I really enjoyed this book. It's wildly imaginative and has a great tone - the book combines the unrestrained fantastic elements of a childrens book wI really enjoyed this book. It's wildly imaginative and has a great tone - the book combines the unrestrained fantastic elements of a childrens book with a very adult approach, so that a brothel full of freaks or a man with a head injury being kept drugged on amanita-laced urine by a pedaristic confidence trickster is presented no less whimsically than a group of educated apes negotiating business contracts with a man dressed as Uncle Sam through the intercessions of a clairvoyant pig (which is not to suggest that the book doesn't take many dark turns). It's also written in a wonderfully rococo style that practically pulses with energy. And the characters are all very engaging, drawn as big bold archetypes for the better part again in a style reminiscent of a children's book.
I suppose that's part of the point, really. The main thrust of the novel is the way Fevvers is perceived and how she exploits it (tellingly, she calls herself a "new woman" but practices the oldest profession, and the book is a sort of examination if how these facets of her personality are reconciled) but it"s also a strange reimagining of a classic adventure tale if running away with the circus, in which all the magic and marvels are present but ultimately rendered banal by the nature of the enterprise that is the Circus. Above all, though, it's marvellously entertaining.
One thing I found myself wondering as I read this is what Magical Realism actually is, and whether it's distinct from Fantasy as a genre. I'd say it's a subgenre, as it is distinct, but no more than High Fantasy is distinct from Dark Urban Fantasy. It seems to consist of presenting a world like our own in which magic or the miraculous is an accepted part of life, but not a dominant one - in which folk tales occasionally turnout to be true, stepping on a crack will sometimes break your mother's back, magical thinking works from time to time, the forgetting if a massacre can literally change reality, and tiger's can be taught to waltz. Kept to those confines, it makes sense. It therefore also makes sense to note that Nights at the Circus would be a magical realist work, but The Master and Margarita (which is a far more conventional "intrusion into our reality by otherworldly forces" story, and also has shapeshifting cats and a witches sabbath) is Literary Urban Fantasy....more
The Lords and Ladies are my favourite Discworld villains. Unlike the vampires in Carpet Jugulum, they're genuinely otherworldly and genuinely scary. IThe Lords and Ladies are my favourite Discworld villains. Unlike the vampires in Carpet Jugulum, they're genuinely otherworldly and genuinely scary. I've always been a little creeped-out by folkloric elves.
In addition, you get both all four witches and the best Unseen faculty members in one book, a solid plot, actual development of all the characters and a number of solid jokes (although this isn't as funny as some other Discworld books). Pratchett almost manages to wax philosophical without overdoing it as he sometimes did, mostly showing rather than telling. The only thing I didn't much like was the very ending, which was thematically interesting but a bit of a drag to read - although I've been reading all the Witches books lately and it's only really a problem if you oversaturate yourself with Discworld and the novelty starts to wear off.
Anyway, I really enjoyed it.
Also there's a bit where Granny Weatherwax thinks she's a bee....more
The art's decent, which is good, since aside from one or two ok jokes the writing is pretty mediocre. I think the problem is the main character, who'sThe art's decent, which is good, since aside from one or two ok jokes the writing is pretty mediocre. I think the problem is the main character, who's one of those "killer bunny" types that always grate on me. It's worth reading if you can get it from a library or a friend, and it's fun enough....more
I think the oddness of this book may be a result of the success of the first two. By the end of the nineties, you couldn't move for dark, quirky thrilI think the oddness of this book may be a result of the success of the first two. By the end of the nineties, you couldn't move for dark, quirky thrillers about emotionally damaged FBI agents or nigh-incredibly ghoulish "themed" killers. So I suppose maybe Harris thought "This book is going to sell eben if it sucks. I might as well take some chances, do something different and memorable, and hopefully annoy as many people as possible in the process".
This book is deeply, deeply weird. It doesn't work as a thriller. It barely holds together as a conventional narrative. The writing quality ranges from moments of oddly poetic brilliance to ham-fisted crap delivered with the subtlety of a farrier's hammer. But it's a page turner. And something about it gets under the skin. If the purpose of a horror novel is to on the one hand indulge the reader's voyeuristic sadism while on the other hand leaving them deeply troubled about themselves. then Hannibal succeeds admirably.
I also like that Lecter refers constantly to a cookbook by Alexandre Dumas. Harris himself clearly followed Dumas' recipe very closely when composing this book....more
An extremely good book. Attenborough is a funny and engaging writer who has lived an incredibly interesting life. One thing that surprised me is thatAn extremely good book. Attenborough is a funny and engaging writer who has lived an incredibly interesting life. One thing that surprised me is that I expected this book to be purely autobiographical, but in fact it's really more of a travelogue loaded with fascinating descriptions and and observations of the various species, cultures and people the author has encountered over the course of his life. The book also spends quite a lot of time discussing the technical and logistical problems inherent in filming such a wide range of subjects in such a thorough and complicated way. I found these parts especially interesting, as I always find it difficult to watch these sorts of programmes without spending as much time wondering about how they filmed it as what they managed to film. ...more
A pretty fun read. Quite slight, though, and a lot of what went on was pretty preposterous. It also seemed as though the book was written with an eyeA pretty fun read. Quite slight, though, and a lot of what went on was pretty preposterous. It also seemed as though the book was written with an eye for being filmed, and room was clearly left for a sequel. Appropriate, as the film was better....more
All the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was aAll the stories in this collection are entertaining, some are really quite interesting, and a few are genuinely great. However, given that this was a selection of stories from what was originally a much longer text, I kind of wish that the translator/editor had picked slightly fewer stories about fox spirits and ghosts turning into hot chicks and boning scholars. I always thought that was a cool idea for a story, but honestly after reading this book I could happily go five years without encountering another supernatural love story....more
A very engaging collection of narratives, but philosophically it's just another vague mess. I wish it had all been science fiction, since those were tA very engaging collection of narratives, but philosophically it's just another vague mess. I wish it had all been science fiction, since those were the most engaging parts. "An Orison of Sonmi-451" and "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" were two extremely good science fiction stories that between them built-up a very intriguing picture of a plausible future history. I never really wound-up caring about the plight of Frobisher at all, the extremely enjoyable first half of the Pacific Journal was let down by a weak conclusion which damaged the book as a whole, and I'm still not really sure what the Luisa Rey mystery (as much as I enjoyed it) had to do with anything, beyond setting-up the fact that Seaboard's reactors were being used in the world of Nea So Copros. The reincarnation angle was extremely weak, especially considering the fact that several of the characters appear to have been fictional.
I'm not sure why I'm complaining, though. As sheer escapist literature this is great stuff, and cutting the stories in half is a nice trick for making you want to find-out what happens next....more
I fear I am too stupid to appreciate this book fully. There were some wonderful moments and a few excellent characters, but I couldn't get into the leI fear I am too stupid to appreciate this book fully. There were some wonderful moments and a few excellent characters, but I couldn't get into the lengthy satires of 17th century thought and as a consequence I felt detached from the book. I don't remember enough of what I learned at university to "get" all the symbolism. Putting that aside, it was beautifully written (or beautifully translated), often very funny, and kept me interested the whole time I was reading. ...more