Poison Study was a pleasant surprise, presenting us with a sort of fantasy-communism in the nation of Ixia, leFire Study is a serious disappointment.
Poison Study was a pleasant surprise, presenting us with a sort of fantasy-communism in the nation of Ixia, led by a (view spoiler)[sort of fantasy-trans gendered, (hide spoiler)] benevolent dictator. It was unique and made me want to read more. Magic Study was only slightly less interesting. It moved from the fascinating world of Ixia, to the less well drawn but more familiar terrain of Sitia, a nation of magic and the perpetual enemy of Ixia. Once there, it was fun to see the heroine, Yelena, learn the depth of her magic, and it kept me wanting to read more.
Fire Study has put a halt to my interest. It is bad. Really, really bad.
Many of the fantasy elements -- particularly the magical elements -- which were interesting in the first two books have become silly (with some of the most ham-fisted heaven -purgatory - hell allusions I have ever seen). The progressiveness I imagined surrounding the books gender inclusiveness has been undermined. The world building, which looked so promising with the Ixian nation, has become unconvincing. And Yelena, as heroine, is entirely unbelievable now. She is too powerful, has too much influence, is not interesting in the least.
It is a sad decline for a book series I was thrilled to have discovered with my daughter, a series that was once full of promise but ended up lying to us. Such a shame, but I shouldn't be surprised because when a character appears in the second book named, "Moon Man," the third book is bound to blow goats. I should have known better. ...more
I'm stopping. I can't spend time with these people anymore.
Bathsheba is excruciating. She is spoiled, selfish and unkind, much like the Prince who beI'm stopping. I can't spend time with these people anymore.
Bathsheba is excruciating. She is spoiled, selfish and unkind, much like the Prince who became a Beast, and beautiful as she is reported to be she is ugly because her personality is ugly. I hear tell that she is becoming something of a feminist icon these days. I sure hope not. I can't imagine any intelligent, strong willed woman who would want to behave like a toddler throwing a fit at bedtime. It's not strength. It's selfishness.
But the men are no better. Perhaps I am stopping before I have enough information about Sergeant Troy, but he seems to be a cad of the highest order, sort of Hardy's version of Mr. Wickham, and if he is he is no less than Bathsheba deserves. Boldwood, despite being the victim of one of the cruelest pranks in literature, is an entitled prick of the highest order, and Gabriel Oak, the moralistic shepherd whose attempt to love Bathsheba is a crime against the social order (and would usually have my support simply based on the class struggle he's undertaking) is really the creepiest of stalkers.
I've no doubt that Hardy is making some truly important points about class, saying something tremendously cynical about the nature of love, and doing his best, as always, to make us see some of the ugliness that is humanity, but I can't stick around to find out. I dislike the characters too much to go on (even if that was the point)....more
It took me far too long to finish Inherent Vice. Half a year, maybe? It pissed me off at times because I was mostly committed to Pynchon, which meantIt took me far too long to finish Inherent Vice. Half a year, maybe? It pissed me off at times because I was mostly committed to Pynchon, which meant that all other fiction but one was off the limits. It’s been a long while with minimal diversification.
I am finished now, but over the course of reading Pynchon’s sprawling LA pseudo-noir, I found myself having three distinctly different responses to the book. Here is my tale of three readings.
One, the First: The first couple of months of reading Inherent Vice I couldn’t shake the idea that Pynchon had written a novelized version of a web series. Each chapter, or set piece within each chapter, was its own webisode, a short burst of happenings with a main character we find ourselves caring about in bite sized easy to digest YouTube videos.
And just as with a webseries, I at first found myself captivated, watching episode after episode in rapid succession until I got tired of the premise, the low production values and glibness and started drifting away to other things (which led me to cheat on Pynchon with Hardy, my one fictional dalliance during this period), until I actually abandoned the webseries for a bit, but as with every webseries I’ve ever started, I found myself back again determined to finish.
Two, the Second:
When my second burst of interest began and my reading picked back up, the novel as webseries analogy that had dominated my first phase gave way to Thomas Pynchon as a literary (and somehow Teflon version of) Francis Ford Coppola.
I couldn’t (and still haven’t, actually) shake(n) the idea that reading Inherent Vice was like watching Coppola’s latter films like Jack and Twixt. Flashes of the old brilliance (even in the excruciating Jack) making me ache for the memory of the undeniable and sustained brilliance of his early work (Apocalypse Now, Conversation), which makes the viewing of the later work more difficult and a little melancholy. So too with Pynchon. Inherent Vice contained some of his brilliant flashes, but mostly I was longing for Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow, and wishing that I could erase Doc Sportello’s wanderings from my mind forever and just glory in Slothrop and the rest.
Three, the Last:
By the end of the book, just a day ago, I had reached a sort of agreement with Pynchon wherein he would share his unique blend of optimistic cynicism, and I would miss Doc Sportello after all. Gone were my analogies, and all I was left with was a wish that there was more Doc out there, and that what I had of Doc had been more enjoyable. And I agreed to not regret the time spent with Inherent Vic e, even if it wasn’t my best time spent with Pynchon. ...more
I'm rereading my Taltos books these days, and my reread of Yendi didn't do it any kindness. It was an okay way to spend a few sleepless nights, but II'm rereading my Taltos books these days, and my reread of Yendi didn't do it any kindness. It was an okay way to spend a few sleepless nights, but I very nearly set it down. I suppose I kept going out of nostalgia, but it made me sad.
Now I knew, I know, going into these books that they are readable and fun, but they are also fairly light weight. Yendi is too light weight, however. Sure we get to see the coming together of Cawti and Vlad, but it didn't come anywhere near satisfying me this time, and it felt way too rushed. Sure there was plenty of Loiosh and Vlad wit in their psionic conversations, but the banter has already entered the precious (which is particularly annoying considering this is a prequel to Jhereg). Sure there was lots of intrigue, but the intrigue was way too forced, and if I had been faced with just one more Vlad-speaking-his-thoughts-aloud-while-his-friends-listen-attentively figuring it out scenes I would have screamed my house awake.
Some things are better left alone. So do I stop now? Or do I press on in my plan to reread with the belief that most of the books really are better than this one?
