This is the second book I've picked up at a dollar store and ended up loving. The first was Double Jeopardy: Car Wars 2, when I was about 13 or 14 yea...moreThis is the second book I've picked up at a dollar store and ended up loving. The first was Double Jeopardy: Car Wars 2, when I was about 13 or 14 years old.
I've had a sample of Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen on my iPad for over a year. I never got around to reading past the first story, although it wasn't for lack of interest.
When I saw this, her latest collection, in hardback at a dollar store before Valentine's day, I couldn't believe it. So I took it as a sign.
I love this collection.
I hated the beginning of each story after the first because I had just gotten so well-acquainted with fascinating characters and settings that I had to force myself through the first few pages of each, only to get absorbed again.
Further proof in my growing case proving that the short story format is alive and well. (less)
This little novel is full of greatness: the characters, dialog, their proclivities and the central crisis concerning Miss Lonelyhearts' advice column....moreThis little novel is full of greatness: the characters, dialog, their proclivities and the central crisis concerning Miss Lonelyhearts' advice column. I love the repartee between the editor and Miss Lonelyhearts. Truly a modern novel through and through. If, like me, you feet there is too much apathy in The Day of the Locust, I think you'll find this book more affecting. But if you love Locust, you'll get a kick out of the playful dark humor in Lonelyhearts. (less)
Never cared much for poetry. I read Mazeppa anyways and I really like it. The tale of a man strapped to a horse who runs with an almost endless energy...moreNever cared much for poetry. I read Mazeppa anyways and I really like it. The tale of a man strapped to a horse who runs with an almost endless energy is great. But I hunted this down for the ”Fragment of a novel" included. It's cited as the first vampire tale in literature. I'm interested in reading Bram Stoker and Prest's tales of Varney the Vampire so I figured I'd start at the beginning. But it really is only an unfinished fragment and we only know that it's about a vampire because the author said so. His publisher apparently printed it, without permission, combined with Mazeppa to pad the volume out. It's very slight and there's not much to say, but what's there is good.
What's perhaps most fascinating is that Byron wrote this fragment during the same ghost story competition held with Percy and Mary Shelley, out of which Frankenstein also came. History. Get it.(less)
A bunch of weirdos and their messed up lives intersect on the fringes of Hollywood and everything gets more and more tense until a man goes Lou Ferign...moreA bunch of weirdos and their messed up lives intersect on the fringes of Hollywood and everything gets more and more tense until a man goes Lou Ferigno on a little boy's torso. It was a nice way to end things, especially since this reader wanted to strangle some of the characters himself by that point.
Funny story: I got this book because I read somewhere that it was science fiction. Or at least I thought i had. Obviously it's not, but the whole time I was reading I kept wondering when someone was going to travel through time or aliens would pop up. Those that "come to California to die" seemed likely candidates for lizard people.
But about three quarters of the way through (okay maybe four fifths), it was clear that no one was going to be losing their cat in a wormhole. That complete misdirection got me to read something I may have never noticed otherwise, and I'm mostly glad for it. Also being such a short book helped.
It reminds me a lot of Camus' The Stranger. But where Mersault acted on his sociopathic thoughts, Tod Hackett does a much better job of keeping his violent and rapey impulses to himself.
The cock fight scene was truly horrifying and depressing - I didn't know much about that, and I wish I still didn't.
This book is probably particularly relevant, and maybe even cathartic, for people living or working in Hollywood. But the basic idea comes across just fine even if you don't. It's ultimately an intriguing mix of repulsiveness, curiosity, satire and pointlessness.(less)
Smart and funny way to make a brief, but worthwhile, point about the nature of humanity and our overall inconsequential effect on even just our little...moreSmart and funny way to make a brief, but worthwhile, point about the nature of humanity and our overall inconsequential effect on even just our little solar system. I agree with the others that this is a great story for young adults.
Well written and illustrated as usual, this particular volume was missing something. The first story is the strongest but the last one felt flimsy and...moreWell written and illustrated as usual, this particular volume was missing something. The first story is the strongest but the last one felt flimsy and boring. Overall this isn't the best book in the series. I am getting kind of tired of this series anyways so it might be my last. But Brubaker and Phillips are still a good team.(less)
True to form: Space opera on a grand scale; a tale of an entire galaxy, spanning the course of a Millenia, and all the myriad characters and history t...moreTrue to form: Space opera on a grand scale; a tale of an entire galaxy, spanning the course of a Millenia, and all the myriad characters and history this entails.
