Bear V Shark was Chris Bachelder's first novel, U.S.! was his second, and reading them, you can really tell that they were written in that order. U...more Bear V Shark was Chris Bachelder's first novel, U.S.! was his second, and reading them, you can really tell that they were written in that order. U.S.! is much more accomplished, whereas Bear V Shark, while clever, suffers from being far too one-note. It's also more bleak and depressing, eviscerating American culture—which, in a not-too-distant future where televisions no longer turn off, involves a nation that has become obsessed with a virtual fight between the titular animals—without leaving even the shred of hope or optimism U.S.! offered. Plus, the (intentional) errors in fact that all the characters spout (a Gordian knot is referred to throughout as a guardian knot, for example) drove me *insane*. I can't stand that amount of dumb! Not even in the cause of satire!
However, it is very amusing to picture Stephen Colbert reading this novel. I'm thinking audio book?(less)
Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle and dozens of other books advocating socialism and social reform, is resurrected periodically to fight the good...more Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle and dozens of other books advocating socialism and social reform, is resurrected periodically to fight the good fight—resurrected and assassinated, both with bullets and bad press. This is not only an incredibly imaginative novel, it's an incredibly imaginative political novel, that touches on how hard it is to keep fighting for what you believe in such a fucked up world. The story is told first in fragments—snatches of narrative interspersed with letters and jokes and interview clips and songs—and then with a climactic narrative showdown in a small American town. Bachelder does an amazing job making everyone—even, at times, various assassins and other unlikable folk—sympathetic, while also keeping them realistically flawed. Sinclair—as Bachelder portrays him and as he doubtless was in real life—is far, far from a saint; he's mostly just a tired old man. As someone who at 23 already feels exhausted with the political machine, I found this book incredibly moving and painful and funny and inspiring. It's far more interesting and weird than I could possibly describe it. You should give it a read.(less)
An American oil company drilling near Oslo finds a body in the ice. They give it to a Russian doctor who's been experimenting with cryogenics, and lo...moreAn American oil company drilling near Oslo finds a body in the ice. They give it to a Russian doctor who's been experimenting with cryogenics, and lo and behold! He manages to bring the human ice cube back to life. The mystery man remains in a semi-comatose state for days, muttering in a language that no one can identify until tapes are sent to a nun at a nearby convent. It's Latin! OMG THE GUY IS A ROMAN GLADIATOR REVIVED CENTURIES AFTER HIS DEATH!
As you can probably guess, the plot is the main focus of this book, and for the most part it's wicked fun, moving at a very fast clip toward the part I was really waiting for: Lucius Aurelius Eugenianus' introduction to the modern world (which, since this book was written in the '70s, actually seems amusingly unmodern in a lot of ways). Unfortunately, just as we were getting to the good stuff, the story gets a little bogged down with a sideline about the oil company's machinations. Further, the characters are much more of the servicable type than the kind that leap off the pages, and there are several moments that just seem...off, like when the guy who found the body, Lew, finally "finds the balls" to chew out his ungrateful wife and daughter. I think this is supposed to be a heroic moment, but he just sounds like Alec Baldwin indulging in answering machine rage. All in all, this was a fun read, but far from a great one. If I'd been alive in the '70s, I bet I would have enjoyed reading it on a plane.(less)
In the future, a group of people volunteer for a scientific experiment in which they agree to immerse themselves in a community mimicking long-gone 20...moreIn the future, a group of people volunteer for a scientific experiment in which they agree to immerse themselves in a community mimicking long-gone 20th Century life. The protagonist, Robin, signs up to escape people who are trying to kill her. I mean, him. Technically Robin is a dude. But he spends most of the book trapped in a female body, and he mostly just reads as a woman—as an awesome, interesting heroine. It's kind of sad that one of the few ways we get male SF/F writers writing interesting women is when they think they're writing men, but it works to our advantage in this case, I suppose.
