It is telling that I didn't realize Oryx and Crake was a trilogy and was upset to discover its open ending...even though two of my friends (including the book group member who nominated this book) had told me it was the first in a trilogy. I think I heard "science fiction," and I just blocked out the rest. :) But it's the kind of science fiction I'm drawn to: dystopia.
In fact, Margaret Atwood prefers to call this "speculative fiction" rather than science fiction, because science fiction involves things that are unlikely to happen or impossible, while speculative fiction is about things that could actually happen or were possible on earth...not about outer space. And that is exactly why this book is so frightening.
Oryx and Crake are actually minor characters in this book...the protagonist is Jimmy, or Snowman, and much of it takes place after most of humanity has been decimated by a plague brought on by humans' obsession with genetically engineering everything that moves (and doesn't). Cloning has gone wild, as has the pharmaceutical industry. Corporations run the world, and the powerless live in the "Pleeblands," like the "districts" in The Hunger Games. Crake has invented a new breed of (sort of) humans, who are like an open book--they are innocent and dull, and they lack drama or sexual longing. In short, they are incredibly boring, and they are all Snowman has for company in the end of the world.
The characters are deeply flawed and did not experience childhood love, and as we discussed at my book group meeting, brilliant scientist Crake and ethereal, distant Oryx are not particularly likeable or easy to understand. Jimmy/Snowman's and Crake's love for Oryx, whom they first encounter while watching kiddie porn (yes!), reminded me of the shallow foreign men who went to Japan to meet women, and often stayed there...they sought the type of woman who adored them unquestioningly, were more submissive, and didn't question their actions or words. I have a difficult time understanding men who fall for these types of women, like Jimmy and Crake. And I found it all too disturbing and depressing that kiddie porn and sexual trafficking would exist into the future. But as we know, desperate times call for desperate measures...and sex is a commodity.
While I was toward the end of this novel, I read about a timely, depressing NASA-funded study that predicts the collapse of civilization in a few decades and warns about the depletion of the world's resources and society dividing into the elite and commoners (all of which are essential elements of this book). (Now NASA is trying to distance itself from this study, probably because the agency doesn't want to be accused of being fatalistic, even though Margaret Atwood doesn't mind that.)
I've been reading Margaret Atwood for 30 years, and she is an exceptional writer. I've heard that the books only get better as they progress...and now that she's gotten me hooked, I will be reading the rest of the trilogy. But I might have to recover from this one first. It makes me truly worried for my children and grandchildren, because I can see these things happening so easily.(less)
Or as I call it, A Game of Endless Unlikable Characters.
My husband DEVOURS these books. When he's immersed in one of them, he doesn't pay attention t...moreOr as I call it, A Game of Endless Unlikable Characters.
My husband DEVOURS these books. When he's immersed in one of them, he doesn't pay attention to much else. He loves them.
Then my 17-year-old son, who used to be such a great reader but in recent years has been deterred by electronics, also read the whole book and is now watching the show.
Plus one of my close friends, who doesn't usually go for fantasy, became obsessed with the show and the books, and she told me that I should give them a try.
So I gave Book 1 a try, and I will not be reading any more of the series. Remember, I finished Book 1 of the Lord of the Rings series and gave up during The Two Towers. Fantasy is not my thing, unless it's something fun like Harry Potter. I can take the violence, and I have read many dystopian sci-fi novels. It's just that this didn't hold my interest.
I should have known better when in the beginning, every single chapter was told from the perspective of a different character. I have a 50-page rule (ala Nancy Pearl). I was about to give up, but then on Page 49, we returned to a character that I had seen before. So I plowed on, thinking I might become more engaged.
When I took a break at around Page 625 to read The Chaperone and enjoyed it much more, I should have known better.
I also should have considered that my husband never thought I would like these books.
But I was determined to finish the book, much like I felt that I needed to read Twilight. It's such a part of our popular culture, and I wanted to know why everyone seems besotted with it.
