That's my review of the book. What I'm really here to talk about is the movie, and this is going to haveI like these books. The third was my favorite.
That's my review of the book. What I'm really here to talk about is the movie, and this is going to have spoilers like you wouldn't believe. Just warning you.
We just returned from watching the Hunger Games movie, and the experience was deeply disturbing. It should be disturbing, of course: we watched a movie about teenagers being forced to kill one another for the entertainment of a wealthy, lucky few. So, it's not disturbing that the movie itself was disturbing.
What was REALLY disturbing, though, was the audience. As one teenager beat another one to death--a large male beating a small female--the audience burst into cheers because the girl was essentially a badguy. The girl was, at most, 13 or 14. The actress looked the appropriate age. The cheering didn't even stop when her small body was dropped into the grass and the camera focused in on her lifeless face.
We're sitting in a huge theater, watching a film where 24 children are required to fight to the death against one another. There is a mild amount of romance mixed in with all of the carnage, and the kiss between Peeta and Katniss was enough to get a large part of the audience whistling and squeeling with delight.
It was like they were watching an entirely different movie from the one Joy and I were watching.
I remember reading some reviews of the book pointing out how many reviews focused entirely on the half-assed romance story, ENTIRELY MISSING THE POINT OF THE SERIES. It wasn't until seeing the audience reaction to the film that this really sunk in. Are these people entirely oblivious that THEY are the audience to the Hunger Games? Do they really not recognize the Capital is a slightly exaggerated version of us wealthy first-worlders? Granted, we don't take two tributes from each district. We tend to attack people outright, police their countries, and then replace their political structures with something more to our liking. But, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.
The book attempted to challenge our expectations, and the movie tried to as well. The violence constantly felt WRONG. Each death gave me the same queasy, emotional feeling I get when I watch The Lord of the Flies. Instead of casting the teenagers with a bunch of attractive twenty-somethings, they actually chose children, most of whom did not look ready for combat. They made a point of showing you children who were dead, but not giving you the twisted satisfaction of drawn-out and exciting fight scenes. This movie had much more brutality than action. And the scene with Cato breaking down at the end was almost perfect, although his death was more drawn out and difficult to stomach in the book.
But it doesn't matter what Suzanne Collins writes, or what the director directs, if the audience is oblivious to anything challenging their world views. I suppose if you're looking hard enough for an 'action' movie, you can find one in The Hunger Games. And if you only care about which boy Katniss ends up with in the end, you might totally miss the fact that YOU'RE THE FUCKING CAPITAL, and BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO THE CAPITAL.
We've decided to just rent the Hunger Games movies from here on out, because they're troubling enough without having to deal with the audience as well. ...more
Those of you who are Old School know about the original Legend of Zelda. The first game in the Zelda franchise was epic. It was badass. In my personalThose of you who are Old School know about the original Legend of Zelda. The first game in the Zelda franchise was epic. It was badass. In my personal opinion, few games have been as awesome since.
This book is a lot like the original Legend of Zelda. Unfortunately, it is like all the crappy and stupid aspects of that game, and none of the cool ones. Witness as I extrapolate.
The main character in this book lacks personality. All of the things that sound kind of cool about her--like she knows about alchemy--in the end amount to practically footnotes as she wanders her way through a storyline, always doing the most obvious thing at the moment. At first, she takes the tools thrust upon her by her father and lets him mold her personality entirely. Like the little old man in the cave who gives Link his first sword, thereby bringing slaughter upon the legions of weird animals wandering Hyrule, Protagonist's father gives her the tools of alchemy and the knowledge of a very limited set of topics (sciences and alchemy are about it). She takes these tools and does the obvious thing with them, seemingly content being her dad's clone.....
....until a MAN walks in. And then, it doesn't matter who he is, she is all hot and bothered and blushing and virginal, unable to focus on her alchemy or science. But, she remains true to her father, not going after any of these guys until one of them rapes her.
After he rapes her, she marries him....you know, because that makes sense.
But, because Link is only capable of following instructions and killing like some little puppet serving the war pigs--let me try that again. Because Protagonist is only capable of doing what she's told, she marries the young and handsome rapist--even though she witnesses signs that he's only out for her money before they even get married.
This is the pattern that she follows through the rest of the book, following the clearest instruction provided for her, slowly gaining cooler clothes and items. But, unlike Link, these items don't give her greater hit points or make it so she can do cooler things. She just continues being a uni-dimensional tool, ignoring the ways those around her are using her or manipulating her.
The plot also shares some common elements with Zelda because everything is foreshadowed way ahead of time. Every plot point is predictable, almost from the point the involved characters enter the storyline. Let me just throw some archetypes at you. Feel free to guess at the ENTIRE PLOTLINE in the comments, and you'll probably be right:
Overly Protective Father Flat Protagonist Kind, Sweet, Widowed Reverend Handsome, Money-Hungry Rapist Husband Sneaky, Distrustful Maid Mother who is Entirely Unknown by Protagonist, and is Never Talked About By Anyone.
The climax wasn't ENTIRELY clear until about two thirds of the way through the book, so that's a mildly good thing. But by the time you get there, end is entirely abrupt and exactly what you'd expect.
And, after reading the other Goodreads reviews of this, I was expecting some serious alchemy porn! I was excited about pages talking about strange experiments, and perhaps digging up bodies or...well, SOMETHING cool. Alchemy was the big draw for me here, but there actually wasn't enough focus on that for me. Mary Shelly can write some passages about science that add texture. This book didn't have texture, and the texture it didn't have wasn't improved by the small amount of alchemy included.
