Reading the reviews here on Goodreads, this is clearly a divisive book. Folks seem either to love it or hate it. It was nominated for Hugo, Nebula, LoReading the reviews here on Goodreads, this is clearly a divisive book. Folks seem either to love it or hate it. It was nominated for Hugo, Nebula, Locus SF, and Prometheus awards, although it did not end up winning any of them. While it's not Heinlein's best, I think it's a fairly solid effort.
At its core, the story is about what all good science fiction is about: What does it mean to be human? Friday explores that question in the setting of a futuristic world that is rapidly degrading through balkanization and surreptitious control by multinational corporations. The eponymous character, Friday Jones, is an "artificial person" (AP) – what today we would call a genetically engineered person – who has no legal rights, although she is technically free, unlike some APs who are slaves or indentured. As an AP, Friday is stronger and more intelligent than "real" people, and she is also immune to many diseases. However, because of rampant prejudice and fear against APs, she hides her talents as much as possible, relying on them only when necessary. As one might expect, it becomes more necessary to rely on those characteristics as the story continues.
I found the mixture of Friday's superhumanness and subhumanness intriguing. Her constant fear of being found out as an AP is tempered by the knowledge that she can, at any time, perform feats that are impossible for the average person. In one way or another, she is almost never among equals, and societal prejudice (and fear of that prejudice) conspires to scuttle any potential moments when she might otherwise have had a meaningful encounter with another AP. The people she meets are constantly drawing lines, both literally and figuratively, to delineate their tolerance, and far too often Friday finds herself on the opposite side of those lines.
Having grown up in the 1980s, I remember some of the discussions (and fear) about test-tube babies and the supposed horrors they would create. Debates today about genetic modifications and human cloning are descendants of those discussions. Also, the way Heinlein portrays people talking about APs also reminded me of some of the ways people today talk about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), using words like "frankenfoods" to incite fear and cynicism.
Some reviewers have criticized the book for having no clear plot, which doesn't make sense to me. What I think they mean is that there is no singular MacGuffin driving the entire story. But there is most definitely a plot: Friday's discovery of her own humanity. Yes, it meanders sometimes, and there is backtracking and indecision at others. But isn't that the way of it in everybody's life? Who wants a story about someone who goes directly from point A to point B? So what if we never find out the full details about Red Thursday? MacGuffins are fine enough for what they can do, but it is wrong to think that a MacGuffin is required to have a plot worth reading.
There is one piece that requires a little more in-depth analysis, partly because it is controversial, but more importantly because I think it highlights what is wrong with some of the criticism of this novel. However, first I must issue a
In Chapter 2, Friday gets gang raped. There is no way to discuss this gently.
A lot of reviewers dislike this scene, and it's understandable why. For one thing, it's an incredibly uncomfortable – if such an inadequate word may be used – scene to read, not merely because it is a rape, but because of the detached way in which Friday handles it. First, she criticizes the act of rape as an outdated method of interrogation: "No professional group uses either beating or rape before interrogation today; there is no profit in it; any professional is trained to cope with either or both." Then, Friday outlines three such coping methods: A) "detach the mind and wait for it to be over"; B) "emulate the ancient Chinese adage" (which adage that may be is never revealed, or at least I didn't pick up on it); and C) use the event "as an opportunity to gain an edge" over one's captors. Finally, Friday transitions from academic theory to application, indicating her choice of method C (with a little B) and explaining her calculated responses to the relative unpleasantness of each of the four men who raped her.
The scene (indeed, the whole chapter, which later subjects Friday to a variety of tortures) is both terrible and terrifying. I was eventually able to integrate only by justification of it being part of the extremely harsh world, run nominally by balkanized states but in reality by multinational corporations, in which Friday lives, works and plays. As she narrates later about the probability of her being killed if she continues with a particular job, "If you don't believe that such things can happen, we aren't living in the same world and there is no point in your reading any more of this memoir." Criticism against the way Friday handles being raped seems largely to ignore the realities of the world in which Friday lives, a world in which it is not only prudent but expected that those who trade in secrets (as she does) be trained to handle such methods. I daresay such training occurs in the primary world – not to say that it is right, but that it happens.
