"Dear Artificer, I’ve blown my quanta and gone to the Good Place!"
I'm so glad that I decided to re-read So You Want to Be a Wizard as part of my self-...more"Dear Artificer, I’ve blown my quanta and gone to the Good Place!"
I'm so glad that I decided to re-read So You Want to Be a Wizard as part of my self-imposed book challenge for this year. I'd almost forgotten how much I love this book!
In fact, I love it so much that I almost couldn't read it again. At first, I would read a couple of pages and have to put the book down because I'd get all teary and junk. Not because it's sad (although it does have its moments), but because I would remember how much the story touched me the first time I read it. And it still does.
There are so many things in this book that, even as an adult, I can relate to: from Nita's isolation and finding solace in books to the desire to become, to be and to do something more, something beyond imagining, being so strong that even danger and death seem worth the risk. I cannot even begin to count how many times, or how intensely, I've wished throughout my life for something to come along and turn my world upside down, set me off on some crazy ass adventure and make everything new and exciting. And reading about an introverted, socially awkward, oft-misunderstood geek who stumbles across a mysterious book and suddenly finds herself immersed in a world (or two) of wizardry and wonder (and some terror and heartache) allows me to live my fantasy vicariously through a younger, fictional, sort-of alter ego.
Another thing I absolutely adore about this book--and the Young Wizards series in general--is that Diane Duane never assumes that the readers (her target audience being kids roughly, I'd say, 10-14) won't "get it" just because they're young. She doesn't dumb anything down, doesn't shy away from using or making up big words, and she doesn't water down her prose into that succinct but ineloquent simplicity sometimes found in young adult novels. Yet she's managed to weave a tale that is not only beautiful and sometimes lyrical in its elegance (I truly loved how she described the trees talking in leafrustle and fireflicker), but also accessible.
Duane also deserves kudos for creating one of the most original characters ever. I mean, in what other book are you going to find a freaking white hole as a central character? And, oh, how I adore Fred.
"You people are so fragile. A little gamma radiation will ruin your whole day, it seems."
Who can not love a wise-cracking and often endearingly clueless space phenomenon who has a bad habit of spontaneously emitting cosmic rays? Not I, my friends, not I.
Did I mention that I adore this book? I do. And if you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed, strangely reaffirming adventure to sink your teeth into, or if you're trying to find something to fill the gaping wound...er...void left after Harry Potter and the Book That Tore My Heart to Pieces, Covered Them in Petrol, Set Them on Fire and Danced a Merry Jig All Over the Bloody Ashes, Goddamn You, Joann (otherwise known as Deathly Hallows), I highly recommend SYWBW and the rest of the Young Wizards series.(less)
Okay, I’ll admit it. Deep Wizardry made me want to be a whale. For serious.
I admire the hell out of Diane Duane--I daresay I even worship her--for the...moreOkay, I’ll admit it. Deep Wizardry made me want to be a whale. For serious.
I admire the hell out of Diane Duane--I daresay I even worship her--for the way she conveyed the experience of being a whale. There was no awkwardness at all (except in the beginning, for Nita) and nothing seemed forced or silly. It all felt perfectly natural, and comfortable, and utterly fantastic, as if I could truly imagine what it would be like to be a whale. And by the end of the book, it seemed so normal for Nita to be in whale-form that whenever she was in human-form it felt unnatural. Hell, it felt unnatural for me to be in human-form.
I’m really sad that I can’t spend my days swimming around and singing tales of glory and sorrow in whalesong and hugging other whales by brushing them with my flukes or whatever.
But that’s beside the point.
The point is that I absolutely loved Deep Wizardry, and if I had to choose, I’d have to say that I liked this better than So You Want to Be a Wizard. Duane’s style in this book is fantastic. You can definitely see a difference between DW and its predecessor, but in a good way, like she really came into her own during the interim. I absolutely adored her mixture of simplicity in places where it’s not only necessary, but achingly perfect, and lyrical elegance in others, which come together to weave a story that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.
