The one thing I remember about this book is the ecstatic pleasure with which one character greets the mouth-lacerating sensation of consuming Capt. CrThe one thing I remember about this book is the ecstatic pleasure with which one character greets the mouth-lacerating sensation of consuming Capt. Crunch cereal in ice-cold milk. I think there was a bunch of stuff about codes and Nazis too....more
I was getting nowhere writing this review, mainly because I didn't want to write about the gender stuff, but I was having trouble working out what wasI was getting nowhere writing this review, mainly because I didn't want to write about the gender stuff, but I was having trouble working out what was there beyond the gender issues that made this book such a pleasure to read (at the end, anyway), which, of course, brought to mind some uncomfortable introspection regarding my disinterest in the primary question of this book, to wit, from the author herself, "What does it mean to be a woman, or a man, male or female? And what if you weren’t?" Was my disinterest because
a) Gender issues are largely fumbled due to the limitations of English's personal pronouns and the general masculinity of the hermaphrodite characters?
b) The revolutionary ideas about gender in this book are not revolutionary anymore?
c) I am a chauvinist member of a privileged gender and the thought experiment of removing gender from society therefore doesn't have the visceral appeal that it might to members of less privileged genders?
d) I am not a chauvinist, this book is about a lot of things, and other qualities attracted me more than the gender question?
Since any list of mutually exclusive propositions ALWAYS turns out to be not mutually exclusive at all, let's just assume they're all a little true. My strategy for dealing with this, other than writing far too many words so far that are not really about this book, was to read a bunch of other reviews and interviews with UKG, which were mildly enlightening. The Paris Review interview I linked above is pretty good. This review by Josh Wimmer suggests the book "isn't about gender," which is clearly ludicrous and merely a contrarian, provocative headline, but his point about the book's so-called failings in the feminism department actually representing Genly's essentially gendered, male point of view is a good one, since his views mature over the course of the novel, and he eventually gets to a place where he can hold *gasp* two separate perspectives in his head at one time. That actually helps clarify why this book is so often assigned to high school students despite the incredibly slow start and fairly laggard pacing throughout: high school kids really need that mindfuck! I mean we all do, but especially kids who may not have had their assumptions threatened much yet, whether or not those assumptions are about gender.
Reading this excellent review of Le Guin's The Birthday of the World by Margaret Atwood, which touches on Left Hand and Le Guin's interest in anthropological experimentation over technological extrapolation, one reason her Hainish books appeal to me came to mind. They satiate my curiosity about the social sciences without hindrance from my immense skepticism of the social sciences. I value empiricism, and since empirical social science is largely impractical / unethical, most social science research makes me writhe. Tiny sample sizes! Post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning! Incredibly obvious findings! I go too far, I know (sorry social scientists, kick me in the junk the next time you see me), but questions like "How does gender affect society?" are totally wrong questions to answer with reductionist science, because gender is too complex a concept, and society is too large to sample adequately. But fiction is not science! Fiction has nothing to prove, so I get license to indulge in these totally interesting and unanswerable questions. In a way, it's the unscientific nature of science fiction that I like more than anything.
However, like I said, the gender question was *not* what got me excited about this book. Ultimately, as Sarah LeFanu pointed out 11 years ago, it's readable. It's got good characters, good writing, and an Austenesque plot line of two characters divided by enmity who overcome their misunderstandings and fall in love (albeit platonically). There's plenty of other things to explore (the landscape, the culture, the Taoism), but it's all woven into something I wanted to keep reading. I don't have to drone on about the other stuff. It's just a good story. Read it. Or re-read it....more
While Gaiman's story is beautiful, Russel's line work was a disappointment, much like his story in The Sandman: Endless Nights. I find this baffling,While Gaiman's story is beautiful, Russel's line work was a disappointment, much like his story in The Sandman: Endless Nights. I find this baffling, because "Ramadan, " the story he illustrated in The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections, might be one of my favorite single comics ever, in large part due to the art. One contributing factor is that I don't like the way Russell draws big things. He's a genius at tiny details, the leaves of a tree, the patterns in a kimono, the innumerable spires of Bagdad or the countless djinn in a bottle, but facial close-ups and figures never seem to come off well. Overall the style of the artwork suggested a westerner trying to ape several styles of Japanese art without success.
