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Soulless, Toothless - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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March 29th, 2010


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12:15 am - Soulless, Toothless
I first encountered Soulless, by Gail Carriger, at the Buffista F2F, four months before it came out, and I kept hearing about it once it did come out. So when I came across a used copy in Borderlands, I picked it up and looked it over. On discovering that the first chapter was called "In Which Parasols Prove Useful," I decided I would enjoy it.

Soulless is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance/what have you that takes vampires and werewolves (and ghosts), puts them in Victorian England, injects a post-Austen sense of humor, and then adds a dash of steampunk. Surprisingly, this genre mash-up really works. You do have to get past the central concept relevant to the title, however, which is a little hard to swallow: the main character, Alexia Tarabotti, has no soul. In a twist on usual supernatural lore, vampires and werewolves actually have an excess of soul, however that works. In any case, Alexia's soulless state has the ability to neutralize the supernatural: if she touches a vampire or werewolf, they become human until she lets go. It's a neat idea if you don't think about it too hard.

There's a lot of interesting worldbuilding that, again, may not hold up to much scrutiny, but is still a neat idea. In England, vampires and werewolves are integrated into society; they even have representatives in the government. They have their own social structures, and they still get invited to all the cool parties. Since this is the first book in what looks to be a series—because everything is a series—a lot of the book is spent on the worldbuilding. The plot is kind of thin and moves rather slowly, but the book is entertaining enough that you don't mind so much.

Unexpectedly, my favorite thing about the book is the love scenes. Because, like the rest of the book, they're funny. Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Maccon are cut out of the Bennet/Darcy mold, so they are sniping at each other while they're making out, but at the same time, Alexia is also worrying about being improper. These scenes are funny, but they also manage to be sexy without making me feel uncomfortable.

Developments at the end of the novel make me interested in what Carriger has in store for the second book, and I suppose I'll find out in a few weeks when I see her at Borderlands to pick it up.



How to Train Your Dragon has been getting rave reviews, and while I don't think it's necessarily up to Pixar levels, it's a good, solid animated film that reminds you that such things can exist. They don't all have to be pop culture references and talking, dancing animals. The movie is made by the same guys who did Lilo and Stitch, so it's no surprise that it's well done.

How to Train Your Dragon really works because of Jay Baruchel, who voices Hiccup, the Viking boy who defies years of Viking-dragon conflict and befriends a dragon, learning that they're not so bad after all and maybe they should stop killing them. It's like Avatar with dragons, basically, but the story is told with more finesse and humor, so you don't mind so much. Also, there are DRAGONS!! All kinds of dragons! Different dragons with different abilities! Oh, yeah, anyway, Jay Baruchel! Moving up in the world! If you're the kind of person who wants to listen to Jay Baruchel for ninety minutes—YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE—then this is the movie for you! Also, David Tennant is in there somewhere.

Personally, I wasn't bowled over by the 3D I paid extra for, and I'm really annoyed that everything ever is going to be in 3D now. I like 2D just fine, really. Movies were doing okay in those dimensions, and I haven't really seen a need for the third, so much. It's kind of neat, but not worth paying such a big surplus for.

The movie has moments of cleverness and moments of awesome and moments of almost almost almost making me tear up, and you don't need a third dimension for that.
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Comments:


From:sainfoin_fields
Date:March 29th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
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YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

YES I DO.

I don't know if even the promise of 90 minutes of listening to Jay Baruchel is enough to make up for how annoying all those Olympics spots were, though.

Congratulations on closing your show! Probably!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 07:52 am (UTC)
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YES I DO.
I THOUGHT YOU WOULD.

I don't know if even the promise of 90 minutes of listening to Jay Baruchel is enough to make up for how annoying all those Olympics spots were, though.
I don't know how annoying they were, but the movie is decidedly not annoying.

Congratulations on closing your show! Probably!
Thanks! It is closed! Alas.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Have you seen Alice yet?
No. I haven't heard good things.

When will we hear about your show?
When I find the time to write about it.
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From:kremlindusk
Date:March 30th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
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Alice isn't terrible. It's just kind of okay.

Though there is one major "WTTTTTFFFFFFFFF" moment at the end. Like, I almost got up out of my seat to leave sort of "WTF." But on second viewing (with family) it wasn't QUITE so jarring. I still would have left it out, though. :P
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From:sisterjune
Date:March 29th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)

this comment really ended up longer than I intended....

