It really is high time I review this sucker, even though I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. Even Hari Seldon doesn't know how I'm going to do it, bu...more It really is high time I review this sucker, even though I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. Even Hari Seldon doesn't know how I'm going to do it, but that's because individuals are hard to predict. He could tell you fer sure what's going to happen in 2012, though: whether or not we can expect Xenu's return, whether or not the Tea Party is going to win and realize they don't have a bloody clue how to lower taxes, whether or not the final battle between vampires and werewolves will happen, whatever: Hari Seldon could tell you, because that's the magnitude of shit he can predict using his methods of psychohistory.
This is the beginning of an epic story about the Foundation, an organization preserving information as the galactic empire around them collapses and begins the gradual process of rebuilding itself. Seldon knew this collapse was inevitable, but he also knew it was possible to shorten this inevitable Dark Age, and his plan is to make this Dark Age a mere thousand years instead of a really really long time.
But Hari Seldon is too badass to JUST shorten the Dark Age: he's also going to test the members of the Foundation by putting them in horrible political situations where there's really only one solution (other than the Foundation failing). He predicts precisely when these events that he has constructed will happen, and it is the job of the Foundation to overcome these obstacles and preserve all the scientific knowledge for the rebirth of the galactic empire.
All in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. In my opinion, it lacked momentum because it was a sequence of chronological short stories which weren't in an order that really helped to build tension. In fact, I was talking to a friend about the book a couple days ago and couldn't even remember what happened in the last story, even though several of the middle stories were very cool and memorable.
Having heard this is the BEST SF SERIES EVAH, I'm slightly underwhelmed; but any series would probably be underwhelming if you went into it expecting that. The basic idea here is pretty cool, and reminded me in a lot of good ways of A Canticle For Liebowitz...if I were capable of successfully creating a link, I'd make one for that review. But when it comes to technology, I'm differently abled.
I love the broad scope and the sweeping epicness of this, and the way events from the previous stories become history just a few pages later. It's very fun, and I'm definitely planning on reading the whole trilogy. But does anyone else think it's totally confusing that Second Foundation is book 3?(less)
Before I begin, I'd like to thank you all for choosing to read this review today. It is you who actively participate in the Goodreads community that a...more Before I begin, I'd like to thank you all for choosing to read this review today. It is you who actively participate in the Goodreads community that are the pulsating heart of this great country, _____. (Insert your country name here.) Without your efforts, intellectual life everywhere would be sure to stagnate. This has always been my position, and I am a man with firm convictions, never changing my mind about anything.
Just yesterday, a young, impoverished child asked me how I was going to help improve this country if I am elected Czar. And I said...*checks notes on palm*...lower taxes by wagging war--wagging war? Oh, uh, sorry--WAGING war...on evil countries full of terrorists. I also prioritize putting children first, and also putting the environment and our future first.
It is my pleasure to discuss Double Star this afternoon. Double Star is a terrific book of mine, and I've known it for several weeks. Honestly, I can only say nice things about it. Having won the Hugo in...some year...it is a book with the greatest of accolades to its name.
It's the story of an actor asked to play the most challenging and dangerous role of his life: representing a politician during a ceremony that, if it isn't conducted exactly right, could mean death. But after the ceremony, the politician isn't yet ready to return to his duties, and the actor is hired for another job.
Witty and fast-paced, Double Star is very fun, and I can't honestly say whether I liked this or Starship Troopers better. Yes, I can. I liked this one better because at the end of the day, the message here was, "Politicians can be replaced by decent actors without anyone noticing," whereas the message in Starship Troopers was "Woo Haa! Go team!" While I give full credit to those willing to serve in the armed forces of ________, and I'm aware that they are the pulsating heart of this great country, and without them, nobody would protect our borders from those dangerous terrorists and immigrants, I relate more with the former message.
It is truly a shame that so many of our representatives seem to simply say what they think people want to hear, but unfortunately, some people are stupid enough that they can get away with it. Not you people, though, you people are the foundation that this country is built upon. It's time we take back this country from bland, insipid politicians, and put someone with real positions on the issues back in office! And I have positions! On the issues!
I believe that our children shouldn't take drugs, and education is important! Unlike you-know-who, who wants to undermine all the values that you hold dear! Say no to socialism and fascism! And vote like a patriot! Vote for our future! Vote for me! Click "yes" below, and take a stand for values! You like values, right? (less)
Big nasty communist spiders are attacking Earth and all the planets it has colonized! It's a battle between man and bug, and who is to save us?
