Suggestions For Your Easter Holiday Viewing

The 1965 American epic film The Greatest Story Ever Told > is a re-telling of the Biblical account of Jesus of Nazareth, from the Nativity through to the Ascension. It was produced and directed by George Stevens. Read more >

The 1977 British-Italian television mini-series Jesus Of Nazareth > dramatises the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and co-written by Anthony Burgess, Suso Cecchi d'Amico and Franco Zeffirelli. Read more >

The 2004 American Biblical drama film The Passion Of The Christ > depicts the Passion of Jesus largely according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and also draws on pious accounts such as the Friday of Sorrows, along with other devotional writings, such as the reputed Marian apparitions attributed to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. The film primarily covers the final twelve hours of the life of Jesus, beginning with the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the insomnia and grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the brutal scourge and crucifixion, and finally ending with a brief depiction of his resurrection. Shot in Italy, the dialogue is entirely in reconstructed Aramaic (Jewish dialect), Hebrew, and Latin. The film was directed by Mel Gibson, and written by Benedict Fitzgerald and Mel Gibson. Read more >

Vintage Science Fiction 1950s Highlights To The Stars (1954)

by Lester del Rey

Only a decade away!” Yes, according to the well-known author of Step To The Stars, this remarkable age that has produced rocket ships, guided missiles and hydrogen bombs will have a space station circling planet Earth within the next ten years. World domination will be in the hands of the country that constructs it, and man will know, once and for all, whether he is free or slave.

Such thoughts were far from Jim Stanley's mind when he was investigated by the FBI and later subjected to strange and rigorous tests. It wasn't until he satisfied the stiff requirements that he learned the U.S. was in the space station race for keeps and that he could count himself among the handful of men destined to breach the barriers of space in operation ‘Big Shush’.

Fascinating details of the construction and operation of the station are part and parcel of this tense and dramatic story. Treacherous sabotage by a dangerous foreign spy; Jim's almost fatal fall into the “empty, hungry depths of space”; and a savage fire which threatened the existence of the station add to the rising tide of excitement. Tying these explosive events together is a narrative that skillfully portrays the reaction of men to new and staggering experiences.

Unequaled in its impact, Step To The Stars is an adventure too probable to ignore. Whether you read it as a tale of the future or a forceful case for world co-operation, you can't help but feel that here indeed is the “prelude to space”. Live Forever (1956)

by Jack Vance

The city of Clarges in the future is a near-utopia, surrounded by barbarism throughout the rest of the world. Abundant resources and the absence of political conflict lead to a pleasant life that should be stress-free. However, nearly everyone is obsessed with a perpetual scramble for longer life, as measured by slope.

Medical technology has led to a great lengthening of the human lifespan, but, in order to prevent the Malthusian horrors of over-population, it is awarded only to those citizens who have made notable contributions. Five categories have been created for those playing the life-extension game, the first four each offering an additional twenty years of life. One's progress can be shown as a graph, whose upward direction indicates a greater likelihood of achieving the next level. Therefore, the slope of one's ‘lifeline’ is a measure of success. A person whose lifeline reaches the vertical terminator is not merely deprived of life-lengthening treatment, they are deliberately eliminated by government operatives, known as ‘Assassins’.

The ultimate prize is the top category, called Amaranth, which offers true immortality to the fortunate few. People who achieve this distinction are accorded the honorific ‘The’ in front of their name.

The Grayven Warlock was one of those few, but he has become a fugitive after a feud with another Amaranth resulted in the latter's death. Masquerading as his own ‘relict’ (clone) using the name Gavin Waylock, he lives in obscurity, looking for the accomplishment that will reinstate him among the immortals. However, Waylock's dramatic stratagems result in changes to society far beyond anything he had intended. Am Legend (1954)

by Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson's classic novel I Am Legend is a tale of fear and vampirism, a tale of the last human on a planet ... overrun by the undead.

Robert Neville may well be the last living man on planet Earth ... but he is not alone.

An incurable plague has decimated the world and transformed the unfortunate survivors into bloodthirsty creatures of the night. Every other man, woman, and child has mutated into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures, vampires hungry for Robert's blood, and who are determined to destroy him.

By day, Robert is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead, the infected monstrosities, through the abandoned ruins of civilization.

By night, he barricades himself in his home ... and prays for dawn.

How long can one man survive in a world of vampires? 666 (1954)

by John Taine

Here is a terrific science fiction story about biology run wild, with a good dose of International intrigue thrown in for good measure. It concerns Russian genetics experiments resulting in a being that is half ape, half brain; a taut tale of ethics in genetics ... how far is too far?

