I think I just read the longest prologue in the history of literature. That’s what it feels like, and fucked if I knowWhat the hell did I just read?
I think I just read the longest prologue in the history of literature. That’s what it feels like, and fucked if I know why it feels like that, but it does. It feels like the longest, most in depth, most compelling prologue to something else that has ever been written.
And somehow I feel like that is a compliment.
Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben and the Bridgeburners, and Kruppe and Baruk and Mammot, and Paran and Tattersail and Adjunct Lorn, and Coll and Crokus and Rallick, and Anomander Rake and the hounds and the Twins, none of these people and gods are who the real story is about, are they? They are just the groundwork for what’s to come? Or maybe not. The point is that I don’t know.
No. The point is that I don’t care.
All I know is that I wasn’t expecting what I got, and what I got may be the best fantasy novel I have ever read. And that is saying something. I am not kidding. This is probably better than anything Tolkien ever wrote (and I am deadly serious about this), and that necessarily bests all of Tolkien’s followers, all of fantasy’s near greats and mediocrities and hacks.
I can’t even begin to summarize the plot. I don’t even know where to begin with theme and meaning. So I am reduced to my TOP FIVE:
Best “holy shit!” moment: In a story full of “holy shit!” moments, I actually uttered “holy shit!” when one bad ass Bridgeburning Wizard (ex-Priest) took to his Warren and went to visit the god he’d once served, and fucked with his former liege-god to deal with someone in the not-so-distant future, while hanging his own soul on the line and welcoming the hunt of a pack of Hounds and the ire of his former Master. Keeping it as vague as I can for the spoiler police: “holy shit!”
Biggest dumbass: Crokus, a piece of advice. When you break into a person’s home and steal their shit, then get all creepy and watch them sleep, then turn all Raskolnikov and bring the shit you stole back, don’t ever expect their loyalty. Seriously.
Strangest dreams: Anything and everything that came out of the head or into the head of Kruppe. Not since George Orr have dreams held such power and wonder, but Kruppe’s were much more difficult to get a handle on, being part of such a world so far removed yet paradoxically close to our own. I was truly excited, however, whenever we found ourself in the fat thief’s brain. What a wondrous place of gods and monsters and life.
Is anyone safe?: Not a chance. I never once, at any time in the book, felt like anyone was safe. Everyone could die, everyone was right on the edge, and when duels were being fought, battles were raging, powders were being tested, sabotage was about to kick off, gods were rising and falling and rising and falling, I never felt like any character was going to make it to the end of the story. Nothing was sure. What a marvelous anxiety to feel as a reader. I hope the rest of the books are equally off-putting.
My crushes: My oh my! I love when I fall in love with characters, and this time I fell in love with the strangest of couples, the curvy, potent, powerful Tattersail and her much younger lover, the tenacious, somewhat severe and often serious Captain Paran. If I have any regret at all it is that Erikson did not write them an extended and sexy as hell love scene. I have to make up the stimulating images in my head, and it would have been so much easier if he’d written them for me. If only I could gate through a Warren and join the pair outside the Pale. It is a night made up of my dreams.
What makes this comic fly is that it feels as though it is a genuine episode bridging the gap between Firefly and Serenity. I don't mean that it is meWhat makes this comic fly is that it feels as though it is a genuine episode bridging the gap between Firefly and Serenity. I don't mean that it is merely a story that bridges the gap between television series and film, which it is, but that it actually feels like its very own live action episode.
Now I imagine that I feel so strongly because I am a fan of Firefly / Serenity, but I am pretty sure that you're not reading Serenity Those Left Behind or my review unless you are a fan too (if you are reading this without having seen the shows, howeover, stop what you are doing right now, fire up your Netflix and start watching), so you probably get my drift.
Those Left Behind could be a three act episode or it could be the basis for a season we were never able to see. It was probably precisely what it is, though, a prelude to the movie, wrapping up loose ends, surprising us with things almost forgotten, and prepping us for the coolness that was to come on the big screen. Regardless, it is an excellent entry into the Firefly / Serenity canon for a full blown brownshirt, a newbie brownshirt or a brownshirt in the making.