So here are the 10 reasons I wasn't crazy about A Game of Thrones:
1. Far too many characters! I know Martin provides lists at the end of the book, but honestly, why did there have to be so many? I lost track. Many of the characters are mentioned in passing only once or twice. Why include them at all?
2. Lack of character development Very few of the multitude of characters are fleshed out fully. Even the primary characters...we get very little back story on how they became who they are, with only a few exceptions.
3. Lack of sympathetic characters The only person I cared about in this book was Arya Stark. That's it. I didn't care what happened to anyone else. Daenerys was interesting, but she was brutal too. Ned was better than most of them, but even he was not loyal to his wife and had a dark past. Nearly everyone in this book lacks morals, compassion, or kindness. These people are unlikable!
4. Rape and brutal treatment of women I had heard that Game of Thrones had lots of sex, but I didn't expect the huge amount of rape and horrific treatment of women...constant child bride rape, incest, gang rape, and forced prostitution. Is this typical of fantasy? No thank you. I'd heard that this series has more strong female characters than other fantasy books, but even those strong female characters are often powerless in such a patriarchal, misogynist culture.
5. Too much detail Martin goes way into detail about political posturing, history of various families, and geography, while sacrificing real, valuable information. And then there's the endless, repeated titles of royalty, such as "King Joffrey, the First of His Name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm," blah, blah, blah.
6. Way too long I am not scared of long books. In fact, I loved Vikram Seth's 1,500-page long A Suitable Boy. But you've got to keep me interested to make me feel like the length is worth it. This book could have used a good editor. (See #1 and 5.)
7. Endless plots From what I understand about this series, each book does not end...it just goes on and on into more books. I need closure.
8. Lack of geographic perspective I needed a map, like Tolkien provided. I am a visual person. Where in the heck is "The Neck"? How does the wall divide the kingdom? So much of this book and series is about place and kingdoms. I didn't know where the heck anything was, except sometimes "north" or "south."
9. Does not compel me to read any more I'm not interested in seeing where this series continues.
10. Very sad outlook on humanity J.R.R. Tolkien wrote wonderful villains and complicated characters and had redemption in his books...the friendship in the fellowship of the ring, the rip-roaring fun in the Shire, the wisdom of Gandalf, the great adventure, the beautiful Elfen lands...so many more things to like about that series, even though those books were not my cup of tea either. As one reviewer wrote, "I have bums and alcoholic friends that blaze like Gandalf the White compared to most of Martin's characters." That reviewer went on to say "It is a story mired in filth and obscenity and shines the light on the worst conditions of human experience and offers them up as plot lines, dialogue and personal, social and political interactions."
As I mentioned above, I've read my share of dystopian literature (The Hunger Games series, The Road, A Handmaid's Tale, etc.), but even those types of books have some redemption in them, usually in the relationships between the characters. If I'm going to read a dark, dark book, I need to get some satisfaction out of it.
My apologies to the Game of Thrones lovers! (less)
Monsters. Children with peculiar powers, who are hiding from the monsters. Time travel. World War II and the Holocaust. Haunting black & white photographs (most of them actual vintage photos). A Peregrine falcon.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob travels to Wales to find out what happened to his grandfather, who suddenly and mysteriously died. His grandpa, Abe, had shared strange and unimaginable stories with Jacob when he was a child, and he doubted his sanity. Jacob soon discovers that Abe was not lying, and he becomes irrevocably connected to the children at the home for peculiar children.
In the beginning, this novel reminded me of "Grimm," Portland's own haunting TV series. Apparently this story has similarities to the X-Men. But what was unique about it was the photos. Ransom Riggs wanted to create a book with the photos alone, but he was convinced to write a novel around the photos instead. At times, this is obvious, as is the fact that this is a first novel. Although only ten children live in the home, the photos capture images of many other children...and it's not clear what happened to those children.
