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 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?...more
Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle and dozens of other books advocating socialism and social reform, is resurrected periodically to fight the good 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....more
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 loAn 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....more
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 onI 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....more
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 RaymonI'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....more
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 newSequel 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....more
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 himFollowing 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 mI 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....more
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 bookI 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....more
I was absolutely blown away by this novel. What initially attracted me was the premise: two young doctors involved in high-stakes cancer research comeI 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....more
I'm really rather embarrassed to have read this, but the recent film (all thirteen hours of it!) sufficiently intrigued me. Graysmith, as several peopI'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....more
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 hThis 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....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 r 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....more
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 beingThe 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....more
Really, really cool short stories. Richter does an amazing job capturing the POVs of her bizarre, fucked up characters; their voices are remarkably diReally, 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....more
Bleh. "Five tales that explore the possibilities of transformation"—an appealing concept, but with rather dull results. There's just nothing new here—Bleh. "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....more
This is one of my roommate's favorite books, which she lent to me. I can totally see why she liked it. It's a really cool take on the King Arthur legeThis is one of my roommate's favorite books, which she lent to me. I can totally see why she liked it. It's a really cool take on the King Arthur legend, involving one of my favorite silly soap opera plot points—reincarnation. There's also a really interesting, complex villain whose long, long life is explored through a series of fascinating, history-charged flashbacks. So plot-wise, it's pretty damn awesome. I think the only thing that's stopping it from being OMG ONE OF MY NEW FAVORITE BOOKS EVA!!! is the fact that the prose is really nothing to write home about. It's kind of standard-issue, serviceable and flat. And thus the characters don't really come alive for me. I mean, Hal, the washed-up FBI agent who may have a shot at redeeming himself, is just the kind of fictional dude I have a tendency to fall in love with. I should have fallen in love with him in this book. But he just kind of sits there on the page. The book wasn't any less fun to read, and I'll definitely be picking up the sequel, but for me, at least, the prose's lack of sparkle makes it something I'm less likely to reread....more
Written by the creator of Freaks and Geeks, this is basically a collection of all the most awful and embarrassing things that can happen to you growinWritten by the creator of Freaks and Geeks, this is basically a collection of all the most awful and embarrassing things that can happen to you growing up. And then some: if you have the slightest embarrassment squick, I recommend avoiding this book like you would avoid a public speaking contest for people who stutter and have Tourette's. I can watch assorted humiliating sitcom moments all the way through and not feel too bad, but this book had me not only hiding my head in my hands but wanting to invent time travel just so I could go back in time and beat the crap out of everyone who harassed Feig, seemingly the most put-upon and unfortunate boy in the world. There are two chapters in here about Feig's first day of high school gym that pretty much made me want to die.
Which is not to say the book isn't funny. It just really, really is not fun....more
