I first read perhaps all of these books back in high school, and from that era, they're the only genre series I've actually come back to and still likI first read perhaps all of these books back in high school, and from that era, they're the only genre series I've actually come back to and still liked.
Not that there aren't issues: there are plenty.
But that's why I've just added a guilty-pleasures shelf, because it's far too late for me to actually come up with reasons why I like them so much. I'll have to come back to it later (maybe after I check out the second book, tomorrow)....more
The second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. ThisThe second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. This is the first book I've so actively hated in a long time. Look, it's even generated a review! So yay?
Now, it's been sitting on my shelf since just after rode the first wave of popularity (meaning I found it at Costco). And when I first started, I suspected that my high-school self actually might have enjoyed it. Because my high-school self was a terrible, terrible person.
All of the characters are despicable, but especially the narrator Quentin. So whiny, pathetic and useless. I wanted to beat him. From first page to last he didn't grow at all. Apparently, I'm supposed to believe he was depressed? He apparently started at seventeen and ended at, what, twenty-five? Even younger? He may as well have been fifteen.
Side note: one of my few Harry Potter favorite fan fictions gave one canon character and an OC depression. That story? It was beautiful, and heartbreaking. The characters didn't go around why are you so depressed, you're so depressed, look at me, being depressed.
But Quentin existed to waste space. All the female characters were barely characters and rather thin compared to the over-whelming male characters—and I'm not entirely sure what gave me this impression because numerically speaking the numbers were fairly even. But all the named women felt rather auxiliary.
I even hated the world-building. Fillory was just your generic anti-Narnia, and for that, rather inoffensive. Lame, but meh. But the "real world" just...just...I hated it, I hated all the magicans. These magicians can do approximately everything with magic (except, for plot reasons, body modification)—
— and now that I think about it, that's especially odd to be so common a trope. You may not approve of plastic surgery, or foot binding, or any of the other things cultures have found attractive over the millennia, but it's clearly been going on a while. Why is that the one thing magic can't do. Hint: in this case, it's a naked plot point.—
—but for some reason, magicians in the "real world" do absolutely nothing practical. Well, the narrative mentions that some do, but mostly in a condescending sort of way that doesn't seem like it's ever accomplished anything at all.
Oh, and to be a wizard magician, you have to be genius-level smart...but if you never got an invitation, don't worry, all magicians also have to be profoundly stupid in any useful kind of knowledge. So there's that.
And the sort of geek-popular references: Harry Potter, Star Trek, Magritte.
I know in the reading I had other complaints, but thanks to this review and my rum-and-coke, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment and can let it go. ...more
Dark fantasy, so this isn't really my genre. Since I picked it up to get an overview of what this rather nebulous genre is about, I can't say whetherDark fantasy, so this isn't really my genre. Since I picked it up to get an overview of what this rather nebulous genre is about, I can't say whether this is representative or not, or good for that matter.
It covered quite a bit of ground, but few stories stood out to me, and I don't think that says much for the genre as a whole. Again, I don't know whether that's just because I don't know much about the genre and what it's compared to: but if I couldn't find much, is that really a good thing?
Maybe a year is too short in time to get a decent overview. The first three stories were all first person and all disappointing. I almost thought there was a conclusion to be drawn there until "Tragic Life Stories" which was third person and fantastic. I think the only first person story that stood out to me was Gaiman's, and though I didn't think anything of it in particular (sacrilege!) but at least he used the first person properly—I knew who the character, the "I", was pretty quickly. I just think 3rd person is better at orientating the reader. Second person, of course, is most difficult of all for an author and reader alike, and there are three in the collection: decent, as best I recall.
As for the standout stories:
"Tragic Life Stories" How much I enjoyed this because I connected to a narrator who was an author as well may have made this story more appealing to me than a reader who doesn't write, but I hope not, because that would say nothing good about Duffy as author or my reading. Nevertheless I immediately connected to how Dan created his fictional worlds, and then that's where it all went wrong. Well-constructed, good pacing, and a fascinating premise (the inability to discriminate between hallucinations and reality) took me by surprise. And I cared about the character and wanted the best for him. But did he want the best for himself in this story?
"The Naturalist" A zombie story, and once I enjoyed The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor that I won on First Reads, but I'm starting to think, with the handful in this collection, that zombie stories, by definition, all sound the same. I was curious about the narrator's observations, and thought that the most interesting part of the work, but given how quickly the end came after, I'm not sure even the author knew what it meant. A disappointment, since I saw that as really the most original part of the story.
