I read American Gods some time ago and absolutely loved it, so I was interested to try another Neil Gaiman book. Neverwhere was there at the local libI read American Gods some time ago and absolutely loved it, so I was interested to try another Neil Gaiman book. Neverwhere was there at the local library, so I decided to give it a try. Perhaps my expectations had been heightened by how great American Gods was, but I was left so disappointed by this book. Hopefully that just means that Gaiman has come a long way in the five years between these books, and his future works will continue to be great.
The concept for Neverwhere seems neat enough, though rather rife with stereotypical SF/Fantasy elements. Our moderately pathetic everyman of a protagonist is irrevocably drawn into the secret world of London Below, a kind of parallel universe slash actual underground world, where a whole series of adventures take place. I won't tell much more plot than that, but for a dust jacket summary, it sounded enticing, and I figured Gaiman would do it well.
But there were so many things that bugged me about this book. The whole thing where the fantasy world equivalent of each London subway station is an obvious pun got old pretty quickly. Many of the characters were lazy, from Door, the girl who has a knack for (you guessed it) opening doors, to the horribly cliched domineering real-world fiancee, to the nerdy but secretly-capable-of-great-things main character. The bad guys tried hard to be creepy and cool but they never developed at all and I still don't know what they really were. And every single plot development necessitated journeying to a new place, like some sort of underground Odyssey or National Treasure, oftentimes for no apparent reason.
That makes it sound like I hated this book, but it was actually okay to read. Since the characters were always on the go, I stayed with it to see where they'd end up next, and was able to zip through it in a few days. Wikipedia says this is a novelization of a TV series, which makes sense since it kinda works as a form of mindless entertainment. I just was hoping for something on par with American Gods, and this wasn't it. I don't know which book is the exception and which the rule, so I'll probably end up trying one more, but Neverwhere doesn't get a re-read....more
I wanted a mindless sci-fi book I could breeze through while traveling recently, and this sounded like it would fit the bill. In that regard it was veI wanted a mindless sci-fi book I could breeze through while traveling recently, and this sounded like it would fit the bill. In that regard it was very average; enough happened that I wasn't totally bored but it wasn't ever interesting or unpredictable enough that I was excited to see what was to come. I wasn't irked that I spent the time to read it but I don't think I'll need to read more by this author.
The plot is simple, straightforward, and all explained within the first few chapters of the book. There is a new space race between the U.S. and China in trying to be the first humans on Mars. The Chinese are winning, the American ship is predicted to have problems, so a ragtag group of teens sets about building their own ship to get there first and save the day.
That's all laid out in the beginning of the book. Then, with remarkably few hurdles or moments of suspense, it all pretty much happens. The writing is very linear and plain, so the reader follows the basic steps of designing the ship, then building the ship, then setting off into space, etc. At no point does anything really occur to cause any hardship, screw up their plans or make you worry they're not going to pull it off. So it's kinda fun to follow along with, but never much of a surprise.
The characters are pretty flimsy but everyone is fairly likable. Other reviewers have complained about sexism and jingoism, and I'll admit there is a certain amount of both. Nothing too obnoxious as far as I could tell. The author uses a small amount of science-y terminology in describing the ship, but none of it really makes sense. The ship's engine is some combination of big compressed air tanks and/or magic, and the reasoning behind how they are so much faster than anyone else is pure fantasy. But if you can overlook that, the last third of the book is a passable space opera.
Finally, as if he was running out of space to finish the story, each character is wrapped up in a sentence or two in the epilogue. This is kind of a shame, because the interstitial parts between the end of the novel proper and the epilogue would probably have been more interesting in terms of character development than the lengthy saga of building the ship.
