if a world can be described in a word, then the word for Pao is passive. language has helped make the Paonese content but also ill-equipped to handleif a world can be described in a word, then the word for Pao is passive. language has helped make the Paonese content but also ill-equipped to handle invasion and other forms of aggression.
the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis posits that "the structure of a language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world... or otherwise influences their cognitive processes" (thank you, Wikipedia)... linguistic relativity can mean that the way different cultures talk impacts how different cultures act. or as the character Finisterle notes: "every language impresses a certain world-view upon the mind."
this is the chilliest Jack Vance novel that I've read to date. all of the Vancean virtues are present - sly, almost subliminal wit; elegant prose; absorbing world-building; an illustration of how easily monstrous egos can blossom into actual monstrosity - but Vance seems disinterested in providing a way for the reader to connect with the story on anything except a purely intellectual level. I am the sort of under-evolved reader who needs an emotional connection for me to truly enjoy a work. there is much to fascinate within its pages. but the bland protagonist, the casual and vague handling of a pact that includes sex slaves to be exported, a narrative full of suspense that lacks much narrative drive, and especially a debilitating ending that illustrates the need to give in to physical force... all of that contributed to a detachment I felt throughout the experience. this is not a bad book by any means and there is much that provided food for thought. it has a cerebral quality that makes it in some ways a superior book to other, more shallow Jack Vance adventures. overall I liked it. but it is perhaps the first book by the author that I am disinclined to ever read a second time....more
The name of the planet is Trullion! World #2262 of the Alastor Cluster! The descriptions of this beautiful world and its backwoods society of islandsThe name of the planet is Trullion! World #2262 of the Alastor Cluster! The descriptions of this beautiful world and its backwoods society of islands and watery fens were the best part of the novel. As always, the author conveys a lot with a little; his spare prose is wonderfully stylish and his dry voice is just as wonderfully ironic. This is the kind of light world-building that I can only sit back and droolingly admire. Vance knows how to envision a world where I actually want to live!
The name of the game is Hussade! It is the most celebrated pasttime on Trullion! It appears to be a combination of rugby, baseball, and soccer that takes place above a shallow pool of water. Much like the many descriptions of Quidditch in the Harry Potter novels, I fear my disinterest in the minutia of made-up sports forced me to skim a good number of paragraphs!
The name of the hero is Glinnes! He "entirely enjoyed the pleasures of the Fens: feasts, amorous adventures, star-watching and sailing, hussade, nocturnal merling hunts, simple idleness." Upon returning to Trullion after some years of military service, he finds much in disarray regarding his family, property, and finances - disarray that must be put back in order and which require brooding, long-game planning, and the playing of many games of hussade. Glinnes is a charming character and an ideal protagonist!
The name of the monsters are Merlings! They live in the water and creep out at night, to snatch unwary children and drunken adults foolish enough to wander waterside in the evening. They are fearsome and fascinating but unfortunately rarely appear on the page. But when they do appear, their actions are quite eye-opening!
The name of the people are Trills! Much like amiable Glinnes, a typical Trill, Trill society is casual and low-key; the Trill way of life centers on relaxing on their porches while gazing at the water, eating, making love, sailing their little boats, watching sports, and after those strenuous activities, relaxing some more. Surely this is an ideal society. If only it included the reading of books as a regular past time, I would immediately move there!
The name of the cult is Fanscherade! Its proponents detest the Trill way of life as lazy, slovenly, without purpose, and far too focused on making love, watching sports, and eating. As always, Vance wryly caricatures any group or person who thinks arrogant tunnel-vision is an appropriate perspective. And it surely must be true that such uptight cults that do not know how to relax only deserve what will inevitably come to them!