Other readers have criticized the fact that the children seem too American when in fact they are supposed to be British or Welsh. Riggs has never traveled to Wales. Others found the narrator (Jacob) to be unlikable and spoiled, and the parents to be too detached (apparently this is a convention in young adult novels, though, for some reason). The writing is geared toward young adults, although at times Jacob seems to talk as if he's much older. His speech seems older but his actions seem younger.
The ending is not wrapped up in a neat and tidy way, and Riggs is reported to be working on a sequel expected for release in 2013. A film is in the making. I thought this story was highly readable, with an intriguing premise and captivating photos. I will read the sequel to find out what happens next!(less)
I tend to shy away from fantasy and science fiction, but I read The Ruins of Gorlan (the first in the Ranger's Apprentice series) for my book group. One of the members loves fantasy, and she chose this one as an accessible fantasy series. I had a difficult time getting into the book at first, but it didn't take too long. I get impatient with different (fictional) worlds, lands, and breeds...I'm not sure why. I'm also not particularly drawn into stories filled with constant battles.
My nephew Ryan loves these books and dressed up as the ranger's apprentice this year for Halloween. He was delighted to hear that I would be reading it, and I'm also reading it with Kieran. I decided to read ahead so I'd be prepared for my book group on Wednesday.
Young Will always wanted to be a warrior, but when he reaches the age to be apprenticed to a craftsperson, he is selected to train with a mysterious ranger. Soon he learns the important role of the rangers, or protectors of the kingdom. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. As typical in fantasy for young people, Will is soon called to apply the skills he has learned as a new apprentice and gets drawn into heroic conflict. The book reminded me a bit of The Lord of the Rings, but I found it to be much more accessible.
I know that Kieran is going to love this book and will want to read more of the series. I decided to give this book three stars because I enjoyed it but wouldn't necessarily read more without Kieran (unlike Harry Potter). Kieran tends to be gung ho about series until the end, when he loses steam. We are 3/4 of the way through the last Percy Jackson book, and now we've started this new book. We also made it nearly all the way through the Lemony Snicket series before he lost interest. We'll see how this one goes! (less)
**spoiler alert** This morning I finished Book #3 of the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins has crafted an amazing allegorical story, f...more**spoiler alert** This morning I finished Book #3 of the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins has crafted an amazing allegorical story, full of vivid imagery and memorable characters. Read my full review at my book blog: http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/...(less)
I'd been looking forward to reading The Little Book for my book group this month, and in the beginning I was sure I would love it--time travel fascinates me. But love it I did not. I would give it a solid three stars, but I felt bogged down by some of the plot. It took me a few weeks to finish it.
Edwards took 30 years to finish this book, and in some ways it felt like he was overambitious. He tackles fin de siecle Vienna, the life of Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler, World War II, Mark Twain, and Adolf Hitler...oh, and baseball and rock music and supposedly the beginning of the feminist movement, too.
Wheeler Burden is the protagonist--a character so perfect (star baseball player and brilliant rock musician) that he reminds me of Peekay in that dratted book The Power of One (although I liked this book better than that one). His father was perfect too, and even a war hero worshipped in several different countries. The book starts when Wheeler is 47 in 1988, and he goes back to fin de siecle Vienna in the year 1897, where he falls in love with his grandmother and befriends his now-dead father. (Yes, he was in love with his grandmother...is that weird and creepy or what??? Who cares if he's not technically related by blood? Still creepy.)
I enjoyed the descriptions of Vienna during the turn of the century, and many of the characters were colorful and interesting (I would have liked to have seen more of Wheeler's mother, though). I learned more about the formation of Sigmund Freud's ideas and the rise of fascism in Europe...and I find it intriguing to consider: what would I do if I could change the course of the world by pre-empting an evil dictator's rise to power?
But the book also had some serious flaws. Enough of the baseball...boring, and I couldn't really see how it was important for the story. The ramblings about "the Venerable Haze" and the "Little Book" got tiresome too. What was so brilliant about the "Little Book"? It was entirely unclear to me. As Ron Charles writes in his review in The Washington Post, "We never hear anything from this book ourselves, but we're told again and again how great it is."
