A good try, but through most of the middle of the book I was bored to death. We have parallel characters, one who's plot moves forward at a turbo spee...moreA good try, but through most of the middle of the book I was bored to death. We have parallel characters, one who's plot moves forward at a turbo speed, the other's is painfully, excruciatingly slow. They come together in the end in a rather predictable way, and then we just need to skim the last few pages to see if it's a happy or sad ending. It's a happy ending for me, because it is the end. When I am... When he is... When one is... Please, just pick a pov and stop messing around. It is very hard to write an exciting story about a boring small town where everything is boring. When your point is "this is boring," you take a risk that your writing will be boring. Mixing up pov does not equal "exciting," it equals "confusing" and "distracting." (less)
I'll admit it -- I loved the first half of this book, and progressively lost interest in the narrator's voice. After finishing May We Be Forgiven, I r...moreI'll admit it -- I loved the first half of this book, and progressively lost interest in the narrator's voice. After finishing May We Be Forgiven, I realize there are dozens of similarities between these two, and Homes' novel got me where I wanted much faster. I'm sure there's a thesis or at least a really good book review in comparing these two titles, but I'll let someone else do it. I love that O'Brien took such a risk in writing in a tone so different from what we usually expect from him, but I love him for his Vietnam work, and The Things They Carried remains my favorite of his, and one of my favorite war stories of all time.(less)
This is what happens when prisons don't employ librarians...a bunch of male offenders pick dreck like this. Now I want to read The Notebook, only to f...moreThis is what happens when prisons don't employ librarians...a bunch of male offenders pick dreck like this. Now I want to read The Notebook, only to figure out how to sell a novel in one week for a million dollars. If this guy can do it, anyone can. I'm thinking the secret is: exploit tragedy to its extreme, and continually refer to what a good Christian you are. And be a huge UGLY AMERICAN and then be kind of proud of it.
Yes, Micah, you definitely deserve to be the one guy in centuries they allow to have his photo taken on ancient sacrificial stones, making fun of an entire civilization. You are that cool.
************************************************************************* So it's a few days later, and I've now attended our book group discussion. I was also honored to attend IMCC's First Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, in which all volunteer programs were invited to a lovely ceremony, with food and drink, and an opportunity to socialize with offenders that valued the volunteer opportunities made available to them. What an awesome experience. IMCC is lucky to have a community of generous and intelligent support, ranging from an insider/outsider chorus and songwriting group, Job Club, Writers' Group, Master Gardeners, Incarcerated Veterans, Parenting Group, AA, and Stories for Dads, not to mention lots of spiritual/religious support. There was so much love in that room, so much pushing and striving for a better life, over 200 volunteers were honored, and 200 offenders were present to give their thanks and show the work they were so proud of. One offender, presenting a certificate to Stories for Dads, spoke of how, because of that program, his three-year-old child had her only opportunity to hear his voice, and how that was enough to push him to be a better father upon his release. It was truly a moving event, and has inspired me to keep working for this community, knowing that whatever benefits we can bring are truly appreciated. The offenders that were present are not just people determined to take charge of their own lives, but work everyday to inspire their peers to do the same, and they are really the people that deserve an appreciation ceremony. So, with all this in mind, is it any surprise that my book group colleagues found a lot of value in this book (remember, this is a review of Three Weeks With My Brother?). A couple of them couldn't finish it because it hit too close to home. What they identified with is Sparks' feeling of loss, losing his parents and sister. Many of my colleagues have no family to return to upon their release -- loved ones have either died during their incarceration, or abandoned them as lost causes. Through this perspective, I can appreciate what they see in the text, and Sparks' optimism and values can be a real balm for someone who is seeking a new take on life. And if this book helps a man feel less lost in the world, than I'm glad it's out there. I don't retract my criticisms, but I'll concede this -- every book its reader, and hallelujah for the power of narrative.