This is a sci fi novel that should have been right up my alley, since I'm a longtime gamer. It takes place in a future so bleak that people take refugThis is a sci fi novel that should have been right up my alley, since I'm a longtime gamer. It takes place in a future so bleak that people take refuge in the Oasis, a virtual universe grown out of a World of Warcraftlike online game. The protagonist is a preternaturally talented teen who ends up fighting to save the world from an evil corporation, via an intricate set of games within games created by the genius who made the Oasis. His (nearly as) preternaturally talented friends help him.
Parts of the book were fun, but the important thing I learned was that reading about someone playing a video game is an awful lot like watching, in real life, as someone plays a video game: It's kind of boring. I also learned that it's possible to fill a book with so many pop culture allusions from gamer culture and 1980s music and TV that the whole edifice makes tiny, nearly-audible groaning noises.
I also learned a lesson about pacing. If everything a main character does is narrated with the same degree of detail, from taking a shower to barely escaping death, barely escaping death begins to feel about as exciting as taking a shower.
So with those three warnings, if you are a gamer who has played through the evolution of video gaming from Pong through Diablo, or a late 20th century American pop culture nut, you might enjoy spending some time in the Oasis....more
Traveling with John McPhee is always a treat, but this book is particularly dear to my heart because McPhee tries to capture a spirit and a mindset heTraveling with John McPhee is always a treat, but this book is particularly dear to my heart because McPhee tries to capture a spirit and a mindset he thinks is quintessentially Alaskan. Can't fault him for that: he's from New Jersey. What he really captures is the Alaskan version of a mindset that is quintessentially Western and, because he's the kind of researcher who doesn't turn over stones without also tasting the bugs beneath, he does a gorgeously thorough, imminently readable job of it. ...more
Wallace Stegner, I have for many years counted myself lucky that you lived nearly your entire life in the West and that the West was, from the start,Wallace Stegner, I have for many years counted myself lucky that you lived nearly your entire life in the West and that the West was, from the start, the subject dearest to your heart, but this book cements it. You say the things I "know" but have never articulated, and you say with clarity the things I fumble to express. I'll read this book again and again.
Readerfolk, if you want to understand the West and Westerners, or if you are one and you want to better understand yourself, this book is a gift....more
Here's a short one: This is a book for people who love a good love story, but not a sappy one. Or for people who love a strong female protagonist. Or for people who were (or were friends with) wild, overconfident young dirtbags and are still nostalgic for those days. Or for people who love a well-crafted sentence or scene. This is not a book for people who prefer not to see their favorite characters put through hell....more
Here's my review, http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/m.... "All the Light We Cannot See" is my current favorite novel. Some critics have faulted it fHere's my review, http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/m.... "All the Light We Cannot See" is my current favorite novel. Some critics have faulted it for being "sentimental," but I don't buy the popular literary assumption that serious literature should be dark, and that the very best literature seeks the ultimate answer to darkness, only to find that there isn't one, or at least not a bearable one. ...more
Jeff was a guildmate in my MMO years, so it kinda hurts to only click 3 stars, which in today's inflated star economy feels a little like a slap. PleaJeff was a guildmate in my MMO years, so it kinda hurts to only click 3 stars, which in today's inflated star economy feels a little like a slap. Please note that 3 stars is supposed to mean I liked it.
What's also true, though, is that a few months later, all I can remember about "Soulwoven" is that the book struck me as standard-issue fantasy, constructed in the expected shape out of the usual tropes. That said, I LIKE fantasy. I LIKE the usual tropes.
More to the point, Jeff can write a solid sentence. (Thinking here about the "Inkheart" series by Cornelia Funke, which is far more original, but whose sentences often emit a clunking sound just as you get to the period.)
Who would enjoy "Soulwoven?" Anyone who thinks fantasy should be competently written but doesn't need it to reimagine its genre or mesmerize its readers. ...more
The pages of this book are not a place to go for new craft ideas, but an excellent place to meet one of the masters of the modern page turner while heThe pages of this book are not a place to go for new craft ideas, but an excellent place to meet one of the masters of the modern page turner while he's got ink on his hands and words on his mind....more
Skilled storytelling. Collins is a master of that underappreciated art, the ability to reward rather than impress. I can always tell, even when I'm noSkilled storytelling. Collins is a master of that underappreciated art, the ability to reward rather than impress. I can always tell, even when I'm not paying much attention, when I'm in the hands of one of those masters, because I'll find it's two hours after my bedtime but I'm still reading. It's the same art that Stephen King is so skilled at....more
I know Meera from the #cnftweet community on Twitter, where she posts highly crafted, delightfully obscure microessays that often remind me of the HemI know Meera from the #cnftweet community on Twitter, where she posts highly crafted, delightfully obscure microessays that often remind me of the Hemingway line about how a good short story is like an iceberg, with only the tip showing, so I was very interested to read her book.
Glad I did. Not only did I get an intimate tour of an ethereal landscape, its feathered inhabitants, and the ways we try to learn about them, I got to spend time inside an original, deeply introspective mind.