I'd sure like to see more ... on the tv, on the screen or even in the comics. C'mon, Joss. Take a break from Marvel and head on back to the 'verse. You really can come home again. ...more
I read this twice in close succession. I read it, then I read it again. The two readings were necessary, and not because William Golding failed in anyI read this twice in close succession. I read it, then I read it again. The two readings were necessary, and not because William Golding failed in any way, but because his novel, The Inheritors welcomes so much failure from his readers -- I don't say this lightly.
I taught this for the first time this year, and it was beyond my first year university students. The Inheritors challenges. It challenges readers to work hard. It challenges readers to pay attention. It challenges readers to empathize. It challenges readers to think about themselves and humanity. It challenges readers to consider other ways of seeing the world. It challenges readers to question the things they hold true. It challenges readers to look in the mirror. It challenges readers to actually read!
The Inheritors is a damning criticism of us and what makes us us. It is an attack on the civilizing drive of humans and a call to consider the wreckage we left behind and continue to create.
Mostly it is a scream into a vaccuum that swallows all sound, reminding me of my favourite contemporary authors, like ki hope, who can imagine others that the rest of us wouldn't even remember let alone imagine. It reminds me how much I miss the people (... or that person ...) that voice such important messages.
The Inheritors is a difficult read. But a necessary one for anyone who cares about life and living. ...more
It's been a long, long time since I read Mr. Vonnegut. I remember his satire being funny. I didn't laugh this time around. Maybe it was just me, but MIt's been a long, long time since I read Mr. Vonnegut. I remember his satire being funny. I didn't laugh this time around. Maybe it was just me, but Mother Night was deadly serious.
Guilt. Not the state of being physically guilty of committing a negative action, a "crime" if you prefer, but the feeling of guilt that festers in one's soul for a lifetime. That's the guilt, that Raskalnikovian guilt, that interested me in Mother Night
I liked Howard J. Campbell Jr., Joseph Goebbels best radio propagandist, creator of vast amounts of anti-Semitic media, playwright and poet, American agent, lover in a "Nation of Two," post-War ghost, moralist. He seems the sort of man I could sit and have a drink with while talking about literature or politics or culture. But he contributed to terrible things, maybe even did terrible things himself, yet I'd still share that drink with him.
I think I'd rather be his confessor, though. But not a confessor in the way Mother Night structures the position. I'd want to be a priest with the ability to grant absolution to the pseudo-Nazi. Perhaps not a Roman Catholic priest, but any sort of quasi-priest that would enable me to provide succour to Campbell, to ease his pain, because it seems to me that those people who feel guilt deeply, who look back on their actions, despite the fact that they must have felt justified in their motivations when undertaking their actions, are those who need us most. No matter what they've done, they need forgiveness, or at least the permission to forgive themselves.
Guilt. What if I put that aside and approach Mother Night from another direction? If I do that I feel despair. Hopelessness becomes the word rather than guilt.
It's a powerful thing Vonnegut has done here. My mood is black today. ...more
Nicholson Baker himself intended it as a memorial to “Charles Pickett and other American and British pacifists. ThHuman Smoke is many things, I think.
Nicholson Baker himself intended it as a memorial to “Charles Pickett and other American and British pacifists. They’ve never really gotten their due. They tried to save Jewish refugees, feed Europe, reconcile the United States and Japan, and stop the war from happening. They failed, but they were right,” and to some extent he intended it as an argument for peace –- more likely peace as pacifism.
It is a chronicle of the worst war criminals that we’ve ever seen, specifically Hitler, Churchill and Roosevelt (and their lackeys), with cameo appearances by some other nasty criminals like Stalin, Chiang Kai-shek, and Tojo. It shows how their actions and decisions continue to reverberate into today, and how the positive or negative mythologies that have sprung up around them don’t even begin to tell the truth. Moreover, we’re still fighting the fights they started, and seem doomed to keep fighting them.
As I write this the “Blue Angels” and “Snowbirds,” those dazzling, acrobatic show offs of American and Canadian aviation military might are streaking over my home to the delight of my militarized neighbours. Their delight and my disgust. Their delight and my shame.
