I read this book last year, and just finished listening to the Audiobook (Read by Nigel Planer) with my children. "Interesting Times" is the fifth boo...moreI read this book last year, and just finished listening to the Audiobook (Read by Nigel Planer) with my children. "Interesting Times" is the fifth book in the Rincewind series, in case you want to read them in order here they are: [Book: The Color of Magic] [Book: The Light Fantastic] [Book: Sourcery] [Book: Eric] [Book: Interesting Times] [Book: The Last Continent]
To fully appreciate this book, I would suggest reading at least the first two of the series first since those are the ones that explain the luggage, develop the chaotic relationship between Rincewind and Twoflower, and introduce Cohen the Barbarian.
This particular Pratchett book is a satirizing look at the western view of the Orient (specifically China), revolutions, tourism, barbarism, civility, government in general, and the perception of the elderly. The humor in this book is fairly constant, and hysterical along the same lines as the previous Rincewind books. However as with all of his later books, there is much more of a plot and more substance than his first several books.
Summary of the book: Rincewind the failed wizard is finally where he wants to be - stranded on a deserted island with plenty of food and nothing that wants to eat him... oh and the luggage is there with him just in case. Meanwhile Lord Vetinari receives a message from the "Counterweight Continent" requesting that he send "The Great Wizzard" So he sends for the Wizards and informs them that they are to find this "Great Wizzard" and send him to the Empire. The Wizards bumble through it all but eventually manage to get Rincewind teleported from his island of perfection into the Empire. Meanwhile Cohen the Barbarian has collected five other aging barbarians and they have named themselves "The Silver Hoard." The Silver Hoard has big plans for the Empire... probably the largest theft they have ever done... but in order to be sucessful, they have to act "Civilized." So a teacher they have brought along is helping them to "blend in to society" with hysterical results. Twoflower makes a reappearance and in the end Rincewind manages to accidentally save the day yet again.
Now for the review of the audiobook (courtesy of audible.com) I get these to listen to in the car with my little ones... they think that TwoFlower is the greatest and are huge fans of The Luggage. I let them listen because for the most part there is very little profanity and sex is only eluded too (and in a manner way above their heads) now there was on use of "the S word" and a few "Bastards" but other than that the tale was clean enough for them to listen to. Nigel Planer does a wonderful job of reading the tale however the footnotes are rather distracting and I wish they had been left out to help with the flow.
I have about 7 or so Discworld books left that I have not read and this is officially one of my favorites. Though the middle slows down when going into "Lord Hong" The bits with the Silver Hoard had me in hysterics.(less)
Reviewing classics is always a touchy thing to do… but I’m so freakin proud of myself for reading this book that I had to document it some way. How di...moreReviewing classics is always a touchy thing to do… but I’m so freakin proud of myself for reading this book that I had to document it some way. How did I do it? Simple, I read it online with little bits being sent to my email each day… that way I never knew how many millions of pages I had left, and believed that I was making progress.
I have had this book mentioned to me, and quoted to me for years, but I have never met anyone who has actually read it. True the size is daunting… but then again… so is the material. To be honest I didn’t have the first clue what this book was going to be about. It turns out that the reader follows several people, of nobility through the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. When I say several, I mean it… you’ll want to keep a list, and leave lots of room because each person has several variations of their names that are used interchangeably. We follow about 12 main characters and a few other extraneous ones from before the invasion through the end of the conflict. Most of them are nobility and they go through all kinds of soap opera drama, generally self inflicted. Guy A is in love with Girl A but she’s poor, so he marries Girl B who’s really in love with her brother (Guy B I guess) who loves Guy A’s sister (Girl C?), but she tries to run off with Guy C who was just screwing with her head, so now she’s tainted and no one wants to marry Girl C. But Girl C is best of friends with Girl A so they hang out and throw little pity parties for themselves. Meanwhile Guy D is everyone’s pal, who’s married to Girl D who’s really a bit of a hoe, so he wanders about joining clubs and thinking to himself. Then Guy D figures out that he’s in love with Girl C, but she’s still in love with Guy B. Then the war breaks out and all of the guys other than Guy D go to war, and the Girls whine and cry about it… oh, and they move around a lot… seems like they are always packing up and moving… not that they do any of the packing… that’s what servants are for!
