So gritty pulp "heroes" who dress in silly costumes and take themselves far too seriously are not generally my oeuvre, but for some reason they workedSo gritty pulp "heroes" who dress in silly costumes and take themselves far too seriously are not generally my oeuvre, but for some reason they worked for me here. Watchman managed to be surprising in its cliches, graphically violent and yet, kinda sweet. Especially my main man, the Blot-Faced One. LOVED the art. Very deliberately calculated. But.
I listened to this one as an audiobook that happened to be produced in the year 2000. The first half hour or so of the recording is a direct address bI listened to this one as an audiobook that happened to be produced in the year 2000. The first half hour or so of the recording is a direct address by author Arthur C. Clarke (also recorded in the year 2000) about the development of the 2001 book/film and its legacy. One of the things about this book that most surprised me was the fact that the film actually came first...or at least was released about a year (I think, don't quote me) before the novel. Director Stanley Kubrick and Clarke actually worked very closely on the novel-inspiration for the film...which was originally envisioned as merely an expeditious way to write out the story before converting it into screenplay form. The novel was more or less an afterthought.
I haven't seen the film in years and only really remember the most pivotal, memorable scenes (and Hal. Who can forget Hal?) but it's no surprise that film and novel plot lines are very similar. In fact, as Clarke mentions in his introduction, the only main differences are in medium (because novels demand more "explaining" while films use visuals) and in technical limitations (the rendezvous with Saturn in the novel was changed to Jupiter in the film because the effects department couldn't produce a viable Saturn effect). Both film and novel feel surprisingly modern, though I did laugh when in the novel there is mention of a typewriter at the moon base. And also the amazing digital news technology that updates every HOUR *gasp* rendering paper news technology obsolete. The future is truly mind-boggling!
All joking aside, I wonder if perhaps the focus in 2001 on distant space and alien intelligence in forms we cannot comprehend should perhaps take a backseat to the unanswered questions about artificial intelligence as posed by Hal, the vengeful (?) machine. The technological developments of the twenty-first century have made the latter an issue of computer/human relations an immediate one, while cuts to NASA have kept interstellar human travel the same pipe dream it was in the 1960s (only these days the technology seems to be within reach, if not the $$$ (yet). At any rate, Hal's passive-aggressive mutiny is the tensest (read: best) part of the novel, second only to the interesting prehistorical hypothesis. The novel does explain a lot more of the background to the film's iconic visuals (the tossed bone, the obelisks) but regardless of trippy exposition or trippy visuals, the ending sequence still leaves me with a "huh?"...more
At the end of my audio version of Breakfast of Champions (expertly and sardonically narrated by my main man and possibly long-lost uncle Stanley TucciAt the end of my audio version of Breakfast of Champions (expertly and sardonically narrated by my main man and possibly long-lost uncle Stanley Tucci) there's a brief, casual interview with an elderly-sounding Mr. Vonnegut, who says something like this: I just took all the ideas I had for novels, but which I didn't want to ever bother to write out, and put them all in this book.
He also admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he had read Breakfast of Champions. And also that the movie was crap. He and the interviewer had a good long laugh about that.
[As an aside, my favorite novel-within-a-novel was the one about the planet that holds a lottery every year to select the next popular and expensive piece of art, which one year is some guy's finger-painting of his cat. Until the lottery is revealed to be rigged, and all hell breaks loose. Which sounds...about right.]
This novel isn't so much a novel as a stew of all the leftover half-cooked ideas left in the fridge of Vonnegut's mind. And it all turns out rather tasty, though maybe the presentation isn't particularly appetizing. It's definitely one of his *weirder* ones. He's one of the few postmodern authors, I think, who can get away with the craziness he does without seeming to try to hard. Even though this one makes some brilliantly astute (and satirical) points about racism, homosexuality, and Art, I much prefer the perfect balance of weird & emotional heart of Slaughterhouse-Five. ...more
This one had an interesting enough premise, but utter lack of word-building and bizarre inconsistencies in the world's "laws" mean that moderately engThis one had an interesting enough premise, but utter lack of word-building and bizarre inconsistencies in the world's "laws" mean that moderately engaging questions of what it means to be truly Dauntless fall flat.