This was generally a quite fun "fight the power" yarn (the experimenters are up to no good, surprise surprise). I enjoyed the hints of backstory—the history of the Censorship Wars and the genesis of the very creepy (and wonderfully named) virus Curious Yellow. There were also some neat tricks worked with Robin's first person POV. The book's ending, however, was rather too rushed and pat; saying "And then we fought a big battle and kicked some ass" is really not the same as showing a big battle being fought and some ass being kicked. In general, this was interesting and enjoyable sci-fi, but it really didn't transcend the genre.(less)
The first John Rebus mystery, which I'd hoped would really grab me and thus give me a whole series to enjoy. Sadly, grabbed I was not. Like most myste...moreThe first John Rebus mystery, which I'd hoped would really grab me and thus give me a whole series to enjoy. Sadly, grabbed I was not. Like most mysteries I've read, this failed to do much for me; I was particularly frustrated in this case because the book takes the "the reader knows more about what's going on than the protagonists do" angle, which in a mystery like this has the unfortunate effect of making all the characters seem really, astonishingly dumb. Rankin tries to give his inspector some psychological complexity, but he's really rather unsubtle about it; further, the book ends on a truly bizarre note. I do not think I shall be reading the rest of the series.(less)
I didn't really know what to expect with this novel; I'm not particularly interested in Superman and I'm actually rather suspicious of novels based on...moreI didn't really know what to expect with this novel; I'm not particularly interested in Superman and I'm actually rather suspicious of novels based on others' works (which is rather bizarre for a fanfic writer, I must say). I guess I was sucked in by the fantastic Chris Ware cover. And hey, for once judging a book by its cover turned out to be a good thing: It's Superman! is immensely enjoyable, sweeping, and highly visual even without the aid of comic illustrations. De Haven reexamines Superman's origin story, bringing the setting back to the era of the character's creation, the 1930s and the Great Depression. Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor are all compellingly presented, and seem like real people—Clark's self-doubt does a lot to make Superman more interesting, and more human. (No offense to the people of Krypton intended.) De Haven's OCs (oh, and now watch me slip into fanfic parlance) are fun and interesting too. The book is a good 425 pages long and when I reached the end all I wanted was for it to keep going.(less)
I'm always eager to read books about L.A., but they almost always disappoint me. (None of them really capture my L.A.—though oddly, I feel that Raymon...moreI'm always eager to read books about L.A., but they almost always disappoint me. (None of them really capture my L.A.—though oddly, I feel that Raymond Chandler's world occasionally intersects with mine. Also, the movie Blade Runner.) See's latest novel unfortunately continued the trend. It takes place is a universe that's supposed to be only slightly different from ours, in which national security after 9/11 has been amped up even more than it really was. Unfortunately, the difference feels if anything too slight—I'm not sure I would have realized it was an AU at all if I hadn't been told by the cover copy. None of the rest of the novel really comes together, either; it follows several interconnected characters, all of whom have reason to spend time at the UCLA medical center. Edith is a hospital volunteer whose husband died of a prolonged illness the day before the World Trade Center attacks; her son Phil is a dermatologist; Andrea and OmgGuyWhoseNameI'veAlreadyForgotten both have family members who are ill. All of these characters are fairly unpleasant, and they all resolve their worries about family and death in ways that feel oddly unrealistic. I finished this novel feeling like I must have missed something, but I talked to my mom about it this weekend, and though she loves See's Golden Days, she felt much the same way. Okay, so back to my original assessment: This doesn't really work. Wherever it was going, it didn't get there.(less)
Sequel to Changing Places, this book follows the same characters—and many, many more—as they travel the world for a series of academic conferences. T...moreSequel to Changing Places, this book follows the same characters—and many, many more—as they travel the world for a series of academic conferences. There is much amusement to be had in tracking the ways the various characters meet up (and often, hook up), and the whole thing is zany and hilarious and lots of fun, if a little less satisfying than Places. Note: the cover of the 1984 British Penguin edition has an illustration of a bare-breasted woman bound by chains to the 'W' in World; this will make you incredibly popular with strange men who sit down next to you on the bus. (less)
An English widow decides to open up a bookshop in her small town. That was all I knew of this book (well, and that my mom has a dozen of Fitzgerald's...moreAn English widow decides to open up a bookshop in her small town. That was all I knew of this book (well, and that my mom has a dozen of Fitzgerald's slim paperbacks strewn around her house) and that was what made me pick it up. So my reaction here is kind of a case of thwarted expectations: I was expecting something much more light and comic and—okay, I don't want to say life-affirming, because my vanity wants me to think I am not the sort of person who ever desires to read anything that could be described as "life-affirming" or "uplifting." But yeah: I wanted to read something that made me go, "Books and reading FTW!"