Unlike some of my reviews, I'm not being harsh just because I'm grumpy. I'm actually in a pretty friggin' good mood: It has been a long time since I've read anything by Ann Coulter. I just got a job I'm totally excited about, and I'm buying a beautiful house in a little over a month! So, coming from that frame of mind, let me reiterate: this book sucks. Skip it.
But you should totally play The Legend of Zelda. Link is a flat character, but he's a flat character who'll put his foot up a moblin's ass.
One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read abouThe halfway point review:
One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read about societal collapse and the squandering of resources by the wealthy and then the inevitable cannibalism that always seems to show up in the last act, I keep asking myself how the environment became a "political issue." There's no question that environmental resources aren't infinite, yet it seems like the majority of people…or at least the loudest faction…care less about human life on earth than their own comfort and status. Or else, how can they justify placing jobs, business interests, or anything else ahead of the environment in their values?
Is it because environmental damage is such a gradual process? If so, we need to come up with some way to drive home the importance of creating a sustainable way of living. Politicians hedging around environmental issues--while placing these issues on the same level of importance as gays in the military--is clearly not getting us anywhere. Literature on the dangers of global warming and about the human effects on the environment isn't going to get the point across to those who willfully avoid learning about the topic.
Does the environmental movement need more advertisements? More celebrity endorsements?
I hate asking rhetorical questions, even if my goal is to generate conversation, so my hypothesis, without any evidence to support it, is YES: we need a much fucking better PR department, and we need it quickly. If we are going to keep the global society from reaching the point of some real collapse, we need to change the rhetoric with which we talk about the "environment." The environment is an abstract "out there" that doesn't necessarily include human babies or grandchildren. The way we abstractly think of "the environment" makes this separation of humans from their environment easier. We need rhetoric that makes it clear that when we speak of "the environment," what we are really concerned with is the continued ability for humanity to survive on this planet. What we're talking about isn't separate from people, physically or ethically.
I'll end my halfway point review by bringing up the personal guilt that reading these pages has reawakened in me. Reading about the way the Easter Islanders squandered resources building the tremendous statues and headpieces for the glorification of rich people has reminded me of my own complicity. I've always thought of myself as an environmentalist: I take the light-rail whenever possible, recycle, eat with an awareness of where my food comes from. But, even as someone passionate about the environment, I've spent several years working at a bank. I've spent my time too focused on my own education to dedicate much time to preservation…which is what I'm complaining about others doing. What have I truly done to rebel against a society that places greed and opulence above sustainability? I've found ways to reduce the damage that I inflict, but I have done nothing to challenge my society's destructive way of being. So, what right do I have to climb up on my soap-box?...more
The question is rhetorical, and I can't say that I know the answer better than anyone else. I've done research, I've tDo you know what you're eating?
The question is rhetorical, and I can't say that I know the answer better than anyone else. I've done research, I've thought long and hard about which ethical issues matter to me the most, and we've changed the way we buy food. But, can I say we aren't contributing to the big food companies that operate in dishonest ways in order to control the U.S. food industry? I still can't know for certain.
It works like this: Monsanto is a huge company that contributes a lot of money to political parties. Political parties (both of the big ones), as a way of saying "thank you," ignore the fact that genetically modified foods--which are on the shelves of almost every grocery store in the U.S.--haven't been scientifically tested to any reasonable extent.
This is an issue that is glossed over completely by the press in the U.S., but it isn't an issue ignored around the world. These products aren't on the shelves in numerous countries, from Canada to India to France, because they've been banned due to a lack of research. To give a sense of how tied the U.S. government is to GMO foods, emails have surfaced through WikiLeaks that show some members of the government think we should retaliate against France for not allowing Monsanto's modified products to be sold there.
In short, the very few studies that have been done on GMO foods have shown they have unpredictable nutritional value and also unpredictable side-effects in mice (including death).
So, that's one of the major health risks. Another is the fact that, once this new modified version of corn is introduced, it quickly becomes impossible to keep track of where this corn is. In other words, if we finally start investigating this food and discover side effects, it will be extremely expensive to eliminate the modified plant or animal from the food supply--if it is still possible. This isn't a theoretical problem: it has already happened. Several European countries refuse to buy modified vegetables from the U.S., and shipments of U.S. corn have been halted because it has been discovered that modified forms of corn were mixed in with the rest.
And, despite this impossibility to segregate corn crops, it is ILLEGAL FOR FARMERS TO USE MONSANTO'S SEED if they aren't paying Monsanto for it. In other words, a farmer can be sued if seeds blow from a Monsanto crop into his crop. Because of this, numerous farmers who tried to avoid using genetically modified food have been driven out of business, and then the property has been bought up by Monsanto.
Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't make sense that you can copyright something that's alive.
So, the policies of both the U.S. government and Big AgriBusiness are working together to make it easier for the food market to be monopolized in the same way as the news, Hollywood, and essentially every entertainment industry. Do you want to know why this consolidation of power is bad for us? Have you SEEN how shitty most movies and popular CDs are? Do you want your food to suck that badly?
If not, do the little research into the food you eat. Verify that I'm not just making stuff up. Read this book, learn about the food industry. It doesn't take a lot of research to realize you're taking an unknown risk when you eat food that has had untested changes performed on its DNA, and the government has declared that it's illegal for companies to advertise that they use only non-GMO products...apparently, this would be bad for business, because it would raise the question of whether modified foods are safe.
It's theoretically possible they're safe. From the tiny amount of investigation that has been done, it doesn't look like they are. This has health implications. It has ecological and economical implications. It has political implications, as another industry consolidates into the hands of the very few, pushing out family farmers and reducing variety in the supermarket.
If you want to avoid genetically modified foods, you can. But, it isn't as easy as looking for a warning label...unless you look FOR a label that says "organic." If it says organic, it's GMO-free.