Divergent takes place in a dystopian Chicago. There is a fence around it. The Dauntless faction guards the fence. That is all we know about this "world". Do other cities exist? Is this a last bastion of humankind? Doubtful, because then we would have heard about...something. ANYthing that is not one of the 5 factions in Chicago and their squabblings.
Tris is born into the Abnegation clan, and is brought up to be modest and selfless as if in some sort of religious cult. In her 16th year at school she gets to pick the faction where she will spend the rest of her life. Of COURSE she picks Dauntless--they are the cool, tattoo-wearing, dyed-haired hooligans who spend their lives guarding the fence against...who knows. Whee! But they are COOL. I'm surprised Abnegation has any teens stick around at all.
So Tris goes to boot-camp--if boot-camp involved zero discipline, but teenagers had to fight each other with bare hands, and throw knives at muffins balanced on one another's heads, and run around on the edge of railing-less high-up-places. There are only about 20 kids in this years class, and half of them die or are given the boot. I guess they don't need that many kids guarding the fence.
I'm not going to go into how a culture that gives government power to one faction, and military power to the kids who like to beat other people up and shoot guns and run around on high buildings could possibly have survived as long as...? We have no idea for how long this has been going on. Nor will I gripe about the fact that "most" people have "divergent" personalities (we aren't all "brave" or "selfless" or "studious" - we are mixes of all of theses) and unless there is some intricate brainwashing going on in which future Chicagoans really believe this--and there's no evidence of that here--it's no excuse to make yet another teen protagonist a "special snowflake." Other reviews have already touched on all this much more succinctly. Obviously I've been reading way too much 1930's literature lately, but if "Nazi Mook School" does not jump to mind while reading this book, do yourself a favor and go rent the film Before the Fall about a German kid who entered a National Political Academy (aka Napola) in 1942. There are some striking plot similarities, and both ask similar moral questions, but Divergent just doesn't have enough of a compelling world or moral landscape or perspective (or something) to deliver the same resonance....more
*note* I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
Anyone else noticing how dark YA books have become recently? Not that I mind, I*note* I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
Anyone else noticing how dark YA books have become recently? Not that I mind, I've been attracted to darker stories from the first (I'm thinking the illustrated version of Alfred Noyes's beautiful yet bloody The Highwayman that I stumbled across in my elementary school library) and, more recently, to The Hunger Games in which school-age kids battle to the death on live TV. But while Glow seems to be riding The Hunger Games dystopian coattails, the story itself has little in common with the pop YA lit trendsetter.
In Glow, a future Earth has become uninhabitable, and so self-sufficient Noah's ark-like spaceships are sent to colonize "New Earth". The journey will be long, so long that the original space travelers will not live to see New Earth, and their children, born en-route, will be elderly on arrival. Teenage protagonists Kieran and Waverly have known no other life than aboard the ship Empyrean. The closest ship New Horizon left Earth a year ahead of the Empyrean...so its sudden appearance alongside Empyrean is a shock...and a mystery. I don't want to give away any more than that and spoil the plot surprises of the first few chapters, so suffice it to say that Glow reminds me much more of the post nuclear-holocaust YA book The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau (than say the Hunger Games), in which children must come to terms with the dire mistakes of their fore-bearers.
For me, the broader story and themes of Glow worked best in this story--the loss of home and family, the loneliness of space, the conflict between the uplifting and corrupting sides of organized religion. I liked how pure good and evil are difficult to detect in this novel--for example, in the pastor who does some despicable things in the name of religion, all of which stemmed from honorable ideals and intentions. And I'll even admit that I teared up around page 138 in the middle of--oh, I won't give it away, you can read it for yourself!
