squandered in the wrong hands.

Revisitng Roswell Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleI did read the 10 book series that was commissioned to write by Melinda Metz, of which this television show was based off, (and a lot of fanfic after it was cancelled.) At the time, it enabled me to live in that universe just a moment longer, but none of it did the concept of this show any justice. I just had to kiss it goodbye and find something else to obsess over.

Now, when there is a trend to re-boot, re-make, and bring back television shows and movies, I wonder how this would actually happen for Roswell. The Romeo and Juliet vibe mixed in with stranded alien hybrid teen royalty, trying to find home… There would need to be a lot of tweaking of the original series for it to be re-introduced and engaging for today’s viewers, a darker and more sci-fi edge, but a character driven plot. Personally, I’d love to see it lead off with a group of healed humans coming to terms with their growing powers, trying to track down Max and Liz, and the rest of the gang (who are currently on the run.) Sherriff Valenti (also healed by Max, and now having his own alien abilities) could be running an underground alien alliance, grouping the growing number of new-humans-with-alien-powers spread across the globe back in Roswell to create a safe haven. A ‘hide in the least obvious place’ sort of thing. I’d like to see a re-imagined alien threat and a seemingly sympathetic government body looking to identify and help the human/hybrids, but have their own nefarious agenda… still a great concept! It would leave it open for guest spots or inclusion of the original cast, but primarily reinvigorate the original concept with a modern cast and contemporary edge.

I’m such the Dreamer…

Revisitng Roswell Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

You can support the Roswell Revival that is currently gaining traction through social media here: https://www.facebook.com/roswellmovie/

Revisitng Roswell Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Let me have a moment… (with ‘Teen Wolf’)

Let me have a moment Pic 09 by Casey Carlisle.jpgEvery now and then I find I need to take a few days off the schedule to gather my thoughts… or binge watch a tv show.

It’s my own fault. I set a grueling timetable, big goals and sacrifice a lot of other things to manage my time in order to achieve the dream ‘to do’ list. It’s in my nature to go big or go home. Whether its perfectionism, O.C.D, or having an imagination bigger that the wild outdoors, I don’t know; but I’ve always operated with enthusiasm.

Let me have a moment Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle.gifConsequently, you can only go for so long on maximum throttle before you need to stop. This last weekend was such a time, I dropped out of everything and spent a few days in front of the screen on a ‘Teen Wolf’ marathon. Yay for supernatural goodness with hot boys! It’s the first time I’ve re-watched any episode since their release (especially back to back) and, as a writer, I marveled at the story lines, arcs, and character development. I was also surprised at the darker elements of the show like the gore and emotional suffering. I didn’t remember it being so shocking when I first watched. There were some silly moments – and I don’t mean comedic – like the Beast of Gévaudan. The CGI was awful and didn’t portray any feeling of menace.

But at the core of the show, and the reason I was watching, boils down to the relationships between the characters. The Pack as it’s called. I found myself wishing I still had that collection of friends by my side, sharing the ups and downs that I had in high school. They are still around, but we have scattered across the continent and have separate lives, families, and careers; so friendships aren’t a day to day priority any more. The bromance between Scott and Stiles is epic. I can see that trope in the ‘Supernatural’ tv show as well between the Winchester brothers. For some reason, that buddy-ship appeals to me. It gives an authentic feel to the characters without saturating it in machismo. I also realise there is a lot of homoerotic undertones in the characterisation in both of the shows that I don’t take offense to. It’s light-hearted and fun and is not intended derogatory, but support and include that community in some way – like we’re all in on the joke. The other aspect that had me tuning in was the romance. ‘Teen Wolf’ has a great way of building a strong connection between the characters that allows me to get lost in the fantasy.

