Honestly, the two-star rating isn't Vonnegut's fault. I'm sure this is a really good book, but I just didn't get it when I read it. Nor was I in the c...moreHonestly, the two-star rating isn't Vonnegut's fault. I'm sure this is a really good book, but I just didn't get it when I read it. Nor was I in the correct mood to appreciate it. I need to reread this one the next time I go on a Kurt Vonnegut binge. (less)
A friend has been recommending I read some of the Conan books. This was my first venture into the world of Conan, and here's what I think.
Conan is lik...moreA friend has been recommending I read some of the Conan books. This was my first venture into the world of Conan, and here's what I think.
Conan is like Nancy Drew for heavy metal fans. No character development, no new or unusual characters anywhere, and even the supernatural beasts and demons aren't written about in a way that makes them seem strange or amazing.
You can often sense Howard's passion for writing, but the stories are unexceptional, and would make average plot lines for comic books. I truly enjoyed the first short story in this book, but by the time I was halfway through this 200 page book, I was more than ready to move on and read something with a little more substance.(less)
Gorey's specialty is writing horrific stories about the bad things that happen to unfortunate children. His books seem designed to give little kids ni...moreGorey's specialty is writing horrific stories about the bad things that happen to unfortunate children. His books seem designed to give little kids nightmares, and I have a hunch that they are often successful. They are sick, deadpan, mean-spirited and often hilarious. This is one of my very favorites.
'Tis the story of a young child who has a tragic and very brief life, every page packing on another misery for the little tyke to deal with, culminating in the child's unceremonious and highly ironic death. Death, abuse, sickness, fear and suffering are the major ingredients of the child's life, and the story is brought to life through Gorey's marvellous illustrations. I'm not giving any of the details because that would just take the fun out of it.
This is one of my very favorite Gorey books and would be a good starting place for someone new to him. But, if you don't like your humor black as the blackest black that ever blacked, perhaps "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" would be a better starting place: it's more overtly funny, while this one has such a tragic end that you have to be pretty twisted to laugh at it. That didn't stop me, of course. (less)
A singsong story by Edward Gorey full of cheerful black and grey illustrations
each one of a kid at the moment they did meet a tragic and early terminati...moreA singsong story by Edward Gorey full of cheerful black and grey illustrations
each one of a kid at the moment they did meet a tragic and early termination.
By wolf maw and knife they depart from this life, by drowning, falling and decapitation
until each one is slewn and their bodies are strewn all about Gorey's morbid imagination.
The funniest aspect of this, I believe, is the way each picture shows the child right before the tragedy occurs. For instance, the girl about to die of poisoning is shown sitting down with her hand on her tummy, making a slightly worried face. The girl who gets impaled is shown tossing a big metal rod up in the air. And I just love the little boy that dies of ennui. (less)
There were some elements of this book I liked quite a bit. The characters stumble through a dangerous world peopled by eccentrics who are, often as no...moreThere were some elements of this book I liked quite a bit. The characters stumble through a dangerous world peopled by eccentrics who are, often as not, dangerous. The book builds to a surprising and dark conclusion that, in my opinion, disappointed.
I really enjoy the work of this author. But, this is an earlier and weaker offering than what I've read by him before.
In Cold Blood was a rare combination: it was a "page turner" that kept me wrapped in the mystery of the crime throughout, and it was also a book with...moreIn Cold Blood was a rare combination: it was a "page turner" that kept me wrapped in the mystery of the crime throughout, and it was also a book with marvellous depth and richness. I recommend this very highly. It's the best book I've read in a long time.(less)
I was quite skeptical of this book for the first third or so, but it ended up being pretty good. This is Irving's first novel, and is definitely the w...moreI was quite skeptical of this book for the first third or so, but it ended up being pretty good. This is Irving's first novel, and is definitely the weakest of his books I've yet to read, but it's still a memorable book. (less)
If only I'd known about this book when I was a kid. I enjoyed it as an adult, but I would've loved it back when I was devouring the Chronicles of Narn...moreIf only I'd known about this book when I was a kid. I enjoyed it as an adult, but I would've loved it back when I was devouring the Chronicles of Narnia. It's about three children who stumble their way into an epic battle for good and evil, searching for the holy grail. The children are charming, the story moves swiftly enough, the badguys are menacing, and everything wraps up in about 200 pages. Translation: this was a fun read.
That said, there was nothing here that I found especially surprising. Events were somewhat predictable and no characters in particular stood out as especially memorable. Hence the three star rating. I'm a harsh grader.