Charles sums up my thoughts:
"In fact, Edwards makes so many hyperbolic claims that The Little Book begins to sound rather flat, like a tall tale told without a wink. Edwards can't stop petting Wheeler and reminding us how wonderful he is. Of course, he's incredibly good looking and sexually athletic, but he also writes a foundational work of 20th-century philosophy and inspires "the beginning of the American feminist movement." (You didn't think women could do that on their own, did you?) And he throws the fastest pitch in college baseball (at Harvard, naturally). Then he writes "the most famous song of the 1970s" and becomes "one of People magazine's Most Recognizable." Then he publishes a bestselling book in the 1980s. The whole narrative is soggy with hero-worship, like the fantasy of a skinny teenage boy staring into a mirror."
What finally makes my head hurt in this whole time travel adventure is that we never really learn how they are able to time travel. Is it hereditary? Or perhaps sort of afterlife experience? And supposedly they are in an endless loop, ever meeting again...so the world will never end? I just can't get my head around it. I wanted some sort of resolution to how this weird time travel thing happened, but I never got one.
This book was wildly inventive and wacky, and I give kudos to Selden Edwards for dreaming it up. Perhaps if he had worked on the book for fewer years and not tried to make it so full of meticulous research, I would have found it less frustrating. And what the heck would they do with a wooden frisbee? Find fame and fortune? The characters were just too damn perfect for my liking (except for that incest grandmother-grandson thing...which I still find incredibly odd that the author thought this was romantic), while at the same time I didn't feel that sympathetic or connected to Wheeler. I liked his mother better.(less)
**spoiler alert** Where to start? After reading critical reviews of these books and hearing people rave about them to the point of excess, I decided t...more**spoiler alert** Where to start? After reading critical reviews of these books and hearing people rave about them to the point of excess, I decided that I should read one myself before I criticize it.
And thank God, I'm done.
One was all I could stomach, and I had to force myself to finish it (usually I stop reading books I don't like). I read the plots of the rest of the books on Wikipedia.
Twilight series, how do I abhor you? Let me count the ways...
1. Sentences, and content, like this:
"I couldn't imagine how an angel could be any more glorious." "There was no way this godlike creature could be meant for me." "His beauty stunned my mind--and it was too much, an excess I couldn't grow accustomed to."
2. Completely one-dimensional, hollow character development. The heroine, Bella, is supposed to be bright; however, she is clumsier than humanly possible and faints at the drop of a hat and CONSTANTLY needs to be rescued by the "hero." Said hero, Edward, is earth-shatteringly beautiful (as we are told a gazillion times)...no, PERFECT!!!! But he has absolutely no depth whatsoever. The attraction appears to be completely based on Edward's "beauty" and animal magnetism.
3. No characters I can relate to or give a shit about what happens to, at all...because of #3.
4. Borderline abusive and stalking situations...such as Edward sneaking into heroine's room at night and watching her sleep, looking furiously at her, lashing torrents of angry looks and reactions at the drop of a hat, and ordering her around. Apparently, in the later books this is driven up several notches...with Edward disabling Bella's car to prevent her from going to see her boyfriend (and his apparent rival for her affections). At one point, he threw her "over his stone shoulder" and dragged Bella downstairs...and she liked it! Or "Edward's capable hands pushed mine away and zipped it smoothly." Bella is completely incapacitated without Edward to take charge. And she likes it.
5. Why would anyone ever want to kiss or be with anyone who was ice cold with marble skin? (Or not want to have sex with you, perhaps ever, because it might make him lose control?) Hello???
6. Lack of research into the geography of the Olympic Peninsula. To drive from Forks to Seattle takes 5 hours. You cut 2 hours out of the journey by taking the car ferry--not necessary to go through Tacoma and Olympia. Also, grizzly bears are RARE in Washington. Black bears would have been a much more logical choice for Emmett's favorite food.
