Oh man, this was good. It's Canterbury Tales in Space. Seven pilgrims land on a mysterious planet and take a mysterious journey to confront a mysterio...moreOh man, this was good. It's Canterbury Tales in Space. Seven pilgrims land on a mysterious planet and take a mysterious journey to confront a mysterious monster. But the bulk of the book is comprised of the tales the pilgrims tell each other after each meal on the journey. Each tale, whether horror, action, romance, or hard-boiled crime mystery reveals a little bit of truth about the planet and the monster the pilgrims must face. You'll have to wade through some Sci-Fi garbledegook up front as Simmons fills his world with holomajigs, and transmiterographadiscs, and stimu-g-blasteraverters without bothering to do much in the way of helping the reader understand the jargon he has created. But once he dives into the tales, the real fun begins. The first tale, told by a priest, is an disturbing blend of Heart of Darkness and Event Horizon that will bruise your mind in all the right ways. And the scholar's tale was particularly poignant and heart breaking, which are rare story qualities to find in epic space saga.
The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because(SPOILERS AHEAD)of the ending. By the time you reach the final tale, you're really ready for some heat. The entire book leads you to believe that the main character has some terrible inside knowledge, that his tale will be the most tragic of all, that his tale will answer so many of the questions posed by the others. And then you get to his tale, and the guy whips out a devise that essentially plays a tape recording of a short story that has nothing to do with Hyperion, or the demonous Shrike, or really even the Universe in which the rest of the characters live. After the recording finishes, the main character burns through his entire life's story in just a few pages; more like a book report or a debriefing than an actual story. And you're left with the hollow feeling that you've been robbed of a climax. And to add insult to injury (SUPER DUPER SPOILER), the book ends before the characters actually get to the shrike, meaning we never really know what the Shrike was, where it came from, or why it was doing what it was doing. Ambiguous endings can work great (think Inception, the Wrestler), but it didn't work here. Apparently the second book answers some of these questions, but that doesn't excuse the fact that there wasn't any kind of ending to this story. Rather than "Part 1 of a Saga," It felt like someone pausing a movie half way through and wanting you to buy another ticket to watch the rest.(less)
Good fun. Follett makes high adventure out of cathedral building. For a book spanning 40 years it's a fast paced page turner full of cliffhangers. One...moreGood fun. Follett makes high adventure out of cathedral building. For a book spanning 40 years it's a fast paced page turner full of cliffhangers. One small quibble: While his good characters aren't flawlessly good, his bad characters are certifiably 100% super evil. They don't just rape and torture and murder, they launch themselves into decade-long evil schemes seemingly only motivated out of spite or hatred of the main characters. Some of the villains are downright cartoonish, one character's defining trait is that her face is so hideous and pockmarked, many people throw up just at the site of her. Really, sir? She couldn't just have had a wicked mind?
But overall, worthwhile. After finishing yet another George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire novel that ends by starting a dozen new plotlines, it was refreshing to read a sword and glory epic that actually wrapped up tidily in 400 pages.(less)
Huge Wong fan. His Cracked piece "Monkeysphere" is damned near the best the internet has to offer. But I can't vouch for this as a particularly amazin...moreHuge Wong fan. His Cracked piece "Monkeysphere" is damned near the best the internet has to offer. But I can't vouch for this as a particularly amazing book...
You know how funny Norm MacDonald was on Saturday Night Live? Or the original Coneheads skit? Or when Stuart Smalley gave Michael Jordan self-esteem advice? What is hilarious in a five minute sketch can really bomb as a two hour movie. "John Dies at the End" might be the internet version of the law of failing humorous expansion: What makes a funny blog post may not work as a full novel.
The book IS funny, but between the non sequiturs and dick jokes you have to read pages of tedious, unimportant description of things "unexplainable." There aren't really twists and turns so much as points in which the story just stops and starts somewhere else. And other than Wong and John, I honestly couldn't tell you a single personality trait of any of the other characters (having only one hand doesn't count as a personality trait). I'm not sure the one female character in the first half of the novel even has any lines of dialogue.
Perhaps if I had read it in installments, at work, on my computer, I would have been more impressed. As is, probably worth the read if you already like Wong; but for newcomers, I'd suggest sticking to his blog posts.(less)
If you're comfortable with a wall-splat stream of consciousness style of writing, Acid Test is an incredible portrayal of the LSD experience. In parti...moreIf you're comfortable with a wall-splat stream of consciousness style of writing, Acid Test is an incredible portrayal of the LSD experience. In particular, a few chapters seem to unfold in real-time, as we follow a first timer through one of Kesey's wild tests, from newborn awakening, to mind shattering fear. Next to Naked Lunch, I'd say this is required reading for anyone considering experimenting with hallucinogenics. Without glorifying or condemning drugs, Wolfe portrays the experience with honesty. The book is a good for people who are a little skeptical that LSD will immediately make you pants-shittingly crazy, but who know that acid isn't all rainbows and golden Gods.(less)
I'm not a kid. If you are a kid, I'd suggest reading a kid's review of this book; the kid me probably would have enjoyed it more. Nothing wrong with t...moreI'm not a kid. If you are a kid, I'd suggest reading a kid's review of this book; the kid me probably would have enjoyed it more. Nothing wrong with the book, but it just doesn't hold a candle to the giddy deviousness of something like Calvin & Hobbs. There are a few guffawers and even a few moments that ring true to fourth-grader think. Wimpy Kid is a young pessimist. He complains, he mopes, and occasionally he unwittingly gets into big trouble. Overall, it felt reading the childhood diary of Andy Richter but wanting to read the childhood diary of Conan O'Brien. Andy's funny, Conan's funnier.(less)
**spoiler alert** Using the third book to review the whole trilogy:
The series starts out whimsical and fun and it promises to deliver some world-bendi...more**spoiler alert** Using the third book to review the whole trilogy:
The series starts out whimsical and fun and it promises to deliver some world-bending adventure but unravels into a plod of diatribes and unveiled metaphors by book three.
