This was a challenging nut to crack for me, and I love Miller's writing. I grabbed it on a whim at a used shop many, many years ago, figuring it had t...moreThis was a challenging nut to crack for me, and I love Miller's writing. I grabbed it on a whim at a used shop many, many years ago, figuring it had to be good. It's a lot different than his fiction, however, and after reading about 1/3 of the book I had to put it down--it was very heavy going, packed with his thoughts and philosophical musings, often about authors and books that really are not part of what the average person encounters today. Thankfully, Miller doesn't actually dwell too much on specifics that date the writing, but usually just takes his subject as a jumping off point to be wildly enthusiastic about life and reading. I found multiple passages worth underlining and writing margin notes about to ponder until the next time around, and lots of food for thought to use in my own life.
I finally finished the book fifteen years after starting it. Re-reading much of the beginning and reviewing things I underlined and wrote reflections on were interesting. In many ways I have not changed in my passions over certain ideas. Overall, this is the kind of book I need to have an uncluttered mind and free time in my day for--it's not light reading and many passages have to be re-read many times for understanding and absorption. Plus, the typeface is small and dense and rather hard on the eyes, thus not really making the book itself a physical pleasure to read, which is unfortunate given the subject. I've noticed a few of Miller's books have this kind of printing.(less)
This is not subject matter that I would normally be interested in, but Vollmann's continuously engaging and challenging writing style kept me reading...moreThis is not subject matter that I would normally be interested in, but Vollmann's continuously engaging and challenging writing style kept me reading to the end and made me want to start over again at the beginning to compare the transformation of story and style that occurred. But since there are still many books of Vollmann's for me to tackle I am going to move on for now.
Other reviews here give a much better synopsis and evaluation than what I could drum up, so I'll add that I really enjoyed the short bits of the author's present-day experiences with the natives and scenery of Greenland and how they contrasted with the mythological characterizations of same. It added to the feeling of being a part of the storyteller's journey.(less)
It's been a long time since I actually finished a book I hated through and through as much as I hated F&E, but I was determined that if I was goin...moreIt's been a long time since I actually finished a book I hated through and through as much as I hated F&E, but I was determined that if I was going to give this a bad review I had to go ahead and read the entire thing to justify the rating in the face of those who feel one has to read an entire novel to have a valid opinion of its quality. Normally when I know after ten pages that I'm going to genuinely dislike a book I don't read much further.
I was hoping this would be better than Foundation. I read other reviews of that novel with die-hard fans defending it tooth-and-nail to those with even a mild dislike, and figured I should give the series another book's worth of time to gain some steam, since it seems what makes this series a classic award-winning science fiction masterpiece is the scope of its ideas. I am guessing that in 1952 the landscape of science fiction was pretty barren if this is the kind of book that really caught fire and propelled the genre onward and helped give Asimov a name and fan base, because it is quite literally painful, so so painful to read. If this was truly a groundbreaking series, then fine, I can understand its popularity for the time and its historical significance. What I don't get is how readers of today (who are over the age of 14) can take it in any way seriously.
I am a bit puzzled, however, by some of the negative reviews given to this book, because almost no one mentions how awful the actual writing is, and seem to be more distressed either that it's "too talky" or "not enough action" (come on people, read your dust-jackets, this thing has "non-stop action" and "nail-biting suspense"!). I think we actually may be irritated by the same things, but as I read and tried to formulate an opinion to nail down the issues under the surface of the laughable word choices (and name choices--wow, I don't think I've ever encountered dumber names for characters in a book), it was difficult to do, which was even more irritating. There are tons of things going on, and even though it might not be physically action-packed in the department of actual description of wars and battles, there is plenty to keep your mind busy. Asimov doesn't help, however, with his lack of skill in juggling these ideas and presenting them to the reader in a way that is engaging, instead of in a way that makes the reader continually back track and re-read because of "what the hell is going on here?"