One of my favorite of her observations: "Millions of years of natural selection have shaped us this way--given us a perceptual system that simplifies the chaotic, shifting behavior of the objects in its environment by sheeing reflections of itself everywhere."
And an example of Meera's often limpid description: "This is a night so clear that all the world seems to have been poured through a fine filter, and come out immaculately clean."...more
I hugely appreciate a fantasy world that doesn't feel derivative, and respect the hard work required to create one. I've spent two books with PatrickI hugely appreciate a fantasy world that doesn't feel derivative, and respect the hard work required to create one. I've spent two books with Patrick Rothfuss now and haven't seen a single troll, elf, dwarf or orc. What I HAVE seen are plot turns that are surprising and satisfying, a magical system that I must learn just as the main character does, and a layered complexity to the world that leaves me completely involved at the end of those two books.
On the other hand, Rothfuss's characters are thinly and sometimes not believably drawn. In order to inhabit his world I am willing to put up with tritely cruel teachers, spoiled nobles, and a teenage main character so precocious in some ways that he sounds like a 40 year old man, and so blind (when the plot requires it) in others that he feels to me like he can't be more than 10. The only characters I'm genuinely engaged with by the end of the second book are Ari and Bast, and neither are hugely important to the main storyline in the first two books.
That said, I'm looking forward to book three. I want to spend more time in the world Rothfuss created. ...more
The summer after highschool graduation in 1967, Grady Myers decides to escape from his boring hometown of Boise, Idaho, a “Western backwater where timThe summer after highschool graduation in 1967, Grady Myers decides to escape from his boring hometown of Boise, Idaho, a “Western backwater where times could’ve easily passed for a decade earlier,” via Vietnam. But the recruiters won’t have him, first because the artistic boy asks for a drafting job and the man says they need combat troops. The second recruiter, on hearing that the boy wants a combat position, rejects him because he wears glasses. Myers spends a semester in college and then, even more bored, “volunteers” for the draft. This time he’s accepted. The rest of “Boocoo Dinky Dow” (2012), a memoir published after Myers’ death, details his transformations from boy to soldier to wounded Vietnam veteran. The book was cowritten with his ex-wife, longtime journalist Julie Titone. The collaboration did not result in a smooth, polished read. Titone clearly felt it was important to honor Myers' voice, not just his stories. I found that lack of polish offputting at first, but I quickly learned to ignore and then to enjoy it. The tone is very much that of a man holding forth over beers at the pub, telling his truth if not THE truth. As with most modern war stories, “Boocoo” is fueled by ironies. For instance, although the soldiers constantly talk about escaping from Vietnam, the young Myers clearly finds soldiering entertaining, right up to and apparently even during the ambush which ends his military career. Another recurrent irony is that, “An infantryman is rarely told more than he needs to know to do his job, and sometimes not even that.” Again and again, the soldiers in “Boocoo Dinky Dow” make life and death decisions in an information vacuum, in a universe in which the rules they grew up by are useless, and most useless of all is that common sense rule that says staying alive is an individual’s primary goal. “Boocoo Dinky Dow” reminded me that wars are (and probably must be) waged by boys turned too suddenly -- and incompletely -- into men....more
I'll try to remember to link to the full review when it is published:
McClintock succeeds beautifully at sketching the rich web of Antarctic life and tI'll try to remember to link to the full review when it is published:
McClintock succeeds beautifully at sketching the rich web of Antarctic life and the human-caused changes that challenge it, as well as the ways researchers work to understand these things, but he has neglected to web together a coherent narrative. So "Lost Antarctica" is no page turner: it reads like a series of short, fascinating articles, each ending on the same dire climate change warnings.
This lack of an overarching narrative is no reason for most readers to deny themselves the pleasures of this book, one of which is delightful description. Here's an example from a brief narrative about diving in Antarctica: "Descending first through six feet of sea ice and then, once below the ice, to a depth of about twenty feet, I paused to take in my surroundings. The sea ice above me glowed, filtering sunlight to the depths. I was drifting as if just below the ceiling of a magnificent building whose floor lay eighty feet below me. I was struck by the same sense of awe one experiences entering the Sistine Chapel, only instead of Michelangelo's paintings, I was gazing at a ceiling aglow and adorned with intricate platelets of ice."
The reader interested in Antarctica; in the front lines of the science of climate change; or in the intricate dance of life on Earth will be amply rewarded. McClintock's`articles' offer moments of alternating loveliness and careful, cogent explanation that together allow the reader to feel she has sampled something of the intricacy and wonder of life in Antarctica -- and force her to question whether Antarctica is a harsh place or simply a heartbreakingly vulnerable one....more
I can't remember ever writing that I thought "everyone" should read a book but I'm going to now, or close anyway: every American should read this bookI can't remember ever writing that I thought "everyone" should read a book but I'm going to now, or close anyway: every American should read this book. I swung back and forth from angry to startled to chagrined to disbelieving and back to angry with every chapter. The author could have repeated the obvious a bit less but in a book that quite literally changed the way I see myself, my country and most of all its history, I forgive him for a bit of repetition....more