But back to Human Smoke. It is an anecdotal history that uncovers the ugliness of us all. There are contextual gaps, there are omissions, there is spin, but it is a powerful book and an important one. I, in my dilettante historianism, knew most of what Baker was offering already, but he surprised even me at times, and I’ve never seen the dirtiness of WWII presented in quite so powerful a way.
As I closed the cover, though, I didn’t end with a new dedication to pacifism as so many have before me. If anything, Baker’s moments spent with Gandhi merely underlined the failings of pacifism. Gandhi’s non-violence would have been for nought if England wasn’t busy bombing and being bombed by Germany. England would have rolled over Gandhi and Nehrou and we'd have forgotten all about them and their desire for independence. I didn't heed the call to pacifism, nor was I filled with a new dedication to war as an answer either.
What it did leave me with was a desire to dedicate myself to imagining a new way. Militarism doesn’t work. We know that. Pacfism doesn’t work, even though it makes those engaged in it feel better about themselves (and superior to others). But we seem incapable of finding another way. What good are our minds if we can’t imagine another way? I am positive there must be another way. I want to find it.
My gut tells me it has something to do with forgiveness. For now I will go with my gut and see where it takes me. Thanks for the kick in the ass, Nicholson Baker. I hope you do the same for many, many others. ...more
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you madAugust 7, 2011
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you made the right choice putting an end to it when you did. I can't believe it's been gone for 16 years now. Your precocious Calvin was what every kid with an overactive imagination is in their own heads, but you also gave us the view of what the rest of the world sees in these kids and does to try and beat the imagination out of them. There's implied sadness in the explicit joy you gave us, and it makes Calvin and Hobbes a true masterpiece.
I was fourteen when you started your opus, and I was close enough to my own hyper-imaginative childhood to connect at a visceral level. My youthful imaginary friends were still fresh in my mind, and my current imaginary friends were just taking hold, and your strip gave me something to relate to, someone to cheer for, a place where it was okay to turn dreary realties of the world into exciting fantasies and be proud of that ability all at the same time. It was also a fabulous way to relax my brain (though not too much) amidst all the literature I was devouring at a frightening rate.
But I have a request. Now that I am forty, and I have a precocious little Calvin of my own making explosive sounds with his mouth as he blows up his LEGO creations (as I write this, in fact), and my little Calvin’s twin sister, who happens to be a lot like Susie, I would love it if you came out of retirement and gave us just one year of Calvin and Hobbes and Son (or Daughter). I want to see where Calvin is now. I want to see Calvin as a Dad, and I want his son (or daughter) with a beaten up, super ratty, devilish-as-ever Hobbes. But I don't want this comic to be about the kids, I want it to be about Calvin. I want to see how well Calvin was able to fight off his indoctrination; I imagine he’s one of those rare folks who didn’t join the mainstream, who somehow continued to live on his own terms, but my imagination aside, I am dying to see what he became for you. Please, please, please come back, Bill. We could all use a bit of Calvin again.
I know that my request will never reach you, and that, if it did, you'd probably never even consider the possibility, but I know you could do the "parenting thing" better than all your peers, just as you did the "kid thing" better than anyone else.
So I'll just leave you with the firmest, most heartfelt thank you that I have in me: thank you for that little corner of joy you carved into my world. I’ll never forget it, and late at night, when I am dipping my peanut butter and jelly into my hot chocolate, I’ll have one of my Calvin and Hobbes books open so that I can stain the pages with the purple of some yummy Welch’s grape jelly. Just as Calvin would.
WARNING: This review contains some vulgarity. Please don't read this if you are have a delicate sensibility. Thanks.
8 Things I liked + 1 I didn't + 1WARNING: This review contains some vulgarity. Please don't read this if you are have a delicate sensibility. Thanks.
8 Things I liked + 1 I didn't + 1 I hated
8. It's cinematic. -- I don't know if I'd have appreciated this if I hadn't read The Hunger Games in anticipation of the film's release, but the March 23rd premiere precipitated my read, and I could see the action of this book on my "head screen." It's going to work as a movie, and Collins' successfully tranferred the action she saw moving in her mind to the page. She made me see it too, and I am now officially stoked to see the film of her tale.
7. First person. -- I was not impressed with the first person perspective in the first chapter, but by the time Katniss was moving through the arena I understood how right that perspective was. It ramped up the suspence, and it's going to make for an easier transition to the big screen.