And, since you endured my whole review full of pessimism and frustration, here's a pair of otters playing in a bathroom:
So, let me tell you what kind of person Brian is. (Brian the bird, not that other Brian.) Brian is the kind of person who invites you out to lunch, and engages you in entertaining conversation for HOURS, and when the waitress brings the bill, SNATCHES it away, not even letting you buy him a BEER. (Not until later, anyway.)
Then, later on, when you're hanging around and drinking on the couch and talking some more, and the subject turns to books, he says he'll "send you a couple books." So, in your innocent, inebriated state, you give him your address.
And THEN, a couple weeks later, you get a package in the mail with "a couple books" BRAND FUCKING NEW from Amazon.
So, that should tell you what kind of person Brian is.
Bizarro seems to be a genre for wrestling with big issues. The issue here is, "How should we deal with the problem of rich fucks?"
And, I'd like to poiBizarro seems to be a genre for wrestling with big issues. The issue here is, "How should we deal with the problem of rich fucks?"
And, I'd like to point out that the key word here is not "rich," but "fucks." Not every millionaire needs to be offed, but there are certainly a large portion of them that should be. For instance:
What purpose does this ho serve? She inherited a shit-ton of money, and continues making more by being filmed (which is different from acting) and going to parties. Money is filtered out of the hands of the rest of us because we have a strange obsession with the glamorous, the wealthy, the waifish. This is an unhealthy, distracting obsession, and we would not have it if we simply ate her.
This is, of course, the answer which Hansen proposes: like Aerosmith before him, Hansen says it's high time we eat the rich. While we're at it, we could eat Steven Tyler.
I know what you're thinking: "But Michael, Steve wrote all kinds of great songs back in the seventies! Dream On! Walk This Way!" My response to this is, the cells in our body are only around for seven years. Thus, the Steven Tyler in this picture did not write any of those songs. So, it's okay for us to eat him.
By picking out celebrities, I might be diverting this discussion--uhh, monologue--from the subject it's mostly considering: those rich fucks who were born into incredible wealth, with astounding personal connections making it so they can do pretty much anything they want--working only if they feel like it--and thus allowing them to live lives of complete uselessness. Only those who would in fact choose to be useless would be eaten, if I understand his point completely.
I can totally get down with this philosophy, and am putting a napkin on my lap right now. On my (mostly) raw food diet, I usually don't eat meat, but I'd make an exception for the housewives of Orange County. Perhaps with buffalo sauce.
See, once we eat these rich fucks, the money they would've squandered on eighth houses, fighter jets, and weddings than cost more than regular people spend in entire lifetimes, some of this money would be filtered out of their family's hording little hands through the estate tax--which is the best tax ever, because it's a tax on rich fucks who die. The only problem is that not nearly enough of the money would be relocated into the real economy, because so much would pass down to Rich Fuck Jr. The solution of this is, of course, to eat rich families in entirety. Then, we totally relieve society of the burden of this rich fuck family, and the money has nowhere to go but back into the fluid economy.
When we think about societal problems--the housing crash; the overabundance of food in certain parts of the world while other parts of the world starve; reality TV--we usually point the blame in the wrong direction. Know who the real problem is with all of these three important issues? Rich fucks. That's right.
This book was decadently tasty, and although the POV made it a little hard to swallow at first, I became enamored after a few chapters. And, despite the brevity, I didn't finish this book unsatiated. The ending was successful, with everyone getting their just desserts...I'm so sorry. How could I resist punning a little bit, though?
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I'm excited to read more by Hansen!...more
So, if there is a god, he/she/it/they doesn't hold my intellect in very high esteem.
He/she/it/they must think I'm an idiot.
See, a while back, I reservSo, if there is a god, he/she/it/they doesn't hold my intellect in very high esteem.
He/she/it/they must think I'm an idiot.
See, a while back, I reserved Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and what I ended up arriving on the holds shelf was the children's version, complete with funny illustrations to try and walk teenagers through the theory of relativity. Now, I thought I had placed a hold on A People's History of the United States, and I ended up with this graphic novel.
It's quite possible I just suck at placing holds.
Anywho, I'll start with this graphic novel, and then launch into my rant. This is an adaptation of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States into graphic novel form. The art was aight, but nothing to write home about, and that’s pretty much how I felt about the whole adaptation: the form doesn’t add much in the way of substance, although I’m sure this makes it more likely that some people intimidated by the pictureless tome would read this.
Speaking of, here’s a picture of a cute baby panda, in case your attention was drifting.
I may be making shit up, but I’ve gotten a sense that conservatives dismiss Howard Zinn as a partisan who does nothing but poo-poo the U.S. of A., portraying it as politically corrupt. However, the same people who dismiss him for this join the Taxed Enough Already party, even though the party has no tea, nor any dancing or spiked punch. So, let us be consistent for a minute: IS the government overriding our freedoms or not? It doesn’t magically become invasive when a democrat’s in office, and then become Smokey the Safety Bear when a republican’s in office. These parties BOTH support constant foreign wars that are motivated by partially empirical motives. These parties BOTH supported big checks for the big banks as soon as they started whining. These parties BOTH agree on a lot of the big issues, and I think most of us disagree with both parties on these issues—or would, if these issues weren’t ignored by the media.
That said, even if you know you reject socialism as a political structure, you should read this book. (In whichever form you prefer.) Even if you don’t agree with some of Zinn’s positions, that doesn’t make the research he’s done invalid, nor does it make the facts he discusses false. This is a history book that challenges a lot of the assumptions taken by the history textbooks we’re forced to read in schools. Zinn believes the U.S. is accountable for its actions in Vietnam, World War I, and…well, ALL of its actions. This doesn’t mean he hates this country. It means he refuses to be blinded by nationalism. If we wear blinders regarding our own nation’s actions, why on earth would we expect to NOT be taken advantage of by those in power? When we look at the history of any other country, in any other time period, we can see intrigue, corruption, and a power structure that disfavors the poor. Why would we assume without research that the same thing isn’t happening in the U.S. right now?