I'll te...more Big nasty communist spiders are attacking Earth and all the planets it has colonized! It's a battle between man and bug, and who is to save us?
I'll tell you who! Guys with really fucking big guns, that's who! With spacesuits that make it so they can jump over buildings, and deflect bullets, and drop from spaceships to the surface of planets without getting hurt! That's who!
These guys get dropped onto planets with their spacesuits and their big guns, and they can incinerate some little brown people like you wouldn't believe, then they can leave without a single casualty. This is who is gonna fuck up the big spiders. AMERICA, FUCK YEAH! COMING TO SAVE THE MOTHERFUCKING DAYAY!
That's yer plot, other than experiencing the trials and tribulations of boot camp through the eyes of a protagonist who spends quite a bit of time philosophising about society and politics and all that good stuff. And this MIGHT make it sound like I DIDN'T like the book. That would be entirely wrong.
This book is so vivid, and so passionate, in its description of what it is like to be in this army that I couldn't help but be sucked in completely. It's an easy, quick, fun read, and it's passionate in its monologues about how society should be. I loved the sections where he's explaining his moral sentiments since I've never understood how someone could join an army and go kill people without questioning the motives of the war itself. Personally, whenever I kill someone, I like to know the reason I'm doing it.
But it truly is a different way of looking at ethics, isn't it? Mr. Protagonist believes that only those who have fought and risked everything for their nation should be considered full citizens, because they were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of their nation*. I can see how someone with a fairly black and white view of reality might think this makes sense. But. By fighting in a war you are condoning a war. This means that if the war is ethically wrong, you are doing something ethically reprehensible. So shouldn't it matter what the war is about? (I know. I'm arguing with a dead guy. It's my review, and I'll argue with a dead guy if I want to.)
Heinlein's protagonist also makes an argument about the prison system and how it doesn't actually reform those who do time. I totally agree with him here. Somehow he tries to equate this with an argument that you MUST spank children for them to have a sense of responsibility. Uhh, yeah, back to symbolic logic class with you, Bob.
But moving on...I found it quite interesting how dualistic our protagonist's thinking is when it comes to ALL PEOPLE. F'rinstance, you can't trust a civilian to do a job that requires "fighting spirit;" women are good pilots, all seem to have great smiles, and they're "the reason men fight" (gay men apparently don't exist in this world), but women don't get to fight Bugs wearing those cool spacesuits because, well, they're all sexy and small and fragile and stuff. Then, within the military, the guys who haven't made a jump are lesser than those who have, Protagonist's peeps look down on the Navy and get in fights with them, etc. (He does have a name, but it's a boring one. I prefer calling him Protagonist.)
But then I started wondering if this kind of attitude is necessary for the military to function. I'm too skeptical to EVER join the military, and that has nothing to do with fighting spirit. But maybe, in order to do what they do, soldiers HAVE to feel like they're the best of the best, doing the best thing that could ever be done with their life. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to motivate themselves to jump out of the spaceship and kill the spiders, or guard the border against Mexicans, or defuse bombs in Baghdad, or whatever else might get them killed.
So, reading this book got me thinking about the mindset of this protagonist, and thinking about the soldiers and marines I've known, and...well...maybe as much as I disagree with this mindset, perhaps it's a necessary mindset for someone in the military. And we need a military. So maybe we need some people who think in this dualistic way.
Anyway, this is what Starship Troopers got me thinking about. Part of this Heinlein can take credit for: if this book is any indication, he was more than willing to speak his mind, and he clearly had a lot of ideas. These rambling monologues where Heinlein was channeled through his protagonist were just as entertaining, if not moreso, than the soldiers vs. bugs part of the story. Then again, I'm horribly entertained by Sarah Palin's "political" career, and occasionally read snippets of Ann Coulter's books because her anger is funny. If that doesn't sound like you, you might just find Heinlein's politics annoying.
But I was quite diverted, and I'll be reading more Heinlein soon.
*: (There's some contention on Goodreads about whether or not this is the case, but the way I interpreted the book is that you can only vote if you've joined the military--although you might not have seen combat depending on the job you ended up with. But you were WILLING to go into combat since the military assigned you your job and you didn't get to choose. So you must've been WILLING to be a soldier if you want to vote. So pthbthbthbth!) (less)
I have some seriously mixed feelings about this one. Here's why.
