I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a sequel to Oryx and Crake, even if it had been so long since I read it that this book lost me severI was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a sequel to Oryx and Crake, even if it had been so long since I read it that this book lost me several times along the way. This post-apocalyptic dystopian novel follows two characters who are left alive after a plague wipes out most of humanity. Both were at one point members of the same cult lead by Adam One. One is living in the ruins of the spa she used to run while the other is locked in the night club she used to work at. The narrative is lyrical, the vision of the future terrifying yet prescient and the societal issues presented relevant and complex as you'd expect from an Atwood novel.
The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories is a collection of stories by the popular Israeli author Etgar Keret. The author I was most reThe Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories is a collection of stories by the popular Israeli author Etgar Keret. The author I was most reminded of while reading the collection is Roald Dahl. It contained much of the same kind of off-beat humor and unexpected twists that I love Dahl for, although in Keret’s collection the stories were basically brief comedic gags and the twists were just a part of the humor where as Dahl’s stories tend to be longer mysteries and all the dark humor is incidental to the big build up of the final twist. Regardless Keret reminded me of Dahl much more than the lukewarm Heavenly Date and other Flirtations by Alexander McCall Smith, which contained a review linking the two on the cover. Keret’s stories are each so unique that I can’t possibly summarize the collection. The best I can do is share two of my favorite quotes from it; the first is the openingline of a story and the second the closing line of another story:
“Korbi was a punk like all punks. The kind where it’s hard to tell if they’re mainly ugly or mainly stupid.”
“There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed.”
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I was thrilled to find an author who so thoroughly satisfies my particular short-story tastes that is still living and I look forward to reading more from Keret. Five stars.
The Crow Road by Iain Banks begins with the memorable line "It was the day my grandmother exploded." This line is, in fact, a good indication of the rThe Crow Road by Iain Banks begins with the memorable line "It was the day my grandmother exploded." This line is, in fact, a good indication of the rest of the novel. This novel is full of similarly pithy one-liners and hooks (another good example being the start of chapter five: "Right, now this isn't as bad as it sounds, but...I was in bed with my Aunty Janice.") but unfortunately aside from amusing me with the occasional one-liner the book didn't do much for me.
At first, due to the vertiginous style of narrative and its constant switches in time and focus it is hard to pin point any one main character or plot except that all the vignettes center around one family. With time, however, it becomes apparent that novel is following a main character, Prentice, through a fairly linear plot with the rest being flashbacks and the like to relevant scenes in the history of his family, whose sordid past he uncovers throughout the novel.
The history of the family seems to be more eventful than the average one, but not to an unrealistic degree. The novel begins at Prentice's Grandmother's funeral where we meet the family. In order of appearance, more or less, they are Uncle Hamish, who is possessed of several peculiar ideas about religion and how one's life is tallied up after death; Prentice's father Kenneth, a devout atheist who Prentice is currently not speaking to over religious differences; Prentice's little brother James, who spends most of the novel in Australia and doesn't appear to do much worth mentioning in the novel other than being moody and listening to his Walkman; Prentice's mother Mary, who is generally warm and loving and motherly; Aunt Ilsa the world traveler, Uncle Rory who rode off on a stolen motorcycle years ago and hasn't been heard from since, Prentice's older, and if you ask Prentice smarter, funnier, and all-around better, brother Lewis; Uncle Fergus, the widow of Prentice's Aunt Fiona and father of twins, he is also the richest and most powerful man in town and the uncle of Verity whose beauty is matched only by her poor taste in men and who has won Prentice's heart. Last but not least I'd be remiss if I did not mention Ashley, who is not a member of the family, but is rather a family friend. Prentice didn't get along with her much during school and in fact broke her nose with a snowball containing a rock. Despite this fact she spends a fair amount of time in the novel taking care of him while he blubbers drunkenly.
