I'd like to write a review at some point but for now, just some notes: (potential spoilers?)
1. Ending was pretty right-on. With that epilogue it was aI'd like to write a review at some point but for now, just some notes: (potential spoilers?)
1. Ending was pretty right-on. With that epilogue it was almost like trying to say "and everything went back to normal and they lived happily ever after" except that like two pages before that we know that that's simply not true.
2. Overall: chilling, esp. in light of Haldeman's own war experience. How much of it is extrapolated? vs. echoes of that experience?
3. Easy to see how much this informs a lot of the other sci-fi (Mil. or otherwise) that's out there, even if it's at arm's length, indirect, or incidental....more
There were moments I did not believe that I would give it much more than a four star rating, and that that would be generous. But it comes together. TThere were moments I did not believe that I would give it much more than a four star rating, and that that would be generous. But it comes together. There's a twist that I felt I should have seen, and didn't. There's some HoL-esque typographic trickery (though substantially less of it). There are tricks of language. I'm told that there are parallels aplenty to make this a science fictional re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo, but I'll admit that I don't that book well enough to say one way or the other. What I do know is that I found a surprisingly difficult, and surprisingly sophisticated story crystallized in what is otherwise a bit of high adventure. I believe I'll need to read it again, but I believe this one is well worth it.
I may need to re-read this one to get my head screwed on straight for a proper review; but in the meantime:
"It's like a fantasy novel for people thatI may need to re-read this one to get my head screwed on straight for a proper review; but in the meantime:
"It's like a fantasy novel for people that don't like fantasy novels..."
(No, that's not quite right.)
"Rothfuss is to Tolkien as Gibson is to Verne..."
(No, that's not quite right either.)
There is a lot going on in here:
• Re-purposing of familiar fantasy tropes; some of them left (mostly) alone, some of them turned on their heads; • Good use of his own recurring tropes to move the narrative (silence, fire, wind, poverty); • And a neat story-within-the-story-constituting-the-story (with a narrator telling his own story and very aware of how arrogant and impatient he sounds...)
**spoiler alert** I think it's very easy to have mixed (but very strong) feelings about Dune. Thus follows two reviews in one (with minor spoiler aler**spoiler alert** I think it's very easy to have mixed (but very strong) feelings about Dune. Thus follows two reviews in one (with minor spoiler alerts):
Fawning: ("It's a science fiction classic!") ★★★★★
"Unique... I know of nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings."
Indeed, there seems to be nothing else in the science fiction corpus quite like Dune. An epic in every sense of the word--a scope so vast and a background so rich that Frank Herbert felt it necessary to give us a glossary and a series of appendices. The text is rife with all manner of allusions, riddled with sub-plots and suggestions and intimations of a profound and magnificent history (both real and imagined) of which we will receive only a taste. And through it all, the riveting tale of Paul-Muad'Dib Atreides--the messianic figure whose journey into the echelons of manhood and leadership propels us headlong through this fascinating universe.
And coming into this story for the first time in 2010--some 45 years after its initial publication--you can quickly and easily see how it has influenced so much of what came after it. Reading it, I was struck by how much it reminded me of so many of my favorite science fiction milieus from over the years. The feuding noble houses reminded me instantly of the BattleTech franchise--the Succession Wars and the complex alliances and rivalries (the combatants are even referred to as "Houses"). The demi-medievalism brought to mind images from Star Wars--an empire with all of its pageantry, right down to the glamour of fencing. The ecological concerns suggest the work of Margaret Atwood or Ben Bova--what with all of the world-making and unmaking and the lens that shows how the world makes the men, even as the men make the world. And subtle hints in the galaxy-spanning religiousness that bring to mind Hyperion and A Fire Upon the Deep--the consecrated orders (monastic or merely apparently so) and incantations and mythology and an ear toward histories ancient and unknowable.
And in so many ways, this is the science fiction fan's perfect vision of escapist literature. The rise of a mighty warrior in a legendary high-stakes saga where his will is put to the test by insurmountable foes and yet he emerges triumphant.
