OK, it's basically just a big picture book, but what wonderful pictures. Looking through Terra Maxima will make you appreciate that there is amazing aOK, it's basically just a big picture book, but what wonderful pictures. Looking through Terra Maxima will make you appreciate that there is amazing architecture all around the world and stir your desire for travel to places you hadn't previously thought of visiting. I kind of ended up wishing that it wouldn't have been limited to man-made objects, but would also have included natural wonders. Coverage of some of our darker achievements might have also made for interesting comparisons: polluting factories, factory farms, or incarceration facilities for instance. ...more
I quite enjoyed this play about a playwright and his family. Playwright John goes home to visit his aging parents, primarily to seek some kind of permI quite enjoyed this play about a playwright and his family. Playwright John goes home to visit his aging parents, primarily to seek some kind of permission from his father to get a play (called The Cocktail Hour) produced that is inspired by the father. The parents object, the son withdraws the request, but the cocktail hour discussion that it creates reveals many flaws in the underlying family dynamic. An adult sister is also visiting, and the different treatment that her urge to put her family aside while she explores the possibility of becoming a veterinarian makes for an interesting point of contrast.
The meta-commentary on the playwright's life and how one should use one's personal and family experiences is enlightening, and Gurney has a sense of humor about all of his characters. None of them is the villain or the hero of the piece.
I don't know, maybe plays like this about the death throes of WASP culture are passe, but I would be happy to act in or direct this piece, and I think it still has plenty to say. Family dysfunction doesn't have to be as dark as something like Tennessee Williams or August Osage County to work on stage. ...more
This is science fiction as action movie, with lots of tech, lots of explosive set pieces, and quirky characters who often speak in one liners. We've gThis is science fiction as action movie, with lots of tech, lots of explosive set pieces, and quirky characters who often speak in one liners. We've got a somewhat mysterious super agent (Cormac) doing multi-planet battle with a crew of criminals including a mastermind (Pelter), a psychotic cyborg (Mr. Crane) and a more sympathetic member of the villain's crew who is used as the POV. There's also a confusing biomechanical Dragon, a creature with almost godlike powers. On all sides of the battle there are many other secondary characters, mostly there to serve as colorful cannon fodder.
Asher isn't unsophisticated and he has a lot of creative tech. The pacing is good, and the settings are colorful. But perhaps less would be more, in particular, there are too many characters to keep straight. This would be a great step up for those who are dipping into reading from video games or science fiction action, or a nice place for a reader of more conceptual science fiction to take a "breather" without dumbing down too much. But after a couple of books, I feel like I already see a formula in Asher's writing, and I don't know if I will race out to read a lot more. If I do, I would return to his Spatterjay series, a combination of pirates, SF, and creative nautical world that I thought was more fun than this series opener....more
I think the reviews on this one are a bit low, perhaps we're hitting a point of reading fatigue with dystopian futures.
Marshall's first novel imaginesI think the reviews on this one are a bit low, perhaps we're hitting a point of reading fatigue with dystopian futures.
Marshall's first novel imagines a near future where boys who are determined by the state to have a genetic tendency toward violence or criminal behavior are shut into re-education facilities, but of course, as such facilities go, we quickly get a chicken-and-egg problem. Do the boys really have a tendency, or does their treatment as prisoners create anti-social tendencies? To make matters worse, an external group called the Zeros would like to go even further: they'd like the boys simply to be exterminated before they can create any problems. Our narrator James (all the boys are given the last name Goodhouse, after the private firm that runs the "schools" in which they are kept) has already survived the burning of another Goodhouse school before the novel even begins.
This is a sad story in the sense of Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, in that some of the boys believe the criticism against them and don't trust themselves, or simply give into urges toward bad behavior. The people who are supposed to be rehabilitating the boys are also using them as a labor pool and as a population to try experimental drugs on. As the story begins, James meets a strange girl from the outside who gets under his skin. With her assistance, a plan to escape begins to foment in his mind, even as he's exposed to an even rougher world of adult detention centers.
There is perhaps a bit too much going on in this overstuffed novel, but Marshall juggles her many plot lines well. The pacing is good and the characters are interesting. Among a crowded field of dystopias, this is one that deserves your reading attention....more
Well I didn't expect this. The subject matter and setting would leave one expecting a plain spoken book with taciturn people, perhaps emphasizing plotWell I didn't expect this. The subject matter and setting would leave one expecting a plain spoken book with taciturn people, perhaps emphasizing plot and local color over style. But Doig is a beautiful stylist, one of those writers you can enjoy just for his sentences and surprising phrases, not just the larger work.
The story is about Jick, a fourteen-year-old in Montana trying to navigate a summer working with his father in the forest service (in a place where fires are the great concern), exploring the history of the relationship between his parents and a mysterious local drunk, and getting used to the departure of his brother, a bright young man who wants to settle for dead end work as a cowhand and early marriage to a local beauty. The plot is a bit pokey, as befits 1930s Montana, and it's clear from the beginning that the story will probably culminate with a fire, but Doig creates a great atmosphere, and Jick is an original, an eloquent, bright kid just coming into his own in a place where one expects someone different.