There are some who suggest that this scene shows that Heinlein is dismissive of rape, and that Friday's method of handling being raped is somehow commentary by the author that rape itself is not a big deal or that all women who are raped should respond similarly to Friday. This sort of "crit fic" analysis goes directly against the text. Friday acknowledges that she has suffered "bruises, contusions, and multiple personal indignities – even heartbreaking ones had I been an untrained female" (emphasis added). There is no suggestion in the text that every person should be able to handle such a situation in the same way, or that even having such training and being able to handle gang rape in the way Friday did is a good thing. It is an unfortunate – another inadequate word – part of Friday's world that such occurrences exist, but ignoring their existence does not make them go away. Friday has been trained because it makes sense for her to be, given her career and the world she lives in, but it is absurd to extend that idea to propose that Heinlein thinks all real-life women should treat gang rape the same way as a specially trained, genetically engineered woman who lives in a fictional future does.
(view spoiler)[More striking than the event itself is the later revelation that one of her rapists (known variously as "Mac," "Pete" and "Percival") is a member of Friday's security detail during an off-planet job. When she confronts him and asks why he participated, Pete says, "I did it because I wanted to. Because you are so sexy you could corrupt a Stylite. Or cause Venus to switch to Lesbos. I tried to tell myself I couldn't avoid it. But I [k]new better." This goes against the conventional idea that rape is about power and domination, rather than sex, and the all-to-common excuse that such violation is a compulsion on the part of the perpetrator. In lieu of killing Pete (he even offers to make it look like a suicide), Friday demands various information and explanations from him. She also says that letting her go pee (after the rape, but before the other tortures) was when she decide he was "not totally beyond hope." Later, while making her escape from her employers – whom she deduces are most likely going to kill her once the job is over – Pete helps her, and they eventually get married. That's right: Friday marries one of her rapists. Those who have a problem with how Friday handles the rape scene in situ also dislike these later developments. (hide spoiler)]
Those who criticize this book (and Heinlein) seem to focus more on the fact that Friday has the wrong responses to being gang raped, according to their view, rather than asking why it is that Friday has the reactions she does. Friday is not dehumanized by the assault, nor does she dehumanize her assaulters. Partly this is because she is already dehumanized by the fact of her existence. From the beginning she identifies herself as an Artificial Person, and the entire novel is an exploration of what it means to be human. She travels from place to place seeking to find those who will accept her for who she really is, rather than for the various identities she takes on during the course of her work. It is somewhat ironic that despite this very clear and ubiquitous theme throughout the novel, some readers can't see through their own preconceived notions about rape enough to allow Friday her own thoughts and reactions.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Overall, a very interesting analysis of literary works that either emphasize motifs of economic freedom, or which (in the essayists opinions) fail toOverall, a very interesting analysis of literary works that either emphasize motifs of economic freedom, or which (in the essayists opinions) fail to shunt them. Although I have not read many of the works covered in this collection, the authors did a good job of elucidating how they fit in with this sort of economic analysis. I came out of this book realizing I need to read more Ben Jonson, Willa Cather and Joseph Conrad. A dash of Thomas Mann probably wouldn't hurt, either....more
I know this is a favorite of a lot of people whose opinions I respect, but it didn't strike me. I didn't hear the "Note" of it, I suppose you could saI know this is a favorite of a lot of people whose opinions I respect, but it didn't strike me. I didn't hear the "Note" of it, I suppose you could say....more
I've read Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" quite a few times now, but this is the first I've read this critical edition. The essay is always enjoyabI've read Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" quite a few times now, but this is the first I've read this critical edition. The essay is always enjoyable, but of course I found even more value in the editorial commentary. The history of the different versions was well done, not nearly so dry as sometimes such descriptions tend to be.
I admit that I did not read through the two manuscript versions in detail, nor their commentary, which combined consists of about 1/3 of the book. Even so, I'm marking this one done, as for all practical purposes, I have read everything I intended to....more
Rating this a 3 primarily so as not to invoke Dave's ire. He's right that the tales are "turgid, tedious, and unconscionably self-indulgent." But thenRating this a 3 primarily so as not to invoke Dave's ire. He's right that the tales are "turgid, tedious, and unconscionably self-indulgent." But then, he also uses "belike" in a nonsensical way.
