In some ways this was the best in the trilogy. Robinson does a great job of wrapping up the various threads and delivering a satisfactory ending, no eIn some ways this was the best in the trilogy. Robinson does a great job of wrapping up the various threads and delivering a satisfactory ending, no easy task given how broad this project was.
Like Green Mars, Blue Mars devotes a lot of pages to the politics of a Martian society. That was my favorite part of the second book and it remained my favorite part of this one. I loved getting a glimpse of how a more equal world could work. Granted, there's a fair amount of Utopianism going on here, but even still I found Robinson's approach plausible at the very least.
True to form there's a large amount of world building going on here, and as in the previous installments I skimmed certain sections in my eagerness to get on with the plot. That's par for the course with a writer like Robinson. The big take away for me from this trilogy was that humanity has an inexorable drive to reach further. No sooner has Mars been colonized, before the outer satellites and even some asteroids are being terraformed. By the end of the trilogy Mars is no longer the frontier. In many ways it's a stodgy relic. A central conceit of the trilogy (and one I never really got on board with) is that human lifespans have been significantly extended; people are living into their 200s. While this means that we get to follow the same characters throughout the series, it also means that we see Mars' shifting place in the solar system's politics, which made for an interesting journey. I could've done without some of the sex scenes, though. I really didn't need to read about a 200 year old man having sex with a young woman who could've been his granddaughter. ...more
I've long enjoyed Lightman's fiction, so I was pretty excited when I came across this book. It's a quick read, which is pretty typical for him, but (aI've long enjoyed Lightman's fiction, so I was pretty excited when I came across this book. It's a quick read, which is pretty typical for him, but (also typical) it gets across some pretty mind-expanding ideas.
Accidental Universe is a series of essays, each taking on a different scientific topic with philosophical implications. For instance, there's an interesting exploration of what the instance of intelligent life means in a random iteration of a potentially multi-verse. Others examine the arguments for and against a creator.
Ultimately, Lightman steers clear of answers. A smart move considering the potentially incendiary nature of a lot of the material here.
I recommend this for people looking for a 1,000 foot view on a lot of the human aspects of the cutting edge of cosmology. Very little math and science!...more
I'm a fan of poetry, but it is with great hesitation that I dip my toe into the world of writing a poetry review. While I've read a fair amount of itI'm a fan of poetry, but it is with great hesitation that I dip my toe into the world of writing a poetry review. While I've read a fair amount of it and studied it over the years, I still feel woefully under qualified to offer an informed opinion. Shouldn't one be able to scan a line, identify a form, etc. etc. etc. before one can weigh in on the merits of a particular poem or collection?
In lieu of that knowledge, all that is left for me is to offer an emotional response to reading the work, and on that front I can say this book was a revelation. I found it consistently moving, emotional yet cerebral. While I can't identify the rhythms by name, I can say I felt the power of them confidently ushering me through the poems. ...more
I was prompted to read this book after watching a documentary about Snowden and how he went about leaking the information he did. I must say I was notI was prompted to read this book after watching a documentary about Snowden and how he went about leaking the information he did. I must say I was not disappointed. Greenwald does a commendable job of walking the reader through the often complex ways the NSA conducts its surveillance. I was vaguely aware of the extent of their operations, but to see how it all works together systemically was quite alarming. I thought the most salient point made here is that the very act of being surveilled is enough to change a person's actions. We act more in line with how we perceive those surveilling us wish for us to act. Surveillance is inherently a violent action and while I agree that it is necessary in some cases, indiscriminate surveillance on the level conducted by the NSA and similar organizations around the world is unjustifiable. To a large extent this book is a defense of Snowden. I'm not sure it will change anybody's mind about the man (or Greenwald for that matter), but for those on the fence or simply uninformed about his role in United States history it's a great resource....more
Not your ordinary celebrity biography. The premise here is that Alan Cumming discovers that he may not be his father's son, hence the title. It's a miNot your ordinary celebrity biography. The premise here is that Alan Cumming discovers that he may not be his father's son, hence the title. It's a mixed blessing for Cumming, who had never had a good relationship with the man he's always believed to be his father, Alex Cumming.