There was certainly room for improvement, but I didn't hate this book. It had its fun moments, and who doesn't love the idea of a bunch of misfits building their own spaceship in their backyard? As I said before, it's a very okay book, but I'd prefer to spend my time with books that are good or great. This one wasn't....more
In general, I am a pretty big fan of dystopian novels and films, so when I discovered this book I was quite eager to read it. I thought it was very goIn general, I am a pretty big fan of dystopian novels and films, so when I discovered this book I was quite eager to read it. I thought it was very good overall, a well-told story in a world that is insanely yet believably horrific. The only downside is how much it pushes this Earthseed concept, something that I found somewhat irrelevant to the rest of the book.
The world Butler creates is vivid and startlingly plausible. Climate change, a poor economy and general lawlessness have transformed our society into something almost unrecognizable yet believable enough to be almost prophetic, having been written in 1994, long before global warming was well known. The writing style is a little creepy in that the narrator speaks so blithely about the shocking events that occur in the book, as though having to fend off scavenging attackers in a walled city, etc. is just the way life is. Kudos for setting the story in that manner rather than beating us over the head with it in a "remember how things were in 1994?" way.
The storyline is also engrossing, following a group that plans to escape this terrifying world in the hopes of finding a better life up North. Enough time is spent in the city before departing that the reader feels like he really knows the characters as genuine people. From there it becomes a bit of an adventure story, but with real character development and interaction along the way.
Earthseed is the only problem. I presume that it was fairly important to Butler as the driving force for this novel and its sequel, but I could really have done without it. It's essentially the religion that the protagonist makes up throughout her life, but in trying to sound very deep and meaningful, it is instead simplistic and cheesy. Another review proposed that maybe that is done intentionally to reflect Lauren's youth, which is indeed possible. Regardless, I did not find it insightful, and began to dread times when it was discussed for any length of time.
All in all, I thought this was really good. The future world was so eerily and frighteningly realistic that you couldn't stop reading. Then the characters became real enough for you to care about, and then the story really picked up and got exciting. It was well put together and stimulating, a fun read, but it could have trimmed some of the religious stuff and been an even better book. I definitely recommend it....more
This book came up on my to-read list before I'd ever read Jane Eyre (which I still haven't gotten to, incidentally) but I thought I'd give it a try onThis book came up on my to-read list before I'd ever read Jane Eyre (which I still haven't gotten to, incidentally) but I thought I'd give it a try on its own merits and perhaps come back to it if necessary after reading Jane Eyre. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I did like it, even without the proper frame of reference. It is certainly possible that it would be even more enjoyable to read after Jane Eyre, but from my experience that isn't a prerequisite.
The concept is to create a backstory for Bertha, a character from Jane Eyre, who evidently is only seen as a "madwoman in the attic." However, we don't see that in Wide Sargasso Sea, at least not right away. The book is brilliant in showing an incredibly complex person in Antoinette (Bertha) as she slowly degenerates through the tragedy of her life and the unhappiness of her marriage. The greatest strength of the book in my opinion is that ability to cast such a complicated and tormented person rather than making her some sort of caricature. By the end, after we've suffered through her struggles between her heritage, self and husband, it is shocking to see what she has become.
In a way I am glad I hadn't read Jane Eyre prior to reading this book. Having any indication of the character of Bertha beyond the single sentence on the cover flap might have sullied my ability to journey with her through her life. As it was, I had no preconceptions of who she was and was able to get to know her throughout the book, making the end that much more poignant. I will give it another try after I eventually get to Jane Eyre, just to see if my reaction is any different.
I thought this was a rather enjoyable read, and it kept me interested even without the draw of knowing Bronte's characters. I also really liked the descriptions of the island and the house, which gave me very good mental images of the place such that I could picture the scenes quite well. But the best part of this book is the treatment of the people as unique multifaceted people that felt like real individuals rather than simply book characters. I recommend giving it a try, with or without the background in Jane Eyre....more
The Great Gatsby, simply put, is my favorite book of all time. I know, hardly original of me to say, but it's been true since I first read it back inThe Great Gatsby, simply put, is my favorite book of all time. I know, hardly original of me to say, but it's been true since I first read it back in high school and has continued to be the case with every rereading to this day. It seems people either love or hate this book, and I can be counted squarely in the "love it" category. Everything about this book - the prose, the imagery, the characters, the story and pacing, the emotion, I just find beautiful in a way that few other books approach.