And Nita and Kit really came into their own, too, which is another highlight of the book. The action was not quite as fast-paced in this as in SYWBW, allowing Duane the opportunity to really flesh out Nita’s and Kit’s personalities--their strengths, their flaws, their idiosyncrasies and charming little nuances--without disrupting the flow of the story. And I loved that because this is a very powerful and touching story, on several levels, but I don’t think that it would have hit me so fully and moved me the way it did if I hadn’t felt so close to the characters. However, both Nita and Kit (who didn’t get a lot of character development in the first book) really grew on me throughout DW; I cared about them, in a way that I don’t typically care about a lot of characters, and my heart literally ached for them toward the end of the book. I felt Nita’s despair, her turmoil, she and Kit’s courage, their triumph, their joy, everything, and that made the book just that much more beautiful to me.
The only thing that I didn’t care for was that Nita’s parents turned into raving psychopaths in this book. Okay, well, maybe not psychopaths as such. But her mother was definitely annoying to nth degree, what with her raging hypochondria (was this an epidemic among women in the 1980s? I’ve noticed a trend), and her father was no better, considering he didn’t seem to even attempt to be rational about the situation. I mean, I know that some YA writers will blow situations out of proportion because that’s how their target readers see them--kids often view their parents’ decisions as being insensible, unfair, and even outrageous. But I don’t think that’s the case here, and despite being a grown-up myself, even I don’t see the logic in taking your family (plus one) to the beach for vacation, then throwing a holy fit when the kids spend so much time...*gasp*...ON THE BEACH. And how dare they go swimming! You’re not supposed to go swimming when you’re at the beach!
Oy. If I ever spawn any miniature humanoids (though I shudder at the thought), I hope I don’t end up like that.
But I can conceded that this was probably a necessary bit of ridiculousness to facilitate the Big Reveal, even though I think it could have been handled a bit better. And since Nita’s parents end up being pretty cool at the end, once they figure out that Nita and Kit are not, in fact, out doing the nasty, but just doing wizardry (and working a crazy powerful spell that once blew an entire tectonic plate and continental landmass to shit, and battling against the ultimate Big Bad, the Lone Power, who’s basically Satan except he exponentially took a level in Badass, but whatever, at least they're not having THE SEX), all is forgiven.
All in all, Deep Wizardry is absolutely beautiful, a compelling story with great action, fantastic imagery, interesting characters--especially Ed! I never thought I could adore a shark so--and a message that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. If you like fantasy, do yourself a favor and read this book.(less)
High Wizardry is probably my least favorite of the Young Wizards series. It was a fun, fast read, but much of the story seemed rather extraneous. Larg...moreHigh Wizardry is probably my least favorite of the Young Wizards series. It was a fun, fast read, but much of the story seemed rather extraneous. Large portions of the narrative are taken up with unnecessary descriptions of an outdated OS, most of which I could have done without, and overall it simply lacks the same quality of layering as in So You Want to Be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry. As a result, it didn't even seem like anything important started happening until around the latter third of the book, and I came away feeling like there could have been a lot more to the story than there was.
Also, the majority of the book centers around Dairine. I actually kind of like her (except for her name, which sounds like some kind of low-fat dairy product or something), so this wouldn't really have bothered me if not for the fact that Nita and Kit got so little screen time. I love their dynamic, and I really enjoy watching them come into their own both in their wizardry and as individuals in that coming-of-age sort of way that's just right and not too clichéd or cheesy. But more than that, I've become so invested in their ongoing adventures through the first two books, and in their struggles against the Big Bad, that I felt rather cheated by Duane making them little more than a sideshow in Dairine's Ordeal circus, especially considering that this appeared to be such a critical turning point in the fight against the Lone Power.
That being said, I actually loved the latter fourth of the book. Not just because Dairine takes about ten levels in badass and lays the smack-down on the Lone Baddie--although that is pretty awesome--but largely because it's such a powerful story of change and redemption. It has always bothered me how many writers (and people in general regarding real life) seem to operate on the principle that, once a person crosses a certain moral event horizon, they can never turn back. You can't change; you're damned forever. But here's the thing: people change all the time. They don't always change for the better, and oftentimes it might not be very noticeable, but they do change. And I adore Diane Duane for straying from the well-laid path and instead conveying the idea that, even if you're the biggest, baddest motherfucker in the whole of time, space, and the entire freaking multiverse, you can change. It won't be easy, and it won't undo the damage you've done, but you can still make that choice and work to redeem yourself.
Whatever my other issues with this book, there's an important story here that needed to be told. Kudos to Ms. Duane for having the vision to tell it, and for doing it beautifully.(less)
I must have read Hitchhiker's at least five times. Probably more. And every single time, it's just as hilarious as the first time I picked it up, comp...moreI must have read Hitchhiker's at least five times. Probably more. And every single time, it's just as hilarious as the first time I picked it up, completely unwitting, and found myself diving headlong into this outrageous misadventure alongside poor Arthur.