The name of the author is Jack Vance! For the Vance enthusiast such as myself, even this bit of minor-note inside baseball provided me several hours of pleasure and amusement!...more
fantastic book. there are a bunch of excellent 4-star reviews out there and I'm not sure I have a whole lot more to add.
synopsis: it's the end of thefantastic book. there are a bunch of excellent 4-star reviews out there and I'm not sure I have a whole lot more to add.
synopsis: it's the end of the world as we know it. creatures from somewhere roam the streets. to gaze upon them means certain doom, or at least a murderous, suicidal insanity. the world soon realizes that something very wrong is happening everywhere. four years later, our heroine and two children must take a blindfolded river journey to an uncertain destination.
sound is a key part of Bird Box. I loved that.
there was a spareness to the prose and to the narrative that I found to be pleasingly but not ostentatiously literary. quite surprised that this book is the author's first novel - it doesn't read like it. I particularly enjoyed how little interest Malerman had in making his protagonist likeable, yet she remained entirely sympathetic, relatable, even admirable. I was impressed by how the creatures are never truly described and the mystery remained a mystery. ambiguity is always a plus, especially when the novel still has a satisfying ending. the whole experience was an original one for me. and it made me very tense - a genuinely scary story. oh man those scenes with the animals going insane!
dude if you can't even read your own novel effectively then hire someone! I for one am not a fan of overly emphatic narration that sounds like the readude if you can't even read your own novel effectively then hire someone! I for one am not a fan of overly emphatic narration that sounds like the reader has too much saliva in their mouth. and it's right there inside of my ears. spit or swallow, Sigler! it was so gross that I didn't even have a chance to get grossed out by the plot itself. and I doubt! that every sentence! ends! in an exclamation! point! or a breathy whisper. even worse: female characters voiced by the author as high-pitched ninnies who sound all too much like Minnie Mouse.
this is my second and probably last audiobook. I really don't get the appeal. clearly they are not for me. ugh!...more
Woman the Domesticator is the downfall of Man the Artist. try as he may, his anger and his insight and his vision, his credibility and his entire artiWoman the Domesticator is the downfall of Man the Artist. try as he may, his anger and his insight and his vision, his credibility and his entire artistic sensibility will be degraded until he is a mere shadow of his once rigorous self. wife and children and safe, happy home shall all participate in the tragic dousing of his creative flame. they shall render him impotent, and he shall go smiling and content into his new, flaccid life. 'tis best to go it alone; the only true path to true art for the true artist is the lonely path of tortured self-reflection. at least per Henry James.
so yeah, James certainly comes across as repellently chauvinistic in this one. it's a pity, because all of the luscious Jamesian prose and wit, all of the rich Jamesian characterization, and even the trademark ironic Jamesian gut-punch at the end are there, in full force. "The Master" in this story is a great creation: canny and mordantly self-aware and almost villainous in his desire to 'free' a younger version of himself from the ties that bind. this novella was pure pleasure to read - as long as I carefully avoided digesting what it was trying to say to its readers.
I tried looking at its thesis in a different way. perhaps I could view his women as metaphors for things that pacify, all the warm comfy homeyness that make life easy and yet may be dulling and blinding to the artist whose life struggles may create a brilliant piece of art. there's truth in that, right?
I once fancied myself an artist, of sorts: there were long periods from my late teens to my mid-twenties when I felt that the only way I could get out all of these complicated ideas, these criticisms and different ways of looking at the world, these fountains of angsty energy, was to write them down as stories and personal narratives, or to get behind a camera and turn my ideas into short, weird films. I'm not sure I was "struggling" back then, in the purest sense of the word, but I certainly lived paycheck to paycheck (or grant disbursement to grant disbursement), in cheap apartments with too many people, living a life that was intense and full of a sort of anarchy, an unpredictable wildness. that's long over. these days my main feeling about my life is contentment; I no longer have that driving need to create, to define myself and put myself out in the world through art. what happened to me? sad to say, I scarcely feel the loss.
looking at the tale through that lens - turning "Woman" into anything that makes an artist complacent - certainly allowed me to connect with it on a deeper, less reactive level. but alas! in the end, I know I am fooling myself. by the end of the novella, it is clear that James' portrait of a lady is not intended to be an elastic metaphor. it has two women: one who drains the creative essence out of a Master of the written word, and another who - as charming and sympathetic as she is in the moment - would eventually, inevitably do the same to a younger writer, unless The Master does something about it. spoiler: he does.
it's like Ernest Cline decided to do something really nice for me, something really personal, and so he got together some of my favorite things - sym
it's like Ernest Cline decided to do something really nice for me, something really personal, and so he got together some of my favorite things - sympathetic yet highly flawed protagonist, diversity in race and sexual orientation, down-with-the-man anti-corporate sentiments, an absorbing dystopia, a breezy narrative - and then he put it all in the context of the decade where I formed my interests and essentially became myself. well he also put in a bunch of video games and I've never been a gamer - but I've been around enough of them that I get the gist, you know? anyway, this novel had me smiling from beginning to end. it made me genuinely happy. when I finished it up I felt like I had made a new friend, someone who really understood me and who liked me right off the bat. what a great feeling!
