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J R Zullo (São Paulo, Brazil)

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Insomnia
Insomnia
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Tower fans will enjoy it better, July 19 2004
This review is from: Insomnia (Mass Market Paperback)
Stephen King is an author gifted with a great power of development: his characters are, almost always, believable, even if the situations they are involved in are completely fantastic. Among SK's greatest characters we will notice many children. In "It", "The eyes of the dragon", "The talisman", "The shinning", the most interesting character are always children or young people. "Insomnia" is completely different in this aspect.
The main character in "Insomnia" is Ralph Roberts, a man pushing seventy, and not in a very good health. After the death of his wife, he starts having sleeping problems, and, stragest thing of all, his perception rises to fantastic level: he starts to see colored auras around people, little bald doctors with scissors and scalpels, and other unbelievable manifestations. Soon Ralph finds that all this has a specific purpose, and the fate of many worlds may lie in his old hands.
The beginning of the book is a little slow, very strange, but when the pace increases, it's hard to put it down. I don't think "Insomnia" has any political conotation whatsoever, even with the abortion issue. Serious as the matter surely is, I think it's there only to provide a thrilling background to the story.
I don't consider "Insomnia" my favorite Stephen King book, but nevertheless I was never bored while reading it. I think it's very good, but a little confusing at some parts. The confusion and the sense of pointlessness will be greater if the reader is not acquainted with the Dark Tower series. For that, "Insomnia" can be considered a standalone, but more like a complement to the Dark Tower books.
I would not recommend reading "Insomnia" without reading the Dark Tower first.
Grade 8.2/10

Insomnia
Insomnia
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Tower fans will enjoy it better, July 15 2004
This review is from: Insomnia (Mass Market Paperback)
Stephen King is an author gifted with a great power of development: his characters are, almost always, believable, even if the situations they are involved in are completely fantastic. Among SK's greatest characters we will notice many children. In "It", "The eyes of the dragon", "The talisman", "The shinning", the most interesting characters are always children or young people. "Insomnia" is completely different in this aspect.
The main character in "Insomnia" is Ralph Roberts, a man pushing seventy, and not in a very good health. After the death of his wife, he starts having sleeping problems, and, stragest thing of all, his perception rises to fantastic level: he starts seeing colored auras around people, little bald doctors with scissors and scalpels, and other unbelievable manifestations. Soon Ralph finds that all this has a specific purpose, and the fate of many worlds may lie in his old hands.
The beginning of the book is a little slow, very strange, but when the pace increases, it's hard to put it down. I don't think "Insomnia" has any political conotation whatsoever, even with the abortion issue. Serious as the matter surely is, I think it's there only to provide a thrilling background to the story.
I don't consider "Insomnia" my favorite Stephen King book, but nevertheless I was never bored while reading it. I think it's very good, but a little confusing at some parts. The confusion and the sense of pointlessness will be greater if the reader is not acquainted with the Dark Tower series. For that, "Insomnia" can be considered a standalone, but more like a complement to the Dark Tower books.
I would not recommend reading "Insomnia" without reading the Dark Tower first.
Grade 8.2/10

Majipoor Chronicles
Majipoor Chronicles
by Robert Silverberg
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fables of Majipoor, July 15 2004
Robert Silverberg has created in Majipoor one of the most interesting and fantastic worlds of science-fiction/fantasy literature. Those who have read "Lord Valentine's castle" can't help but become amazed by Majipoor's imense size, its huge cities with billions of people of many alien races, and, most of all, the enigmatic and divided system of planetary administration, where dreams and the subconscient play a great part.
Silverberg knows that, with Majipoor, he has a science-fiction mine gold in his hands. "Majipoor chronicles" is the second book in the Majipoor series, but can be read before "Lord Valentine's castle". Through eleven stories, some short, some a little longer, Silverberg explores many aspects of Majipoor: the relationship between the humans and the alien races, the huge geography of the planet, the influence of the King of Dreams, and other sociological elements. Sex, power, greed, nature, everything plays a part in Silverberg's simple but compelling tales, and in the end the reader is rewarded with a collection of fable-like stories concerning Silverberg's greatest creation.
I think the Majipoor series is one of the greatest in this genre of literature, and certainly one of my favorites. Silverberg has created a world with the right amount of science and fantasy blended together, and that's not an easy task.
Grade 9.0/10