Douglas Adams has woven an utterly engrossing tale that is, at all times, magnificently outlandish, uproariously funny, and also stands as a humorously scathing commentary on the State of Things. It never disappoints; every single page contains gems of comedic brilliance that have me sporfling coffee all over myself every time. And it's a story that is so perfectly ridiculous, so rapidfire rampaging-through-the-galaxy fun, and so subtly poignant, that I never want it end. And when it does, I can't wait to pick it up and start all over again.
Hitchhiker's has become the literary equivalent of my comfort food. Whenever my life goes to shit, or the world gets me down, I curl up in bed with my tattered and dog-eared old copy and set off again with Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian. And suddenly everything seems all right again. Because at least I know where my towel is.(less)
I found this book lurking in the corner of a disused upstairs bedroom and, being a fan of mystery/suspense, it looked interesting enough at first glan...moreI found this book lurking in the corner of a disused upstairs bedroom and, being a fan of mystery/suspense, it looked interesting enough at first glance that I immediately curled up with it to read. Unfortunately, I found See Jane Run to be disappointing at best.
The story starts out with great potential--a woman suddenly finds herself in the middle of downtown Boston, alone and with no idea of who she is, wearing a bloody dress and a coat with $10,000 stuffed in the pockets. It could have been the start to a great story full of mystery and intrigue and shocking plot twists, but after the first couple of chapters, the story instead quickly devolves into a predictable and unimaginative plotline.
Aside from the main character herself, I found the characterisations to be bland and more than a little cliche. Not only that, but the quintessential Helping Hand character--who most mystery authors introduce toward the beginning of the story and ends up playing a pivotal role during the denouement--makes only a token appearance before disappearing into the ether, never to be seen again.
My foremost and greatest complaint about this book, however, is that the dialogue feels rather forced; it reads more like the main body of the narrative itself than anything I would actually expect to hear come out of someone's mouth. For example, the author describes Paula, the housekeeper-cum-jailor, as being not altogether very bright, yet insists on having her say such things as: "When she persisted..." Most people--especially people of sub-average intelligence--would never use words like persisted in a normal, everyday conversation.
All in all, I found See Jane Run to be altogether disappointing, but interesting enough on the whole to make for an okay read on a rainy day.(less)
I tried three separate times to finish reading Dark Rivers, but unfortunately, it simply couldn't hold my interest. At first...moreThis book is made of fail.
I tried three separate times to finish reading Dark Rivers, but unfortunately, it simply couldn't hold my interest. At first, it seemed to have all the ear-marks of a fun, fast-paced, suspensful read. A man with a dark secret; a mysterious woman on the run from a secret, amoral government agency; a sociopathic serial killer cum secret government agent hot on their trail--all in all, this book could have been good. Hell, with its incorporation of high technology and conspiracy theorist undertones, it could have even been great.
Dark Rivers, however, failed to meet even my lowest expectations. Between Koontz' stunted and oft-awkward prose combined with (or perhaps stemming from) poor word choice, and his long-winded, drawn-out descriptions of events, reading this book became a chore after the first fifty or so pages. Not only did it feel at times like he was simply writing to fill up space, drawing out each event or description as much as possible rather than reworking the material to create a longer, more intensive plotline, his insistence on dragging out the final revelation regarding the protagonist's "dark secret" was quite frankly irritating. I found it especially irritating because Koontz employed liberal use of pseudo-stylistic flashbacks in order to relate this terrible secret to the reader, yet he eventually revealed said secret within the normal course of the narrative, making the final, protracted flashback sequences somewhat superfluous and unnecessary.
I could go on, but I think those few points are sufficient to explain my loathing of this book.
So, in conclusion, Dark Rivers isn't worth the paper it's printed on, or the time it takes to read it. I would recommend it only to avid Koontz fans who will read anything he churns out, regardless of whether it's actually good, and also to aspiring authors who wish to learn what NOT to do, because this book stands as a prime example of why "churners" do a disservice to the art of writing.(less)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my absolute favorite book of all time.
While the story is set at the turn of the century (1902-1919) and contains many hist...moreA Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my absolute favorite book of all time.