Howard Zinn was one of our great historians, because he challenged the mainstream and saw his job as more than teaching history: he was a social activist that fought against injustices. It’s for his books that he’ll be remembered hundreds of years from now, but it’s for the whole of his life that I will say this:
So, I'm really far behind on reviews. We're going back to things finished in September.
And, we're also working on reviews nobody will read, because thSo, I'm really far behind on reviews. We're going back to things finished in September.
And, we're also working on reviews nobody will read, because they're for books with titles like Beyond the Archives.
But, I promise you, this book was exciting! It's about the stories that underlie research projects different scholars have taken up. Which is more exciting than it sounds! For instance, it's fascinating to find out how may projects were taken up because of a mysterious grandmother/grandfather's involvement in an organization, or because of a mysterious box in an attic. Mysterious boxes! Exciting!
Unfortunately for me, I've moved far away from any family, so I shan't be finding mysterious boxes full of my grandfather's old magic wands, Nazi propaganda, or man-sized high heels. I don't know what strange cults my uncles and aunts may be a part of, which is why I settled for researching you guys on Goodreads. Not that you aren't mysterious and awesome.
This was the first book I read in a graduate course, and it was the PERFECT introduction to grad school, because this book brought about an epiphany for me: when you do huge research projects, do something that matters to you. It should also be relevant to the field you're doing the research for, but that doesn't mean you should try to do something that is expected of you. This all seems obvious in retrospect, but when you first walk into a graduate classroom, you have no idea what to expect--you just know you don't want to get laughed at.
That said, each chapter is someone in the rhetoric field discussing the strange, mysterious, Nancy Drew-like path they followed to arrive at their final research project, and the various hazards along the way. Like sharks.
Okay, usually not sharks. More likely, it's a roadblock with finding the relevant research, or the inability to find something important...a gravestone that would reveal the date of a death, a gap in the history because of destroyed documents, or hordes of vampire gorillas. Wearing platinum armor and weilding laser guns.
That said, I would recommend this to anyone trying to find inspiration for a big research project. This is a very personal collection of interesting stories that are likely to get you thinking about how you can make your project meaningful, and some of the roadblocks you may encounter on the way. This is good, because it makes it easier to deal with the hazards of research* when you know others have overcome them before you.
Review the first: An Appeal to Those Who Take Her Seriously
This first review is specifically for those who take Ann Coulter’s ideaTHE SLANDER REVIEWS.
Review the first: An Appeal to Those Who Take Her Seriously
This first review is specifically for those who take Ann Coulter’s ideas seriously. If you do, I really hope you’ll read this review and seriously think about the arguments I’m making.
Here’s a quote from the first paragraph of Coulter’s last chapter: “Like all propagandists, liberals create mythical enemies to justify their own viciousness and advance their agenda. There is no bogeyman that strikes greater terror in the left than the apocryphal "religious right." The very phrase is a meaningless concept, an inverted construct of the left's own Marquis de Sade Lifestyle.”
To give you an idea of how this quote sounds to a liberal, here’s the same quote with just the quote’s political direction changed: "Like all propagandists, conservatives create mythical enemies to justify their own viciousness and advance their agenda. There is no bogeyman that strikes greater terror in the right than the apocryphal "godless left." The very phrase is a meaningless concept, an inverted construct of the right’s own “Holier than Thou” Lifestyle.”
Does this make any sense to you? Or does it just sound like a mean blanket statement being thrown over roughly half the people in the country?
It’s impossible to take someone seriously who insists the ‘religious right’ is some vague, meaningless concept, yet insists liberals are all rich, snooty, atheistic hipsters who never make any sense when they talk. This is the equivalent of saying, “Those liberals are all the same! And they’re so mean with their stereotyping, too!”
Ann Coulter assumes the following things: (1) Her readers aren’t going to notice she pulls all of her quotes about the ‘liberal media’ from the same five newspapers and the same two news stations all the time. (2) Her audience won’t notice that she is doing the exact same thing throughout this book that she is accusing liberals of doing: glossing over all of the facts that don’t fit in with her narrow and paranoid view of the media, and (3) she intentionally takes sources out of context in a way that no one who really wanted to debate would.
Lets look at that last one real quickly, because I don’t want it to appear that I’m saying all of this just because I’m some ‘angry liberal’. . . actually, before we even get , let’s talk about the word ‘liberal’ real quick, because it has multiple meanings. We could be talking about someone who supports higher taxation for the haves in order to provide for the have-nots. Or, we could be talking about those who are liberal about individual rights, such as giving homosexuals the same rights as straight people. These are two different meanings for the word liberal, and those who consider themselves liberals don’t necessary agree on these. Similarly, some conservatives are more concerned with economic conservativism, but aren’t all that concerned with homosexual rights or certain other hot-button issues; it depends on the particular conservative.
Back to what I was saying before that tangent, though: she takes quotes out of context. Want specifics? Citation 33 in chapter 2. Ann Coulter says: “Schlafly is preposterously demeaned with articles reporting that she is trying to remain 'relevant.'” This is in support of Ann’s argument that the press is constantly picking on conservatives. However, all of the quotes picked from this article by Coulter are insults coming from conservatives, actually (a member of Republicans for Choice and a GOP consultant). The author of the article itself is, if anything, positive towards Schlafly. Through my reading, it looks like this is what Ann does a lot: she doesn’t outright lie, but she misleads her audience into thinking something is happening that simply isn’t.