So just when we think we are getting a handle on who is who, who they are in love with at the moment, and what the heck is going on… we have a cut scene to – history class… Tolstoy will rant and rave for a bit about war in general, Napoleon, or the idiocy of both Historians and the Russian Military leaders. Okay you think, I can deal with a bit of sarcastic Russian historical education, but just as soon as you get your mind in gear for that – BAM you are knee deep in fighting and trying to remember just who the German guy was and how he was related to all of the people you were reading about before the cut scene.
This book ends up feeling like 3 books mixed into one – a satirical historical text, a family drama, and a wartime epic. Now each in its own is a very interesting tale, but when mashed up together, they can be rather jarring to the mind. I do have to agree with the others that the battle scenes are very well written, and I did enjoy Tolstoy’s commentary on the Russian leadership during the war… and after a while I liked some of his characters. But don’t get too attached to them… Tolstoy has no problem killing off the people you like, and when you get to the end, and are expecting a huge revelation, or some sort of major explosive dynamic finale… the curtain closes without even a spark.
Still, this is a brilliant work… I’m glad I read it, and I wish I knew someone else who had because it would be interesting to discuss it with someone. It will never go down as one of my favorite novels, but it will go down as one of my lifelong accomplishments. Tolstoy’s writing appears excellent (remember, we’re reading a translation so we have to give them credit too) and he has a brilliant wit and handle on his subject matter. I don’t agree with much of his philosophy but it is certainly an interesting topic to read on. If you can make it through 1300 pages of one book, I recommend at least giving this a try. (less)
From the early feminist movement comes a short story of disturbing brilliance. I won't say that it moved me or changed me... but it did encourage me t...moreFrom the early feminist movement comes a short story of disturbing brilliance. I won't say that it moved me or changed me... but it did encourage me to think. As an alegory for women trapped in marriage, run by their husbands and caged away from society and human contact... this is an excellent piece of fiction. What it does not do is sugar coat it's meaning nor does it sit the reader down and spoonfeed it to them. You can read this in a half an hour but hours later you will find more of the pieces falling into place. This is truly a short story that needs to be digested by the mind.
I wouldn't spend the money to buy this, it is available for free online at several websites.(less)
This is one of the most brilliant works of satirical genius I have ever read. I read it back in 6th grade and didn't get it. Now that I'm 30... I get...moreThis is one of the most brilliant works of satirical genius I have ever read. I read it back in 6th grade and didn't get it. Now that I'm 30... I get it and love it. How powerful and funny at the same time. I could only dream of having the wit and genius that Swift had.
Before you run out and buy this anywhere... you can find it for free on the internet.
How does one even begin describing this book? Can you even sum up the plot and do it justice? Talk of Malachi and his adventures/mishaps or Beatrice…...moreHow does one even begin describing this book? Can you even sum up the plot and do it justice? Talk of Malachi and his adventures/mishaps or Beatrice… To we follow Roomford as he appears and disappears as the earth rotates? To we talk about the invasion from Mars? Or the years spent on Mercury? How to we discuss the plot when in reality the plot is only a vehicle to get the reader to the destination, the realization that Vonnegut is trying to make us come to. The best summary that I can come up with is that we follow Malachi/Unk through the end of his life… starting from his receiving a prediction that he would go to Mars, Mercury, back to Earth, and then to Titan… and ending at the end of his life and his journeys.
So what is this book even about? Well there’s religion, and the sense that God is not responsible for us, or our futures, rather we survive in a series of random accidents. Then there is the meaning of life, and the futility of the search for it. We have the satirical take on family, business, politics, and war. Then we have the long and involved satire of our purpose, and being used as humans toward a purpose that is both completely beyond our mental grasp, and not something that we would be happy to know about in the first place.
