What a great book - I loved Borges and I loved this book for the same reasons. It is composed of 44 short stories, of only about 5 pages in length onWhat a great book - I loved Borges and I loved this book for the same reasons. It is composed of 44 short stories, of only about 5 pages in length on average, where author Zachary Mason alters and re-imagines "variations" on Greek mythology (mostly but not entirely from the Odyssey). For example: Achilles as a golem controlled by Odysseus. The adventure with Polyphemos retold sympathetically from his perspective. Athena offering to be Odysseus's paramour. Mason purports them to be Homer's apocrypha, alternate versions scrubbed from the official text by the passage of time and surviving only in fragments.
This is Mason's debut; before becoming a writer (and perhaps he still keeps his day job, I do not know) he was a computer scientist, and it shows. The stories are cerebral, with appearances of recursion and infinity, the boundaries of knowledge, unreliability of information and a blurring of the line between "fiction" and "non-fiction," the constant undercurrent of the book's structure itself which asks you to ask yourself what the "real" myths were. To quote the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
A less charitable critic might call it derivative of Borges, but I think Mason's themes are distinct enough, and in any case I eat this stuff up, derivative or not. I love having to think hard about a book, having it play with my mind, having the traces linger in my mind like the mental edifices of a difficult mathematical exercise. A weak story here and there but for the most part strong and thoughtful, stylistically efficient, no wastage. Five stars. ...more
There are famous math problems that are easy to explain but difficult to solve, such as the four-color map problem or Goldbach's Conjecture; the RiemaThere are famous math problems that are easy to explain but difficult to solve, such as the four-color map problem or Goldbach's Conjecture; the Riemann Hypothesis is unfortunately not such a problem. Prime Obsession is author John Derbyshire's attempt to explain the RH in simple terms and to illustrate its place and importance in the history of mathematics. It's not an easy task, and I think what Derbyshire has written is suited for a relatively narrow audience of people: those who took some analysis or at least calculus in school but who didn't go on to enough pure maths to have already learned about the RH.
I fall under this category. The book did succeed in explaining the RH to me. But I do not think it imparted an adequate appreciation of why it is such an important problem. Some of the other results in the book, such as Euler's theorem (the "Golden Key") or the existence of Littlewood inversions, seemed to me to be more interesting or elegant. In particular, I do not know except in brief passing reference what mathematics would depend on the RH, and I do not know what the ramifications of a disproof would be. Towards the end Derbyshire goes very quickly through newer, complicated physics-based advances regarding the RH, leaving little possibility for deep understanding; I would have gotten rid of this section in favor of deeper coverage of the RH's consequences, even if this meant that we wouldn't be covering math newer than the 1930s.
Nevertheless I generally enjoyed the book. But then again I fall in the narrow audience mentioned above. If you are more mathematically advanced than I am, you may find this book entertaining but too basic. If you are less so, you may not even understand the RH properly at all, which is supposed to be the main purpose of the book. Rather than communicating the intuition and big picture, Derbyshire sometimes takes more of a procedural, step-by-step approach which he "babies" a bit to help along laypeople. This does help get the casual reader from point A to point B but is not going to leave a framework of true understanding in the reader's mind.
The odd chapters are more strictly mathematical and the even chapters are more historical. The history chapters for the most part can be digested and enjoyed by anyone, so even for relative math-phobes, half of this book will be pretty readable. Derbyshire does a very good job here of depicting the real people behind the theorems, not only with regard to their personalities but how their lives fit into the greater context of world history. I found the discussion of the great mathematicians' patrons to be particularly good. ...more
King Leopold's Ghost covers a historical atrocity not well covered in the Western history books, the colonization and exploitation of the Congo by BelKing Leopold's Ghost covers a historical atrocity not well covered in the Western history books, the colonization and exploitation of the Congo by Belgium around the turn of the 20th century. It offers a very clear and readable account that is consistently engrossing and easy to follow even for those with little or no prior knowledge about the Congo.
The book's greatest forte is that there is little wasted writing: most of the historical detail is "value-added," either in strengthening arguments, descriptions and imagery, or at least in simple entertainment value (some of Leopold's family history comes to mind). The book's structure is driven biographically, presenting the Congo story through the personal histories of Leopold, Morel, Sheppard, Stanley, and others. The author Adam Hochschild does well in wringing the color out the often-colorful personalities involved while jumping smoothly from thread to thread as the events in one person's life lead us to the events in another's.
