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Red Dawn: standing up to invasion and the questions it brings

Tonight at CLP – East Liberty’s Teen Time we took advantage of our Public Performance license and the new DVD bestseller collection and watched Red Dawn, a remake of a 1984 film by the same name.

old poster...

old poster…

reddawn2012

new poster!

The premise doesn’t seem to have changed much. Whereas in the 1984 version, a group of Midwestern teens including Patrick Swayze and Lea Thompson band together to fight a Soviet invasion. In the 2012 movie, the North Koreans are invading Washington state, and the hunk is played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor)… oh, and Josh from Drake and Josh.

yeah, this guy.

yeah, this guy.

It shouldn’t be so surprising that this plot has been done before since it’s an effective way to catch the viewer’s attention – what if war came to your street? Of course, for many people war, sadly, is already in their home town, but not for the American high-schoolers in Red Dawn. It sparked a lively discussion for the teens at our movie night. Was it realistic for 6 or so teenagers to be trained in guerrilla warfare by a recent veteran? Who “deserves” to die, if there is such a thing? Why would the North Koreans invade the U.S. and not Canada? And is Canada part of the U.S. anyway? (In case you were wondering, too: no, it’s not.)

If these situations and questions intrigue you as well, here is some further reading:

tomorrow

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

The beginning of a series by Australian author John Marsden, this book explores what happens when 7 teenagers get back from a camping trip to find that their town, and presumably country, has been invaded. Do they surrender or fight back?

howilivenow

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Daisy thinks she’s getting away from trouble by going to live in England… but then war breaks out and she’s stranded in the countryside with her cousins.

scarletbendis

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Scarlet is not fighting against an invading force – she’s a vigilante fighting against corrupt policeman who killed her boyfriend. However, this book asks some of the same questions as the others about her personal decisions to commit violent acts.

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

Remembering Memorial Day

Like most Americans I’m counting the hours until the beginning of a glorious three day weekend.  I’ve got plenty of grilling, sun and relaxation planned but there’s more to the holiday than early summer sun burns and  free time.  So, for a reminder of what the holiday is really about, keep these facts in mind as you enjoy your weekend.

1.  Memorial day began during the Civil War as a way for those at home to honor the many soldiers who had given their life for either the North or the South.  Many communities claim the first Memorial day celebration as their own but it probably began more or less simultaneously in many areas of the country.

2.  Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was popularized by General John Logan the leader of a veterans organization after the Civil War. Decoration day was meant to honor soldiers on both sides of the Civil War but by the time WWI was in full swing, Decoration Day was extended to include those who died in any U.S. war.

3.  By now the soldiers of the 3rd Infantry will have begun decorating each grave in Arlington National Cemetery, most will have a small flag placed in front of the tombstone. But the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will receive a wreath during the Memorial Day ceremony. Many communities throughout the country will hold parades and ceremonies to honor local soldiers.

Memorial day has come to mean many things, it’s a chance to get together and enjoy the return of warm weather with family and friends.  But to remember the original reason we celebrate Memorial Day join people all around the country in a moment of silence at 3:00 PM local time to honor the men and women who have given their lives in service to our county.

-Brooke CLP

Teen review: Goliath (Leviathan Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld

My name is Joshua, I attend Obama 6-12 where I will be a sophomore this year. Me and my afro greatly enjoy playing magicthegathering, reading, playing soccer, fencing, doing my school’s musical and hanging out with my friends. I know how to speak some Spanish (Hola hermosa, come estas?), can pretend to speak some Swedish (jog ticker om du), am learning some American Sign Language (…), and am hoping to learn some Thai.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath gives a strong ending to Westerfeld’s latest trilogy

With Leviathan and Behemoth behind him, one would wonder how anyone could top them. Fortunately, we have Scott Westerfeld to do the job. The book Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld, shows his skills as a writer and researcher, but also exhibits the lack of commentary in his art.

But before I start ranting on about Goliath, I should probably tell you what it is. Goliath is the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. The trilogy is an alternate history of World War I. It is told from the alternating viewpoints of Deryn Sharp, an English girl masquerading as a boy to join the air-force, and Prince Aleksander, the son of the duke who’s assassination started World War I. In the world of the Leviathan trilogy the different sides which we would call the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, etc.) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, The Ottoman Empire, etc.), were called the “Darwinists” and “Clankers” respectively. These names were determined by the technology of the sides, where the Darwinists used genetically altered animals for war, the Clankers used extremely advanced steam-based walkers, aircraft and boats to fight back.

Goliath opens with Prince Aleksander and his entourage aboard the British airship Leviathan after they had been “captured” when in reality they are voluntary passengers who even help the ship with some of their technology, and only stay aboard because it suits them. The ship was headed to a Japanese port to assert British authority in the area until it changes its course on secret orders from the highest authority. When the ship reaches its new destination in the middle of the Siberian wilderness the crew who includes the two main characters, Deryn Sharp and Prince Aleksander, sees an huge swath of forest that has been flattened by an explosion. At ground zero of this wasteland stands none other than the scientist Nicolas Tesla, who the crew of the Leviathan has come to rescue. When on board Tesla tells of how he caused the destruction with his newly created weapon Goliath. It then becomes top priority for the airship Leviathan to take Tesla to New York City where his weapon is stationed. On the way they encounter the ruthless news tycoon William Hearst, and a Mexican Civil War which Hearst owns the movie rights to.