I personally cannot stand sci-fi so I put off reading this book for quite a while, even through I LOVE Vonnegut. In the end, the Sci-Fi aspect did not bother me because Vonnegut never spent all that much energy on that aspect. Sure they were on Mars, and Mercury, and Titan… and there was an alien life form or two and some spaceships… but as with the plot, the sci-fi aspect of this book is merely a vehicle to drive the reader to the proper conclusions. People are often upset that one cannot classify a Vonnegut book into any one genre; I find that this is because he is a philosopher who is wiling to take you to any extreme in order to open your eyes to what he views as reality. And what is Vonnegut’s reality? Simple – Life is a series of accidents, both good and bad. The Creator is off doing what he does best – Creating, not guiding our every movement and desire. And finally, that we shouldn’t put too much stock into our purpose, instead focus on just being nice, and being happy in the life that you have.
Even if you are not a fan of Sci-Fi I highly recommend this book. True it is not Vonnegut’s seminal work, nor is it his most humorous, but it has so many important themes running through it that it should be required reading in school. The number of discussions that can be had after reading and truly dissecting this book are amazing. The Simple line stated by Boaz on Mercury when he makes his decision, the true purpose of the Martian attack, the over all meaning of life. The ending of this book is a truly joyous, utterly ridiculous and yet so profoundly meaningful revelation that the reader cannot help but sit back and shake their head in both disbelief and astonishment, both appalled and amused, and most of all, completely unable to keep from wondering… is that what it really IS all about? Something so….. Now I don’t want to spoil it for you!
Though this book is only just over 300 pages, it took me longer than normal to read it, because you really don’t want to skim. The language is brilliant, and the satire is sometimes so deeply laced into what is being said that it can be easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. As I said before, I highly recommend this book. (less)
This book is beautiful, beautiful in a sad and heart wrenching way… like finding a dead butterfly. The world is winding down; an all out nuclear war h...moreThis book is beautiful, beautiful in a sad and heart wrenching way… like finding a dead butterfly. The world is winding down; an all out nuclear war has ravaged and wiped out the entire northern hemisphere. Those who weren’t claimed by the bombs themselves died from the radiation. The southern hemisphere waits patiently for their time, as the radiation sweeps slowly southward, taking with it town after town.
In southern Australia the last of the large cities prepares for their demise. One of two remaining American Nuclear Submarines has made it and it’s crew reports in to the Australian Armed forces.
This book mainly follows two men, Peter Holmes an Australian in the Navy who is a new father, and Dwight Towers, an American Commander of the Submarine “Scorpion,” a refugee in Australia. Peter is assigned to Dwight’s submarine as the Australian Liaison, however the military aspect of this novel is truly nothing but background. This is a book about people, who know that death is swiftly approaching through the air and that there is nothing they can do to stop it. At the start of the book it is December 27th, and the radiation is due to reach them in September. We follow several members of the town as they work to go on with their daily lives all the while knowing that everything will be ending. Some live in a state of denial, planting gardens they will not live to see bloom, others attempt to live out what fantasies they can, racing fast cars with reckless abandon. Still others accept what is coming and live their lives the best they can.
This is a story of quiet desperation, terror, acceptance and the decision to die with dignity. The writing style is fine, though not brilliant, perhaps this is because of the time it was written in, or perhaps Shute’s idea was grander than his literary ability. Some of the words were awkward, which I simply attributed to my not knowing Australian slang, also many of the male characters can come across as fairly detached while the women verge on a touch of insanity. I contribute this to the fact that it was written in the 1950’s when the men were expected to be both strong and reserved, and the women were still considered the “weaker sex.” There is also a deep rooted sense of morality and duty that courses through the novel, there is no looting, rioting, or mass pandemonium, rather we see a quite resolve, camaraderie and sense of dignity.
Many have said this novel brought them to tears, though I can see my mom bawling if she read this, I did not cry, instead I found myself feeling empty, disturbed, and emotionally drained. There is no action in this book, save a car race, so if you are looking for fighting, explosions, and mutilations, look elsewhere. This is instead a powerful study of what those last days could be like. I wish they made books like this required reading in school, the next generation might think a little harder. (less)
This is not the type of book I would have picked up on my own to read. But when you are in you mother-in-laws house and she states that you HAVE to re...moreThis is not the type of book I would have picked up on my own to read. But when you are in you mother-in-laws house and she states that you HAVE to read it... you sit there and read it. And no matter what you think, you tell her that it was great.