We’ll do one more example, because I want to show that it is possible to research this stuff and see how insincere it is, but I don’t want to bore either of us with going overboard with examples. If you are curious, please do some investigating on your own. Sources can be bad, or can be taken out of context. This next one is just a lame attempt at argument on Coulter’s part: on page 15, she uses a LexisNexis search to see how many times the New York Times (a liberal publication) uses the terms “far right wing” (109 times) and “far left wing” (18 times). Clearly, the publication favors referencing a far right wing; therefore, this publication is definitely a far left wing propaganda piece. However, she doesn’t mention that a LexisNexis search for the same time period in the Washington Times, a journal that she even admits leans conservative in this book, shows almost the exact same proportions (37 for FRW, 7 for FLW). The NYT has a very slightly higher ratio of “far right wing” uses, but a very comparable one. So, first off, this brings into question whether the usage of these terms is evidence of anything. Secondly, it brings up the question of whether this term is used as condescendingly as Coulter would like us to believe: she even refers to the “American right” in her book’s title, although she avoids the word “far.” So, does adding “far” make it a negative comment? I’m skeptical, since I saw a bumper sticker this morning that said “Extremely right-wing.”
I felt the need to address a review to you (those who think they’re in agreement with Coulter) because I don’t want anyone to think I’m some angry liberal calling conservatives stupid. I genuinely want conversation. In contrast to Coulter’s explanation of how liberals react to argument, I’m giving facts and not just rhetorical sophistry. If you pay attention to the way Coulter uses quotes, you’ll realize her books are sound and fury signifying almost nothing.
Review the Second: Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You.
As we all know, Ann Coulter is a polemicist for the conservative movement. Polemic is of course from the latin word “polemas,” meaning “annoying hack.” But, not everyone knows that her bestselling books are written under very specific conditions: on Saturday nights (Sunday mornings) after extensive partying (i.e. sitting at martini bars and arguing about whether liberals are stupid assholes or merely ignorant fuckmuffins). Her writing process, usually beginning at four in the morning on Sunday, begins with a few sniffs of coke and a quick shot of jagermeister, and then she lets the spirit move her.
However, the tone she takes in this state is often one that yellow godless liberal assholes don’t like reading. That’s why Random House is releasing this all-new version of her classic original: Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right, the Sober Edition. This is the exact same book, except it has been edited by Coulter on Saturday morning. Saturday mornings are punctuated by smoking a joint and having lots of sex, so the tone is markedly different. For instance, here’s the original version of a paragraph from Slander:
“The liberal catechism includes a hatred of Christians, guns, the profit motive, and political speech and an infatuation with abortion, the environment, and race discrimination (or in the favored parlance of liberals, “affirmative action”). Heresy on any of these subjects is, well, heresy.” (page 2, no sources cited.)
Now, here is the same paragraph, from the sober edition:
“Liberals’ chief positions include caring for our planet, restrictions on the actions of businesses, restrictions on the kind of weapons people can carry, preserving women’s right to choose whether to have a baby or not, and preserving religious freedom in our country. If you don’t value all of these positions, some liberals will disagree with your opinions.”
See how much more calm and reasoned she sounds now? Now, all of your friends who are liberal fuckmuffins won’t give you that derisive look when they see you walking around with one of Coulter’s books. Here’s another section from the original, full of those numerous citations everyone loves:
“What happened to (Bob) Packwood is a stunning example of the media’s power both to destroy and protect. It’s absurd enough when the media describes Teddy Kennedy as a man of principle and Jesse Helms as a pandering bigot. In the case of Packwood, the media’s good dog/bad dog descriptions were applied to the exact same human being.
When they needed him......Packwood was destined for “political stardom,” according to the New York Times. He was called “a successful lawyer and bright young man.”
As soon as he became dispensable....Packwood was a man who “might have been successful selling insurance or probating wills back in Oregon.”
When they needed him....He was the grandson of “a member of the 1857 Oregon Constitutional Convention.”
As soon as he became dispensable...He was the “nerdy son of a timber lobbyist in the state legislature.”.........(continues for six more quotes)” (citations 16-25)
Now, here is the same passage, revised just after rolling off of Bill Maher:
“I’ve located two articles that say neutral things about (Bob) Packwood before he was charged with sexual harassment, and two articles that reflect negatively upon him from after this controversy came to the public’s attention. Amazingly, it seems that at least a handful of democrats turned against him after these allegations came up. Here are some quotes to illustrate this. . . .”
And, finally, we realize in her final chapter that this revision has changed the thesis of her book slightly. Here’s the original:
“Only people who are grounded in a sense of their own value and who do not think the good life consists of being able to sneer at other people as inferior can resist the lure of liberal snobbery. If liberals couldn’t exercise their adolescent sneers through their control of the mass media, there would be no liberals at all.”
And now, the same section, this time from the sober version:
“I, Ann Coulter, am a liberal.”
Your communist socialist far left wing liberal friends who spend all their time showing off their wealth by helping the poor might take some time out of their busy, elitist schedule to give this new version a read. So, if you know any liberals who haven’t already migrated to an even more socialist country like Canada or Switzerland, consider buying them this new edition for CHRISTMAS. And remind them it’s CHRISTMAS TIME in the city, and all those foreign holidays can fuck off. ...more
Filter the retro feel and the Tarantino dialogue from "Kill Bill Volume 1." Take what's left and mix in one random barbarian from Abercrombie's earlieFilter the retro feel and the Tarantino dialogue from "Kill Bill Volume 1." Take what's left and mix in one random barbarian from Abercrombie's earlier trilogy, then pour into a pan with a good dollop of the late Middle Ages. Fry for 880 pages, dropping in one new badguy every 110. By the end of the process, it should look something like "The Unforgiven". . . It won't taste nearly as good, though.
