Ugh, I did it. I read the sequel. And... really liked it. This one's kind of less derivative than the first, though I feel like it's still drawing froUgh, I did it. I read the sequel. And... really liked it. This one's kind of less derivative than the first, though I feel like it's still drawing from Game of Thrones a bit, which itself draws from etc etc. Whatever. This is clearly not a book intended to make you think, because if you think about it too much, you realize how horribly essentialist it is beneath its rhetoric of democracy and equal rights (where are the fully-realized characters that are not Golds?). So if you can squelch the thinking parts of your brain and allow this book to tickle the spaceship-loving parts of your brain, it's great. I will be reading and probably enjoying the last one....more
I'm sort of alarmed that my brother gave me this and Dylan Horrocks' The Magic Pen for my birthday, both books by comics artists I love who are now miI'm sort of alarmed that my brother gave me this and Dylan Horrocks' The Magic Pen for my birthday, both books by comics artists I love who are now middle-aged, both books about middle-career artists dealing with stagnation and to some degree sexual frustration. What are you trying to tell me, Tomio?!
The Sculptor is probably the most fully-formed work I've read from McCloud. It's a beautiful love story, and while it would probably be a bit maudlin as a film or a novel (make that really maudlin), comics is a medium that handles simple extremes well, maybe because of its history as adventure fodder for kids, maybe because it's so quiet, maybe because there's so much more action and emotion to interpret in the art that the plot can be comparatively simple. I fell in love with Meg a bit, which I think speaks to the fact that the whole works. Or it speaks to the fact that I'm a sap.
It is, I have to say, a bit hard to read McCloud without thinking back to Understanding Comics and his nerdy classification of panel types and cartooning styles and such. So many of his transitions read like examples from UC (particularly the aspect-to-aspect transitions that lead most chapters and time breaks), as do many of the manga idioms he employs (the way most of his corner panels bleed to the edge of the page seems very Japanese to me, though I'm not sure why). UC taught me to think about these things, and I appreciate McCloud's masterful use of them, particularly in scenes like the beginning where Harry reveals his identity or shows David non-existence, but it is a bit demystifying to see your professor use all the techniques he taught you about.
Anyway, a beautiful little book, though I hope McCloud and Horrocks have worked out there stymied artist stuff and are on to other things.
I didn't know about Manic Pixie Dream Girls until reading other reviews of this book. Now I feel bad, or ambiguously bad, since the term has had so much backlash and backbacklash. In McCloud's defense, Meg does address this stereotype explicitly, but that doesn't really keep her from embodying it. Meg has plenty of personality but I'm not sure she has much of an internal life in this book, so maybe the label is apt. Is that a problem if the book is mostly about David? What would the book be like without Meg, and what would the book be like if Meg and David were given equal treatment, or if the book was called The Actor and was about Meg?
Sigh. I did enjoy the book. Now I just feel worse about doing so....more
Never really got into it. Memoirs might not be my thing. Falconry, hawks, the relationship between these things and White's unfortunate life and fictiNever really got into it. Memoirs might not be my thing. Falconry, hawks, the relationship between these things and White's unfortunate life and fiction, those were interesting to me, but the grief and recovery were not, maybe because I haven't experienced anything like it. There were a few passages on the meaning of wildness and the value of recognizing other, non-human wills in the Universe, but that didn't feel like the thrust of the book....more
Well, I'm going to be up-front and admit I sped through this and enjoyed every sentence except for the one totally extraneous sexy bit which *could* hWell, I'm going to be up-front and admit I sped through this and enjoyed every sentence except for the one totally extraneous sexy bit which *could* have had something to do with the plot or the characters or water but didn't. Like Windup Girl, this is set in a sort of post-collapse future, but one within reach of our lifetimes, in which America is disintegrating west of the Rockies as the region's minimal water has become too minimal to partition peacefully. It's Cadillac Desert: The Scifi Sequel, and indeed that book makes a significant appearance here.