I am going to regret my decision, I think. ...more
Super rich superheroes who are more vigilante than hero (a DC specialty) are tough to enjoy, but their increasing willingness to break l
Green Arrow #1
Super rich superheroes who are more vigilante than hero (a DC specialty) are tough to enjoy, but their increasing willingness to break laws, to employ their riches to behave like a state with a state, to surveille, to torture, to coerce -- all illegally -- all with the breezy justification, "At least we're the good guys," is making their ilk almost unreadable for me.
When Marvel pauses to consider their "privileged" heroes, it feels like there is much more criticism going on, a recognition that they may not be as "good" as they themselves think, but DC's rich boys -- especially Green Arrow, but Batman too -- just seem to be propagandizing for the goodness of the rich, for their moral superiority, for their protection of the capitalist ideal. I need one of these joker's allies, like Naomi Singh or Alfred to do more than tell the hero they're supporting that they are uncomfortable with something they're doing; they need to remove their support and take a stand. I need them to do this if I am going to like these superheroes anymore. I suppose I will have to write a story like that myself, though.
Green Arrow #2
So a pack of jackpot supervillains, beaten up and dispatched by Green Arrow in Issue #1, set a trap for him with a young fan of theirs murdered on the internet as bait for the Emerald Archer. Arrow springs the trap, finds himself surrounded by this pack of super-jackpots, and it's all being live streamed (Ooo! How hip and relevant). It's all set up for Green Arrow to take a beating, and it is all a yawn.
This comic is moving the plot along too quickly and expecting us to follow without earning our commitment. Issue one hurt my brain a touch, but I am entering full migraine zone now.
Green Arrow #3
poor action, a preachy monologue of Ayn Rand proportions. What's to like? In addition, if you're one of those who complains about the way people are inexplicably fooled into missing the fact that Clark Kent is Superman, don't read Green Arrow. Oliver Queen/Green Arrow makes Clark Kent/Superman look like Clayface. There is NO WAY anyone who meets Oliver then seens Green Arrow one second after Oliver disappears should or could ever be fooled. It is fucking idiotic.
Green Arrow #4
Enter Blood Rose and a new arc. She's okay with guns, super strong, in love with a freak, and is yet another moron fooled into missing the Ollie connection by Green Arrow's silly green goggles. The writing has now moved from JT Krul (who did as marvelous a job on Captain Atom as the shitty job he did here) to Keith Giffen, and it is in no way an improvement. Is it the writers? Is it just the nature of Green Arrow? I think it could be the latter. I think Green Arrow, at least outside the Justice League, simply sucks.
Green Arrow #5
Toxic Sludge Freak, who likens himself to Swamp Thing (you're not you douchebag) happens to be the boyfriend (lover?) of Blood Rose, comes to kick Oliver's ass. They fight. There's a banal end twist. Thrilling. Next ....
Green Arrow #6
So the Toxic Sludge Freak is Midas, the titular villain of this volume, and his love affair with Blood Rose turns out to be a somewhat promising storyline -- but that is the only positive I can take away from Green Arrow. I hate this version of Oliver Queen; I hate the corporate machinations; I hate Green Arrow's support team (computer genius girl and tech genius boy); I hate the villains; I hate the action; I hate the book's politics. I pretty much hate this book. I was about to add Green Arrow to my file at Black Bowser. Nope. Not now.
This did not go the way I expected at all. I haven’t heard a dissenting voice from anyone about Preacher. Not one, although I’ve not looked at any ofThis did not go the way I expected at all. I haven’t heard a dissenting voice from anyone about Preacher. Not one, although I’ve not looked at any of the reviews here on goodreads. In fact, I’ve had numerous friends say, “You have to read this book,” and, “Dude, you will love this book,” and since it was all from people I trusted, loving Preacher was my expectation.
Nope. I hated this book.
First, this book is populated by the most idiotic array of stereotypes and caricatures (certainly these characters can’t be called archetypes) outside of a Circus Sideshow:
Foul-mouthed, sexed-up, lost his faith Preacher? ✓ Foul-mouthed, sexy, Preacher-loving-hating Moll? ✓ Foul-mouthed, ultra-violent Vampire (but he’s Irish. Isn’t that original? No. Not terribly.) ✓ Foul-mouthed, racist, Texas sheriff? Cormac McCarthy-style, unstoppable, amoral Saint of Killers? ✓ Cocky, arrogant, bureaucratic, disbelieving FBI Agent? ✓ Too butch, sado-masochistic, homophobic homosexual? ✓ Big city, throw-the-book-out-the-window, abusive super-cop and his bumbling partner? ✓ Overbearing warrior Angels, sexy Demons, idiotic heavenly functionary Angels? ✓ An absentee God? ✓ Dog-faced boy?✓
I find nothing compelling about this cast of assholes, and I am usually a fan of assholes. I can care about assholes if they are unique and I can believe their behaviour. Not this bunch, though.
Second, Garth Ennis is an Irishman writing about a Texan douchebag wandering the U.S., and there are times when it is distractingly obvious that Ennis is not American. His Texan characters speak in ways Texans would never speak. It might not happen often, but it happens enough that I noticed, and oddly enough, when they slip, they speak precisely like someone from Ireland. Go figure. Couldn’t this story have been told just as effectively in Dublin or Belfast as the starting point? Couldn’t the Preacher have been a priest? Perhaps the Vampire could have been a Yank, then? I think it could have been all of these things, and had it been I wouldn’t have found myself constantly being yanked out of the comic by inappropriate vocabulary and regional cadences.
Third. the humor was awful. Had one character been a smarmy dipshit, quick with the cutting, insulting banter, I probably would have loved him/her? But the fact that EVERY-SINGLE-CHARACTER (with the exception of Saint of Killers and a cop named Tool) was capable of smarmy dipshittery drove me mad. The dialogue was painfully one note -- and there was a ton of it. The dialogue just goes on and on, like a Quentin Tarantino table talk, but without the entertainment value. If this is any indication of Ennis’ usual writing, my expectations have fallen into a muddy trench; one I’d be happy to leave for the danger of No Man’s Land.