From the tone of the book, I assume a lot of the biographical overtones are already part of the public record—Cumming's dad was verbally and physically abusive to both him and his brother throughout their lives. But the memoir goes into greater detail, recounting some horrific scenes. The book is kind of a mystery. Cumming researches whether or not he is, in fact, his father's son while simultaneously filming a reality television program investigating an old family mystery surrounding his maternal grandfather's death shortly after the second World War. Interspersed throughout all this are gossipy details about the celebrity life.
For the most part, Cumming keeps the tone light, injecting humor whenever possible, but it often feels a bit random with tidbits about his theater appearances juxtaposed with traumatic memories of abuse. Individually, I found all the parts interesting, but taken together as a whole I wished for a tighter focus. I suppose this approach does a good job of conveying that dizzying feeling that comes with juggling all of life's disparate parts at any given moment, but it failed to galvanize for me.
Still, it's a pretty entertaining read, perfect for a rainy weekend or a long train ride....more
Ehin's fantastical stories convey so much so swiftly. It really did feel like reading a personal mythology. The characters and scenarios were somehowEhin's fantastical stories convey so much so swiftly. It really did feel like reading a personal mythology. The characters and scenarios were somehow familiar despite their wildly inventive plots.
Mostly, I read these stories as a woman examining the compromises of love and marriage. Many of the stories revolved around a negotiation between a woman and her paramour. In some, the result was happy. In others, not so much. But throughout there was a strong throughline of violence. Often these women had to physically pull themselves away from the men who subtly trapped them. I'm having a hard time expressing exactly what I mean, so I'll use an example from the book. In the titular story the narrator's life is saved by her husband's smarts, whereas in another a woman bites her husbands arms off, naturally divorce follows. Ehin seems to be saying that finding the perfect balance with a man is impossible or, if not impossible, very, very difficult.
I'll be thinking about this collection for some time....more
In this second installment of the trilogy, politics comes into full flower. The first book dealt with a failed revolution, but it was more about estabIn this second installment of the trilogy, politics comes into full flower. The first book dealt with a failed revolution, but it was more about establishing a presence on Mars and answering some fundamental questions about whether or not mankind can even survive off-planet. In this one, the scope is widened to include the geopolitical nightmare unfolding on Earth as human lifespans increase and environmental disasters wreak havoc, and how these factors play an instrumental role in keeping Mars at heel.
Throughout, we get to spend a lot of time with Coyote and some old favorites (Nadia, Maya—she's growing on me—, Ann, Hiroko) and meet some of the kids born on Mars in the 100 years since the first hundred landed. Typically, the book has A LOT of world building. Fans of geology might want to read this series just for talk of rocks and geological formations. I skimmed a lot of those sections, but I'm glad they were there. Robinson does an impressive job conveying the beauty and size of Mars (whether any of it is accurate or not is another story) and the world building plays a big role in that process.
I think my favorite part, though, was the planning and staging of the revolution. I loved the Dorsia Brevia meeting. It had me thinking of the Continental Congress in revolutionary American history. I found it fascinating how committed some people were to keeping the revolution bloodless. That coupled with their dedication to building a new economic model on Mars really intrigued me. Whether or not any of the things set in motion in this book will ultimately work out remains to be seen.
Hopefully, Blue Mars will provide a satisfactory conclusion, but I'm taking a little break before diving in. While I enjoyed this book, I had to put it down a few times. It's just so long and the final installment is even longer....more
What a fun read! After reading both of Bechdel's graphic memoirs a couple of years ago, I was psyched to read her comic strip. The recent Genius GrantWhat a fun read! After reading both of Bechdel's graphic memoirs a couple of years ago, I was psyched to read her comic strip. The recent Genius Grant award prompted me to finally get around to it.
What I like most about Bechdel's work is her ability to illustrate macro socio/political things through super relatable domestic scenes. She has a great sense of humor and a highly developed sense of situational irony. Every page of DTWOF fires on all cylinders simultaneously and the juggling act is breathtaking to watch.
I'd say my favorite character is Mo. She's principled, neurotic, often annoying, but also capable of great empathy. Even though the strip is told from multiple perspectives, I couldn't help but read it all through Mo's point of view. I also like how Bechdel doesn't pull punches. Bad things happen to these people and they often do not-so-nice things to each other as well. Yet throughout it all there's a great sense of humor.