This is not that book. Really, it's a tiny, tightly-written tragedy, a story about how people can be really, truly awful to one another, with all the good people getting punished and bad people rewarded. It's very well-written and perfectly, plainly presented, and damn, does it hurt. I finished it just after midnight and went to bed whimpering. (less)
As the title would suggest, this is a collection of sci-fi takes on the Great Detective. As with any anthology, the stories varied in quality—there wa...moreAs the title would suggest, this is a collection of sci-fi takes on the Great Detective. As with any anthology, the stories varied in quality—there was, for example, an interesting story about a time traveling Moriarty and an intriguing tale about a Holmes who may (or may not) have succumbed to senility. Mostly, though, there wasn't enough Sherlock Holmes in a collection that was nominally all about him! Instead there were stories about an alien race that has modeled itself after Victorian England (including a Holmes stand-in), or a highly-intelligent dog that solves crime, or a pair of children with the power to to evoke fictional creatures like the Hound of the Baskervilles to kill their parents. Okay, fine. But what I wanted was explorations of Holmes' (and Watson's) character, through the wonderful, slightly-distorted lens that sci-fi tropes can provide. I wanted to see Holmes' wonderful mind react to time travel or alien life; I want to see his and Watson's friendship stand the test of time and space, as promised by the title. But unfortunately, this collection remained sadly earthbound.
Sequel to 44 Scotland Street. This book is actually kind of amazing: it's 345 pages long, and practically nothing happens in it. Which I suppose you...moreSequel to 44 Scotland Street. This book is actually kind of amazing: it's 345 pages long, and practically nothing happens in it. Which I suppose you could claim is like real life, but since the tone of the series is supposed to be soap opera-like (in part aping Tales of the City), the mixture of WACKINESS! and 'eh, idleness' makes for a bizarre combination indeed. Potential storylines about a Glasgow gangster and a nudist colony fizzle out like defective firecrackers. Then the whole thing is wrapped up with startling abruptness. What was the point? I have no idea.(less)
The first in a new series of novels by Mike Carey, whose Lucifer and Hellblazer runs I really like. The series is set in a world very like ours—excep...moreThe first in a new series of novels by Mike Carey, whose Lucifer and Hellblazer runs I really like. The series is set in a world very like ours—except a few years ago, the dead started to come back: as ghosts, as zombies, and as were (possessed and altered animals). Our narrator and guide to this world is the improbably named Felix Castor, an exorcist who's always been able to see dead people and who communes with them through music—his exorcism ritual involves a tin whistle; he's like the Pied Piper of the deceased. I'll admit I had kind of expected Felix to be a somewhat disguised John Constantine—and actually, I would have been totally okay with that, because as far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to write a series of novels about a somewhat disguised John Constantine should have free reign (as long as they preserve the cool comics version and don't buy into that wussy movie idiocy). But Felix is actually quite different—much less cocky and confident, more a person who's just trying to survive than someone who's out there willingly taking on the world.