Sure there were some interesting moments and wannabe twists (all of which Ennis telegraphed too obviously), but they were not enough to save this comic for me. I worry that I expected too much, though. I truly expected greatness. I thought I was opening something on par with Alan Moore’s best, and with expectations like that there was no way Preacher Gone To Texas could succeed. For that reason alone, I will take a crack at the second volume, but Ennis better hook me with that book or I am all out....more
As a person, I have my own history of violence, and that history has led me to become obsessed, as a thinker and author, with violence as a concept. IAs a person, I have my own history of violence, and that history has led me to become obsessed, as a thinker and author, with violence as a concept. I see it everywhere. I dwell on it, am awed by it, wonder about it, write about it, dream about it, nightmare about it, loathe it and love it in turns. Thus, when I pick up a book with the title A History of Violence, I expect to read something that engages with violence consciously, something that doesn't simply use violence for visceral gratification but has a plan for the violence, is using it to say something (even if that something is something I don't like).
John Wagner's A History of Violence says many things about violence, but what bothers me is that I never once felt like the things being said were intentional. I felt like Luke in the cave on Dagobah: everything in the cave was there because I brought it with me.
Wagner's writing left me hollow and sad. He was merely telling a story, one he needed to tell, perhaps, but only to move a plot B to C, then back to A, then C to D. He seemed totally disconnected from the thematic life of his work, and I felt abandoned by him as I made my journey through the text. As I write this I think that in itself, that abandonment by the author, is a unique and potentially powerful authorial authorial -- but I don't like being the object of that action.
Moreover, I despair that someone could use the sort of violence that appears in this graphic novel with what seems to be flippant disregard of its power. Similar violence occurs in David Fincher's film Se7en (in fact, Wagner blatantly stole one of the seven killings from that movie for this book), but Fincher's use of violence feels conscious, pointed, thematically aware, and that makes all the difference for me.
Vince Locke's is scratchingly, noirishly lovely, well suited to the bleak world Wagner has written, but it only added to the alienation I felt.
I know I am going to have to come back to this book in the future and give it another read simply because it made me feel so strongly. I didn't enjoy this book at all. I put it down feeling angry, isolated and disgusted. I wish I felt like those feelings were intentional rather than incidental....more
So there's this thing that happens in post-apocalypse stories that I need to talk to you about.
You know how in a zombiepocalypse story we occassionalSo there's this thing that happens in post-apocalypse stories that I need to talk to you about.
You know how in a zombiepocalypse story we occassionally receive hints that it might be better for the women to stay safe so they can make babies? Usually it's only hints, and the male characters don't seem to want to offend the post-feminist sensibilities of the women, so instead the women tote guns and put their wombs at risk of becoming a zombie-buffet. But everyone gets along-ish, and there are usually plenty of women and men, so it doesn't seem like fertility is the most important concern.
Or you get the big, bad group of fascist men trying to turn some poor girl into a "breeder" for the new human race, but she tends to rise up, spank their patriarchal asses, escape with her girl power intact, and hook up with some nice guy with whom she's fought for survival.
And in the bleakest of apocalypses there's no hope anyway, so who gives a shit about procreation? Everyone's dead or dying, cannibalism is running rampant, society has failed, and humans are doomed to extinction. The best the survivors can do is keep hiking down some road to whatever is further down the road with the world as nothing but the road.
But I've totally fucking had it now that I've read Y: The Last Man. This book really pisses me off to no end.
I'm fine with the Amazonian self-mutilators (I can buy an angry, post-apocalyptic group of violent women). I am willing to suspend my disbelief that Yorick and his monkey make it through the manpocalypse as the only surviving Y chromosomes. I'll yawn and tolerate the Yankee setting of yet another apocalypse. I'll cringe but cope with yet another bad ass, dreadlocked, African-American woman who's the most capable and violent person around. I'll even believe that spindly little Yorick can pass as a woman as long as he has his gas mask on.
But what I won't believe, what I won't buy, where I won't suspend by disbelief, where I am not fine is with the idea that Yorick would ever, EVER, be allowed to wander around the winter of homo sapienism with one body guard, risking his testicles for some stupid, pointless, selfish, idiotic search for the love of his life and his sister. His sperm, and Ampersand's, would be the most important substances known to womankind (not because he is a man but because of sheer practicality). He would be protected whether he liked it or not. He would be imprisoned. His sperm would be used to impregnate. It would be used to find an immunity for future boys. It would be used for the survival of homo sapiens. Period.
I heard this book was really great -- a must read graphic novel. At best it is okay ... if you look past the idiocy of Yorick's wanderings, his insufferable smarminess, that stupid fucking monkey, and the poorest characterizations of women you're ever likely to see. Why two stars then? Because it isn't quite as bad as the Luna Brothers' Girls -- though it is damn close....more
I kept a watchful eye open for anything that hinted at a quality on par with Papa or Scott, but once the book started to take shape, I found myself trying, instead, to find a comparison that could accurately describe how it felt to be reading The Day of the Locust.
Imagine a clean and sober Jack Kerouac writing a novel about insane circus freaks who've escaped a mental institution, while attempting to retell The Sun Also Rises with cock fights instead of bull fights (and all the hamfistedness of the resulting metaphors), and channelling and morphing Fitzgerald's love of party-life decadence into party-life decrepitude, with a whole lot of abuse, a little bit of OCD and never-ending soap-box rants, and you've got a good picture of how The Day of the Locust feels to read.
It's not bad, but it's not good either, and I bet it would make a much better film than a novel.
The most interesting part of the book, for me, is its evocation of violence. In Faye, the book contains the only genuinely abusive female character I can remember reading, and it is frightening to watch the way she harms Homer Simpson (yep, that's really his name) both physically and emotionally. But her violence is inherited, inbred, an ineluctable part of her humanity, and just another manifestation of violence in a book full of violence. In fact, every act in the book is an act of violence. Love is violence, weakness is violence, quiet is violence, stoicism is violence, art is violence, caring is violence, kindness is violence, desire is violence, everything is violence.
I feel like all that violence could have been dealt with more effectively -- and been more meaningful -- in a short story. A story culminating in the stomping (a literal jumping up and down on the victim's back) of the little boy, Adore, by Homer (insane, at the time, and beyond any kind of responsible control) without all the crap to get us there and minus the over-the-top riot would have been an exceptional achievement rather than the meandering mess that West left us with.
Nathanael West does not belong in the pantheon of great American writers. He is no Hemingway, no Faulkner, no Steinbeck (but then I don't think F. Scott Fitzgerald belongs in the same league as those writers either). But West's interesting all the same, and if you are interested in reading about one man's vision of violence during the Great Depression in the United States, The Day of the Locust will work for you.
