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Jen Miller

Resistance is...not futile?: The Falling Skies Season Finale

Maggie and AnneAlthough I was fairly hard on Falling Skies in my initial look at the series, I have been enjoying watching it this summer.  The story arc about Ben and his post-harness changes has been an interesting one, and the evolution of Pope from a bad guy to a bad guy with (maybe) a heart of gold has been intriguing as well.  The two-episode arc where the children are taken to a safe place that ends up being, well, not at all safe ("Sanctuary," parts 1 and 2) was particularly provocative, as it introduced another shade of gray into the "humans good, aliens bad" dichotomy.  I have also been pleasantly surprised that a number of episodes have passed the Bechdel test--my favorite one being "Sanctuary (part 1)" in which Maggie teaches Anne how to shoot a gun.  And perhaps most importantly, the characters have made strategy choices in their fight against the aliens that make me think that they are perhaps not completely without common sense after all.

So, coming into the two-hour season finale, I had a number of expectations [spoilers after the jump]:

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Our Fantastic Week Ahead: August 15

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to last week's celebration of Lev Grossman's The Magician King!  We were really excited to be able to feature a novel this way, and we hope that you all have had a chance to pick up a copy of Grossman's novel for yourselves.  And if you haven't already, take a look at what Grossman himself had to say about how he wrote the novel--it's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at his writing process, and it also provides a list of fantastic texts that went into the novel that will themselves keep you entertained for weeks.

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Fantastically Fun Fridays: August 12, 2011

Happy Friday everyone!  We hope that you have enjoyed our magician-themed week in honor of Lev Grossman's latest book, but even more importantly, we hope that you have had a chance to enjoy The Magician King yourself!  It rocks.

NPR has announced its list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books (as chosen by their readers/listeners).  The top 3? Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Ender's Game.  Check out the rest of the list--it should keep you busy for a while!

Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, if you're in the Chicago area, you can watch a screening of The Fellowship of the Ring with live music, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, next Thursday and Friday night at Ravinia.  Travelzoo has a good deal on tickets--$15 lawn seats on Thursday, $20 pavilion tickets on Thursday and Friday.

Here are some of the other fun things we found around the internet this week:

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The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: Piano Music from The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings piano musicFor anyone who has seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies, the soundtrack to the movies becomes as familiar as the faces of Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn.  As someone who loves these movies and who also plays the piano, I was very excited, then, when I came across arrangments of the music from Lord of the Rings for solo piano, published by Alfred Music.

Separate books for each of the movies are available, but I purchased the volume containing songs from all  three of the movies.  The selection is quite good and very representative of the trilogy as a whole; the volume contains the most recognizable theme music for the various characters (such as "Concerning Hobbits"), as well as many of the vocal pieces originally performed by artists such as Enya, Emiliana Torrini, and Annie Lennox.  What is perhaps most impressive about the collection is the way it maintains the sound of the original orchestral arrangement while still being easily playable by an intermediate-level pianist.

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Upping the Ante: A Review of Lev Grossman's The Magician King

The Magician KingWe've been talking a lot this week (and last) about how great Lev Grossman's first novel The Magicians is--it leads to exciting discussions when you teach it, it's clever and subtle in its characterization, and it provocatively blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality.  I imagine that we could say a good deal more as well, passing our favorite bits of the novel back and forth, debating the meaning of the ending, and parsing all the different allusions that Grossman makes to other works.

In short, The Magicians is great because it makes you think and because it's fun.  In fact, I've read some posts around the internet that were disappointed that there was a sequel because they were worried that nothing could be as awesome as The Magicians.

They were wrong.  The Magician King is not just as good as The Magicians--it's better.

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