I'm surprised about all the glowing reviews this book has gotten considering how little new ground this one breaks. Abercrombie, as always, goes against some of our genre stereotypes, but. . . well, so what?
Here's the plot: Monza Murcatto is a heartless badass who leads a group of mercenaries called the Thousand Swords, and her brother is her advisor and right hand man. She's recently worked for a man who wants to conquer a bunch of countries, and when she meets him in his castle, he has both of them stabbed and thrown over the balcony, where they fall far, far down, and land in a forest.
Monza survives, and begins her quest to kill all seven of the guys who were in the room when she was betrayed and her brother killed. Think "The Crow." Think "Payback." Think "The Machine Girl" and ninety-seven-thousand other movies.
So, Abercrombie's first mistake was making it seven badguys. Four, or maybe five, were necessary to make his story work, because character and plot development happens during that many episodes. Did I mention they feel like episodes? They do.
Throughout the book, we increasingly learn that this apparently straight-up revenge story has some darker, murkier undertones, and even what we thought we knew about the larger conflict is vastly skewed because of whose vantage point we're seeing these events from. I like this approach to fantasy, but unless you're new to Abercrombie, it's not much of a surprise.
Why three stars? Well, I enjoyed this book, despite its flaws. This is probably one of those I-love-you-so-I'm-hard-on-you kinda things, because I couldn't believe Abercrombie had the balls to end his First Law Trilogy the way he did. It was fucking awesome. But Abercrombie pulls most of the same tricks here, and we end up with no greater understanding of the genre, or of Abercrombie's take on heroes, than we had at the end of the First Law Trilogy. For many fantasy readers, this is exactly what they're looking for; but the sameness of most fantasy bores the shit out of me.
Abercrombie has a new and unusual take on the fantasy genre, and turns the common tropes of fantasy on their head in certain ways. Unless he finds new ways to do this, though, he's going to create his own standard fantasy formula that can be repeated by nine thousand hack authors who will make it just another kind of stereotypical fantasy: 'Medieval Noir."
I'm in a grumpy mood and can apparently not focus on the positive, so let me try again: this book is funny, action packed, full of amusing stereotypes that are sometimes almost real characters. Shit, there I go again. . . I give up. I'm going to write an Ann Coulter review. ...more
So, you go to Wal-Mart to buy your groceries because it's so damn cheap, but then you realize Wal-Mart is hiring very few full-time employees and notSo, you go to Wal-Mart to buy your groceries because it's so damn cheap, but then you realize Wal-Mart is hiring very few full-time employees and not offering reasonable health care to its employees and it's walking employees through the process of how to get Medicare, not to mention they're closing down small businesses by exploiting foreign economies to get the lowest possible fucking cost; so, Wal-Mart's making YOU pay medical benefits for ITS employees, and replacing good jobs with shitty ones, and you don't want to support that, not to mention most of their food comes from the big corporations that have copyrighted their grains and are in the process of pushing small farms out of business by suing them for copyright infringement after their seeds blow onto the smaller farmer's land, so you decide to shop somewhere else, and isn't it time to go organic anyway, so you drive over to Trader Joe's and load up your cart, that feeling of guilt finally subsiding.
So you get home and you unload your reusable bags and load up the fridge and then, as you slide a boxed pizza into the freezer, you see, printed across the bottom, "Made in Italy."
So now, you're shopping for your groceries at a different store from where you do the rest of your shopping, adding to your carbon footprint, not to mention they're transporting your pizzas across half the fucking earth before they land on your shelf. So, you may not be selling out your next door neighbor, but now you're shitting a big one right on Mother Earth's face.
You head down to the local farmer's market and buy some little pygmy apples the size of clementines, and they're all weird colors but they're from some local farm, and you buy some locally made bread and buy some. . . wait, what is this? Red Bull? Doritos? All of a sudden you realize only the fruit here is local, and some of the bread, so you find another farmer across town you can buy beef from, and another farmer who you can get pork from, and now you're buying all locally, and driving all over God's red desert to get everything you need, and spending twice what you did at Wal-Mart, and spending half your saturday collecting food. Now, you're contributing to the local economy and not giving money to the giant food corporations that are trying to push small farms out of business. . . but you're still driving all over to buy the shit, and burning through petroleum like a motherfucker.
Face it: when it comes to the continuity of life on this planet, you are a pest. You're the renegade cell, eating away at all of the nice and friendly cells around you. I know I'm not telling you anything new right now: you've seen The Matrix, you've heard about overpopulation, global warming, oil spills and you know how totally, absolutely fucked polar bears are right now, but it's always been like that ever since you were born, and we keep coming up with new sciences, so inevitably something will come up to save the day, right? We'll take some polar bear DNA and store it, and once we're all caught up with Jurassic Park technologies, we'll bring 'em back. And, by the time we get to there, we'll be able to stop raising cows; we can just raise steaks: little flat cows that don't have brains, don't have needs other than maybe watering them and spooning nutrients into their slack mouths, and sea-urchin-like chicken creatures without any minds that we can make into chicken fingers, and none of them will feel a thing, so there won't be any question, ethically speaking, right? Right?
Don't hit me up with your "playing God" argument, because that's bullshit. We "play God" when we amputate a gangrenous leg, when we remove a tumor, when we brush our fucking teeth. So, what is really wrong with growing steaks in soil, and not raising cows in huge concentration camps where they hang out in their own shit all day? What's wrong with doing away with coffins, and simply mulching our loved ones? They're going in the dirt either way.