But let down: ("Perhaps epic in scope but...") ★★★☆☆
But perhaps that's just it. Even if the novel withstands the test after forty-five years and remains as canon Epic Sci-Fi; and even if you acknowledge the strength of its influence on Everything That Came Afterward; and even if you agree with these points and think favorably of the novel (as I do) you might also find that you'd wished it was more... complex? subtle? nuanced? For all the dramatic tension, there is never any doubt of how things will end. There is never any question--not even from that first chapter--that Paul Atreides will (despite his earliest assertions to the contrary) come to wear the mantle of the Kwisatz Haderach, that he will become the mythical Lisan Al-Gaib. Even when fate is testing him, you can sense that the tragedies are more for your benefit as the reader than they are formative experiences for Paul; there is an armature of a plot with the young hero's arrival, with the tragic events that plummet him into his questing and wandering, and with the climactic reversal that leads to his messianic ascendance. But through all of these trials and tribulations, Paul is always so... confident--there is never a moment's doubt from him. He is a classic übermensch--pre-destined to greatness and he knows it and even when he denies it, he is still wrapped up in the mythology that surrounds him. And as a consequence... Paul is almost boring. Constantly tapping into his latent prescience to tell us what will happen next (and being right); constantly getting embroiled in hand-to-hand combat and winning; constantly inspiring the men and women around him to rally to his cause... Even when there is dissent, the dissent is in his favor--the Fremen challenging him to challenge Stilgar for command of the tribes. (And of course, this too ends just as we would predict.)
And that is just the bits about Paul--that is not even to attempt to dissect what goes on there w/r/t/ the class system, or women and other issues of gender and sexuality.
But... and there's that but again: but it is an enjoyable read and one that is fantastically imaginative and fully-realized. It has earned a lasting place in the science fiction corpus with good reason--and I am actually a little happy that it took me so long to get around to this one.
Just amazing. Brutal and emotional. A linear armature of a story (which you can probably grab from the title) but holy fucking hell does it eviscerateJust amazing. Brutal and emotional. A linear armature of a story (which you can probably grab from the title) but holy fucking hell does it eviscerate you.
Part of McCarthy's brutal mastery is in withholding; very quickly we become very intimate with "the man" and "the child" but he never really gives us all that many details about them (e.g., names) and consequently we imprint like hell onto these characters. We invest everything we have in this struggle of theirs. To the point where it becomes difficult to put down the book without believing they're safe.
If the text is dry and prosaic at times, it's just to reinforce how grim and burnt out this landscape the man and the child travel. But like I said, you follow them, imprinting like hell.
This'll about sum it up:
In the morning they came up out of the ravine and took to the road again. He'd carved the boy a flute from a piece of roadside cane and he took it from his coat and gave it to him. The boy took it wordlessly. After a while he fell back and after a while the man could hear him playing. A formless music for the age to come. Or perhaps the last music on earth called up from out of the ashes of its ruin. The man turned and looked back at him. He was lost in concentration. The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.
SHORT VERSION: a scifi redux of the Canterbury Tales; six densely packed, interlocked, interwoven tales that create a whole that is epic inMore like: ★★★⅔
SHORT VERSION: a scifi redux of the Canterbury Tales; six densely packed, interlocked, interwoven tales that create a whole that is epic in scope. Gripping and creative with all the right literary nods. And yet oddly anti-climactic and maybe even a little unsatisfying.