Doig is one of those writers I've been meaning to get to for years, and now that I've tried him, I will be back....more
This doesn't read terribly well on the page, as there are two concurrent stories, one of a mystery writer struggling with the Hollywood system and theThis doesn't read terribly well on the page, as there are two concurrent stories, one of a mystery writer struggling with the Hollywood system and the other following his detective on a noir adventure. Most of the actors in the show play somewhat equivalent parts in each part of the production. Scenes are quick. That adds up to a script that's a bit hard to follow on the page. Besides, plot isn't so much the point here as style, this is an homage to a genre, complete with a stylish, jazzy score that is catchy and full of clever lyrics.
So I would love to watch, or even better participate in a production of City of Angels, but I don't recommend it as a script to read unless you're exploring it for theatrical purposes. That said, this is one of the shows that most deserve a good revival or at least some quality regional productions....more
Hill and Rodriguez bring their horrific family saga to a close in fine fashion. To me, this graphic series is just the right length and remains of gooHill and Rodriguez bring their horrific family saga to a close in fine fashion. To me, this graphic series is just the right length and remains of good quality throughout. In this final volume, Dodge has the Omega key and brings the forces of darkness to bear against Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, and the friends and family who have survived this far into the battle with them. I'm not that visual of a person, so I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but this one satisfies on a story level and Gabriel Rodriguez's art is exemplary, particularly nice when focused on the house and the keys. Even if you don't love graphic stuff, I recommend giving this series a shot....more
Faust, Martin Luther, and Hamlet walk into a bar at the University of Wittenberg. It's not the setup for a joke, it's the summary of Wittenberg, by DaFaust, Martin Luther, and Hamlet walk into a bar at the University of Wittenberg. It's not the setup for a joke, it's the summary of Wittenberg, by David Davalos, a play where campus comedy meets philosophical thinkpiece. Hamlet's away at university, and as he tends to do, he's waffling between two ways of being, this time the religious life and that of the earthly philosopher. Although Faust and Luther are the two professors competing for his soul, they go through some of their own moral crises in the course of the play. It's a piece for four actors, with the three men and then one woman playing several small parts.
I really liked this at first, as the play begins with lots of quirky humor, but as it grows more seriously philosophical toward the end, I felt like it lost momentum. I'd still love to see a good production, but I'm not sure this would land too heavily with most audiences....more
With rich characters and a treatment of setting that drops you into time and place perfectly, it's hard to see what some readers aren't liking about tWith rich characters and a treatment of setting that drops you into time and place perfectly, it's hard to see what some readers aren't liking about this book. I guess they were hoping for something more plot-driven with big twists or some kind of wild climax. I suspect they are hoping for something either more darkly noir or, conversely, a much lighter conventional romance. Instead, they get something that stays in the real space between: a story with people who are exceptional but still believable, a plot that consistently maintains light suspense and has a good story arc that eschews pat solutions to life's more intractable problems.
The central character is Delaney, an aging doctor who lost the wife he loved under mysterious circumstances, carries the physical and emotional scars of WWI, and has an adult daughter who has gone a bit astray. He's a real keystone in his neighborhood, the doctor who makes house calls and does his best to clean up other people's messes. As the novel opens, his daughter leaves her son on Delaney's doorstep to go in search of his father in pre-revolution Spain. Rose Verga, a woman in her late 30s, moves in with Delaney to help him take care of the tot, Carlito, and the three of them begin to form familial bonds, but with all of their unresolved issues, plus those of class and culture, plus some awkward involvement with local criminals, blocking their connection. Along the way, you get great conflicts and details of Delaney's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, the waning days of Tammany Hall politics, and the uncomfortable connection between gangsters and the people who live among them. It's a rich story that doesn't take any missteps. Apparently I have to catch up on Pete Hamill, because I really loved this book. ...more
The book begins in 1905, on the day that Armand de Potter, a tour guide for the wealthy and antiquities dealer, disappears. After that, the timeline iThe book begins in 1905, on the day that Armand de Potter, a tour guide for the wealthy and antiquities dealer, disappears. After that, the timeline is a game of hopscotch in time, alternating between the Belgian emigre de Potter and his wife, Aimee. At times the book dips into a portion of de Potter's rise, and then it slips forward to incidents that are part of his fall. Slowly, the reader pieces together that little was as it seemed in de Potter's life and that the characteristics that gave him a modest fame and wealth were part of the same package that ultimately led to his downfall.
The trouble here is perhaps one of expectations. From the title, the cover, and the settings, most readers would expect a book about the excitement of the grand tour in Europe back in the days of early travel. It's a romantic and attractive concept. Instead when one finds out that the grand tour in question is a schemer's life, and that the attitudes of the story toward travel are cynical rather than romantic, it's likely to be a letdown. At that point, even though one might persist and ultimately enjoy this riddle of a character study, it is perhaps difficult to recapture enthusiasm....more