If we're being utilitarian, is our urchin-chicken happier or less happy than our chicken in a lightless pen with ridiculous pecs so oversized his legs are broken? What about the chicken who has gone mad and is now pecking other chickens to death? Probably urchin-chicken. I'm just saying.
That said, I wouldn't eat urchin-chicken, if I wanted to go out on a limb and say a company would be required to even TELL me the product I was buying was urchin: "Warning: this product is made from something that tastes like, but isn't, a chicken." They don't tell me when my steaks are cloned, or through what fucked up chemical reactions they've made my food, so I have my doubts.
What's wrong with growing a mindless food animal, much the way we grow corn or rice or soy? What's wrong with growing mindless clones of ourselves, just for the purpose of harvesting their organs? This would be an easier question to answer if I wasn't an atheist, and I could quote an instruction book, but I can't.
I have to answer the question, and I'll give an answer that Atwood kinda-does-but-doesn't: we don't know what will happen. We didn't know sea walls would increase erosion in other parts of the river when we first started building them. We didn't know that lighthouses would kill tons and tons of birds because birds fly toward the light. We didn't know that carbon emissions could be a problem until we'd flooded tons of them off into the atmosphere. So, why shouldn't we use science to make the world cater to our every desire and impulse?
Because we can't even predict the weather.
Oh, you want me to talk about the book? Yeah, I guess I could do that. As you can tell by my meta-review, this one gets the gears in your head turning. But, the characters were all flat and, although full of potential, ended up dull. The post-apocalyptic world we're reading about is intriguing, as are the new creatures that have replaced humans. The bizarre, freakish animals created by science are also perfectly horrific.
That said, some of this feels like a pretty big stretch. According to Atwood, we'll eventually be desensitized enough that we'll enjoy watching people tortured to death online, and we'll also like watching little children having sex with grown men. And I'm not talking about in a "2 girls 1 cup," watch-it-once-because-it-sounds-fucked-up way. . I mean, she imagines people will sit around watching this shit all the time. Perhaps I'm a prude, but I don't think either of these will ever become popular with more than a small audience. My cynicism only goes so far, I guess.
Far as dystopias go, this is an interesting and unusual one. It's also an entertaining and quick read. I wish Atwood would've invested a bit more time in filling out these characters, and given us a five-star book instead. . . but nobody bats 100%. I'm looking forward to trying some of her non-science fictiony works soon. ...more
At 4 or 5, finding that little "door" in my bedroom that I couldn't get open, and wondering what was behind it? Picturing lakes, Where should I begin?
At 4 or 5, finding that little "door" in my bedroom that I couldn't get open, and wondering what was behind it? Picturing lakes, dragons, probably characters from Rainbow Brite and He-Man, all hanging around together in a world of magic and peace?
At 9, too impatient to write actual stories, but drawing and coloring character after character, analyzing their personal attributes and naming each, and keeping them in a big binder? I had enough in there to make a comic book universe of my own, although it would be a derivative and lame universe. But, hey. I was 9.
Or maybe at 11, when I first played a roleplaying game? Or 13, when I first designed one and blackmailed friends into playing? It took me years to realize it pisses characters off when you kill them completely at random; I started off a cruel and Old Testament sort of GM.
Playing Magic: the Gathering for the first time at 12? My first attempt at a fantasy novel at 14? My first pseudo-finished gaming system at 16?
I don't know where to start, but I know what might be the most poignant moment: at 23 or 24, after the roof of the cafeteria I worked at literally blew away in a tornado, and I was suddenly on unemployment, was still in school full-time and couldn't find a job. It was not a happy time, and a couple of my friends were going through similar situations.
Anyway, we were in the unemployment line, which took hours to get through. And the whole time, we were talking animatedly about the RPG I was GMing at the time. My friends were asking about aspects of the world, discussing their characters, remembering moments from earlier games. . . it was a time in my life full of stress and uncertainty, and that game was my only complete escape from the rough reality I was living through.
I would qualify as both a fantasy freak and a gaming geek, and I'm not exactly in the closet about it. So, Gilsdorf was preaching to the choir with me. . . but he wasn't doing anything as firm as preaching. This book is less a thorough analysis of the gamer/medieval geek mindset, and MORE an analysis of Gilsdorf and his struggle to move forward in his life. That is, his struggle to decide if the form of escapism he was involved in was healthy or unhealthy. In this search, he goes to conventions, games with gamers, interviews (and plays with) Warcraft players, attends reenactments, helps build a castle with only the tools of the middle ages, and gives at least a dozen handjobs to Tolkien. Seriously. Motherfucker goes to New Zealand so he can see the locations they filmed parts of the movie on, and in what was probably the uber-geek moment of the entire book, sets up his LoTR toys in the same spot the actors had been for one of the scenes and then took some pictures. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The book was quite entertaining, honestly, until the final couple chapters. Then, I got a headache from all the eye-rolling I was doing. Why was I eye-rolling? I'm glad you asked!
Each chapter tracks a certain geeky trend, and each chapter is interesting, other than they don't develop into a complex analysis of geekery, unless this counts: "Fantasizing like geeks do is fun, and it's not that much different from an obsession with professional sports or making model airplanes." So, if you want some weak-ass attempt to evade geek-related guilt, this is the book for you. Since I'm pretty comfortable in my own geeky skin, I didn't find this insight to be very, um, insightful.
Anyone who has taught an English course, and probably anyone who has taken one, has read one of those papers where the author wrote the whole thing and then realized it wasn't focused enough to write a conclusion that really wrapped things up. Oftentimes, the author just farts out some bullshit that they think sounds passable and turns it in, hoping the teacher doesn't notice. The teacher DOES notice, every time. Apparently, the publisher didn't.
