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 Large portions of the narrative are taken up with unnecessary descriptions of an outdated OS, most of which I could have done without, and overall it simply lacks the same quality of layering as in So You Want to Be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry.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 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)
Under the Dome is one of those books I held off reading because of all the hype surrounding it. It wasn't just that I tend to avoid books that are rea...moreUnder the Dome is one of those books I held off reading because of all the hype surrounding it. It wasn't just that I tend to avoid books that are really popular for fear they won't live up to expectation, but also because reaction was initially pretty polarized. People either loved it, or they hated it; there didn't seem to be any in-between. And I just wasn't convinced that I wanted to dedicate the time and energy to reading a whopping 1,072-page Doorstopper if I might not even like it in the end. Life is too short, and there are too many other books to read before I die.
But of course, as time went on, everybody and their mother--literally--kept asking whether I'd read it yet. And then my sister read it. That pretty much clinched it. Because then she was all like, "You should totally read Under the Dome!" and, "So have you read Under the Dome yet?" and, "You still haven't read Under the Dome? What are you waiting for?! Do it! Doooooo iiiiiiit! You know you want to!" And finally I was like, "Okay, Jesus Christ, I'll read the fucking book!"
And I did.
So, okay, I'm glad I finally got around to reading this behemoth. It is a good book, though by no means is it one of King's best, in my humble opinion. He makes a bold statement about our current social and political climate, as he often tends to do, by taking these elements and studying them in microcosm. Because of this, Under the Dome had the potential to be a great book, except that it indeed suffers from all of the shortcomings pointed out by other reviewers.
For example, the bad guys in this book are real, real bad, and the good guys are real, real good. Too good. Now, naturally nobody expects people who are basically sociopaths to begin with--or at the very least, unrepentant assholes--to miraculously stop being horrible human beings just because some shit goes down. In fact, that's when they're at their worst. But the thing is: so are the good guys. No matter how good you are, no matter what standard you hold yourself to, the truth is that we're all just a bunch of fucking animals, and in times of disaster and panic and other general badness, that's when people do desperate things. Bad things. Things that keep you awake at night.
So here's a thought experiment for you. You're a good guy. You're trapped in an inexplicable, inescapable Dome-thing of unknown origin and duration. You're cut off from safety, help, and other normal recourse. Some half-crazed, self-righteous, tyrannical psychopath is turning your little corner of the world into his own private fiefdom, threatening not only your own life and safety, but that of everyone else in town who dares to defy him. Do you: A) live and let live, and go bumbling about trying to save the town while he thwarts you at every turn; or B) take that motherfucker out and go about your merry way?
Anyone who answered A moves to the back of the class.
At any rate, I'm not going to waste time and word count dissecting everything I found objectionable about this book. Not even the awkward, oh-dear-god-what-am-I-reading, junior-high-level sex. You know, the kind that makes you wonder how the hell Stephen King ever managed to produce three kids if that's his idea of sexytimes. And then you very quickly stop thinking about it, because ew. But I digress. I'm not going to wax critical about those things because so many other reviewers have done it already.
No, friends, I'm saving all my rage for the ending. If you can call it that. I only call it the end because that's where the pages run out, but--and correct me if I'm wrong, here--isn't the ending supposed to be where you tie up all the loose ends and bring the plot to some kind of reasonable resolution? Perhaps not an emotionally satisfying one, but at least something that readers can point to and go, "Ah, so that's how it all turned out." I guess Stephen King doesn't believe that to be a necessary element of storytelling, because Under the Dome has exactly none of that. He throws us a bone toward the end by way of some half-assed explanation about the origin and purpose of the Dome that basically implies there was no purpose. Charming. But as for the aftermath of the incident, and the ultimate fate of Chester's Mill and the survivors? Nothing. Zero. Zilch. We're left to wonder and to imagine it for ourselves. Well, excuse me if I didn't invest myself in this thousand-plus page monstrosity just to have to make shit up at the end. And I refuse to accept that this is a matter of authorial discretion rather than sheer laziness.
So, to conclude: if you're a Stephen King fan and you have the time to devote to this enormous tree-killer, then by all means, go ahead and read it. Come for the premise, stay for the study of the sociological ramifications of such an event and our complaisance toward current political structures. But if you're new to King's work, or just not a regular reader of same, I don't recommend taking this book on. If what you're looking for is a story involving the sociological impact of large-scale disaster, which also happens to include elements of horror and the supernatural, then The Stand would be a far better choice, in my opinion. It's slightly longer, and it's not perfect, but it has much better plot resolution and feels like a more complete story.(less)
The thing about writing a book as opposed to a screenplay is that, with a book, you're not trying to cram as much relevant information as possible int...moreThe thing about writing a book as opposed to a screenplay is that, with a book, you're not trying to cram as much relevant information as possible into a one- or two-hour time slot. Writing a book gives you the latitude to expand on ideas and back story and, perhaps more importantly, character development and motivation. Personally, given the time and inclination, I could have written a thousand-page epic around Children of the Gods, whereas Ashley McConnell only did the bare minimum. I'm not sure whether she stuck so closely to the script by choice or by necessity, but I find it disappointing when I think of all the things she could have done with this book and didn't.