The one thing preventing me from giving this book a fifth star is Hochschild's annoying tendency to intermittently insert little biases and interpretations through his choices of phrasing. For example: imagining someone's emotions, reading too much into a single quote, reading into a person's physical appearance and projecting this onto their personality (Casement, Stanley). It's not a big problem, but it is irritating enough that I do consider it a real knock on an otherwise excellent piece of journalism. ...more
A fun book that bears a number of resemblances to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite movies. It asks a very simple and age-oldA fun book that bears a number of resemblances to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite movies. It asks a very simple and age-old question that we've all asked ourselves at some point: if you could do it all over again what would you do differently? And after you've answered: are you so sure about that?
A story like this has much potential to be clichéd, but I think author Ken Grimwood handles it quite well, keeping the characters realistic and human and picking out touching episodes in the protagonist's life without becoming sappy. I particularly enjoyed his use of the "skew," which had the interesting effect of entangling the characters deeper in the past as the story goes on and gave a sense of urgency and sadness to the proceedings. Can't really explain more as I don't intend to offer any spoilers in my reviews.
The only real flaw is the book's occasional descent into somewhat silly New Age-ish crap. All of the asides into Starsea and dolphins and Mount Shasta are very clunky, especially because they are written as if they are supposed to be deep and moving. Overlook these and enjoy the remainder.
(also, Sidney Bechet died in 1959... outside the window of Jeff's replay)...more
This book is set in the gritty grimy world of New Crobuzon. In case you forgot that it was gritty and grimy, author China Miéville periodically pepperThis book is set in the gritty grimy world of New Crobuzon. In case you forgot that it was gritty and grimy, author China Miéville periodically peppers you with phrases like "...the flickering, baleful shadows overhead disappeared. In this tiny desolate patch of the city, the pall of nightmare energy seemed to lift for a few hours," or "Isaac vividly rememebered the sense of being awash in filth; of being sullied at the most profound level; the nauseating, disorienting sickness..." These aren't examples I flagged out specially while reading; you can pretty much open the book to a random page and find this sort of thing, which is what I did. It goes on for 600-odd pages.
In between all of these dark atmospheric invocations, there's a pretty bad plot. The best thing I can say about it is that from time to time the action sequences are exciting. Otherwise it's kind of a confused jumble of events without a whole lot in the way of good ideas. New characters and monsters frequently appear in the story with little purpose, sometimes not even to advance the plot as they merely generate a cul-de-sac in the storyline - they only serve to give the author more grimy gritty gruesomeness to describe. Somewhere along the way, Miéville seems to have forgotten that he was writing a novel, not a Dungeons and Dragons handbook.
A lot of the main characters are completely one-dimensional, with relatively cardboard personalities and emotions. There are a few long, painful passages where nothing substantial of interest at all happens, first when Isaac is describing crisis to Yagharek and later when people are pulling cable through the streets of New Crobuzon.
If you like gritty grimy gruesome without any literary substance, I suppose you could take a gander at this book. Otherwise stay away. ...more
Really interesting subject matter pulls the book along through some repetitive and bland writing. The Gnostic Gospels is an exploration of the major tReally interesting subject matter pulls the book along through some repetitive and bland writing. The Gnostic Gospels is an exploration of the major themes in the apocryphal "gnostic" books of the Bible, a set of books that were controversially debated and ultimately excluded from canon during Christianity's first few hundred years. The gnostic books emphasize a more spiritual, abstract Christ and de-emphasizes the role of a formal church in favor of private, individual communion with God.
The chapter "God the Father/God the Mother" is great, covering contrasting views of God as a patriarch versus a both-sexed deity, and the "One God, One Bishop" discussion of the division of the God of the Old Testament into two sub-gods and the inclusion of other deities was also very good. It is fascinating to think that these might have made it into Christianity if those formative years had turned out differently.