they don't always howl at the moon but they do only come out at night, in all sorts of shapes, there and not-there, ready to kill and have been readythey don't always howl at the moon but they do only come out at night, in all sorts of shapes, there and not-there, ready to kill and have been ready since the beginning of mankind. The Enemy! to humans and canines alike! masters of atomic probability: turning metal into mist and walking through walls; picking just the right place for an unfortunate accident, be it bloody car crash or a great fall from a high place. only silver holds them back! Fantastic Plot
expert pacing: the plot moves like it has someplace to go and should have been there yesterday. the prose crackles and pops. the descriptions of transformation, of what it feels like to be wolf or sabretooth or giant snake or ancient flying saurian... brilliantly done. Williamson gets right in there. Outstanding Writing well, at times.
the "hero" is as interesting and dynamic as a soppy mop. this idiot mewls like a kitten to a beyond-eye-rolling degree. seriously man, how many dreams do you have to have that appear to have actually occurred, down to the last detail, until you realize these are not dreams? well apparently nine-tenths of a novel's worth. get a grip and stop moaning about it, Princess Crybaby! Tedious Protagonist
I really didn't enjoy how the novel rationalizes the burning of witches, the burning of Joan of Arc, and the Inquisition. reading that gave me a visceral and verbal reaction: I yelled BOOOO! LAME! to no one in particular, startling my cat awake. Sorry, Digsy
Astonishment with three exclamation points is an old school potboiler, and by old school I mean it was written in 1802. sweet and good-natured ClaudioAstonishment with three exclamation points is an old school potboiler, and by old school I mean it was written in 1802. sweet and good-natured Claudio has a mysterious birth that he happily ignores for most of his life, given that he was delivered into the loving arms of childless (and very wealthy) parents who were more than happy to take him as their own. unfortunately for Claudio and fortunately for the reader, that mysterious birth and even more mysteries begin to swirl around him, and later, his best bud Ludovico. the two chums are collegiate charmers and apparently expert cocksmen whose main desires are to have a charming time with as many charming women as possible. Ludovico has some displeasingly rapey and self-indulgent tendencies but happily Claudio is the very epitome of pure goodness and so takes on the burden of steering his friend towards a more empathetic way of being. lackadaisical happiness is sadly put on hold as Terrible Mysteries begin to pull them in all sorts of directions.
Astonishment!!! already has three exclamation points in its title so I'm going to do my best not to add any more in this review. it's hard though; this novel's synopsis is begging for exclamation points. it is squarely in the tradition of those gothic "Horrid Novels" made indelible by Northanger Abbey. so many mysteries and they include a mysterious pilgrim, a mysterious monk, two mysterious women, two potentials for incest, missing children, adultery, a scheming villain, an underground sex lair, and a kidnapping that turns into a forced marriage. so much. the pace would be breathless except for the genuinely languorous quality to both the protagonists and the storytelling. Claudio and the people around him write more sonnets that I thought humanly possible - at one point he writes a sonnet about a nunnery which is soon followed by another sonnet, by another person, also about life as a nun. two sonnets about nuns in one book, exclamation point. sonnets, sonnets, everywhere. Lathom has constructed a plot that could have been one smash cut after another, but he is more interested in setting a scene and establishing a mood, really describing how a certain place feels and a certain character acts. the result for me as a reader is that the breathless plot combined with the relaxed storytelling made this book surprisingly easy to stop and start at my leisure over the course of an entire month, while never losing track of the increasingly complex narrative strands and the chinese box of mysteries surrounding other mysteries.
the edition I read includes two amusingly negative reviews written during the time period.