Or you could just read something by a drunk and stoned Jack Kerouac and really enjoy yourself....more
Surprised: I didn’t expect to like World War Z at all. I’m not even sure why. I like Brooks’ parents, so that shouldn’t have negatively impacted my expectations. I’ve loved Zombies since first I saw Return of the Living Dead in the movie theatre, so I was predisposed to like this book. So I dunno. But I had low expectations, and they were thoroughly exceeded.
It is a great idea, and Brooks’ total commitment to his mock history was convincing. There were times when I couldn’t help letting my imagination run to a parallel universe where this War had actually happened.
The best part, though, was the places Brooks took his Zombiepocalypse – places only The Walking Dead has even approached. Most Zombielit is about the outbreak. The Walking Dead takes the next step, letting us see what it would be like to be a survivor of the outbreak, what it would be like to live during the Zombie occupation, but Brooks gives us the aftermath. How he hell does the earth rebuild after something like that? Brooks takes a pretty convincing stab at imagining how, and it isn’t pretty, nor is it even all that inspiring. I buy it, though.
Fulfilled: My low expectations didn’t extend to the Zombie violence. Even with the oral history format, I expected gore and grotesquery and nastiness, and I got exactly what I expected. There were even a couple of kick ass violent – and not so violent – superlatives, like the marine-Zombies attacking divers, the madness of Yonkers (a pretty impressive moment, actually), the greed of Breckenridge Scott and his Phalanx, and the Redeker Plan (along with the Redeker Twist – which was my absolute favourite part of the book).
Disappointed: Once Brooks blew apart my low expectations with some strong writing and brilliant ideas, he created a new expectation – and a very high one that he failed to deliver on.
Brooks attempted to make his book a global chronicle of the Zombie War, and he populated World War Z with characters from nations on every continent. By the end of the book, though, they were homogenous. The Japanese folks didn’t sound Japanese. The Russian folks didn’t sound Russian. Everyone sounded American. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Brooks gave in to the temptation to make America and their “great” President the saviours of the human spirit. Yep, the Yankees led the charge to defeat the Zombies, to take the war to the Zacks rather than hiding in their fortresses and embracing safety.
We bought an antique piano today, and we were comparing middle C on our dreadfully out of tune piano and our electronic keyboard. The warbling shred of the antique piano made the kids sad because they wanted to sit down and play, but they knew they couldn’t until the piano is tuned. That sadness is exactly the way I felt about Brooks’ decision to make the USA the heroes of his War, but there’ll be no chance of a tune up to take away my sadness. ...more
• This book won the Nebula in 1980! Pretty cool for it and the author, Gregory Benford. It would have been nice for Hilary Foister to shaThe Coolness—
• This book won the Nebula in 1980! Pretty cool for it and the author, Gregory Benford. It would have been nice for Hilary Foister to share in the credit, though, considering she supposedly co-wrote this with Benford.
• It deals with tachyons! (once in a while)
• It works well as a mild sedative.
• There are some cool bits of forward thinking in this book, although none of them are truly prophetic, and they needed to be if they were going to be better than average. Benford and Foister project some terrorism in New York (which is a bit like a Sci-Fi writer suggesting that someday the Boston Red Sox would once again win the World Series), some ecological disaster, some biological disaster, some poverty and some hunger. Wow! That's bravely walking the plank, isn't it?
• This book receives much praise for its “strong” characterization, but I’ve always felt that strong characterization requires more than just time spent with the characters; it also requires a thorough understanding of at least one character’s depths and shallows. We need to get inside a character and really experience the meat of him/her. Not so here. We meet quite a few characters, mostly men, spending a lot of time with Ian Peterson (a womanizing English “gentleman”), John Renfrew (a whiny physicist from England of the nineties), and Gordon Bernstein (a whiny physicist from the US of the sixties), but I never felt like I knew any of them well, nor did I want to get to know them any better. If this really is the strongest aspect of Timescape, it is a fine example of why this book deserves no accolades.
• There is no way in hell this book deserved the Nebula award in 1980 or any other time. How it beat books like Joan D Vinge’s The Snow Queen or Walter Tevis’ Mockingbird I will never understand. This book was barely Sci-Fi, and I think I would have appreciated it far more if the clever little time messaging business had been taken out completely. A novel about Scientific competition in the sixties would have been good enough for me, and it was the story Benford and Foister were telling anyway, and I wouldn't have spent the bulk of the novel hoping for the Sci-Fi elements that never came.
• Sadly, the cool bits of forward thinking were matched by some clangers. The authors imagined a late-20th century world where all the movie theatres were closing down out of disinterest, a world where photographic film was strictly rationed and no digital cameras were invented to pick up the slack (which wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the tachyon messenger was sending what amounted to digital images), a world where a woman being a housewife was expected by everyone everywhere, which leads me too ....
• The portrayal of women in this book annoyed me constantly. It wasn’t that Benford (not to mention his ghostly partner because he didn’t, after all) was misogynistic. I didn’t sense any hatred of women in his writing. What was clearly present, however, was the cloistered attitude of an academic in a field that – in the Eighties – kept women firmly out of its ranks. It is the writing of a man out of touch with the changing social conventions of his day, which translated into an inability to foresee the way social conventions would be formed seventeen years later. Benford’s downfall is a lazy acceptance of patriarchy and a lack of imagination for past, present, and future gender roles.
• The authors’ sickening defence of those three unassailable pillars of benevolence: England, the USA and the educated middle class. Puke, puke, puke.
• Racism towards the whole of South America, with special attention given to Brazil and Argentina. The bulk of the ecological blame falls to Brazil for their destruction of the rainforests, but there is no mention, anywhere in the book, of the worldwide market forces that must motivate such destruction.
• Page 413-414 of my copy – which I received as a bookmooch – are missing. It looks like someone took an Xacto knife to the page, and I am dying to know why and what the hell I am missing. If any of you have a copy of this book, I would appreciate a photocopy of the pages so I can read them and add them to my copy. I suppose it’s not a big deal, though, since the book was far from impressive.
• Finally ... JFK survives! And there was definitely only one shooter. Whew....more
I despise Quentin Coldwater, but I am pretty sure that's not why I dislike this book. Unsavoury or downright unlikable protagonists are rarely a problI despise Quentin Coldwater, but I am pretty sure that's not why I dislike this book. Unsavoury or downright unlikable protagonists are rarely a problem for me, and sometimes I can love a book just because they are so unsympathetic.
