Funny, endearing, and ultimately kinda boring. And so I don't get messages on this review nearly half a decade after I write it (seriously are you peo...moreFunny, endearing, and ultimately kinda boring. And so I don't get messages on this review nearly half a decade after I write it (seriously are you people still commenting on my review of The Red Pyramid? Stop giving it that much thought, Rick Riordan sure as hell didn't), that is all I am going to say about it.
Worth reading, though, for the usual biting Green quotes: "I hated sports. I hated sports, and I hated people who played them, and I hated people who watched them, and I hated people who didn't hate people who watched or played them." (less)
First off: don't read this before Leviathan Wakes. The appreciation of the drastic changes between the protagonist in this book and Leviathan play an...moreFirst off: don't read this before Leviathan Wakes. The appreciation of the drastic changes between the protagonist in this book and Leviathan play an important role in appreciating the novella. Even though it is a prequel, it spends no time acclimating you to the world of the Belt and Mars society and Earth politics and why there are tall, skinny, pale people talking like they forgot how to use vowels properly. This just isn't a proper introduction to this universe, you'll find that in Leviathan Wakes. I like to think of it more as a companion than a prequel.
And as a companion to Leviathan Wakes, The Butcher of Anderson Station succeeds marvelously. It doesn't really add anything to the mythology or provide intriguing new characters, but what it does do is show a new side to an important figure from Leviathan: Frederick Johnson (the eponymous Butcher). Told Aaron Sorkin-style with present day scenes (taking place three years before the opening of Leviathan) showing an interrogation of Fred by mysterious OPA members, and intercut with flashbacks to the actual Station's attack.
Because of this, it's a brisk and light read with near-constant tension and a clear and focused skewering of the military's sometimes impulsive and unreasonable reactions in war time. And due to the novella format, the 48 page story manages to cut faster and deeper, and in turn feel a bit more realistic and involving, than its 500 page brother's view on the same issues.(less)
It's about 11 A.M. where I am now, writing this. Approximately eight hours ago I was awake, voraciously devouring the last half (about 75-ish pages) o...moreIt's about 11 A.M. where I am now, writing this. Approximately eight hours ago I was awake, voraciously devouring the last half (about 75-ish pages) of this book - my first John Green - in one sitting. There's not a lot I can say about those last few chapters without giving away the abundant literary flourishes that John Green pulls out of his immense bag of tricks. But I can say this, and at this point I'm just another statistic falling in line, but here it is: I cried.
In the book Hazel constantly describes being on the phone with Augustus as like being in a third non-terrestrial space. Like the center of the venn diagram, somewhere only they can coexist in. It sounds like utter bullshit, right? That's John Green's greatest slight of hand here: he creates situations and dialogue that in other hands would come off as saccharine and sappy, but absolutely do not. Hazel and Augustus felt actually, honestly REAL. These are two kids that totally make sense together, you never for one moment wonder why one likes the other. And another of Mr. Green's great feats: he totally distracts you with brilliant bon mots and stupidly genius dialogue while you read, almost forgetting what the story is about.
Some of my favorites: "The world went on, as it does, without my full participation, and I only woke up from the reverie when someone said my name."
"It occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again."
"It was the kind of weather that reminds you after a long winter that while the world wasn't built for humans, we were built for the world."
This is a sixteen-year-old that easily could have come off as snotty and pretentious, and maybe some of those lines do, out of context, but Hazel is anything but. She's warm and selfless and self-aware and willing to read the novelization of a video game without question or repulsion. I guess the literary term is "layers." If it is, she has 'em. She has a bit of a monologue towards the novel's end that best displays all of this (edited for spoilers): "Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."
How fucking great is that?
To get back to the story: the ending, and last few chapters, are gut-wrenching. Soul crushing. Universe-ending. And totally, completely, 110% earned. Never, at any point, do you feel played or like someone is poking you in the shoulder and whispering, "Hey... this is where you cry... go on... omg yeah that line was sooo sad, right? Here's a tissue." It's the truth, Green plays his story out to the logical conclusion, and while it may be a tad predictable, it is one of the best fictional endings I've ever read.
Now, the nitpicking. I love Hazel's narration, but it occasionally dips into colloquial terminology that feels really weird against her and Augustus' normal and hilariously smart banter. Uses of words like "Doucheface", "Assclown", and "Douche" in general feel so strange juxtaposed next to gems like, "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." I just don't buy that the same girl that has the mental fortitude to worry about the ghettoization of scrambled eggs would ever use the word "Doucheface." But, hey, maybe that's just me.
It's not that I don't think she'd never curse, I totally could see her dropping F-bombs in frustration, so maybe it's just the YA of it all that forced Green to be more creative with the curses. But even something like "Dick", to me, would have been more believable. Especially in the conversation that "Doucheface" is used, which I won't spoil, but is the one moment in the book that the emotional gut-punch of is utterly robbed the second that word drops out of Hazel's mouth.