"The Broadsword" I wanted to like this one, and it is dark, I'll give it that. But it felt unsatisfying. There seemed both too much of information that contributed nothing, but then too little about the coming darkness. Some vividly disturbing description though.
"A Thousand Flowers" Not only did I not know what I was supposed to get out of it: what was the point? why was it written? (that seemed to be the weakness of much of the collection: someone had an image they wanted to share, but seemed to have trouble making it into a full story. The sheer amount of detail everywhere that made no sense, went nowhere and never connected to anything else boggled my mind. Peeing on flowers is bad. Why? I have no idea. Is it related to this world's culture? I don't know. I'm not even sure what this culture is supposed to be.
Frankly, I hated this story—terrible characters, pointless plot accomplishes nothing, plenty of creepy and unfortunate implications in a quasi-medieval setting (with Narwhals, Africa, and rhinoceros WHAT). Decent ear for dialogue at least.
"Hurt Me" I did like this one. The fantasy, the supernatural darkness of the story paralleled the character growth and back story and became a metaphor for the underlying plot. That's what I mean by a plot with a point. Not only did something happen, but it changed the characters and it made a difference. Worth it.
"Sea Warg" Only notable because it has a misanthropic philosophy that I don't disagree with, but in the story found unconvincing. I rather liked the clinical Johnson, but the uneven pacing made the end sudden and unconvincing.
"The Thing About Cassandra" Gaiman's story. I rather liked it, but the end was too telegraphed and obvious. Felt cliché, even though I couldn't say that it actually is.
"The Things" Lee developed an interesting and distinct alien consciousness.I haven't seen the movie it's based on (The Thing), so I'm not sure how it fits in? But I think I know enough of the genre tropes to get what the human characters were up to anyway. "The Return" Again, a story without a real premise. An idea: a girl disappears, returns without her soul, but went where?
"How Bria Died" A good story I guess, like any horror story. But there's a bit about a promise at the very, very end and it made no sense and made me think I missed something. I may have. I tried rereading and it didn't help. Otherwise a fairly standard ghost-story type, and I rather liked it.
"Parallel Lines" another one where the supernatural element highlights the character growth. Engaging and good character growth: well, for someone.
"The Mystery Knight" This isn't going to be fair. But.
I didn't like A Game of Thrones. It felt bloated. I can only imagine this equally bloated so-called story means he's incapable of conciseness. Much of it is unnecessary of the story I actually did manage to discern. Also the main character is introduced with his squire as Dunk and Egg. I think Martin may have found it amusing. But I found it increasingly difficult to remember who anyone was, especially since everyone has at least three names and there are approximately one hundred named characters.
This seems to take place in the same universe as his series, though I'm not sure where or when it takes place, this is one time I would have preferred some appendices. It's some kind of really, really dull political intrigue, without any actually intrigue, just a badly put together conspiracy that's already been 'solved' before our characters were even introduced. They're just witnesses. So pointless! Yes, that may be how "real life" happens (which seems to be how Martin's work is often defended, but that doesn't mean it makes good fiction. And hey, Nick wasn't involved in Gatsby's story, but at least he had a point, and he observed a story and drew conclusions. The interlude described in this novella-length work happens but doesn't seem to matter, and the observers don't actually accomplish anything other than to be there for literally no good reason. Just terrible storytelling all over.
Unfortunately it affected my entire view toward the book as a whole, which did have some good stories.
Still, I do want to say it's probably worth picking up for anyone who does like the genre. ...more
Unfortunately, it's entirely inappropriate for the tone and style of the novel. I should have paid more attention to anDoesn't it have a lovely cover?
Unfortunately, it's entirely inappropriate for the tone and style of the novel. I should have paid more attention to another edition's comparision to Ocean's Eleven, which is not my genre, and the comparison to Robin Hood at all is pushing it.
They should have stuck with this one:
Problem was, I hated Locke. Didn't find him the least bit charming, and yet I don't think I was supposed to see him as a sociopath, though I'm fairly sure he was. Surely Locke's genius should have provided some consolation? Only it felt like an informed attribute: everyone's always just so impressed by Locke, and we spend so much time going on about his various gambits ('cause he's a genius), I just got bored.
You might ask: if you see so much of his planning, how can his intelligence be an informed attribute? Because I don't remember any scenes of Locke working to figure it out. Have you ever watched Sherlock? Even the consulting detective himself has to stop and put all the clues together, but as I recall, most of Locke's brilliance was recounted after the fact.
That could be unfair. Still, what with Locke-as-protagonist, and this terrible, terrible world, the novel felt too self satisfied. It reveled in all the ugliness and gore.