While the story is set at the turn of the century (1902-1919) and contains many historical elements that may feel alien to the modern reader, the message that is subtly and intricately woven into the fabric of the story is one that I feel not only transcends the ages, but also one with which many of us can identify.
The protagonist, Francie, and her family represent the sort of wonderfully complex characters who come alive in the reader's mind as fully as if they were old friends. Detractors say that Francie fits the depressing Pauper archetype, who spends the vast majority of the book being beaten down by her unfortunate circumstances. For me, however, she unfolds into a delightful character who is easy to love; a heroine who strikes a delicate balance between sinner and saint, full of humor, wit, compassion, strength, imagination and a unique perspective on the world around her.
Altogether, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a fantastic book that is engrossing, evocative, poignant and inspiring.(less)
I kind of love my coworkers. Some of them. You make one Zombieland reference in the break room and suddenly you're embroiled in a serious discussion...moreI kind of love my coworkers. Some of them. You make one Zombieland reference in the break room and suddenly you're embroiled in a serious discussion about your plans for the zombie apocalypse and trading weapons tips and book recommendations. Of course, I'd already had this book on my "to read" list for quite a while before it was mentioned at the Round Table of Fearless Zombie Killers, but when one of my brothers-in-arms lent me his battered copy (by way of pitching it at my head while I was on a call with a customer, the little shit, I'm tripping him when the zombies come) I no longer had an excuse not to read it, despite the fact that I was already in the middle of reading about four other books. But really, if the zombie apocalypse were to happen tomorrow, what's going to help me--Two Gentlemen of Verona, or this?
The Zombie Survival Guide is a thorough run-down of the best and worst methods of weathering a zombie-related catastrophe, from a short encounter to a years-long siege. It details the ideal terrain, weather conditions, vehicles, fortifications, and most importantly, weapons. There are sections that discuss not only the most effective ways of avoiding the undead legions, but also of eradicating said legions, as well as long-term survival in the eventuality of a post-apocalyptic Crapsack World where the zombies have won. If a non-sentient species can really be said to win anything, as such, but let's not get into that now. The point is that the amount of thought Brooks put into this--the amount of careful, logical consideration of the subject and all its related aspects--is pretty amazing, and even a little mind-boggling. Clearly, Brooks is nerdlier-than-thou.
So imagine my surprise when I happened to glance at the back of this book and noticed that it's listed as humor. Humor? Really? I didn't find anything particularly funny about it, myself. It may contain a few amusing lines here and there, but honestly, I've read funnier throw-away quips in Stephen King novels, which sure as hell aren't categorized thus. Not that there's anything wrong with humor, of course, don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of it, naturally, but this book? Is not it. And I can't help but feel like, in this case, its being listed as humor is a little demeaning to the idea behind a book like this, because it says, "This is something improbable, therefore it is silly and amusing and not to be taken seriously." But what makes it that much different from any other book whose premise is improbable and outlandish and even, maybe, unscientific? Despite what we're apparently meant to believe, this book is science fiction at least, and speculative fiction at best. And personally, I think it's our best bet for not ending up as snacks for a bunch of dead guys with the munchies.
My only problem with this book is that Brooks based the entire work around his fictional zombie virus Solanum, and therefore focused solely on a single type of zombie. If this had been any other book--like his World War Z, for example--I wouldn't have minded, but I happen to feel that, if you're going to call your book the Zombie Survival Guide, you should offer the reader guidance for surviving whatever type of zombie they may, however improbably, face. I mean, maybe I'm asking too much, and probably I should just let the book be without imposing my own inclinations and desires on it, but regardless, I can't help letting it color my opinion of the book. Hence why I adjusted my initial rating from five stars to four. Sorry, Max.
Other than that, however, I can't find much at all wrong with this book. I even enjoyed the "historical" accounts at the end. At first, I thought that section was extraneous and detracted from the non-fiction reference style of the first quarter of the book, but by the time I finished, I'd changed my mind. I like how each story allows for a more detailed example of the principles laid out in the first part of the book. And I thought it was a nice touch how the apparently increasing frequency of zombie encounters over time lends the work a sense of exigence, like this could happen any time--you could wake up tomorrow and find yourself in the zombie apocalypse--rather than just being something amusing to think about.
All in all, the Zombie Survival Guide is an interesting, insightful, and useful read, which I would recommend to zombie enthusiasts everywhere, as well as anyone who hopes to last more than five minutes if and when the End Times come.(less)