It's hard to exactly put into words just why I love this book so much, which is why I didn't even write a review last time I read it. Gatsby experiences and expresses the full range of human emotion, from the highs of pure love to the depths of despair, all conveyed through gorgeous writing by Fitzgerald. There's something about the optimistic hopelessness of the story that makes it seem so utterly raw and real. Sure, I can see the arguments that it's a shallow or simple story, or that readers can't sympathize with the spoiled rich characters, but I think there's beauty in the simplicity, and all the wealth in the world can't fulfill the one thing we all desire most.
I'm not an English major, so I can't do really great literary analysis, especially of fantastic works like Gatsby. And try as I might, I can't really convey why I connect so deeply with this book - at it's heart I just love it because I do. Like any great work of art, it resonates at a deeper, emotional level, and that's something that I can't pass on to anyone else. You may love The Great Gatsby, or you may hate it. I just hope that you do have some book that you think is as great as I find this one. To me, this is the perfect book. Five stars, top of my list, and something I revisit every year or two....more
Yes, I know, this is a kids book and I am an adult, but I picked it up the other night and couldn't stop until I finished it. The Enormous Egg was proYes, I know, this is a kids book and I am an adult, but I picked it up the other night and couldn't stop until I finished it. The Enormous Egg was probably my favorite book when I was growing up, so I really enjoyed going back to it and finding I still loved it. The storyline is simple but beautiful, the writing is concise yet evocative, the illustrations are gorgeous and the emotion is vivid. And all that for a story about a boy and a dinosaur!
Like I said before, the storyline is really simple - a boy in New Hampshire finds an enormous egg in the henhouse, which ends up hatching into a baby triceratops. Nate then has to deal with everyone's interest in his unique "pet," from scientists to politicians to his own family. Over the course of the book he becomes close to the dinosaur, leading up to an emotional denouement. Although the plot is firmly set in the 1950s, the characters feel real and it is still as great a story today.
As a child, I loved this book because I would have been thrilled with a real pet triceratops, but rereading it I see that there were a bunch of really good lessons beneath the surface about responsibility and standing up for what you believe in. It's a cute concept done really well, and I think I enjoyed it just as much or even more today than I did way back when.
As a last side note, if you've read this book and are in Washington DC, make a point to stop by the National Zoo. Believe me, it will be worth it!...more
I read Light in August a few years ago and really enjoyed it at the time. Since that was one of Faulkner's lesser known books, I figured this oft-mentI read Light in August a few years ago and really enjoyed it at the time. Since that was one of Faulkner's lesser known books, I figured this oft-mentioned work would be even better. Although there were some similarities in the setting and themes of morality, this book was a little harder to follow and to connect with its characters.
At its core, the plot is simple, concerning the death of Addie Bundren and her family's travails to bury her in a different town, per her wishes. However, keeping up with that plot is not so easy, with the cast of over a dozen different narrators changing from chapter to chapter. It seemed to me that just about by the time you could tell everyone apart, the book was almost over.
It was also tough to decipher the backstory before the death, since those details were left fuzzy and only mentioned anecdotally. Faulkner just dives right in as though we already know what's going on, leaving little clues here and there so we can actually catch on. It's a neat literary technique, and I'm pretty sure I "got" everything by time I'd finished, but it makes reading this book more work than your typical bestseller. This is not what I'd call an easy read.
I also felt I didn't connect with any of the myriad characters on a very deep level, so I didn't feel as much during their misadventures. Perhaps due to the scenery being cluttered by so many made it harder for any one to really stick out. I guess I understood Darl a little but it wasn't on the same level as Light in August, at least for me.