I enjoyed this book enough that I'll definitely continue reading the series soon. (less)
World War II was won by the Germans. Now, most of the world is divided up between the Nazi party and Japan. American culture has been overriden by the...moreWorld War II was won by the Germans. Now, most of the world is divided up between the Nazi party and Japan. American culture has been overriden by the cultures in power (for instance, just about everyone uses the I Ching to make decisions). There is no new American art, although there's a large demand for relics from earlier time periods, such as old American guns, Mickey Mouse watches, etc.
In this world, an author has written a book imagining what the world would be like if the Allies had won the war called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. It's highly controversial, and in Nazi territory, it's illegal to read or to own.
I enjoyed seeing how the different characters' stories ended up interweaving by the end of the book, and it was fun seeing this reimagining of the world. Considering how short this book was and how many protagonists it has, Philip Dick has done well at making all of them complex characters.
The only critisism I have for this book is that Dick's use of language for a couple of the main characters is off-putting and hard to follow. And, for such a short book, it's rather slow. This is, in part, because you keep meeting new main characters for almost half the book's length. Everything ends up coming together, however, and the last half of the book was much more fun.
This was the first Dick book I've read (I just had to say it. I know, I'm mentally in fourth grade.), and I'm still up in the air about him. I've heard some very good things, so I'm going to keep reading him, but I'm in no hurry to jump into the next book. I think it's time for something light and goofy. Then, maybe I'll return to Bas-Lag.(less)
This is the first "soft SF" book I've read, and perhaps the softer side is what I prefer. One of my chief complaints about "hard" science fiction is t...moreThis is the first "soft SF" book I've read, and perhaps the softer side is what I prefer. One of my chief complaints about "hard" science fiction is the lack of character development, and the intense focus on . . . well. . . the science of it. Frankly, I've always been more interested in characters. This book is about characters.
The story follows an ambassador to the planet Winter. The ambassador is human, but the people of Winter are androgynous- they are neither male nor female until Kemmer, a few days each month, wherein they become briefly either male or female. Only during this time do the people of Winter have sex, and the rest of the time, they're devoid of the urge.
Our main character, Ai, is a man's man. He often refers to things as "womanly" and struggles with coming to terms with the sexlessness of those around him. His mind is continually trying to classify those he meets as one sex or the other, and so do I as a reader. The way people act towards other people is, in so many ways, determined by one's own sex and the sex of the other. As Ai says at one point, the biggest determiner of our course in life is whether we're born a man or a woman. (This isn't a real quote, but the idea is essentially the same as Ai's statement. As usual, I'm too lazy to give you a direct quotation.)
I don't want to ruin the storyline, but I will say that the politics on Winter are very reminiscent of Earthly politics, even though the concept of war doesn't exist. Apparently the people of Winter don't have the necessary testosterone to get into wars. Assassinations, political betrayals, and other unsavory things happen in abundance, though.
(SPOILER ALERT: Mild spoils ahead) This book is definitely worth multiple reads. It wrestles with Big Ideas like duality (between man & woman, man & nature) and sexuality. Ai has some moments of sexual tension with "women," but the fact that they could just as easily have become men hovers over these experiences, and the book ends without him getting any poontang. Perhaps a modern book would've wrestled even more with the sexual ambiguity Ai faced in his time on the planet. But, this was written in the sixties, during the time when Le Guin was still writing as "an honorary man, and not as a woman" (almost a direct quote), so she probably didn't want to delve too deep into an aspect of the book that might become too weird for many of her readers.
Anyway, I loved this book, and I expect I'll be reading a lot more of Le Guin's work in the future. A lot of science fiction revels in the foreign-ness of other planets and other life forms; in The Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin revels in the same-ness of this other planets experience of living. I recommend this book very highly. (less)
This is a dobby story about some young droogs (total prestoopniks), all the time dratsing and doing the ultra-violence. Alex, the leader, gets left od...moreThis is a dobby story about some young droogs (total prestoopniks), all the time dratsing and doing the ultra-violence. Alex, the leader, gets left oddy knocky after a botched robbery and gets picked up by the millicents, and that's when things get really bezoomny.
A Clockwork Orange is really less about violence and more about the experience of no longer "being yourself," no longer having a choice in your actions . . or is it about what it means to have freedom, and how dehumanizing it is to give up freedom for the sake of safety?
*SPOILERS* It's about a lot of things. And, as a reader, you have at least a little empathy for Alex, the murdering rapist who ends up having his free will taken away via Pavlovian conditioning. You see a man who physically CAN'T choose to act badly, and you see what this does to him.
If the main character were a minor criminal and not fully evil, this book would've been something much less challenging. But Alex is an evil, remorseless sonuvabitch, which forces us to really question whether the things done to him could EVER be considered ethically permissable.
