This is one of the great science fiction series. And sadly, it appears to have been cannibalized by Terra Nova. In any case, I loved this novel and I...moreThis is one of the great science fiction series. And sadly, it appears to have been cannibalized by Terra Nova. In any case, I loved this novel and I think the other three after it are just as fantastic, in different ways. May is one of the few writers who can take you into the minds of so many different characters and keep the story going across several subplots and plots. I absolutely loved this from the first time I read it, and I re-read it about once a year. They hold up, these novels. May will, I think, be vindicated over time. I've heard news also that Houghton is bringing the electronic editions of these back into print soon. So hang in there, e-readers.(less)
This is an overlooked classic. It's difficult to emphasize how radical this book was when it appeared. Well before Miller did the Dark Knight returns,...moreThis is an overlooked classic. It's difficult to emphasize how radical this book was when it appeared. Well before Miller did the Dark Knight returns, he realized, here, most of his well-known tropes---from the apocalyptic Nazi dominatrix to the CHUD to the samurai to the hero who is haunted by his past, to the point of incapacitation---and then driven to act by the evil in the world. If you read this after reading his other work, it's like a Rosetta stone to everything he made afterward.
Narratively, the book has more in common with a kind of 19th Century French novel popularized by Theophile Gautier, where the main character may or may not be insane, walking the edge of either an enchantment or a madness. This novel is either an ancient conflict brought back to life in the near future, or it is the fever dream of a telekinetic paraplegic, or it is the plot of an AI to subvert its human makers, or...all three, woven into a single narrative of spell-binding simplicity.
In matters of style, one of the most thrilling things I've read in recent memory, probably since last summer, when I read Brideshead Revisited. The wr...moreIn matters of style, one of the most thrilling things I've read in recent memory, probably since last summer, when I read Brideshead Revisited. The writing was a pleasure all on its own, and the narrator, and the stories that make up the larger story, all beautifully done. I fault only the presence of perhaps two too many coincidences (maybe more), but I don't really grudge it--it just seemed like gilding a lily. Otherwise, this story of a retired banker whose aunt arrives at his mother's funeral to basically unravel his entire life---telling him she was not his mother, in fact---and then bringing him along on a series of increasingly wild adventures, well, this was just pure pleasure. I can't recommend it enough. (less)
This issue is perhaps the very best of a group of extraordinary stories so far. Ware shows he is still growing in his mastery of storytelling and the...moreThis issue is perhaps the very best of a group of extraordinary stories so far. Ware shows he is still growing in his mastery of storytelling and the art of comics, and he shows a stunningly musical sense of the form. The temptation to tell you why, to use a spoiler, is great, but... just read it. (less)
This is one of the best new novels I've read in years. I feel like none of the reviews I've read of it quite describe what it feels like to read it---...moreThis is one of the best new novels I've read in years. I feel like none of the reviews I've read of it quite describe what it feels like to read it---yes, it's funny, and the word "savage" appears a fair amount, but it's more like, "Oh, someone has finally described what it is like to work now."(less)
I was unprepared for how much fun this novel was, how beautiful and funny and smart. I took it with me on vacation and by the time I arrived in Greece...moreI was unprepared for how much fun this novel was, how beautiful and funny and smart. I took it with me on vacation and by the time I arrived in Greece, I'd finished it. I had an idea of it from the PBS adaptation that I saw in the 80s as a kid, but now that pales in comparison to the rich wit and intelligence inside the book. I have real fears about the new film coming, and doubt, from a look at the cast, that they have the swagger and charm to pull this off.
Part of what I loved about the novel was the way it showed a man in love first with a man, and then a woman, though what he loves in her is what he loved first in her brother. But I also loved it as a technician-- the narrative structure, the movement through time, and the tenderness in the book for all it touches on, even of what the narrator hates, something that's rare but increasingly what I look for in what I read. Also, it's just funny, witty, and the characters have real style. (less)
Ordinary Victories is a really good, solid story of a young photographer whose father is going senile, at a time when he is photographing the shipyard...moreOrdinary Victories is a really good, solid story of a young photographer whose father is going senile, at a time when he is photographing the shipyard his father worked in and the men who worked there, in an attempt to record the way of life of these men, which is about to end when the shipyard is closed. He's between two worlds, not quite in the one he'll in habit next, and not out of the one he wants to leave, and a lot rests on this photo project for him professionally, as well. Through it all, he's trying to deal with panic attacks and the demands of being both a working artist, an adult, and himself, as he is--and he feels pulled in all these different directions.
This novel took me completely by surprise, and continued to do so--the mix of myth, imagination and wit that combined to tell the story of this dictat...moreThis novel took me completely by surprise, and continued to do so--the mix of myth, imagination and wit that combined to tell the story of this dictator, his country and the man who could undo him, it was unlike anything I'd read, ever. I loved the scope of it's invention and ambition. If you are completely bored with what's happening in your reading life, choose this.(less)
I remember a friend said of this novel, "I loved it but I couldn't stand the style." I somewhat agreed, for the reason that the novel is written by a...moreI remember a friend said of this novel, "I loved it but I couldn't stand the style." I somewhat agreed, for the reason that the novel is written by a young woman who has been raised not to think too closely about her condition and situation, because if she did, she would find it intolerable, and rebel. And so you can feel her mind reaching around its own limits and still finding them at times. Some lovers of style, in other words, will find it rough sledding. Still, for all of that, the novel's beautifully done, for it is very much her by the end, communicating to us this experience of her own limits, placed on her by a culture that can only survive if she does not, and the novel handles it hauntingly.(less)
Few things in comics, even this, actually, live up to the excellence of this. The Dark Phoenix Saga has been overused, redone, remade too many times,...moreFew things in comics, even this, actually, live up to the excellence of this. The Dark Phoenix Saga has been overused, redone, remade too many times, and yet the dark temenos of the original retains its power. Phoenix has been brought back so often, she makes Jesus look like a one-off. But the original Dark Phoenix story is the one that mattered. The rest of the Phoenix stories do not.