The book's main flaw is the repetitive writing, sometimes hammering at what I would consider to be relatively minor points again and again, and at times it felt like a high school essay in its dry argument-evidence-conclusion structure instead of a skillful flow. I also wish that the author had included a reproduction of the raw text from the gnostic books to allow the reader to read and see the themes for himself. ...more
Astonishingly poor, particularly when considering that Lovecraft is regarded as a cornerstone of the horror genre. His stories are repetitive and predAstonishingly poor, particularly when considering that Lovecraft is regarded as a cornerstone of the horror genre. His stories are repetitive and predictable, and his authorial style is marked by florid, baroque word choice that borders on the laughable. (Of all the words in the English language to get sick of, I never thought "eldritch" would be on my list.) I will grant that Lovecraft has some flair for stirring up gruesome and macabre imagery, but I found his talents in that respect to be frequently obscured by the terrible quality of his writing.
This book is a collection of 18 short stories, although the latter two-thirds of the book is composed of the five longest stories. These five are generally more readable than the others, the best of them being "The Whisperer in Darkness." Of the shorter short stories, "The Rats in the Walls" is the only one I can recommend. The bad ones of this lot are reaaaaally bad, reading like literary regurgitation from a story-generating machine.
The stories are footnoted in extensive detail by editor S.T. Joshi - it is too bad that his industry was not devoted to a better author. ...more
A pretty awesome behind-the-scenes look at the life of the Baltimore homicide department in 1988, written by a journalist who embedded himself in oneA pretty awesome behind-the-scenes look at the life of the Baltimore homicide department in 1988, written by a journalist who embedded himself in one of its divisions for that entire year. It was the antecedent of two major TV shows, "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The Wire," and it's easy to see, upon reading it, why network executives thought it would be great television material. Body after body hits the streets, detectives are summoned, they try to piece things together with a combination of careful observation and street smarts, and sometimes succeed and sometimes don't.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to a documentarian (literary, cinematic, or otherwise) is that one almost forget that he's there, becoming so engrossed in the subject and allowing one's self to be guided along quietly along. Though Simon is present at most of the scenes that play out in this book, he mostly keeps himself in the background, allowing the personalities of the detectives, the suspects, the witnesses to properly hold center stage.
And the subject matter is so fascinating by itself that there's little need to invent artificial embellishments (on occasion Simon does this, my only complaint with the book, but only to mild extent). It's got standard cop-show stuff, mystery, grittiness, politics, media. But it's really put over the top by many little observations along the way: the necessity of shaking off cases that turn up no new leads, the small tricks of the trade employed at crime scenes and interrogation rooms, the tendency to view capturing criminals as a game to be won or a puzzle to be solved and not in any larger, moralized context. An excellent and thrilling read. ...more
Ray Bradbury is a brilliant writer of short stories; if you haven't read any of his yet, I highly recommend you go find one of his collections or scouRay Bradbury is a brilliant writer of short stories; if you haven't read any of his yet, I highly recommend you go find one of his collections or scour the Internet and read "The Veldt" or "Here There Be Tygers" or some of those in The Martian Chronicles. He has a great talent for packing a large amount of meaning into a small amount of space, like a poet working in the medium of prose.
Fahrenheit 451, long enough to qualify as a novel, is a good read overall and certainly has its moments, but doesn't quite pack as much of a punch... almost as if a high-quality short story was stretched and attenuated to fit its extended format. It is built around a great core idea: illustrate the dangers of censorship through a society that both explicitly burns books and implicitly allows them to rot out of culture, devaluing education and thought and rendering its people dependent on television, cheap thrills, and sedatives. I think it is probably one of the earlier books to drill this idea down, and even though it has been revisited in many other books and movies since, Bradbury treats it
The plot leaves a bit to be desired. When the plot is rolling it is exciting, but there are gaps where nothing happens that are filled with meandering narration and stacks of similes. These run the gamut from evocative imagery to mere page-filler. There's generally too much tell and not enough show, and the writing can veer towards being dangerously preachy. One character disappears abruptly, and another is removed as he threatens to become the most interesting one in the book.
In these senses I would not consider Fahrenheit 451 a particularly well-written book, but its solid core idea covers such sins, particularly because it continues to be relevant in some fresh new ways. At the time of its writing, the question readers might ask was, is society heading towards such a intellectually empty, "blanc-mange" (to borrow a phrase from Bradbury's postscript) dead end? Bradbury, here in the 50s, foresees many contemporary criticisms of society with some prescience. But I think the more relevant question now is, given the meteoric rise of informational technology, could a world like the one in this book ever happen? More specifically, does the nearly indestructible nature of information in the Internet age ensure that books have become fireproof? Or does the massive volume of such information effectively burn valuable ideas in the signal-to-noise? ...more
Watch out for spoilers if you are deciding whether to read this book or not. The back cover practically gives away the ending, and a few online resourWatch out for spoilers if you are deciding whether to read this book or not. The back cover practically gives away the ending, and a few online resources (such as Amazon) are even worse, spelling things out in detail.
