I wanted to read this because I'd heard such great things about the sequel, so clearly I needed to catch up. I liked it, but I can't say I loved it. OI wanted to read this because I'd heard such great things about the sequel, so clearly I needed to catch up. I liked it, but I can't say I loved it. Overall I felt as though I was reading a novel written by a talented writer suffering from a serious form of ADD; a lot of really interesting, well-written fragments.
The basic gimmick of telling different versions of one person's life over and over sort of worked, and sort of didn't. On the one hand, it was interesting to see a writer stretch out a bit, exploring different paths for the same character. I don't have to wonder how Atkinson would handle a wartime story versus a peacetime one; I get both. If I think of this as a glimpse of the writer's process—"Hm, this bit isn't working out right, chuck that...wait, no, I can keep it!" it's rather good, while at the same time it may well be so fantastically lazy as to come right round and be a marvel of efficiency. Look, nothing wasted!
Either way, I'm sort of impressed.
On the other hand, the book as a whole reminded me (probably inevitably) of Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, though it's much less annoying. Calvino's work drove me bananas, because it felt like bookus interruptus, as it were; just as I'd be getting interested in a story, whoops, it would end, and we were on to the next one (yes, I know why he was doing it, but I didn't care...it still bothered me). This had a similar effect, except that Atkinson worked out the stories better (for which I am deeply grateful).
My other complaint is that I'm sorry Atkinson brought this much firepower to bear on such a clichéd plot device. She's clearly got talent to burn, as they say, but to use it on killing Hitler? Really? (This happens in the first couple of pages, so hardly a spoiler.) Sigh.
Still, some of the pieces were rather lovely and evocative (lots of the Fox Corner stuff, particularly), and I'm not surprised that Atkinson wants to do more with the family. I particularly liked her description of Ursula's father, near the end; he'd been mentioned so often, but usually in passing, and when she finally held still for a moment and did focus on him he suddenly seemed like a really decent fellow, and I wished I'd gotten to know him better. Maybe in the next book, I will. ...more
This was an experiment for me. I don't generally like fantasy, but I do like science fiction, and I really like several of Charles Stross's books/seriThis was an experiment for me. I don't generally like fantasy, but I do like science fiction, and I really like several of Charles Stross's books/series, especially his Laundry series and Halting State. So, how would I do with a fantasy book, set at least partially in my own city, by an author I really like (and, full disclosure, am friends with in real life)?
Answer: Not well. Sigh.
In fairness, this is one of Charlie's early books. He's developed a lot as an author since then, so it's a bit unfair to complain that his younger work feels younger. It's the same feeling I had reading early Neal Stephenson (especially Snow Crash)—"Here's your wodge of exposition."
Really, I suspect Charlie's doing the fantasy thing rather well—it's just something I don't like (I did like the modern bits much better, which is a clue). It's like going to a restaurant with a cuisine you don't enjoy: It doesn't matter how well they prepare the clam chowder, if you don't like clams....more
It took me a while to get past the similarity between the premise of this and Battle Royale. I can't quite make up my mind which is weirder: The basicIt took me a while to get past the similarity between the premise of this and Battle Royale. I can't quite make up my mind which is weirder: The basic idea that entire societies decide it's "entertainment" to watch their own children fight to the death, or the fact that two entirely separate authors, in two really different societies of their own, wrote books on the same theme. (And yes, I know that in this case the "Games" are set up as a political punishment, but supposedly thousands of people manage to enjoy them anyway.)
Eventually, though, I settled in and enjoyed Collins' American version well enough. She does take the political idea a lot further than Koushun Takami does, which is interesting. I wasn't a fan of the "love triangle" angle, though; I kept having an uneasy suspicion that it was there mainly as a way to appeal to Twilight fans (full disclosure, I have not read it, but I know that it features a love triangle).
I liked this one right up until the end of the third book, aka the "big finale," which I found rushed and unpersuasive. "And then...this happened, I made my big decision, and everyone lived happily ever after, ta da." It was a shame, because the first couple of books had real pace to them, but it all just fell apart at the finish. ...more