There are also way too many moments when Hazel comments on Augustus' features. "His strong arms pulling me into his muscular chest", "Sinewy muscles", "Powerful chest", etc. There's one excuse I'd allow for this, but it pertains to a spoiler. So I can't talk about it. I get it. She's a sixteen year old girl. I get it. And she falls in love with him for more than these attributes... I've just read way too many shitty YA books that are obsessed with stuff like this. And this book is NOT one of those, so when word choices like that crept in, it felt... jarring. Like, really, does both his arms AND chest need adjectives in the same sentence? The answer is no.
But all that crap doesn't matter. This is a good book. A great book, actually. It isn't perfect, but it's easy to overlook its imperfections because of its awesome and endearing totality. Just another Cancer Perk, I guess.(less)
There was a kernel of a clever idea hiding in the big reveal about the society and outside world, but it quickly gets muddled by the infinite amount o...moreThere was a kernel of a clever idea hiding in the big reveal about the society and outside world, but it quickly gets muddled by the infinite amount of angry-people-being-angry-at-other-angry-people, the indecipherable alternating perspective chapters, and one of the most puzzlingly pompous series-ending finales I've ever read. I don't regret reading these books, because they were quick and painless, but there just isn't much here to chew on after you're done. Even the controversial plot turn towards the end didn't occupy too much real estate in my brain in the day since I finished.
You could do better, you could do worse. In the end, it all just feels... like it's just there. Mediocre. Which, in all honesty, is one of the harshest criticisms I can possibly give a book.(less)
There's not really a whole lot that can be said about Gone Girl without ruining the multitude of its violent surprises. It's about a husband whose wif...moreThere's not really a whole lot that can be said about Gone Girl without ruining the multitude of its violent surprises. It's about a husband whose wife disappears and soon meets a wave of accusations and hushed he did it whispers. It's also a study of modern marriage and parody of our image-obsessed, easy-to-accuse, crime-addicted world. And no matter how smart of a reader you think you are, how you always expect to be two steps ahead of the author and claim to predict twists and turns and surprises - this thing will get you. Bad.
The book concerns Nick Dunne, a washed up magazine journalist who whisks his doting but concerned wife - Amy Elliott Dunne- off to Nick's home town of Carthage, Missouri after they both lose their jobs. He claims he needs to take care of his ailing mother and lost-in-senility father, but in Amy's eyes he mostly does neither. The book's told in alternating chapters: Nick's a snarky, bitter bite of wit after the eponymous Girl gets Gone'd; and Amy, seen from her diary entries of the lustful early years of their courtship. He's sarcastic and flippant, and she's smitten and in love. But is either a sociopath?
Nick's chapters mainly focus on the whirlwind of an investigation that hits after Amy's disappearance from their house the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. Gillian Flynn's perhaps greatest feat in the novel (among many) is how she toes the line between making you simultaneously adore her characters, yet have permanently entrenched in the back of your head: but he could have probably murdered his wife, yes. Nick is an idiot and does undeniably idiotic things throughout the novel, especially considering the circumstances. But he is self-aware; he doles out brutal honesty about others (marking on Rhonda Boney, a police inspector, and her poor features) as well as himself ("I have a face you want to punch.") Flynn lines the beginning of each chapter with a big, bold heading of the character's name and how many days Amy has been gone. The latter is perhaps of purpose, but she characterizes the two leads so perfectly, so well painting a huge canvas of their quirks, cadences and opinions, the former becomes increasingly superfluous.
Flynn writes in a furious way that makes you eat through chapters in a sitting, but slowing down and re-reading lines is required. Throw-away lines hide brilliant, skewering gems, each exposing the true character of whoever is thinking it at the time. Like this one: "My thank-yous always come out rather labored. I often don't give them at all. People do what they're supposed to do and then wait for you to pile on the appreciation- they're like frozen-yogurt employees who put out cups for tips." It's something that could easily come off with a certain air of pretension, but the context of the quote, the moment of its bursting into that particular character's head, it's perfect. Like everything else in this book, it all fits a purpose - no single line is throwaway.
This is an addictive, read-it-in-one-sitting-if-you-have-time book, for the first half. A murder-mystery of impossible-to-predict circumstances that you have no idea where it's going. Then Flynn punches you in the gut about half-way through, and doesn't lay off for 200 pages more. Not to mention the slow introduction of one of the creepiest, most terrifying villains I've ever encountered in a book. Or anywhere, for that matter. They're calculating, smart, and utterly cognizant of their psychopathy. But perhaps most terrifying? They show the ability to have no sense of self-preservation, willing to meet their own end just to triumph over others. It's shiver-inducing, nightmarishly brilliant stuff. The book becomes something more here, more than a murder-mystery, more than a parody of our crime-obsessed world. It becomes a question, one that most couples probably end up asking themselves: how did we start off so well, and end up here? And the amazing thing about Flynn is that she actually has the balls to answer it. (less)