NOTES IN PLACE OF A REAL REVIEW: * A strong, engaging (if somewhat vague) opening chapter; but the vague elements seem to be in line w/ some scifi conventions so... * the pace creatively waxes and wanes; of particular interest are the multiple layers of narration (i.e., excerpts from a priest's journal as read aloud and re-contextualized by another priest as heard by the Counsel...) ** for most of the sections this is very effective (if a bit affected and tedious at times) * about halfway through: oscillated between whether the multiple voices are effective and authentic or if they're just gimmicky ** ultimate conclusion: we'll grade this effort a B- (that we question whether/not they're distinct is enough to cast that shadow -BUT- that is not a distraction, so they're at least effective) * "Scholar's Tale" = favorite (DENSE and gut-wrenching) * NOTE: the lead-in paragraph in "Poet's Tale" is a MASTER STROKE * SIDE NOTE: OK -- why is it that we fail to call an "AI" anything but "AI"? (disappointed here b/c we have "Hawking drive" and "farcaster" etc. and revert to just plain ol' "AI") * SIDE NOTE: too much "of ... this" in the dialogue
UPDATED: (8/15/2012) After a second reading, I stick by these original notes (though still no "fully baked" review). There are some real 4- and 5-star moments in the book, but some others that just don't come together. Which isn't a knock against Simmons; what he does here is ambitious, and to try to interleave all these stories, told in all these distinct voices and styles, into one cohesive writ-large-whole... well, that would be a challenge for anyone. Some of these work well (e.g., Priest's Tale, Scholar's Tale), and others do not (e.g., Detective's Tale, Consul's Tale)....more
Without a doubt, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the classic post-apocalyptic novels. That it strikes so mercilessly at so many of our deepest fearWithout a doubt, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the classic post-apocalyptic novels. That it strikes so mercilessly at so many of our deepest fears, it is no wonder the tale has held up well over time. There is a fantastic interplay here of innocence vs. corruption, of reason vs. faith and intuitions, of hope vs. despair... The novel was significantly more emotional and gut-wrenching than I'd expected.
The novel is certainly worthy of a thoughtful and detailed review but I fear I may need more time and subsequent re-reads to really pin it all down. That said:
(1) That the novel revolves principally around an Abbey dedicated to preserving knowledge (specifically scientific texts) presents a wonderful little conundrum in and of itself -- one that Miller does well in exploring. The "Fiat Lux" section is where he performs this most skillfully. However:
(2) The science vs. faith conflicts were, I felt, a bit overly simplified. When presenting this conflict in terms of allegory, it makes sense to create these high-contrast dichotomies. But my skin crawls at the suggestion that an atheist and a scientist will apply his knowledge without consideration for conscience. The last, fifth ★ in my rating might well have been earned with a more subtle and thorough treatment of this.
(3) On "Benjamin (the Old Jew)": is there a name for this kind of character? The pilgrim, the wanderer, the hermit... In reading the passages that contained this character (the pilgrim in the opening chapters of "Fiat Homo"; Benjamin in "Fiat Lux"; and the appears-only-once vagrant in "Fiat Voluntas Tua") I could not help but get echoes of Merlin, Gandalf, Fizban... This archetype seems to appear most often in fantasy novels (sometimes in scifi; perhaps elsewhere?) -- the nearly-supernatural not-quite-narrator that has a too-intimate knowledge of the past and a too-accurate prediction of the future. This demands further research.
2014 update: most of the original review still stands. The only thing I'd add is (1) that it's way more sexist than I remember; also: (2) the free-wil2014 update: most of the original review still stands. The only thing I'd add is (1) that it's way more sexist than I remember; also: (2) the free-will stuff is terribly interesting. So -1 star for #1 but +1 for #2. We will hold steady the rating at 4 for now, partly out of sympathy for the classics.
Many reviews (from the dazzling to the dull) have been written about this scifi classic, so I'll keep mine short, sweet, and personal. And that means I'm writing it for Fogus:
This novel has earned its stripes as a scifi classic, no doubts there. The narrative ages well but it shows its age; that's not to say that it's dated but there is something that feels a bit retro in its construction when viewed from 21st century lenses. PROS: interesting story that moves along at a pretty good pace; a couple of core "big" ideas that make up the core and don't compete with other narrative mechanics (e.g., the Ringworld itself gets a thorough enough treatment vs. FTL travel is a given and taken for granted, the way it should be); though there aren't any big shockers, a few cards are played close enough to the chest as to maintain some of the surprises toward the climax. CONS: some characterization is maybe a bit flat (esp. females?); not all of the "big" ideas are fully realized nor do they all neatly dovetail; the cover on this edition isn't the best.