SPOILERS AHEAD, alas
the last dozen pages cram together an entire novel's worth of fascinating backstory while explaining away all of the terrible mysteries. I would have loved to read this imaginary book, featuring the misadventures of the rather kindly but definitely mercenary Countess Horatia and her sex addiction, and her years-long "relationship" (words fail me in describing what you'd call it) with Julio, a creepy minion to a villain slash studly monk slash willingly cuckolded lover slash devoted father slash mysterious man with a mission. I was rather annoyed that I had to read about the crazy lives of these two fascinating characters in such a short span of pages.
one of the most curious things about Astonishment!!! is how, in the end, no one means Claudio any harm whatsoever. he is forever being told by various mysterious and sinister people that he shouldn't ask questions or wonder why, it is "all for the best". and it all actually is, exclamation point. at one point Claudio is kidnapped and then bound, gagged, and hooded - and his captors actually seem rather torn up about it, wishing that he would just calm down so they could go about the mysterious business of doing what is best for him. even the villain of the piece has no interest in harming our dear lad. so many secret journeys and weird coincidences and so many moving parts with Claudio at the center of it all - yet no one wants to harm so much as a hair on the sweet boy's head. the entire world of Astonishment!!! is one that revolves around Claudio and his innate goodness, and everyone in this world wants everything to turn out just right for him. must be nice, exclamation point....more
literary author Gilbert Adair constructs a charming bagatelle that riffs on all of the tropes and standbys of classic murder mysteries written by Agatliterary author Gilbert Adair constructs a charming bagatelle that riffs on all of the tropes and standbys of classic murder mysteries written by Agatha Christie et al. we have the Colonel and the Vicar and the Country Doctor and their various wives and we have the eccentric Authoress (named Evadne, clearly to honor Christie's own Ariadne Oliver) and the grand-standing Actress and the Plucky, Pretty Young Thing and her beau, the Stalwart Young American. best of all, we have the murder victim, dead before the first page: an incredibly venomous gossip columnist whose nastiness and over-the-top snobbery (seared into his targets' memories and thus recounted to another standby, the Retired Police Inspector) caused me to laugh out loud repeatedly. everything about this vindictive little bitch was, in a word, delicious. Adair adroitly skirts the basic problem of juggling all of his stereotypical characters - namely, that reading about stereotypes is rather a bore - by stuffing his slim tale with heaps of wonderful wit and knowing irony and brief, gleeful bits of inappropriate humor based around race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and whether or not the murder victim "looks Jewish" - humor that happily skewers the characters themselves, including the narrator. I particularly appreciated the throwaway references to Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and The Mousetrap; beyond those and other callbacks, the book was obviously written as an homage to her classic The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. the murder mystery itself is well thought-out and I was surprisingly surprised at the identity of the murderer. although I really shouldn't have been surprised at all - the clues are all there. the whole endeavor is clever, clever, clever, and overall a delightful lark... although in the end I prefer actual classic murder mysteries to murder mystery parodies.
recommended for fans of cozy mysteries who don't mind a smart spoof of their favorite genre. also recommended for snooty literary types who wouldn't dare be seen reading such bourgeois entertainments.
and by the by... have you seen Murder By Death? if you liked that film you will no doubt like this book....more
so a bunch of superheroes from World War II are discovered buried in a secret Nazi bunker. they are decanted and broughvibrantly-hued shit on a stick.
so a bunch of superheroes from World War II are discovered buried in a secret Nazi bunker. they are decanted and brought into the modern world. tedious shenanigans ensue, involving a secret killer amongst them and the various trials and tribulations of being an old salt water fish thrust into a pool of fresh water. I hope I never again have to experience Straczynski's tired, ham-handed attempts to engage with race and sexual orientation and Jewish identity - while simultaneously ignoring the plentiful issues his story has around gender. not to mention the buckets of mawkish, masturbatory nostalgia slopped all over the place. the whole thing is an ugly mess. and it's set during Marvel's asinine Civil War, making matters even more eye-rolling.
the art certainly fits the story. all the bright colors in the world (courtesy of Digikore Studios) can't disguise the fact that Chris Weston can only make characters who convey one of four expressions: blandly impassive, over-the-top insane, rat-like, and most commonly, constipated. he doesn't know how to draw characters standing or fighting or flying or talking to each other or even waking up. his favorite details to focus on: hairy legs. seriously, wtf.
