I only got 2/3rds of the way though this one. Each Tiffany Aching novel has been progressively more disappointing than the prior one. The first is one...moreI only got 2/3rds of the way though this one. Each Tiffany Aching novel has been progressively more disappointing than the prior one. The first is one of my favorite books. The second had the good execution of the first, but lacked a strong idea for a story. The third had a strong idea for a story, but lacked in execution. Not content, the fourth combines the flaws of the prior two, with the result of being a boring dreery story that seems to drag on interminably compared to number of events within it.
This novel marks the firm end of Tiffany Aching as children's literature, and marks something of a transition for her and the series from the young adult work of Disk World to its larger adult stage of mainstream disk world novels. Unfortunately, it never quite makes it there, gaining the adult themes of the Disk World without its accompaning humor and grand scale. Tiffany Aching, who we are introduced to as the young girl who smashes the face of a hag with a cast iron skillet and who finishes the first novel by telling Granny Weatherwax to mind her own business, seems to have shrank as she grew becoming smaller and smaller with each new novel.
The Feegles have by this point become tiring. They are a drag on the story and offer us nothing really new in their character or behavior, and although there is some minor retconning of the background of an existing minor character of the disk world, on the whole Rob Anybody and company are entirely unwelcome companions for the reader. By this point, Tiffany should have grown to the point she doesn't need them, and they were far more interesting when Tiffany was big enough that they needed her.
In this novel, the ambiguities of the word witch as Pratchett has employed it are highlighted. For most of the prior three novels, you could have replaced the word with 'nerd' or 'engineer' and had quite the same meaning. But by muddling the word witch and its real world history into the disk world, he's created a somewhat confusing mess. Is Pratchett really trying to say that highly superstitious pre-scientific animist priesthoods (and priestesshoods) are the rational movers of our history? It's one thing to decry the superstition directed at occult things, but quite another to champion belief in the very 'spirit/demon haunted world' Pratchett seems to be taking at as being the opposite of the thing that it is. Do the real world believers in crystals, crop circles, pagan spirits, natural remedies, UFOs, and assorted psuedo-science really mark the model of rational scientific world view he has been aiming for when he defined the term internally? And in the disk world, is there any real tension as to whether she'll be able to win over the populace. The disk world witches seem to lack any of the complexity and ambiguity of the real ones to make you even wonder why there is conflict in the society about the role of witches. Perhaps if Tiffany had met some truly bad witches we might be able to see how the society had any tension in the first place.
But all of these minor flaws are nothing compared to this books most defining trait; it's boring. Two stars is really two much, but one star suggests more loathing than I really have. I may try to pick it up again if everyone assures me that it has a fine resolution to its various themes, but considering how the book meandered getting to this point, I just gave up.(less)
I really don't know what I was expecting when I reserved this from the library, but it wasn't this. In my defense, it sounded interesting. I thought i...moreI really don't know what I was expecting when I reserved this from the library, but it wasn't this. In my defense, it sounded interesting. I thought it might be a discussion of sociology and history meant to inspire or empower people to build what they wanted. In fact, what I got is....
Let me back up. Just recently, Irrational Games released the latest in their series of dystopian first person shooters - 'Bioshock Infinite'. In this series visionary philosophers seek to found utopian communities based on the idea that humanity needs to be organized around a different guiding principle, and in this isolation temporarily achieve great things only to be ultimately undermined by the fundamental flaws inherent in their philosophy. In the first game, you get to live out the fantasy of killing a bunch of Ayn Randian objectivist libertarians that have mutated into monsters. In this latest game, you are pitted against fanatical American patriots who worship the founding fathers.
