Saturday, December 28, 2013

Trending YA Entertainment: 2013 - 2014

As a father of three who also works with youth, I have seen the power of entertainment to shape one's perspective of the world. Almost two years ago, I began posting reviews of the stories that most directly impact a primarily young adult audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the stories. Why do these stories resonate? What messages are teens absorbing?

Because my time is limited, I focus on popular trending books, films and TV shows. I freely admit to avoiding teen romances - but they aren't being turned into movies, are they? Dystopias, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes seem to be where all the action is right now. I, for one, will not complain.

I am confident that my perspective is imperfect; nonetheless, I hope this blog can create a resource that encourages critical thinking, serious reflection, conversation, and clarity as we navigate the competing worldviews around us. Feel free to weigh in with any of your thoughts!


Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games:  J.W. Wartick gives a good overview of the film version of Catching Fire; click here for a perspective on the entire series and here for an article that will provide multiple links for insights based on The Hunger Games and Philosophy. 

Veronica Roth's Divergent:  The book was excellent; I hope the movie lives up to the hype.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game:  Once again, J.W. Wartick gives a great summary of the film; my review looks at the story from a different angle.

Max Brook's World War ZThe book is brilliant.  Seriously. The movie vaguely resembled it.

Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies:  A surprisingly deep story of love and human nature.  The book was written for adults; the movie aims for a YA crowd. The content matches the target audience in each.

Beautiful Creatures: A riveting story that left a lot of unanswered questions and a little uneasiness.

The Mortal Instruments: The book was a glittering mess. Engaging, flashy, and epic, its moral center did not hold.

Joe Hill's Horns: Stephen King's extremely talented son has written the most disturbing young adult book I have readIt's dark, vulgar, and ultimately hopeless, though there is a sort of crude justice that shows up throughout the book. And Frodo got the nod for the movie?

Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice: The upcoming movie version (Seventh Son) looks great; the book on which it is based is okay.

Joseph Finder's Paranoia: The movie bombed in spite of being headlined by some some heavy hitters. As interesting as the book was, it didn't feel like a YA book, and the ending left a lot to be desired.


Neil Shusterman's Unwind: I highly recommend this brilliant analysis of the culture of abortion.

Jonathan Mayberry's Rot and Ruin series: After reading and reviewing the first two, I bought the next two for my boys for Christmas. It's a great series that takes the zombie genre and turns it into a compelling story of character, heroism, and nobility.

Paolo Bacigalupi's The Drowned Cities:  Excellent book. It's violent and grim, but it give a thought-provoking and honest look at war, idealism, science, politics, and human nature.

Allie Condie's Matched series:  A solid-but-not-spectacular dystopic story overshadowed by The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane:  A riveting blend of mythology, religion, good, and evil that topped the Goodreads Fantasy category in 2013.

James Dashner's The Maze Runner trilogy: Though the first book is clever, I didn't care for the series overall.  Based on its incredible popularity, I am clearly in the minority.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life in the Lyrics: “Follow Your Arrow”

"If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore,
if you don't save yourself for marriage you're a whore-able person. 
If you won't have a drink then you're a prude, 
but they'll call you a drunk as soon as you down the first one. 
If you can't lose the weight then you're just fat, 

but if you lose too much then you're on crack. 
You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, 
so you might as well just do whatever you want, so…

Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys 
or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into. 
When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight 
roll up the joint, or don't. 
Just follow your arrow wherever it points, 
yeah, follow your arrow wherever it points.

If you don't go to church you'll go to hell, 
if you're the first one on the front row you're a self-righteous son of a - 
 Can't win for losing; you just disappoint 'em; 
just 'cause you can't beat 'em don't mean you should join 'em.

Say what you feel, love who you love, 
'cause you just get so many trips 'round the sun, 
yeah, you only live once."
- Kasey Musgraves

The talented Kasey Musgraves first caught my ear with “Blowin’ Smoke,” a clever and poignant song about people who rarely follow through on any of the noble plans they have for their lives. The overriding metaphor has to do with smoking – people say they are going to quit someday, but they’re just blowin’ smoke.  It’s a great tune.

According to her popular single “Follow Your Arrow,” this desire to embrace a purposeful life of health is something you should definitely do. Or not. It doesn't really matter. “Follow Your Arrow” highlights sexual lifestyles, the use of addictive substances, religious beliefs, and choices about whom we should love as areas in which we ought to do whatever we want, because, you know, YOLO.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stephen King's 11/22/63: Defying the Dark

“I know life is hard, I think everyone knows that in their hearts, but why does it have to be cruel, as well? Why does it have to bite?”

There’s something about Stephen King’s writing that gets to me. Yes, he has a very grim view of the world.  The darkness in his universe is pervasive, but that's how King gets us to long for the light.

Perhaps I feel this way because I am intrigued by the religious imagery that permeates many of his books. In an interview with NPR, King said the following about his belief in God:

"I choose to believe it.... If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there's a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, 'Well, if this is God's plan, it's very peculiar,' and you have to wonder about that guy's personality — the big guy's personality.”

His mesmerizing 11/22/63 demonstrates this peculiar tension between the beauty of creation and the beasts with human nature. Men love their children while they beat their wives. People with the best of intentions inadvertently pave roads to hell. A winsome, religious small town hides perversions and excesses simmering beneath the surface.  These things stubbornly persists because something powerful and purposeful is shaping the course of human history. The past protects even moments of great tragedy as the world unfolds in ways that may be far better than we realize. That does not mean, of course, that we have to like it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Hunger Games and Just War Theory

In a previous series of posts, I used The Walking Dead and Philosophy to look at the worldview issues in AMC’s hit series. Since Catching Fire is currently taking the world by storm,  this seems like a good time to use The Hunger Games and Philosophy as a springboard to dive into some key themes in the trilogy.*

 In “Starting Fires Can Get You Burned: The Just War Tradition and the Rebellion Against the Capitol," Louis Melancon looks at the Rebellion through the lens of Just War Theory. As with my previous posts, I hope to accurately portray the writer's position while adding some comments of my own.