Quentin is judgemental, weak, whiny, entitled, lazy, mean, superior, selfish, self-absorbed, indecisive, and a whole lot more that I can't call to mind at the moment. He is not a nice boy. He is, and perhaps intentionally so, a difficult character to feel anything positive for, yet he never does anything to deserve the abuse he takes at the hands of his lover/ex-girlfriend, Alice.
I've seen worse scenes of abuse in all sorts of places, and far more graphically disturbing scenes, but all those scenes I am thinking of had the distinction of being framed as abusive and/or disturbing. Quentin's beating at the hands of Alice, however, is particularly sickening because we are told that Quentin deserves what he gets.
What does he get? Well, he gets sucker punched by Alice who is holding a magical button, which works a bit like a roll of quarters in her fist, and Quentin's eye takes a serious lashing, so much so that his "orbital socket" is seriously traumatized, then Alice goes on to smack him about for a while despite his attempts to get her to stop attacking and talk; the only talking she is willing to do is to belittle him throughout his beating, focusing on his character flaws and destroying him emotionally rather than focusing on his betrayal until she finally threatens to murder him with her superior magic.
Throughout this assault, Quentin takes full responsibility for his beating (because he had a threesome outside his relationship with Alice), accepts that he is to blame for hurting her and is deserving of her abuse (because he inexcusably had a threesome with some close friends when his girlfriend, not his fiance nor his spouse, shut him out emotionally for weeks), and he never once questions what Alice has done to him.
As the story progresses, Quentin continues to grovel at the feet of his abuser, seeking to make amends for his "betrayal" while fully "understanding" why he deserves the abuse. But what is worse is the reaction of his friends to the abuse -- especially the other members of his threesome. He is consistently mocked and teased for his physical "weakness," no one bothers to care or worry about his emotional and physical wounds, and he is victim blamed in the worst possible ways.
As a longtime victim of abuse, albeit from a parent rather than a partner, this entire section of The Magicians marred everything that came before and everything that followed. It also made me insanely uncomfortable, depressing the hell out of me on multiple levels. I have never used this word before in connection with myself, but I can honestly say I was triggered by the abuse of Quentin.
So now I am back to my beginning: I hated Quentin from the first moments of the book. That never changed. And he wasn't a good guy in any way. Should he have cheated? Maybe not, but as with most acts of adultery it wasn't one sided (in this case there were four sides). What I do know, however, is that nothing Quentin was and nothing Quentin did can justify Alice's abuse, the shame that made him accept blame for his own abuse or the responses of the others in his life.
There's something to be said for knowing the answer to a mystery while you're reading a mystery. I watched the first season of Wallander, of which OneThere's something to be said for knowing the answer to a mystery while you're reading a mystery. I watched the first season of Wallander, of which One Step Behind was the last episode, before ever cracking a Wallander book, yet it didn't hurt my experience reading the book. Henning Mankell did that quite well on his own (but more on that later).
When the book opened, and Wallander's colleague, Svedberg, was found murdered in his flat, I was thrilled with knowing who the killer was and how the killer was related to his/her past and future victims. The myriad clues that Wallander, Höglund and Martinsson were missing were clear to me in a way they wouldn't have been if I was reading this without prior knowledge (though I am quite observant in a literary-Sherlock way); I had no investigative work to do, so I could just pick up the clues and move along.
What this allowed me to do, in turn, was pay more attention to the characters. I was able to settle into the rhythms of their work, their relationships and their problems, which pulled me deep into the story at a rapid rate. It started well. I was enjoying One Step Behind more than any other Wallander I've read, then my enjoyment began to fall apart in the most unexpected ways.
I should mention, here, that while I was reading this Wallander I was listening (for the second time) to Sjowall & Wahloo's The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. I've found the Martin Beck books to be superior to the Wallander books, so I shouldn't be surprised that One Step Behind couldn't match its forebear, but the area in which Mankell's creation suffered most in comparison was the attitude towards the killer. Sjowall & Wahloo were not believers in the pure madman, the evil killer for the sake of evil -- nor am I. So Mankell's decision to cast his One Step Behind killer with that mould, to let a dust mote debate float throughout the book about the nature of the killer, then end it with the killer being mad and evil, left me disappointed.
Not nearly so disappointed, however, as I was at Wallander's personal turn as Dirty Harry. He was every bad Hollywood cop cliché: he was the unorthodox but effective copper; he was the cop obsessed with catching his (wo)man, all else be damned; he was self-righteous and full of venom for everyone he judged; he took unnecessary risks, put others in danger, fought off meddling bureaucrats, broke laws, all in the name of justice. I had come to expect more from Kurt Wallander in Henning Mankell's books, and the early stages of One Step Behind had promised that I would get what I expected. But no. All I got was disappointment.
What started as potentially my most favourite Wallander book turned into my least. I think I will watch the BBC version again soon (I've not seen it in a long time), and see if Wallander is as Hollywood there as he is in Mankell's pages. I sure hope not. ...more
• The cover art by Stephen Youll is killer in a cheesy old movie way. So killer that it made me buy this book against my better judgementThe Coolness—
• The cover art by Stephen Youll is killer in a cheesy old movie way. So killer that it made me buy this book against my better judgement. The Gill-man on the cover, looking like he’s just risen from the swamp, dripping water from his forearms with some aquatic flora hanging loose from his chitinous armour, is a hoot, and coupled with old B-movie, Creature font, it is impossible to resist.
• Cody and Brice are nude. A lot! That’s what happens, I guess, when you’re back in the Devonian with the one that you love and no society is around to tell you to keep your clothes on.
• Zombie Gill-men!
• There’s this kick ass burial ritual for the “civilized” Gill-men where they liquefy their dead and return them to The Mother. I would love to have seen this used better in a different context. But it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
• You can’t have a good novel without an issue to revolve around, or at least that’s what I imagine Hackosaurid di Filippo’s creative writing teacher telling him. So di Filippo does the responsible thing and throws in some environmentalism for us. The world’s a mess in 2015 because of of our destruction of the environment, so good ol’ boy Brice wants to splice us together with a Gill-man to save our species from the eventual destruction our industrialization has wrought. Don’t worry, though, there’s no crisis or craziness happening when Brice goes back. Just an increase in temperatures and air conditioning. This could have been an excellent addition if it had been handled with some subtlety, but Hackosaurids are not known for their subtlety. They’re more like T-Rexes trying to be stealthy.
