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 a...moreWhen 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.)
This book has been on my shelf for five years. I use it every week; I should probably know more by now but this book always has exactly what I need to...moreThis book has been on my shelf for five years. I use it every week; I should probably know more by now but this book always has exactly what I need to jumpstart me through whatever brain-fart froze me up in the first place.
It has earned the nickname: El Rhino Diablo!
---- Updated for Sixth Edition ----
More of a plot than My First Truck Board Book—but not much more of one. Also, Dave Chappelle fans will appreciate that the road work is being done on...moreMore of a plot than My First Truck Board Book—but not much more of one. Also, Dave Chappelle fans will appreciate that the road work is being done on Third Street. ("You better be careful...")(less)
A super-cute kids story by Karma Wilson, Bear Wants More reads like a follow-up to Bear Snores On. It's got a good rhyme scheme and the illustrations...moreA super-cute kids story by Karma Wilson, Bear Wants More reads like a follow-up to Bear Snores On. It's got a good rhyme scheme and the illustrations are wonderful.
Astute parents will notice that all of the animals on the cover are making the ASL sign for "more".
SIDEBAR: Does it bug out anyone else when one of the anthropomorphic animal characters is a carnivore? Not that bears a strict carnivores, but there's this scene in Bear Wants More where he catches a fish (who happens to be smiling, I might add) and then later on we see that the bear has in fact EVISCERATED this fish.(less)
Good gravy is this ever bad. The worst book we've read with The Boy since Hepcat. Just... wow, so bad.
I always cringe a bit whenever we get sucked in...moreGood gravy is this ever bad. The worst book we've read with The Boy since Hepcat. Just... wow, so bad.
I always cringe a bit whenever we get sucked into one of these franchised stories... but The Boy likes them, and they usually at least have a decent message about cooperative work and/or sharing etc. But this... this doesn't even fit with the patterns of the franchise--the steamies and diesels don't overcome their differences for a common goal, and (SPOILER ALERT!) Diesel 10 winds up falling off a viaduct without any chance for rescue or redemption.
Plus it's like one inexplicable plot device after another. There's this random "Mr. Conductor" who travels around in a cloud of gold dust. Which is apparently magic for no apparent nor explained reason. And then the gold dust just inexplicably runs out. And then without any plot exposition Thomas just disappears and then reappears having apparently gone onto some magic railroad to retrieve some magic "Lady" engine who is the alleged source of the gold dust and just... well: none of it makes even the remotest sense.
Illustrations are great; the rhyme scheme's meter and rhythm falls apart in at least one place; but any book with dinosaurs is going to be awesome. Es...moreIllustrations are great; the rhyme scheme's meter and rhythm falls apart in at least one place; but any book with dinosaurs is going to be awesome. Especially erudite dinosaurs.
Like Squishy Turtle and Friends, the titular character (i.e., Snowy Bear) is featured only on the cover. That much is a bit of a let down. That said,...moreLike Squishy Turtle and Friends, the titular character (i.e., Snowy Bear) is featured only on the cover. That much is a bit of a let down. That said, there is not as much emphasis on predator/prey relationships here. I'm detecting a pattern in these Roger Priddy cloth books though — one eco-system per volume.(less)
Original off-the-cuff review from when I first joined Goodreads:
Imagine (if you will) an attempt to capture the whole of human experience in a semi-pl...moreOriginal off-the-cuff review from when I first joined Goodreads:
Imagine (if you will) an attempt to capture the whole of human experience in a semi-plausible all-too-near future North America. Now imagine that the attempt works. And it does a pretty good job of getting a good cross-section and eviscerating it (it is a cross-section, after all) in all of its banal humanity.
The physical weight of this novel can be a bit intimidating. Most folks don't feel this ambitious when it comes to their pleasure reading. Which is too bad, really. Because if you just take your time, you'll find yourself well-rewarded.
But yeah, you've got to be prepared to take a joke.
