December 2014: Yeah, I still really love this book. (The audiobook is really good, by the way. R.C. Bray does a great job with voices and personalitieDecember 2014: Yeah, I still really love this book. (The audiobook is really good, by the way. R.C. Bray does a great job with voices and personalities, even if it did take me a while to get used to him. His voice was much gruffer than I had pictured Watney's voice being. I particularly liked his Venkat Kapoor.)
August 2014: Holy shit, this was good. Like, REALLY good. Instant favorite.
Which is really funny because I had myself pre-convinced that it didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in when I first heard about it. Like, ugh. Who wants to read about an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to use his wits to MacGyver his way to survival and it’s all tense and smart and thrilling and stuff. Ugh, ugh. ugh.
I’m not sure what drugs I was on when I formed that opinion, but it happened. And thank God for Jen and Nataliya’s reviews, which informed me that not only was the book totally awesome, but it was FUNNY, and funny like how I think things are funny, and the main character is a total smartass nerd, which is my favorite kind of person. So I reserved the book at my library, and proceeded to wait almost six months before it was available. That should also tell you something. Anyway, when I did manage to finally get ahold of it, I pretty much fell in love instantly and was entirely consumed by it until I finished it. I then talked about it non-stop to anyone who would listen to me, including my boss, who basically only reads weird inspirational and business type books.
It’s sort of hard to describe this book without using the word ‘awesome.’ It’s told mostly in astronaut Mark Watney’s first person POV, as he writes a log as a way to pass time, and to document his attempts to stay alive. You know, just in case the log is all that’s left of him when the next mission to Mars in FOUR YEARS comes along. (This is a problem because Mark doesn’t have four years of food left and everyone thinks he’s dead.) There is a lot of science in all of this (as Mark is a scientist and solves his problems with science), but by no means is it inaccessible. Mark’s voice is very human and very lovable, and he gets so excited about all the science and he explains it really well that you can’t help be just as excited about everything as he is.
Normally the nature of this type of story (man has to survive perils thrown at him) would just exhaust me and stress me out, but Andy Weir makes the incredibly smart decision to have Mark’s problems be ones that derive naturally from both his actions and his situations. He doesn’t just throw shit at Mark for dramadrama. Everything that happens to him makes sense. Mark is so resourceful, it’s thrilling to watch him overcome these obstacles, all while creating (knowingly or unknowingly) more problems for himself down the line. I finished the book and pretty much wanted to start it all over again (which wasn’t an option because: library, six month waiting list).
Plus, how can you not love this guy?
“’He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. ‘I wonder what he’s thinking right now.’
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
It’s apparently being made into a movie by Ridley Scott, with Matt Damon attached to play Mark. And honestly, I’m not happy about that at all. Matt Damon is a good-looking and fancy movie star with a sort of deadpan sense of humor. Mark Watney is a nerd with a seriously goofy sense of humor, and they are totally not going to mesh well together. I’m very upset because Mark Watney is my book boyfriend and I would like him to be a movie boyfriend as well, but it’s probably not going to happen. Also, also it’s hilarious that the guy who wrote this book is a total genius prodigy, and he wrote this book for funsies basically in his downtime from being a supergenius prodigy scientist....more
Updated November 2014: Let’s just get this first thing out in the open. For the rest of her life, Gillian Anderson will always first and foremost be SUpdated November 2014: Let’s just get this first thing out in the open. For the rest of her life, Gillian Anderson will always first and foremost be Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI. And just so we’re clear, there are definitely worse things she could be associated with.
I was totally batshit obsessed with The X-Files back in the day. Like, ad-hoarding-under-the-bed, fanfic-reading, thinking-about-it-all-the-time, staying-up-until-3-AM-on-school-nights-to-watch-re-runs-obsessed*. It was My Show. So, as a caveat for the rest of this review, that lingering love for GA and her X-Files days is the only reason I read this book, when I normally would have read the blurb and been like either, a) NUCLEAR WAR NO THANKS, or b) Meh, thrillers??? Point being, not something I’d seek out on my own.
*Kids today are spoiled. They can just Netflix this shit up and finish it in weeks, if not days. I had to work HARD to make sure I’d seen every episode. I mean, my God, it was even before DVDs! And I started watching in season six! Keeping detailed spreadsheets, scouring the TV Guide every week for possible ones I’d missed, pretending to watch shows my mom approved of while secretly recording it on my VCR . . . and every episode was magical as a result. I mean, I don’t miss all the work I had to do to catch up on a TV show, not really, but I do miss that feeling. You know?
Second thing: this was not a bad book by any means, but it was very silly in points, and very new agey. This was pretty much exactly what I’d been expecting going in, because I’ve seen the episode GA wrote and directed for The X-Files (“all things”), and as much as I want to high-five her for pushing to get that M&S post-sex scene* in there, that episode was (and remains) one of the trippiest, new agiest things I’d seen on TV. And I watch a lot of TV.