I know that Teen Wolf wasn’t initially envisaged to continue past the episodes that have already aired – and I really liked the note that Season 5 ended on. But with a new season speculated to air within the next few months, I’m still really excited to see where the show will take us. I did take a peek online to try and get some clues and couldn’t glean too much, but I did notice that Tyler Posey and Dylan O’Brien have their run for the next season ending in 2016, where the other characters have their run shown through to 2017 on IMDB, so I’m wondering if the characters of Scott and Stiles are leaving or getting killed off? Or maybe management aren’t updating the profiles just yet… but it’s got me anxious about what is going to happen, since they are the sole reason I watch the show. MTV have been tight-lipped about any spoilers or an air date getting leaked for the upcoming season. The producers and writers are going to have to bring in some amazing characters, storylines and friendships to ensure survival of this franchise.

I have had some issues with this show, but on the whole love it for the feast of characters and the kind of escapism I haven’t been able to find since the ending of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Some came close, like ‘Lost Girl,’ ‘Orphan Black,’ and of course ‘Supernatural.’ They all have elements of horror, comedy and built in great friendships/relationships of all kinds. Let’s hope more addictive television keeps appearing on our screens worthy of a weekend binge session. Complex characters, diversity and character driven storylines are just the recipe for this gal!

Let me have a moment Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

What television series inspires your writing?

 

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.

Film vs Novel – The Nine Lives of Chloe King … by Casey Carlisle

Forget vampires and werewolves, cat-people kick butt!

The Nine Lives of Chloe King Review by Casey Carlisle

In response to the emails I’ve been getting for some more reviews since posting a blog on ‘The Host’ comparing the film to the novel; I’ll be writing more in this genre. Adding to the Film vs. Novel, I’ll also review some of the latest YA fiction from my reading list, and hopefully give you some insight into other great YA Authors.

To kick off reviews in 2014 I thought I’d begin with a comparison of The Nine Lives of Chloe King ABC’s television series to the novels by Liz Braswell – only because it was one of my favourite shows, and that in turn prompted me to read the books over the Christmas break.

Overall the television series is a sanitised version of the books – as are many adaptations these days. Keeping the broadcasts within a PG rating to connect with the intended target audience and ABC’s typical treatment of after school specials removed the ‘grit’ and realism from the storyline. But having said that, I found the characters in the television series much more loveable. The protagonist ‘Chloe’ in the books, was much harder to make a personal connection with, whereas, in episode one of the TV version – I was hooked in the first ten minutes.

Both storylines had sensational elements to add the drama and supernatural elements, but the way they were introduced into the story didn’t sell me for the novels. The written version of Chloe, a reluctant and flawed superhero, warrior princess, felt vapid in comparison to her film counterpart. Granted the version of Chloe on screen was a happy-go-lucky, sarcastic, nervous teen as compared to a bitchy, naive, and impulsive version in print, so it’s hard to pitch them up against one another when the main character is wildly different in each representation.

The books held that whole ‘secret society with lots of money operating right under your noses,’ and while that was present in the television version, it wasn’t so extreme. I loved the mythology that formed the drive for the novels and it was the main reason – apart from the love of ABC’s version – that kept me reading. If you are hoping for the same exploration with the televised version, you’ll be disappointed. There were small amounts introduced with each episode, but unfortunately the series got canned before it was able to really sink its teeth into the subject matter.

Both interpretations were a pleasurable experience, and the stand out sensation I got on completion of both consisted of – ‘Why did they cancel that!?’ when viewing the last aired episode of The Nine Lives of Chloe King… I was still totally hooked on the show. Plus it ended on a cliff hanger … argh! Frustrating! Upon reading the last page of the novels, although a satisfying read, I found myself sighing out loud many times at Chloe’s actions, annoyed that the most realistic options were never even considered, like she was being guided by the writer in a certain direction and never allowed to make her own decisions.

Secondary characters in the novels had that same frustrating trait as Chloe, resulting with me grinding my teeth. Actions they took were inconsistent with their age and the situation. Their screen counterparts were age appropriate and even quite comical at times, while not appearing two dimensional thus escaping my furrowed brow.

So in the case of TV series or novels?  – it’s a resounding win for the screen adaptation. It left me much more satisfied and had a plethora of characters to easily identify with.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.