In the end, I didn't really enjoy reading As I Lay Dying, but I didn't dislike it either. There's a lot to digest, and I probably should read it again if I want to properly take in everything. I might rather try another Faulkner work to see if he's really my style or if I just found one exception to the rule. Not bad, but I'm not exactly in a hurry for that re-read....more
I didn't expect too much from this book based on the overly dry-sounding description, and I was right. Described as an attack on Victorian hypocrisy,I didn't expect too much from this book based on the overly dry-sounding description, and I was right. Described as an attack on Victorian hypocrisy, I was expecting a Dickensian-style tale where it might take a little bit of work, but in the end the humanity of the characters would make all the work worthwhile. Perhaps that does end up being the case - however, I couldn't bear to struggle much further with it, and gave up a short way in.
In the portion of the book that I did read, it seemed all of the time was spent describing every mundane detail of the lineage of what presumably becomes the protagonist of the book. We go back two or three generations and detail every member of the family, their upbringing and what are allegedly the important events of their lives. Despite a great amount of time spent on all of this background information, there is really no character development, and I was left not really caring about Ernest's relationship with his father.
Since I did abort reading this book, I'll remain open to the possibility that somewhere down the line, stuff started happening, and the characters became interesting. In the part of the book that I made it through, though, it was very dry and verbose and did not leave me interested enough to keep turning pages. This may simply be an old Victorian writing style, but I didn't care for it and decided to give up. If you give this one a try, be patient and hopeful that it gets better, I guess. Good luck!...more
I tried to like this book, I really did. It seemed to have all sorts of things going for it that I usually like - strange supernatural/fantasy eventsI tried to like this book, I really did. It seemed to have all sorts of things going for it that I usually like - strange supernatural/fantasy events taking place within the ordinary real world, and a bunch of different story threads that eventually tie together into a cohesive tale. Both of those usually lend themselves to books that I enjoy, but I think both of them were a little overdone in this case. After a while I started to get frustrated, and I decided it just wasn't worth sticking it out for things to start happening and make sense, so I gave up.
I thought this was a standalone book, but looking at some of the summaries, I now see that it takes place in a world introduced in Powers' Last Call. This may explain some of my initial confusion with this novel, as perhaps some of the concepts are detailed in that book first. The main idea is that people have ways of hunting ghosts and that they like to ingest them as a sort of drug. Not that it needs a lot of explanation, but it's brushed off in this book like an "oh yeah, everybody eats ghosts. You knew that, right?"
The downside is that the ghost-eating is really the only thing that goes on in this book. There are what feel like a dozen characters and they all go about chasing ghosts. The kid accidentally ingests one, the mysterious antagonist is chasing after some, the guy who's a natural ghost chaser is hiding so he doesn't have to go get them, etc. Of course, by the time I quit, there was nothing connecting these people, so it was just a bunch of truncated separate storylines about eating ghosts.
And there do seem to be a lot of separate storylines. I thought there were probably too many characters, some of which are introduced for a snippet that doesn't relate at all to the other threads and then we move on to something else. Without much to differentiate all the ancillary characters, they started to blur together to me and become less interesting. It was a neat idea, but I almost felt I needed to keep notes on who everyone was and how they interrelated.
I did enjoy parts of this book, which is why I gave it two stars even without finishing it. It was written fairly well, but I just didn't want to keep reading without something happening to somehow connect all these vague characters. Perhaps if you stick with it to the end there's some payoff, but for a book I was reading just for fun it didn't seem worth my time. A decent book, it seems, but there are better out there....more
I suppose I disliked this book because I didn't get the point of the story. The characters were almost all unlikeable and the plot seemed rather inaneI suppose I disliked this book because I didn't get the point of the story. The characters were almost all unlikeable and the plot seemed rather inane. In particular, plotwise, I thought the stop at the restaurant added very little to the overall tale except for maybe a few pages of length. And the grandmother was so obnoxious throughout, not seeming to grow or learn anything over the course of the book.