SIDE NOTES: (1) Now I need to read Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for some compare/contrast action; (2) anytime you join four characters in a setting like this, in a plot like this, I can't help but conjure up parallels to The Wizard of Oz....more
Anthony's first novel is a prurient and Freudian tale. A science fictional Oedipus Rex, and a visceral psychodrama full of pathos and catharsis. I cAnthony's first novel is a prurient and Freudian tale. A science fictional Oedipus Rex, and a visceral psychodrama full of pathos and catharsis. I can imagine it being in some niche of Frank Herbert's Dune universe, but it shares more (thematically) with books like Dhalgren. It's short, but it's dense....more
**spoiler alert** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by fa**spoiler alert** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by far".
A few thoughts:
(1) Chapter twenty-six is probably one of the best single chapters in science fiction literature. Maybe all literature.
(2) Heinlein prevents this from being a five-star work with (surprise!) how he portrays women. Hamstrung, they are, when they ought to be in power. He drops hints that the Lunar society has the most empowered women in history, and yet the families are not matriarchal; and though the Revolution seems to start with Wyoh, she quickly fades into the background (politically); and tben every other little detail (one of the kickers for me being during the climactic War Cabinet meeting when our narrator refers to one of the women as "a good little fem that knows when to stay quiet" [or something like that:]). Sigh.
Re-read after a (10-15?) year hiatus from my original reading. Crichton makes for a quick read and he throws out some compelling ideas in his prose.Re-read after a (10-15?) year hiatus from my original reading. Crichton makes for a quick read and he throws out some compelling ideas in his prose. This one is a real page-turner. I enjoy the novel-as-historical-document style that he adopts here (and (if I recall correctly) in some of his other work) but it also colors the text a bit and makes for some awkward passages in places....more
**spoiler alert** SCENE: Samuel R. Delany, sitting at his writing desk, surrounded by books (some on shelves, but most piled on the floor), circa 1973**spoiler alert** SCENE: Samuel R. Delany, sitting at his writing desk, surrounded by books (some on shelves, but most piled on the floor), circa 1973; a man walks into the room.
- Delany and the man stare at each other. They both stroke their beards.
Delany: "Who are you?"
The Man: "Don't you know? They sent me."
D: "Who? Who sent you?"
TM: "It doesn't matter. I'm here to tell you that it's OK. They told me to tell you that we're not really competing. Not really."
D: "And who are you...?"
TM: "I told you, didn't I? Anyway, it doesn't matter. Nice place. With the books and all that."
D: "Thanks?" (pause) "So what is it that's supposed to be 'OK' by 'them'?"
TM: (picks up a stack of papers from next to the typewriter) "Good shit. Run with it."
D: "But you didn't even read it?"
TM: "I don't have to. Look, I've already been there. I've been in it. I know it. I've lived for Christ's sake. This is us."
D: "What do you mean?"
TM: "What do you mean 'what do I mean?'? Isn't it obvious?"
D: "Is it? I would guess not because I'm asking you."
TM: "Maybe... Maybe... It's shared though. What's on these pages--" (TM slaps the ream of pages) "--these pages are shared by you, by me, by everyone that does this kind of work. Everyone that has ever put pen to paper or pressed a typewriter key and called the output 'science fiction'--those people are us. And we all share this vision. This is shared. It's... Well, there's a man--he'd be about 25 now--he will call it--" (he slaps the ream again) "--he will call this a 'riddle that was never meant to be solved'--and this is what he'll mean when he calls something else a 'consensual hallucination'."
D: "Those are some sexy phrases."
TM: (strokes his beard) "Aren't they? But not gratuitously so."
D: "And even if they were..."
TM: "It's a fine line between gratuitous and... and... Indicative of...?"
D: "...of what?"