Why do so many kids books attempt a rhyme scheme and then totally let it fall apart on at least one page? It's usually something with the meter. This...moreWhy do so many kids books attempt a rhyme scheme and then totally let it fall apart on at least one page? It's usually something with the meter. This book is no exception.
But it's got some great illustrations. And I love how the giraffe page gets turned to be extra tall. Nice work that. Plus H. likes it.
**spoiler alert** Quote: ...I think I'd probably tell you that it's easier to desire and pursue the attention of tens of millions of total strangers t...more**spoiler alert** Quote: ...I think I'd probably tell you that it's easier to desire and pursue the attention of tens of millions of total strangers than it is to accept the love and loyalty of the people closest to us.
There is an odd surface tension here; some readers may approach Idoru from the wrong bias, through the lens of Neuromancer and the Sprawl trilogy. Those readers will expect the traditional cyberpunk romp of amphetamine-fueled Yakuza battles and twisted violent sex in coffin hotels; those readers will be disappointed and may not be able to penetrate the skin of this charged, deeply emotional book. Idoru is William Gibson's Through the Looking Glass.
In typical Gibson style, the dueling narratives follow two distinctly melancholy characters: there is the starry-eyed teenaged angst of Chia Pet McKenzie and the existential, nearly Phildickian dread of Colin Laney. The novel opens on Laney, recently terminated under dubious circumstances from his "quantitative analyst" position for a tv program called Slitscan; Laney has a rare gift that enables him to tease patterns out of seemingly random data and he is recruited by a Japanese company to come to Tokyo and perform some research on their most valuable asset -- a rock star named Rez. Meanwhile, Chia is sent to Tokyo by her friends in Rez's Seattle-based fan club to discover the truth about The Rumor -- that Rez intends to marry a software construct, an idoru called Rei Toei.
Without a close inspection of the text, the novel might appear energetic but thematically trite. The plot moves along at a brisk pace: trans-Pacific flights whisk our protagonists into a Japanese Wonderland, quick-cut flashbacks fill in their respective histories, malicious and unseen maneuvering keeps every last character on his or her toes. Gibson drops his customary tropes: seedy back-alley deals gone awry, a detailed but ultimately vague send-up of "cyberspace", a mischievous and emergent AI...
But this book has nothing to do with AI or cyberspace or seedy back-alley deals.
At its core, Idoru explores the proposition that intimacy is a function of immersion, of experience, of fully surrendering to the risks of engagement and that knowledge or facts or data by any name and in any quantity cannot bring affinity. The narrative contains a relatively early scene wherein Laney is subject to a monologue by Kathy Torrance (his boss at Slitscan); she goes on at length about "celebrity" as a natural resource, about how media and tabloids like Slitscan have corralled "celebrity" into a commodity that can be controlled and brokered. Taken out of context, the monologue appears to be a provocative and unambiguous statement about celebrity in and of itself. Examining the scene with the novel's thesis in mind, we begin to see what lies at the kernel of Kathy Torrance's soliloquy: how "celebrity" is a focal point for a broad knowledge about a person (or other object of affection/attention) that by definition cannot be fully experienced. "Celebrity" is data presented as intimacy -- the fine-grained details of some person's life presented to you in all their banal urgency, more fantasy than reality, ever out of reach, inevitably unable to satisfy your need to share and experience.
Consider Kathy Torrance's rant about celebrity as a mirror to Alison Shires and Laney's own back-story. As Laney reflects on Alison Shires' suicide, we begin to see these themes take shape. In her original context, Alison is presented to Laney as "all data"; she is little more than some fulcrum of collapsed transactions that swing back onto some celebrity target of Slitscan's. But as her imminent suicide becomes obvious to Laney through his "nodal apprehension", he becomes concerned about, even attached to her; he breaks through his own Fourth Wall and allows himself to become involved, to experience her face-to-face. He is there in her apartment for the shot that kills her. We can hear echoes of his investment, how the experience created an instantly intimate moment which he capsulizes as: "...the whole thing would settle to the sea floor, silting over almost instantly with the world's steady accretion of data." The experience would be lost, buried under the steady stream of celebrity's telemetry, and he wonders how he can live with that outcome.