7. Tedious, boring page after page. Meyer desperately needed a skilled editor. 3/4 of the book could have been easily cut out, with absolutely nothing missing. Very little happens in the entire book. Most of the pages are filled with swooning, admiration of Edward's beauty and perfection, Bella cooking for her father (because, typical man, he can't cook a damn thing for himself even though he's been living alone for years!), and Edward rescuing Bella from harm, time and again. And purple prose that made me want to vomit.
8. Implausible romantic situation. I've never been attracted to bad boys, so maybe that's why I can't relate. But I simply could not understand how Bella could fall so "irrevocably" in love with Edward (within a week's time, no less!)...what was there to love about him? He was cold, angry, dangerous, and frigid. AND HE'S A VAMPIRE!!! What girl or woman in her right mind would be attracted to THAT?
9. Sexism, pure and simple. Bella is a cipher, completely without any purpose in life except to be with Edward. She gives up her desire to go to college to marry Edward. (Just like her own mother, who follows her second husband around wherever he goes and appears to have no life or personality of her own.) She gives up her human form and life as she knows it to be a vampire, because being with Edward is the most important thing in her life. When Edward leaves her in Book 2, she goes into a complete depression and tries to off herself--her life has no meaning and is not worth living without her vampire. When she finally does have sex with Edward, she gives birth to a baby while nearly dying in the process (again needing to be rescued by Edward). She is incapable of taking care of herself or making any decisions on her own. The one time when she does go against him and make a decision, she made a very stupid and dangerous decision (of course) and nearly gets killed (and is rescued, AGAIN, by Edward). She doesn't even get to have a healthy, platonic relationship with her friend Jacob--because he turns out to be a werewolf, another predator! Women are incapable of making decisions on their own or taking care of ourselves. We need men to run our lives for us, even as they terrorize us at the same time. And we live to serve them.
10. The messages these books and movies are teaching girls and women--very depressing. This is the most distressing thing to me about this series. Bella is no Hermione Granger or Katniss (The Hunger Games). Stephenie Meyer is NO JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins. I shudder to think what young girls and women are taking away from this series...must find a drop-dead beautiful man who treats me like shit and can save me from all perils. He will lash out at me and lust after my blood, and I love that about him! He's dreamy!!! I want to be a vampire so I can be just like him! It's all so romantic.
Just finished Catching Fire this evening, and now I can get back to my life! :)
Catching Fire is an outstanding sequel to The Hunger Games--Collins rea...moreJust finished Catching Fire this evening, and now I can get back to my life! :)
Catching Fire is an outstanding sequel to The Hunger Games--Collins really knows how to spin a thought-provoking tale. At times the storyline got slightly bogged down by the author's attempts to tie back to the events that occurred in The Hunger Games, which I appreciated most of the time--because it's been awhile since I read it, and I also tend not to have a great retention rate. This often happens in sequels, although I can't imagine why anyone would want to start a series with Book #2.
These books are best read by mature middle schoolers on up who can discuss them with a teacher or a parent. They are full of violence and disturbing imagery, akin to novels or memoirs about the Holocaust.
Katniss is a truly multilayered heroine and an unwilling inspiration for the boiling rebellion in the districts. These books cannot help but make readers wonder about the nature of evil, the influence and power of privilege, and the ethical question of "what would I do if I were in this same situation?"
A reviewer on Goodreads pointed out that we--the developed world--are the Capitol, and powerless people in the developing world are the people in the districts. The politicians seem to have all the power and be pulling the strings. Victims of violence, oppression, and injustice day in and day out...we might not be cheering on their deaths, but are we doing anything to try to prevent their oppression?
It's interesting that Collins hasn't tackled the idea of big business and corporations influencing the politicians--where is big business in Panem?