This volume collects ~20 years worth of the strip into one collection. It was fascinating to see a more-or-less real-time record of the political crises experienced since the late 80's, to rehash all the old arguments and remember the alternating sense of hope and despair that accompanied those crises. I loved watching the characters grow-up and negotiate their personal politics with the realities of their lives.
While the sense of profundity wasn't as explicit in this collection as it was in Bechdel's memoirs, I suspect many readers will prefer the easier to relate to tone of the strip. The memoirs are often viewed as too esoteric. Those same underpinnings are present in the strip, but they're surfaced in a much more practical way—partly, I suspect, because there simply isn't enough space to develop a long erudite narrative. ...more
After the first chapter, which was great, it took me a long time to get back into this book. Luckily, I was on an eight hour bus ride and this book waAfter the first chapter, which was great, it took me a long time to get back into this book. Luckily, I was on an eight hour bus ride and this book was my only distraction. Unluckily, I was confined on a bus with complete strangers and my only distraction was a book about a world-ending flu that spreads especially well in modes of mass transit. Happily, I didn't die.
In all seriousness, I'm not a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. I mean, On the Beach was good, but for the most part I'm not interested in how humanity acts after a devastating, world-wide crisis. I'm much more interested in the lead-up to and the moment itself. So it's not surprising that my favorite parts of this book were the parts set right before the Georgia Flu killed off most of humanity. I found myself really cherishing the descriptions of that life and tracking the relationships between people. During the post-apocalypse stuff I found myself distracted and skimming. I was also incredulous of the total breakdown of institutional order. I just don't buy that anarchy would reign. Some forms of governmental control would always remain. I saw Battlestar Galactica. I know it's possible for a low-ranking official to take the reins and retain a semblance of law and order. But I guess that's a minor quibble in comparison to the larger issue I saw here: namely, that no virus is as deadly as the Georgia Flu. Some people would've survived it! But, let's say for a minute that there were such an efficient virus. Why didn't it spread sooner? What triggered it? I guess I'm getting far afield of what this book is really about, and I don't mean to give the impression that I didn't like it because I did, ultimately, like it. I'm just highlighting some of the thoughts that kept me from buying into the concept and enjoying it from the beginning. However, if you're a fan of the genre I suspect you'll be sucked in right away.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the things I really enjoyed. The intertextuality—I'm not sure you can use that term for works that don't actually exist, but I'm going to do it anyway—the intertextuality of the "Station Eleven" comic book within the novel was a delight. I loved the descriptions of the drawings and the scenarios. The foreshadowing of the events in the novel were great as well. I think Miranda, the author of "Station Eleven," was probably my favorite character of the whole book. She had such a quiet, keen insight into the world around her, and I really responded to that. It didn't hurt that she worked in the shipping industry and spends a great deal of time in the narrative moment of the book hanging out around huge ships. I also loved the idea of the traveling symphony. If you're going to do a post-apocalyptic novel then this is probably the best way to do it. Artists! In the wild! It's pretty clever. Oh, and they can fend for themselves pretty well too.
Oh, and one final thought, the little riff on the stupidity of corporate speak was such a gem! I will cherish it forever.
Overall, I would recommend this read to anybody who needs to bury themselves in a good book to make the world around them disappear....more
Somewhere between an espionage novel and Seize the Day with a little bit of The Maltese Falcon thrown in. I loved the mood. I've never read anything bSomewhere between an espionage novel and Seize the Day with a little bit of The Maltese Falcon thrown in. I loved the mood. I've never read anything by Denis Johnson before but have been meaning too, so I decided to give this one a try. It was a really fun, absorbing read, and a testament to the power of a strong narrative voice. Had the voice been different I'm sure I'd be singing a different tune, probably one that went something like middle-aged white guy gets drunk, is misogynistic, and struggles with inner demons and complicated geopolitics because Africa. Yeah, sure, that's there, but Johnson pulls it off precisely because his protagonist, Nair, is such an absorbing guide. Not likable, mind you, but absorbing nonetheless. There's a line in there that has stuck with me. Nair is working out a deal with US military personnel and when he asks if they're able to provide him with the very steep price he's asking they guy says to him something along the lines of there's nothing we can't do. It's both chilling and funny. This is pretty much our country's approach to everything in a post-9/11 world. ...more