I was surprised that it wasn't all that bad. As far as my political persuasion, I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and have the annoying ability to see both sides of most issues. I know very little about Newt other than his position and the fact that he was a Republican. This book is a fairly good breakdown of what is wrong with our country today, from the educational system, to welfare, to the "war on drugs." There is extensive coverage of the "Contract with America" that the Republicans pushed back in the Clinton years. In this book he claims that it was a success, but with it currently being 2008, I'm not sure what exactly it did for our country.
As far as the politics in this book, he is very conservative, but logical. That's the thing with this book, if you brush away the political spin, this is pure slap yourself on the forehead logic "DUH!" kind of material. If anyone reads this and claims that it is brilliant, enlightening, or world changing... then they must have been hiding in a box somewhere for the last 20 years. There is nothing here that you haven't heard in your high school government class. This book would be very good reading for a high school student to spark debate and thoughtful conversation, but as far as revolutionary... there really isn't much here to cling to. Thank you for pointing out the problems Newt, we already know them... now will someone come up with some solutions! (less)
I had “viddied” this “sinny” many times at a young age “Oh my brothers” and it was real “horrorshow” but I had never read the book. Let me tell ya… th...moreI had “viddied” this “sinny” many times at a young age “Oh my brothers” and it was real “horrorshow” but I had never read the book. Let me tell ya… the language takes a bit to sink in. Even at the end of the book there were bits and peaces that I had to mentally translate to myself. Burgess wrote this from the POV of Alex, a nasty little 14 year old who enjoys theft, burglary, assault and battery, rape and then the dabbles into manslaughter. I say manslaughter because I don’t believe that Alex and his friends intended to kill anyone, they just laid on the beat down a bit too hard.
Oh, and Alex speaks directly to us… the readers, who he refers to as “my brothers” but Alex speaks in a slang that I hear is a mish-mash of Eurasian languages, particularly a lot of Russian thrown in. It takes a while for your brain to process this language. It’s not hard to figure out through context what each of the words means, but it will certainly slow down your reading. The version I read was 149 pages (the original European publishing that DID include the final chapter) and it took me close to a week to finish it. Now I had been told that this was an ultraviolent book… and at the time it may have been… but I didn’t find it to be any more violent than “In Cold Blood” or some other classics that I was encouraged to read. However, the book keeps referring to the goings on as “ultra-violence.” True there are several beatings, a knife fight, a few rapes, drug use, etc… but with the mental translation it took to figure out exactly what was occurring… sure I knew it was wrong, but it didn’t “horrify” me. Then again I grew up in an age where this kind of thing actually does happen. I believe that when this was written, they had a belief that the world was a better place than those of us from later generations believe.
The underlying theme is the question of – if you could force someone to be good… force them to only be capable of doing the right thing… is that good? Or is it better to allow them the option to do evil, provided they have options. What is the “Christian” thing to do in this case? Would God be pleased to see his creations only doing good when they have no choice but to do it? There are other themes running amok through this book, childhood, growing up, the violence inherent in the system, and the futility of rehabilitating prisoners when our prisons are overcrowded and unmanageable to name just a few. There is a lot of meaning in this book, if one can manage their way through it. Some will be turned off by the difficulty of reading the made up language, others will be turned off by the violence… but those who make it through certainly are left with quite a few tidbits to mull over in their minds. I would suggest reading this with someone, or a group, because I assume that the most enjoyment can be reached by really discussing this book with someone. Good luck, enjoy and know that this is a very interesting, vile, yet purposeful book. (less)
Back in high school I read this book and absolutely hated every page of it. The other day I decided that it was time for a re-read so I pulled it back...moreBack in high school I read this book and absolutely hated every page of it. The other day I decided that it was time for a re-read so I pulled it back out and started reading.
Short Summary: Jurgis and his extended family migrate to America from Lithuania in search of the American Dream. When they arrive they discover that the American dream may not be available to them, what is available to them is scam after scam, starvation, freezing winters, and slave labor for pitiful wages.