Where I differ from him is in trying to imagine what the reviews would be in a world that didn't contain Tolkien's other published works. First of all, I shudder to think of such a world. Secondly, we don't live in that world, so what's the point in rating a book from that subjunctive point of view? Such arguments are simply attempts to justify one's own peevishness.
The Book of Lost Tales is a solid 3. No, the tales are not great, and yes sometimes they are downright terrible. But the book does precisely what it's supposed to do: Provide early, unrefined versions of stories that NEVER got to a point where Tolkien himself was comfortable publishing them. It's for the Tolkien lovers who want to delve into that minutiae. There's no reason to criticize the book simply because you're not one of those people. ...more
I read this as part of my research for a paper I'm will be presenting on Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness in January at Mythmoot III. I was surpriI read this as part of my research for a paper I'm will be presenting on Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness in January at Mythmoot III. I was surprised to find how short the book is, and was able to read it in one sitting — though, having done so, I suspect it is not the intended method of consumption. It seems better suited to small, daily chunks for rumination or meditation. It's unlikely that I will read it in that manner, but I suspect I will revisit it a couple times in the next month or so.
Overall, I quite enjoyed it. I read more for feeling than sense, and Le Guin's brief, sporadic commentaries seem to uphold such a reading. Much of it is the sort of short, enigmatic, oscillating verse that one might expect, but I was surprised to find how much of it is fairly comprehensible. Indeed, there's plenty of strangeness and a tendency toward epigrammatic enigma, but on the whole there's a simplicity to the sensibleness of many of the verses. It's hard to say how much of that is inherent in the text itself, and how much of it is Le Guin's rendering. She warns, in her notes at the end, that she did not translate it, but created her own version based on a dozen or so prior translations that she has studied over many years, working on it bit by bit, sometimes with decade-long hiatuses.
Anyway, if I have one criticism, it's in a single comment she makes on chapter 53, "Insight," the last stanza of which reads:
People wearing ornaments and fancy clothes, carrying weapons, drinking a lot and eating a lot, having a lot of things, a lot of money: shameless thieves. Surely their way isn't the way.
Le Guin's comment: "So much for capitalism."
The obvious reply here is that when Lau Tzu (or whomever) wrote this, capitalism wasn't "a thing," so to call out capitalism in response to these statements is disingenuous at best. More to the point, the text seems to indicate that these things are not "the way" regardless of the political and economic situation one finds themselves. (In the prior stanza, there is a reference to splendiferous palaces, which seems distinctly anti-capitalist to me.) The idea that ornamentalism, ostentatiousness, warmongering, gluttony, greed and theft are solely the products of capitalism is simply absurd.
In fact, there are other moments in Le Guin's commentary that seem to favor capitalist — in particular, anarcho-capitalist — ideals. The author "sees sacrifice of the self or others as a corruption of power," she writes in her comment on chapter 13, "Shameless." "This is a radically subversive attitude. No wonder anarchists and Taoists make good friends." This idea is cognate with modern libertarian attitudes against so-called "crony capitalism," which is an oxymoron insofar as it isn't truly capitalism but more like fascism (in the original sense of the word). In chapter 57, "Being simple," are found the lines:
The more restrictions and prohibitions in the world, the poorer people get ... So a wise leader might say: I practice inaction, and the people look after themselves. I love to be quiet, and the people themselves find justice.
Le Guin's comment, in part, is, "No pessimist would say that people are able to look after themselves, be just, and prosper on their own. No anarchist can be a pessimist." Again, this fits well with libertarian/capitalist viewpoints. It was, after all, Adam Smith, the patron saint of capitalism, who wrote, "We may often fulfill all the roles of justice by sitting still and doing nothing."
Perhaps I've ranted too long. Overall I quite enjoyed the work. And bonus: I even found some stuff to use for my paper on Left Hand....