But I didn't care about anyone! All the side characters were one-dimensional, especially the significant ones—which is just as well, considering they amounted to nothing more than motivation fodder for Locke. Yes, there was a lot of graphic violence, but it didn't serve the story. Now, I'm not opposed to violence or gore in books, but it was so over the top, I occasionally snorted in amusement before I could stop myself (which makes me feel like a terrible person).
I suppose I liked Doña Vorchenza and Sophia(?). Unfortunately, I can't remember much about them.
There's my real trouble right there. Because I didn't like Locke, I kept putting the book down; every time I put the book down, I forgot what was going on, who was who, and why I should care. Also, related to that, the pacing felt choppy. I read this on my nook, and the segments were all really short, and—this can't be faulted to the author—after every section break, the first paragraph was formatted in a larger font. It very much seemed to drag anything out.
I can see why others like this book: if you don't despise Locke, you won't be as distracted from the plot like I was, and there is a lot of it. I honestly can't think of how to put the positives, but if this is your thing, please go and read it.
But if, like me, you saw the cover, but not Ocean's Eleven, just know what you're getting into, and be prepared for a long, digressing set-up and conventional plot....more
To start, I have far less to say than this book has to say about itself.
Though I first picked it up in July, and didn't finish it until a concenWell.
To start, I have far less to say than this book has to say about itself.
Though I first picked it up in July, and didn't finish it until a concentrated burst this afternoon, as the library simply wouldn't let me keep it anymore, it's a quick read. I only picked it up after I heard about another of the author's books, Reamde, from my friend's dad while on vacation. Apparently every guy in the family had been reading and enjoying it, but the library only had Anathem. My friend hasn't been enjoying that one, so my choice is just as well.
Not being much a reader of speculative fiction (I suppose the only genre I know to put this in, it's not like anything I've ever read)the wildly different worldbuilding might have put me off, but I found the narrative voice strangely charming.
And really, that describes much of the book for me—fun and enthralling, bordering on silly. You know, I didn't read any other reviews before either checking out this book or writing my review, so I don't know what other readers will make of my response. Succinctly: it's the familiar Campbell-ian hero's journey only set somewhere else and with lots of exposition. Specifically, it's about less a character and more a personality to walk the reader through the world without having to worry about a complex or unfamiliar plot. It tracks almost too perfectly.
I did enjoy the worldbuilding though, which saved it. I think the way I arranged in my head, to keep everything straight and not rely too heavily on the glossary right from the start went something like this: Eramus (Sp??) is a member of an academically-themed monkhood, on a planet much like our own, or at least ours in a parallel universe, if civilization had diverged technologically four hundred years ago and from there where it would be in another three thousand years (view spoiler)[all before it turned out to be the plot in-text. Sort of (hide spoiler)]. Then, of course, he's almost immediately outside the convent—sorry, concent—because that's how this kind of plot goes. He meets up with his sister, or rather, 'sib', and while all the theoretical discussions are interesting, at least to me, I wonder how much of this is just a send up of, well, modern everything. That would be a really interesting discussion if I were smart enough to try it, and remembered enough of the work. I really have too much else to get to to try and get through this behemoth, however. Maybe I'll get back to it, I have plenty of notes. After meeting his sib, Raz gets into trouble and has to stay home—at least until he has to leave again—there are so many more theoretical arguments to be made about the outside world! And anyway, we have to get to the sort of (view spoiler)[aliens (hide spoiler)] somehow.
So the only reason I question whether or not this is a satire of modern culture, or rather, exactly how much of is, is because as I said, most of it is worldbuilding. There is lots and lots of worldbuilding with lots of theoretical math-ish type conversations. I couldn't say whether it's real math, because math isn't my thing. Also, math is a term in the novel for a subset of the concent.
There are many random terms in the novel, really, that's half the worldbuilding. He chooses what words to use carefully: I didn't think there were too many, though most significant nouns were of unconventional usage. At least there were no apostrophes. It's a bit pulpy, which is fun, and sometimes techno-babbly, which I'm not sure is the term as it's been used, but sounds right. I wish I could tell how much of the concent was supposed to be satire, because I'm not sure of Stephenson's point with the concent idea. The ideas and concepts are simplistic—but then again, it's only a thousand pages, and long as that is for fiction, it's hardly enough to start with reality. Of course, he's not engaging with many tricky human quirks except in the most general sense...like I said, we're led through the world by a personality, less a character. No one is particularly deep or complex, but suit their purposes.
I've barely even started with what I want to say...I'm not even sure what that is. I'll have to give myself some time to format a proper argument or at least some cohesion. Let me think on it, look out for a proper review after I've had a chance to cogitate.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more