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I keep hearing about soulless, I am skeptical on it cause even though I appreciate sharp wit and genre mash ups, I am less keen on paranormals (I just cant stand the premise for 95% of them) and even less keen on victorian period novels. That said, pretty much everyone on my flist has said it's a fun read so maybe I should just check it out anyway. Plus, the cover is cool!

I saw "how to train your dragon" just yesterday, and I LOVED it. I like that it was sweet and earnest, I appreciate stories like that (and I prefer them to the more smart alecky animated flicks, with some exceptions) and man I have such a thing for vikings (and norse myth) I really loved all the characters and hiccup was incredibly endearing in a way I was not even expecting at first. I just loved how Hiccup just did not want to kill any dragons even when they were right in his face looking menacing. Violence is always glorified in films and in the US there is still alot of value put on this old fashioned kind of machismo and I know it's just a children's movie but darn it I loved that the central theme was it can be alot cooler and stronger NOT to be violent and instead use your brains and heart more. I may have teared up a bit myself ;_; and actually I had no idea Jay Baruchel voiced Hiccup at first, I kept wondering who is this canadian sounding guy! lol and it turns out tobe him, man I am seeing him everywhere lately. So far in the last month or so I have seen 8 or 9 films and Jay has been in at least four of them in some form or fashion (and in several movie trailers I watched recently). Well I cant say I dislike it though, guy is really dorky cute <3
I am with you on the 3D thing only I will take it a step further and say that I fuckinng HATE how everything out ever is in 3D now. It hurts my eyes like a motherfucker, I wear glasses already and the stupid 3D glasses do not take this into account and so I end up with eye strain. I only did the 3D thing once for Up and then I was like never again! and the real kicker is that they charge extra for it too. It's like movie tickets arent expensive enough these days! gah! I actually had to drive to a theater that was farther away from me JUST so I can watch "how to train your dragon" in 2D. I just really hope this is a fad and will go away soon and not become the modus operandi of the movie business for the rest of my lifetime.
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From:ste_noni
Date:March 29th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)

Re: this comment really ended up longer than I intended....

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I just wanted to piggyback on this and say how much I also appreciated the non-violence aspect. It was cool and exciting without violence and that was cool.

The other thing I thought they did really well was the Hiccup/Toothless flying scenes. There were a few points that brought tears to me eyes because they both looked so free and happy. Like, they were both who they were truly meant to be while flying together. I didn't initially like the fact that Hiccup lost his foot because I thought it was a tiny bit distrubing for little kids in an otherwise pretty kid-friendly movie, but it sort of cemented the idea that both Hiccup and Toothless were most themselves when they were together. I'm not sure he needed to lose his foot for that, but I saw where they were going with it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)

Re: this comment really ended up longer than I intended....

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That surprised me because, like you said, kid-friendly movie, but I respected that they went there, showing that sometimes the hero doesn't come out completely unscathed. I didn't think of it in relation to Toothless, though. For me, I felt sort of bad that Toothless could only fly by being ridden by Hiccup, but they did have a cute bond.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)

Re: this comment really ended up longer than I intended....

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Soulless is entertaining and fluffy, but if you can't stand paranormals or the Victorian period, I don't know. Read the first chapter in a bookstore, and if you don't like it, you won't like the rest of the book. I knew from the first chapter that I would like the rest of it. It's very cute. The book made me chuckle a bit and laugh out loud at times.

I think the basic story of How to Train Your Dragon has been done many times—even the non-violence aspect—but it was still done well this time around.
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From:sdwolfpup
Date:March 29th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
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Hm, we wanted to go see How To Train Your Dragon but weren't sure about whether to pay the (high) extra cost to see it in 3D. Thanks for the thoughts on that! I felt the same way about Up - we saw that in 3D and so did not need to.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
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There were reviews that said Up was supposed to be great in 3D too, but I loved it in 2D just fine! I don't know. Coraline had some really good 3D effects, and I guess some of the Avatar 3D work made Pandora look more real, but it's hard to tell what 3D adds to the experience without watching the movie both ways.
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From:outforawalk
Date:March 29th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
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I am amused by all the good reviews I see How To Train Your Dragon receiving, mostly because the people who are familiar with the book are all adamant about not seeing it. And it's only fitting that David Tennant is in there somewhere since he did the audiobook for the UK ages ago!