Carey has an engaging writing style, full of wit and clever similes. The plot...is somewhat less engaging; it's actually a rather standard murder mystery, only with supernatural trappings. The "surprise!" bad guy is exactly who you would peg as the bad guy if you've read much of anything at all, and there's a very annoying chapter of exposition/confession that interrupts the action toward the end. All in all, I was left with the feeling that the world Carey has created is deserving of a more interesting storyline. The ending—the "Hey, in case you didn't catch it, this is the start of a series" ending—teases of one, and I would very much like to read the next book. Of course, it's not available in the States. Pooh.(less)
Vida Winter is a bestselling author—a modern day Charles Dickens—but her past is entirely unknown; she gives one interview per year and always lies....moreVida Winter is a bestselling author—a modern day Charles Dickens—but her past is entirely unknown; she gives one interview per year and always lies. Then, out of the blue, she hires bookstore clerk and amateur biographer Margaret Lea to take down her life story. The majority of the novel comprises Winter's history as transcribed by Margaret, and Margaret's own life and investigations. The mood of the piece intentionally harkens back to various gothic novels, particularly Jane Eyre; the plot involves a family in a mouldering manner house, plagued by madness, a ghost, and unworldly twins who are possibly the product of incest. This is all dynamically presented, and the twist, when it arrives, is quite clever, exactly the type of narrative trick I admire; if I weren't so lazy, I would check back and do things like track pronouns, see how the book could be reread in light of new knowledge, and I'm sure it would all work perfectly. However, despite the novel's excellent atmosphere and underlying cleverness, it failed to emotionally engage me. The ending both goes on forever and seems too pat, and I was simply never...moved? Stirred? The sweeping emotions that a good gothic novel can evoke—the kind that make you want to take a wander on the moors even if you yourself live in sunny California—were unfortunately absent. This book never moved beyond the intellectual for me; it never affected my heart. (less)
Sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends; I've been looking forward to reading it for months. There were some things I really enjoyed about it, especially a new...moreSequel to Bloodsucking Fiends; I've been looking forward to reading it for months. There were some things I really enjoyed about it, especially a new character, a hilarious teenage goth girl called Abby Normal. But the rest of the book is kind of bleh; most of the plot revolves around a Vegas hooker named Blue, and is, well, kind of dumb. Which would not necessarily be a problem, as you can totally get away with dumb in a book like this, but only if the book is consistently funny. Which, aside from the Abby Normal bits (she quotes The Smiths in her diary entries; it's cliché but awesome, I tell you!), this book really isn't.
Also, I didn't like the ending. Suckage indeed.(less)
Following the death by suicide of an old college friend, Calvin Trillin tells the story of Denny's life and analyzes the things that may have led him...moreFollowing the death by suicide of an old college friend, Calvin Trillin tells the story of Denny's life and analyzes the things that may have led him to end it. A Yale golden boy whose graduation was covered by Life magazine, Denny seemed to have limitless promise—his friends used to joke constantly (but semi-seriously) about him one day becoming president—but after two years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and following a rejection from the Foreign Service, his career never seemed to reach the heights others had anticipated. In talking with Denny's post-college friends, Trillin is also surprised to discover that Denny's personal life was troubled; he struggled with his homosexuality—something Trillin himself never knew about—and suffered deep bouts of depression. Trillin's exploration of this singular, personal tragedy raises a lot of interesting questions about youthful pressures and expectations, about 1950s America, and about how destructive something like the country's negative attitude toward anything but perfectly conforming straightness can be. This book almost seems like what The Great Gatsby would have been if it was a) a true story, b) set three decades later, and c) starred Tom Buchanan—a much more sympathetic Tom Buchanan—as the main character. A truly fascinating read.