There is indeed lots of "talky" going on in F&E. I can deal with dialogue-only books, no sweat. I think I may have narrowed down some of what gave me the willies reading this, and that is the style of Talky going on, plus the style of describing events, in which Asimov succeeds in making action occur in almost entirely meaningless, boring ways. It became a bit of high comedy for me to actually read the book in my head and play out the character actions as Asimov describes them. A classic example: 'With cold-eyed calm, Toran drove a protesting vessel from the vicinity of one star to that of another.' And possibly my favorite bit of dialogue descriptor: '"But nothing impends. Nothing hangs over us." Indbur almost wrung his hands for anxiety. With a sudden spasmodic recrudescence of ferocity, he screamed, "Will you get off my desk and let me put it in order?"' I had my own gleeful giggle over that sentence upon first encounter. Every page is jam-packed with material like that, and it doesn't take long for it to get in the way of the already hard-to-swallow ideas of Seldon's psychohistory and the progress of the ga-LAX-y of millions of planets. I feel so sorry for whoever had to perform the audio-book version of this, but I'm curious to listen to it to see how they handle instructions like "Toran cried in near-agony" and "Mis said, in a hoarse whisper" and "The thick voice was lost in a bubbling whisper" and "with an affectation of confidence" and "said the commissioner emphatically" on and on, etc.
Ah well, I wrote a lot for a book that I thought was terrible, and I'm not going to change anyone's mind amongst the fans. I needed to get this out of my system since I forced myself to read the entire thing and perhaps will help dissuade others from making the same error. Read one of Asimov's other 405 books. I read Prelude to Foundation many years ago and I don't remember it being that difficult, but then I had much more time to myself and had a lot of great books yet to read (heck I even choked down Atlas Shrugged not too long after that--couldn't do that today).(less)
What a great and unusual collection of stories. The writing here is generally not as hard to follow as it was in You Bright and Risen Angels, and much...moreWhat a great and unusual collection of stories. The writing here is generally not as hard to follow as it was in You Bright and Risen Angels, and much of the style and ideas that come to more of a polished shine in later works are evident here, and it's fun to witness after having read some of Vollmann's later work. My favorite stories here were The Blue Yonder, Scintillant Orange, and The White Knights. Most of the rest were engaging and never failed to be completely original for me as far as execution. The two stories that I couldn't connect with were The Green Dress and Violet Hair. I enjoy how Vollmann takes influences from seemingly every corner of human thinking and experience and throws them next to each other, often teasing the reader and twisting the borders of the story's world when you think you're figuring out The Rules of each one. I want to keep going--I've now read five of WtV's books and consider him one of my favorite authors, yet by my count there are about thirteen more major works of his to go--but reading Vollmann is exhausting. I'll be coming back to him soon, though.(less)
This was my third attempt at reading Doctor Faustus, and my second attempt at a Mann novel, the first being Magic Mountain, which I was also unable to...moreThis was my third attempt at reading Doctor Faustus, and my second attempt at a Mann novel, the first being Magic Mountain, which I was also unable to complete, though I got farther in that book than this one. I was excited about Doctor Faustus, being tangentially familiar with the theme of the story through musical representations of Faust, and since the story has a main character devoted to the arts. The intellectual scope of this work is indeed impressive, and my rating reflects the pop-up subtitles of the stars, "didn't like it" as opposed to rating the quality of the writing, which is quite high. I had incredible difficulty connecting in any way with Mann's (translated) style and structure, and the fact that I have relatively little (or very old) knowledge of philosophy or WWII Germany did not help. I found the passages regarding music to be the most interesting, but even those lost my interest since Leverkuhn and the narrator discuss music in such esoteric fashion that even musicians would find it insufferably abstract. Also, anyone put off by the lengthy passages discussing the nuts and bolts of theory shouldn't feel bad about skipping them. There's no real reason for them to be there other than to show that the characters know how to manipulate harmony. Plus, John Woods is not always strictly accurate in his translation of those passages.
In addition, while reading the Woods translation I was constantly aware that I was reading Mann through the filter of an intermediary. As difficult as I found it to be, I was always thinking that there is no way that the original German could possibly be as thorny to digest as the English that was replacing it. I went to the library to check out H.T. Lowe-Porter's translation, and while it was still tough going, it seemed a little more honest. But after looking at some of the rather wild differences between the two interpretations here and there, I was fairly mistrustful of the whole endeavor. Does anyone know of a better translation?
Maybe after aging for another ten years I will have more insight and knowledge to approach this work again.
Short version--the book was over my head (even with a thorough personal knowledge of music), and I was additionally unable to take any pleasure out of the wordsmithing.