There's no easy way to sum up how I felt—how I still feel—about this book. It's both fascinating and incredibly traumatizing. The basic story is this:There's no easy way to sum up how I felt—how I still feel—about this book. It's both fascinating and incredibly traumatizing. The basic story is this: "Singing is heard coming from a planet in Alpha Centauri. A Jesuit mission is sent there. It all goes horribly, horribly wrong." I could actually tell you more—specific details, even—and it still wouldn't spoil it, because the story is really in the wonderfully crafted characters and in the way the whole thing unfolds, with the timeline of the mission interspersed with its aftermath and the return to Earth of the sole survivor. (For the record, I haven't given away anything that you don't learn in about the first ten pages.) There is amazing amount of stuff going on in this book—anthropological and linguistic investigations, as well as an investigation of faith. Russell makes it all fascinating; where I had problems was a little in the pacing—things unravel with a startling suddenness that may be realistic, but makes the book seem somewhat unbalanced—and more so in trying to discern what Russell intended the readers' overall conclusions to be. After all the horrible things that happen to Emilio, are we supposed to feel some transcendent moment, some renewal of faith or hope? It just wasn't there for me, and I can't tell if that's me or the book....more
There are a couple of really cool things about this book. One, it's about Georges Méliès, film pioneer and director of A Trip to the Moon, which I'm wThere are a couple of really cool things about this book. One, it's about Georges Méliès, film pioneer and director of A Trip to the Moon, which I'm willing to bet you know even if you don't recognize that title or his name. (Picture a rocket sticking out of the eye of the man in the moon...) Two, the book is designed so it's like a silent movie: drawings are interspersed with text, so you get part of the story visually and part from the text (with more emphasis on text than there would be in a film, naturally). It's like a different approach to the graphic novel, and in that respect it's very, very cool. The story did less for me; it's intended for 9 to 12-year-olds, and I found it a bit simplistic (which is too bad, because there are other children's books that I find complex even now). Still, I think if I had read it when I was younger, I'd have been enchanted (I certainly remember Selznick's The Houdini Box with tons of fondness), and even now, even just as an objet d'art, it's lovely....more
Mixed feelings, once again! On the plus side, I absolutely could not put this book down. Dean makes the setting—a midwestern liberal arts college in tMixed feelings, once again! On the plus side, I absolutely could not put this book down. Dean makes the setting—a midwestern liberal arts college in the early '70s—come alive so completely that even when the biggest issue at stake is what classes Janet, our heroine, is going to take, I was utterly entranced. In fact, the straightforward college narrative is so convincing and so good that I would have been perfectly happy for the book to be about nothing but that. Which is not to say that I didn't like the undercurrent of weird supernatural goings-on—on the contrary, I LOVE that kind of thing. I love hints that something's not quite right, of something "off" just beneath the surface. I love that at the beginning of a story—but I must put the emphasis there on the beginning. In a 460 page novel, I think it's a problem if said undercurrents stay nothing but undercurrents until page 425. The revelation ends up feeling rushed; the mystical climax oddly tacked on. It got to the point where I kind of wanted Janet's rescue of her Tam Lin stand-in to remain metaphorical, not magical—an atypical response for me. Especially when all the characters seem so blasé about what's just happened. I was like, "Hello! You only had about 20 pages to get used to this! How are you back to discussing Pope already?"
That said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book because I did enjoy the build-up so much, and because Janet is such a wonderful character. Also: it's a book where the hero's an English major! That, alone, makes me extraordinarily happy....more
A nonfiction exploration of the various uses bodies are put to after people die. This was interesting and full of light humor, if not necessarily reveA nonfiction exploration of the various uses bodies are put to after people die. This was interesting and full of light humor, if not necessarily revelatory—I feel like I learned some cool details, but my outlook wasn't exactly changed or anything; I wasn't blown away by the information contained within these pages. I also wasn't squicked by the descriptions of what goes on, with the exception of 1) a few instances involving cannibalism, 2) some descriptions of head-swapping experiments that have implications that still freak me out, and 3) MAGGOTS. Ever since an incident with a dead squirrel when I was little, I cannot abide even the thought of maggots or larvae or...well, you get the idea. And personally, I won't be eating Rice Krispies for a while. (Think about it.)
Anyway, like I said: interesting, but definitely something I'm glad I got from the library as opposed to purchasing....more
Following a suicide attempt, Berman's nameless teen protagonist starts being able to see and speak to ghosts. He also falls in love with one: the spirFollowing a suicide attempt, Berman's nameless teen protagonist starts being able to see and speak to ghosts. He also falls in love with one: the spirit of a high school jock who was hit by a car in 1957. It's every emo kid's dream, right? Ahh, but of course there is a catch—namely, that the ghost, Josh, has major jealousy issues; his death may have been related to the fact that he thought his boyfriend, Roddy, was cheating on him with another guy.