When they finally arrive at their destination, they are of course attacked by the “Clanker” (Central) Powers in an attempt to either dissuade the use of Tesla’s weapon or kill Tesla outright. Tesla does reach his weapon safely though and is prepared to use it to change the color of the sky over Berlin to flex the muscles of Goliath. However, he is attacked by Clanker war-machines, which nearly destroy his weapon, so he decides to hit Berlin with his full might. He is stopped by Prince Aleksander because the firing of the weapon would cause the Leviathan, Which has been waiting nearby for Tesla’s protection, and all aboard to go up in flames. Because Deryn Sharp is aboard the Leviathan, and Aleksander realizes he has strong feelings for her, he cannot allow that to happen. So Aleksander kills Tesla. Fortunately for the “Darwinist” (Ally) cause, the Clanker war-machines on American soil are enough to push the neutral country into the war fighting for the Darwinists. And fortunately for Prince Aleksander and Deryn Sharp, they are both alive and able to ride the Leviathan together, and confess their feelings for one another.

Westerfeld’s skill with words is shown in his ability to bring characters, and a world, to life. Were some writers may work to make sure there characters are as deep as they can be, but put them in an easily understandable setting, Westerfeld must create characters and settings. In his classic style he creates a new world that is very different from ours, and places his characters in it. However, he doesn’t use a glossary or other cheat-sheets to let us know how his world works, he shows us. He builds up from simple slang words used by the main characters, to whole political systems and intrigues, entirely of his devising. In his writing, Westerfeld even makes sure that everything matches up with our world were it must, specifically in the sciences. It is this depth and breadth of characters and worlds that shows Westerfeld’s skills as a writer.

As a researcher, Westerfeld stands above the others. To create such wondrous characters and fantastic places, Westerfeld must learn about what he is writing. He looks through not only the applicable science, as shown in the detailed descriptions of the war-machines of both sides in his book, but also the applicable history. That was something that made reading the Leviathan trilogy not only entertaining, but also educational (“Look Mom, I’m Studying World War I!”). This research is shown also in the afterwards of his books where he explains what in his books are “history” and what parts are “alternate.” Because of his detailed descriptions and meticulous notes, we can see that Scott Westerfeld is really just better at research than most writers.

However, Scott Westerfeld isn’t perfect, the commentary in his art is either weak or non-existent. He resorts to the use of different technologies to draw a very distinct line between the allies and central powers. Even the choice of technologies was not accidental with the allies using the power of life and progress, whereas the central powers use cold machines. This is not to say the central powers deserved to use the technology of life, but perhaps the allies did not either, and perhaps the line between the two sides is less distinct than we would like to think. Also Westerfeld portrays Tesla as a “mad scientist” suggesting that the wild claims Tesla made concerning his technology were promoted by insanity rather than Tesla’s need for funding. This painting of Tesla removes all fault from the system of scientific funding at the time and places it instead on Tesla himself. This lack of commentary is not only bothersome in its own right, but due to science-fiction’s standing as a method of commentary, is an abject betrayal. This cliché portrayal of both Nicolas Tesla and the allied/central powers is why I feel that Westerfeld does not have much useful criticism.

Despite, the faults I find with Westerfeld’s work, I still think he is a good artist if not good at adding extra meaning to his work. So I would Say that Goliath Is definitely worth the read.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld is released on Tuesday–click here to reserve your copy today!

Thank you, teens.

It’s Thanksgiving, and I’d like to take this post to thank the teens who come into the library and make our jobs and our days more interesting and fulfilling and challenging.  You make the library a real reflection of Pittsburgh.  Thanks for letting us into your lives.

 

Thanks also go to the teens who are graduating high school and entering into the armed services.  You are appreciated and your sacrifice is staggering.

Ian Fisher is one of these teens, and his journey from recruitment to deployment was chronicled by Denver Post reporters and photographers for 27 months in this collecton of honest and real photographs.  Click it!  You won’t regret it.  Doubtless you know someone or know of someone who is a soldier or maybe are someone who is thinking of it as a future option.

 

If you’re looking for some fictional takes on what it means to be involved in war, you can check out our booklist on the Teen site here.

If you are going to take the ASVAB and need practice, we have an online database with practice tests that can be found here.

If you need help crafting a thanksgiving speech for world peace to be given at your dinner table, you may find some good books here.

If you really just need help constructing a historically accurate Thanksgiving Feast, you can find books on Colonial food here.

Or if you are a vegetarian and have to fend for yourself in regards to a main course, please see these offerings.

photo from flickr user dracobotanicus

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

-Tessa

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