While the larger concepts drew me in, I still struggled with the rather bland characterization of the two protagonists, and the rushed pace of the novel's final third. Kieran and Waverly are an every-boy and every-girl, and while perhaps this may help average kids identify with them, in my mind they acted too normal--too Earth-normal--to really be believable as kids who had never stepped foot on a planet. Surely the Empyrean must have had a very specific culture, language, quirks, which develop in closed societies in unusual environments...but I didn't get a sense of that here. However, I'm intrigued enough that I may seek out book two of the series....more
"On the barren shore, and on the lofty ice barrier in the background, myriads of grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins..." ~H. P. Lovecra"On the barren shore, and on the lofty ice barrier in the background, myriads of grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins..." ~H. P. Lovecraft in At the Mountains of Madness
"Indeed, all that a wonder story can ever be is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood. The moment it tries to be anything else it becomes cheap, puerile, and unconvincing." ~H. P. Lovecraft in "Notes on Writing Weird Fiction"
I don't consider myself much of a reader of horror or science fiction, but I do appreciate a good, slow-burning, atmospheric story that makes me question reality, sanity, and all of human existence...at least for a little while. At at the same time, I found myself enjoying this as "pulp" in the same way I might enjoy a monster movie out of the 50's (see the first quote above!). This particular Lovecraft story collection served as a perfect introduction to early 20th century "weird fiction", and I liked the way the stories lengthened, matured, and increased in complexity as I worked my way through. The first few stories are short, somewhat confusing and dreamlike. "The Shunned House" was the first story to feel--in that signature Lovecraft style--more or less grounded in reality, while the creepiness slowly accumulates like the fungi in a damp cellar. In At the Mountains of Madness I became fully immersed in the scientific minutiae of a 1930's antarctic expedition (it's like Into Thin Air with monsters, or maybe Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull done right). "Shadow Over Innsmouth" was the most gripping and fast-paced of all the stories complete with a thrilling chase scene. Of course, Lovecraft takes his time getting to the point, so I imagine that what some people will find intriguing (all the pseudo-science and cultish history) others will find dead dull.
Lovecraft's stories are are very internal and cerebral, and as such there is very little human emotion beyond horror and fear: by that I mean his characters seem to have little, if any, interest in human relationships. There are no love interests, the few families mentioned are horribly disturbed (as was Lovecraft's own), but there is a lot of Indiana-Jonsing about in dangerous subterranean abyssi (that's the correct HPL plural, right? :) However, the stories on their own terms are certain to provoke thought and doubt about the mere shadow of reality we humans are capable of perceiving....more
I have very fond memories of reading this book as a kid. When I was 11 or 12 it was my favorite of Verne's books, but I remembered very little about WI have very fond memories of reading this book as a kid. When I was 11 or 12 it was my favorite of Verne's books, but I remembered very little about WHY I loved it. I came across this lovely audio recording read by the inimitable Tim Curry, whose vocal talent truly made my latest listening experience enjoyable, because I must admit that Journey (tragically) did not hold up so well for me over the years.
The biggest annoyance was Achsel, the young-ish narrator and nephew of the preeminent Hamburgian geologist who of course gets dragged along into the bowels of the Earth for the sake of SCIENCE(!). I recall identifying with Achsel when I was a kid, probably because he IS so darn childish--a whiney, cowardly pain-in-the-a$$ in the view of my adult self. Mr. Curry himself seems to revel in pumping Achsel's voice so full of navel-gazing angst you can just tell he's making fun of the poor guy. Heh heh. I laughed out loud when Achsel's fiancee tells him flat out to stuff a sock in it, and that if he does NOT leave her and go spelunking with his uncle, he'll never become a man in her eyes. Seriously, the professor should have taken her along instead--she would have actually contributed value to the expedition.