*The thing that I love most about that scene in retrospect is that it’s just in there and no one ever mentions it again. And this was a at a time when us sad little shippers had to pick through every episode with a fine-toothed comb to get a fix for our UST. And somehow I completely missed the blow-up surrounding this episode. To be honest, I didn’t even pick up on its (now blatantly obvious) message in the slightest. Which was: M&S ARE BONING YOU FOOLS. I was just like, oh hey, why is Scully putting her shirt on in Mulder’s apartment while he’s naked in the bed? I have no idea what I was thinking. It’s not like I didn’t have sex on the brain when I was fifteen, because I way totally did. And then, whoops! She turns up preggers! How did that happen!? Um, spoilers?
In many ways, A Vision of Fire is a pretty standard sci-fi thriller, more akin to one of those ones you can buy in a grocery store than anything else. It’s pulpy and fast-paced and everything is written to be as extremely dramatic as possible. For the first half of the book, anyway. And then . . . well. It gets weird and scary and just weird. I liked GA’s conscious decision to make it a more global novel, even as her protagonist, Caitlin O’Hara, is a white American. Pretty much everyone else is a POC and of different nationalities, and they’re pretty well-rounded considering the type of story they’re inhabiting. I know from interviews that other cultures and religions have always been pretty interesting to her, so it doesn’t surprise me she’d choose to feature them so prominently in her debut novel (which she presumably had a lot of help with from writing partner Jeff Rovin).
My main issue with the book, aside from it being something that isn’t normally my cuppa, is that the main character starts believing in the weird stuff really, absurdly quickly. She basically goes from being a normal child psychologist (albeit a high profile one) to someone who makes intuitive leaps of faith and accepts stuff that is really frickin’ weird in almost no time at all, and with very little evidence for most of it. (I’m trying to be vague about the actual plot so as to retain the thrill of surprise for you–pretty much if you take that away from this type of book, you’re shooting it in the foot.)
In all honesty, the weirdness was part of the draw, so I can’t really complain about it too much. She pretty much sticks to your standard thriller formula, otherwise, including a love interest (who I of course pictured as David Duchovny). That part of the book wasn’t all that remarkable, but it was also pretty harmless as well. All in all, A Vision of Fire was a really quick popcorn read, so if you don’t end up liking it, you won’t have wasted much time on it. If you come in expecting GA weirdness, you won’t be disappointed.
This book is apparently the first in a series, as well, and with the way this one ended, it can only get more weird from here.
Updated October 2014: Actually finished this early this morning, but went off to cuddle a brand new baby and got distracted. The first half of this book was pretty normal. The second half got weird. It was pretty much exactly what I expected. Full review later.
May 2014: If "all things" is anything to go by, this book could be epically weird.
Now, I'm probably biased because I went into this already loving Craig Ferguson from watching him onThis is the best celebrity memoir I've ever read.
Now, I'm probably biased because I went into this already loving Craig Ferguson from watching him on The Late Late Show, but he did in his book everything that a book like this should do. He was funny, sincere, and his honesty is that of the 'warts and all' persuasion. In fact, showing those warts is the whole point of the book, which he opens by stating, concerning his son, "He will know from an early age that failure is not disgrace. It's just a pitch that you missed, and you'd better get ready for the next one." This isn't just some book of unconnected stories by a famous name, contracted by a publisher to piggyback some moola off of their cultural cachet (although I have read and enjoyed books of that type before, notably Tina Fey's and Amy Poehler's). This is a book with a purpose--it says it right there in the title. And that automatically lends it something I always feel is missing from those other types of memoirs, an authentication borne from the need to tell a story.
The book is told (mostly) in chronological order, detailing from his birth in Scotland to poor, working-class parents, to his dropping out from high school, dedicating himself to being a rockstar and taking as many drugs as possible, finding his way into comedy (by way of punk rock and Peter Capaldi), through finally realizing his (literal) life-long dream of moving to America, and actually becoming American. And of course, the most affecting bits in all that had to do with his struggle with alcoholism, which he says "broke my heart and the hearts of too many others", and with the relationship to all the women in his life. He writes most eloquently when he's speaking about the ways loving these women (and being loved by them) changed his life.
And that's the other thing about Craig Ferguson's book, is that besides being funny and moving (and FUNNY), it's also well-written. Truly. I didn't know before reading this, but he's actually written film scripts and even a novel (all of which he talks about in the book). The stories he was telling would have been interesting no matter what, but they became something special in the way that he told them. His prose was nothing fancy and was certainly irreverent, but it was unmistakably his. The man has style. If you're going to write a book about yourself, write a book about yourself! And he does.
