Great storytelling, with some surprisingly dark turns and uncomfoFor #18 of the 2017 Read Harder Challenge: Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
Great storytelling, with some surprisingly dark turns and uncomfortable ethical quandaries. I won't go into much detail (spoilers), but here's one truth bomb delivered to Alison by another former superhero: "I don't care about being smart... smart is just having a lot to say about other people's business, and getting real quiet when it comes time to do something about it."...more
Andy and Terry write a book about writing the book. Metafiction for the grade school literati! Chock full of illustrations and humor of the Wimpy Kid/Andy and Terry write a book about writing the book. Metafiction for the grade school literati! Chock full of illustrations and humor of the Wimpy Kid/Captain Underpants variety. Gift for the nephew, Christmas 2016....more
Being football illiterate, I am totally unqualified to review a book that begins: "Third and eight. The pass down." However, hoping this will be a hitBeing football illiterate, I am totally unqualified to review a book that begins: "Third and eight. The pass down." However, hoping this will be a hit with the 9 year old sports lover in the family. Gift for Corey, Christmas 2016....more
I got the first book in the series for Lizzy last year and she liked it, so adding to her collection for Christmas 2016. Haven't read any myself yet,I got the first book in the series for Lizzy last year and she liked it, so adding to her collection for Christmas 2016. Haven't read any myself yet, have to catch up!...more
(I cringe at the thought of this being turned into a movie. So much of this novel is Billy's inner world, I fear that a film version will be a shallow spectacle much like the halftime show described in the book.)
Added because of Aleksandar Hemon's recommendation in this interview with Bob Garfield:
Awesome on gender! Problematic on race, though. Everybody dies.
Longer review after the spoiler tag.
(view spoiler)[Based on what I've seen on Goodreads, I'm not alone in feeling that this is two very different books. It begins with a sudden cataclysmic astronomical event that renders the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. Not immediately, though. The astrophysicists (including a character that must have been inspired by Neil DeGrasse Tyson), have done the math, and predict that humankind has about three years left. Thus begins the Cloud Ark - a global project to send people and supplies into orbit in the hopes that humanity can survive long enough to return to the surface in a millennium or three.
As one might imagine, there is a lot of science. But there are also many rich and complex characters (many of them women! who talk to other women! about topics other than men!). We accompany them as they prepare for the literal end of the world, and begin their new, space-based life. We see the scientific and moral struggles - how do you decide who to save? How do you govern the survivors, especially as their numbers dwindle alarmingly?
Here's where things get interesting - if you have a small population of humans, you're going to have to tinker with the gene pool in order to avoid inbreeding. Any moral qualms seem small when the compared to the prospect of extinction. There's an excellent scene as the surviving humans (exactly eight women, seven of them of childbearing age - thus the title) argue about what modifications to make to their future embryos. What do we value? Strength? Intelligence? Creativity? Psychological stability? Eventually they decide that each woman will get to choose which traits to emphasize in her offspring. The result? Seven distinct human... tribes? families? No, races. That's the word the characters use, which the geneticist never corrects.
And this is where Stephenson loses me. Race is a social construct, not a biological one. The author spent countless hours researching every minute detail of what it would take to support humanity in space for generations (my favorite example - sending an eyeglass-making machine to the Cloud Ark, because the zero-gee environment will change people's prescriptions, not to mention the vision-correcting needs of humans yet to be born). And yet this, THIS he gets wrong.
So I'm already irritated about the race thing, and then we fast forward three thousand years. Everyone we know is dead. Granted, there were only eight people left, but at least we knew them. In the future, we're introduced to a brand-new society in a brand-new environment, in that horrendously tedious "let me describe every single thing in excruciating detail because look at all the cool things I imagined" style that is so off-putting to anyone other than a hard core science fiction reader. We're introduced to a whole host of characters, none of whom I cared about. Anyway, stuff happens. The end. I could have stopped reading before the flash forward.
In Stephenson's afterword, he describes the final third section as hopeful. I don't see it that way at all. His future world, where humankind is divided by an ethnic cold war... that's not progress. Yes, Neal, the science was cool. But your vision of the future makes me question whether humanity was worth saving at all. (hide spoiler)] _____________
Added to my to-read list because of the following:
I had a great deal of fun with Soulless, the first book in the series, but the sequel left me cold. I may have just read it too soon. These books areI had a great deal of fun with Soulless, the first book in the series, but the sequel left me cold. I may have just read it too soon. These books are essentially junk food - one is an indulgence, but two? That's a recipe for indigestion and regret. And regrets abound, so if you loved this book and don't want me to tarnish your recollection of it, stop now.
I won't go into great detail... partially to avoid spoilers, but mostly to avoid wasting any more energy on this series. (Remember when I said that if you liked this book, you might not want to read this review? Wasn't kidding.) My biggest disappointment was with the characters. In Soulless, Alexia was a refreshing alternative to the waiflike-twentysomething-damsel-in-distress trope, and I loved her for that.
In Changeless, we're subjected to entirely too much of Ivy and Felicity, Alexia's friend and half-sister respectively. Between them, they represent every unflattering female caricature ever. They're just... ugh. A Venn diagram of awful stereotypes. Every scene with them is painful. Worse, Alexia appears to have nothing but contempt for either of them. Carriger couldn't fail the Bechdel test harder if she tried.
And on the topic of contempt, there seems to be a toxic amount of it in Lord and Lady Woolsey's marriage, which bubbles over in the last chapter in a way that guarantees I won't be picking up Parasol Protectorate #3....more