what happened to Straczynski? did he bust all of his creative nut when pumping out Babylon-5 and Squadron Supreme? is he just going through the motions, churning out pseudo-intellectual drivel for DC and Marvel and makin' money? I dunno. but his vision is currently as exciting and stimulating as your average, anonymous run of the mill hack, with an obnoxious sheen of pretentiousness and queasy sentimentality to make it glossy. ugh, what a waste of my time and money....more
Crossed Volume 10 is a standalone story by Garth Ennis that takes the reader back to the beginning of the Crossed pandemic. the story details the initCrossed Volume 10 is a standalone story by Garth Ennis that takes the reader back to the beginning of the Crossed pandemic. the story details the initial outbreak from the perspective of four special agents assigned to protect the UK Prime Minister, two pilots, and most intriguingly, a potential Patient Zero.
the writing by Garth Ennis is smart and sardonic. the art by Christian Zanier is certainly not the same caliber as art by the excellent Jacen Burrows (the artist who collaborated with Ennis in prior volumes) - but it is still fairly well-done.
so why my lukewarm reaction? I'm not sure. one of the good-bad things about the two prior volumes I've read was the horrifically visceral quality to many of the scenes; that visceral quality is restrained in this volume and - surprisingly, because I am no gorehound - I miss it. maybe I just prefer an unrestrained Ennis, warts and all, to the Ennis in this story. another strength is missing: depth of characterization. Ennis was able to convey character backstories filled with regret and lost opportunities in the space of a few pages, at least within his short "Badlands" from Volume 4. but in Volume 10 the characters remain frustratingly opaque - except for the sole villainous character, who is unfortunately straight from Central Casting (Weaselly Ambitious Bureaucrat Division).
the still-ambiguous origin of the Crossed virus is interesting and gave me a little bit to contemplate. is Planet Earth inoculating itself against that notorious parasite, humanity? Patient Zero himself gave me even more to contemplate... where does violence and the urge to do harm to those we love come from? are some people just born with that tendency?
so on the one hand, some fascinating things to contemplate (at least for a few minutes). and on the other hand, a lot of uninteresting characters and a surprising lack of visceral shocks .
SYNOPSIS: young married ne'er do wells do their passive best to fight the anomie of existence by breaking into mcmansions and experiencing their usualSYNOPSIS: young married ne'er do wells do their passive best to fight the anomie of existence by breaking into mcmansions and experiencing their usual buried resentments and lack of affect in new environments rather than their own ill-tended home.
Joy Williams is often an artist with the prose. her brilliance shines when she is exercising her descriptive muscles: she knows how to paint a landscape, to construct a house, to take a snapshot of a particular locale. although she is capable of the occasional embarrassing misstep (see progress note), for the most part her writing style is expert.
SYNOPSIS: Flannery O'Connor and Don DeLillo got together, knocked boots, and made a baby named Breaking and Entering.
okay this is a literary novel that starts out by giving the impression that it will be a straightforward narrative... one that emphasizes the growth of the protagonist in contrast with the gallery of grotesque supporting characters that cross her path. something, perhaps, in the "Southern tradition". but that is not the case at all; this novel does not truck in realism, not in the kitchen sink sense of the word, nor in the sense of magic realism or even the more distinctly mannered faux-realism of authors like O'Connor or Faulkner. Williams' novel belongs on the shelf next to DeLillo and Barth and Coover and company. and this was a problem for me. an absorbing narrative is set up within a perfectly captured locale by a talented writer... and then it transforms into a series of stylized tableaux featuring bizarre un-characters monologuing - people who I not only could give a shit about, but who aren't even interesting as ideas. this is Williams' book, not mine, so it's not like I felt she did anything "wrong" - she wrote what she wanted to write. that much is clear. unfortunately for me, I can't connect with a book that not only has no interest in developing the somewhat intriguing narrative that was created (and then abandoned), but I also couldn't connect with the ideas that seemed to replace an actual story. because the story was abandoned in favor of a series of off-putting soliloquies, the themes of We Create The Boxes We Live In and He Wants To Roam While She Wants To Build Some Kind Of Life were rendered tedious and sterile.
SYNOPSIS: boring young woman remains boring.
the worst part of this novel is the protagonist. she brings nothing to the table - no insights, no quirks, no growth, not even a real point of view regarding the nitwits that cross her path, let alone their rambling monologues. she's a vacuum, a black hole - all these ideas floated by the various characters go in but nothing comes out. she has no voice. her lack of perspective and agency started off as interesting but quickly became a frustrating bore.
SYNOPSIS: a wonderful dog with a sad backstory and a loveable kid with admirable pluck are abandoned by an author who is disinterested in developing her own creations.