Then, he fails in what he seemed to be REALLY trying to do: show his personal evolution through this GeekQuest. Why does he fail in this? Because he doesn't become comfortable with his geekdom, nor does he decide to become a muggle. He . . . well, he doesn't really decide ANYTHING. The book just kind of whimpers out with a bunch of lame geek metaphors, and then dies and flops over on its back, twitching on your carpet. I get the feeling a deadline came up faster than Gilsdorf expected it to, and instead of getting an extension, he shat some inanities onto the page and shipped it out.
That said, I realized after finishing the book that it ends with a glossary of geek terminology. I was simultaneously proud and concerned that I hadn't needed to reference the glossary at any point before then, and that I knew every term except for one. Hmm, perhaps I HAVEN'T reached a totally guilt-free state of geekiness. . . ...more
Try to picture a world where big corporations own the rights to the food we eat, and engineer it specifically so that the seeds can't be reused. PictuTry to picture a world where big corporations own the rights to the food we eat, and engineer it specifically so that the seeds can't be reused. Picture a world where the natural resources are steadily depleting, but everyone is still trying to act as if nothing is wrong. Picture a world where technology is barely managing to address the problems of the moment, and perhaps won't be able to keep up in the face of unexpected catastrophes.
The best science fiction is a mirror reflecting our own image, but distorted and exaggerated. This can be done in a way that is overly preachy, but Bacigalupi avoids this, combining everything I look for in entertaining science fiction with everything I hope for in thoughtful literature. (Well, I knew I was going to end up gushing.) So here's the problem. I don't know how to review a book that I love.
Talk about me instead of the book?
I was reading this book during my time back in Indiana, totally overwhelmed by being around my family and my wife's family all the time, trapped in the backseats of cars, forced to listen to country music, which is even worse than I remembered it. "God is great, beer is good, people are crazy." "Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses."
I spent evenings at the kitchen table, trying to read while my wife's parents watched FOX News nearby, and I noticed how the top story on every program was the President's worse and worse poll numbers. I couldn't help thinking that had nothing to do with news, and all of the real stories were ignored in favor of political posturing. Being back in the Bible belt, I dipped into this book like it was a breath of fresh air whenever I could sneak away, relieved to feel like I wasn't alone in a world full of the willfully misinformed.
Or should I actually discuss the book?
The Windup Girl is a novel about Thailand in the 22nd century, when global warming and resource depletion has led to the only practical energy source being manually wound springs. To wind these gigantic springs, they have these huge elephant things (picture those elephants from "The Return of the King") called megadonts.
Anderson Lake works for a megacorporation called AgriGen. Hock Seng is an immigrant who works as a secretary for Anderson, and who is good at manipulating events to his own benefit. Emiko is a wind-up girl: a Japanese-designed human with a predisposition for serving "real" humans, and with a strange way of walking that immediately betrays her non-humanness. There are more characters, but I'm done listing them.
The characters' lives interweave as they try to succeed in a brutal Bangkok, where political uprisings aren't uncommon, food is scarce, and disease is rampant. Like all my favorite SF and fantasy writers, Bacigalupi's characters are neither good nor bad: they linger somewhere in between, and are all surprisingly fleshed out for such a brief book. Disasters abound, tragedy strikes suddenly, the world changes, people die. . . IT'S AWESOME!
Should I go meta?
THE PRESIDENT DIDN'T GO TO CHURCH THIS SUNDAY WHAT WAS LADY GAGA WEARING DROPPING POLE NUMBERS SEVEN MEN SHOT IN FRONT OF AN APARTMENT BUILDING HOUSE BURNED DOWN WITH TWO CHILDREN INSIDE THE SPORTS TEAM COACH DIED LAST NIGHT (oil continues to pour into the gulf, political analysts are running news organizations) KFC NEW DOUBLE DOWN BURGER IS SUPER TASTY REMEMBER TO DO CARDIO THREE TIMES A WEEK 8 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY DIET SHAKE MUSCLE MILK IT'S SOCIALISM IT'S RACISM IT'S SOCIALISM IT'S RACISM IT'S (the bee population continues decreasing, we don’t know why, but increased use of pesticides and habitat destruction continue increasing) CHINA SAYS SOMETHING MEAN ABOUT THE U.S. IRAN THREATENS THE U.S. 12 AL QA'IDA MEMBERS CAUGHT SARAH PALIN SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT OIL AT A RALLY ($704 Billion spent in Iraq war, $300 billion on Afghanistan war, the terrorist threat appears unchanged) HOW TRASHY DID BRITNEY LOOK TODAY
Maybe I should drop names and lit terms to overwhelm the reader with my intellect, and detract from the shallow argument I'm making?
The Windup Girl is perhaps the most well-known example of biopunk, a genre spawned from a combination of cyberpunk's world view and ecological concerns. This book won the Nebula Award for Best Novel this year, beating down Cherie Priest's zombie steampunk tale, Boneshaker, and some other worthy contenders. Some say Bacigalupi's style is reminiscent of William Gibson and Ian McDonald, and I wouldn't argue against this. But, like Saturn's Children--Even Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" or Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye--the issue of identity, and the results of being viewed as "other," are a central theme within the novel.
No. That's a lame way to do the review.
I don't know how to review The Windup Girl. So, if you like science fiction at all, I'll just say: read this and love it. Or maybe you won't. But if you don't, your tastes are WRONG, because IT is AWESOME.
I already have his new book, Shipbreaker, at home on my shelf, and I'm excited to see if his first young adult novel is as good as this one. If so, I may have to add Bacigalupi to favorite authors. I can't wait to find out. . . ...more