Mr. Melancon begins by noting three positions** people generally take when it comes to war:

  •            Pacifism: violence against others is always unacceptable. This does not seem to be the position of any of the main characters in the Hunger Games trilogy. Clearly, there are no Amish and Mennonite craftsmen making cabinets and fake fireplaces in Panem. 
  •        Political Realism: Thucydides said of the Athenian conquest of Milos, “The strong do what they have the power to do, the weak accept what they have to accept.” Violence is acceptable if it helps fulfill stated goals (Presidents Snow and Coin, and perhaps rebels such as Gale).  
  •        Just War Tradition: Violence may be acceptable if used in a just cause and exercised by just means. This theory, which has Cicero, Augustine and Aquinas in its historical camp, offers a middle ground between do nothing and doing anything. This position is grounded solidly in the Christian tradition, but is not limited to those of religious persuasion.

Just War Theory can be broken down into three categories: jus ad bellum (the right to go to war), jus in bello (right conduct within war), and jus post bellum (justice after war).

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Life Is Always A Test": What The Stumbling Living Can Learn From The Walking Dead

"You think it's still a test?"
"Life is always a test, Rick."
Herschel and Rick, Season 4, Episode 5

"You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. And nowadays you breathe and you risk your life. Every moment now, you don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.” 
 Herschel, Season 4, Episode 3

AMC's The Walking Dead may well be one of the best shows on TV right now. I could do without the excessive gore (though one could argue it's needed to establish the context), but the questions the show raises about life, morality, faith, humanity, and hope are profound.

After watching the first two seasons, I picked up The Walking Dead and Philosophy, one of many books in a series that uses popular entertainment as a way of addressing deeper philosophical questions. Some articles were better than others; all of them raised thought-provoking questions. I offer the following links for those who are interested in using the undead as a means to think more deeply about the life.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Can Now See The Moon: A Reflection on Thankfulness

"My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon."   Japanese poet Masahide

Being thankful involves more than our emotions or feelings. Sometimes it is just that - when the sun is shining in a cloudless northern Michigan sky over freshly painted barns, it's easy to love life. But being thankful is often a decision, a perspective, a commitment to finding that which is good even when the skies are grey and the passing storms bring lightning that levels the buildings we love. "And yet will I praise him," wrote the Psalmist after reciting a litany of reasons why praise should be the last thing on his mind. Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica to give thanks in all circumstances. I don't know how your life has been, but that's a tall order for me.

As I look back over my life this Thanksgiving, I can see a number of  gaps where barns once stood. Yes, I will face more and greater losses. Yes, I have been blessed with the life I have. I just don't want to forget that when the smoke clears, the moon (or perhaps the Son) faithfully brings light to even the charred corners of the world. So, here's my attempt to see the beauty in the ashes.  Feel free to add your own!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The World's End: A Review

As far as apocalyptic movies in 2013, The World’s End has been even more popular than This Is The End ( the most recent numbers posted at Rotten Tomatoes show an 89% critic and 77% audience approval). It's the last film in a clever, entertaining trilogy begun by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg is a great comic actor, and this movie highlights his talent. I really wanted to like it - and parts of it were hilarious - but I kept getting distracted by the increasing incoherence of the worldview and message.

The main plot is simple. Gary King (Pegg) gathers some high school buddies twenty years after their graduation for another shot at the Golden Mile, a pub crawl that finishes at The World's End. Unfortunately, the town is being taken over by aliens. Chaos ensues.

This Is The End: A Review

I like apocalyptic entertainment. From sci/fi horror (28 Days LaterResident EvilThe Walking Dead, The Terminator) to natural disasters (Melancholia, Deep Impact2012, ) to war (The RoadBook of Eli) to aliens (War of the Worlds, Independence DayEnder's Game), there's nothing like the end of the world as we know it to bring out the best - or worst - in people.

 This Is The End drew quite a bit of critical and audience acclaim this past year. It received a 83% critic and 75% audience rating atRotten Tomatoes. I'm not sure why. By about thirty minutes in to the movie, I was thinking that "Please Make It End!" would have been a better title.

Every character falls on a sliding scale of shallow, self-centered, egomaniacal people. They are so self-deluded that when Hell arrives on earth, they are the only ones surprised they don’t get raptured. Yes, the movie is a self-referential commentary on the Hollywood crowd featuring ironic self-debasement (Channing Tatum), stereotype-busting character twists (Emma Watson) and a hyperbolic - and perhaps even cautionary - presentation of what life is like in Hollywood.  I get it. I doubt the audience in general took that mesmerizing point away from the film by the time the credits rolled.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Drowned Cities

To help us enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping today's youth, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story.

This review will look at Paolo Bacigalupi's The Drowned Cities.  In addition to numerous awards for other books, The Drowned Cities has received the 2012 Kirkus Reviews Best of YA Books, a 2012 VOYA Perfect Ten Book, 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and  Junior Library Guild Selection.

Mr. Baigalupi writes what he calls 'accidental futures', where "human beings are selfish, short-sighted, and stupid, and thereby create worlds that everyone can agree are hell — but that no one can fix anymore." That's the world of The Drowned Cities. But even in the midst of this watery hell, a compelling story of honor, horror and hope emerges.