When three Communist scientists arrived in America on an official visit, they brought with them a great, hulking assistant named Gog. U.S. Intelligence believed there was more behind their ‘visit’ than they were claiming, so they enlisted the help of Dr. Clive Chase, who was asked to become a spy. Reluctantly, he accepted the challenge, and in doing so discovered the unthinkable truth behind the visiting scientists’ real motives ... a truth that could cost him his life. Star Beast (1954)

by Robert Heinlein

This science-fiction coming-of-age story is set in the future. Earth has had interstellar spaceflight for centuries and has contact with numerous extraterrestrial species, which is handled by a department of the Earth government. John Thomas Stuart XI, the teenage protagonist, lives in a small Rocky Mountain town, Westville, caring for Lummox, an extraterrestrial beast which he inherited from his great-grandfather, who brought it home from an interstellar voyage. The pet has learned how to speak, and has gradually grown from the size of a collie pup to a ridable behemoth ... especially after consuming a used car. The child-like Lummox is perceived to be a neighborhood nuisance and, upon leaving the Stuart property one day, causes substantial property damage across the city of Westville. John Thomas' widowed mother wants him to get rid of it, and brings an action in the local court to have it destroyed.

Desperate to save his pet, John Thomas considers selling Lummox to a zoo. He rapidly changes his mind and runs away from home, riding into the nearby wilderness on Lummox's back. His girlfriend, Betty Sorenson, joins him and suggests bringing the beast back into town and hiding it in a neighbor's greenhouse. However, it is not easy to conceal such a large creature. Eventually, the court orders Lummox destroyed. In an amusing scene, Westville's officials try several methods to kill Lummox but fail, as his alien physiology appears to be virtually invulnerable to ordinary weapons or poisons, and Lummox does not even realize they are attempting to execute him.

Spotlight On Classic Authors

Little Women (1868)

by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women was originally published in two volumes: 1868 (1st volume) and 1869 (2nd volume), by Messrs. Roberts Brothers, Boston, Massachusetts.

Loosely based on Ms Alcott's childhood experiences with her three sisters, the story follows the lives of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood.

Little Women is still a popular children's novel today.

Jane Eyre (1847)

by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre was originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, under the pen name ‘Currer Bell’, in three volumes, on 16 October 1847, by Smith, Elder & Co., London, England.

Primarily a coming-of-age story, Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth from youth to adulthood, and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall. The novel’s focus on Jane's moral and spiritual development is told through an intimate, first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity.

Jane Eyre is one of the most sought-after books of English Literature.

Wuthering Heights (1847)

by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë's only novel was originally published as Wuthering Heights: A Novel, in December 1847, in three volumes, under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’ by Thomas Cautley Newby, London, England.

The first three chapters of the Wuthering Heights are meant as a sort of prelude or preface to the main story. In summary: In 1801, Lockwood, a wealthy young man from the South of England, who is seeking peace and recuperation, rents Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire. He visits his landlord, Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There Lockwood finds an odd assemblage: Heathcliff, who seems to be a gentleman, but his manners are uncouth; the reserved mistress of the house, who is in her mid-teens; and a young man, who seems to be a member of the family, yet dresses and speaks as if he is a servant.

Snowed in, Lockwood is grudgingly allowed to stay and is shown to a bedchamber, where he notices books and graffiti left by a former inhabitant named Catherine. He falls asleep and has a nightmare, in which he sees the ghostly Catherine trying to enter through the window. He cries out in fear, rousing Heathcliff, who rushes into the room. Lockwood is convinced that what he saw was real. Heathcliff, believing Lockwood to be right, examines the window and opens it, hoping to allow Catherine's spirit to enter. When nothing happens, Heathcliff shows Lockwood to his own bedroom and returns to keep watch at the window.

At sunrise, Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. After his visit to the Heights, Lockwood becomes ill and is confined to his bed for some length of time. The Grange housekeeper, Ellen (Nelly) Dean, who is looking after him, tells him the story of the family at the Heights during his convalescence.

Wuthering Heights is now a classic of English literature.

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1865)

by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, commonly shortened to Alice In Wonderland, is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pseudonym ‘Lewis Carroll’, and published on 26 November 1865 by Macmillan, London, England.

The story is about a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.

The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children, and is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The story’s narrative course, structure, characters, and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

Crime And Punishment (1866)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was subsequently published in a single volume in 1867. The novel is the second of Mr. Dostoevsky's full-length novels following his return from 5 years of exile in Siberia, and is considered the first great novel of his ‘mature’ period of writing.

Crime And Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg. He formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. Before the killing, Raskolnikov believes that with the money he could liberate himself from poverty and go on to perform great deeds, but after the killing, he finds himself racked with confusion, paranoia, and disgust for what he has done. His moral justifications disintegrate completely as he struggles with guilt and horror, and confronts the real world consequences of his deed.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1902)

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Featuring his world-famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, The Hound Of The Baskervilles is the third of the crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was initially serialized in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, which was well-suited for this type of publication, as individual chapters end in ‘cliffhangers’. Following the end of the serialization, the story was published in novel form later in 1902 by George Newnes, London, England.