In any case, this is the life story of a man named Tod Friendly, as seen in reverse from his death onwards and narrated by a voice inside his head that is independently conscious and is unaware of the life Tod will end up having led. It's an interesting device, and because it does turn out that Tod harbors some big guilty secrets from earlier on in his life, it is a neat way to illustrate the mental review and action of his conscience (more on this below). After a major incident in your life, you may be inclined to "rewind the tape" and think about what happened and whether you made the right decisions and how it might have turned out otherwise. Because Tod's secrets are whole-life sized, we end up rewinding his whole life.
But I don't think author Martin Amis exercises this concept to nearly its full potential. The first half of the book is a mixture of suspense regarding Tod's secret and depictions of things happening in reverse (surgeons carefully wounding patients, love letters emerging from the trash, etc.) that are mildly interesting and poignant but do get a bit old. I was a bit annoyed by the narrator's continued naiveté regarding the way events move in reverse. He establishes his understanding that he is seeing things backwards but often narrates as if he doesn't understand what is really going on in normal, forward time.
OK, so perhaps that is deliberate because the narrator is serving as a sort of conscience or apologist. To make any sense or defense of the things Tod has done and has seen others do, our narrator must sometimes be naive, sometimes unwilling to understand or face every truth. The truth is so terrible as to defy reason going forward - how could we allow things like this to ever happen? - so maybe he has to put his chrono-blinders on and think only backwards.
I could buy that argument, but then the book has to present some sort of greater understanding from seeing time backwards instead of forwards. Tod's secret is a horror going forwards in time; if it is nothing more than a horror going backwards in time as well, then the entire premise of the book is intellectually bankrupt. I wish we could have seen more specifically how Tod's personality and behavior later in his life were influenced by his past; perhaps a few incidents in which the reader could more fully understand Tod's actions once he or she understood Tod's past. Maybe Amis tries to play the suspense angle too much, trying to be mysterious about the ending, resulting in a book that is almost two-thirds literary scaffolding for what is an admittedly very good final third. Lots of potential here, but it's only partially realized. ...more
Watership Down is a book for children. If you are a child then you should read it; you'll have fun. If you are an adult then you can still read it butWatership Down is a book for children. If you are a child then you should read it; you'll have fun. If you are an adult then you can still read it but be aware that it is a book for children and not one that carries additional depth of meaning or poignancy if you read it when you're older.
It is an adventure story about rabbits who leave their warren to found a new one, all the while dodging predators, making other animal friends, and battling a rival warren of aggressively militant rabbits. There aren't any subtleties, hidden meanings, or purposes other than to simply tell a rollicking adventure story. Some people might find this refreshing, I guess. It is fun to a point.
The imagery of the book depends heavily on plant names. There are countless references to a wild variety of flora whose meaning was largely lost on me, a city dweller. ...more
A passably entertaining account of an imagined apocalypse in which a large portion of the world's population turns into zombies and the remaining peopA passably entertaining account of an imagined apocalypse in which a large portion of the world's population turns into zombies and the remaining people fight for survival in a global war. It is constructed through recorded "oral accounts" with survivors, in the style of some nonfiction history books. Obviously when I picked this up I was not looking for the next Pulitzer winner but just some good ol' blood and guts and fun; unfortunately it did not always live up to these hopes.
The best parts of the books are not actually about the zombies themselves but about the human response to a doomsday scenario. Against the admittedly unrealistic backdrop of an undead invasion, the author crafts interesting reactions from governments and ordinary people, survival methods, and adaptations of fighting technique to the new threat. The zombies are actually almost tangential here, existing solely so we can see the human response (they're pretty stock horror-movie creatures anyway).