I decided to give this series another shot after not really liking Borrower of the Night all that much. This...really did not do anything to change m...moreI decided to give this series another shot after not really liking Borrower of the Night all that much. This...really did not do anything to change my opinion. Although several people commented that the introduction of John Smythe (or "Smythe," really) improved things vastly, I didn't really find that to be the case. John is actually described on the basis that he looks like Peter Wimsey, but *cough* — Sir, you are no Peter Wimsey! And Vicky is not Harriet. Which, admittedly, is in general hardly a fair basis for comparison—if anyone could whip up characters as awesome as Dorothy L. Sayers', well, I'd have even more things I'd want to read than I already do. But Peters evokes the comparison herself, and then does not look favorable in light of it. The mystery failed to surprise or engage me, the various bits of alliance-switching were both predictable and lame, and the patina of "spooky" stuff was not even as freaky as an especially weak episode of Supernatural. Sadly, I'm afraid this just isn't an author who works for me.(less)
I wish I'd written about this right after I'd finished it, when I was still caught in the world of the story, which is incredibly well-drawn. The book...moreI wish I'd written about this right after I'd finished it, when I was still caught in the world of the story, which is incredibly well-drawn. The book is told in two parallel first person narratives: one following a faery changeling in his new, human life; and one following the little boy he replaced in his life among the faeries. Donohue's depiction of faeries was really different and not what I was expecting; this is no grand court of Titania, but a hard, meager existence eked out in the woods—like an especially brutal version of Peter Pan's lost boys. Donohue doesn't flinch away from the brutality of this, or the more disturbing aspects of sexuality in people who grow older in mind but remain children in body. In contrast, the original changeling (who was also, once long ago, a human boy) gets his second chance at human life, discovering a remarkable gift for music. Donohue does a really good job showing the sadness and the beauty in both characters' situations, and the book, which could have been gut-wrenchingly tragic, maintains a wonderful sense of hope. A first novel, and a really fascinating one.(less)
I was absolutely blown away by this novel. What initially attracted me was the premise: two young doctors involved in high-stakes cancer research come...moreI was absolutely blown away by this novel. What initially attracted me was the premise: two young doctors involved in high-stakes cancer research come in conflict when one produces a new, potentially life-saving drug, causing the other to doubt the veracity of his results. What eventually impressed me so much was how incredibly well-drawn all of Goodman's characters are. When moving between POVs—from Cliff, the discoverer of the potential cure; to Robin, his colleague (and—uh-oh—ex-girlfriend) who fears he's lying about the effectiveness of his drug; to Sandy, the press-savvy lab director; to Marion, his much more tentative but also more ethically-minded partner—Goodman manages the incredible feat of making every point of view convincing, and making each set of motivations seem logical when you're inside the head of the person they belong to. It's not so much that she manages to keep the reader unable to choose who to believe; she makes you change your mind about who you think is right based on whose head you're currently in. It's a really fascinating look at human psychology and ethics, and about both inter-personal and societal responsibility. The one place the book falters, I think, is in depicting Cliff and Robin's romantic relationship; they fall apart as a couple before you can get any idea what (if anything) was good about them together, so later, when you're meant to feel a frisson of regret at that loss, it doesn't really work. However, everything else about this book does. It even has a note-perfect ending.(less)
I'm really rather embarrassed to have read this, but the recent film (all thirteen hours of it!) sufficiently intrigued me. Graysmith, as several peop...moreI'm really rather embarrassed to have read this, but the recent film (all thirteen hours of it!) sufficiently intrigued me. Graysmith, as several people cautioned me, is not a very good writer; he has an odd tendency to sensationalize not especially sensational moments, and then describe parts that are naturally fantastic or terrifying in a strangely flat tone. In a way it served as a compliment to David Fincher, who included some legitimately nail-biting scenes in his 26-hour-long adaptation. It's intriguing, however, to see how Graysmith's seriously consuming interest in Zodiac manifests in this book; he draws some connections that seem like pretty lengthy reaches to me, and I'm not utterly convinced of the veracity of all his reporting. In a way this becomes a story not so much about a serial killer, but about a man obsessed with one. It was in the scenes with that element as their focus that Fincher's film became the most cohesive (and stopped making you feel every second of its 39-hour-length), and interestingly, the places in Graysmith's narrative where that subtext shines through are where it's the most compelling as well. In the end, neither is the best book or movie that could be made on the subject, but they're both very interesting in spots.(less)
Book about a real-life serial killer Trin: I think I'll read this my first night in a strange, new apartment, in an u...moreOkay, here's how this breaks down:
Book about a real-life serial killer Trin: I think I'll read this my first night in a strange, new apartment, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, when I'm all alone, and almost all the lights are off! La la la!