In the wake of a worldwide flooding, America's waterlogged cities became knows as the Drowned Cities, places where chaos and death await around every corner. Civil war decimates the land. Peacekeepers from China attempt to do for America what America has attempted to do for so many other nations. They fail. Now, the Deepwater Christians, Rust Saint devotees, Army of God, Freedom Militia, and United Patriot Front use politics and religion as an excuse to fight brutally  for power and land.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Problem of Peeta (The Hunger Games and Philosophy)

In a previous series of posts, I used The Walking Dead and Philosophy to look at the worldview issues in AMC’s hit series. Since the release of Catching Fire is not too far away, I am using The Hunger Games and Philosophy as a springboard to dive into some key themes in the trilogy.*

In "Who is Peeta Mellark? The Problem of Identity in Panem," Nicolas Michaud uses Peeta's post-torture persona to look at the problem of personal identity.

Consider Katniss's dilemma. Peeta returns from the torture of the Capitol a different man than she knew previously. In a physical sense, he is clearly still himself. In terms of character, attitude, and beliefs, he is quite different. So is Katniss reaching out to the Peeta she knew or is she creating a relationship with someone new? It may sound like an odd question, but consider some scenarios Mr. Michaud offers to help us think through this identity crisis.

If Peeta is simply his body, then as long as his body doesn't change, Peeta remains. Whatever is true of Peeta is true of his body and vice versa. But if Peeta had come back from the Capitol dead, Katniss would not have rejoiced that Peeta had returned. Clearly, Peeta is more than simply a body. His body may be necessary for him to exist as a human, but it is not sufficient to explain who he is as a person.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Darwin and the Hunger Games (The Hunger Games and Philosophy)

In a previous series of posts, I used The Walking Dead and Philosophy to look at the worldview issues in AMC’s hit series. Since the release of Catching Fire is not too far away, I am using The Hunger Games and Philosophy as a springboard to dive into some key themes in the trilogy.

The first post looked at the role of entertainment in the Capital; the second one looked at the intersection of luck and choice in understanding morality. This post will build from Abigail Mann's “Competition and Kindness: The Darwinian World of the Hunger Games” to look more closely at how this series looks when viewed through the lens of Darwinian theory.*

The Hunger Games themselves seem to epitomize Darwin’s concept of how the evolutionary process works: competition, adaptation, survivability, and a little bit of luck. The Games manage to involve three of evolution’s famous Four F’s: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and, uh reproducing. It’s pretty basic, really. Survival of the fittest as entertainment.

In the evolutionary process, all processes of selection bring the strong to the top blindly and haphazardly rather than purposefully. No situation is right or wrong or good or bad. Life just happens. As it happens, nature in essence "selects" that which is most fit in a given set of complex circumstances either through blind luck of superior adaptability. The only thing this blind process accomplishes ruthlessly is survival through reproduction. Some would say it is the 'goal' of evolution, but that's a hard claim to make in a system with no goals. As Dawkins has written,
"Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all." 
If survival lacks vision or foresight, it’s important that the odds swing your way. When we meet the contestants in the Hunger Games, most of them are favored with a social or physical strength which increases their odds of surviving.  Their fitness quotient, however, will vary depending on the type of environment – once again depending on chance. So we see many candidates who are favored with certain skills, but whose fitness may not be enhanced in the chosen environment of the Games.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Importance of Being Ender: A Closer Look at Orson Scott Card's Modern Classic

If the awards given to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game are any indication, he has written a novel that may well become part of the canon of science fiction:
It’s been translated into thirty-three languages, ranked #59 on the reader's list of Modern Library100 Best Novels in 1999, and included on the Marine Corps Professional Reading List. Oh, and the movie (starring Harrison Ford) is opening in just a few weeks. 

If you enjoy analyzing stories such as Ender’s Game, there are a lot of excellent commentaries online.*  Rather than replicating their content, I would like to offer some thoughts on why I believe this story is so compelling. 

After the climatic battle that ends the Game, Ender discovers the Hive Queen has survived his accidental genocide. She communicates the story of her and her people to him, and in this knowledge Ender finds truth, empathy, and a path toward a form of redemption. As he records her story for all to know, he becomes the first of many Speakers of the Dead, people who speak the truth of a person’s life at their funeral.

Ender's story continues in Speaker of the Dead. He begins what will be (thanks to the quirks of space travel) centuries of searching to find the Hive Queen a new home, a new place to begin rebuilding the civilization he once destroyed. Meanwhile, he continues to "speak" the lives of those who have died as sort of a prophet in a new religion that seeks to bring truth, peace and honor to life in all its forms.

Ender's Game was the first novel in the Ender saga, but Speaker of the Dead was always meant to be the heart of the story. Card explains in the introduction to SOTD why this aspect of Ender's life is so important to him:
“I grew dissatisfied with the way that we use our funerals to revise the life of the dead, to give the dead a story so different from their actual life that, in effect, we kill them all over again. No, that is too strong. Let me just say that we erase them, we edit them, we make them into a person much easier to live with than the person who actually lived…To understand who a person really was, what his or her life really meant, the speaker for the dead would have to explain their self-story – what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in. That’s the story we never know, the story that we never can know – and yet, at the time of death, it’s the only true story worth telling.”
Speaking for the dead wasn’t always pretty, but it was always powerful. Ender becomes passionate about telling “what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in.”

Not until I read Speaker did I begin to understand what I found so compelling about Ender's Game. The heart of the story of how a deceived, brainwashed, abused child accidentally becomes the bane of the universe became clear only in light of Card’s previously cited explanation about Ender himself. The only story worth telling cannot show merely what Ender meant to do, it must show what he actually did. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What If The Odds Are Against You? (The Hunger Games and Philosophy)

In a previous series of posts, I used The Walking Dead and Philosophy to look at the worldview issues in AMC’s hit series. Since the release of Catching Fire is not too far away, I am using The Hunger Games and Philosophy as a springboard to dive into some key themes in the trilogy.