• The stupidity of Cody and Brice was sorta funny to begin with, but then it just gets annoying. What a pair of idiots. Still, it’s really easy to buy their stupidity, so they deserve everything they get. But then the super-genius who created the time machine adds his stupidity to the mix, and the Gill-People are just as stupid as all of them, so the stupidity is interminable and painful.
• There is some really, and I mean REALLY, crappy wish fulfillment going on in this book. Case in point: “You own every part of me now, Brice, whether you ever wanted to or not. Don’t ever forget that.” You see, Cody was almost eaten by a seventy foot, prehistoric shark, but her geeky, marine biologist boyfriend, Brice just happen to nuke it from his kayak with a kick ass automatic rifle, saving her life. Then we get this little vow of personal enslavement, just before a crazy tumble in the bog between the two randy lovers, and all so Brice can daydream about the amazing foreplay that is a near death experience. Gill-man alive!
• AND there is some seriously shitty dialogue. Just consider this gem from Hackosaurid di Filippo when his heroes (and I use the term loosely), lose their iPod time machine and discover they’re stuck in the Devonian: “Brice showed Cody the empty holster on his hip. He tried to be light about their devastating loss. ‘Our ticket home’s been punched already. No mileage left.’” Umm ... need I say more?
• The Gill-folk are telepaths and water shapers and earth shapers and air shapers and aliens! Wow! Don’t you just love sci-fantasy? It’s like the cheesiest X-Men story ever.
• Gill-Folk = Noble Savages = Devonian Utopia. Then the Gill Zombies come and screw it all up. But the “base-line” Gill-People remain so nice and so understanding and soooooo peaceful. Oh joy, oh Devonian bliss. Silly assed foolishness.
• Most of the book. But at least it is better than The Spell of Zalanon. Barely. I better get a good pulpy fix soon our my head is going to explode. Trash is good, but vomit is unacceptable....more
The Unit is billed as a Sci-Fi dystopia. If so, it's just barely so. It's speculative with a lower case "s" but little more than that.
Told in the firsThe Unit is billed as a Sci-Fi dystopia. If so, it's just barely so. It's speculative with a lower case "s" but little more than that.
Told in the first person by Dorrit Weger -- the most insipid, pathetic, annoying narrator I've read in years -- The Unit is about a future in Sweden where old "dispensable" people (women at fifty and men at sixty who have no families or partners who've avowed love for them), are harvested for their organs and made subjects for medical testing while living the cushiest of lives in a utopian Organ Bank Unit, complete with live and movie theatres, art gallery, library, great food, lovely little shops, fantastic fitness facilities, and a gorgeous park straight out of a Monet painting.
And they live there charmed little end of life until their final donation when the surgeons take their senior citizen heart or pancreas or liver or some other big organ and give it to someone who's needed in the outside world, when, of course, they die. Boo hoo. I am so sad for them. Or I'm supposed to be, but Ninni Holqvist managed to strip me of pity and just fill me full of "Suck it up!"
And that's just my emotional response.
How on earth are senior citizen organs viable options -- on a large scale -- for transplant into youths? Moreover, Holmqvist goes to great lengths to constantly remind us that tobacco and alcohol are not allowed in the Unit because of the deleterious effects they have on the residents bodies, but apparently experimental radiation therapies, hormone therapies and psychotropic drugs have no such impacts, since subjects give organs even after their own health fails because of the testing. What?!
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Holmqvist's political and philosophical concepts are poorly executed. Her male characters are poorly drawn. Her pacing is just plain poor. There is no suspense, no tension and nothing compelling. But there are plenty of cheese sandwiches and Dorrit's constant obsession with the dog she left behind to keep us going.
I almost gave this book a second star, though, because the ending was precisely what Dorrit would have done in the situation in which she found herself. But nope. Even the two decent sex scenes couldn't overcome my disdain. I hated this book too much for that or that. So one star.
I hope Ms. Holmqvist is one of those pretentious "literary" authors who deny that their work is Science Fiction because I expect my Sci-Fi to be good, and I'd hate to have her sully my favourite genre with the presence of this book. Steer clear, my friends, steer clear. ...more
I didn't like Metropole, but I expected to. The reviews I'd read around here said it was excellent. The quotes on the front and back covers raved (eveI didn't like Metropole, but I expected to. The reviews I'd read around here said it was excellent. The quotes on the front and back covers raved (even going so far as to compare it to Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Trial).
There were times when I nearly quit reading, then some tiny moment recaptured my attention (sometimes a quite good moment, but most times a moment that pissed me off), so I toughed it out. I am suppose I am glad I did, but I don't recommend it even though I can't embrace hating Ferenc Karinthy's book.
But here are the 5 things I seriously disliked about this book and the three things that fractionally mitigate my dislike, thereby earning Metropole a second star.
1. The first half of this book was written by a linguist for linguists, dallying forever over matters of the anonymous city's gibberish. I would love to hear what a linguist thinks of this book (I'll mail you my copy if you haven't already read this Manny), but I found myself getting bored far too often.
2. Budai, the protagonist, is a bit of an idiot, although he brags up his intelligence constantly. Just as I felt with Blindness (although I can't remember particulars of that book anymore), the protagonist left too many possibilities untried. He wasn't imaginative enough in his attempts to communicate with others or escape his pseudo-captivity or achieve any of his stated goals. This kind of behaviour drives me crazy, particularly when it isn't clear that the author recognizes the shortcomings of his own characters.
3. Budai is a rapist, and he thinks his raping of Epepe/Dede/Gyegyegye/etc. (whatever her name is) is the finest, most intimate, most mutually satisfying love making he's ever encountered.
4. There's this skyscraper in the story that so blatantly stands in for the Tower of Babel that I winced whenever Budai counted the new floors.
5. Boo hoo. Seriously. Get a grip, Budai. I just couldn't care about you, fella.
1. How can one possibly translate a book by a Hungarian Linguist about a city with an incomprehensible language without a significant part of the story being lost in translation? I don't think it can be done, so I must concede that Metropole is very likely better in the original Hungarian.
2. There was a moment when I thought the book was making a powerful point about how close all we city dwellers are from finding ourselves homeless on the streets of our concrete habitats. It was the best two pages of the book. I wanted more.