There's too much in the book that I loved for me to mention all of it. Probably the best thing I can say at this point is that I was very happy when I could be in my car and listening to this, and when it was over, I wished it wasn't. (P.S. Get the audiobook if you can--it's fantastic. He reads it himself. Worth the price of admission just to hear him say 'farty'.) When he ties everything all together at the end, he does get a bit sentimental, but it's an earned sentimentality, and if there's anyone who disagrees with the way he sees our country, I don't want to know about it.
“America truly is the best idea for a country that anyone has ever come up with so far. Not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual, but because we are always our own most effective voice of dissent....We must never mistake disagreement between Americans on political or moral issues to be an indication of their level of patriotism. If you don't like what I say or don't agree with where I stand on certain issues, then good. I'm glad we're in America, and don't have to oppress each other over it. We're not just a nation, we're not an ethnicity. We are a dream of justice that people have had for a thousand years.”
And now I shall leave you with one of my favorite Craigy Ferg moments. If you aren't just so happy after watching that clip, I don't even want to know, because knowing you are dead inside will just harsh my buzz.
This was exactly what I wanted from an in-world history/encyclopedia published before the series is finished. Willing to overlook holes for the sake oThis was exactly what I wanted from an in-world history/encyclopedia published before the series is finished. Willing to overlook holes for the sake of spoilers. And the illustrations were so gorgeous I wanted to eat them.
First of all, I very much regret my decision not to buy a copy of this book. I waited FOREVER on my library’s wait-list for it, and then when I did finally get it and saw all the beautimous illustrations, I spent about thirty minutes just gazing at them all, and then I put the book down and cried piteously for a while.
The illustrations are a huge draw, but also, the book is just fun. It is most definitely not for casual fans of the show. I might even go as far as to say that only people who have read (or plan to read) the books will get the proper amount of enjoyment out of it. You also have to go into it possessing a certain mindset, which I definitely do. You have to be able to be as curious about and care about the worlds of Westeros and Essos and beyond as much as if they were real. The fun, in fact, is in pretending they are real, a thinking process this book very much enables. It is written from an in-world perspective: a Maester of the Citadel, a scholar, is the author, and he hilariously spends about half of his time being historically accurate, and the other half kissing Lannister/Baratheon butt (you don’t want to be the guy who makes the king and his family look bad). It’s also interesting to see the gaps in the Maester’s knowledge (some of which hopefully Martin will let us in on by the end of the series, most of which he will not), and the Maester definitely lets his prejudices show (against anything remotely implausible or magical, also racially–he uses the word ‘savages’ quite a lot). The biggest example of this is his refusal to believe in the Others (white walkers in the show), so . . . yeah. Those exist, guy.
The biggest thing this book does is clarify the scope of the world that Martin has created. We get all these tantalizing hints in the books about historical figures, distant lands, past kings and queens, cities our characters have never visited, the shrouded origins of dynasties and religions and orders . . . so much you could never ever fit all of it into the main books proper. This book gives us a big part of that, laying everything out in chronological order, or by region. The only thing it didn’t do right was maps. In the ‘Seven Kingdoms’ section, each kingdom’s chapter begins with a detailed map, but elsewhere in the book there are no maps to be found, and that was really frustrating. I had to keep this map pulled up on my computer for reference every time I went to read it. It was so fun to see the in-world writing, as they had so much detail for the things closest to them, both in time and in space. And the farther away whatever The Thing is, the more squiggly the details and the writing get. That’s when stuff starts turning mythic.
Aegon the Conqueror
The most interesting and the largest section covered the reign of The Targaryens, starting with Aegon the conqueror and ending with the Mad King Aerys death by Kingslayer. That was actually my favorite part of the book, the details given about Robert’s Rebellion. I just want to read a whole book about that. Hundreds of pages, please. I hope we eventually get all the nasty details, either in-book or out. I’m not picky. This section (and the majority of the rest of the book) was written by Linda and Elio from info given to them by GRRM, that he’d already collected. One interview I read stated that they had to cull this section alone from 250,000 words GRRM gave them down to a more manageable 50,000. Actually, let me just quote the whole thing:
“Now, some other details GRRM shared at ConQuest relate to the fact that when he set out to help fill in the blanks—mostly with the Targaryen history—well… the story grew in the telling. What was supposed to be 50,000 words became 250,000, as all the details he had been storing away for some future use came pouring out. It is, to say the least, amazing stuff… but too much, as it happens, for the world book! Linda and I, with the help of our editor Anne Groell, have largely summarized—in a maester’s voice—much of what GRRM revealed about the past, presenting something a bit sketchier and briefer. The full narratives have not been tossed aside, but instead it looks like George has mentioned the notion of eventually gathering all of these texts, and perhaps adding a few more, to create a ‘GRRMarillion,’ which will delve even deeper into the history of the setting. But that would be a post-ASoIaF project.” [source]
As far as I’m concerned, this quote means people should shove it if they’re going to complain this book took time from GRRM writing book six. It didn’t. He already had done all the work in the form of worldbuilding and backstory. Linda and Elio put this together, and GRRM gave them his stamp of approval.