The first post looked at the role of entertainment in the Capital; this one will draw from George A. Dunn's “The Odds Have Not Been Very Dependable of Late" to look more closely at the ethical implications of the influence of luck vs. the importance of intention in The Hunger Games.*

What role does luck play in the world? More importantly, if luck is a force to be reckoned with, what does that do to the notion of choice and the possibility of meaningful moral actions?

Many of the events in Katniss’s life would never have happened were it not for luck, both good and bad. Her sister was chosen against the odds; Peeta was chosen against the odds; Katniss and Peeta got a particular team and not another against the odds. When Katniss slept in a tree with tracker jackers and wore a mockingjay pin that just so happened to feature a bird that Rue loves, the odds were very much in her favor.

So, to what degree are luck and choice intertwined? It would seem that the more our lives are shaped by luck, the less culpability we have for our actions. The less luck, the more we deserve praise or blame for the choices we make. Thomas Nagel (who seems pretty good at generating controversy) has attempted to bring some clarity to the discussion by discussing four kinds of moral luck.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dying To Be Entertained (The Hunger Games And Philosophy)

In a previous series of posts, I used The Walking Dead and Philosophy to look at the worldview issues in AMC’s hit series. Since the release of Catching Fire is not too far away, I am going to use The Hunger Games and Philosophy as a springboard to dive into some key themes in the Hunger Games Trilogy.

In the opening section, Brian McDonald (“The Final Word On Entertainment”) and Anne Torkelson (“Somewhere Between Hair Ribbons and Rainbows”) look at the power of the arts to shape both individuals and cultures.

McDonald begins with Aristotle’s claim that art is mimeses, imitation, intended to “delight and instruct.” Artists accomplish this by showing the most noble aspects of life within the boundaries of the Golden Mean:
"At the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue."
Art that does not elevate the soul in this fashion is merely empty spectacle. Those who wish to entertain should not seek to be innovative envelope-pushers, good art won’t promote extremes. Virtues such as bravery are destroyed by deficiencies (cowardice) or excesses (rashness) in real life.

Torkelson looks specifically at the power of music. The Greeks believed that bad music resembled bad character: graceless, without rhythm or harmony, and lacking truth. Good music mimicked good character: fearless, courageous, self-controlled, and wise.

Socrates claimed that the music we absorb shapes the souls of individuals, cultures, and even the laws of the city. Mousike, the realm of the Muses, is so powerful that the government needs to make sure it exhibits mimesis, celebrating and promoting all that is known to be good. Assuming the city is just, imitative music will nourish the soul of both the people and the culture; conversely, innovative, envelope-puushing music in a good society will almost necessarily corrupt it. McDonald quotes cultural critic Philip Reiff's blunt assessment of the situation:
 “Every true culture expresses and celebrates the power of re-creation [mimesis].” 
If Reiff is correct, false cultures are those that de-create the good through extreme innovation detached from historical moral norms. Herein lies the problem with the Capital. The city clearly lives, promotes, and is entertained by a life of extremes. The Hunger Games are perhaps a logical culmination of this sickness.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cutting The Baby In Half: A Review of Neal Shusterman's "Unwind"

“In a perfect world mothers would all want their babies, and strangers would open up their homes to the unloved. In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world.”

To help us better understand the entertainment shaping today's youth, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story.

This review will feature Unwind, the first book in an unfolding trilogy by Neal Shusterman that has justifiably earned an unbelievable amount of critical acclaim. It's set in a dystopic culture that has embraced the killing of innocent human life for the greater good. As Shusterman so adeptly shows, it's neither great nor good.

In the not-so-distant future, the conflict over abortion has worsened. The pro-life crowd is killing doctors at a regular clip; the pro-choice crowd is flaunting their freedom by getting pregnant just to sell fetal tissue. The inevitable war fractures the country and threatens to topple the nation.

The two sides reach a compromise: there will be no more abortion, but parents can have the government Unwind their children when they turn 13. Unwinding is a process made possible by a recent medical breakthrough called neurografting, in which every part of a human can be detached and placed into another human. Since all the parts of the Unwound person are still alive, that person is still alive in some sense – or at least that’s how the argument goes. Abortion without death. All the pleasure of choice with none of the burden of responsibility. It's all very tidy.

It was meant to be a Swiftian compromise designed to shock both parties into sanity, a cultural version of King Solomon's suggestion that two mothers fighting over a baby should cut it in half. In the Biblical story, the real mother begs Solomon to spare the life of the child and give her baby to the other woman - which was exactly the outcome Solomon anticipated. Shusterman stated in an interview with The Trades that he wanted to look at what would happen if a baby's life was on the line and neither side flinched.
“When I go and speak at schools, one of the first things I talk about is the King Solomon story -- how the two women are fighting over the baby, and how Solomon proposes the idea of cutting the baby in half. What if one of those women didn't let go? What if the two sides were so entrenched in their positions that they would rather see the baby cut in half than ever compromise? Unwind is what happens when society decides to cut the baby in half -- figuratively and literally.” 
This kind of horror must be hidden behind a wall of ideology and propaganda. As the kids targeted for Unwinding find out about their doom, they reflexively repeat the mantra that has been droned to the damned: “I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Last Apprentice (Seventh Son)

"Someone has to do it. Someone has to stand against the dark. And you're the only one who can."

To help us enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping today's youth, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story.

This review will look at The Last Apprentice, the first of a dozen books in Joseph Delaney's The Wardstone Chronicles.  The Last Apprentice won New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" as well as the ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults. A movie based loosely on the series will soon arrive on the big screen as Seventh Son.

Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son. That's an interesting lineage, sure, but who really cares? John Gregory, for one. He is a Spook, the last line of defense between the forces of evil and the rest of a blissfully unaware world. John's not getting any younger, and he needs an apprentice - namely, Tom, who has arrived after just the right amount of sevens.