The novel is peppered with examples to underscore this proposition about intimacy: * Consider that every bar, cafe, restaurant, etc. featured in the text is somehow themed and each theme is just data, each motif is hollow and empty -- the impression of something, its image, a copy or facsimile or interpretation but not the thing itself; * Consider how Chia's story about her Sandbenders computer resonates on this chord, how she descrives the disposable shells of modern electronics as insufficient for people to make a connection with them, and how a "tribe" in Oregon humanized each computer through their artisanal cases; * Consider Masahiko's tales of Walled City and how he continually asserts to Chia that it is "real" and not just a MUD, not just a website; * Consider Blackwell's final affirmation to Laney, that Kathy Torrance will no longer threaten him, how they will "carve out this deep and meaningful and bloody unforgettable episode of mutual face-time", how they will have reached "very personal terms" -- the data, the facts are discarded, meaningless -- only the experience matters.
Throughout the narrative, there is a very keen sense that each character is desperately seeking something "real", something with which he or she can truly and intimately connect. Rez at one point blurts out: "Nothing like it [...] That physical thing." It is on those sentiments that the novel opens and again where it closes. We open on Laney in the aftershocks of just such a "physical thing" and Chia striking out to Tokyo in search of same. And we close on Rez and Rei Toei -- both symbolic of Kathy Torrance's "celebrity", different sides of that same coin -- discovering that their union cannot be completed without it, and daring to forge just such a path.(less)
I'm iffy on the message here. On the one hand, this is clearly a book that's saying: "Hey the grass is always greener until you're standing on it..."...moreI'm iffy on the message here. On the one hand, this is clearly a book that's saying: "Hey the grass is always greener until you're standing on it..." (Which is a fine message.) And on the other hand, they also seem to be saying "Don't bother trying to change or take risks because you'll only fail and be disappointed." And I can't really get behind that. Plus, the rhyme scheme isn't even that good.(less)
Not as good as We Are In A Book (if you ask me) -- but still cute. A nice taste of dramatic irony for the kids, in a way that makes it easy to explai...moreNot as good as We Are In A Book (if you ask me) -- but still cute. A nice taste of dramatic irony for the kids, in a way that makes it easy to explain irony to a 3 year old.(less)
Every scene seems to contain a dog. (Bad.) Except the one, where they're torturing a cat. (Worse.) And it isn't even set to any kind of rhyme or rhyth...moreEvery scene seems to contain a dog. (Bad.) Except the one, where they're torturing a cat. (Worse.) And it isn't even set to any kind of rhyme or rhythm. (Terrible.) What kind of children's book is this?(less)
H-bomb has been asking a lot about stars ("not planets--STARS") so I picked up a couple of "for kids" astronomy books from the library for him. This w...moreH-bomb has been asking a lot about stars ("not planets--STARS") so I picked up a couple of "for kids" astronomy books from the library for him. This was one of them.
Not heavy science, but heavy for a three-year-old; it's doable in a single sitting but might be tough for a bed-time attention span. Pictures are marvelous and the accompanying text is equally marvelous (even if I feel like an idiot in front of The Boy as a bumble my way through "Eta Carinae").(less)
The book that launched Gibson into the scifi pantheon -- and not without good reason.
This seminal work of speculative fiction captures the futureshock...moreThe book that launched Gibson into the scifi pantheon -- and not without good reason.
This seminal work of speculative fiction captures the futureshock of its era (c. 1984) in such boldly present and startlingly prescient ways that it's almost hard to imagine literature of the late-80s and onward without this book.
Though Gibson's later work is more mature and more well-rounded, Neuromancer captures the thirst of the scifi authors of its time -- yearning to break-free of the space operas and get all PKD on the rest of our futures. It's a sordid, unique dystopia  that Gibson penned for us here: two parts pulp, one part hallucinogenic head-trip, a dash of political poison.
