The Rook: Book vs. TV Show

I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time, but they always used to be my favourites and since the views on them are pretty decent, I dare claim that you don’t hate them either. Sometimes the comparison isn’t entirely fair and I completely understand if your opinions differ. It’s really just my personal thoughts on the matter!

General Plot

A woman wakes up surrounded by dead bodies. She neither knows how she got into this mess nor who she is, however, there is a letter addressed to her for specifically that situation and it was seemingly written by … her? A journey encompassing secret government agencies, people with strange abilities (of which she is one) and vast betrayal begins.

Book

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)I have to start by saying that I read this book AFTER I started watching the show. I feel like that is very necessary to point out, because I have a feeling that had it been the other way around, the end result of this post might have been very different.

From the get go, I could see that they didn’t take much more than the general idea when they adapted the book for the screen. Which is fine for me, but I suspect not so much for fans of the source material. Anyway, the start of this whole reading adventure didn’t exactly go smoothly. I was painfully aware that this was written by a man, because no way on earth would a chick who had just been brutally beaten up and found herself without memory be blissfully exclaiming that she doesn’t have cellulite when she gets a first glimpse of herself in the mirror. Just nope. Throughout the remainder of the book, I felt like women were described in much more detail though, and often with the remark as to how they were more beautiful than the main character. Men on the other hand were shrugged of as being bodybuilder types, with their name not even being worth remembering cause they just didn’t get one, and I guess just everyone is handsome or beautiful, except of course, for the monsters. I was super curious about the story though and tried to shrug it off as best as I could. I am quite skilled in ignoring parts of things I might otherwise enjoy.

I had a distinct flashback to the Jackaby book series while reading The Rook, just in a far more modern setting. It is filled with all kinds of creatures and oddly placed humour in situations that are in actuality life and death. For me, that makes it hard to take it serious at times and lowers the stakes immensely. Also, when I am looking for something with “mutants”, I don’t really want vampires and such joining in.

I was disappointed by the villains as well. As much as there was good build up in the mystery department, all villains (there are really several) were just ridiculous and frankly … weird? And not in a good way for me. The kind of genetic and surgical “improvements” they made had me laughing out loud more often than trembling in fear. And again, those were supposed life and death situations. I may just be bitter though, because they made my favourite character from the show absolutely horrendous here.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! It wasn’t the worst book I have read, there are parts I quite enjoyed, but overall, I don’t think this will really stick with me.

TV Show

First off, I want to point out that at the time of my writing this post, there have only been three episodes released. I very much feel like this show is meant to be binged, rather than one week after the other, but unfortunately that’s not what Starz is giving me. I am therefore basing my opinions on what I have seen thus far.

If you enjoy a slowly told X-Men meets Jason Bourne, this show might be for you! It does have flaws in pacing and distribution of screen time to characters, but contrary to the book, the villains actually make sense. Here they are called vultures and they kidnap people with abilities in order to sell them on the black market. That is something I can handle better than Belgian weirdos who want to take over a country by riding in on horses with antlers or creating sentient fungus.

As I have mentioned before, the show took a lot of liberties with the story and characters. Myfanwy (which isn’t pronounced the Welsh way, but rather rhymes with Tiffany) has completely different powers, the main people have been vastly downsized and except for names, they didn’t keep much of anything else. I am personally very much in favour of this because of Gestalt.

For those of you who know German, you will realise that Gestalt means something like “figure” or “shape”. Here it is used as the name for my favourite character, a hive mind like being who lives in the bodies of four siblings. I am never quite sure how to describe it accurately, but imagine being one consciousness spread over several bodies. They can do individual tasks, but if you talk to one of them, you basically talk to all of them. Here’s a little visualisation to help along.

Naturally, I was beyond fascinated! The actors do such an amazing job and it must have been an intense experience filming it (especially since only one actor is portraying the “twins”). Add to the mix that in the show (other than in the book where they despised each other), Myfanwy and Gestalt seemed to have hooked up? And I am just so curious about the logistics of it all. But without trying to spoil you for anything major, it seems like they really care for each other and I am so here for that. During an attack on Myfanwy by the vultures, Eliza (the female Gestalt) got hit by a tranq dart and when Myfanwy visited her in the ward … just wow! What a powerful kiss it must have been when your alternate body crashes a car!? I am utterly in love with this plot point.

Conclusion

If you didn’t guess yet that the show downright won for me, then I cannot help you. I don’t want to trashtalk the book, but it just wasn’t for me. All the things that I found fascinating when I started watching the show just weren’t in the written version and therefore we just had a classic problem of expectations vs. reality. Also, Gestalt.

Have you read or watched The Rook? Do you see where I am coming from or feel the complete opposite? Let me know so we can chat in the comments!