Unfortunately the plot was not particularly good. The characters' retold stories were often corny, and not in a fun kitschy or pulpy way (which is what I wanted), but an overwrought, even melodramatic way. Admittedly the plot in a book like this only exists as a scaffolding from which to hang the descriptions and visions, but the scaffolding that is there distracts by taking itself too seriously. You've got to have a fine touch to write accounts about zombie attacks and make them seem heartfelt without being eye-rolling, and Brooks doesn't quite have it. Maybe it'll look better in the movie, which is apparently in the works already. ...more
Very uneven, with some moments of greatness and some interminably boring segments. As with some of Kafka's other written works, this book was unfinishVery uneven, with some moments of greatness and some interminably boring segments. As with some of Kafka's other written works, this book was unfinished at the time of his death, and in my opinion it definitely feels incomplete, both because of some disjointedness in the plot and because the excess verbiage that tends to accompany early drafts has not been cropped away. There's probably an excellent novella or short story in here, but you'll have to peel through some dead weight to find it.
The Trial derives its power from its surreal and chilling atmosphere. Spooky and weird episodes dot the book that enhance Kafka's vision of an inhuman, facelessly oppressive world. The chapters read like separate short stories somewhat loosely tied together by the trial of the central character K. "The Flogger" is the best of these, tightly written and memorable, and is a good example of what the entire book should have been. The "Conversation" chapter and the long meandering chapter where K. walks about the courtroom offices are good examples of what you'll have to drag yourself through. Sometimes (as the translator of my edition, Breon Mitchell, briefly mentions during his preface) Kafka seems to get carried away and runs his sentences on and on.
So given all this, I'm at a bit of a loss as to how it is regarded as one of the great literary works of the 20th century? It's all right, but it didn't exactly knock my socks off. ...more
A novella incidentally about a man's murder, and more specifically about the residents of a small imaginary Latin American village. The death is disclA novella incidentally about a man's murder, and more specifically about the residents of a small imaginary Latin American village. The death is disclosed in the title and the opening sentence, and the story slouches towards its inevitable conclusion. Through the prism of the murder and its motive, Márquez examines the lives and dreams and interactions between the townspeople. A bit of a psychological study; indeed one of the questions implied by the story is why the murder was allowed to happen at all.
I enjoyed the book, but at first I was worried that I hadn't "got" something about it - a hidden meaning, symbolism, etc. Perhaps I still haven't. But I don't think this is necessarily Márquez's main concern; I think it's a book driven by the humanity and dimensionality of its characters, where you hold the men and women Márquez creates in your mind's eye and let the richness of their construction wash over you. Solid writing, as you might expect from an author of this caliber, though without enough lingering ideas for me to warrant the fifth star. ...more
A little cracker of a book, about a peaceful alien race on a forest-covered planet who turns to violence to stave off human colonizers. (I haven't seeA little cracker of a book, about a peaceful alien race on a forest-covered planet who turns to violence to stave off human colonizers. (I haven't seen Avatar, but I've been told there are, uh, similarities.) Le Guin writes from multiple perspectives: a brutal human colonist, an idealistic scientist, a leader of the alien creatures.
Although the book's short length prevents any of the ideas and characters from being developed particularly deeply, Le Guin does manage to get in some fine world-creation. The pace of the plot is very quick and, while not original in a broad, thematic sense, does stay fresh and avoids falling into a rut, especially towards the end where I think a bad writer might have gone with something simple and tawdry.
Borrow this from the library - it is readable within just a few subway rides. ...more
Very little happens in White Noise. It largely consists of conversations between a very annoying cast of characters interspersed with narration that fVery little happens in White Noise. It largely consists of conversations between a very annoying cast of characters interspersed with narration that follows the protagonist's internal thoughts. The narrator's preoccupation with death and the sterility of modern life is the main theme behind these conversations, but there is a litany of other oeuvres (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, "American Beauty," etc.) that do it much better.
The conversations are unrealistically convoluted in a terribly pretentious, faux-sophisticate manner. They often involve one character asking an over-intellectualized pseudo-philosophical question and then having another character respond with an even more over-intellectualized pseudo-philosophical question. They are generally childish and irritating. The narration of the main character's thoughts are only slightly better, sometimes interesting and occasionally even evocative, but more often than not vapid and tiresome.