Quincunx
Quincunx
by Charles Palliser
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.33
106 used & new from CDN$ 1.03

5.0 out of 5 stars There's a reward in the end, July 5 2004
This review is from: Quincunx (Paperback)
Charles Palliser has created an amazing book in "The Quincunx", a huge novel that could have been written 150 years before. "The Quincunx" is a Victorian book, but easier to read, more cynic, more sarcastic and even somberer. It's almost impossible to go through its 1200 paperback pages without a notebook specifically set aside by the reader to write down scattered information, genealogies, twists, new characters and locations, and I would advise future readers to do just that.
The main plot (the book has dozens of inter-related plots) is about John Mellamphy, a young boy living with his mother and a couple of nurses and maids in the early 19th century in rural England. Young Master John doesn't know it yet , but his family's past history is extremely strange and complicated. When the past begins to catch up with John and his unfortunate mother, they will experience extreme poverty, desillusion, weakness. In the Victorian London, gray, crowded, violent (masterfully described by Palliser) they will descend to the lower conditions a human life can possibly bear, dragging with them many other characters as they appear in the story, and not all of them will be able to reach the surface again.
Many aspects of the book are really interesting. For example, unusual names like Phumphred, Mallyphant and Steplight help to create the necessary grimy atmosphere adequate to a victorian novel. And what is best, Palliser treats his reader in an intelligent way: he chekced and re-cheked his plots, found inconsistencies, corrected them. Palliser doesn't reveal everything in his lines. Many things he's left the reader to discover for himself, and some other things have no solution.
Is "The Quincunx" an easy read? Far from that. But those who will be able to reach its ending will be rewarded with an unforgettable story.
Grade 9.3/10

Jack & Jill
Jack & Jill
by James Patterson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.10
157 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Descent begins, July 5 2004
Once again, Detective Alex Cross is the main character in another James Patterson book. As usual, the story is very fast-paced, with quick, short chapters. Patterson knows how to build tension and accomplish an efficient thriller. This time, Cross and his team have to face two simultaneous enemies: the first, a pair of loose-cannon killers, acting in the high-society and political circles in Washington, D.C.; the other, an insane killer murdering innocent children.
"Jack and Jill" is not as good as the previous two books in the Cross series; although Alex Cross is less superhero-like and more humnan in this third installment, the two parallel stories are confusing, and Patterson was not able to create villains and minor characters as well developed as the ones he created in "Along came a spider" and "Kiss the girls".
I understand that "Jack and Jill" is somewhat a milestone in the Alex Cross series. From now on, the books are really a step down the ladder.
Grade 8.0/10

Four Past Midnight
Four Past Midnight
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
103 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Four novellas, June 28 2004
Like "Different seasons", "Four past midnight" is a book featuring four stories that were too long to be considered short stories and too short to be considered full books. Bur while "Different seasons" can be considered a "lighter" book by Stephen King standards, "Four past midnight" is a comeback to King's earlier darker, fantastic stories. The main problem with this book is that Stephen King is, in my opinion, a great author concering character development. But these developments usually take time, chapter, and pages. King's short stories are almost always a step down from his lenghtier works. "Four past midnight" is no exception. The four premises are good, but every time I finished a story I felt there was something lacking in it.
"The langoliers" - the most fantastic story in the "Four past midnight", about a plane that goes through a rip in time. This is the story with the best premise, and with the most developed characters, so it is the best story in the book. Graphic descriptions, deaths, thrilling, a good work. 8.0
"Secret window" - this is the basic plot of the recent movie with Johnny Depp. I had high expectations, bu I was let down. It's a simple story, and a little bit obvious. This is an example that, if King should have chosen to develop the plot further, we could end up with a terrific book. The way it is, I didn't like very much. 6.5
"The library policeman" - Once again, a plot dealing with fantasy and terror. This story has all the elements to be great, bu t it isn't. When I read it, it became very clear to me that Stephen King started to write one story and ended up with another. The beginning has an almost comic style (as opposed to the somber ending), and there are many characters that were intended to be bigger parts in the plot, but were left aside after the initial chapters. It's cool to see that a story may have a life on its own, but I think in this case there could have been more editing to it. Also, the final is too rushed. This story has too many elements is too few pages. 7.0
"The sun dog" - this could be the best story in the book, because the initial plot was really great. It's about a malfunctioning Polaroid camera, and a ferocious dog that appears in every photograph taken with it. This is the kind of idea that makes SK one of my favorite authors, but, as happens with the previous two stories, "The sun dog" lacks strenght in the end. 7.5
So, "Four past midnight" is a good collection of short stories, but Stephen King has written many better books than this one.
Grade 7.5