It's good. It's effective. It wrestles with big ideas. And, I think the author hates s...moreI have some seriously mixed feelings about this one. Here's why.
It's good. It's effective. It wrestles with big ideas. And, I think the author hates science. WAIT! Don't swear at me yet! Read my review, THEN you can start swearing. Trust me, you'll have a lot more ammunition.
For those of you who haven't read this sucker yet, it tells of a time in the future, after mankind has mostly killed itself off with nuclear bombs. Following this event, the common people (now calling themselves Simpletons, as a way of showing their hatred of the intellectuality that lead to the science that destroyed so much of the world) do away with scientists and just about anyone else with an education. Books are burned, of course. About the only educated people who are allowed to live are members of the church, who then take it upon themselves to preserve the books and knowledge that remain.
As time passes, most of this knowledge loses its meaning. Our story takes place in a temple for Saint Liebowitz the Engineer. Sacred relics such as the holy grocery list, the enigmatic temple called "Fallout Shelter", and a blueprint of a squirrel cage, are the fragments of the past that remain. The priests patiently preserve many relics of the past, and we see the passage of time at this temple as the world changes yet again. Science begins being harnessed by man again, and eventually science goes beyond what it was even before the last nuclear disaster.
This is a story about knowledge and the fear of it. It is about the shared ground between religion and science as well, and the ways these two systems of thought diverge. This book MADE ME ANGRY, especially in the last of the three sections. But it is quite good, and a lot of that strength comes from the weighty issues involved. Don't get me wrong, though. This isn't just a book of ideas: it's also steadily funny, full of strong imagery, highly inventive, and it successfully spans centuries in just 300-some pages. It's one of the better SF books I've read, period.
Now that we've got all that out of the way, here's why I wanted to kick Walter Miller in the balls while I was reading it. Everyone else seems to agree that he tried to portray both the scientists and the priests in a fair light. They are wrong.
*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*
You see, the scientists in this book are multifaceted. That doesn't automatically mean they're portrayed fairly. These scientists are fairly portrayed like republicans are portrayed fairly in The West Wing. They get a fair shake just like Draco Malfoy does by the end of the Harry Potter septology. In other words, they might not be evil people, but they're fucking dicks. Scientist #1 doesn't give half a fuck about the temple and is just using them for their library. Then, book three builds to a moral battle between a priest and scientist #2 where, let's face it, when the priest punches the scientist in the face, IT FEELS GOOD. This book is not a balanced debate between two sides. In this book, the priests are the good guys, and they get shat upon by the scientists.
Moving on from the portrayal of scientists, lets talk about the portrayal of science itself. There's a lightbulb, powered at huge effort, that is apparently unnecessary since they stop using it after the scientist leaves and replace it with a large cross. Then, in the far future, we have one example of a complex machine, and it doesn't work properly. Even if it did work, it doesn't have that amazing of a function considering the future possibilities of science. Science is portrayed as novelty in this scene. BUT, science does work sometimes, i.e. when you want to create nuclear power and nuke the shit out of Earth.
Of course, you also have the doctors and nurses who are using medicine to save all of the people suffering from radiation sickness and other nasty side-effects of science. These people have genuine good intentions. But, these intentions are undermined since they are giving lethal injections to anyone who is suffering horribly from radiation sickness and definitely going to die. As the abbott makes clear, this evil outweighs the good they are doing. (Because, somehow, it is suicide to let someone else kill you? Isn't that what every martyr does?)
It is true that many centuries ago the church was involved in the development of evolution theory, and for a long time science and the church were homies. That was then and this is now.
In 2010, religious superstition is standing in the way of stem cell research. It is causing endless war in many parts of the globe. It tells us we are more important than other animals and even our environment, and thus entitles us to think only of ourselves. The church wants to make sex as dangerous as possible by making condoms and birth control taboo, even though god is silent on these issues in the Bible (not to mention his now controversial stances on slavery and wearing clothing of mixed materials).
In other words, The view of reality in this book doesn't mesh well with current events. But many other readers who share some of my philosophical beliefs have loved this book, and haven't been frustrated by it at all. So, perhaps I'm overreacting.