You can read the plot elsewhere. I'd rather focus on the messages within the story.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Day Miley Couldn't Stop

As always, significant cultural events reveal significant things about our culture. MTV's recent Video Music Awards were no exception.  In the midst of MTV’s glittery ode to itself, Miley Cyrus hijacked twitter for a while, and for good reason: her performance was incredibly inappropriate. In an industry that prides itself on pushing the envelope, she managed to shock almost everyone. 

When I saw the footage the next day, I felt embarrassed for Miley. The desperation and emptiness in her performance was heart-breaking.  On the one hand, I am encouraged that so many people were bothered by what she did. On the other hand, I am puzzled by the duplicity of the uproar, specifically from those in the entertainment industry. After all, she just did what her song said she wanted to do. 

Here is what the VMA’s celebrated and Miley brought to life in "We Can't Stop":

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Joseph Finder's Paranoia: A Review

When I saw previews for the movie version of Paranoia a couple weeks ago, I thought, “I believe I read that book last winter. Something about a self-centered jerk who got caught in the middle of corporate espionage between even bigger self-centered jerks, and I didn't really care what happened to him or anyone else at the end.”

Yep, that was the one. I am apparently an outlier: critics seemed to like the book quite a bit, and audiences lapped it up (it was a NYT best-seller; the hardcover version went through four printings). Though the trailer for the recently released movie looks good, it's getting a 3% from critics and a 39% from the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. I guess the trailer is the best part.

This review will only cover the book, which differs from the movie in both appropriateness (for a YA novel, there was a surprising amount of R-rated material) and plot (the book is far more believable). Speaking of the plot....

Adam is a childish, self-centered slacker who has no idea what to do with his life other than make easy money, get laid, and drink himself into happiness (or forgetfulness). It’s not a roadmap for success.  He works for a Trion, a large corporation that apparently hires anyone. Frustrated by the impersonal nature of the company, he impersonates the VP for Corporate Events and caters a retirement party – to the tune of $78,000 dollars. Once he’s busted, he finds out that his little prank could earn him 30 -50 years in prison and a one million dollar fine. He spins a yarn about the retiree being his dying father.  It doesn't work, but it does highlight his ability to lie egregiously and convincingly.

This would be a downer to his employers, but not when the employers are soulless. Who better to infiltrate their competitors than a low-level con artist who can't cover his tracks? Not to worry. As his corporate espionage coach tells him, “You're a natural, Adam. You’re going to do just fine.” She was right - Adam is really good. But she was wrong about him doing just fine.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Honor, Idealism, and the Monsters Within: A Review of Jonathan Mayberry's Rot and Ruin Series

“When writers tell a story about monsters, we’re usually using them as a vehicle in order to tell a story about our own world.” - Jonathan Mayberry

In an attempt to better understand the entertainment shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of books impacting a YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers' worldview. 

This review will look at Jonathan Mayberry's Rot and Ruin series. According to,  Rot and Ruin was Booklist's Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults and a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner. It was also nominated for several state Teen Book Awards, the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, the Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards). Dust and Decay was the winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award. Rot and Ruin has already been optioned for the big screen.

As part of the ongoing evolution in the horror genre (such as World War Z, Warm Bodies, and The Walking Dead), this series uses the zombie motif to address some surprisingly deep questions. Here's the primary one that lurks in the background: If zombies are basically amoral animals ruled by instinct, and they can feel no pain, why should people treat them with any respect at all? When faced with the dilemma of how we ought to interact with other living things, we usually begin by making several important distinctions.

What argument can be made against people who dismember, torture, and dehumanize a zombie? The argument would most likely be that this type of bestial violence destroys the souls of the perpetrators even as they desecrate their victims. 

And that is exactly the argument that Jonathan Mayberry makes in this surprisingly insightful series.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Elysium: Fighting For Paradise

According to Brittanica Online,
"Elysium, also called Elysian Fields or Elysian Plain, in Greek mythology, originally the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent... In Homer’s writings the Elysian Plain was a land of perfect happiness at the end of the earth.. In the earlier authors, only those specially favored by the gods entered Elysium and were made immortal."
In Neill Blomkamp's latest incarnation of this story, the "specially favored" are not heroes at all; they are, however, extremely wealthy. When the earth went to environmental and political hell in an overcrowded hand basket, the 1% built a bourgeois paradise in space, leaving the 99% on a decrepit earth to gaze longingly at the home of their betters. The rich got everything money could buy: perfect health, longevity, luxury and ease. Those left behind inherited a hard life that creates harder people, and the camera does not look away (see Focus on the Family's review for more detail on the relentless portrayal of very fallen world). 

As far as social, economic and political commentary go, Elysium is intended to be a sci-fi parable of health care and immigration in much the same way Blomkamp's disturbing District 9 dealt with racism. It's caricatured class warfare and naive revolution are a distraction at best and dishonest at worst, but they will certainly generate discussion about the morality of wealth disparity.

I am more interested in Max.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"The Wolverine": Of Dark Roads, Monsters And Men

"The great battle, I always thought with Wolverine, is the battle within himself."  - Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine


Since the disastrous events at the end of the last X-Men film, Logan (aka Wolverine) has retreated into the woods, living a life of solitude among the another animals. His past haunts him every night as the ghost of the woman he both loved and killed lingers. He's a Ronin, a samuri without a master and thus without a cause. Even worse, he's basically immortal, and the events of the past promise a future full of ruin and despair.

I left The Wolverine with mixed emotions (you'll see why in a moment). I ran an early version of my review past a good friend, Karl Meszaros, who has made appearances on this blog before. He knows the Marvel mythology behind Wolverine far better than I do, and he completely disagreed with my reaction to the film. Rather than rewriting my review, I have decided to post both: my response as a casual fan of the X-Men movies, and his insight as a follower of the Wolverine mythos for quite some time.