**spoiler alert** I read this novel because it was often the favorite novel of students of mine, and I wanted to understand why. I should mention that...more**spoiler alert** I read this novel because it was often the favorite novel of students of mine, and I wanted to understand why. I should mention that I love science fiction, and have read it avidly since I was barely more than a child. I'm not by any means some kind of anti-sci-fi snob.
The first thing that bothered me is that the novel sets adults against gifted children in a way that strikes me as bizarre. Adults are essentially evil but teachers especially. The children are inherently excellent, capable of helping each other in trying to figure out just what the adults are hiding, which is, in this case, a vast and secret war they are tricking the children into fighting for them. This was perhaps the hardest to believe of all the things thrown at the reader, and interestingly, it is hidden from you until the very end, though you can guess at it before then.
What disturbed me the most is that the writing is terrible---far too much happens internally, inside the character's head--it's an emo space opera, basically--and one of the most interesting events of the book is nearly buried and the presentation of it is rushed, because it is near the end. There are many points in the battle scenes where it is impossible to understand what's happening. And the penultimate plot event, where it's revealed all of the games were not..games...could have been handled more interestingly. But the novel was overdetermined, things happening only because the writer wants them too and not because they feel inevitable, and so too many of the arrows point in the same direction. By the time Ender meets Mazer, his final teacher, my eyes rolled back into my head at the implausibility of it all.
And it's worth mentioning the thing no one prepared me for was the bizarre homoerotic subtext built into the book as well, a subtext that is sometimes just a plain old supertext, on display, right beside how women in this novel are to be loved distantly and kept from real knowledge, and turned against themselves, so they can then be used to compel others.
It creeped me out and I'm gay.
I'm also a former 'gifted child', and was tested and poked and pushed, all of these things, made to study computer programming when I didn't want to, and I made myself fail out of their program to get away from them. But I found no commonality with the gifted children here, not as I have in other stories about gifted children, say, like Salinger's Glass family. Also, these kids are all jerks.
I do hand it to Card for the ideas in the novel: blogging? Yes. It's in here, well before anyone was doing it, and it ...matters a lot, and in the ways blogging matters. Also the idea of an institution that runs on the manipulation of its populace into a distant war with an implacable foe, as a way of controlling people. And a society that has no privacy at all, not even in dreams. This novel does offer a dark picture of what life is like under these terms. Also, the idea of how a hive-mind would think differently, without language, and the complications of communicating with someone like that, that's brilliant also.
I wish it had been revised--that the battle scenes were clearer, that the movement of the novel's action, the way the 'buggers' are in a race to try and communicate with Ender before he kills them, that this were more obvious to the reader, and not a surprise whipped out at the end, so that it could have lent tension to the scenes of the games and manipulation, which were only boring. And Ender's decision, to be the Speaker for the Dead, that struck me cold, because in the end, the buggers were only trying to do what everyone else in his life were doing to him: poring over what makes him tick and trying to get him to do their bidding.
The novel contains a rant against style at the beginning, added by Card, called 'literary tricks' by him. I think the most interesting thing about it is that given the millions sold, it is proof that story matters more than style, even as convoluted and badly formed as this one is. In the end what matters is the questions the novel raises and the implications of the questions, and that the novel really is about something at its core, behind all of the badly rendered fight scenes. I admire style, don't get me wrong. I love it. But it would appear you can get by without it.
No one ever told me what a love story this was, and it seems to me to be the source code for so much pornographic writing today. I'm not even talking...moreNo one ever told me what a love story this was, and it seems to me to be the source code for so much pornographic writing today. I'm not even talking about Anne Rice. Not quite a page-turner as much as a page-ripper. I read it compulsively, in front of people sometimes, and without apologies.
I read this in a week, on a trip to Tokyo. I started it on the plane over, finished it while I was there. There was something about the way being subm...moreI read this in a week, on a trip to Tokyo. I started it on the plane over, finished it while I was there. There was something about the way being submerged in a foriegn language while reading it made it more intense.
I found it weirdly thrilling for how it seemed to me to be this whole novel about the handsome tattooed Queequeg, and the strange beautiful relationship he and the narrator have, and then wham! The whale.
In some ways, the long aria-type chapters about whales strike me as being a way to support the ending, and at first I found them frustrating, but over time, afterwards, I understand them and find them necessary, though I do always wish there was a way the novel could have been more about Queequeg and the "bridegroom's embrace" the narrator finds himself in on that first night they meet and end up in bed together.(less)
This book altered me forever---my politics, my sentences, my sensibility, my sense of what I wanted from life and from existence, from my country, fro...moreThis book altered me forever---my politics, my sentences, my sensibility, my sense of what I wanted from life and from existence, from my country, from what it could mean to 'have politics', or to 'have sex'---everything. Afterward everything was different. And I was glad.
Also, I have a signed copy I got when I was a store clerk at A Different Light Books in San Francisco in the late 80s. (less)