A parallel to music: there are many works of the last 150 years that have deep philosophical roots but are additionally a great challenge to digest aurally. Exploring the philosophy or other creative seeds from which the work grew is certainly icing on the cake and only makes the work richer, but I don't need to have that in order to fall in love with the piece (as thorny as it might be). I did not encounter a similar situation in writing with Doctor Faustus.(less)
I don't read too much in the horror genre any more with the exception of Stephen King, but I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, which ha...moreI don't read too much in the horror genre any more with the exception of Stephen King, but I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, which has received a lot of great reviews, and I heard lots of good things about the book. The book was very good and I would like to say the translation is excellent, though I have no basis for that other than I didn't ever feel like I was reading a "translated" book--which happens often when I read books in English translated from other languages--I never stopped and wondered if I was really getting an honest equivalent of what the author was expressing. I've read a lot now about the film and I almost don't want to see it, since the book really takes you unflinchingly down some dark territory, and I think that taking any of it away lessens the story. The balance of characters and plot lines to story was very good, and even though the book was a bit long I still would have liked a couple of the characters to be more fleshed out.(less)
Short take: It was readable and went very quickly, but I was ultimately disappointed in the direction the book went after the first half.
I was most i...moreShort take: It was readable and went very quickly, but I was ultimately disappointed in the direction the book went after the first half.
I was most interested in the angle about what happens to a person who is raised with a completely different set of stimuli and human interaction than the rest of society. I guess you could say that's exactly what the rest of the novel is about, but it seemed more to steer away from the deeper facets of that aspect and more towards general female teen angst. The novel started off with some real hints of something supernatural going on but really petered out with it as the main character ages. I was hoping for a little more depth of character and exploration of the mysteries around the initial abandonment and musical communication abilities of the child. Without being to spoiler-y once it went beyond the two main characters I felt the story kind went off the rails and didn't stick to the seeds from where it grew.
I'm going to disagree with many others and say that I found Lindqvist's depiction of the inner mental lives of teenage girls to be lacking in believability, which was a bit of a problem for me seeing as that is the meat of the middle of the book and was what mostly led to my perceiving the last half to be much weaker. The emotional and shocking elements that happen in the first section were effective, compared to what happens at the end, which failed to engage me in any similar fashion.
Still, the writing was always engaging, even when my interest was flagging in the last 100 pages, and there were many genuinely creative and creepy interactions and scenarios. (less)
I have been excited about Thomas Bernhard's works ever since I was first introduced to his writing through of all things a men's fashion magazine in t...moreI have been excited about Thomas Bernhard's works ever since I was first introduced to his writing through of all things a men's fashion magazine in the early 90s. I ran to the library and picked up a copy of Woodcutters and thought it was one of the most interesting and unusual things I'd ever read. Ever since I've slowly been collecting and making my way through his novels. Concrete has been a bit thorny. While I enjoyed steeping myself in the main character's lunacy, I had a fairly difficult time staying engaged and interested in the work as it progressed. I had to put this one down and pick it up again many times. I think I put myself at a disadvantage by reading it this way, too, kind of a vicious circle. Concrete is probably best experienced as if one were stuck in a room with the narrator and were not allowed out until he was done speaking. Once the train of thought is broken, and I am allowed to return to my own reality, it becomes a challenge to return.
Some day I will re-read Bernhard's novels (once I get through them the first time) and will probably enjoy this one better on a second trip.(less)
I was pretty convinced I did not need to finish this after the halfway mark, but after I put it down for a few days I was able to come back and finish...moreI was pretty convinced I did not need to finish this after the halfway mark, but after I put it down for a few days I was able to come back and finish the job. Now that it's done I don't know if I really needed to finish it. As I was reading it I was pretty convinced that Bukowski was playing me. But, amidst all of the repetitive unrealistic screwing, he would throw in unexpected flashes of life wisdom that I identified with and keep me sated until the next nugget. It was rough going even with this book being an incredibly easy read. Ham on Rye was one of my favorite reads fifteen years ago, but that book had a more diverse storyline and scenarios that were believable. Women just seemed to ramble. But hey, if I ever find myself single in my 50s, even though I presumably won't be a fat, toothless, dirty alcoholic with springs sticking out of my bed, just maybe I'll try out some of these techniques on the ladies.(less)