Perhaps our opposite reactions are inevitable considering the difference in knowledge about the story; perhaps we simply bring the very disparate circumstances that formed our lives into our analysis. After you have read these two perspectives, I'm interested hearing your response. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stephen King's "Under The Dome": A Mid-Season Perspective

Stephen King has a way of peeling the veneer away from both civilization and the people that comprise it.  Most of his literary worlds are very dark, but they are always enlightening.

Under The Dome takes yet another look at what happens when people are given a chance to be themselves. Societal structures keep our collective evil in check; what happens when we are released from the obligation to conform to the moral expectations of those around us? Though the current series is not as good as the book (published in 2009), King's stories are good enough to translate onto the screen, and the series is crushing the summer competition.

"Wealth was the short beer of existence. Power was champagne."

When the mysterious dome descends, it does more than cover the town. It uncovers the true nature of the people trapped within its transparent and indestructible parameters. A love-struck boy kidnaps and imprisons his girlfriend;  a businessman publicly becomes the monster he was privately; a preacher's duplicitous life comes to life; a policewoman's nobility and courage shine.

"A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men."

As the crisis escalates, the trajectory of people's lives do as well. Those inclined to evil find it increasingly hard to maintain a semblance of normalcy; those inclined toward good find they need to fight more and harder battles. It's not always easy to tell for whom we should cheer, but we certainly know what we hope will happen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

"Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't."

In an attempt to better understand the entertainment shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of books impacting a YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers' worldview. 

This review will look at The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the latest from best-selling author Neil Gaiman. The film rights were optioned even before the book's publication date, with no less a name than Tom Hanks attached to the project.

When the unnamed narrator was a child, a monster began to haunt his town when someone with an unfortunate request released it from its prison:
"Something came to me and pleaded for love and help. It told me how I could make all the things like it happy. That they are simple creatures, and all any of them want is money, just money, and nothing more..." 
But, as Chesterton said, happiness is a hard taskmaster, and there is always something more. When the narrator wakes up with a coin in his throat, he goes to the family of Lettie, a mysteriously ancient girl who claims the pond in her backyard is an ocean. Lettie allows the narrator to accompany when she binds the creature provided he does not let go of her hand. He lets go, of course, and becomes the conduit through which the monster can now readily access the world. That's not good. As Ginnie Hempstock notes, "It's a dangerous thing to be a door."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Here Comes the Bloom: A Review of Aprilynne Pike's "Wings"

“Every little girl wishes she was actually a princess or a faerie or a mermaid or something. Especially girls who don’t know who their real mothers are.”
As a faerie embedded in the human world when she was just a baby, Laurel lives unobtrusively among her friends and with her adoptive parents. Then one day she begins to bloom – did I mention she’s a plant, a type of faerie, and she didn’t know it?

She tries to hide her wing-like flowers, but they are part of who she is. As they open, so does reality. She discovers a formerly hidden world around her filled with other faeries, trolls who want to kill her, gorgeous mythic warriors who like her, and a reality that defies explanation.  

Her boyfriend David’s a great guy, but he soon discovers a reality about Laurel that may be a problem: she has no pulse. Even worse, she has not heart. And the trolls are coming after him too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Hope and Steel

"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun." 

The new Superman rocks. Let's just get that out of the way. Critics have had mixed opinions, but the word-of-mouth has been excellent. I've read a number of reviews featuring the foundational stories that gave birth to Superman (Moses and Gilgamesh), the increasingly overt Christian themes, and the hidden atheist message embedded in it.  Since religion is already being dissected so vigorously, I will focus on another aspect of the film. In a world struggling to understand how to live well, Zach Snyder offers a story in which the importance of establishing a healthy ethical base takes center stage. Two key scenes set the stage.

Scene 1: After Clark saves the children in a school bus from drowning, his father gently chides him for taking the risk of being discovered. Clark rightly asks, "What was I supposed to do - let them drown?" Jonathan replies, "Maybe." His reason is the the world is not ready to handle someone like Clark, a seeming god among men. So until the world (and Clark, and perhaps most importantly Jonathan) is ready, Clark should hide his power and allow some tragedies in which he could intervene to play out. It's for the greater good.

Scene 2: Zod explains to Superman that the Kryptonian's evolutionary advantage has put them on a road to survival paved with the bodies of those who are not as fit. It's just the way it is. Zod was born to be a soldier, to fight for race and defend his people, and all that matters is that the Kryptonian race survive and flourish. Terraforming the earth and killing everyone? It's for the greater good.

If you are like me, you found the first scene to be poignant and the second repulsive. I suspect that's what Snyder wants you to feel. Zod is obviously a villain ("Boo, genocide!") but Jonathan is humble and nice ("Yay, loving parental concern!").  However, as the film unfolded, this consequentialist approach to life clearly revealed a potentially fatal flaw.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

World War Z

"The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts.”

In an attempt to enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers' worldview.

This review will look at World War Z a novel by Max Brooks. Inspired by Studs Terkel's The Good War, this book is being rightly credited with transforming the zombie genre.*  Paramount's film starring Brad Pitt hits theaters on June 21st. It remains to be see how well this movie will translate onto the screen.

There will be spoilers.


World War Z unfolds through a series of interviews with the key players who helped humanity survive the zombie apocalypse. It's been 12 years since VA day in America, and the UN has commissioned a Postwar Commission Report. This book chronicles the interviews of one reporter as he journeys around the world to get to the truth about what really happened.

Patient Zero, a 12-year-old Chinese boy, was bitten by an animal.  That much is pretty clear. The how and why of the spread is a story of human ineptitude, greed, misinformation, and tragedy. As opposed to much of current zombie lore, World War Z for the most part looks away from the gore and looks instead at how the world as we know it would change as people perpetuate or fight the plague. In the process, the author’s literary eye scans entire nations as well as the most heartbreaking individual stories. 