All of these people and more populate the novel following a rather predictable path based on the introductions given at the beginning of the novel. I don't recall being surprised by any incident in the novel, which is saying something for a novel that mostly just bounces from incident to incident. A large number of said incidents seem to involve sex or large amounts of alcohol, or both. At what might be called the climax of the book (pun totally intended) a very controlled movement of certain muscles in a pulse-like fashion leads to one character confessing their love to another in Morse code.
Overall the novelty of the bizarre incidents and one-liners wore off pretty quickly and I didn't find anything particularly deep to sink my teeth into. The only part of the book that was even remotely challenging was the non-linear plot structure, but after latching onto the one main through line even that was relatively easy to deal with. There were a couple interesting bits contemplating religion or death, but overall nothing that I haven't seen said before and said better. When I finished the novel there wasn't any issue that I was left pondering or anything at all that really stayed with me. The main thought that went through my head at the end was a vague feeling of disappointment that it ended in more or less exactly the way I had predicted at the beginning.
To be fair I'm not a fan of strictly realistic fiction. A second fact that might bias me against the book is that it contains a lot of contemplation on religion and despite the fact that it is of a mostly atheistic bent I just don't find religion to be quite as interesting a subject for infinite contemplation as most people seem to. With those disclaimers in mind I'd give the book three stars out of five.
People can be teachers and idiots; they can be philosophers and idiots, they can be politicians and idiots…in fact I think they have to be…a genius can be an idiot. The world is largely run for and by idiots; it is no great handicap in life and in certain areas is actually a distinct advantage and even a prerequisite for advancement. Iain Banks, The Crow Road
“Fairness is something we made up,” he said. “It’s an idea. The universe isn’t fair or unfair; it works by mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry…Things happen; it takes a mind to come along and call them fair or not.” Iain Banks, The Crow Road
“Prentice, have you been reading crime novels instead of your history books?”
I gave a small laugh. “No. The worst crimes are always in the history books, anyway.” Iain Banks, The Crow Road
Book Talk: In the distant future humanity has survived the death of Old Earth, but it is now facing a new Armageddon. The Hegemony of Man is on the evBook Talk: In the distant future humanity has survived the death of Old Earth, but it is now facing a new Armageddon. The Hegemony of Man is on the eve of war with the Ousters and a strange monster called the Shrike has appeared, killing hundreds and spawning a cult. The fate of humanity rests on the shoulders of seven hand-picked pilgrims who have been sent on the final journey to meet this monster head on: a catholic priest, a colonel, a poet, a scholar, a starship captain, a private detective, and a politician. As they travel closer to the Shrike, each shares their story, but the more they learn the more the mystery thickens.
Rocks My Socks: Much of the details of the plot are classic science fiction, but the structure and the way it is told are rooted in literary fiction, drawing inspiration from The Canterbury Tales. The book is also filled with literary references, starting with its name: Hyperion. The book actually encompasses even more genres because as each pilgrim tells their story the genre changes, with a military fiction break for the colonel, a noir detective story for the PI, a tear-jerker family drama for the scholar, and so on. My favorite stories were the PI and the poet.
Rocks In My Socks: I don't normally read that much science fiction, so it was very difficult for me to get into the book at first. There's hardly any exposition in the beginning so I was thrown into the deep end of a future with complicated technology and politics and expected to keep my head above water until I got the hang of swimming. I don't think I understood what was going on at all for the first few chapters. Simmons does, however, go back and explain these world-building details again later so that if you don't understand everything at first, don't worry and just keep reading. You'll pick it up eventually. Or drown, I suppose--maybe you should have a literary life guard on hand.
Every Book Its Reader: I'd recommend this to both fans of literary fiction and science fiction. There isn't enough of the other genres of this book to make me recommend it to hard-core fans of those genres, but those who enjoy cross genre works (like those in Stories) will enjoy this book's variety. I would say that this book is definitely for adults, however. Beside it being a very dense work and at a pretty high reading level the book has many scenes of a violent, disturbing, or sexual nature and one violent, disturbing sex scene at the end of the colonel's story (don't say I didn't warn you!)