I wish I was old enough to appreciate it (well, read it at all) when it came out but I don't regret my temporal misplacement. Reading it now, you get a quaint Cold War nostalgia and still shudder in fear at how we were a stronger wall in Berlin away from this kind of story as a reality.
---  Though Gibson has been quoted as saying that his work is only dystopian "if you’re some middle-class person from the Midwest." (interview in Paris Review No. 197, link)
--- SIDE NOTE: Has anyone else stopped to consider how the opening line is changed by the advent of digital television broadcasting?(less)
(The bit about Arthur and Fenchurch is OK; but this one kind of... just... rambles? And not in that usual glorious aimlessness that characterizes Adam...more(The bit about Arthur and Fenchurch is OK; but this one kind of... just... rambles? And not in that usual glorious aimlessness that characterizes Adams' work. This one's just... what happened? Back on Earth; Arthur falls in love with a woman who floats; they fly (and fool around); Ford shows up out of nowhere and they flit off to see God's Final Message to His Creation which is out of order (or not); then end.)(less)
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 scifi...moreWhat 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.(less)
**spoiler alert** In lieu of an actual review (short version: it was good but a little challenging and took at least 2 reads to "get it"), a couple of...more**spoiler alert** In lieu of an actual review (short version: it was good but a little challenging and took at least 2 reads to "get it"), a couple of observations:
(1) On the appeal of steampunk: I remain convinced (and in large part because of this book) that the big appeal of "steampunk" as a genre has to do with the archetypal Inventor/Tinkerer. Here we get this in Miéville's Isaac. In many ways he's an unlikely protagonist: a little hefty[†:], nerdy, self-aggrandizing, cowardly, and a bit of a pervert[††:]; but incredibly brilliant. He occupies a mental space with our real-world Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla and (perhaps more so?) Benjamin Franklin. Our modern (20th/21st century) concepts of science are so laden with litigation and patent applications and funding cuts and notions of proprietary information... It makes sense to cast Isaac as a radical; it's as if he can see through the veil of the page into our own world, can see how science is encumbered by business and process, can see how disconnected the individual is from his work. There is no more Lone Tinkerer puttering about his basement workshop assembling the next great innovation. And something in our cultural consciousness years for that.
(2) On protagonists: Though I've (above) alluded to Isaac as the protagonist, Miéville's Yagharek serves as our narrator and by extension of convention this grants him a kind of protagonist emeritus status[†††:]. But in Yagharek we're given an interesting bridge between the novel and the reader. Yagharek is, in so many ways, the opposite experience of what I imagine a "typical" fantasy reader is after in his narrators: Yagharek is not heroic either; he is a rapist and a cripple and he is in many ways frustrated and impotent. Our vehicle into the story is hardly a vehicle for escape, hardly a means of escaping our own "real world" anxieties and limitations. What's more, Yagharek's ultimate fate (i.e., to desplumarate himself and "go as a man" into New Crobuzon) is a way of turning to the reader and saying: "Now get back to your life just as Yagharek has done."
--- [†:] = The references to "his bulk" being a little bit mixed in that regard; but for the sake of argument, he could (in the parlance of our time) stand to lose a few pounds, for sure.
[††:] = Though let us not judge him here since his "perversion" is really just analogous to an interracial relationship (though that comparison is on par with calling the space shuttle an airplane).
[†††:] = To be honest though, Yagharek is enough of a protagonist to not need the "emeritus".
An anti-government CIA operative that likes to get it on with nuns and his under-age niece? Psychoactive landscapes tripping their way through the apo...moreAn anti-government CIA operative that likes to get it on with nuns and his under-age niece? Psychoactive landscapes tripping their way through the apocrypha? Pimple-faced KFC drive-thru clerks with their girlfriends locked in the trunk? (Maybe?)