I suspect this book was inspired in part by electroshock therapy. I could be totally off, but there it is. Umm, guess that's the end of THAT thought.
AND I HAVEN'T EVEN MENTIONED THE LANGUAGE! Alex speaks with a hella lot of slang, some of it Russian-influenced, most of it simply from the strange, fucked up recesses of Burgess's brain. You read slower than usual so you can decode the language, but it is very much worth it because the slang is hilarious and brilliant.
Burgess now dismisses this book as something he knocked out in three weeks to pay the bills, but I have a hunch he's just bitter that his other books have never matched the success of this early novel. It was one of my very favorites when I was in high school, but I can't say it's still one of those books I get teary-eyed as I ponder. It is terrific, though. If you haven't read it, and you don't get nauseous easily, and you don't mind sticking with it long enough to figure out what the crap is going on with the language, this book is totally horrorshow. (less)
The Orchard Keeper was Cormac McCarthy's first book, originally published back in 1965. It was interesting reading this one closely after reading his...moreThe Orchard Keeper was Cormac McCarthy's first book, originally published back in 1965. It was interesting reading this one closely after reading his most recent book, The Road.
(I read a very early copy of the book, with the original blurbs on the jacket. Random House was very sure of the book's popularity and importance, enough so to suggest McCarthy was a writer who would inevitably be recognized as a master at some point. They clearly had no idea it would take about 30 years for him to start selling gobs of books. Thank god, or he probably would've never been published.)
This is the story of three different characters living in Appalachia in the early 1900's. One is an old man who has been concealing a body that turned up on his property years ago. Another is the dead man's son, who believes his dad was a swell guy and who wants revenge on his father's killer. The final character is a bootlegger, and is the man who actually killed the guy in the pit.
The old man has no idea whose body he guards. The young boy has no idea his father abandoned him and wasn't planning on ever returning. The bootlegger has all but forgotten the dead man, who he murdered in self-defense and tossed into a bog.
My quick explanation is a little confusing. The point is, none of the characters know much about the others, and none of them have any idea what strange connections they have with the other two.
The ironies run deep here, as the boy thinks of the man who killed his father as a hero, and the old man continues sheltering the body of a total sleeze-ball as the body decomposes. The story ends tragically, as Cormac McCarthy stories often do. Somehow, despite the low body count, I found this story much sadder than most of his works.
As a writer, I am impressed at how good this book is considering it's a first novel. It's a subtle, strange, evocative book, and all of the stylistic elements that distinguish McCarthy are already intact here. Little punctuation, incredible dialogue, a wonderful evocation of place. That said, it is quite slow, and probably isn't the best starting place for someone new to McCarthy. But it is definitely worth reading for fans of his writing. So, I'm going with four stars. Not as amazing as The Road, but very good. (less)
This was the first fiction I'd read by Brautigan, and as I read the beginning, I became quickly sure it was a total piece-o-shite. But, as I continued...moreThis was the first fiction I'd read by Brautigan, and as I read the beginning, I became quickly sure it was a total piece-o-shite. But, as I continued, I totally fell in love with it. It was like 48 Hours. I was Nick Nolte, and In Watermelon Sugar was Eddie Murphy.
Very surreal, and surreal in a disorienting way at first. But, it grew in hilarity for me as I read further. Was there the point? I don't know. If I was supposed to get something deep out of this, I didn't. But it was quite entertaining and memorable.
I'd like to revisit Brautigan soon; I devoured a lot of his cannon in my first couple years of college, and haven't looked back since. (less)
I can't say enough about this book. It is still my favorite book on Greek or Roman mythology, even though I first read it in third grade. If you love...moreI can't say enough about this book. It is still my favorite book on Greek or Roman mythology, even though I first read it in third grade. If you love mythology, find a copy of this book.(less)
This book is probably just as good as D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which I've bestowed five stars to. But the Greek myths are just inherently more...moreThis book is probably just as good as D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which I've bestowed five stars to. But the Greek myths are just inherently more cool than the Norse ones. The Minotaur? Hardcore. Medusa? Hardcore. Loki? Well, yes, Loki is pretty hardcore...and so is Thor...
Okay, I'll admit it, I'm just totally biased. In about 150 gorgeously illustrated pages, the D'Aulaires cover a huge number of the more important myths of Norse mythology. And what is so amazing is how concisely, yet comprehensively, they cover the most important elements of the myths. They do that, and they make it lots of fun to read.
Unfortunately, I discovered this one just a few years ago, so I wasn't as awed as I could have been. When I read their book on Greek myths in second grade, it started an obsession that lasted years. (less)