This book is full of great ideas, but something about the writing or characters kept me from really getting absorbed by the story. The p...moreRating: 6.5/10
This book is full of great ideas, but something about the writing or characters kept me from really getting absorbed by the story. The protagonist shows little feeling throughout the book, and randomly makes inexplicable decisions with little apparent motive. Still, I'd say it was worth reading.(less)
A darker, more realistic take on Harry Potter and Narnia style fantasy, with college aged characters. It has received much vitriol and also much prais...moreA darker, more realistic take on Harry Potter and Narnia style fantasy, with college aged characters. It has received much vitriol and also much praise in initial reviews, which makes me curious to check it out.
I was disappointed by this book which repeatedly showed potential for brilliance, but which ultimately was just long and dry. The footnote...moreRating: 5/10
I was disappointed by this book which repeatedly showed potential for brilliance, but which ultimately was just long and dry. The footnotes and the thoughtfully constructed history were excellent, but that was not enough to make up for the weak characters and storytelling.
The characters are bizarrely full of passion over small things, and then listless at the most important moments of the story. Without going into detail, the ending of the book highlights this perfectly. The two characters in that scene play their roles as if they have no souls. It goes way beyond English repression to the point of being inhuman. I never felt connected to the characters as a result.
The storytelling itself is similar in that the author seems to have no idea when she has something good. Just when the story builds and we are really getting caught up in it, we will be sent on a long irrelevant tangent - either a footnote or a far less interesting plot point. And when we return to the main action, it will be quickly ended in the most anticlimactic way possible.
There are many great ideas in this book. I would love to see all the good pieces extracted and rewritten by someone who can weave a compelling story. (less)
Although some of the stories were more satisfying than others, there is enough excellent, entertaining material here that I was very glad...moreRating: 8/10
Although some of the stories were more satisfying than others, there is enough excellent, entertaining material here that I was very glad to have had the chance to read this collection. The concept of short stories which contain plot and adventure, and which avoid the anti-ending, is an idea I can readily embrace.
Jim Shepard's "Tedford and the Megalodon" A good opener. Though it is by no means the swashbuckling tale promised by the cover, I found it strangely poetic and transcendent as it reached its conclusion.
Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter" Interesting concept, didn't like the execution though.
Dan Chaon's "The Bees" Unpleasant and unsatisfying.
Kelly Link's "Catskin" Really weird and experimental.
Elmore Leonard's "How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman" A pretty good western story.
Carol Emshwiller's "The General" Great stuff.
Neil Gaiman's "Closing Time" Hmmm. Kind of a failed twist ending.
Nick Hornby's "Otherwise Pandemonium" Creative concept, a tad ridiculous though.
Stephen King's "The Tale of Gray Dick" A scene from the Dark Tower. I wonder if this would make sense if I hadn't read the series.
Michael Crichton's "Blood Doesn’t Come Out" Unpleasant.
Laurie King's "Weaving the Dark" Quite good.
Chris Offutt's "Chuck’s Bucket" I really enjoyed this crazy tale.
Dave Eggers's "Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly" Excellent writing here.
Michael Moorcock's "The Case of the Nazi Canary" Great story, fun to read.
Aimee Bender's "The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers" Gimmicky, lacking in plot, kinda lame.
Sherman Alexie's "Ghost Dance" This one was weird, I feel undecided about it.
Harlan Ellison's "Goodbye to All That" Walks a fine line between clever and dumb.
Karen Joy Fowler's "Private Grave 9" This is the kind of story this collection purports to avoid - the kind where nothing happens.
Rick Moody's "The Albertine Notes" Awesome! Deep, potent, brilliant, complex. If you read one story, read this.
Michael Chabon's "The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance" Good story. Could be a great start to a novel. (less)
My first reading of Palahniuk. I was not surprised that it was rather dark at times, but I was surprised that the tone o...more**spoiler alert** Rating: 6/10
My first reading of Palahniuk. I was not surprised that it was rather dark at times, but I was surprised that the tone of that darkness was often more somber than edgy.
The story draws you in at first with a mystery about disappearing rooms, and some clever exposition on the anatomy of faces. However, it quickly becomes more about the sad life of a woman in difficult times. As her story progresses, a larger mystery about the town's history unfolds, and it picks up speed as it approaches the big conclusion. Some aspects of the storytelling are really wearing thin towards the end, but I was nevertheless engaged and eager to see how it wrapped up.
*SPOILERS* The conclusion is where I really felt let down. The story contains many elements which can't be easily explained, and which seem to indicate that there is something magical happening, a sort of dark fairy tale. However, the ending tries to make too much sense of it all. Misty's paintings are just a distraction? The town elders happily commit suicide to make their children rich? How is Misty able to draw a place she's never seen, and make captivating paintings while blindfolded? Why do the townspeople never stop to think, maybe we should just live normal lives? It feels undercooked and unsatisfying. And that gimmick of a letter on the last page was silly.
This reminds me of how I felt during the Matrix sequels. I thought that with all the crazy buildup and ideas floating around, there must be a really clever, fascinating ending as the payoff. But at the end, it's just hollow. There's a difference between an open-ended story and simply not knowing how to finish.