Book featuring one plot thread about a man's slow descent into madness, including a scene of botched self-surgery Trin: *hides under the bed* *whimpers*
Yeah. I found this novel very hard to get through—which, if anything, should I suppose be a compliment to Haddon. As he demonstrated with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, he has amazing skill when it comes to POV: while in the head of any given character (even an autistic boy, as in Incident, or a man slowly losing it, as in Bother), the reader is fully aware not only of how that character perceives the world, but of how that perception is subtly (or not-so-subtly) off. It's an incredible balancing act, and Haddon never stumbles. Just, if you're planning to read this book, know what you're getting into. It may be a light comic novel, but it is a light comic novel that will freak you the fuck out. (less)
This novel takes a historical event I am already very interested in—the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage—and turns it into a h...moreThis novel takes a historical event I am already very interested in—the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage—and turns it into a horror story. A lot of what Simmons does is interesting: the character arcs of two of the main players, Captain Francis Crozier and Dr. Goodsir, are very well done, and there are some excellent set pieces—in particular a staging of Edgar Allen Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" amid the snow drifts and the polar ice. However, this was one of those books that I finished and immediately went, "Man! There is absolutely NO REASON for this thing to have been 800 pages long!"
Seriously. None. I got that the conditions were cold and nasty the first thousand times, and the atmosphere, while good, was nowhere near excellent enough to merit sustaining an 800-page narrative. At one point while reading and encountering an especially long action sequence, I joked to a friend, "Clearly, this is a MAN book." By which I meant: size, apparently, does matter, and very much.
So while there were aspects of this book I enjoyed, it never really moved, or even gripped, me. It was mostly just long, and kind of unpleasant.(less)
Ahh, how times have changed. I used to consider these books a good guilty pleasure; now I find there's a lot less pleasure and a lot more guilt. Kinse...moreAhh, how times have changed. I used to consider these books a good guilty pleasure; now I find there's a lot less pleasure and a lot more guilt. Kinsella is still an amusing, energetic writer, but Becky really grated on my nerves this time around. She's just so shallow and so frivolous, and while in the first few books she was also just a regular working girl, now that she's rich (thanks entirely to her husband), her insane overspending and materialism swiftly loses its charm and becomes...icky. It can be difficult to read a whole book about someone you would probably feel uncomfortable having lunch with.
So, while I still think there's a...certain charm to these books, and that they're in many ways better than a lot of chick lit, I also just don't think they're for me anymore. I've become too old and cranky to enjoy them. They belong to a part of my life that no longer exists (in which, for example, I also secretly owned an Avril Lavigne CD).(less)
Roz Chast is one of my favorite cartoonists; her work is just the perfect blend of neurotic anxiety, literary humor, and utter wackiness. This is a r...more Roz Chast is one of my favorite cartoonists; her work is just the perfect blend of neurotic anxiety, literary humor, and utter wackiness. This is a really great collection, too: 400 pages spanning her entire career, including many of my personal favorites. (Pollyanna in Hell! Yay!) Highly, highly recommended.(less)
The start of a new fantasy series that, like Bujold's other works, is full of great dialogue and compelling characters; however, it suffers from being...moreThe start of a new fantasy series that, like Bujold's other works, is full of great dialogue and compelling characters; however, it suffers from being really, really oddly paced. All the action is concentrated in the first half of the book, the rest given over to a romance plot that leaves what one would generally think of as the main plot dangling until the next volume. I actually really enjoyed how Bujold dealt with the culture clash aspects—rather than just have one of the protagonists say, "Oh, what will our families think!" we actually got to see what their families thought; it made me want to read more books (even non-SF/F books) about "mixed marriages" of whatever sort. So I enjoyed this a lot even though the strange pacing made the overall effect...odd.(less)
Like Thomas' PopCo, I found this both fascinating and frustrating. Thomas definitely achieves something really special with her ability to make her w...moreLike Thomas' PopCo, I found this both fascinating and frustrating. Thomas definitely achieves something really special with her ability to make her writing intensely cerebral (some of my favorite parts of Mr. Y were the digressions into quantum physics and other brain-stretching topics) while at the same time creating very human, flawed characters. Still, there's a quality of...coldness that prevents me from becoming emotionally involved. Perhaps the whole thing seems too clever, too orchestrated? I don't know. Anyway: the plot of this novel is nominally about a cursed book, but is really much more like an alternate take on Being John Malkovich with an ending that feels like the close of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the part that's supposed to be best if watched stoned. As with PopCo, the experience of reading the novel was very pleasurable and interesting, but the final impact just isn't there; it's oddly unsatisfying.(less)