If you're considering this, I'd say skip it and check out the original illustrated prose by Gaiman and the unspeakably cool Japanese illustrator Yoshitaka Amano: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters. Like the best Sandman episodes (including Ramadan), Amano's art will bend your mind....more
Another fun romp, but ... the ending! Or lack there of! Now I must buy the next.
Words (that I looked up in a wonderful, dead-tree dictionary, which feAnother fun romp, but ... the ending! Or lack there of! Now I must buy the next.
Words (that I looked up in a wonderful, dead-tree dictionary, which felt awesome)
andiron (n): the metal stand that holds wood in a fire place (p. 189) chirurgical (adj): of or pertaining to surgery (from A Sea of Words) (p. 162) chouse (v): to dupe or swindle (from A Sea of Words) (p. 269) delf (n): glazed earthenware made in Delft (my dictionary lists it as "delft") (p. 189) myrmidion (n): a hired goon or lowly servant. This is derived from the Greek root myrmex, which means "ant", but not before passing through a few referrants. (p. 215) peccant (adj): sinning, causing disease. (p. 167) pettifog (v): to practice legal trickery or other forms of backhand dealing. My Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary postulates that this may derive from a family of merchants in Augsburg named "Fugger" in the 15h-16th centuries, which made me wonder if said family is in any way related to the word "fuck," which my dictionary lists as "origin unknown, 16th c." (p. 219) ...more
More than satisfied my need for escapism. Character, plot, and writing are all decent in these books, but I have the most fun seeing how Novik fits drMore than satisfied my need for escapism. Character, plot, and writing are all decent in these books, but I have the most fun seeing how Novik fits dragons into a world based on historical fact and the very solid expectations of O'Brian fans. The first book was a wonderful exploration of how dragons and the Aerial Corp don't quite fit into 19th century British society, and this book nicely contrasts that world with Chinese society, where dragons are very nearly on equal footing with humanity. Also, sea monsters!
I wish Novik would develop some faults in her protagonists, though, and introduce some stronger secondary characters. As it is, Temeraire and Lawrence only suffer from excessive virtues, like over-curiosity and loyalty to a fault. Just a handful of penchants and peccadilloes would make them a little less wooden. Cool secondary cast members like Harcourt and Berkley are mostly absent from this book. Hammond was decent, as was Liu Bao, and even the laconic Yonxing had some interesting potential, given his irrational pride, scheming, and clear devotion to Lien.
Not terrible. I thought the art was actually better than the Clan Building series. I also had way lower expectations, given that I had no emotional atNot terrible. I thought the art was actually better than the Clan Building series. I also had way lower expectations, given that I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters, all of whom were one-off or somewhat recurring villains from the show....more
I wasn't really expecting much given the relative disappointment of the first volume, but I just re-watched the series (again), and was in need of a fI wasn't really expecting much given the relative disappointment of the first volume, but I just re-watched the series (again), and was in need of a fix. Probably the most annoying thing about this one was the inane time shifting. Jumping forward and backward in time in every single panel is just jarring, and after a few pages (!) of this, I just began ignoring the time stamps. Telling the story from multiple different perspective is fine, and leads to the nice simultaneous climaxes (that sounds wrong) for each thread, but the constant jumping was way too much.
This volume also felt like a giant exercise in fan service. Almost every character with a direct relationship to the Manhattan clan shows up, mostly for no reason at all. What the hell were the Coldstone trio doing there? Macbeth seemed entirely inconsequential aside from being a means to get Lex & Hudson to London. And suddenly there are like a billion gargoyles in London? What the hell?
The many stories about the Stone of Destiny were interesting, and the beginning of Brooklyn's Timedancer storyline was actually pretty well done (though cheesy Star Wars cover? please). I think the whole thing might not have been that bad if it were slowed down and thinned out. I think it should have been about 4 times as long. And drawn by Wendy Pini.