Edit: I feel compelled to add that I realize Le Guin's definition of anarchism is likely not anarcho-capitalism but rather anarcho-syndicalism. I mean, I have read The Dispossessed. Still, my objections stand....more
It gets better as you read along, which is the preferred trajectory for a book, in my opinion: too often it's the other way around. The opening is touIt gets better as you read along, which is the preferred trajectory for a book, in my opinion: too often it's the other way around. The opening is tough, with forty to fifty pages (or more) of the main character sitting around, reading his father's journals and ruminating on them with his brother, etc. The first-person narration also becomes less stilted when the action begins....more
William Morris discovered the most tedious way to tell a story, and he demonstrated his discovery in "A Tale of the House of the Wolfings." I find itWilliam Morris discovered the most tedious way to tell a story, and he demonstrated his discovery in "A Tale of the House of the Wolfings." I find it hard to believe that he was once offered the office of Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland, upon the death of Lord Tennyson, given how poor the meter and rhyme of his verse in this book is — perhaps the council which presented it to him did so in jest. I applaud Morris for turning it down on the pretense of political differences rather than merit.
That said, I still give this book 3 stars (perhaps beyond my better judgment), because if one can get past Morris's absurd archaicism and defective balladry, the story is actually fairly engaging. Perhaps this supports C.S. Lewis's argument in An Experiment in Criticism that some stories are universal, regardless of their form. ...more
While there are some humorous moments — such the chapter "Of how Imbaun Spake of Death to the King" ending with Imbaun being led away, "And there arosWhile there are some humorous moments — such the chapter "Of how Imbaun Spake of Death to the King" ending with Imbaun being led away, "And there arose prophets in Aradec who spake not of death to Kings" (indeed, the procession of prophets who die itself is kind of funny) — they are not enough to offset the tediousness of the mock-serious scriptural tone that Dunsany adopts throughout the book. While I generally like irony and subtle humor, I could not shake the feeling the each chapter is a knowing half-wink by Dunsany asking, "See what I did there?" Yes, I see what was done, and while I don't deny the cleverness and insight behind the story (is it even a story? more like a collection of vignettes...), I am not a huge fan of stories that point out their own cleverness and insight.
A lot of people have praised Dunsany for his cleverness in coming up with his own cosmogony, something which (the claim is made) had not done before him but which has been repeated frequently afterwards by writers ranging from Tolkien to Terry Pratchett, and beyond. I think critics in general have not properly placed Dunsany's work here as a logical byproduct of the comparative religious studies taking place in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries. Books like The Golden Bough brought together strange gods and goddesses from different lands, and I suspect for people like Dunsany, many of these gods seemed silly and obviously invented. This is not to say that The Gods of Pegana is an imitation of such comparative studies, but that they appear around the same time seems significant. I would have to look further into it, however, to know if there is a more direct connection.
I also think there is a loose, but important, connection between Dunsany's idea of an invented cosmogony and the creation of angelologies and demonologies, particularly in the medieval and renaissance periods. These types of hierarchies drew from classical and biblical stories, but there were many which seem to have simply invented new angels and demons, or given new powers and authorities to old ones. Such works arguably link back even further to things like Ovid's "Metamorphoses."...more
Being a fan of Joss Whedon, it's no surprise that I liked this book. Pascale does a great job of describing the situations, development and impact ofBeing a fan of Joss Whedon, it's no surprise that I liked this book. Pascale does a great job of describing the situations, development and impact of Joss Whedon's work — not just the stuff he has become famous for, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, but also things that are little known, such as his 1990s script doctoring work, or things that never came fully to fruition, such as his film Goners. Perhaps the most successful aspect of the way Pascale weaves Whedon's story is in showing how engaged and prolific he is. Although the chapters are split into somewhat discrete project-based units presented in chronological order, there is still a great sense of overlap, and messiness, to the order in which Joss took on those projects. For example, I never realized before that Nathan Fillion's appearance on Buffy and Gina Torres' and Adam Baldwin's appearances on Angel all occurred afterFirefly was canceled.
If there's one significant criticism I have, it's that I wish there were more information about Whedon's movie In Your Eyes, which was released released in April this year as a digital-only rental. There are four references to the film throughout the book, which give minimal information about the film as it was produced by Bellwether Pictures (Joss and Kai Cole's production company, which also produced Much Ado About Nothing) and released online. Joss has stated that the film came "from an old script" he wrote, and the film's female lead, Zoe Kazan, has dated that script in or around 1992—the same year that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out. I can understand why Pascale wouldn't be able to write about the movie's impact (or lack thereof) upon its release, but even a sentence or two about the initial writing of the script in the early '90s would have been a nice bit of detail, and certainly such detail would be germane given the references to a number of other scripts which never were produced.