Torrhen Stark, The King Who Knelt
I already talked about the illustrations and how much I want to marry them, but I want to talk about them more. Aside from being beautiful, they are also functional and helpful. Visualizing the world more clearly helps facilitate content. Seeing the faces of characters long dead lends the world verisimilitude. You can see exactly how mind-numbingly enormous the dragons were, and that gives credence to the idea that three people could conquer an entire continent (well, almost . . . Dorne gave them a run for their money) with dragons and charisma as their only weapons. You can see just how freaking cool Braavos is, or how remote Dorne’s cities (and how surrounded by desert). We get to see places we’ve never been, like Highgarden and Oldtown. In most cases, the TV show also can provide some of this for you, but it’s not a perfect medium. TV shows are limited by budget, even fabulously successful ones on HBO. For example, the show’s iron throne is much, much smaller than the one envisioned by GRRM:
The Real Iron Throne
The sections with the Ironborn in the books (Theon before he’s Reek, Asha, Aeron, and Victarion) have always been my least favorite, and now I know why. They are HORRIBLE people from the beginning or recorded history. Just, they are all dicks. Theon lived away from them and stopped being a dick (sort of . . . anyway he was getting better and having a bromance with Robb Stark), and then he went back and TOTAL DICK AGAIN*. They just inspire it in each other. They are murderers, robbers, rapists . . . on purpose. Their culture codifies those things as something good. The only kings they had who tried to get them to take responsiblity for their actions and start being good human beings they deposed and/or murdered. They are the worst.
*It is more complicated and sad than this, but I am exaggerating for comic effect.
Nymeria, Queen of the Rhoynar, and Mars Martell of Dorne
I’ve already sort of mentioned how a bunch of stuff in this ties into stuff we’ve only briefly heard about in the series, like Nymeria (who was amazing), or how the Lannisters got control of Casterly Rock. It’s got practically an entire biography of Tywin Lannister in there (butt-kissing noises!). I’m not complaining thought. That dude is so freaking interesting to read about, and the inspiration behind “The Rains of Castamere” is SO MUCH WORSE than I thought it was. A lot of the sections in here gave me a new appreciation for things that annoyed me previously in the books, like Dorne. The Dorne sections in AFFC were always a bummer, but now knowing the history behind their kingdom, I’m actually looking forward to re-reading those sections.
Rhaegar Targaryen and Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident
The whole book made me excited about the series all over again. Unfortunately, it’s also made me want books six and seven even more because it teases so many things we really want to know about. So if you’re looking for something to scratch that itch for you, this might do the trick, but it also might just make you itchier. (I am very itchy right now. Also, salivating. Basically I am a hungry dog that needs a bath.)...more
Obvious warning here, though. If the title and cover didn’t clue you in, this book has sex in it. The sex is awkward and fThis book was So. Much. Fun.
Obvious warning here, though. If the title and cover didn’t clue you in, this book has sex in it. The sex is awkward and funny and causes time to stop, but still. It’s sex.
Suzie has a very special power. Her orgasms are magical. THEY CAN STOP TIME. And while this is undoubtedly a cool superpower, it also makes her pretty lonely, once she discovers she is the only one this happens to. Until she discovers she isn’t the only this happens to, that is. Suzie meets Jon. They have an instant connection, mostly brought on by their shared superpower and the alleviation of their loneliness, but also because they’re genuinely compatible and like each other, as human beings.
The sex-positivity of the whole thing is not my favorite part of why I liked this book so much, but it’s a big part nonetheless. And it’s not so much that the book is going, sex is good! Sex is fun! Sex is healthy! Sex is intimate! (Although it does imply all those things.) It’s more like this book explores sexuality as a key part of identity. My favorite bits resonated with me not because they were sexy or funny (although they were sometimes both of those things). They resonated with me because they seemed so intimate and personal. Suzie and Jon are normal people. They are looking for love and human connection, just like the rest of us. That they happen to find it while stopping time with their naughty bits is just part of the package.
Because this book is really, really funny also. The whole thing just works. The artwork is bright and clear, and the style is almost cartoony, and yet not. Suzie and Jon look like real people, in that they have real proportions. They’re a little chubby, have big noses and butts. They’re cute, but average. They’re also mischieveous and clever and generous and sad and a whole bunch of other things at once. They’re also criminals, once they decide to go all Robin Hood and steal from the bank where Jon works, the same bank that is threatening to foreclose the library Suzie works at. And then of course, the Sex Police show up and things get complicated, but that’s a story for another time.
For now, I will just say that I loved this book, and the only thing keeping me from giving it five stars is that I’m not sure the timeline of the story needed to be quite so wibbly-wobbly, and because it’s an ongoing comic, I’m not quite sure this sticks together well enough as a cohesive whole. A re-read will probably change my mind, though, because I’m easy like that.