Set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country, The Hound Of The Baskervilles is about an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Holmes investigates the case with Dr. Watson.

In 1999, the book was listed as the top Sherlock Holmes novel with a perfect rating of 100 from Sherlockian scholars, then in 2003, it was listed as number 128 of 200 on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel".

A Fable (1954)

by William Faulkner

William Faulkner spent more than a decade and tremendous effort writing A Fable, published in 1954 by Random House, New York City, New York. He aspired for it to be “the best work of my life and maybe of my time”; indeed, A Fable won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction and the 1955 National Book Award For Fiction. However, critical reviews were mixed and it is considered one of Mr. Faulkner's lesser works. Historically, it can be seen as a precursor to Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

The story takes place in France during World War I and stretches through the course of one week in 1918. Corporal Stephan, who represents the reincarnation of Jesus, orders 3,000 troops to disobey orders to attack in the brutally repetitive trench warfare. In return, the Germans do not attack, and the war stops when soldiers realize that it takes two sides to fight a war.

The Generalissimo, who represents leaders who use war to gain power, invites his German counterpart to discuss how to restart the war. He then arrests and executes Stefan. Before Stefan's execution, the Generalissimo tries to convince the corporal that war can never be stopped because it is the essence of human nature.

Following the execution of the Corporal, his body is returned to his wife and his sisters, and he is buried in Vienne-la-pucelle. However, after the conflict has resumed, the Corporal's grave is destroyed in a barrage of artillery. The spirit of the Corporal has transferred to a British message runner, who eventually confronts the old Generalissimo.

Lord Of The Flies (1954)

by William Golding

Published on 17 September 1954 by Faber and Faber, London, England, Lord Of The Flies is the very first novel written by Nobel Prize–winning English author William Golding.

The book focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves. The story takes place in the midst of an unspecified war. Some of the marooned characters are ordinary students, while others arrive as a musical choir under an established leader. With the exception of Sam and Eric and the choirboys, the boys appear never to have encountered each other before. The story portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a paradisiacal island, far from modern civilization, the well-educated children regress to a primitive state.

Mr. Golding wrote his book as a counterpoint to R.M. Ballantyne's youth novel The Coral Island (1858), and included specific references to it, such as the rescuing naval officer's description of the children's initial attempts at civilised cooperation as "a jolly good show, like the Coral Island". Mr. Golding's three central characters - Ralph, Piggy and Jack - have been interpreted as caricatures of Ballantyne's Coral Island protagonists.

Although it did not have great success after its initial release - selling fewer than three thousand copies in the U.S. during 1955 before going out of print - the novel soon went on to become a best-seller.

The novel has since been generally well received. It was named in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 41 on the Editor's List, and 25 on the Reader's List. In 2003 it was listed at number 70 on the BBC's The Big Read poll, and in 2005 Time magazine named it as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame (1831)

by Victor Hugo

Notre-Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady Of Paris’, is a French gothic romance novel Victor Hugo began writing in 1829. Eventually published on 16 March 1831 by Gosselin, France, the original edition was illustrated by Luc-Olivier Merson.

The novel's original French title, Notre-Dame de Paris, is a metaphor referring to Notre Dame Cathedral, on which the story is centered. The novel's main character is Esmeralda, who is ‘our lady of Paris’, the focus of the human drama within the story.

M. Hugo wrote the story largely to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the gothic architecture. Notre Dame Cathedral was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings or defaced by replacement of parts of buildings in a newer style. This explains the large descriptive sections of the book, which far exceed the requirements of the story. A few years earlier, M. Hugo had already published a paper entitled Guerre aux Démolisseurs (War To The Demolishers) specifically aimed at saving Paris' medieval architecture.

The English version of Notre-Dame de Paris, translated by British author Frederic Shoberl, was published in 1833. Mr. Shoberl's translation was published as The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, which became the generally used title in English. The 'Hunchback' refers to Quasimodo, Notre Dame Cathedral's bell-ringer.

Brave New World (1932)

by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a dystopian novel Mr. Huxley wrote in 1931. The novel was published in 1932 by Chatto & Windus, London, England. Largely set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that are combined to make a utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider. Mr. Huxley followed this book with a re-assessment in an essay, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with Island (1962), his final novel.

In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Brave New World fifth on its list of the 100 Best English-language Novels Of The 20th Century. In 2003, Robert McCrum writing for The Observer included Brave New World chronologically at number 53 in “The Top 100 Greatest Novels Of All Time”, and the novel was listed at number 87 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.