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Review

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryIn this installment of Judging a Book by Its Cover, Tia Mansouri deviates slightly from the format of her original column on Joan Vinge's Snow QueenInstead of analyzing the cover of a book before she reads it, she takes a closer look at a new cover of a very familiar, well-loved book--Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Released today, the Penguin Deluxe edition of the novel features cover art by Ivan Brunetti and an introduction by Lev Grossman.


"I insist upon my rooms being beautiful! I can't abide ugliness in factories!" - Willy Wonka

When I heard of Penguin's re-release of several children's classics, I was surprised to find Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was selected to be re-done. As a kid, I found Quentin Blake's illustrations to be practically inseparable from Dahl's words. But illustration is about seeing words through the viewpoint of another's eyes, and despite how well known Blake's art is, Dahl's book has had enough visual incarnations not to let any one depiction be the definitive standard. The more I look at Brunetti's cover, the more I like it for being unlike Blake's style and entirely suited for Dahl's story. What Brunetti reminds us with his cover is that the point of what we visualize doesn't need to be the characters themselves, but how each of them interacts with the wonder and whimsy of Mr. Wonka's factory itself.

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Late to the Party: A Review of Left 4 Dead 2

This week, we're excited to introduce a new feature here at Fantasy Matters--a series of video game reviews written by new contributors Dan Lammert and Luke Rasmussen.  The series is called "Late to the Party," because the games are a few years old, these reviews were originally published on Luke and Dan's own website, PlastikSickness--a website that also features Luke's skills as a DJ and musician.  This website brings together video games, music, zombies, and the apocalypse in a fascinating synthesis of geek culture, and it is definitely worth checking out!  Today, we bring you the first review in the series--Luke Rasmussen's look at Left 4 Dead 2.


Left 4 Dead 2Santa came a little early and delivered a copy of Left 4 Dead 2. Alright, so it was Dan (sorry to ruin that it wasn't really Santa) but that was great because we spent quite a bit of time going through it. Managed to get through the whole thing as a matter of fact, and it was quite a rush.

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How do you know when the girl is imaginary?

Imaginary GirlsThe first thing I did upon finishing Nova Ren Suma's extraordinary book, Imaginary Girls, was to flip back to the beginning and read it again. Though I reread a lot, the one other time I have done so immediately is with Gene Wolfe's Peace. This is fitting, perhaps, as it is Wolfe's definition of good literature - "that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure" - that came into my mind as I was reading Imaginary Girls.

Upon finishing again, my thoughts turned from the sublime to the practical. I thought, "Huh. I wonder where they are going to shelve this." I can see Imaginary Girls being described both as "the realistic book all genre readers should pick up" and "the work of the fantastic guaranteed to appeal to all readers of realistic fiction." I can see where both those descriptions are accurate, and both contain the important part - everyone should read this book. 

Suma herself describes it as magical realism. I don't disagree, but I am going to talk about Imaginary Girls specifically in terms of the fantastic. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but to talk about this book, I need to talk about how it ends.

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Royal Assassin: a review

Robin Hobb's Royal AssassinAbout a month ago, I reviewed Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice.  I really enjoyed that book, in spite of a few misgivings.  I felt like the first book in the series didn’t stand quite well enough on its own and that the ending wasn’t quite climactic enough for me.  The character development on the other hand was stellar.  Each person in the story acted in realistic ways and I grew to feel like I knew many of them.

My initial impression of the second novel in the series, Royal Assassin, was less than ideal.  The cover of the copy I read displayed Fitz standing on top of a mountain, arms outstretched, holding a sword up above him.  His shirt is open, and he is standing beside a howling wolf.  In the background is the pink and purple of a sunrise or sunset.  Unfortunately, the predominantly pink and purple coloring combined with Fitz’s open shirt (apparently flapping in the winds of change?) is very reminiscent to me of some sort of a romance novel.  I try not to be judgemental about this sort of thing, but it’s not exactly the kind of novel that I was proud to whip out on the bus.

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The Magic of the Theater: A Review of Barbara Ashford's Spellcast

SpellcastAnyone who has gone to a good theater production knows that the stage contains a magic of its own.  I'm not necessarily talking about just Broadway shows or those on London's West End, although these often do contain magic.  No, I'm talking about any production that takes on a life of its own, where the script is just the beginning, and where the members of the audience become active players in the drama.  It can happen anywhere, from New York to New Prague, from Tony-winning shows to those performed by grade school children.  There is something about the stage, the lights, the curtain, the costumes and makeup, and most importantly, the idea of make-believe that has the potential to imbue any theatrical production with magic.

Which is why Barbara Ashford's novel Spellcast makes so much sense.  Spellcast tells the story of Maggie Graham, a thirty-something who loses her job at the beginning of the novel and decides to head to Vermont to figure out what to do with her life.  As she's driving she is inexplicably drawn to a small town called Dale, and once she's there, she finds herself auditioning for a summer theater company.  She gets parts in all three of that summer's productions--Brigadoon, a new play entitled The Sea-Wife, and Carousel--and soon finds herself immersed in a world that seems a bit too good to be real.

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