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Like, there should be a GIF of Will Ferrell as Mugatu making that face with his big hair right here in this reviewI feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Like, there should be a GIF of Will Ferrell as Mugatu making that face with his big hair right here in this review, only I'm too upset to actually find and put it here. And I feel like the ridiculousness of that image would sort of undercut how, I don't know . . . upset? I was while reading this book.
I even read all of Pat's warnings: on his website, in the forward to the book, on his Goodreads review of this book. I read all my friends reviews, that each talked about how this story isn't going to be for everyone, it doesn't do what most stories are supposed to. And I read the two reviews Pat linked to on his blog last week, the first of which is actually quite an amazing review, entitled "This Pretzel is the Worst Lasagna Ever". The second was pretty great, too, sort of satirizing all the insubstantial one-star reviews the book had gotten so far.
And I thought to myself: whatevs. I'm totally going to love this. Rothfuss and I, we are on the same wavelength about fiction. It's about Auri. I love Auri. It's apparently pretty weird. I fucking love weird. There's no way I'm not going to dig the shit out it.
Uh . . . I didn't dig it.
I didn't even just think it was okay, or have a 'meh' reaction to it.
While I was reading it, it made me angry.
I'm going to try and puzzle out my reaction in this review so that it can make sense, both for me and for anyone reading this, because this reaction was SO unexpected for me. But I want to get a few things out in the air first:
The book was absurdly well-written. My problem with it was not Pat's craft. The guy is a meticulous, obsessive reviser. His writing always reflects that. And the choices he made stylistically were not wrong by any means, they just grated on me, personally (for instance his/Auri's word choice can get a bit eclectic . . . most people will need to look at least a couple words up, that's how out of use they normally are).
I do not care that the book is weird. This part of it I actively embrace, even if I didn't enjoy the specific results. I like when stories ignore traditional story structures. It didn't matter to me that the story had no identifiable arc, rise in tension or climax. It didn't bother me that there is no dialogue, or that there is essentially only one character present. It didn't bother me that it was basically a week in the life of Auri. It was a character study. I get that.
My problem is that I did not enjoy being in Auri's head. This is the part I'm having trouble pinning down. As noted above, I actively disliked it. It made my blood pressure skyrocket, to the point where I had to keep putting the book down. Reading about Auri's life and her thought processes made me angry.
Bear with me here as I try to sort out why.
First, it's been about three years since I've read NOTW or WMF, but I remember liking Auri a whole bunch. I remember being touched by Kvothe's interactions with her, him bringing her food, re-naming her, realizing something horrible had happened to her in the past. I remember feeling sad that a person like this could exist, someone so lost and out of touch with the world, they could barely take care of themselves. Someone fragile, but also resilient. From Kvothe's perspective, and from mine, she came across as someone broken, yes, but someone also in touch with things normal people weren't. It worked for me.
But actually being in her head was a different story. I'm sure a lot of people will interpret her actions as being poetic or beautiful or sad, the actions of a lonely person who is different trying to remake her own world so that it makes sense. And really, they wouldn't be wrong. Auri doesn't have people, she has silent objects that speak to her any way. She spends all her days in the Underthing, rearranging her world, tending it. Acting like doing all the stuff she does is important. Finding the right home for all her silent objects. BUT IT'S NOT IMPORTANT. And her insistence on maintaining the illusion of her imaginary world has REAL LIFE CONSEQUENCES FOR HER. It is frightening and frustrating and maddening.
I'll give you an example. She has a blanket, a blanket that she made by hand, and because the blanket has communicated to her that it never wants to touch the floor, as long as it doesn't touch the floor, it will remain perfect. It's her only blanket. I'm not even positive her bed has cushions, so it's literally her only comfort and source of warmth at night. And then near the end of the book, the blanket accidentally falls to the floor, and suddenly it's not perfect anymore. What does Auri do? She stops using it. She folds it up angrily in one of her special storage places and sleeps on a hard bed with no blanket. FOR NO REASON AT ALL. This is just so . . . futile. She is denying herself warmth and comfort in order to maintain the rules of her made-up world.
Her whole life is like that.
I know I must sound like an asshole typing this, especially since it's very clear (and it was clear to me while reading) that Auri is mentally ill. I don't believe there is a specific diagnosis, because it might have a magical source as well as a psychological one, but at the very least she has some sort of PTSD mixed with a sort of magical Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Depression. There's even a small sentence thrown in near the end that implies she was assualted (not sure if sexually) at some point in the near past. So there's a reason she's like this. She has retreated from the world. She makes up rules for that world in order to stay as sane as possible, and when something in her world goes out of line, she loses her shit.
The only part of the book that I really liked (and related to) came near the middle, when she has discovered that her stash of handmade soap has been eaten by a rat or something, and she thinks to herself:
"She stamped her foot. She hoped the greedy thing shit for a week. She hoped it shit its awful self inside out and backward, then fell into a crack and lost it's name and died alone and hollow-empty in the angry dark."