The approach is nothing short of brilliant. Brooks examines religion, politics, family structures, international tensions, the pharmacutical industry, the military, economic systems, the impact of geography, weather, and national mindsets…the list goes on. I expected a predictable story of gore and despair; I found a thought-provoking and honest look at death, life, hope and the human condition.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Star Trek: Into (Hearts Of) Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness seems to give a nod to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness not only in its title but in the journey through the moral murkiness that lurks in even the best of us. The book is primarily about the twilight of souls unable to see the light of morality, goodness and virtue. The movie highlights the fact that it's not the galactic space around us that is the true final frontier of undiscovered country. It's the moral space within us.

When Kirk’s mentor is killed by Khan, Kirk understandably wants to get revenge. Though the law requires him to arrest Khan and bring him to trial, he’s ready and willing to subvert the system and just kill him.  Well aware that his actions may start a war, he speeds toward Klingon territory to exact his revenge. Spock challenges him to do the right thing.  Sure, Kirk’s anger is understandable, and his harsh revenge is a rough kind of justice, but at what point would Kirk become the evil he was trying to fight? Do noble ends justify ignoble means, or must both be good?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Django Unchained

At a pivotal moment in Django Unchained, Django is told to shoot a man in front of the man’s own son. Django hesitates, but Schultz, a bounty hunter for whom he works, reminds him the man is worth $7,000, and he’s a wanted criminal. Well, then. “Like slavery, “ he explains to a man who understands slavery, “it’s a flesh for cash business.” 

Fast forward to a scene where Schultz chides Django for his apparent callousness to the cruelties around him. Django replies, 
“I recall the man who had me kill another man in front of his son.  You said, ‘This is my world, and in my world you gotta’ get dirty. I’m getting dirty.’
At that moment, in spite of the Tarantinoian odds, Django Unchained was primed to show how the journey into moral compromise makes monsters of us all. Instead, blood runs, infernos burn,  and audiences cheer vengeance as everyone just gets a little dirter.  So, do noble ends justify ignoble means, or must both be good? 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sympathy for the Devilish: A Review of Joe Hill's "Horns"

 In an attempt to enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers' worldview.

This review will look at Horns, a novel by Joe Hill, talented son of Stephen King. As is increasingly the case with popular YA fiction, a movie is in the works (Mandalay Pictures and Red Granite Pictures are making sure Horns comes soon to a theater near you, with Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe cast in the lead).

There will be spoilers.


Most people believe that Ignatius Martin Perrish raped and killed his girlfriend, Merrin. Ig didn’t do this, but since that tragedy he has steadily spiraled into chaos. He wakes up one morning after a drunken binge to discover horns growing out of his head. It makes a twisted kind of sense. The horns are just a visible reminder of what is arising deep inside. To make matters worse, when people get near him they reveal their most evil thoughts. He sees their history in a moment when they touch him, and it’s not pleasant.

He learns that his friends, family, priests, doctors, and policemen all secretly hate him, but they are hardly in a position to judge, They have their own terrible secrets. As Ig realizes that he has the power to influence them toward things they secretly want to do, he begins to embrace the hell within and use his power to create a world more to his liking.
“Now that he was used to it, he far preferred being a demon. The cross was a symbol of that most human condition: suffering. And Ig was sick of suffering. If someone had to get nailed to a tree, he wanted to be the one holding the hammer… If you were going to live in hell on earth, there was something to be said for being one of the devils. ”
This book’s language is coarse, its characters crude, and its message terrible. Did I say that bluntly enough? It's also extremely engaging. Mr. Hill is an accomplished writer, and he understands his YA crowd. If you have teens or work with them in some capacity, Horns is worth knowing about just so you understand the way in which this generation increasingly views the world. Trust me; it's unsettling.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bumper Sticker Logic #2

At a red light in Traverse City last year, I waited behind a car that appeared to be held together entirely with bumper stickers. My amusement changed to annoyance when I realized that my 11-year-old sitting next to me was learning some new words while absorbing some bad ideas.  Who knew so much crass and shallow thinking could fit onto the back of a car?

Last week, while waiting at a different light, the multiple stickers on the car in front of me got me thinking again. It began with this slogan:

"Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck."

I wouldn't put it on my own car, but it earned a chuckle. I get so tired of phrases like "Always be yourself," as well as its more aesthetic cousin “You’re beautiful just the way you are!” When used properly, these sentiments can bolster the self-image of someone who has been wrongly shamed by reminding them they have a value that transcends opinions and circumstances. That's when it's used properly. In general, I hear versions of it mindlessly parroted by the self-indulgent "don't judge me" crowd.

This "Always Be Your Own Beautiful Self!" scenario sounds really good in a song, but even Christina Aguilera's stellar pipes do not have the power to change an important truth about the world:  some things in all of us are not beautiful.  Sometimes, the people pointing out ugly things are right.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oblivion: Of Machines and Men

Oblivion is a beautiful film. I'm a fan of sci-fi already; give me an alien invasion, sweeping landscapes, a shattered moon, clever plot twists and beautiful people, and yes - I will be entertained.

Having said that, Oblivion ultimately failed to satisfy, and I left the theater frustrated for several different reasons.

First, Oblivion was a poorly written film with an almost comical amount of plot holes. Since the purpose of this blog is to focus on worldviews rather than the art of storytelling, I will leave it to other sites to provide the details.

Second (and more importantly), the movie failed to give meaningful answers to the questions it raised. As Grantland noted, "Oblivion is something you want to be inside of. Upon entry, you'd have plenty of room to notice how hollow it is."  I firmly agree.