All in all, however, this biography will definitely appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Whedon's work, and likely to many who have not enjoyed his work, but who are interested in artistic process.
I was a bit disappointed by this story. It's set up is great, with Poddy's intelligence and ambition shining through. Then, slowly, that all fades, asI was a bit disappointed by this story. It's set up is great, with Poddy's intelligence and ambition shining through. Then, slowly, that all fades, as Poddy becomes more and more reliant on her male family members (Uncle Tom and her brother Clark) and questions both her desire and capability to become a starship pilot.
At the same time as Poddy's agency diminishes, so does the thrust of the story. What starts out as an adventure to explore new (to Poddy) worlds, turns into a frustratingly slow-paced abduction tale in which Poddy repeatedly shows how incapable she is of doing anything on her own. As I read, I kept hoping that Heinlein was going to subvert the increasingly misogynistic trajectory somehow. He never does, and the worst offense comes at the end when Tom calls Poddy's father to blame him for Poddy's condition because he didn't make his wife stay home more to take care of the kids.
Still, poor Heinlein is better than most other stories. Plot and character problems aside, the book is well written. His turns of phrase are typically humorous, and I'm always a sucker for a good anti-government quip or two. The planetary societies are well thought out and described. I just wish that he had put the same effort into the story itself....more
Goodreads allows 20,000 characters for book reviews: Is it possible to provide an acceptable review of Moby-Dick in so few bytes? I suspect not, so thGoodreads allows 20,000 characters for book reviews: Is it possible to provide an acceptable review of Moby-Dick in so few bytes? I suspect not, so this is not a review so much as some memorable moments.
The tale begins with a plentitude of clippings from and references to historical sources about whales, giving the story a sense of depth that can only be described anachronistically as decidedly Tolkienian. I confess I did not read them all, and I don't believe it was strictly necessary to have done so. Upon recognizing, not merely intellectually but emotionally as well ("Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that"), that there exists more recorded history and lore about whales than you ever realized before, you have fully entered the Faërie which Melville has prepared for you. For make no doubt: Moby-Dick is, above all, the story of man's journey into the Perilous Realm.
I was unprepared for how existential and atheistic (or at least deistic) the story is. In particular, the ending of the story proper, ignoring the requisite closing frame of the epilogue, could have swapped places with the last paragraph in A Canticle for Leibowitz: “Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.” — I half-expected Melville to have added, "He was very hungry that season."
Forgive me if I don't try to describe the entirety of the text between that opening barrage and the closing swell....more
Read for research on my paper about the use of Moloch as a metaphor of sacrifice in a burgeoning industrial age (vs. the Miltonian war-like Moloch). CRead for research on my paper about the use of Moloch as a metaphor of sacrifice in a burgeoning industrial age (vs. the Miltonian war-like Moloch). Cf. esp. Alexandr Kuprin's "Moloch" and Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."...more
Asimov is one of the greats for his ideas, if not exactly his prose. There's a lot to quibble about with respect to the artistry in this book —in partAsimov is one of the greats for his ideas, if not exactly his prose. There's a lot to quibble about with respect to the artistry in this book — in particular, the yawn-worthy, pseudo-Socratic exposition (only a scientist could think that two scientists talking to each other makes for a fascinating story). But getting past those stylistic inadequacies, and a few anachronisms, it's still interesting to think about the technical, ethical, social and political problems presented by robots and "machine men."
One of the things that struck me as odd is the persistent insistence by characters — who are typically scientists or engineers — to call various outcomes or reasonings "impossible," only to be shown that such outcomes or reasonings are, in fact, quite possible. I have not decided yet whether this repetition is a grand insight on Asimov's part, i.e., a commentary on the tendency of humans to set artificial boundaries against their own imaginations, or whether it is simply a quirk of the author to need characters who express objection in the superlative to provide some level of tension in an otherwise rather mundane and technical conversation.