(less)
**This review may have inadvertent spoilers in my rush to say the million things that come to mind after this reading experience. I could try to use t...more**This review may have inadvertent spoilers in my rush to say the million things that come to mind after this reading experience. I could try to use that spoiler-link, but it would get redundant and in my way of utter gush that is about to happen. You are warned.** Dan Simmons could start his own religion, and I would build an altar. At the same time, I will never read Hyperion, based entirely on my biased aversion to space-opera. That doesn't matter, because this book is written by some alternate-version of Dan Simmons, a man who can write himself out of an Arctic polynya with one frostbitten hand behind his back and no tongue. He is the Tom Clancy of horror; yes, he writes scary stories, but he writes them so thouroughly, so fully imagined and crafted, that his monsters are not the 14-foot bears or opium-rattled serial killers that forward the story, but the shady hearts of his heroes. Yes, he does immense amounts of research to get you there, but every researched detail adds to his story, and proves his genius at storytelling plausible events with implausible conjecture. Some readers are apparently really mad about how Simmons wraps up this tale, or that he even bothers to include the threat of a man-eating monster in an otherwise thoroughly terrifying historical fiction account. All this great research, incorporating all the known artifacts and discoveries concerning the Franklin expedition composed into a riveting tale, spoiled by a supernatural monster. Not so for me, because the story Simmons has utterly fabricated reads to me as metaphor. From the perspective of the native Inuit, the monster makes a whole lot more sense than the ridiculous English gentleman's urge to waste vital energy hauling an over-packed sledge over hundreds of miles of pack ice so as not to abandon a prized mahogany lap desk or a gilt-rimmed china service. The ending of this book, so controversial, speaks to me about faith and balance and compromise with the earth, in a way that no man characterized on this expedition, no matter how sympathetic, would ever understand, unless placed in the circumstances that Crozier finds himself. Yes, all men are human, with a human's instinct to survive, but Simmons reminds us that without a respect for the Order of Things, our instincts will fail us. It is, quite literally, a communion with the Earth that will save us. I love to tell other readers one of my favorite aren't-authors-quirky? stories about Dan Simmons, how he was researching for this novel (and I don't know how he first got the Franklin bug) when he discovered that Dickens and Collins had written a play about it, and was so fascinated by that that he immediately penned another big, fat, fabulous novel, Drood, based on Dickens, Collins, and their strange friendship. He writes like I read, stringing one fascination on to another. At this point, I've told that story so many times, I don't even know where I heard it, or if it's even true, really. But it's obvious, whenever Simmons gets passionate about something, you'll have a 700+ page vacation-in-a-binding at the end. Next, I'd like to see him spin something from the Fox sisters, whom he only touched on in The Terror, the mid-19th century Spiritists, one of whom later married Elisha Kane, an Arctic explorer who discovered Franklin's first winter camp. This is right up his alley, just be warned, he might throw in a fire-breathing, soul-eating orca just to keep you guessing. (less)
Maybe more of a 2-star "it was ok", but I can't bear to give Dan Simmons anything less than a 3. It started out gang-busters -- unusual narrative pers...moreMaybe more of a 2-star "it was ok", but I can't bear to give Dan Simmons anything less than a 3. It started out gang-busters -- unusual narrative perspective, spooky, portentous backstory. Then we meet Clare Two Hearts, and I'm pissed as hell to be spending time on her. And Duane's voice keeps shouldering in on the narrative -- clever in the beginning, disruptive by the middle. I get that device, in the end it makes a kind of sense, but Clare can go hang. If she's a red herring, too many words are wasted on her, and if there's more to her, I don't have the energy to parse it out. Though I wasn't blown away by this one, I still recommend it to any Simmons fan. Regardless of the genre he chooses, he's a master at atmosphere and interior complexity. He pulls it off so much better in his more recent work -- Drood, Terror, but you can faintly see how he's honing his craft in this earlier work. His characterizations of Dale and all the Elm Haven citizens (except maybe Duane) are spot on and mesmerizing. Just Clare, what the f?(less)