It's possibly still worth a read if you're a die-hard Stargate fan and have nothing better to do with your time, but to be honest, you're really just better off watching the episode. Book!O'Neill cannot hold a candle to Richard Dean Anderson, nor can book!Daniel or Sam match the hotness of Michael and Amanda. Although, speaking of Jack and Daniel, I'm pretty sure McConnell ships them, which is why I decided to give this book two stars instead of one. Regardless, since no one amps up the hoyay like Rick and Michael themselves, it's still not incentive enough to read the book when you could just watch the show instead.(less)
The thing about books based on screenplays is that, just like screenplays based on books, they're just never quite as good. Sad but true. I'd like to...moreThe thing about books based on screenplays is that, just like screenplays based on books, they're just never quite as good. Sad but true. I'd like to be able to say that the book is always better than the movie, because I'm a book snob and believe in the inherent supremacy of literature, but because I am a book snob, I'm forced to admit that this isn't always the case. In fact, with book adaptations of screenplays, the case seems to be that these are works of middling to no effort intended solely to cash in on the popularity surrounding a movie or television series.
That being said, StarGate is actually decent for what it is. No one could ever accuse it of being a work of great literature, but it is entertaining, sometimes humorous, and on the whole not half as craptastic as other adaptations I've encountered. I mean, any book that refers to the "brick-shitting terror" of the Abydonians and has Daniel Jackson being sexually molested can't be all bad, right? Right. And though it's been far too long since I've seen the movie for me the be sure how closely the book follows the script, it seems like the writers at least made an effort to delve a little deeper than just what was shown on-screen.
I only had two major problems with this book. One, it was obviously done in a hurry and was full of pretty basic typos that could've easily been caught and corrected if someone (or someone actually competent) had been hired to proofread the damn thing. And two, the constantly switching perspectives is really annoying. I know it's not technically incorrect, it's just a pet peeve of mine; I hate third person omniscient with a passion. No, really. Hate. Passion. Like, burning. But anyway, if you can overlook those things, and you're a sci-fi fan, it might not be a waste of a rainy Sunday afternoon to give this book a quick read.(less)
This book was given to me by some dude who was trying to bang me.
I wish I was kidding.
And now that I've managed to finish reading this monstrosity, I...moreThis book was given to me by some dude who was trying to bang me.
I wish I was kidding.
And now that I've managed to finish reading this monstrosity, I have to wonder whether I should be insulted that he was trying like hell to get with me, because obviously his taste and judgment are questionable. For one thing, he told me this book is good. It isn't. And for another thing, after a conversation we had about the book I'm writing, he said that my book sounds like this book. It doesn't. At all. The only similarity between the two is that they're both futuristic dystopian sci-fi novels.
But I digress.
Where do I even begin in venting my spleen about this ungodly piece of crap? Should I start with the fact that I hated every single character because they were all outrageously annoying and had not one redeeming quality among the lot of them? Or should I start by pointing out that Burgess's writing is juvenile at best, and execrable at worst? And that's being polite. Or maybe I should start by mentioning that reading this book is like being locked in a small room with a dozen mental patients. No, really. Not only are all of these characters completely indecisive and irrational, but they're also entirely emotionally unstable, such that they change thoughts and opinions and moods not just multiple times on each page, but sometimes in the same sentence.
Apparently, in the future, they'll be able to make dog-men and pig-men and whatever the hell else in big Vats-o'-Science, but psychiatric medicine will be completely unheard of.
Look, I get it. Burgess is trying to make a medieval Icelandic saga cool and new and accessible to the next generation of readers. And that would be commendable, except...not like this. Dear god, Mel, not like this. Just because you're writing for teenagers doesn't mean you have to write like you are one. And when none of your characters have matured emotionally past the age of about fifteen, that doesn't make them easier to identify with, it just makes them annoying and unlikeable, and it makes the story hard to read. If I had read this book when I, myself, was fifteen or sixteen, I would have been insulted that this is the sort of garbage meant to appeal to me--a badly-written behemoth full of shitty, unrealistic dialogue, two-dimensional characters, overblown violence, and painfully awkward sex scenes--and I would have chucked the thing in the trash about a quarter of the way through.
I guess I must have gained a bit more patience over the years--not much, mind, just a bit--because I did manage to make it all the way through Bloodtide, although I still think it's a horrendous pile of suck. And while I'm not insulted, as such, and can't even work up the energy to be properly miffed, I am disappointed. I'm disappointed that this is the kind of swill being offered to a new generation of readers. I'm disappointed that all anyone seems to be interested in anymore is pandering to their baser urges, their preoccupation with sex and violence, in order to turn a quick buck. Whatever happened to the young adult books like I used to read? Books that made you think, that made you feel, that changed you? Shouldn't that still be what we strive to offer our young people? Shouldn't we want them to read books that will help them grow into better people? Not this. This is like polishing a turd and calling it art, and then we wonder why this is how we feel about our successors most of the time.
So here's my advice: don't read this book. If you're a teenager, don't read this book. If you're an adult, don't read this book. And if you're an adult, for the love of god, don't get this book for any of the teenagers in your life. Not even if you hate them. There are so many other books that are a better use of time and brain power, that will make you--no matter who you are--better for having read them, and I would be happy to recommend a few of them, if need be. Just please, please, don't read this fucking book. It will hurt your brain and give you the Dumb. No joke.(less)