6. The Capitol and Districts. -- Plenty of real world, contemporary issues to be found in the structure of Panem. Plenty of room for criticism. Plenty of bile directed at the haves and honouring of the have-nots (now haves?). It may be worth adding this to a first year reading list, but I worry that things fall apart as the series progresses. Which reminds me of the question I had throughout ... "does this really need to be a series?" It feels like one book should be enough.
5. Nostalgia. -- I remember an old Sci-Fi paperback from my Junior High library with one of those pulpy covers. There was some hilltop with a a black sky gate opening above, and for some reason I remember a bunch of kids doing combat on some planet. I wish I could remember something more about the book, but every page of The Hunger Games took me back to the halls of Don Bosco and that book cover keeps flashing in front of my eyes. I love it when shit like that happens.
4. Dystopia. -- I love dystopian books, and as dystopias go this is one of the most normal -- which ramps up the creepiness for me. I pretty much live in District 11 at the moment, and I can see us heading down the road to our own Hunger Games a generation or two from now. There's some compelling immediacy here for me.
3. Mockingjays and Tracker Jackers -- These were some of the best future tech innovations I've ever read. Their backstories made sense, they were well integrated into the tale, they were used subtly, and they added just the right amount of verisimilitude. They were well struck notes, and I will remember them both forever (unless the film fucks them up).
2. Katniss Everdeen. -- I believed in her as a character. She rang true, sure and true (sorry, I'm listening to Albert Hammond), and I can overlook all kinds of crap when I love a character as much as I love Katniss. Her choices made sense to the woman she is; her skills were within reason; I believed her loves and hates; and her conflicts worked. She's the only reason I'd be compelled to read on (well, I would read on also if the movie was good enough to drive me to the sequel).
1. It's compelling. -- I stayed up until the wee hours to read this. I don't do that on purpose anymore. I may keep reading when my insomnia kicks in to keep myself sane, but to actually risk messing up my sleep schedule to finish a book is a rarity. But I needed to finish. And it was mostly worth it.
1. It's sheaf, Suzanne. -- It's not a "sheath" of arrows. It's a sheaf. I thought it was a typo the first time, then it was repeated throughout. Piss poor editing, and an annoying mistake that really could have been avoided.
1. Wolfie Muttations. -- I see no defensible purpose for this bizarre twist. I saw it coming, was begging Collins not to do it, and was left deflated by its happening. Mercifully it ended quickly and we were back on track, but this was a cheap piece of manipulation that really took away from the story for me. I didn't need any more reason to think that Panem and its Capitol were fucked. This was Collins' one bad choice. Overdetermine much?...more
I like it very much, so I feel a little sad that many friends I respect don't love it as much as I and a good deal of them just think it is mostly okay.
I love that Horza is an unlikable protagonist, but I think that bothers some.
I love that Banks delivers on the promise of his title and epigraph:
IV. DEATH BY WATER
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell And the profit and loss. A current under sea Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell He passed the stages of his age and youth Entering the whirlpool. Gentile or Jew O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
But I am certain there are those who find the finish too bleak, and more than a little hopeless.
Many are frustrated by Banks' propensity for long, detailed, action sequences and feel that these scenes disrupt the flow of the plot, whereas I love the cinematic quality of the action.
A few don't like what they see as a choppy narrative -- more linked short stories than one cohesive novel. Again, I love the episodic nature, and I love the way we grow into our knowledge of the characters through these sporadic brushes with their lives. That works for me, and seems real -- sorta like the way I connect with all the friends who don't live with me on a daily basis. We brush by each other in episodes, and all we learn about each other is in our own little short stories of companionship.
Others can't find any character to relate to and pull for, or are only able to embrace one, but I find myself liking them all, even the most unsavoury, like Fwi-Song and Mr. First (although I wouldn't want to eat dinner with them ;)).
But mostly I love what Banks is whispering in my ear while I read: "Hey, Brad. Heroes don't exist. Violence is our natural state, no matter who or what we are. Death comes to us all, somehow, someway, even seemingly immortal Minds. But that doesn't mean that life isn't beautiful. There is life in death, thus death matters. It makes life sweet, so don't forget to live it." For me, that's a message worth reading again and again.