TM: "Exactly. There's nothing wrong with sexy." (slaps the ream again) "As a matter of fact. Do it up. Do it way up. You'll never get another opportunity like this."
D: "But I can write whatever I want."
TM: (laughs, snorts) "Not like this. This one is indelible. You only get a chance to do a novel like this once. Don't screw it up."
D: "That's not fair. This won't be my only 'good' novel."
TM: "That's not fair either. Don't put words in my mouth. Some of your other work is good. Babel-17 is good. Nova was good, too. But this..." (TM shivers) "The stuff you're doing with that Caulkins character? As an anti-Merlin? Good stuff."
TM: "Sure. Isn't he kind of a stand-in narrator? Like the Arthurian Merlin? Or like that Tolkein guy did with Gandalf. Or that 'Old Jew' character in that Miller guy's book... What was it called? 'Chronicle of Liebermark'? Something like that?"
TM: "Whatever. My point is... It's a smart move. He's like that. Omniscient and omnipresent--only not. He's knows everything--but only second-hand--and he's never ever physically present. It's twisty-turny. The ugly hands, the never-present authority figure..."
D: "What's this about the hands?"
TM: "Don't be coy. I hate it when you do that. They hate it when you do that. You don't want to piss them off. You know how long it took me to pay off that piper?"
D: "Who are you?"
TM: "I told you already! Look, it doesn't matter. Just listen. This is important. Don't screw up Kemp. This 'Kemp' character of yours is important. Captain Kemp? You remember? Have you written him in yet? Well you need to. He is your vehicle for summing it up. Look, the readers--the ones that get it--and not everyone will get it--and that's fine, they don't need to--I'm just saying, the ones that get it--Kemp's dialogue will resonate with those readers. If you haven't already--" (he quickly leafs through the ream) "--you'll write this passage--from Kemp's point-of-view--about his trip to the moon. Now when you write it, he will be talking to this--uh--to The Kid and he is going to have to admit how his trip to the moon is not something that you can describe. And--and this is important--that since he can't--since no one can possibly describe it, that there is almost no point in trying to--so instead you just tell them what they want to hear."
D: "But that isn't what I want to do at all!"
TM: "But it's OK. I told you. They sent me here to tell you exactly that. That it's OK to tell it this way. Look, there's going to be this pool of readers--" (TM throws his hands up in a huge circle that encompasses his entire girth) "--that even bother to try to read this thing. Now remember that the total pool of readers is much bigger. Bigger than this room, bigger than this apartment--probably bigger than this whole city. But this circle--" (TM makes an obscene thrust of his pelvis through the circle of his arms) "--represents everyone that will even crack the binding on this one. Are you with me? These are the people that give a shit. And these--" (TM makes the circle half the size that it was) "--these are the people that will see it through to the end. Still with me? Most of these--" (he makes the obscene pelvic thrust again through the circle) "--most of these people are themselves writers. Or at least aspiring writers. Now, you remember earlier when I was talking about how this--" (TM slaps the ream of paper again) "--this represents some kind of shared knowledge between you and me and all of them--" (again with the pelvic thrust) "--well if anyone is going to get it, it's going to be these people--" (he shrinks the circle of his arms again) "--OK? Which isn't even to suggest that they'll follow every last lead that you put in there. After all, no one but you is going to be even able to be intimate with the piece on that level. But these people--" (once more with the thrust) "--will know that maybe what you're doing with Kemp, maybe his whole bit of dialogue to The Kid, that maybe that's the real crux of the narrative. That you cannot possibly hope to share every last detail as it transpires in your own mind. So you bash away on those keys and hope that enough of The Shared World comes across that they will recognize the Kemp dialogue for what it is and recontextualize the whole thing with that as the baseline modulator."
D: "So what you're saying is that--as the author--you can never really get it right? So don't even try?"
TM: "No, I'm saying that you can't get it to be accurate. You can get it to be right. But you have to--first--trust your readers; and--second--trust that your voice conveys the meaning (for whatever that word is worth [TM mutters:]). Casting the setting is as much in the hands of the reader as it is in yours. You stretch the canvas, your reader applies the paint."