3. There was something about Epepe/Dede/Gyegyegye/etc., something vulnerable and touching, that I liked. I wonder if Metropole would have been more compelling from her perspective. Even if not, I think I would have liked it more.
Now to dumb myself down with a little Sookie. ...more
On every excruciating page of this around Europe and Asia whine-fest, I wanted to shake your self-righteouPaul Theroux...you are a miserable bastard.
On every excruciating page of this around Europe and Asia whine-fest, I wanted to shake your self-righteous little New England prick shoulders and beat some enjoyment into your crabby-bastardness.
The trains are late or crowded or smelly -- waaaaah!
The food is crappy or elsewhere or non-existent -- waaaaah! waaaaah!
The service is poor or sarcastic or requiring bribes (sorry..."baksheesh." Boy are you ever cool and in the know) -- waaaaah! waaaaah! fucking waaaaah!
Get over it, Paul. You left your family for a four month excursion on the railways of the world, a trip I would die to experience, and you're busy pissing and moaning about having to experience the very thing you were on the tracks to experience -- life.
Where is your joy? Where is your excitement at hanging out with literary cats that are far more talented than you? Where's your sense of adventure? Wrapped up in the fucking books you were reading, that's where. How could you sit through Afghanistan and Russia and everywhere else with your nose in Dickens, shunning all but the most obnoxious Anglo-Saxon company? How?! (the answer probably has something to do with the fact that you're a Dickens fan, actually, but I digress).
I can't believe that The Great Railway Bazaar -- this piece of excruciating chauvinistic, Cold War, holier-than-thou trash -- is one of the essential works of travel literature. But it is. And I suppose that's why you're Paul Theroux, and I'm not.
Silly me for thinking that travel literature was supposed to be about the the joy of flirting with something beyond my experience, enjoying other people enjoying life, but what do I know? I haven't traveled on the rails of the world like you have. Maybe the whole world does suck, just as you say, and the only good travel literature is that which is misanthropic.
If that's the case, Mr. Theroux...YOU are the master. ...more
So like all Chuck Palahniuk books, Lullaby hooks me and gets me jazzed right at the start. It feels like sitting in a bar with the scruffy, fat guy wiSo like all Chuck Palahniuk books, Lullaby hooks me and gets me jazzed right at the start. It feels like sitting in a bar with the scruffy, fat guy with the greasy hair and the ratty jeans who has a brain that I didn't expect, and I listen to him riff all night about trivial stories of trivial things that add up to something profound.
I get this feeling and I want to listen to the guy fill me up with profundity. It's the same with Lullaby. I start reading Palahniuk, and I have to keep reading.
But then somewhere along the way -- as with most Palahniuk books since Survivor -- the fat guy goes to take a piss and my stool is taken by Palahniuk himself. Chuck's sitting there pontificating, and suddenly it's not compelling. It's just annoying. Picture watching Chuck masturbating over the dead and stinking corpse of Fight Club, trying to squeeze out some seed of anything that isn't a caricatured derivative of his own creative juices and you can picture how I feel midway through Lullaby.
But I continue because I am a masochist. And because the hint of Chuck's genius, which sowed the seed of Fincher's greater genius, is a whisper that I long to hear burst into full resounding song. I want to feel my atoms scattered to the wind by a spell as powerful as the "culling song," and I feel Chuck P's got it in him. So I enjoy the pain, sufferingly, and I hope for better than the whimper I've come to expect.
Lullaby surprises me in the end. In the end, it's not a whimper. It's clever. It's got a nice balance with the rest of the tale. It makes me smirk. But it isn't a roar either. It's not that maelstrom of creativity I have been desiring, so I am let down again. I wish Lullaby had been a short story because it could have taken it's place beside the Secret Sharer or Snows of Kilimanjaro as one of the great works of literature. Instead it is mediocre with some brilliant bits that are all Palahniuk.
I am so pissed off after reading Therefore Repent that I would love to spoil the hell out of the book for everyone and do it without putting on the spI am so pissed off after reading Therefore Repent that I would love to spoil the hell out of the book for everyone and do it without putting on the spoiler (view spoiler)[nope ... not going to do it (hide spoiler)] concealer.
It has a great concept.
It had beautiful pencils, some of the most beautiful I've seen.
It had cool ideas.
But it blew everything it had going for it by being nothing more than the beginning of a beginning with no middle or end. Too many threads, too many subplots, too much promise teased us into interest and then went nowhere because the book is too short by about 480 pages. Talking dogs, homogenous angels, demons, people regaining magic and on and on and on -- they are all gestating, and they are never given the birth they deserve.
What a disappointing load of crap. And the ending was an amateurish cheat. And it was delivered with an air of "Boy! Aren't we clever?!" which made me livid.
Huge disappointment since I loved the only other thing I've read by Munroe -- Angry Young Spaceman. I think I may have to read that again and see if I was just so damn sick at the time (I was suffering from a brutal case of bronchitis) that I couldn't discern quality.
Here I am writing a review after only one hundred and seven pages. It's not my policy, but I have enough to say that I think this early review is valiHere I am writing a review after only one hundred and seven pages. It's not my policy, but I have enough to say that I think this early review is valid.
The entire first section of Knights of the Black and White, called Beginnings by Jack Whyte, is the biggest, clunkiest most useless piece of exposition I have ever read. It is a classic example of an author's cerebral, pre-writing work spilling over into their novel without any thought for pacing, necessity or readability. Indeed, it took only three pages of Awakenings, the second part of the novel, to see that this is where the novel truly begins. This is another fine example of what Shane Joseph recently described as "only us Plebs needing a copy editor." Someone should have told Mr. Whyte to reel it in and cut Beginnings; sadly, no one did.
But this isn't the only issue I have with Knights of the Black and White. Does the following passage ring any bells for anyone who has read a Whyte book in the past: "Godfrey's face twisted in a frustrated grimace. 'I know what I want to ask you, but I don't know how to put into words properly. Let me think about it for a moment.'
'Think as long as you wish. I'll wait,' Hugh lay back and closed his eyes again.'"
Substitute Arthur Pendragon for Godfrey and Caius Merlyn Britannicus for Hugh and you've got every discussion Whyte's characters ever had in the Dream of Eagles series, and its subsequent books. Does anyone actually ruminate in such a way when they talk to a close friend? Maybe there are a few who do this, but they must be in a very small minority. Regardless, the similarity is instantly off-putting, and it makes me want to put down the Knights of the Black and White so I can avoid wasting my time. But, of course, I won't.