As with other reviewers I had some difficulties with the New Religion and hyperempathy elements of the novel, but the more thought I give them the har...moreAs with other reviewers I had some difficulties with the New Religion and hyperempathy elements of the novel, but the more thought I give them the harder it is to unravel them from the book without destroying the basic foundations of the characters and what is driving them. And one of the great things about this book is how much it opens up for discussion and thought. Family relations, race relations, sexuality, survival in the face of impossible odds--Butler allows the reader to place themselves in virtually all positions. How would you try to hold your community together? What would you do with your son who won't abide by your rules in the face of apocalypse? Would you have the strength to forge ahead with a potentially debilitating pyschic condition? How do you balance religious upbringing and violence to ensure your survival? Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the vast array of issues that are tackled here. The beauty of the novel is how Octavia Butler is able to present all of that and still manage to tell a tightly knit, believable story, with just about no fat in the text to distract the reader. (less)
Not bad. I've been slowly moving away from fantasy and sci-fi, but have only recently really discovered Samuel Delaney. The stories in this collection...moreNot bad. I've been slowly moving away from fantasy and sci-fi, but have only recently really discovered Samuel Delaney. The stories in this collection were hit and miss, but none of them were anything less than inventive and fascinating to experience. Delaney is a master with language and bringing scenes into focus without explicitly spelling things out for the reader, which I appreciate. But at the same time it could also be a lot of work trying to find my bearings in each story, and I sometimes wished it weren't quite so abstract each time. I'm also not always enamored with the repeated images of chains, colored glass, and nakedness, at least in this collection, but I think I might be ready now to go back and re-read Dhalgren, now that I have a better grasp of Delaney's style and mind.(less)
I recently bought this volume for my brother-in-law as a Christmas gift, then pulled the anime off my shelf for another go-around (it's been years sin...moreI recently bought this volume for my brother-in-law as a Christmas gift, then pulled the anime off my shelf for another go-around (it's been years since I last saw it), but after the first fifteen minutes decided it was time to re-read the graphic novels, and I am lucky enough to have a public library that has the entire series. I've read them once, but it's been long enough that most of the details of the story are a blur now, and as good as the film version is on its own, it is a mess compared to the novels it is based on. I want to come back to the film with a firm grasp of the entire graphic novel. Since it is a six-volume epic, there is a lot to absorb. If you're looking here to see whether or not this story is worth your time, it is, but please ignore the low-score reviews complaining alternately that it takes no time to read, is paced poorly, is too light in story, or is too complicated.
Like any good story, Akira rewards slow reading and attention to detail, and once you've been through the experience, picking it up again later and giving it another look. This volume is just a basic introduction to the characters and ideas that run throughout the six volumes (and there are more characters to come). There is a ton of action, and a huge amount of the pleasure of reading this volume comes from paying attention to the immense detail of the drawings--not only in rendering cityscapes, but facial expressions, body poses, "camera" angles to view action, shading, contrast from panel to panel, layouts that improvise on tradition, timing of panel variation, etc. etc. The volume is an impressive feat of art. Of course, one can just scan each page and read the small amount of dialogue, but you're only scratching the surface doing that.
The only complaint I've read amongst the reviews that really has any weight is that of translation. There really are some clunkers in the dialogue, especially when characters are at heights of emotion and yelling at each other. It's a pretty small detraction, though.(less)
I ran out of steam towards the end of this one and began a bit of speed-reading to find out what happens. This is my third Woodrell book--I very much...moreI ran out of steam towards the end of this one and began a bit of speed-reading to find out what happens. This is my third Woodrell book--I very much enjoyed Winter's Bone and Woe to Live On. Give Us a Kiss was enjoyable but a bit uneven, and I went in and out of being convinced with the dichotomy of literate wordsmith vs. backwoods hick in the main character. Still, there were quite a few clever moments of high-falutin' words partnered with acts of shitkickery that made me smile, and a few scenes that made me laugh out loud with their excellent timing and dialogue.(less)
To be completely honest, I made it to page 270 and I am going to call it "read." As much as I am appreciating the translation and writing, there is no...moreTo be completely honest, I made it to page 270 and I am going to call it "read." As much as I am appreciating the translation and writing, there is nothing Star of the Unborn is offering that I can really continue to absorb properly. I finally looked up Franz Werfel to learn more about the author, and I was amused to find that Thomas Mann is one of his literary heroes, and the structure of the book made a bit more sense to me. As one who has attempted Mann and am definitely not worthy of his writing, I find that Werfel's sci-fantasy follows much in the same footsteps, with interesting characters and events mired in deep, chapter-long conversations about politics, religion, and philosophy that I am lost trying to figure out. Still, for 1.00 it has definitely been worth the time to experience an epic of this sort from a German author writing in the 1940s.(less)