Sweetbitter: Book vs. TV Show

As I’ve previously done comparisons of book-to-screen-adaptations for the likes of Still Star-Crossed and Famous in Love, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to talk about the book I just finished – Sweetbitter. The way this goes is pretty self-explanatory. I will talk about the shared plot and then compare the two. Here goes nothing!

General Plot

Tess was not happy with her life and ventures to New York City to pursue life. She doesn’t have a plan, she doesn’t have any kind of aspiration of what or who she wants to be, she simply wants experiences. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the tumultuos life as a backwaiter in a prestigious restaurant and all the drama that comes with being part of the staff.

Book

Sweetbitter

CW: excessive drug and alcohol consumption, sexism, racism, verbal/physical abuse, sexual harassment

I was first drawn to this book and story because when I was younger I used to be a server as well. Granted, I didn’t work in fancy restaurants but upscale hotels instead, still, the overall gist of things seemed similar enough to me. I had my first real job in that line of work when I was 15 and up to about 20% into the story (and aside from the heavy drugs), it really felt like an accurate representation of my daily life back then.

A lot of critics (for both the book and the show) didn’t understand that not everyone is looking for something bigger and better at all times. I get really defensive whenever I read stuff like that, because we need to get rid of the notion that there is anything wrong with working a job like that on the long run. Yes, it wasn’t the right thing for me personally. The plates were too hot, I couldn’t even relax when I was asleep because I constantly dreamed about messing up orders and running back and forth between the floor and kitchen, but overall I loved chatting with the guests. I loved making that connection with strangers and through that making their experience at our hotel a better one. Some people are content and actually happy to work as a server and consequently their way up the food chain in a restaurant or similar establishment and that is perfectly fine.

Having said that and really having appreciated that look behind the curtains of what life as a server (especially in training) can be like, that is where my love for this book ends. Tess is your typically lost 20-something pretty girl and that’s not to say that we don’t need stories like that either, but the way she went through life was infuriating. I am really not someone who gets judgy about whether people drink or don’t drink alcohol, but drugs … it was tough reading about that topic so nonchalantly. While Tess definitely has her low moments, the part of drugs or even so much as a consideration of stopping to take drugs is never addressed.

What bothered me the utmost about the book were all the toxic relationships though! I don’t think a single person ever said a tender thing to anyone aloud ever. They “joked” about how women were only good for cleaning and men were foolish if they ever believed a word a woman said. Bosses slept with employees for favours and even led them to mental breakdowns. But worst of all was Tess and Jake’s “relationship”. It was one of those where the girl obsesses over the super pretentious guy and he ignores her unless it suits him. He treated her terribly, brought her to tears on several occasions and even roughed her up during sex to a point where she had bruises all over her body. It was revealed that he was damaged by some events in the past, but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour!? And still, after everything, Tess just wanted to save him.

I got more and more furious as I read on and then there was this clear lack of structure or cohesion to the story overall. Again, I wouldn’t mind reading about someone wanting to make it in the service industry, but this was just a manic depiction of manipulative people and a young girl making the same mistakes over and over. Did she learn from them? I don’t even know.

Fazit: 1.5/5 stars! (click on the cover to get re-directed to Goodreads!)

TV Show

 

Usually when Starz has a new show, I get really excited. I hadn’t yet finished the book and thought this could be a really interesting show. Was it lacking in diversity from the looks of it? Definitely, but I was willing to give it a shot nonetheless.

It turned out that maybe I was a bit too overzealous? The running time for the episodes is barely half an hour and there are only 6 (?) episodes planned for the first season. With a slow paced story like this one, that seems a fairly odd choice. You barely get to tell anything or start a thought before the episode is already over again. If I were to make a mini-series of six episodes only, I would definitely make them longer. That is not to say that they don’t plan on more seasons in the future, but critics haven’t had too many good things to say and I don’t think ratings were all that great either so far …

Stephanie Danler, who wrote the book, was involved in the adaptation. She tried to make it accessible to non-readers and wasn’t afraid to change the narrative here and there, but I am not sure how much she really succeeded. I think an issue with the show is that she makes references to more or less important parts of the story that the viewer simply cannot understand, because it’s only mentioned in passing while it was fully described in the book.

To me there is just no time to explore the more sensual parts of the story because we are rushed through the experience with food and people and events all packed into such a short running time. Maybe it would work better if you binged the episodes, since it wouldn’t rip you out of the atmosphere every single time you just got used to what was happening?

Conclusion

I cannot really advocate for either of those two? I am sure there are people out there who appreciate the relatable and quite frankly mostly accurate portrayal of work as a server and just starting out in that industry. Whereas other shows and books mostly focus on what’s going on in the kitchen, it is nice to know there is content for what’s happening in the front of the house as well. If only they refined the show a little more …

Have you read or watched Sweetbitter? Do you have any thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!