Like so much speculative fiction, this book is basically a good premise and some serviceable characters bolted together by reliable plot devices, with, alas, many acre feet of symbolic potential left totally squandered. I wanted to riff on flood irrigation there, but that would imply that this potential is used to ill effect, when in fact, Bacigalupi seems totally uninterested with emotional scarcity, with how individuals address glaring problems that have obvious solutions with complete denial and ultimately suffer (just like governments and societies do), with the personal consequences of taking life's essentials for granted. If there's any kind of ideological underpinning it's that ruthless pragmatism trumps idealism and only the powerful and "clear-sighted" survive, which is fine, but less than what this novel could have been. The first page of sweat stuff had me thinking this was going to be a bit more meaningful, but in the end I think it was merely fun.
Ugh, this seems to be the pattern of my recent reviews: enjoy the book, then find all the reasons I should not have enjoyed the book....more
Hicksville is probably my favorite single graphic novel, so I was delighted to receive this book as a gift a few weeks ago. It seems to largely concerHicksville is probably my favorite single graphic novel, so I was delighted to receive this book as a gift a few weeks ago. It seems to largely concern the risks and responsibilities of authors (and readers) of fantasy: how deeply do we indulge, how much freedom do we allow ourselves, what are the moral stakes. I liked that (though I think it could have delved a little more deeply into the risks), and Horrocks' outstanding cartooning, but there's also a lot of midlife crisis artist's block and sexual frustration (not to mention a whole lot of green naked ladies that, while appreciated by this gynephilic reader, makes this book a bit tricky to read on public transit, at least for uptight self-conscious gynephiles afraid of looking excessively pervy, exemplum gratis yrs. trly.), and that, I don't know, wasn't exactly tedious, but was not quite as interesting to me as the storytelling stuff.
I really loved the original Lady Night / Lou Goldman bits, as I did in Hicksville. Part of me would love to see those stories fleshed out, but another part of me think Borges was right and the best books are best only alluded to by other books.
I hope Horrocks finishes and publishes Atlas some day!...more
Jon's mental health issues are a bit frustrating, not sure why. Not fleshed out enough? They make him a bit more fully human than Suzie, so I feel likJon's mental health issues are a bit frustrating, not sure why. Not fleshed out enough? They make him a bit more fully human than Suzie, so I feel like she kind of fades into the background in this one. Still funny, though I fear this series is going to suffer the same fate as Y: The Last Man: good for the laffs, but no real plan for the plot....more
As much as I enjoy Austen, it's hard for me not to become a bit frustrated with the characters and the author for their lack of 21st century feministAs much as I enjoy Austen, it's hard for me not to become a bit frustrated with the characters and the author for their lack of 21st century feminist principles, and then to become frustrated with myself for experiencing frustration over such an absurd expectation, and then to become further frustrated when I realize I am about the 50 millionth reader to experience these frustrations and that most of these readers have just gotten over it and enjoyed the story, you know, some time in high school when they first read it (and then, of course, I become self-conscious about my use of the word "feminist"). That said, I think Emma might be particularly frustrating because she is so close to being a feminist protagonist: she's willful, intelligent, talented, she has her own opinions and acts on them. And yet, every single opinion she has and every single action she takes ends up being wrong, and on every occasion Mr. Knightly has a chance to voice his take on the issues, he is inevitably right. Things don't really go well for her until she realizes Knightly's superior judgement in all matters and that she should just do what he wants (i.e. marry him).