Oh, God, that's good writing. I wish there had been more of that fire on display in her head. If there was, I would have loved it. As it is, it's mostly this:
"She tried to slide it back to proper true, but couldn't see the shape of it and couldn't tell the way of things and if it was a place where it was right."
"She'd strayed from the true way of things. First you set yourself to rights. And then your house. And then your corner of the sky. And after that... Well, then she didn't rightly know what happened next. But she hoped that after that the world would start to run itself a bit, like a gear-watch proper fit and kissed wit oil. That was what she hoped would happen."
"She felt the panic rising in her then. She knew. She knew how quickly things could break. You did the things you could. You tended to the world for the world's sake. You hoped you would be safe. But still she knew. It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do. And yes, she knew she wasn't right. She knew her everything was canted wrong. She knew her head was all unkilter. She knew she wasn't true inside. She knew."
Everything with her is a thing, so insubstantial and she expends so much energy on her delusions, only to be alone and hungry and cold when they crumble around her. Making friends with things that don't actually exist is not making friends. And there are bed sheets up in this place she's found, but she refuses to take them for herself, even though nobody else is using them, and she needs them . . . I just couldn't take it. I kept thinking, this girl's life is horrible, and she's chosen it (largely) to be that way. Why has no one stepped in to take care of her. We know at least a couple of people know she's living under the university . . . why hasn't someone tried to help her? Like REALLY help her? It's one thing to be unique. It's quite another to have your life depend on the smallest most insignificant things, and when one thing goes wrong, your life goes wrong. And she is alone, and her world is small. And she finds joy in the small things because she has nothing else to find joy in. And she doesn't know consciously what's she doing. She's smart and capable, and she's shutting herself away in a world, wasting her energy on things that don't matter.
I know that's the point. I know that's the whole point. I know it. I just hated it. It made me angry without my permission. I would have preferred not to be angry, I really would have. Maybe that makes me an asshole, for feeling anger at this girl and the way she lives her life, instead of sympathy, but I try to be honest in this space, and saying anything else wouldn't be honest.
I know I haven't completely untangled my reaction to this book. It's probably hit a nerve somewhere in my personal experience, and I'm just not realizing what it is. I hope any of you reading this have the opposite reaction to mine. I hope if you don't like the book, you at least have the luxury of feeling 'meh' about it. I also hope that maybe with some distance I can come to feel differently about the book, but for now, this is what I've got. For now, though, I'm rating it three stars, because it's one of those cases where it's not the book, it's me. And you don't just one-star a book for that. At least, I don't. One-stars are a class all their own.
So, thoughts, friends? I would greatly appreciate conversation/debate on this one. I hope you're all having lovely days :)
P.S. The illustrations by Nate Taylor really are gorgeous....more
Got this as a free download from Audible. It was nothing special, just a fun interlude that bridges the gaps between Steelheart and the forthcoming FiGot this as a free download from Audible. It was nothing special, just a fun interlude that bridges the gaps between Steelheart and the forthcoming Firefight (January 2015). Gave us updates on how Newcago has changed since (view spoiler)[David and the Reckoners defeated Steelheart (hide spoiler)], but mostly it's David in a fight against an unstable Epic called Mitosis, who can split himself into infinite clones, and who is very upset at the idea that a normal person could (view spoiler)[bring down a God like Steelheart (hide spoiler)]. Since that was the main event, I liked it, but wasn't super into it (action isn't my favorite part about stories like these). I like cleverness and trickery and world-building and character development and this was light on all of that. Still: fun! (I do wish David would stop with his bad metaphors . . . it's a very strange character trait for a person to have.)...more
Stephen Leeds is a truly unique individual. There are forty-seven people (and counting) living in his house, each of whom specialize in different thinStephen Leeds is a truly unique individual. There are forty-seven people (and counting) living in his house, each of whom specialize in different things, like botany, biology, security, psychology, handwriting analysis, etc. These people have personalities and talents and fears and all come from different cultures and religious backgrounds. And all of them are hallucinations.
Stephen doesn't really have multiple personality disorder, because he is completely aware of and actively participates in the maintaining of his aspects. He uses them as a sort of extension of himself, ways to keep certain kinds of knowledge. And they follow him around all day, helping and annoying him in turn. Two of his aspects have even struck up an on-again off-again love/hate relationship. The consensus (largely) is that he's a genius who compartmentalizes his knowledge in a very, er, specialized way.
In fact, Stephen is sort of famous. His life is often reported in the tabloids. He's very rich (he employs a butler named Wilson who he pays to pretend his hallucinations are real by doing things like actually serving them drinks, and he has a house big enough so that every one of his aspects can have their own room). It is every psychologist's dream to meet and study him. His case has been written about hundreds of times.
