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Posts Tagged ‘All Quiet On the Western Front’

I believe I learned about military science fiction on black and white TV long before I discovered it in books.  I think when that happens, a child assumes there is more there (in literature) than there actually is.   I remember watching the “Twilight Zone” and “One Step Beyond” as well as a host of cheap Saturday afternoon movies on TV which tied in my admiration for the military with the wonders of future science.  Of course, adolescent reading included “The Red Badge of Courage” and “All Quiet On the Western Front“, but these were traditional (historic) military stories, not SciFi.
Sometime in my mid-teens, the older sister of a friend turned me on to Robert Heinlein.  She had about a dozen of his novels, including “Starship Troopers“, which she loaned me.  Addicts really are the public-facing pushers of their particular addictions.  Prior to this, my only collections were baseball cards (long lost in the shrouds of history) and comic books (Marvel not DC).  Although my mother always tried to supply us with ample reading, the reality of our family finances dictated more trips to the public (or school) library than to the local bookstore.  Anyway, this began my love affair with collecting books…
As mentioned, my first recollection of reading military Sci-Fi was “Starship Troopers“.  After that, I think there was a close tie between the adventures of (Jerry Pournelle’s) John Christian Falkenberg and (David Drake’s) Alois Hammer.  Between them, they make up two of the great mercenary future history series: Falkenberg’s Legions and Hammer’s Slammers.  The former being infantry and the latter primarily about an armored regiment.  I have collected the novels of all three since then, but most of them went the same way as my baseball cards of youth – lost in my frequent moves from house to house and continent to continent.
Well, lo and behold, wandering around in my local Barnes & Nobel’s I found a collected works of Drake’s Hammer’s series: “The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, vol 1“, (2009©).  This is the first in a three volume series.  It consists of twenty-one (mostly) short stories about men in combat in the future.  There is a nod to SciFi in order to make the stories seem futuristic, but the stories are really about the people (men and women), not about the weapons.  Even the couple of short stories which try to focus on the weapons, really end up talking about individuals who use the weapons.  For my dime, this makes the stories universal.
Many war story novels almost seem to glorify war and combat.  This book does not.  You are left with the smells, tastes and feel of war and it is acrid, foul and gritty.  But, and this is a BIG but, combat is also primal, tempering and – occasionally – ennobling of individuals.  This is the contradiction of struggle and survival – some become savages and some become noble savages.  In fairness to those who have served in actual combat – and I have not – these are only my impressions as a reader of fiction novels and factual accounts of historical conflicts.  Obviously, “history” is written by the victors, so victory will almost always be written as ennobling for the “right” side and debasing for the losing side.
Of the stories in this book, three particularly touched me and I had to pause briefly in my reading to think about the story for a while.  Based on this need to “pause and think” alone, I rate this book as a highly recommended!
I know this has turned into a lengthy blog, but hang in there a bit longer…
The second part of today’s title refers to one of the best “Romance” movies (chick-flick), I’ve ever seen: “Bed of Roses” (1996).  The movie stars Christian Slater and Mary Stuart Masterson.  The basic plot is boy sees unknown girl crying and gives her flowers.  Girl and boy fall in love, but both have “issues”.  Boy and girl separate over issues.  Boy and girl get back together and live happily every after (we assume).
This is a fairy tale movie.  If you like fairy tales, (I DO), you’ll enjoy this movie (I did).  If you aren’t into fairly tales, you probably will find this movie trite and contrived.  In which case, all I can offer is: “Get over it.”
I really enjoyed this movie!  The first time I saw it, I was in Saudi Arabia, while my wife and family were back in Liverpool.  It was on cable and I must have watched it ten times the first month it came on.  Why?  Because if you’ve ever spent time alone and lonely, and then you meet someone you fall in love with, your greatest fear will be losing that someone.  At least that has almost always been among my greatest fears.  If you do lose that someone and are fortunate enough to find a second someone, you are faced with the decision to hide (wallow in your loss) or to love even more freely.  In this movie, Slater’s character decides on the latter course – and it makes all the difference in the world.  (Like I said, a fairy tale.)  I think the “loss” of my wife (albeit temporary), made the movie touch me and my fears all the more.
Anyway, the movie is softly shot and there are lots of beautiful flowers (and sentiment) – another plus in my book.  I believe at the time, Slater was an action-movie actor and this role was kind of out of character for him, but I liked him in the role.  I don’t really know anything about Masterson.  She’s attractive enough in this role, but she doesn’t strike me as someone the camera “just” loves.  I don’t recall her in much else and I don’t really know why, because she seems really good in this role.  I would like to also give a shout out to Pamela Adlon, who plays Masterson’s character’s best friend – Kim.  Again, this is an actress I’ve not seen much of, but she’s terrific in this supporting role.  Something about her scratchy voice is just really attractive/likeable.  That and her frumpy clothes choice (in the movie).
As I said, this is one of the best romantic movies I’ve ever seen – particularly of the modern era – highly recommended!!
If there is one bad thing about the DVD – there are no extra scenes.  The preview, which is included on the DVD, has a couple of scenes which didn’t make it into the final movie.  I would have liked to see them in special features.  Sadly, no dice…
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