Anyway, weird anachronistic moral judgement aside, fun stuff. Not quite as fun as P&P for me (where's the anger?), but whatever. Mr. Woodhouse's hypochondria was pretty great. Ak tells me this is the Austen novel most lauded by critics, though it's hard to say why. Time to see what Gwynneth Paltrow and Alicia Silverstone think....more
I gave it 100 pages and decided I did not give a flying fig what was going on in Area X, what was going to happen to any of these characters, or why aI gave it 100 pages and decided I did not give a flying fig what was going on in Area X, what was going to happen to any of these characters, or why an author would spend so much time *just* cultivating a vague sense of unease....more
Pretty hilarious, fun concept, worth all the awards? Not sure. The guy at the comic book store upsold me on the second one, claiming it would be imposPretty hilarious, fun concept, worth all the awards? Not sure. The guy at the comic book store upsold me on the second one, claiming it would be impossible to resist getting after finishing the first so might as well get it now. He was basically right. +1 for salesmanship....more
Considered as a first effort by a NASA software engineer who wrote it for fun, posted it online, and got famous, it's actually really good. PerfectlyConsidered as a first effort by a NASA software engineer who wrote it for fun, posted it online, and got famous, it's actually really good. Perfectly readable, technologically interesting, generally a fun time. Considered as a novel, I found much to be wanting: characters cut from card stock too thin for the suffix "-board" and a plot as insubstantial as a breath of Martian air. Watney is unbelievably, maddeningly, grindingly optimistic. His blithe, glass-isn't-half-empty-it's-110%-full attitude just made me write him off entirely as a being I recognized as human. I suppose I've met a few people like that but I always assumed they were aliens in skin suits or time traveling robots studying how our species destroyed itself or something. Overbearing despair and introspection would have been equally dull, but that is kind of the nature of survival stories, and leaving them out is, apparently, equally frustrating. Almost every other character was essentially interchangeable, to the point that I just stopped paying attention to names and just considered them all to be not-Watney.
Which is not to say I disliked it, per se. It's nice that he paid such attention to technical detail, and it was super interesting considering how, exactly humans might be able to visit Mars. It's just that I might have felt more than the absence of dislike if this hadn't landed so squarely in the "hard SF" camp, which I use here pejoratively to describe science fiction that obsesses over scientific plausibility and cares not a jot for social and emotional plausibility. I feel weird saying that b/c my critique of most generic fiction is essentially that of Marvin Minsky, that it's about how people screw up their relationships and science fiction is about everything else, but really what I want are stories that achieve all of these things, and this wasn't quite it....more
You know the kind of book that warps your mind, makes you see colors that don't exist, transports you to places you couldn't have imagined imagining,You know the kind of book that warps your mind, makes you see colors that don't exist, transports you to places you couldn't have imagined imagining, the kind of book that makes you realize that the things you thought you knew were not, in fact, things at all? The kind of book that seems like a supernatural gift, a book that lets you to turn your life in directions that you can only even perceive after such a book has opened your eyes to reality's heretofore hidden alternate dimensions?
This book, right here, is the opposite of that book.
In this book, we learn that the rigid social structure our protagonist has been laboring under is, in fact, a lie perpetuated by hidden forces in the name of stability and control. Few even think to question this order, except, of course, for our protagonist.
In this book, a young man from humble origins learns that he has unexpected abilities when forces beyond his reckoning whisk him away from old life and place him in a school where his powers will be refined. This school has different "houses," each with different personality traits, and he will have to learn how to build alliances both within and between houses.
In this book, a bunch of kids are thrown together in a contrived landscape by sadistic adults from a sadistic society and forced to fight each other sadistically until only one triumphs. Their exploits are broadcast for spectators, and they have benefactors who give them little presents when they do well. Only by upending the very premise of the game can our heros ever truly achieve victory.
Did I mention everyone is stunningly beautiful? So beautiful the author feels it necessary to tell us? Repeatedly?
Red Rising is probably the trashiest pornoviolence masquerading under the category of "science fiction" I've encountered in recent years, so if you decide to give it a try, don't go in expecting, say, Kim Stanley Robinson, or even Andy Weir. Red Rising has exactly nothing to do with Mars, space exploration, or much of anything regarding our civilization's future. Expecting something like the Hunger Games would be closer to the mark, unless of course that implies an expectation of that series' thoughtful and timely examination image-management and perception, and its unequivocal condemnation of violence.
What you *should* expect is pretty much non-stop, compulsively readable action that almost makes you forget about the choose-your-own-adventure-level abuse of YA tropes and the wafer-thin character development. I *sped* through reading this, and will probably gleefully, albeit shamefully, speed through the sequel when I can get my hands on a copy. It is problematic in just about every way, but sometimes problematic is just what the people want.
I know I'm being super harsh here, perhaps overly harsh, since Red Rising doesn't really have aspirations beyond entertainment. It's an entertaining book, so let's call it a win, one that at least lacks the nipple-tweaking and long-windedness of another series that I couldn't stop reading....more