Setting a coming-of-age narrative in the midst of a (slowly) impending apocalypse could have easily resulted in hackneyed tripe. But Karen Thompson Wa...moreSetting a coming-of-age narrative in the midst of a (slowly) impending apocalypse could have easily resulted in hackneyed tripe. But Karen Thompson Walker does a fantastic balancing act juxtaposing the disconnected from her own body a young woman feels during puberty with the disconnect from the world at large during a catastrophic event. Although at times it come perilously close, it never veers into too easy "Today there was a solar eclipse; and I got my period" territory.
There are just the right amount of age-appropriate remembrances (Reverse Hide & Seek; Ghost in the Graveyard) to make the narrative flow more like a memoir than fiction. The careful attention to the narrator's point of view (at age eleven going on twelve) is almost enough to call her an unreliable narrator. No scientific explanations are given and there is very little mention of the government interference or reaction; which is exactly how an adolescent would remember childhood. (I remember President Reagan addressing "Mr. Gorbachev" but at the time, my priorities included dancing, teen mags, and stickers; not politics and world events.)
The uncomplicated writing style generated a genuine yet urgent tone. I submersed myself in this book and felt uneasy every time I stopped reading: whether it was sunny or dark, it felt like it shouldn't be. That a writer can have that great an effect a reader's peace of mind is a great testament to their skill.
**spoiler alert** WARINING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
The Good and the Ghastly thrusts us thousands of years in the future, after the nuclear war...more**spoiler alert** WARINING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
The Good and the Ghastly thrusts us thousands of years in the future, after the nuclear war and the subsequent reconstruction. Rather than focusing on setting and background, the author chooses to focus on the criminal lives of two characters.
Overall, TGatG was a quick, interesting read. While some of the big picture elements of the future played without explanation, the lack of details regarding character development ultimately hindered story. For example, the ubiquitous use of Hispanic names (Junior Alvarez is Irish; Josephina Alfonso is Italian) can be attributed to the fact that Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in 2012. Logic dictates that a decimated planet would be rebuilt by those speaking the most common language. However, there were several instances where logic didn't help fill in the blanks. For example, the U.S. is known as the Visa Second United States; but Ireland is still just Ireland? Given that the majority of California is under water in the future, wouldn't much of the rest of the planet's geography effect massive changes?
Also, the story seems to go from zero to sixty rather quickly. There is very little written about Josephina's rise to violence. A more subtle trajectory would have made her a more sympathetic character. The same can be said for Junior's clumsy rise to fame. One second he's an ex-con with no support system; the next he's the new mafia boss. Then, just as suddenly, he's not.
Much of the writing style seems either clumsy or lazy. The author shifts pov (from Junior first person; second person; omniscient narrator; and back and forth at will) less to serve the story, and more to take story telling short cuts. Why bother giving Junior a first person p.o.v. in the first half of the novel, just to leave him silent for the second half? And where was Josephina during Junior's quick decline in the media? And did Junior ever know anything about Josephina - either specifically or as an unknown vigilante?
James Boice takes great care in presenting Big Questions about what our future holds. But he all but ignores the characters their reactions that would make those Big Questions relatable.(less)
Very clever. I LLOL'ed several times. (That's "Literally Laughed Out Loud".) The Codas were an interesting and unexpected, though not unwelcome twist....moreVery clever. I LLOL'ed several times. (That's "Literally Laughed Out Loud".) The Codas were an interesting and unexpected, though not unwelcome twist. Just when I thought I'd gotten the hang of "Redshirts" unique brand of scientific theory, I was thrown through another (time/space) loop. Through an engaging narrative (with just enough winking to be on this side of obnoxious on the irony scale), he weaves a neatly wrapped and cleverly told story while opening the door to existential questions about fate and purpose. Hilarious.(less)
The contents of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" would make for a very compelling lecture series. Although Lehrer writes with a passion and immediacy tha...moreThe contents of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" would make for a very compelling lecture series. Although Lehrer writes with a passion and immediacy that keeps his tone from becoming too dry, there was a general lack of fun. I read for entertainment purposes, and challenging fiction often provides me with a sense of conspiratorial problem-solving. Non-fiction can be equally entertaining, but more in a more transparent, group effort. (I'm a nerd; learning for the sake of learning IS fun.) But there was certain je ne sais quoi that kept the ignition to fun from turning.
Each chapter was so packed with cross-referencing physiological facts that I retained about as much new information as I would from a magazine article. Which is to say, I feel/ fear that a lot of the finer points went over my head.
A friend chose this as our Book Club selection and I'm really looking forward to our discussion, in the hopes that a dialogue will flesh out the concepts Lehrer touches upon.(less)
There was a slow build to a some promising twists, but in the end, every revelation felt like a red herring. It felt as if the dozen or so loose ends...moreThere was a slow build to a some promising twists, but in the end, every revelation felt like a red herring. It felt as if the dozen or so loose ends could have been tied up any number of ways. (less)