Lyra is a little girl with a big fate in a crazy world full of witches, cowboys, and polar bears. What's not to love, right? And the first book twist of revealing the heroic, Shackleton-like father as an obsessed murderer was just awesome. Didn't see it coming, loved the way the momentum and drive of the story flipped upside down, couldn't wait to find out what happens in the second book...
Then Pullman ditches the entire story and world from the first book to have more origin-story fun with a magical boy in our world. Not altogether frustrating, but by the time we get back around to Lyra's world, all the events seem less important, like returning to episodes of Cheers after watching a few seasons of Frasier. Somewhere in the middle of book two Pullman starts to layer in passages about religion and physics; not unwelcome, but they snowball into the mess coming up...
The third book is much less about the stories and characters created in the first two books and much more about some giant metaphysical multi-dimensional war to prove what a fraud God is. Lyra and Will pretty much turn into McGuffins, they are objects bounced around by uninteresting angels and scientists because everyone seems to know they will cause a massive explosion of super-fate. Unsurprisingly, they fulfill their destiny by (big spoiler) having sex in the woods, and that somehow means existentialism beats God. Ignoring the absurd fact that the heroic climax of a three-book series is two thirteen year-old children having sex, the face-forward rhetoric in every line of dialogue and even in the moment-to-moment thoughts of the characters makes for a dull read. I don't mind rhetoric in my literature, but there's just much better ways to do it (see Tolstoy, Primo Levi, George Saunders for a few examples).(less)
Readable in one day, this is one of the best 10 Sci-Fi books ever written. About children, though not a childrens' book. Ender is a young boy who is r...moreReadable in one day, this is one of the best 10 Sci-Fi books ever written. About children, though not a childrens' book. Ender is a young boy who is recruited to a special training station in space where he participates in war games with hundreds of other kids. Could be titled Lord of the Space Flies, the station is a microcosm of adult group dynamics and leadership tactics, the book is cruel without being heartless. The writing is a textbook example of "can't put it down" quality. Each chapter layers on a bigger, tougher problem. There's no down time for the hero and no stopping point for the reader. Ender is the anti-Hamlet, he is a boy who is plagued with decisions made. (less)
A starter books for non-nerds looking to read Neil Gaiman. Each chapter digs up a new facet of the ghoulish world of an old-fashioned British graveyar...moreA starter books for non-nerds looking to read Neil Gaiman. Each chapter digs up a new facet of the ghoulish world of an old-fashioned British graveyard. More exploratory fun than scaries and screamies. Gaiman's characters are broad and the pattery dialogue is worth quite a few grins and chuckles. Like Mark Twain as read by the cast of Monty Python. The through-line is not epic, which is refreshing considering the modern world of post-Potter kids' lit where every young orphan seems to be destined for greatness. An easy, quick read. A great intro book if you want fantasy sans dragons and sorcerers, or a great chaser if you're a fantasy nut who just swallowed a seven-book series.(less)
Despite the title, this book is actually a biography of two men: Kidd, a bullish New York-Scottish privateer with bad luck; and Robert Culliford, a ro...moreDespite the title, this book is actually a biography of two men: Kidd, a bullish New York-Scottish privateer with bad luck; and Robert Culliford, a roguish pirate with extraordinary good luck. The men sailed together more than once; Zacks weaves their stories together as a race of fate, with one headed to the gallows and one to freedom. The book is incredibly thorough, delightful during the juicier pirate-heavy sections but tiresome during the life chronology. Reading through several chapters of Kidd making preparations to attain a boat and secure financing or Kidd bobbling around the Caribbean waiting for news is like watching the scene in an Indiana Jones movie where the red arrow slides across a map. Like watching that scene for hours at a time.
The writing style isn't terrible. Zacks has a glee for his characters and world, though his voice bulges through the tale. He doesn't transfer the glee to the reader so much as make the reader aware of how interested he is in his own subject.
If you're a pirate enthusiast, this is worth the read. Culliford comes across as a real life Jack Sparrow, a hidden gem in a history of larger-than-life characters. But I wouldn't suggest this as a first book for the pirate-curious. Better to start with Under the Black Flag, or the much more compelling Magellan biography, Around the Edge of the World.(less)
Interesting because it is early, EARLY sci-fi (same guy who wrote Tarzan), but the writing and story are absolutely awful. In fact, the book is fun on...moreInteresting because it is early, EARLY sci-fi (same guy who wrote Tarzan), but the writing and story are absolutely awful. In fact, the book is fun on a so-bad-it's-good level. Written first person style, John Carter is a Civil War veteran magically plucked from Earth and dropped into the middle of warring nations on Mars. John Carter is stronger, braver, smarter, and more humble (as he tells us unironically)than any other creature on the exotic planet. Every Martian man wants to be him, will follow him into battle. Every Martian woman (naked, according to custom) wants to be his devoted slave. John Carter wins every fight, out-maneuvers every foe on the battlefield, and tames every wild Martian beast. Does he eventually save every single Martian life and unite all four Martian peoples into a thousand year era in which he is King of the world? You'll have to read the book to find out. Or you can probably guess.(less)