And what does he do? He uses his aspects to solve crimes and to help people. (For money, of course. He's not a saint.)
I'm not sure I liked this one as much as the last one, but perhaps that's because I read it in audiobook, and I read the last one in hardcover. It's probably because the mystery Stephen was solving in the last one was inherently more interesting to me than the whole being chased by an assassin, trying to find a body that holds the secret to how to use human bodies as computers thing this one's got going on. I did really enjoy the way that Sanderson pushed and explored the concept of Stephen's aspects in Skin Deep. Some of them have trouble accepting that they're not real, and all of them have one psychosis or another, while Stephen (except for the aspects themselves) has none at all. In this one, in order to preserve his sanity, one of the aspects decides he's an interdimensional Time Ranger and that instead of being imaginary, he's actually being called by Stephen from another dimension.
And maybe I'm just reaching here, but this whole book I felt like Sanderson was hinting there was something else going on with Stephen's ability/aspects. We're probably going to have to wait a while for the next book in the series though, so I'm not going to think too hard about it.
This series is fun, but altogether, I don't think it's really representative of what Sanderson can do. I think he's at his best when he's writing epic fantasy, but of course you're free to disagree. As long as you're comfortable being wrong....more
I liked it, but I didn't love it. Honestly, I subtracted almost a whole star justUpdated 4/22/2015: Well. This was a book.
No, just kidding. Sort of.
I liked it, but I didn't love it. Honestly, I subtracted almost a whole star just because Axl kept calling his wife "princess" every other sentence.
But it's a really interesting book that I will have a lot to say about when I can wrap my head around it. For now, you guys should totally check out the interview Kazuo Ishiguro gave to the podcast Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. They talk a lot about how fantasy is perceived by the traditional literary community, an argument which Ishiguro unknowingly stepped in when he decided to write a story using fantasy elements and structures. It's a really interesting conversation, but the best part is when he turns the conversation on the interviewer and starts to go all fantasy noob. For the entire last thirty minutes of the interview, Ishiguro asks the guy all these questions about what fantasy books he should read, whether Neil Gaiman is cool, who is the typical age group for fantasy, what adult fantasy can do. I was laughing at him while listening because it was just sort of surreal to see this author whose books I've loved initiating himself into this genre I love, but it was sweet. I like the guy.
Anyway, for now rating this 3.5 stars. Full review later.
4/18/2014: Not that any of his books will ever live up to Remains of the Day:
But I am going to eat this shit up with a spoon....more
Breq is smart. Breq is capable and knowledgable. Breq is thoughtful, empathetic. Breq yearns for social justice. Breq mourns for lost love. Breq lovesBreq is smart. Breq is capable and knowledgable. Breq is thoughtful, empathetic. Breq yearns for social justice. Breq mourns for lost love. Breq loves to sing, but has a bit of a temper.
Breq used to be a spaceship.
Well, if we’re going to get technical, Breq was the artificial intelligence who inhabited the spaceship Justice of Toren, and also thousands of ancillary human bodies (whose previous inhabitants had, um, vacated the premises). Now she only inhabits one, and almost everyone she has ever known is dead.
Ancillary Sword is the second book in the Imperial Radch series. Breq is the main character (obviously). The first book was split between flashbacks to her time as a ship and following her as she tracked down the person responsible for the destruction of her ship (and the death of someone she loved). This one didn’t have as clear-cut of a structure. It was more of a slow burn as Breq adjusts for the first time to really living and functioning in lone body among her people (you know, as opposed to hiding from them and/or trying murder them for revenge). She was made captain of her own ship at the end of the last book, and she now has her own crew. A lot of the book is focused on her navigating that new responsibility with a single body (as opposed to the way she used to do it when she was the ship). She feels responsible not only for the physical well-being of her crew, but their emotional stability as well.
A lot of the book is Breq dealing with stuff internally, but there’s also a bit of a mystery in there. They’ve brought the ship to a space station, and Breq takes it upon herself to keep things under control there (in preparation for the civil war that’s about to occur between the multiple factions of the emperor–uh, not as crazy as it sounds, or actually, yes it is, just as crazy as it sounds). There’s also some stuff with the different classes and religions down on the planet, and my favorite thing, Breq bringing her own personal brand of asskicking to all the racist/classist/whatever-ist a-holes who try get away with awful stuff. Breq is basically like a gender-neutral semi-psychic Batman.
Boy, I’m really selling the hell out of this book. Just . . . like, trust me or something. If you like sci-fi, this series is worth checking out. It gives you a good old sci-fi feeling, but also does a lot of cool stuff you don’t normally see in the genre. It’s basically like we get to watch Breq become a human. Except, a better human.
It was a bit slow to start, but I think Leckie is just one of those writers you have to trust will bring it all together, even if you can’t see where she’s going until the end. She’s definitely someone who writes books that reward re-reading. I actually think these books are going to become some of my all-time favorites the longer they’re around, and I can’t wait for book three next year.