Berman does a great job with atmosphere—his spirits are really creepy, and he achieves this without the slightest bit of Stephen King- (or even Sixth Sense-) level gore. He also creates for the nameless narrator a really interesting group of friends: goth gal extreme Trace; Trace's intriguing younger brother, Second Mike; girlfriends-on-the-outs Maggie and Liz. (Though why the fifth, Kim, is always referred to as "the annoying Asian girl" or "the skinny Asian girl" is beyond me. Dude, we get it: SHE'S ASIAN. Did someone of Asian-extraction dent your car or something?) Oddly, though, despite its promising beginnings, the book actually becomes less suspenseful as it goes along; the climax was not nearly as intense or as frightening as it ought to have been. The book is still compelling, but it needed a little extra oomph at the end. (Maybe Bruce Willis should've shown up just so the narrator could tell him he was already dead.)...more
Keenan, a former writer/producer of Fraiser (which I don't believe I have ever actually seen a full episode of), does an impressive job with this comeKeenan, a former writer/producer of Fraiser (which I don't believe I have ever actually seen a full episode of), does an impressive job with this comedic novel about a trio of screenwriters, an old Hollywood family with a whole heap of skeletons in its Bel-Air closets, and a newly opened spa/gay brothel. Much of the plot—which is actually incredibly tightly-woven, with many seemly insignificant details having surprising payoffs—revolves around the efforts of starstruck Philip to help protect movie star Stephen Donato from being outed as gay by his memoir-writing aunt; however, as one would expect, nothing goes quite as planned. This book is very funny (choice line: "Here was no brainless Hollywood hunk. Here was a man of vision, a passionate and sensitive idealist, and I prayed with all my heart that he might someday instill these noble qualities in me, preferably via fellatio." Hee!), and sufficiently sharp-edged if never too nasty. I think what Keenan was aiming for was something like Jeeves and Wooster Do Hollywood, and he's not far off....more
While sharing several plot points (not to mention a title word!) with My Lucky Star, this book is much more serious—and much less enjoyable. ConverseWhile sharing several plot points (not to mention a title word!) with My Lucky Star, this book is much more serious—and much less enjoyable. Conversely, it would seem, Byrnes' novel's best parts are some of the more serious ones—toward the beginning, there's some interesting discussion about the politics of coming out, mostly based around the book protagonist Noah Abraham is trying (and failing) to write about closeted congressional staffers. Noah abandons this project, however, when he meets Bart, personal assistant to former movie star Quinn Scott, who Bart reveals is not only gay, but has been secretly living in Long Island with his partner for thirty-six years. Noah must then try to convince Quinn to let him ghostwrite a tell-all, even if it invokes the wrath of Quinn's ex-wife, the Hollywood heavyweight Kitty Randolph.
There are several problems with this book. First, it's too long; everything—Noah meeting Bart, Noah convincing Quinn, Kitty's machinations—takes much too long to occur. Second, none of the characters are really done any justice; Noah is barely in the last third of the book, and Bart remains as flat as a backlot prop. Why do he and Noah fall in love? 'Cause they're there? How very romantic.
And that's the male characters. The female ones, well. Noah's mom is out of the picture. (After several mentions of the fact that she eats her salad in an annoying way. Clearly, she deserves to die! Or, well, move to Florida.) Noah's dad's third wife is a dopey fag-hag lush. Then there are some other bitchy women, and of course Kitty, who is an absolute monster. Which might fly if the rest of the novel were a bit broader, but it can't really seem to decide if it's a wacky comedy or a serious issues piece. To be both requires a delicate balancing act, and whoops, I think Byrnes just got egg on himself....more
Huh. This book has almost exactly the same plot as PopCo, which is odd, because I didn’t pick up either book because I was interested in the subject—Huh. This book has almost exactly the same plot as PopCo, which is odd, because I didn’t pick up either book because I was interested in the subject—secret societies banding together to sabotage large corporations and dilute the evil brainwashing of marketing campaigns—I was curious about the authors. Anyway, So Yesterday focuses on teenagers in New York as opposed to twentysomethings in England, and it’s about shoes (specifically Nike, although it’s always referred to as ‘The Client’) rather than toys. And really, it works its subject better than PopCo did, because it’s much more focused (and doesn’t do so much info dumping at the end). Westerfeld is really good at creating interesting characters and putting them in exciting situations, and this works very well as a one-off....more
This one’s an interesting reinvention of the vampire myth—vampirism is a sexually transmitted parasite, an idea that Westerfeld explores fully, and ofThis one’s an interesting reinvention of the vampire myth—vampirism is a sexually transmitted parasite, an idea that Westerfeld explores fully, and often with great creativity and zest. (You know how that bit about vamps—sorry, peeps—being afraid of crosses came about? One of the parasite’s adaptations is to attack the brain and make you hate everything you used to love, so infected people won’t just hang around noshing on their neighbors and get killed by the mob with torches and pitchforks right away. The aversion to sunlight is a similar deal.) The sexual frustration of Cal—the parasite positive but rare resistant peep hunter—is quite amusing, and Westerfeld creates an excellent temptation for him in Lace, an NYU student whose dialogue—I swear to God—sounds like it could have come straight from Dean Winchester’s lips. However, while the build up is a lot of fun and, with scenes like the one set in a boarded-up underground swimming pool (brr!), often really creepy and intense, by the end the book takes a turn for the ridiculous. There are giant worms. Giant worms, people. It’s like Buffy meets Tremors, and so far, not in a good way....more