Whatever my issues with the book, I have to admit it's very well written, and quite unique. This is considered a classic of the SF genre, and it's easy to see why. If you're a fan of the genre, this book still feels fresh and original 60 years after it was written. (less)
Although the three Gormenghast novels are now thought of as a trilogy, I wonder how appropriate this designation is. Peake's intention with the series...moreAlthough the three Gormenghast novels are now thought of as a trilogy, I wonder how appropriate this designation is. Peake's intention with the series was to tell the entire life story of the character Titus Groan, and he was working on the fourth book in this series at the time of his death. He planned to write five volumes in the series, the fourth and fifth being "Titus Awakens" and "Gormenghast Revisited." Clearly Peake didn't think of this book as the conclusion to a trilogy, but a middle-section in a much larger work.
Aside from that, the first two books in the series, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, tell a more-or-less complete story about the bizarre happenings at Gormenghast castle during Titus's youth. These two books, when taken together, form a complete story with a satisfying resolution. I have trouble seeing Titus Alone as part of this 'trilogy' because the storyline has very little connection to the first two volumes.
In this book, Titus has set out from Gormenghast castle on his own, attempting to escape the monotonous rituals of his home. The dark, medieval setting of Gormenghast is quickly left behind, and a world full of skyscrapers, cars, airplanes and factories surrounds him. Titus quickly regrets his decision to leave home, and wishes he could figure out how to get home.
Along his way, Titus's libido starts going nuts. He has a relationship with Juno, a fortysomething woman who saves him from being arrested, and ends up leaving her because he doesn't want to settle down. Later, the wealthy daughter of a factory owner becomes fascinated by him and tries to woo him. Titus is only interested in her sexually, and this makes her super-pissed, and she formulates a remarkable and haunting way of getting revenge.
(My favorite aspect of this book is that we never know if Titus is simply mad, and Gormenghast--and the first two volumes in the series--have only happened in his mind. At no point in this book is Gormenghast's existence proven by anything he encounters in his travels, and no one has heard of it.
This book is fascinating in many ways, but it doesn't live up to the high bar set by Titus Groan and Gormenghast. Those books were lush and complex and inspire a real sense of awe at the world's strangeness, where Titus Alone is a bit sketchy and sometimes even vague. And implausible. Titus is kind of a whiny bitch, so why does everybody and their mother want to follow him on his travels? And why do they all show up at the most convenient times? It feels more like the characters are just doing what the author needs them to.
This book isn't near perfect like the first two, but it's still an entertaining read, with some characters that are as compelling in their surreality as the other books' cast. The names aren't as awesome: Rotcodd and Steerpike and Prunesqallor were names from Gormenghast castle. The characters he's meeting in this book have names like Cheetah and The Black Rose. Not as entertaining.
And I digress. If you haven't followed my reviews on this series, I highly recommend both Titus Groan and Gormenghast as must-read fantasy. "Titus Alone" is an optional third part of this 'trilogy' which makes for an entertaining and quick read, but has neither the scope nor the depth of the volumes that came before. (less)
(Update: After reading this book last year, I chose to give it 4 stars, my argument being that I was detracting one star for the slow pacing. Then at...more (Update: After reading this book last year, I chose to give it 4 stars, my argument being that I was detracting one star for the slow pacing. Then at the beginning of 2010, I determined that Gormenghast was #2 on my "10 Goodest Reads From 2009" list. (China Mieville's The Scar came in #1.) So, umm, I'm retroactively giving this'n five stars, because I was clearly on crack when I didn't give it 5 before. Below is the review of the book, which hasn't been changed.)
At Gormenghast castle--a castle so sprawling and gargantuan that huge sections have fallen into disrepair and been forgotten entirely; a castle where the Queen wanders the halls silently with hundreds of white cats following her; a castle where everyone (almost everyone) follows rituals so old that none know their meaning any longer; a castle where teachers sleep through class periods while students invent dangerous games and hide the bodies of any children that die during them--Titus Groan is growing up. He's to be the king of Gormenghast, but he quickly grows to detest the meaningless rituals that infect his every day.
As Titus rebels against his station, Steerpike continues his political ascent. And, unlike most villains, Steerpike changes in very unpleasant ways as he continues to sacrifice his scruples for greater power. By the end of this book, the bizarre upstart from the first novel has become quite a frightening figure.
The Gormenghast trilogy is something very unique in fantasy. It has all the originality one could want from a fantasy world. And it is truly character-driven. Although the characters feel at first like funhouse mirror distortions of real people (in large part due to their farcical names and often distorted physical features), they begin to feel much more real as the book progresses.