Definitely would not recommend this to any but the most tragically addicted and/or nostalgic fans of the series, who, like me, just want to hang out with Goliath, Elisa, and the clan just a little longer....more
Year of the Flood provided many of the comforting amenities I found lacking in Oryx and Crake: likeable characters, some secret-society-style mystery,Year of the Flood provided many of the comforting amenities I found lacking in Oryx and Crake: likeable characters, some secret-society-style mystery, and old school adventure in the post-apocalypse portions. Whereas O & C was predominantly about world-building, satire, and a bit of consciously over-the-top doomsaying, Year of the Flood dealt more with character and narrative, making it a more satisfying, if somewhat less thoughtful, read.
Oryx and Crake follows the privileged upper classes, denizens of the enclosed corporate enclaves that have profited from pushing bioengineering to horrific but lucrative extremes (why Atwood chose to focus on biotech and not more obviously evil corporate empires from the energy or military sectors I don't know). As an educated middle-class American reader, it was pretty clear these were the kinds of people I'd probably end up with, and since they basically bring about the end of the world, it didn't feel all that great being accused crimes against nature, petty vanity, and slavery to consumerism. Not that I'm denying the validity of these claims. It just stings a bit.
Year of the Flood examines the other side of the coin, denizens of the pleeblands, the semi-savage interstices outside the gated enclosures, where sex, crime, violence, and fanaticism aren't just subtexts to everyday life like they are on the inside: they're the main show. These are the corporations' serfs, their captive consumers, their guinea pigs. They're not exactly innocent, but they are certainly underdogs, and their struggles are thus considerably more comforting to follow.
On top of that, Year of the Flood just has sympathetic characters. Almost all of the Gardeners seem more personally interesting and forgivable than Jimmy, Oryx, or Crake. And things happen to them! Not horribly mundane and recognizable things like familial disintegration and feelings of inadequacy, but horribly violent things and acts of heroics! These are people we care about having adventures!
One of the more perplexing aspects of this book is how sympathetic Atwood seems to be toward religion. I'm not talking about spirituality or the power of faith itself or natural awe or any of the other vagaries we secular types generally reach for when trying to fill the religion-shaped holes in our lives, but honest-to-God, irrational, maddening, irritating, dogmatic religion. Granted, the religion of the Gardeners is the most ridiculously lefty flavor of Christianity you could imagine, but it's still filled with psalms and preaching and worship, and really, it is not criticized. Adam One is a benevolent cult leader, whose teachings about loving the Earth and living a moral life really stay with the characters and help them when they go astray. He doesn't secretly molest the kids, and while some of the flock question his means, none of them reject his faith as being unnecessary or harmfully irrational. While it was somewhat obvious in Oryx and Crake that the "good guys" (if they existed) would counter the scientific hubris of the corps, I was definitely not expecting religion to play a significant role in humanity's redemption. Weird....more
Dang, that was fun. If you enjoy Patrick O'Brian, are not averse to the fantastic, and are looking for a quick, fun read, please overlook the corny coDang, that was fun. If you enjoy Patrick O'Brian, are not averse to the fantastic, and are looking for a quick, fun read, please overlook the corny cover and check this out. Though perhaps not as funny or as brilliantly wordy as O'Brian at his best, Novik does an excellent job illustrating the details of a remote time and lifestyle, exploring not only technical details of gear and rigging, but also the social constraints of being an "aviator." Riders bond with their dragon for life, which essentially removes them from normal British society and leaves the entire Aerial Corps a pack of pariahs, which, of course, makes for a fun secret-society-style tale in which a naval officer unexpectedly finds himself saddled with a dragon buddy of his own. Novik also uses this distance to inject some modern notions (brash, cigar-smoking female aviators, undercurrents of civil rights for the sentient but enslaved dragons), which feels a bit overhanded at times, but mostly works. I mean, it's a fantasy novel. With dragons. One can hardly fault it for lapses in historical accuracy.
I think it's hilarious that a lot of the negative reviews here complain about nothing really happening. That's the most O'Brianesque thing about this book!