This is a novel, written by a physicist, about two early 20th century mathematicians, Kurt Gödel—most famous for his incompleteness theorems—and AlanThis is a novel, written by a physicist, about two early 20th century mathematicians, Kurt Gödel—most famous for his incompleteness theorems—and Alan Turing—best known for his World War II cryptology work and for the Turing Test. Both Gödel and Turing led fascinating and tragic lives, and Levin seizes on some of the interesting parallels between them (they never actually met—they kept just missing each other). Levin presents the main instances from their lives in a highly compelling way, and with a sort of dreamy madness, fitting to both men (Gödel went insane; Turing never really excelled at the basics of human interaction and was thought to have maybe been a high-functioning autistic). The stories themselves have a lot of power, with Gödel starving himself to death and Turing being basically tortured by his own government—even though he was a war hero!—because he was gay; he finally poisoned himself with a cyanide-laced apple. However, Levin never really draws any larger conclusion or brings the two threads of the story together in any way. She herself is something of a third shadow character in the story, and she says that she doesn’t know how to start or end the tale without being a liar—a sentiment I relate to, especially when I try to construct in my head ways to do a Muybridge novel, for example. But while I recognize that real life—that truth—doesn’t always make for the most satisfying narratives…well, this is a novel, and one in which other creative licenses are taken (Levin lists the major ones at the back of the book), and I can’t help but wish for it to be more satisfying. More cohesive. It’s still a fascinating, well-written book, but I think it would have made a better nonfiction work....more
Oh, why do I do these things to myself? I knew from reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter last November that I really preferred the TV show to the books, buOh, why do I do these things to myself? I knew from reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter last November that I really preferred the TV show to the books, but curiosity won out and I read the second novel anyway. Big mistake. While Dearly Devoted is actually in many ways a better book than Darkly Dreaming—it’s way less rushed, for one, and funnier—it is so deeply disturbing that I’m still feeling freaked out several days after finishing it. And not in a fun way. The show, yes, is also disturbing—but it’s an interesting disturbing. What makes Dexter the way he is and the ways in which he interacts with other people are fully explored—interesting questions are raised, and there is emotional development, even if it’s in Dexter-appropriate tiny, stunted, sick amounts. The books, though…they’re disturbing to no purpose. All the characters besides Dexter are cardboard-thin, which may be in part due to the limits of the books’ first person POV, but is especially frustrating if you’ve watched the show and are used to the rounder versions. And the violence is excessive and meaningless: people are reduced to meat. Maybe that’s the point—our little peek into how people like Dexter see the world—but if so, that would be interesting once. As part of a series, where things would (I would hope) change and develop, it’s just gratuitous slaughter, and it made me feel icky. I’m still eagerly awaiting the start of the show’s 2nd series, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the third book....more
This disappointed me so much. I really loved Uglies and there was a lot to admire about Pretties, but I found this to be a highly unsatisfactory conThis disappointed me so much. I really loved Uglies and there was a lot to admire about Pretties, but I found this to be a highly unsatisfactory conclusion. I’m still trying to figure out why it so completely failed to work for me. I think mostly it’s a case of character development: Tally goes through a lot of mental and emotional changes in these books, which makes sense, because her brain is being fucked with. In the first two books, Westerfeld took the time to explore these transitions, and Tally’s growth was really interesting. However, by the time we get to book three and Tally’s brain has been reset AGAIN, it’s becoming frustrating and it doesn’t help that in this final book Westerfeld doesn’t take the time to explore what’s really going on with her. Add to that Shay’s many reversals—I kept expecting it to be revealed that she’s totally PSYCHOTIC, but apparently not—Zane’s quick dismissal, and the almost complete absence of David (after he was also barely in the last book) and you can’t help being disappointed with the conclusion to these characters’ stories, because they barely seem like the characters you started out with and that Westerfeld made you care about. Also, the dissolution of Dr. Cable’s system seemed waaaaay too easy, so I didn’t find this satisfying on a plot level, either. Sigh. Well, I guess I’ll just have to remind myself that 1) I really liked the first book and 2) the next two were nowhere near as bad as, say, the Matrix sequels....more