Also, the story is amazing. Although it would be impossible to predict what was going to happen early on, everything fits together and seems inevitable when looking back after it's all over. It's epic; it's sad; it's hilarious; it's entirely original, and the writing is often amazing. It's an understatement to say Mervyn Peake has a way with words.
One of the faults I see isn't really that much of a fault, and more just a comment: one particular side-plot absorbs much of the first half of the book. In the end, this side-plot doesn't seem necessary. But, that part of the story provides a humorous diversion from the gloomy main storyline, where bodies are piling up and characters are not so very happy. My one complaint is the pace of the book. This book is, like Titus Groan, quite slow. And, again, I noticed the slowness at the time I should most NOT be noticing it: when suspense was building for the climax. The climax took forever.
This book is very close to five stars. But, since it suffers from the same fault as the first novel, I'm witholding one star. And I'm curious to see what happens in the final volume of the trilogy, especially with all of the changes that happened in Gormenghast. I'll definitely be finishing this series soon.(less)
The Haunting of Hill House has been made into several films, but I don't believe I've seen any of the film versions. The idea isn't anything especiall...moreThe Haunting of Hill House has been made into several films, but I don't believe I've seen any of the film versions. The idea isn't anything especially out of the ordinary, though: a group of several strangers have been summoned, via letter, to spend some time at a house in a secluded area. They have been summoned by a doctor of the occult who wants to find out if there's anything to the legends he's heard about the house. Once they've all arrived and gotten to know each other, things start getting weird.
What is unique about The Haunting of Hill House is how psychological the haunting turns out to be. This is a very subtle book in some ways, and the creepiest element of the book isn't the poltergeists and spirits in the house. I'm not going to spoil the punchline, and hopefully the dust jacket of your copy doesn't spoil it for you the way mine did.
This book definitely had its moments, but the dialogue often rang false, especially early in the book. The dialogue, while sometimes very fun, often dragged the book down. A lot of forced humor, and jokes spoken at times when people wouldn't really tell jokes. These characters try overly hard to say only witty things, and it kinda reminds me of a Diablo Cody movie in a not-good kind of way.
Much of what we learn about the house is delivered through the characters' banter, so the house itself was less of an integral element than it should be. But, we do find out enough to get a distinctly creepy vibe from the house, and the ending is eerie and satisfying. So, this was a worthy read if you're in the mood for a spooky story, but it ain't nothing to write home about.
The first paragraph is so good. After reading it, I was really hoping to have my socks knocked off. Alas, the rest of the book couldn't deliver on that paragraph's promise.
Last thought, for any of you who have read it already: this book is really about coming out of the closet, right? I can read it that way, right? With the pants, the relationship with Theo, the fear of accepting femininity? Or am I stretching it?(less)
Before reading this book I was totally buying the romance of Jack Kerouac. Hopping trains and bumming around and being an artist all sounded like the...moreBefore reading this book I was totally buying the romance of Jack Kerouac. Hopping trains and bumming around and being an artist all sounded like the cat's pajamas. Who needs to revise? Just spiritually connect with living in the moment and write down your constant brilliant epiphanies.
This book sorta disenchanted me. You see, even as a high school senior I recognized that this book was pretty mediocre, and wasn't super-deep, and was like an older and shittier version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. If Dean Moriarty weren't always travelling, he'd be impossible to deify. He'd be just another frat boy. Kerouac himself wasn't a troubadour. He had natural talent, but never honed his skill, and in my opinion he now pales in comparison to Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. That was his choice, and I'm sure some people will strongly disagree, but it only took this one book for me to decide I was done with Kerouac.
But, I can't give it less than three stars because he had one moment of amazing inspiration in here and gave me one of my favorite quotes ever:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”(less)
This book was very different from the others I've read by Bradbury, in that it was dull as hell. The whole thing was a reverie for a lost childhood. I...moreThis book was very different from the others I've read by Bradbury, in that it was dull as hell. The whole thing was a reverie for a lost childhood. I'm not a nostalgic person in the least, despite the number of children's books I read. So, maybe I just didn't see the point of all this.
What I did like, though, is the eerie section somewhere near the middle that is unconnected with the rest of the book. I won't give you details in case you read it, but there's a creepy short story buried in here. (less)