This was probably my favorite LeGuin book to date. Languid, thoughtful, well-written. I loved the transitions between realities, which at first were hThis was probably my favorite LeGuin book to date. Languid, thoughtful, well-written. I loved the transitions between realities, which at first were hard to notice when I didn't have a baseline for what constituted reality in this book. Kind of like, "Ok, aliens. Wait, were there aliens before?" which is exactly what the characters experience as well. In one sense this is a classically ironic story a la The Twlight Zone, or The Monkey's Paw: person gains supernatural powers, but attempts to use them for good result in horrible side effects. That's fun, but not terribly original. The interplay between Orr and Haber at the center of all the changes is what keeps the book interesting. LeGuin explicitly describes Haber as a curious sort of solipsist: "Orr felt in him [Haber:] a wish to be liked and a desire to be helpful; the doctor was not, he thought, really sure that anyone else existed, and wanted to prove they did by helping them." That's Haber's modus operandi throughout, and the consequences of his well-meaning but oblivious attempts to assuage his conscience or solidify the world or what have you are what kept me reading. Orr is the anti-solipsist. He actually has the power to impose his internal reality upon the external world, but considers such alterations to be immoral, and wishes instead to be bound to a single, external reality.
The only real problems I had were the occasional unnecessary detail (like pre-marriage) and the kind of hackneyed doomsday sensibility. Not that the described catastrophes aren't still completely plausible (rising sea levels, epidemics, nuclear war), but it's hard to get excited or worried about futures that have been prophesied for 30 years and still haven't come to pass. And in that apathy lies our undoing... It's all scifi's fault!
The other salient characteristic of this book is that it's short! Less than 200 pages! I'd forgotten what closure after 200 pages was like.
abreaction (n): Dictionary.com says it is the release of emotional tension by acting out or mentally revisiting the source of that tension. (p. 87)
An excellent graphic novel by Kazu Kibuishi. It’s a sort of a space western featuring Daisy Kutter, a former outlaw of mythic repuOld review from 2005
An excellent graphic novel by Kazu Kibuishi. It’s a sort of a space western featuring Daisy Kutter, a former outlaw of mythic repute who gets roped into one more gig. The story is simple and rather unremarkable, but its merits as a comic are many. Kibuishi seems to have mastered the subtle pacing and extended silences that make comics so magical, and he has chosen a level of stylization for his characters that is accessibly cartoonish without being cloying or absurd (think The Incredibles and Tintin rather than Mickey Mouse). One gets the impression he has taken all of Scott McCloud’s best advice, consciously or otherwise. Regardless, this is a real gem....more
Great fun, certainly on par with the first in the series. We learn a lot more about the world and our heroes, and while "normal kid with a fantastic dGreat fun, certainly on par with the first in the series. We learn a lot more about the world and our heroes, and while "normal kid with a fantastic destiny" isn't particularly original, Kibuishi's visual whimsy, humor, and artistic expertise make for a wonderful little escape. Looking forward to the next one.
Update upon re-reading in May 2011
Wow, I had forgotten most of what happened, which I guess made it even better to re-read! (view spoiler)[I thought it was cool that he added Evangelon-esque stone-consumed (stoned?) giant crazy people. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Vampires go apeshit when they realize (finally) that there are 30 days where the sun never sets in Podunk, AK. Art's kinda fun, story's kinda dumb. NoVampires go apeshit when they realize (finally) that there are 30 days where the sun never sets in Podunk, AK. Art's kinda fun, story's kinda dumb. No surprises there....more
What I've read of Orson Scott Card has ranged from brilliant (Ender) to plodding (Shadow), so I figured I'd try some of his non-EnOld review from 2006
What I've read of Orson Scott Card has ranged from brilliant (Ender) to plodding (Shadow), so I figured I'd try some of his non-Ender material. This series tells an alternate history of the U.S., in which, among other things, the Iroquois posess their own state in the Union (most of NY), George Washington fought for the Brits (until heroically refusing to do so and suffering execution), and some people have magic powers. Magic powers? Yes. Pyrokinesis, prognostication, telepathy, minor spells and hexes for protection and warding. It is, of course, somewhat less corny than I am depicting it.
All in all, it's a fun little world, and while the story isn't much more than a guided tour of that world, the idea of a magical America is still a lot of fun. My only real objection is the superficial depiction of the natives as noble savages, living in absolutely peaceful harmony with the land until the white devils show up with their whiskey and will to dominate all life (I'm sure Sauron had a still 'round back). If you're going to encode a healthy helping of liberal guilt into your little snow dome, you might as well do it with some liberal nuance....more