Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All You Need Is Kill/Edge of Tomorrow

All You Need Is KillHiroshi Sakurazaka’s widely praised breakthrough novel, was nominated for Japan's Seiun Awards, published in Japanese and English, and adapted to manga beginning this past January. Warner Bros. is bringing it to a theater near you on June 6 as “Edge of Tomorrow,” featuring Tom Cruise as yet another unlikely Japanese warrior (for more info, see The Last Samurai – or maybe not).*

In Sakurazaka's imaginative literary world, the United Defense Force has been fighting Mimics, a nightmarish advance force sent by a race that wants to remake the earth into a habitat in which they can live. That means humanity has to die.

Keiji, a rookie warrior, sustains a horrible injury in his first battle. Rita Vratiski, a virtual goddess of destruction reverentially known as the Full Metal B****, finds him as he bleeds out. He manages to ask her if this is the end. ”Yeah, “ she tells him, “But I’ll stay with you until you die.” And die he does.

Then he wakes up. Through a convergence of unlikely events, he is fated for this to happen over and over again. Every time he dies, he loops back in time. He soon realizes he can train in such a way that he might be able to eventually win the battle – and perhaps the war – on behalf of humanity. He takes courage from the mindset of the samurai: “Strike down the enemy, and learn.” He shakes off his brooding nihilism, stops experimenting with ways to die, and chooses to fight.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Who Are We?" (Reflections on The Walking Dead, Season 4)

The Season Four finale of The Walking Dead attracted 15.7million viewers, 10.2 million of whom were in the 18-49 demographic. It shattered previous records (the Game of Thrones season finale garned 5.4 million; Duck Dynasty reached 6 million; Breaking Bad’s Season Four finale recorded just under 2 million, and the final show of the entire series hit 10.3 million).

In other words, The Walking Dead is a cultural phenomenon. A lot of people are turned off by the gore (and it’s certainly gruesome), but The Walking Dead offers a gold mine of philosophical, moral, religious, and cultural talking points. I’ve written elsewhere about these issues (see links at the end). What caught my attention at the end of Season Four was the way in which Carl brings up one of the most important questions of all.

Michonne, Rick, and Carl are walking toward Terminus, a fabled place of sanctuary and rest in the midst of the apocalypse. As they get closer, Carl asks, “Will we tell them what we did?” Rick responds, “We’ll tell them who we are.” And Carl asks the right question in response: “Who are we?”

Part of the brilliance of The Walking Dead is that we are constantly challenged to ask what we would or would not do, what we could live with and what we could not. In the end, it all boils down to Carl’s question: Who are we?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dean Koontz's "Innocence"

Dean Koontz is perhaps the most famous Christian author alive today. He has sold over 450,000,000 books, with 17,000,000 added each year.  He's sold more books than Stephen King, which is no small feat. Since he’s not published by a Christian publishing house, he flies under the radar in Christian circles. That’s a shame. He is writing about horror, hope, good, evil, nihilism and purpose in a way that is captivating, true, and broadly accessible.

His latest novel, Innocence, is yet another highly acclaimed novel of beauty and hope in the midst of a dark, dark word. Rather than working my way through the plot (I really don’t want to give away the ending), I will let Koontz's own words (from the book and from interviews) reveal why his message has resonated so deeply with so many.


“According to my mother, my real father loved freedom more than he loved her. Two weeks before I was born, he walked out and never walked back in, off to the sea, she said, or to some far jungle, a restless man who traveled to find himself but lost himself instead.” 
“You’re too high a price to pay,’ my mother declared on the afternoon when she sent me away. ‘I’ve lived by my own rules, and I expected a cost, but not this. Not you.’”
Koontz’s childhood was troubled to say the least, but he made the best of it. He told the National Catholic Register, “As a boy, I yearned for a normal family life, but later I understood that the darkness of my childhood was in a strange way a gift. Because of the poverty and violence of those early years, I have a depth of experience to draw upon that enriches my work.”

No wonder he writes poignantly of the perils of childhood. In a world increasingly characterized by the fragmentation of families and the damage that comes from rejection, criticism, and abuse, Koontz’s novels offer both empathy and hope. Our history is real, but it’s not our destiny.