I;m planning to go see it with my mom.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
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I am amused by all the good reviews I see How To Train Your Dragon receiving, mostly because the people who are familiar with the book are all adamant about not seeing it.
Yeah, I rummaged through Wikipedia, and it looks like they, um, changed a lot? For instance, "In the book, the tribe trains dragons. In the film, they fight dragons." THAT SEEMS LIKE KIND OF A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE OF OPINION.
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From:outforawalk
Date:March 29th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
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Hee. Yep. But I haven't read them yet, so I remain unbothered by the changes at this point. A case of random changes for no reason that not only fail to improve the movie over the book, but actually make it much more lame? The Lightning Thief. Such a disappointment.
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From:niteflite
Date:April 6th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
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According to
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-user=rufftoon>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

According to <lj-user=rufftoon>, who worked on the film, the story started out very close to the books, but it wasn't exciting enough for the big wigs, so the movie's story turned into a sort of "before the books" film.
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:March 29th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the review of How To Train Your Dragon. With all the promotion, I thought it was just another Dreamworks computer-animated movie. I was suprised by the praise, so it's nice to see that confirmed by LJ people.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 29th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I thought it would be blah too, but it's not one of those goddamn Ice Age or Madagascar or Shrek 3000 things. It's very nice, the kind of family-friendly animated movie you want more of because you don't mind watching them with the younger crowd.

Have you see Kung Fu Panda? That was better than I expected too.
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:March 29th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
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I haven't seen Kung Fu Panda, but I am keeping an eye out for it at the library.
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From:soleta_nf
Date:March 30th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
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vampires and werewolves are integrated into society; they even have representatives in the government

That's enough to pique my interest. I'll look out for it!
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From:kremlindusk
Date:March 30th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm too lazy to do research to see if I'm correct, but I'm moderately sure that the only thing "How to Train Your Dragon" has in common with "Lilo & Stitch" is Chris Sanders, and I thought all he did was design the dragon (which is why it looks remarkably like Stitch).

Shame about Chris Sanders. I was a HUGE fan of his art for years, met him at Comic Con and he was very nice, so I bought a cool Con-exclusive plastic figurine. I gained about 40 pounds and went to talk to him at the next year's Comic Con. His booth was empty save for him and two other people behind it, and I walked up trying to get his attention but not wanting to butt in to his casual conversation. I waited for over 5 minutes to get him to lock eyes with me so I could politely say something, but no go. Meanwhile, somewhere inbetween the 5 minutes, a thin but average looking girl walked up and was promptly spoken to.

Needless to say, I left without talking to anyone at the booth, I bought no merchandise, and I'm not really much of a Chris Sanders fan anymore. Good thing I never got the tattoo I was going to see if he'd draw for me. :(

So, uh, sorry for the rant, but I guess that's one of the few reasons I don't particularly care to go see "How to Train Your Dragon." But I'd be up for watching it on DVD.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 30th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
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I'm too lazy to do research to see if I'm correct, but I'm moderately sure that the only thing "How to Train Your Dragon" has in common with "Lilo & Stitch" is Chris Sanders, and I thought all he did was design the dragon (which is why it looks remarkably like Stitch).
It's the same writing/directing team. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders.
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From:kremlindusk
Date:March 30th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Interesting. I follow Disney fan/news sites and Slashfilm and I never saw anybody bring that up. I wonder if somebody was deliberately trying to avoid mentioning it? (Some Disney fans are weird that way...)

I really love "Lilo & Stitch" and it's very interesting that Dean DeBlois worked on "Dragon," too, because the rumors I've always heard were that DeBlois is responsible for the heart of "Lilo & Stitch" and Chris Sanders on his own is more just wacky. (The other rumor is that John Lasseter didn't like Sanders or "Lilo," which I find odd. But then I despised "Up," didn't really love "Cars" and don't much care for "Toy Story" anymore, so maybe Lasseter isn't really the Walt Disney Jr. I always hope he'll be. Boohoo, sadface.)

So maybe DeBlois is the reason so many people think "Dragon" is touching. Hmm.
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From:iheartbridges
Date:April 2nd, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
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I HATE 3D. IT MAKES ME SICK. Ugh. Why is it taking over??
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From:iheartbridges
Date:April 2nd, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
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Having issues today. That *movie* sounds good. Book was from a different post.
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