Really, really cool short stories. Richter does an amazing job capturing the POVs of her bizarre, fucked up characters; their voices are remarkably di...moreReally, really cool short stories. Richter does an amazing job capturing the POVs of her bizarre, fucked up characters; their voices are remarkably distinct and the prose is lively. Richter reminds me somewhat of Aimee Bender or Kelly Link, although I think I may have actually enjoyed these stories more; they had a tighter narrative structure than either Bender's or Link's work, whose stories (the latter's in particular) sometimes leave me going, "What was that actually ABOUT?" Which is not to say Richter's dumbing it down—there is simply a clarity to her presentation and purpose. I loved both the tragic, heart-wrenching stories, like "The Beauty Treatment," and the ebullient, ridiculous ones—"Goal 666" and "Rats Eat Cats" are two of my favorites in the collection.(less)
Bleh. "Five tales that explore the possibilities of transformation"—an appealing concept, but with rather dull results. There's just nothing new here—...moreBleh. "Five tales that explore the possibilities of transformation"—an appealing concept, but with rather dull results. There's just nothing new here—nothing you couldn't get from reading a half dozen random fairy tales, and I would have felt that way even when I was ages 10-12. I feel bored again just talking about it.(less)
To everyone who was telling me I should read this: you were right, you were right, you were so so right. One of my favorite books is Kingsley Amis' ...moreTo everyone who was telling me I should read this: you were right, you were right, you were so so right. One of my favorite books is Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, so of course I would love Lodge's academic comedy—especially since it comes with the bonus of being set in Birmingham and Berkeley. They're not called Birmingham and Berkeley, of course, but if you have any familiarity with either locale, it becomes even more amusing to "decode" the various place names (i.e., Silver Span, Cable Avenue, etc.). Further, the way Lodge plays with format (epistolary, newspaper clippings, film script) is both fun and effective, and there's a delightful amount of meta-humor. In short, I enjoyed this immensely.(less)
This is basically a diary of one year of Bouton's life playing baseball—specifically, the '69 season, and there's really a great sense of time and pla...moreThis is basically a diary of one year of Bouton's life playing baseball—specifically, the '69 season, and there's really a great sense of time and place, and of baseball culture. To the point where the book caused great controversy upon publication, because Bouton was so honest about the swearing, sexual antics, and pure politics that went on. So much time has passed that it's hard not to feel somewhat removed from the immediacy of that scandal—of course sports stars swear and womanize and the system is corrupted and money-driven—but Bouton's day-to-day life has become no less vivid as the years have passed. He's incredibly funny, and his depiction of his fellow ballplayers is incredibly funny, and you can't help just...liking him. A lot of the book is about how he has difficulties fitting in because he's outspoken and liberal, which is not a good way to be popular in the locker room. I wouldn't go so far as to say that you'll like this book even if you don't like baseball, but I think you'd have a hard time not admiring Bouton's humor and integrity. Plus: several passages about locker room homoeroticism! (They have a kissing club. Jeeze, guys.) FTW!
In short, I adored this book, and it made me want to adore baseball like I used to. And it made an encouraging argument in favor of being outspoken, too. It really is more than just a sports book. (less)
**spoiler alert** I was disappointed by this. It did one of my least favorite mystery things: having the bad guy die in some accidental or self-inflic...more**spoiler alert** I was disappointed by this. It did one of my least favorite mystery things: having the bad guy die in some accidental or self-inflicted manner so that the detective character will have less mess to deal with. And that happened three times in this book. THREE TIMES. Worse, as much as I really really wanted to like Cordelia Gray—James' female detective who's out to prove that solving crimes IS a suitable job for the ladies—I just couldn't get a sense of her. James gives her an appropriately weird background—Marxist father, educated in convents—but this origin story doesn't seem in any way connected to who Cordelia is now. There's no sense of how that background made her this person—or even who this person is. With only a moderately interesting mystery backed by a main character who remains pretty blank, there's just nothing all that memorable here.(less)