Yep, it's good to be reminded that my bag of skin is nothing but crude, decaying matter. There's humility in that, a humility that makes me look at the black ant crawling up my leg with brotherhood rather than disdain (and it really is, right now, this second). It reminds me to recognize our shared experience. And so I let him(it?) continue his(its?) walk and don't crush him(it?) between my thumb and forefinger. I simply let him(it?) get on his way. I hope I will always be able to do the same.
April 22, 2017 -- Been a while since I spent some time in Culture space, but I came back for a journey with the Clear Air Turbulence -- except this time I listened. I don't really want to add anything to my feelings about the text. I said it well enough above, but I do want to mention that it was a pleasure to listen to Peter Kenny's narration of the book. I'll be seeking his voice out in the future. ...more
I've read this too many times to give a straight up reaction review, and I feel like any significant writing I might attempt on this book would necessI've read this too many times to give a straight up reaction review, and I feel like any significant writing I might attempt on this book would necessarily become an essay. It's too late at night for that, so maybe next time. Instead, here is what I was thinking this time through:
• I love Frank. I don't mean I love to hate him. I mean I love to love him. And I think it is one of the greatest achievements of Iain Banks' career that he makes me love Frank. I empathize with him as he maintains his Sacrifice Poles and lies in the Bomb Circle and divines the future through The Wasp Factory. I love him so much that I find it very difficult to get all righteous about his three killings.
• Which is worse? Killing your sibling? Killing your cousins? Burning a dog? Burning a flock of sheep? Experimenting on your child(ren)? Blowing up a colony of rabbits? Torturing insects? Turning an already damaged brain to mush? Is there any difference?
• I need to spend more time on the beach.
• Bone is a marvelous piece of anatomy, and skulls are downright beautiful. I would love to bequeath my bones to my children (if they want them) or a medical school rather than being buried or cremated.
• Do I spend too much time reading books?
• I would give anything for one or both of these: 1. for Banks to retell this story, right now, today, from Eric's perspective; 2. for Banks to return to the sparing style of his debut. I want short and powerful all over again.
• I am so glad they've never tried to make this into a movie.
• Water. Fire. Earth. Air. Frank is an elemental being. It's all here, and it's all important.
• I want to see some crazy European company start making Banks toys. A lifesize model of The Wasp Factory. Azad. Damage. Black River. Not to mention the action figures. The potential is amazing.
• I wish I could write like Banks. Next time I read this I am going to buy the audiobook, narrated by the author, and listen to it instead. I want to hear it with the accents intact. ...more
I gave number9dream five stars way back when I first started rating books around here, but it was far enough removed from reading the book that I didnI gave number9dream five stars way back when I first started rating books around here, but it was far enough removed from reading the book that I didn't feel I could write a review, so there is no chronicle of why I gave it five stars.
Since then I have read most of David Mitchell's stuff, but number9dream was my first, so it retains pride of place. I was turned onto it the winter I went home to Canada for Christmas because for some reason that year I decided I was going to read everything shortlisted for the Booker Prize (I did and they were all excellent reads: Oxygen, Hotel World, The Dark Room, Atonement and the winner (don't ask me how) The True History of the Kelly Gang). I knew Ian McEwan and Peter Carey, but I came to the other four authors for the first time.
number9dream was the first of the six books I read, and by the time the prize was awarded it was still my favourite.
Fourteen years later and I just spent a week and a bit dragging it around from beach to beach, rediscovering the rhythms of David Mitchell's writing -- reminding myself why I love him so much.
I don't think I would give number9dream five stars anymore, but I would still give it a strong four (I'm leaving my original stars up regardless), and I don't think my slight distance from loving this book is all that much of a drop off. In many ways the story of Eiji Miyake is irrelevant when it comes to my final feelings about this book because it wasn't so much the story that made me love number9dream as the storytelling, and no matter the characters no matter the plot, if David Mitchell is telling the story, I am going to set the book down with a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness that the storytelling is over; joy that I had the privilege to listen to his voice for a little while.
But since this is a pseudo-review, here's the one specific thing I will say about number9dream. BEST ENDING EVER (or, at least, one of my top 5). ...more