One of the things that greatly interests me is that the utopian communities of Bioshock look absolutely nothing like the sort of utopian communities that are actually created or desired by the sort of people whose philosophies Bioshock draws inspiration from. American religious mystics don't create high tech cities. They create something more like a Shaker village. The people inspired by American Exceptionalism didn't create isolationist flying communes, but Detroit and Chicago. The followers of Ann Rand didn't and wouldn't be interested in planned communities. They'd correctly diagnosis any sort of planned community as a de facto government and isolation as a tool of empowerment by that government. You can say many things about the Objectivists, but they aren't really into building Utopias or at least not for communities as a whole. Actual religious utopians building intentional planned communities don't tend to imagine high tech cities as a way to get spiritual. If you actually look at the history of intentional communities in the United States and the world, you find a lot of luddite religious groups, a few con artists, a great many free spirited anarchist squatters, and an endless succession of socialist communes, compounds, show cities, and planned communities. In fact, the only modern religious philosophy that has shown any consistent interest in building communities set apart from the rest of society is socialism. It's got a rich 200 year history, but if you are waiting for the Bioshock game that has a communist planned community at its heart, well, I suspect you'll be waiting a long while. Actually attacking a vibrant religion, especially one many of your friends belong too, has way too many social repercussions.
If you want a real model for the sort of communities found in Bioshock, then you couldn't really do better than this book. Instead of a discussion of the theories of social organization and how they relate to architecture, what you get in this book is a blueprint based on a theory of desirable organization. There is within the pages of this book a detailed outline of exactly how the lives of people are to be controlled in every practical aspect. Alexander has a plan for everything - where you own land, where you work, what you do, where you shop, and where you sleep. Everything is planned out in meticulous detail.
What I find particularly interesting is that what he's planning is ultimately little more than a tessellated medieval town. This is guy who has clearly gone to Europe, fallen in love with the post-medieval countryside and decided that this is the way mankind must be made to live. Grounded in pseudoscience, Alexander outlines reasoning for recreating every incidental aspect of the medieval countryside. In the real world, the complex winding tapestry of medieval fields and farms was the result of patrimony and continual subinfeudation. In Alexander's fantasy world, the thin intertwined fingers of land familiar to anyone with more than a half-dozen hours of college level course study in Medieval history are the product of science - in the same way that the huge communal government owned farms of the Soviet Union and Mao's great agricultural leap forward were the product of science.
The pattern of streets in a medieval town, the layout of semi-self-sufficient neighborhoods within larger cities, virtually every aspect of medieval culture save the central organizing cathedral at the hub is apparent in the layout. The steel I-beam doesn't exist in this world, nor does it appear the elevator, nor does electricity save in the most cursory way. This is building for the 19th century. Now, there are important topics here that could be discussed, but from his perspective in the 1970's - a time filled with socialist community planning (my cousin lived on a commune) - the writer isn't really asking the right questions or thinking about them. Instead of looking at the world's architectural diversity and really seeing it as adaptive and useful engineering, he's got his theory and by golly he's going to stick with it.
I do Alexander no injustice to claim that he is a would be tyrant of the highest degree. Alexander is well aware that his intentional planned community won't come about organically by people seeing the sense of his ideas and incorporating them into their lives from the bottom up, first building house according to his principles, then latter building complexes, and latter neighborhoods and finally cities. He well aware that his vision requires above all two things – central planning and authoritarian force. The only way to get people to do what Alexander believes is good for them is to make them do it. Every second page of the book contains an enjoinder to create laws that enforce the pattern discussed in that section, and a discussion of the necessity of doing so. Of course, every page with such an injunction also contains a 'proof' that the pattern to be enforced is really the natural one humanity prefers, which means there has to be a Satan in the garden somewhere but I didn't read the book closely enough to find evidence beyond a few attacks on 'bankers' and 'investors'. I suspect however that I'd be learning nothing additional about the book to find the answer on that subject. I've encountered too much of this sort of crap before.
Anyway, what I wanted was science. What I got was religion. There are many ironies in this text, but probably the greatest one for me is that of all the areas of American life that this book impacts (other than a few municipal codes in California), the area you can see Alexander’s theories play out to their fullest is in the design of Shopping Malls.(less)
I couldn't get more than a couple chapters into this story. It's very slow. Very very slow. And as much as I am a huge fun of Temple Grandin, I can't...moreI couldn't get more than a couple chapters into this story. It's very slow. Very very slow. And as much as I am a huge fun of Temple Grandin, I can't endorse this book as representative of autism in any way shape or form despite her involvement with the project. Unfortunately, the subject matter and the choice of first person narrator don't really play to Moon's strengths as a writer. I would strongly recommend instead for those that want a bit of window into the world of autism actual biographical works about Dr. Grandin herself. Moon is striving to hard to be empathetic with her character and to make the reader empathize, which in turn for me voids the characterization. There is too much telling and not nearly enough showing.(less)
I've been striking out a lot lately when trying new books.