Perhaps part of the issue is that this is a short story and not a novel, so there is limited length to convey too much plot or character development. But I have read short stories that I liked, so maybe it was just the abrupt way this one was written. I followed along for the brief read that it was, but I was left with a "so what?" feeling. It just came off as a bit half-baked to me. It wasn't without plot, but I just couldn't make myself care about it....more
I thought this was a short, enjoyable read, but didn't find it terribly remarkable one way or the other. I liked reading it, but it didn't end up makiI thought this was a short, enjoyable read, but didn't find it terribly remarkable one way or the other. I liked reading it, but it didn't end up making me think a lot, or feel like I'd gotten to know the characters - just that I'd read an interesting story. That's fine, as a pure entertainment book, but the ending was rather disappointing so I had to go with only 3 stars.
Apparently this was one of the prototypical noir-style crime dramas, and it really seems to fit that genre. As I was reading, I could imagine the gritty scenes in the style of a 1930s film noir. I could really picture the world as described in the book, even though the prose seemed relatively simple. The action is also rather fast-moving, so you never get bored. The narrating drifter stumbles upon a gas station in the desert, and it doesn't take long for things to get a little mixed up and interesting.
My only complaint is the ending of the book, which I won't spoil here, but which really takes the wind out of your sails as you read along. You keep turning through the pages as the action is intensifying and the plot is thickening, when suddenly - it's over. It's rather disappointing for a book that had me hooked so well to kind of fizzle out rather than ending with a bang. That, more than anything is the reason I rated this book only "okay."
As a fan of the 30s noir genre in general, I really enjoyed this for a while but was ultimately left wanting more by the end. I may have to look into something else by Cain or perhaps Hammett or Chandler for a more satisfying book in this style. Overall, not a great book but not bad either; it was fun while it lasted....more
It really boggles my mind that this book has these kind of positive reviews. I thought I would enjoy it, given that it is a kind of mythic fantasy (orIt really boggles my mind that this book has these kind of positive reviews. I thought I would enjoy it, given that it is a kind of mythic fantasy (or whatever) style that I usually like, but I just thought it was corny, transparent and not very well written. Perhaps I'm just not the target audience for this book. Either way, it's put me off the other Zelazny books on my list, for at least a while.
The concept of this book wasn't bad, though it wasn't too imaginative. All of the classic Victorian horror characters are drawn to one neighborhood for some mysterious occult happening. Sure, it's a cop-out in terms of creating characters, but it's a kind of fun idea. But then they don't do anything! Three-fourths of them don't have any character at all, and all we get is a brief description of their actions. Dracula went out and picked up some items. Frankenstein worked on his monster... With characters like these, why not make them interesting? The animals are a little more interesting, but mostly they just follow basic cartoon animal stereotypes.
Then there's the mysterious event. I hate it when a book relies on telling you something will happen but deliberately not tell you what it is just as a means of keeping you reading. It's a cheap way of compensating for not much happening elsewhere. And on top of that, it was pretty obvious what essentially the big event was. Maybe I didn't have it exactly, but it wasn't a big shocking reveal, so why not tell me and let the rest of the story stand on its own?
The one plus is that the story moved fairly quickly and was super easy to read, but that can happen when you don't describe anything. The writing style was like a Goosebumps book, so you can zip through it but none of the words are interesting or give you good visuals. And that's probably fine for this book, once I decided it would just be a mindless read. It was actually okay to speed through as long as I didn't expect much from it. So although there were many aspects that I disliked, I didn't end up hating this book. I just don't plan to reread it.
Oh, two last things. The illustrations in this book are hideous - I really hope they didn't pay that guy much. And the last line of the book literally made me groan aloud, which isn't usually a good sign. Time to move on to something (hopefully) better....more