This is political commentary at its best. That's why teenagers need to be able to discuss this book with adults. And why I wish I were in a book group now so I could discuss this with other people. My 14-year-old son has read both of the first two books, so I will be having a discussion with him.
I just put Mockingjay on hold at the library, and it's going to take a long time to get here...which is good. I need to recover from this book before I sink into the next one. It's hard not to read these books without feeling culpable in our privileged existence.
I just read this evening that there are plans to put these books into film. I find that idea disturbing. Some people believe that kids are attracted to these books because of the violence. The idea of having kids watch this story on the screen is too much akin to the whole idea behind these books--a captive audience watching innocents pitted against each other to the death.
If you have not read these books and you know me, I can imagine you might be surprised that I would like this series. Collins is an imaginative, creative writer. If you can stand reading dystopic books, I highly recommend this series. The violence is upsetting and disturbing, but so was Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, and so many other evil acts of genocide in our modern-day world. If anything, these books are cautionary tales for all of us.(less)
I went into work late this morning because I had to finish this book--that's how absorbing it is.
This book is reality TV and the world gone violently...moreI went into work late this morning because I had to finish this book--that's how absorbing it is.
This book is reality TV and the world gone violently haywire. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is that I found the plot extremely disturbing...and I've reserved five stars for books that truly warm my heart (in addition to being excellent books). I could not get this story out of my head while I was reading it, and I'm sure it will stick with me for some time.
The thought of children killing children for forced entertanment and sport terrifies and sickens me. It took me to places in my mind where, as a parent, I really would prefer not to go...in a similar way to "The Handmaid's Tale" or "The Road."
This was an extremely compelling, chilling book. Saying "I really liked it" (four stars) doesn't seem to fit, but it was definitely an extremely well-...moreThis was an extremely compelling, chilling book. Saying "I really liked it" (four stars) doesn't seem to fit, but it was definitely an extremely well-written and crafted novel.
I had a hard time putting "The Road" down, but I also couldn't wait to finish it because I found it so incredibly disturbing. I remember seeing the movie "Soylent Green" as a high school student and finding it similarly disturbing...although "The Road" is even more desolate than Soylent Green or the movie "Delicatessen."
At first I found the writing style a bit jarring--it reminded me a lot of Hemingway and I was never much of a Hemingway fan--but it grew on me after awhile and really seemed to fit the plot and the setting.
One of my Goodreads friends strongly recommended this to me because of the intense father-son relationship in the book. That tender relationship was what haunted me most about this book. I couldn't help but imagine with horror the prospect of wandering a post-apocalyptic earth with one of my own sons. That was what kept me awake at night, and also what made me desperate to finish the book. I kept thinking that if I were in the same situation, I would want to be dead. But one thing kept both father and son alive: their love for each other. How could one of them bear the thought of no longer being together? They cherished their time together, even though they were aware it probably would not last much longer.
This book will haunt me for some time to come. McCarthy is a master. I look forward to reading something a bit more hopeful next!(less)
I read this back in the days when I was experimenting with New Thought religion. I don't remember terribly much about the book, except that I didn't f...moreI read this back in the days when I was experimenting with New Thought religion. I don't remember terribly much about the book, except that I didn't find it to be very well written...and that it was about fields of energy.
In "Why We Read What We Read," the authors take on the genre of religious or spiritual books, and they mention the Celestine Prophecy as one of those books that takes on a life of its own.
Seriously overrated in the New Age/New Thought world...(less)
So much potential, so much squandered. Clearly a talented writer, Maguire greatly disappointed me. I've been told...moreWell, thank God I'm done with THAT!!!
So much potential, so much squandered. Clearly a talented writer, Maguire greatly disappointed me. I've been told by many book-loving friends that the musical version is far superior to the book.
At times, I was very interested in the plot and its characters, but so much of this book bored me to tears. It just went on and on and on...and I stopped caring. The only reason I read to the end was to find out how the Dorothy story was tied in...and what really happened from the witch's point of view. I'm not sure it was worth it. I want all that time back!(less)