I don't consume much horror fiction. I can sink my teeth in Edgar Allen Poe and thrill to t...moreI've been striking out a lot lately when trying new books.
I don't consume much horror fiction. I can sink my teeth in Edgar Allen Poe and thrill to the chill of H.P.Lovecraft, but for the most part I find I don't have a taste for modern horror. But I've been trying to broaden my reading interests if only because I sometimes feel I've tapped out Sci-Fi and that I need some new blood.
I read this novel under the American title of 'Let me in'. I only got about 150 pages in before giving up on it, so keep that qualifier in mind when considering the review.
'Let me in' is set in the dark Sweden of what I sincerely hope is someone's over the top nightmare and not a reflection of actual life there. In this Sweden, everything everyone owns is stolen, drugs are ordinary, violence is commonplace, serial killers are on the loose, virtually every male is an alcoholic, and catamite slaves with their teeth busted out of there jaws are to be had at the public library. To additionally inflict upon the characters of this dark vision a supernatural horror seemed to me to be cruel and unnecessary, but I suppose such a setting is necessary if you set out to justify the monster's existence.
Frankly, I think the over the top 'edginess' detracted from the numinous horror that makes for a good 'ghost story'. Sure, Stephen King makes Maine seem like the ninth circle of Hell, but he buries this horror under the veneer of the ordinary and even pastoral so that when he finally does put the monster on stage it seems extraordinarily monsterous. In a world where people are bashing the teeth out of children to make them better sexual objects, vampires and anything else less than real are simply lame distractions.
The protagonist Oskar is a truly pathetic victim that goes over the top in helpless nerd convention. Oskar has a burgeoning taste for the occult, has come to identify with monsters, and is already in the first stage of acting out the transference of his vengeance of the wrongs done to him onto innocent things. Oskar is stuck in early childhood, abandoned by his abusive father, abandoned by his friends about the time he enters adolescence and is unable to make the emotional progress to adulthood given the trauma he daily suffers. Next door to our young would be serial killer lives a young girl; it will be spoiling nothing to reveal she is a vampire.
The vampire girl is the most potentially interesting character of the story, but I found her characterization to be somewhat flat. After some initial mutual rejection rituals are dispensed with, the boy becomes romantically attracted to the young girl, who tolerates his presence for some combination of reasons of her own which I suspect will be impossible to tease away from her monstrous nature.
The vampire girl Eli seemed to me to be a study in pedophilia, only reversing the usual problems. In pedophilia, it is normally the child in the relationship who is 'loved' solely because of a transient attribute of there nature - their youth. But in the case of Eli, it is the pedophile himself who’s 'loved' solely because of his passing youth, and it is the 'child' who dominates the relationship physically and emotionally and who is using the adult. We are made to understand that Eli has relied on manipulating a succession of serial killers into taking care of her. When the story begins, her current ghoulish minion is wearing out and becoming too old. He's increasingly a threat to her, and Eli begins transferring her attentions to Oskar. Whether this is entirely duplicitous on her part or whether she feels some true feelings for Oskar, I couldn't say because I didn't finish the book, but I suspect that the answer is pretty much as irrelevant as asking whether a pedophile feels some true tenderness toward the children he abuses.
What happens from there, I don't know, but I suspect I can envision most of it based on the conflicts the first portion of the story has set up and the tone the author has set. There will be more bloody murders. There will be a violent conflict between the new suitor Oskar, and the old flame which will almost certainly result in the old flames grisly but deserved death. There will be violence visited on Oskar by his tormentors, and all out retribution visited on them by his vampire patron. The cop with the bag of heroin introduced in scene one will play some role, and most of the other characters introduced thus far (if not all of them) will have with painful untimely deaths. Finally, the story will end in one of two ways, either Romantically with Oskar killing Eli despite the fact that he loves her, or Nihilistically with Oskar serving Eli despite the fact that he doesn't love her. Personally, I would vote for Romantic, but I'm probably in the minority in that so I'm guessing the other.
Either way, I couldn't keep interested enough in the story or the characters to plow through all the gory posturing to find out. (less)