Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Children of Men/Pattern Recognition

I just finished reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. After having seen Children of Men a few weeks ago, I thought it'd be interesting to contrast the two. Gibson's book is ostensibly about the present but has a futuristic feel to it. Children of Men is set in the future but touches on so many topics that are of concern to us in the present.

I've been a big fan of William Gibson's work since reading Neuromancer a few years back. Neuromancer is a seminal work and introduced the word "cyberpunk" to our lexicon. The rest of his work makes a weird and disjointed near-future world seem real and plausible. In this book, he manages to use that same skill to make the real current world seem weird and disjointed (which it is).

Though written several years ago (right after 9/11), it seemed to anticipate the role of online video, netroots, and blogs. While not talking about blogs directly, the characters in this book submerse themselves in the insular world of specialized online discussion groups, sometimes to the exclusion of real life relationships ... not unlike a lot of bloggers.

Other topics that the book touches on are the role of corporations, trends and marketing.

Gibson's prose can be a bit thick sometimes, but that can be part of the allure. You wade through it not always sure that you are understanding it all but by the time you are done with the book, it all seems to make sense.

I liked this book, as I have all of Gibson's. He's the only modern sci-fi author that I've ever read, though I hope to rectify that, having just bought Snow Crash on the recommendation of several of you.

Children of Men presents dystopic view of the future, where women have lost the ability to have children due to a pandemic and government has a stronghold on the lives of everyone.

Oppression, censorship, brutality, propaganda, war make for unpleasant times but they also make for interesting and provocative cinema. The social and political movies of the the past few years, V for Vendetta, this one, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, etc. are among the best we've seen in a long time.

It's interesting that the setting of this sci-fi political thriller is again England. True, the source material bases it there but I think there's more to it. You see movies like this and V for Vendetta and you can't help seeing that they are criticisms of America. While England may have some of the characteristics, it's obvious that it is not the main target. England, however, is a safe target in the movies. It gets the point across without seeming like USA-bashing. And obviously the UK is also not without it's sins.

This movie is dark and atmospheric and beautifully shot by Alfonso Cuaron. There is a great group of Mexican directors right now: Cuaron (this movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, Y tu Mama Tambien), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrynth, Hellboy), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams and ... ahem, Babel).

Despite the movie's despair, there is also a vision of hope. I think this is where Children of Men is vastly superior to Babel. That vision of hope is unexpected and as such is beautiful. That's not to say that is a Hollywood sappy movie. It is so completely the opposite of that. But rather it presents the light at the end of the tunnel without having to spell it out for you and wrap it up all nice and pretty.

The acting is great, especially by Clive Owen and Michael Caine. Chiwetel Ejiofor makes yet another appearance in a movie I like, having also been in Serenity, Love Actually and Amistad.

This is a great movie and undoubtedly will be on my year-end top 10.


CyberKitten said...

Not sure if I've read 'Pattern Recognition' or not. Though I almost certainly have a copy of it. I was a HUGE fan of Gibson's 'Cyberpunk' novels & short stories. They totally blew me away (and changed the direction of SF in many ways)

'Children of Men' is a great film. I picked it up on DVD recently. It's just *so* well made and is incredibly realistic with the amount of detail in even the simplist of shots (like the 'old' newspapers covering some windows giving the story of the collapse of civilisation..)

Although its quite depressing in many ways the movie is also one of hope as you said - not just for the future of mankind but also for a personal form of redemption.

Laura said...

Children of Men is already on DVD??? That didn't last long in the theatres, did it? It is a fantastic film. I actually like it more now that I've had time to contemplate it than I did right after we saw it.

CyberKitten said...

Out on DVD in the UK. I understand its only just out in theatre's over the other side of the pond...

We saw it over here 4-5 months ago at least...

Some films do that don't they - the more you savour them the better they get.

Laura said...

Yeah, I keep forgetting that you live in a separate universe than we do (in more ways than one) ;)

Kvatch said...

...having also been in Serenity, Love Actually and Amistad.

And Kinky Boots. Don't forget kinky boots! (Oh...and Dirty Pretty Things.)

About Gibson though... I have to disagree. I've always been a fan of his sort stories, but his early novels were unreadable tripe. (JMHO). It's only recently that I've been able to get into his novel and novella length works.

CyberKitten said...

laura said: Yeah, I keep forgetting that you live in a separate universe than we do (in more ways than one) ;)

I'll take that as a compliment laura [rotflmao].

Sean said...

Actually, Neuromancer introduced the word "cyberspace" to our cultural lexicon (although he first used the term in 1982's short story Burning Chrome).

dbackdad said...

kvatch and sean,

Thanks for the Gibson input. Opinions for and against are always welcome here.

Sean ... thanks for the clarification on "cyberpunk". If anyone should be given credit for that term, it would be science fiction editor Gardner Dozois or writer Bruce Bethke. Gibson's Neuromancer is perhaps the best example of the style.