I also remember being rather fond of Hans the duck-hunting Icelandic guide and servant, who is basically the Sam Gamgee of this expedition, carrying the supplies and solving all the problems while being mostly ignored by the Prof and his nephew. This time around I found myself craving more dramatic human interactions between the characters, particularly a cathartic fist-fight between Hans and Achsel...but sadly no. The characters are shunted aside for Verne's pseudo-science which I remember being so wild and interesting as a kid--especially the Plesiosaur/Ichthyosaur battle--but which this time I found so dull and which got in the way of my matured frontal cortex. Sigh. Why did have to grow up?...more
Geez, I don't know why I keep reading these insane books! Ok, so it had its laugh-out-loud moments like Aurthur's silent feud with a stranger over a pGeez, I don't know why I keep reading these insane books! Ok, so it had its laugh-out-loud moments like Aurthur's silent feud with a stranger over a packet of biscuits, or Aurthur and his new crush having a bizarre romantic moment at 30,000 feet, but these are all just scenes, anecdotes. If this book (or any of them, really) HAS a plot, I was probably concentrating too hard to catch on. Definitely the most pointless in the series so far: no Zaphod or Trillian -- where the heck did they go? If you love DA and have read the other books, go for it. Otherwise, skip to the bit about the biscuits, read it, and you're good to go....more
I have an uncomfortable feeling that I missed something here. I REALLY liked Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day with all its understated, suppressed emI have an uncomfortable feeling that I missed something here. I REALLY liked Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day with all its understated, suppressed emotion and solid Britishness. It fit the story of an understated, suppressed and aging British butler so very well. And while I was initially intrigued by the author's intent to apply similar understated Britishness to a more dystopian story, this one fizzled away into "meh" territory for me. Ok, so this isn't really a dystopian book, it's a book about relationships, how they develop and change overtime as we age and so on. So this is what I don't get: why is there a dystopian twist at all? I can imagine a similar story set in an ordinary world, maybe starting in a children's home, following friends who (view spoiler)[age, get sick and die (hide spoiler)] in the ordinary way. The characters feel more real than the setting, the world and its rules--most of which feel like afterthoughts. Distractions, as it were, added to give a smallish story a high-concept spin. Everything else was so ordinary that I had difficulty believing in the world. In other words, if a fictional world is modeled after the read world except for one big twist, wouldn't there be more obvious consequences/changes visible? More than one person mildly protesting the status quo? I spent much of the story paying attention to the hints dropped here and there--is the narrator reliable? What's really going on here?--but by the end realized that I knew as much about the world as I did in the early chapters. If it feels like it's building up to some sort of big reveal...(view spoiler)[it isn't. Sorry! (hide spoiler)]
Still, I can't deny that Ishiguro is a master at painting small, emotional moments. A girl dancing with a pillow. Finding a lost cassette. Searching for a boat. Yet I struggled to connect the small and emotional to the big, high concept. Thematically, the dystopian story doesn't add anything more meaningful to the relationship story on its own. Towards the end, the twist cheapens the drama by forcing the characters to take action, instead of letting the characters come to their conclusions through genuine internal growth (especially Ruth). There are two halves to this story, but they don't seem to relate or interact in a way that resonates with me.
Right, now that we have that straightened out...what a book! I write this review with tongue in cheek, jusDo NOT use this book as a survival manual!!
Right, now that we have that straightened out...what a book! I write this review with tongue in cheek, just as the author must have written this book. Why? well...
Five Union prisoners of war escape Richmond, VA in a Rebel spy balloon, and a mere five days later end up on a remote island in the Pacific. Being very resourceful (not to mention absolute geniuses) they do what anyone stranded on a deserted island would do: they forge their own iron and steel tools, make glass, an elevator, nitroglycerin, and even a telegraph using 100% natural materials (think the professor from Gilligan's Island). But in the course of their struggle against nature, strange incidents convince them that this island may not be as deserted as they thought...(insert ominous music)...
Be prepared for a kicker ending that will leave you choking on your lithodomus! ...more