I am doomed to read the whole book. I only hope my tentative rating of two stars can be overcome by something truly inspired, but I don't think I'll submerge myself in the tub in anticipation.
I may add more to this when I am finished reading, so stay tuned.
So much for being doomed to finish. I can't do it; I can't and won't go on. I am BORED. Whyte hasn't created a single character for me to care about. It isn't very often I put away a book before I'm done, particularly without plans to give it another try, but I am done with The Knights of the Black and White.
I hoped for more, but I got less than I hoped. I would love to give this book one star, but I don't feel it's fair to change my initial rating when I won't be finishing the book. So two is where it will stay.
I really need to see the movie An Education. Nick Hornby was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and the critics thought he did a prettyI really need to see the movie An Education. Nick Hornby was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and the critics thought he did a pretty fine job. I also heard that his YA novel, Slam was fine. I'd like to see Hornby doing a fine job because I've pretty much given up on him.
I loved Fever Pitch; it is part of my personal mythology (I am an Arsenal fan, and it is very nearly a bible to Gooners). I also loved High Fidelity: slacker, music loving greatness. But since that brace of excellence, Hornby has been on a poor run of form.
His lowest point, for me, is How to Be Good. I am not usually one to be too critical of derivative works, believing as I do that the bulk of writing is derivative of something, but what I can't stand is an author who derives material from himself. Everything he does here is something he's done better somewhere else.
He did the miserable bastard and music appreciation better in High Fidelity, where he also did relationships better. He did middle aged, male redemption better, though not much better, in About a Boy. And he wrote much, much better in Fever Pitch even if it was his first book.
For a man who loves to joke with plenty of bitterness that he'll never win the Booker Prize, he sure produces plenty of drivel (come to think of it, maybe he'll win the Booker Prize anyway. Drivel seems to work).
I'm probably not being fair, but I've really loved Hornby's work, and I want to love it again. It's sorta like being an Arsenal fan right now. I love Wenger and what he brought to the club, but another transfer window has past and we've still got Almunia in net and Wenger's talking up the same old crap: "youth," "belief," "patience."
Fuck all that. I want a trophy this season. And I want Nick Hornby to get back to "being good" himself, not just writing about some wanker and his experiment with the homeless. ...more
I know this is supposed to be a scary story, and I know that it is the much lauded Henry James who wrote it, but The Turn of the Screw never grabs meI know this is supposed to be a scary story, and I know that it is the much lauded Henry James who wrote it, but The Turn of the Screw never grabs me the way I hope it will or think it should. It's just not chilling to me, and that's what I want in a ghost story.
That doesn't mean it's without merit -- or perceived merit -- because this is James, after all. When I look at it as the story of an extremely disturbed and unreliable Governess being filtered through a nameless narrator, it takes on so much more depth than the average "scary story." These dual perspectives raise all sorts of questions about the veracity of the tale, whether or not the story-ending death is a murder, and whether the ghosts of Quint and Jessel are figments of an overactive, Romantic/Gothic imagination. And the potential readings spin off from there into politics, intertextuality, psychology, hyperreality and more.
I always wonder, though, if because it's James, I find myself digging much deeper than I was meant to in this tale. Is it possible that James was really just telling a good ghost story? Spinning a yarn? Is it possible that James' reputation, his literary chops, make this tale impossible for me to enjoy as a horror story? Is it possible that I read The Turn of the Screw too deeply?
I think the answer to all these questions is "yes" -- at least for me -- because what I really want when I read a ghost story is a chance to be shivered. I want to be induced to run around the house looking into dark corners and under beds, making sure no one is lurking about and waiting for me to go to sleep so they can paralyze me and gut me with a knife (sorry...I'm okay now). What I don't want is to be so conscious of the writing itself that the shivers never set in -- and that's what happens to me with The Turn of the Screw.
For pure fear, I'll take Poe over James anytime. You're just too damn intellectual to scare me, HJ. Sorry....more
I must give credit where credit is due. True History of the Kelly Gang is the one and only Peter Carey book I have ever been able to finish, so that hI must give credit where credit is due. True History of the Kelly Gang is the one and only Peter Carey book I have ever been able to finish, so that has to count for something.
I know I am supposed to love Oscar and Lucinda and The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, both of which are on my shelf and both of which I have tried and failed to get through, but I find them excruciating. The ideas seem compelling enough, but there is something about Carey's prose that keeps me at a distance. His writing refuses to excite me.
This is not to say that Carey's winner is a bad read. It's fine. It's a cute, Hollywood-style, Australian-Robin Hood fairy tale. There's some violence, some vengeance, some fighting for freedom, and a rebel that we're manipulated into loving. Thus it made a perfect, low budget, Heath Ledger movie. So no...it's not terrible.
It was good but banal. It was comfortable, likable, diverting and ultimately forgettable. It made me want to try Carey's other books again...and I did, but I put them back on the shelf...again...and there they remain.
Third time through, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (DADoES?) hasn't improved for me one jot, and I fear it is a failure on my part because nThird time through, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (DADoES?) hasn't improved for me one jot, and I fear it is a failure on my part because no matter how hard I've tried I can't figure out what Dick was trying to do. To me, DADoES? is a hot mess, like an egg scramble packed with too many dissimilar peppers and herbs. You eat it because you're hungry and its there, and you keep trying to figure out what that elusive flavour is, but by the time you're finished you are still hungry and the flavour still eludes you.
The one thing of which I am confident is that Blade Runner is precisely not about what DADoES? is about. Blade Runner pulled one spice, through in a juicy red pepper, a red onion and some cheese and made a gorgeous egg scramble -- absolutely nothing like what Dick was cooking.
The meaning in DADoES? lies somewhere in the tension beween Mercerism, media consumption, reality and humanism (belief systems clashing in perpetuity? mindlessness? reality? I don't know), but I don't think even Dick's twisted mind was sure exactly what the meaning of his book was supposed to be.
Yet I still find myself liking this book (perhaps it has to do with my love of Blade Runner) and coming back to it from time to time. Maybe someday I will find a unifying theory for this book, or just figure out what that taste is underlying the hot mess of eggs it puts in front of me.
Or maybe I should just stop reading this book forever and have done with this fruitless search for elusive meaning.