Wow, I just zoomed right through this. For a fifteen year old, Maya Van Wagenen has a very compelling voice. Frankly, this would be good even if it waWow, I just zoomed right through this. For a fifteen year old, Maya Van Wagenen has a very compelling voice. Frankly, this would be good even if it was written by someone older. But I can’t get over how brave this kid was to do all of this. I never could have done it when I was her age — at the peak of my miserable weirdo awkwardness. And she writes with humor and compassion that a lot of assholes older than her could do to learn something from. She’s going places.
Maya Van Wagenen’s father found an old 1950s etiquette and popularity guide written by a former 1950s model in a thrift store and gave it to her as a gag gift. Maya, very aware of and unhappy with her low social standing (“pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here”), decided to do a social experiment: for one year, she would follow the tips in Betty Cornell’s book and document the results.
Most of the tips are outdated and cause Maya more stress than they do help in providing her with tips for navigating the modern adolescent world (dressing in pearls and skirts and gloves like someone’s grandmother is not the way to get other eighth graders to think you’re ‘cool’). It’s not even that the book has anything particularly original or worthwhile to say, more that it forced Maya to step outside of her comfort zone and do things she normally would have been afraid to. It also gave her a new perspective on the other kids in her school that completely – and no exaggeration here — changed her life.
As mentioned above, the real selling point of this book is Maya’s voice. She is funny and insightful and smart. She writes with a confidence that I would have killed for at her age, while at the same time allowing us to see her as a vulnerable human being at some pretty low points. The actions that she took to change her life and the conclusions she draws from her experience are ones that, frankly, astound me. This book should be required reading for middle schoolers. If I would have read it when I was thirteen and taken its message to heart, I think I my adolescence would have been very, very different.
I’m trying to be as vague as possible here while still giving you a taste of what to expect, but it’s really difficult. Just check the book out. I was able to get my library to order a copy. I read it in a couple of hours straight through. Maya tells us almost from the beginning that she wants to be an author someday, which is a goal she has obviously already succeeded in. However, if this is the kind of thing she can accomplish by the age of fifteen, I really look forward to seeing what else she has in store for the reading public as she grows older.
Plus, there’s going to be a movie! (Of course there’s going to be a movie. I hope they do it justice.)...more
Call me a nerd (because I am one), but this was really an interesting read, and not just because it did its job to get me all excited for Lock In's puCall me a nerd (because I am one), but this was really an interesting read, and not just because it did its job to get me all excited for Lock In's publication in a couple of months, but because it was interesting in its own right. I really like oral histories, though. ...more
First, a caveat: I was expecting a lot more from this book than it gave me, and those expectations were not unreasonable. In fact, they are a direct cFirst, a caveat: I was expecting a lot more from this book than it gave me, and those expectations were not unreasonable. In fact, they are a direct consequence of the way Mr. Bradley structured not only this book, but the last book in the series. I was expecting a sort of series reboot: Flavia at boarding school with a new cast of supporting characters, learning to be a spy and such. Or at the very least, that there should be real reason why he went to the trouble of movie Flavia all the way to Canada. I thought I was getting both for a while, and then it turns out . . . I wasn't.
Let's back up a little. This book follows our intrepid twelve year old heroine, the hyper-intelligent chemistry whiz with a fascination for death and solving puzzles, as she's sent to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Toronto. It's also strongly hinted she will be trained to be a part of the same organization her mother and Aunt Felicity were in, the Nide. But on her very first night at school, a dead body wrapped in the Union Jack falls out of her chimney. And so she goes to work.
I think I liked this book more as I was reading it than I do now thinking about it afterwards. I liked seeing Flavia navigate her new environment, and the mystery was pretty good, too, although it was nothing special. The best bits involved Flavia being homesick, and her relationship with her headmistress, a sort of antagonistic mix of discipline and affection. It also genuinely surprised me with a reveal at the end (even if the thing that surprised me was relatively inconsequential). Alas, Bradley makes the extremely puzzling decision at the end of the book to (view spoiler)[send Flavia back to Buckshaw after making so mistakes and breaking so many rules (although it didn't seem she had behaved so badly to me). Why did he do this? I have no idea. It makes this whole book seem pointless. Flavia doesn't learn how to be a spy, she makes no friends, and she barely solves the mystery. In an actually sort of insulting move, Bradley has Flavia draw the conclusion that her training was completed. I am completely baffled by this plot decision. I can only hope that the murderous chemistry teacher who escorts Flavia back to England is going to stick around, otherwise this whole book will have been pointless. (hide spoiler)]
I'm still in for this series, but with more reservations now. I was overly optimistic that Bradley had addressed my concernes with his writing in the last book. Won't make that mistake next time.
3.5 stars but rounding up.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more