I'm trying to remember why I didn't give this five stars, but I'm going to trust that PastMe had a good reason for it.
Basically, between this book an...moreI'm trying to remember why I didn't give this five stars, but I'm going to trust that PastMe had a good reason for it.
Basically, between this book and Animal Farm, Orwell provided the memorable examples of some of the cynical methods by which governments manipulate their citizens. What rhetoric, what systems, can force people to betray those they love, sacrifice themselves for things that benefit only those in charge, and cover it all with a sugar candy-coating - or at the very least, some narrative so emotional that it seems to demand obedience?
1984 explores these through the lens of a dystopia, and like all dystopias it is intended as warning, and a guide for recognizing the early signs of manipulation.(less)
I read this before, but couldn't remember a thing about it. From the two star rating, clearly I didn't think much of it! It'll be interesting to see w...moreI read this before, but couldn't remember a thing about it. From the two star rating, clearly I didn't think much of it! It'll be interesting to see what I think of it now.
Upped the rating by one star, but I can see why I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it. SPOILER: (view spoiler)[The whole, "It was all a dream" type of ending, even though thematically appropriate, was still a big letdown. (hide spoiler)] Not to mention I think a lot of the time travel loop logic didn't hold together under close examination, even though it was one of the main conceits of the book. But still, Swanwick knows his stuff, and it was a pleasurable read. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Not one of Sleator's best, but not bad either. Some hilarious stuff happens because the book was written in 1972 - at one point a boy's guardian pulls...moreNot one of Sleator's best, but not bad either. Some hilarious stuff happens because the book was written in 1972 - at one point a boy's guardian pulls him from school when she shouldn't and takes him far out into the countryside. Her cover story? That she is a teacher traveling alone with her student. An excuse that did not age well.
Basic mystery plot with some spooky stuff happening, and Sleator knows what he's doing so there's nothing bad about it, but it is otherwise a very paint-by-numbers 1970s YA.
It was a fast read, and Sleator keeps the tension up. He's also very good at creating a few resonant, memorable details that stick with you long after you've read the book. Not bad if you have a chance to read it, but nothing to seek out.(less)
This a quick read that covers a lot of the positive psychology research on achievement and internal rewards in a way that makes it easily understood a...moreThis a quick read that covers a lot of the positive psychology research on achievement and internal rewards in a way that makes it easily understood and its applications clear. The last third or so of the book is actually taken up by recommendations on how to apply the theory, from your work life to your personal life, to how to change your organization to support more autonomy and less top-down authoritarian decisions (while also emphasizing that just because you're creating a situation where people get internal rewards for their work, doesn't mean you can give them shitty external rewards (i.e., pay them nothing).
This was an end of the world satire that thought itself entirely too charming. There WERE parts that were enjoyable - though each of the characters ar...moreThis was an end of the world satire that thought itself entirely too charming. There WERE parts that were enjoyable - though each of the characters are a caricature, there are enough of them that by the end of the novel you get a sense of breadth and "epicness" to the end of the world. The main character is an amoral misogynist who thinks himself quite plucky - he's also the narrator in a close first person viewpoint that is sometimes pretty unreliable. The grass taking over the world is the main focus of the story, and this is where the book really glows. Unlike most apocalypse novels that go as fast as possible - the world collapsing in a month, weeks, days - the grass takes decades. Like any facet of nature, invulnerable or no, it has to take time to spread and cover ground. Watching the world's slow (and short-sighted) adjustment to its own doom felt tragically realistic. At the same time, however, the first chunk of the book features an incredibly newspaperman who speaks only in accents - a different accent each time! It was like fingernails across a chalkboard. Hell, most of the characterizations were like fingernails against a chalkboard.
I almost gave the book three stars, because of the stately pace of its apocalypse and because, viewed from afar, it's really rather satisfying. But close up, where I had to deal with irritating caricatures for extended periods of time, the enjoyment does become a bit tarnished.(less)
I gave this two stars, not in the "it's below average" sense, but rather in the "it was ok" sense that Goodreads defines two stars as.
Because it was...moreI gave this two stars, not in the "it's below average" sense, but rather in the "it was ok" sense that Goodreads defines two stars as.
Because it was ok.
Firmin is a rat, born inexplicably with humanlike intelligence. He learns to read by literally consuming books as a baby, and grows to adulthood in a used bookstore in an area of the city about to fall prey to redevelopment. He yearns for love and companionship, but finds neither, as other rats have only animalistic intelligence, and he cannot communicate with humans.
It was a very existential book - internal, and full of the combination of Firmin's rarified thought (born of extensive reading, particularly of the classics) and his more, well, animal lusts and needs. It's a beautiful idea, and a great way of revealing our own humanity by couching a human brain in the head of an animal, who can more freely admit the desire for sex, fear of death, and hunger for food.
So why was it just ok?
I feel like Savage didn't push his idea once he had it. Firmin is human in all but form - he even lusts after human women, rather than other rats. It makes him obviously a metaphor, since the only "rattiness" that intrudes in his narrative is that which makes him more vulnerable to external forces, or unable to make contact with humans. So Savage doesn't go in the SFnal direction of actually treating Firmin like a new creature. And if Firmin is just a metaphor, then the book isn't doing much more than a lot of already extant existentialist literature already does.
But while you shouldn't expect it to do anything new, it's also important to acknowledge that it's well-written, and the world itself is well-imagined - Firmin's adventures and troubles have weight, and you have sympathy for him, even in all his Woody Allenesque self-abasing internal narrative. So if you like existentialist stuff, and are looking for more of it, definitely read this book.(less)
I was in the library on Friday picking up an Interlibrary Loan book, and noticed the Devil in Dover sitting on the New Arrivals shelf.
Less than 48 ho...moreI was in the library on Friday picking up an Interlibrary Loan book, and noticed the Devil in Dover sitting on the New Arrivals shelf.
Less than 48 hours later I have read it. Damn, I enjoyed this book.
First things first - Lebo is a journalist, and so the book is very clearly written and a fast read. It covers the Dover Trial in Pennsylvania, where a creationist school board attempted to alter Dover's science curriculum so that Intelligent Design would be taught alongside evolution. Local parents sued, and it became a litmus test case for the teaching of religious concepts in science classes, much like the Scopes Monkey Trial and the case that caused the ruling that teaching creation science in biology courses was unconstitutional.
It is fascinating. Lebo covered the trial and so her account is firsthand - but she is also local to the area, and grew up within shouting distance of Dover. She is probably someone who could be considered agnostic, but her father was not only religious but the owner of a local conservative religious radio station, and her account is scattered with meditations on their relationship. Beginning with no thorough scientific background, she describes her own first impressions of Intelligent Design (as a pretty good idea) and the evolution of her thoughts as she educates herself on the issues.
Many of the plaintiffs in the suit, parents of children who would be subject to the altered curriculum, were themselves religious, whether Catholic, Mormon, or Baptist. She covers the bonds that formed between people in both camps, how the battle tore the tiny town apart, the bravery of the parents, and the arrogance of the school board - it is, above all, a book about people.
I never thought the lead up to and execution of a long legal battle could be written to be a quick and interesting read, but Lebo proves me wrong.(less)