The first chapter of the book is generally enough to make all but the most dedicated readers consider turning back. It is an extended wedding scene with little to know explanation as to who these people are that we are reading about. Though we do meet up with many of the characters later in the book, it's really not the most desirable place for us to leap into the story. The wedding between Jurgis and Ona is a happy affair that nearly breaks their pitiful bank. After this chapter we leap back to the family coming over to America, fumbling about to find a place to stay, trying to learn enough English to get by, and attempting to find jobs.
The family does not have an easy time of it... there are thousands of people in the Chicago area starving for lack of work, the slaughterhouses have their pick of employees, can pay them almost nothing, and can turn them out to the streets with no notice. Women and children are forced to work as well, trying desperately to make ends meet, keep food on the table, and keep coal in the stove for heat.
The bulk of this novel focuses on the horrors of life in that time, particularly the atrocities committed by the slaughterhouses and the meat packing industry. I assure you that after reading this book you will think before you take your next bit of beef or pork (especially sausage). The horrors that this novel brings to light are almost unbelievable in this day and age, but they were true. One cannot even imagine going through the days and nights as this family does. Every time they begin to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is extinguished again. This book follows the tragic breaking down of the human spirit, the death of the soul, and the degradation of humanity on such a scale as to be almost unbelievable. Sinclair takes us to the brink of despair, we want this family to make it, we want their spirits to soar! We want to see hope glimmering in their eyes and food in their bellies. Such vivid characters and such terrible scenes will stick with the reader long after the book has been closed.
But that is just the first 3/4 of the book... of all of the classics that I have read, both modern and ancient... so far this one has the least satisfying ending. In the last 5 or so chapters of the book, Jurgis is swept up by the socialist movement, and from that point on the reader simply reads speech after speech of socialist propaganda so thick that Sinclair almost leaps out of the book and bashes you over the skull with it. Page after page of brand new, came out of nowhere characters - people we know nothing about theorizing and pontificating over the joys and hopes that the socialist movement is bringing to the people. Page after page of how material wealth should be government run and intellectual wealth should be free, and how the whole concept of Socialism will solve everyone's problems and we can all live happily ever after should we vote socialist.
Now I have nothing against socialism, heck the good old US of A is a socialist country, even though they'll fight you rather than admit it. But I don't like anyone's theories jammed down my throat... especially after they have just drug me through the gutter and have me all emotional about the horrible lives the poor characters are living. I almost took offense to the ending - Jurgis and his family deserved a better ending to their story than than!
I am giving this book 3 stars, the first 3/4 of it is 5 star material, the last couple of chapters was 1-2 star material the appeared out of nowhere, so I'm splitting the difference. I remember now that my hatred of this book back in high school was for the same reason, and I recall arguing with my teacher that this book could have been great if he had let me rip the last 3 chapters off of it... or if Sinclair had woven his socialist theory throughout the book rather than slapping it on at the end. Still I highly recommend reading this book, even if you don't bother reading all of the speeches at the end.(less)
Vonnegut is one of those genius writers that you can't help but love. "Slaughterhouse 5" was my first venture into the realm of Vonnegut, but I have t...moreVonnegut is one of those genius writers that you can't help but love. "Slaughterhouse 5" was my first venture into the realm of Vonnegut, but I have to say that I think I enjoyed this tale much more. Perhaps because the topic is closer to my heart, or perhaps I was able to identify more closely with the characters, I found this novel to be both thought provoking and utterly hysterical.
The short synopsis - The heir to a ridiculously large family fortune would rather spend his days helping the poor and destitute than attending the large social gatherings which his family feels he should prefer. Naturally this means that he is insane right? His family and one rather unscrupulous attorney seem to think so. They begin their plans on having him declared mentally incompetent, but he may have a trick or two up his sleeve.
I often find that I have to be in the right mood to read through a Vonnegut book, for some reason this one gripped me and I was done with it in less than 2 hours. The characters were hysterical, slightly caricaturistic and over the top, but entirely identifiable and comparable to someone we all know. This entire tale is a treatise on capitalism, money, redistribution of wealth, and the question of selflessness vs insanity. If you like Vonnegut, then this is already on your list. If you haven't encountered Vonnegut, give this book a try for an amusing look at true satire. (less)