Warning: I'm going to give away the plot. You need the backstory to understand a key worldview question the movie addressed in its own charmingly inept way:  What does it mean to be human?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

In an attempt to enter into and better understand the storiesworldviews, and messages shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of trending books, films, and TV shows effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes  the readers' worldview.

This review will look at Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, the first book in a hugely popular zombie apocalypse series. As is increasingly the case with popular YA novels, a movie is in the works.

There will be spoilers.

Mary has lived inside a fence all her life. The Unconsecrated (zombies) lurk in the woods, and no one knows if there are any other survivors. The Guardians protect the fences, while the Sisterhood indoctrinates the survivors. Police at the walls of the city; church at the walls of their hearts and minds. The community is ordered, purposeful and exasperatingly pragmatic. Humanity has a long road ahead, and purpose rather than passion will pave the way.

Mary is the now-to-be-expected YA rebel. Though her mother told her stories about the ocean, of freedom and goodness and hope beyond the fence, Mary does not believe her. She also does not believe in a God who allowed her father to become one of the Unconsecrated. One day her mother gives up on her own stories and goes to the fence, allowing herself to be bitten so she can join her husband. Mary holds her until she dies.

This loss of parents is a common plot twist in YA literature.  In every single book I have read in the past year and a half, one or both parents are either gone or dead. Every. Single. One. I’m not sure there is a more obvious marker of the yearning in our youth for stability and love in a culture of divorce and abandonment.

In the brief span between death and Unconsecration, Mary's beliefs about God crystalize:
     “ I stop believing in God… I wait for [the Scriptures] to calm me, to infuse me with light and grace. But it does not come, does not fill the hollow ache inside me. I wonder if I will ever feel whole again now that I no longer believe in God.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Throne of Glass

In an attempt to enter into and better understand the storiesworldviews, and messages shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of trending books, films, and TV shows effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes  the readers' worldview.

There will be spoilers.

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Mass, was named's "Best Book of the Month for Kids & Teens" in August 2012.  Publishers Weekly called it a "strong debut novel," and many other reviewers (though not all) have agreed. As with many popular books, a film is in the works.

I'll be honest: I didn't really care for this book. After reading my initial thoughts, I decided I should rewrite it and spend a little more time on the positive aspects.  However, if you read between (or behind) the lines, you may be able to get a sense of where this review began.

Celaena is a teenage girl who is also the World’s Greatest Assassin. After her parents died, she was raised by a whole bunch of assassins. When the country's king finally manages to capture her, he sends her to the mines to die. 

While imprisoned, she kills 24 guards. Years later, she still remembers one of the guards fondly, specifically“the feeling of embedding the pickax into his gut, and the stickiness of his blood on her hands and face.” Some of those guards had raped a friend; they “died too quickly.” These memories haunt her sleep do not seem to bother her too much.

One day the king’s son, Dorian, unexpectedly pulls her from the mines to enter a contest which will decide the king’s next Champion. If she wins, she gets her freedom after four years of service. Dorian is a blatant womanizer handsome rogue, a man whose renowned prowess in the bedroom on the battlefield is surpassed only by his ability to use people look good. Celaena observes that when he stands up straight, he“looks like a king.” Never has good posture played such a pivotal role in a romance.

Celaena vacilates between blood-thirsty assassin, girly potential princess, and cynical, world-weary girl. Men think she is beautiful when she dresses up, and she giggles. Men mock her in the tournament, and she destroys them.  She dreams of cutting out the king’s heart and smashing in the teeth of her bodyguard, Chaol, then plays piano like a virtuoso, “playing and playing as the sounds forgave and saved her.” She is a hot mess a little bit of everything a woman wants to be.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Dogma-Free Society

a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet
b : a code of such tenets 

a: companionship or association with one's fellows
b: a voluntary association of individuals for common ends; especially : an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession 

I saw this sign posted on a college bulletin board last week. It sounds great, doesn't it? If I take language seriously, the poster is inviting me to be a part of an organized group that will be free of established opinions on the issues.

Who, I wondered, would take the time to start a group that stands for nothing? And who would attend the meetings?  An article on the Dogma-Free Society answered at least one question:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Life of Pi: Searching for the Better Story

Life of Pi recounts the story of Piscine Molitor Patel, mercifully known as Pi.  You can read the plot overview on Wikipedia; I'm not going to reinvent the Wiki wheel.  I will, however, highlight particular events that will lead us to the worldview embedded in this confusing, compelling story.

As a boy, Pi’s mother raises him as a Hindu. When he is fourteen, he begins to follow the teachings of Christianity and then of Islam, believing them all capable of teaching him something important about God. So, Hindu/Christian/Muslim. His father, a champion of reason, notes, "If you believe in everything, you believe in nothing." That's solid advice, but Pi seems far more motivated to embrace ideas based on personal experience, strong feelings and intuition. As a result, he does confusing things like a) embrace three contradictory notions of God and b) try to pet a tiger by luring it closer with a piece of raw meat. Think of these two events as related.

When his family and a bunch of their zoo animals head for Canada (read Wiki), a storm capsizes the ship, leaving Pi stranded on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger named Richard Parker (the one he once tried to feed). Eventually only the tiger remains, and it is not inclined to share the space.

Pi ties a raft to the side of the lifeboat, and thus begins the heart of a mesmerizing story as they float for 227 days, fighting each other and the elements, surviving storms and carnivorous islands, and eventually making peace before finally landing on the shore of Mexico.

Insurance company representatives visit Pi in the hospital to find out what happened. They don’t believe his incredible story, so Pi quietly tells them a much darker one. It’s a horrible story of human atrocity, with a murderer and cannibal (the hyena) who preys upon Pi’s mother and another sailor (the zebra and orangutan) while Pi (the tiger) waits too long to intervene, then becomes a violent killer to destroy the evil on the boat. They believe that one.