Last Kabbalist Of Lisbon
Last Kabbalist Of Lisbon
by Richard Zimler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.99
15 used & new from CDN$ 1.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and a history lesson, June 25 2004
"The last kabbalist of Lisbon" is a man named Berekiah Zarco, a jew living in Lisbon in the beginning of the 16th century. During that year's Passover celebration, the christian population in Lisbon revolted against the jews, and many atrocities were commited. Zarco's uncle, Abraham, a powerful jew and kabbalist, was involved in many irregular activities. During the riots, Berekiah's life is turned upside down, and, among other things, his beloved uncle is murdered, under mysterious circumstances.
Richard Zimler has created a novel based in many layers, characters and situations. Sometimes a little confusing, but always interesting, Zimler guides us since his discovery of the hidden documents written by Zarco centuries ago, to his misfortunes while trying to find his uncle's murderer. The violence contained in the novel is purposedly very graphic, so that the reader can relate to what happened during the period. Most of his characters are complex, but, even if the story is narrated in first person, I felt detached from Berekiah, the main character, paying attention to other characters, more interesting in my opinion.
Zimler has written a story that is really a "whodunnit", mixed with the fictional account of one of the most unhappy times in human history. I liked it and recommend it, although it is a little too dense to become "popular".
Grade 8.0/10

So-Called Chaos
So-Called Chaos
Price: CDN$ 15.96
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Growing up, June 17 2004
This review is from: So-Called Chaos (Audio CD)
I'm about the same age as Alanis Morissette. Back in the mid-nineties, when she released "Jagged little pill", a fantastic album, full of angry, vengeful songs, I couldn't help but to like it and relate to it, since I was a little angry with life myself when I was eighteen, nineteen or so. "Jagged little pill" was a sales phenomenon, and deservedly so, attracting the attention of the media and legions of fans to the canadian singer. Then came "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie Lyrics", a nervously awaited album, with Alanis a little older and, supposedly, more experienced. But in my opinion she was kind of lost in her life, and this showed in the album: very few good songs, many of them despirited, even weak. "Unplugged" followed the same way (when it had everything to explode, the accoustic album lacked identity), it seemed she was loosing the touch, or maybe the interest in making good music. "Under rug swept" came with good expectations, but apart from two or three songs, it's really a forgettable album.
Would Alanis be a one-album phenomenon, a fact so common these days? Where was the inspired, caustic, different musician that we learned to like back in 1995? It seemed "Jagged little pill" would be forever the milestone in Alanis' career.
Wrong. 2004 came. With it, "So-called chaos". This is not a first impression, I've listened to it almost a month now. This new album is also great, in a different sense. Alanis has proved she's grown up. She is not that angry anymore; she's found some other thing inside her that made her more focused, more centered. Well, she's older (as I am), but listening to the songs we notice that she still have that ancient power. In "Doth I protest too much" (which I consider to be the best song in the album) she says she's not angry, depressed nor insecure. Good for us. In fact, she remembers her past experiences to teach us ("Eight easy steps"), blending fast songs ("Knees of my bees"), with good ballads. "Everything", "Out is through", "Excuses" and "Spineless" are surely among her greatest songs.
"So called chaos" has a very high percentage of above-average songs. Alanis has finally equaled her previous magna-opus, after a nine-year hiatus.
Grade 9.2/10

Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black  (Widescreen) (Director's Cut) (Unrated)
Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (Widescreen) (Director's Cut) (Unrated)
DVD ~ Radha Mitchell
Price: CDN$ 14.99
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun with Vin, May 31 2004
After watching the trailler for "The Riddick chronicles" and finding out that it was a kind of a sequel, I went after the first movie in the Riddick series. I usualy like science fiction movies, but I don't expect them all to be great movies. So, in this way, "Pitch Black" was a very good surprise. The only other science fiction movie that surprised me as much as this one (I was expecting little and got more than I thought I would) is "Event horizon".
The plot is not original: a spaceship transporting a group of people crashes in a seemingly deserted planet. Soon, they discover that the planet had been previously reached by human beings, but now they're all gone. What happened? When they find a model showing them that the planet is immersed in a total eclypse every twenty-two years (and the cycle will be closing very soon again) they start to worry.
Right, there are many incoherent situations and plot holes in "Pitch black", but there are three things that make this movie good: 1. Most of the characters are well-developed, each with his or her own singularities; when they start to die (as they will obviously do) and the troubles begin, the viewer cares for them. 2. Director David Twohy knows how to build the tension on screen, using the lights/no-lights situations; also, the visual effects of the "natural inhabitants" of the planets are very effeective to the audience. 3. Vin Diesel surprised me once again as an actor full of resources, even if always basing his characters on a macho figure; for an example, Caparzo (from "Saving Private Ryan"), Varik (from "Boiler Room") and Riddick may look alike, but if you think well, you'll find out that each has its own personality: Caparzo as the bearlish friend you can always count with, Varik as a tough but gentle guy, and Riddick as a mean, cool and violent outlaw.
So, that is to say that "Pitch black" was a nice surprise, and now I want to watch "The Riddick chronicles". "Pitch black" was deservedly nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 2000 (lost to "The matrix").
Grade 8.2/10

Girl With a Pearl Earring [Import]
Girl With a Pearl Earring [Import]
DVD ~ Scarlett Johansson
Price: CDN$ 16.92
26 used & new from CDN$ 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to take your eyes of the screen, May 31 2004
Have you read the book? Then watch the movie. Have you watched the movie? Then read the book. They complement each other. Tracy Chevalier's story is greatly transported to the big screen by director Peter Webber. But that's not what's best about "Girl with a pearl earring".
Like Leonardo's Mona Lisa, nobody is sure about who was Jan Vermeer's model for his most famous portrait. Tracy Chevalier's story took care of that. The book is very enjoyable, leaving the reader's imagination work free, but when you're reading about Vermeer, and his paintings are an important part of the plot, you feel something is missing. And this "something" are concrete visions of his fantastic works. Some of them were displayed in the movie. But Peter Webber went further, and, with help of Director of Cinematography Eduardo Serra, transformed the whole movie in a Vermeer painting.
There evidently is an enormous care taken concerning historic portrayal. Watching the movie, the viewer feels he's in 17th century Delft. The supporting cast is great in the sense that it helps creating the ancient atmosphere. For example, the maid Tanneke (who was the model for Vermeer's "Milkmaid") is played by Joanna Scanlan, who really looks (at least in the movie) like a dutch maid from 350 years ago. The figure, the scenery, the chosen colors, all great. Many of the frames are purposedly created to resemble Vermeer's paintings: the light, the objects, the gestures of the people. Sometimes, during the movie, I caught myself with a hanging jaw, truly emotioned by the beauty of the scenes.
All this bonded together by the simple soundscore, present always at the right moments, and by rising star Scarlett Johanson's acting: strong, objective, believable. She's the center of the movie, and rightly so.
"Girl with a pearl earring" is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.
Grade 9.0/10

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