Because there is little in the way of plot outside of this sort of vacuity, reading this book ended up feeling like a chore. It is saved from a one-star rating by a single redeeming feature: DeLillo's writing ability. He has an admirable knack for turns of phrase that communicate subtle feelings, thoughts, and states of mind, the like of which I've only seen from a handful of authors. It is unfortunate that those talents went into constructing such a poor story. ...more
I'd forgotten how awesome The Crying of Lot 49 is. The story, animated by Pynchon's twisting, layered prose, almost vibrates off the page and dares yoI'd forgotten how awesome The Crying of Lot 49 is. The story, animated by Pynchon's twisting, layered prose, almost vibrates off the page and dares you to keep following what is going on. It is a neat trick that confusion and paranoia are some of the main themes of the story. Given this, the book could easily have degraded into a meaningless morass under the pretense that "that's the point," and perhaps some readers may find it so. But I think Pynchon does a one-of-a-kind job, being disciplined in his storytelling while weaving in and out of countless little threads and tangents in what I'd describe as a controlled chaos.
The plot follows the protagonist Oedipa Maas as she is named the co-executor of the estate of a recently deceased old flame. From there she discovers small details and recurrences that lead her into what may or may not be some kind of strange, global conspiracy. The actual sequential unfolding of events is in many ways just a means to produce a flow of wildly colorful characters and hilarious (side-)episodes that really constitute the book's meat. Has anyone else in the history of the English language rhymed "periscope'll" and "Constantinople"?
Pynchon lets the story veer and dip in sometimes random directions that I realized more or less reflects the randomness in real-life, everyday human thought (or at least in mine, I guess). At a pivotal scene near the end, Oedipa notices that another character's fly is down. Who hasn't been in a situation where all you could think about was X and it was completely ridiculous? Despite its extremely unrealistic and weird plot, the book's zigzag procession reflects the human mind in a more natural way than a more structured and staged drama would. Our trains of thought don't usually go in a straight line from points A to B. ...more
A overview of linguistic theory regarding the structure of languages, universal commonalities between languages, language disorders, and how these comA overview of linguistic theory regarding the structure of languages, universal commonalities between languages, language disorders, and how these come together to give scientists a picture of how the brain processes language. The central argument is that despite the diversity of languages across history, the brain must have certain biologically rooted, innate language processing systems.
I found the evidence on the balance to be fairly convincing, although the book's chapters vary quite a bit in how convincing they were. Without attributing language function to specific brain structure, it is difficult to explain how children pick up languages so quickly, or the pidgin-creole evolution of languages, or some of the disorders encountered in the book. But I don't know that many people would disagree with this point, and so the book is less argument here than a description of the state of science at the time of its writing (1994).
With regard to language universals, I found the book to be much less compelling. For instance, I failed to see the significance of the "mice-eater"/"rat-eater" issue or "flew"/"flied", two examples Pinker used to argue that people are systematic about sentence and word construction. Doesn't the presence of irregular verbs at all fly against this anyway? While there are systematic rules within a language I don't see any universals here and I don't see how this necessarily points to an instinct above and beyond general flexible grammar processing (in this language the verbs go here, etc.).
Pinker writes in a friendly, somewhat folksy manner, sprinkling his writing with jokes and humorous anecdotes, and when he is debunking myths about language he is at his most entertaining. The Whorf theory (Eskimos having many words for snow) is really convincingly trashed, and the useless deprecations by snooty grammarians about the decline of writing standards and proper English and civilization in general are themselves properly counter-deprecated by Pinker.
A decent book, one that will get me to read more on linguistics at some point, but not one that blew me away. ...more
A book that tries hard to be magical and beautiful, with mixed results. It tells the story of a South American dinner party for various internationalA book that tries hard to be magical and beautiful, with mixed results. It tells the story of a South American dinner party for various international elites, featuring a world-famous opera singer, that is ambushed by anti-government insurgents and turned into a prolonged hostage standoff. During the captivity, both hostages and insurgents discover themselves, nurture their hidden talents, learn the meaning of love, etc., etc. You get the idea. I hope I'm not sounding like too much of a grouch but... you get the idea.
It's certainly a pleasant read, mild, casually poignant, gently emotional, adult contemporary. I found parts of it touching, and none of it genuinely bad. But I did find it most of it to be fairly bland, going down the gullet like porridge, with little that I expect to find memorable. I'd place this under "beach books", but we're out of season for that; maybe you could take it with you on a trip to the Southern Hemisphere somewhere and read it on a beach there. ...more