D: "What else?"
TM: (stokes his beard) "There is no 'what else'! I thought you knew that. They thought you knew that! Seriously, you go all meta-narrative in this thing and then you hit me with a 'what else' like it's nothing?"
TM: "But nothing! The writing-within-the-writing thing is great. Your last chapter is a killer. An absolute killer. It's a shame that you can't do the whole thing like that. Can you? Can't you? In another 27 years there's a guy who is going to do this in a pretty epic fashion. Anyway, I--" (TM trails off for a second) "--I can see how maybe you can't get away with it this year. Or even next? Anyway, look it'll still be strong."
D: "You think so?"
TM: "Oh yes. You've created some interesting dichotomy. You've got your narrative and then the meta-narrative it contains. And within that meta-narrative there's only ever two kinds of anything. The poems, and the journalism. 'Brass Orchids' and 'the paper'. The Kid and Caulkins, the narrator and the never-present. It's a good trick."
D: "It's more than a cheap trick, you know."
TM: "I didn't mean for it to sound like I was calling it a cheap trick." (TM sighs) "Anyway, I better get going. I'm supposed to flash-forward and steal my cybernetic facsimile."
D: "They do that in the future?"
TM: "Not in any useful way. Nothing that's going to help either of us." (TM starts to go out the way he came in)
D: "Wait! Any other advice?"
TM: "Sure. Play down the whole 'Grendel' linkage unless you need to force your hand. Let people slip into Greek classicism for their comparisons. It's their own folly." (TM pulls his head off, tucks it under his arm and walks out)
- Delany looks down at the ream with something between scorn and satisfaction. He rolls a joint using one of the pages as his paper, and starts to read through the manuscript after he gets it lit.
Bloody terrifying. Bone-chilling. Atwood's best known work for no shortage of obvious reasons. If you don't vote, if you don't get out into your commuBloody terrifying. Bone-chilling. Atwood's best known work for no shortage of obvious reasons. If you don't vote, if you don't get out into your community, if you don't participate: this is your future.
...I absolutely tore through this book. An utterly fascinating read; well-done in both its science and its style. Watts makes some clever choices in s...I absolutely tore through this book. An utterly fascinating read; well-done in both its science and its style. Watts makes some clever choices in structuring his narrator (and consequently, the narrative) without it coming across as a gimmick or some other bit of contrivance. So we have this faithful guide working in our favor and a good entry point for the story.
And then he slowly unfurls idea after idea that link together into a shillelagh to bash your brain in. At one moment near the end, I glanced up from the page and said aloud: He’s saying that consciousness and self-awareness are metabolically expensive and that if we’re lucky, we’ll grow out of it. I had several jaw-dropping moments. Like I said, it’s a little bit “harder” of a flavor of scifi than I usually get into but this novel just held my attention totally rapt; I was utterly engrossed. And I highly recommend it.
What is there to say about THGttG that hasn't already been said by thousands of scifi nerds? We wind up devouring this book because it lampoons scifiWhat is there to say about THGttG that hasn't already been said by thousands of scifi nerds? We wind up devouring this book because it lampoons scifi without doing so in a way that derides it....more
When I first read Snow Crash, I thought to myself: "This thing is paced like a comic." Funny then to later discover that the novel was written after aWhen I first read Snow Crash, I thought to myself: "This thing is paced like a comic." Funny then to later discover that the novel was written after a comic book attempt at the same story fell apart.
Snow Crash is the paradigmatic Stephenson novel. Grabs you quickly, thrusts you head long into world that's so preposterous that he can't possibly be making it up, and the drags you along kicking and screaming until you're left startled and somewhat confused at a precipitous ending.
But don't let that fool you. This is probably Stephenson's best, most memorable work. It's certainly my favorite and it's certainly the one that's the most fun. (Which is probably why I've read it ten times.)