Much is made of Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics," which are invoked significantly throughout the stories in this book. While I've run across the laws in others of Asimov's stories, I was a little dismayed to find that in this book they aren't treated quite as rigorously as I had been led to believe. In fact, there seems to be some inconsistency in how exactly the laws function. In some of the stories, it is stated that the laws are, somehow, integral parts of the positronic brain, and that it is "impossible" (there's that word again) for robots not to follow them. In other stories, we got robots who are deliberately modified to ignore parts of the three laws or who are damaged in some way so as to not be able to follow the laws appropriately. I suppose one could explain "positronic inherency vs. programmatic function" with a "nature vs. nurture" metaphor — but I'm not sure it quite works.
Overall, this is a decent collection that mostly holds up. If nothing else, it provides some insight into the ideas that science fiction writers in the early to mid 20th century were thinking about. If they take a different form than today's ideas, well, we can't blame them for that....
Incidentally, it's unfortunate that the terrible, terrible Will Smith movie is featured on the cover of this edition, not only because the movie itself sucked, but also because it has almost nothing to do with any of the stories in this book, beyond a common title....more
This book is a great introduction to not only the language and text of Widsith, but also to its story, and the stories that led to its development. WhThis book is a great introduction to not only the language and text of Widsith, but also to its story, and the stories that led to its development. While a lot of additional scholarship has been done in the last century, Chambers' presentation still does a great job of providing a readable, consolidated view of those who studied the poem before him, with plenty of notes, references and other details available for those who want to dive in deeper.
My favorite part of the book is the chapters on "Stories Known to Widsith," in which Chambers elucidates the myths, legends and historical accounts that the writer(s)/compiler(s)/copyist(s) (and contemporary hearers/readers) of Widsith likely would have been familiar with. Given the amount of name dropping that goes on in Widsith's "catalogs," Chambers' work is much appreciated, both for helping to understand the flow of the poem itself and for providing context as to why the names mentioned were important.
This book is likely to please anyone interested in either the Anglo-Saxon/Old English language or the ancient stories told by the people who spoke it. If you happen to be interest in both, as I am, then double the pleasure....more
Very interesting story. Having worked for a multinational financial corporation during (and slightly after) the most recent financial crisis, I was inVery interesting story. Having worked for a multinational financial corporation during (and slightly after) the most recent financial crisis, I was intrigued by the many parallels Bujold establishes between the real estate investments that what (in?)famously became known as CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and the unsupportable voting scheme that the "cryocorps" come up with in this book. Far from taking an idea to the extreme, the premise seems eerily plausible, given an adequate technological basis.
I like how Bujold has continued to develop different character voices. Throughout the Vorkosigan Saga, we see a variety of character viewpoints, but I think this particular story hits a pinnacle with respect to both pacing and perspective as observed variously by Miles, Roic and Jin.
And then, the ending. How sad. I find it interesting that the one story Bujold has written so far after this one was set prior to it according to internal chronology. Perhaps she's not ready to deal with the fallout of that ending yet. That's pure speculation on my part, of course, but I wouldn't blame her if such were the case.
I'm a bit saddened, not just by the ending but because I am now done with the saga as a whole. I always hate getting to that point in any series where I've caught up. Much like Miles, I don't like having to wait for whatever comes next. *sigh*...more
Incredible story. I read this after seeing the movie, and I'm surprised to see that nearly all of the same elements are there, with perhaps a few minoIncredible story. I read this after seeing the movie, and I'm surprised to see that nearly all of the same elements are there, with perhaps a few minor tweaks combining some of Solomon's overseers/owners into fewer personalities, more suitable for film. About the only noticeable scene that's missing from the movie is Solomon's stopover in Washington during the return trip to sue Burch -- not the most painful of Solomon's experiences, but quite possibly the most frustrating.
As for the book itself, Solomon's tale is highly readable still today. The narrative is fast paced, yet provides sufficient detail to give a good sense of the people who made up a significant part of Solomon's life for that rather long interstice of enslavement. I was also intrigued at Solomon's interjections and descriptions of the institution of slavery, which he described as a complex system full of masters and mistresses who are variously benevolent and baneful, pious and puerile, magnanimous and megalomaniacal. Solomon's commentary on the system is as nuanced as it is unforgiving, being critical without becoming too -- tract-y, for lack of a better word. At the end he even acknowledges that if there is any fault of his story, it is that he highlighted "too prominently the bright side of the picture," a sentiment which it would be much too understated to call unexpected at best.
While not always a happy story, this is definitely a great one.