Just like the first volume, Foundation, it introduces and discards a roster of main and supporting characters at a fairly rapid clip but Asimov manages to establish distinct personalities sufficiently enough, so that each of the dispersed plot lines provide a consistently thrilling experience for the reader. I had to read it this far fully appreciate the scale of the trilogy and its intricate threads of players and their individual, interconnected, parts.
A lot of the "action" is based just on the characters' thought processes and their twisty layers of realization, right or wrong. They're far from boring, although sometimes you do feel like you're watching some dense TV drama. Perhaps too many characters are smart enough to come to the realizations they do, which can require several layers of deduction, but I buy it. I buy it because it's so damn fun.
As with most classic scifi, it's also fun to read about the things we use every day that were complete fabrications at the time, things original readers probably marveled at. Like this description of a ticket machine, which foretells of ATMs: “It was the first she realized that she was standing in front of a ticket-machine. You put a high-denomination bill into the clipper which sank out of sight. You pressed the button below your destination and a ticket came out together with the correct change as determined by an electronic scanning device that never made a mistake. It was a very ordinary thing and there was no cause for anyone to stand before it for five minutes.”.
Bonus: having previously read a treatise by Asimov on how to reform the imperfect Gregorian calendar, it was cool to immediately understand the bizarre systems of dates used. The application of a numerical value from 1 to 365 for every given day in a year is exactly what Asimov had argued for in his essay in the issue of F&SF from June 1972 -19 years after Second Foundation was published. (less)
Tagline: An Allegory of Christianity for the Progressive and Nerdy
Normally I love detailed exposition of steampunk tech and alien environments but I d...moreTagline: An Allegory of Christianity for the Progressive and Nerdy
Normally I love detailed exposition of steampunk tech and alien environments but I didn't enjoy it here. It is too mechanical, as the author seems to want to be as accurate as possible so the reader can establish the scene perfectly in their mind, which is going too far. Or maybe my brain has been turned to mush by Burroughs' Barsoom series and Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber.
While the story itself is interesting, it's similar to other space fiction of the time - basically they were all a variation on Dances with Wolves in space. It's the broader themes it illustrates that are really engaging. As other members of GoodReads have noted, the exchange between the main character, his captors and the metaphysical being of Oyarsa is excellent: a comically hilarious and frustratingly accurate discourse on expansionist ideology. This scene is mostly about the application of Darwinism to the conquering of foreign peoples. Perhaps the Nazis or fascism in general were the source of inspiration, given its publication in the late 1930s, but I think it more closely resembles American settlement and expansion.
It's encouraging that Lewis finds contempt for those that justify colonization under the guise of twisted Darwinism and Manifest-Destiny-like ideals. It's equally encouraging to find that Lewis accepts the real theory of evolution in general. In fact it may be surprising to some how matter-of-factly he accepts it.
One thing I really appreciated was Lewis' focus on language throughout, being a philologist himself. We learn some basic Malacandrian along with the protagonist, and it's wonderfully immersive - the author even uses racial accents to distinguish between characters. It reminded me of the way Stephen King uses onomatopoeia, nicknames and rhymes throughout the Dark Tower series. I find this stuff key to making rich experiences.(less)
"...the Courts of Chaos, a grossly non-Euclidean realm..."
A satisfying and touching finish, despite its uneven start. This last chapter was the best,...more"...the Courts of Chaos, a grossly non-Euclidean realm..."
A satisfying and touching finish, despite its uneven start. This last chapter was the best, being a final adventure filled with wonderfully surreal encounters and phenomena.
Some details were probably inspired or borrowed from better-known predecessors. But like King did with The Dark Tower, they are woven together to create a new entity, unique in its own right. And Zelazny's epic must have provided things that became the basis for many of the principles at work in Roland Deschain's universe.
I especially enjoyed the minor confrontation with the cannibalistic little people, which seemed deliberately borrowed - and twisted - from Swift. The quote above is another bonus, a Lovecraftian description of the titular realm.
"But it has far greater depth than originally conceded by critics and readers who dismissed it as lacking substance."
This series is deceptively clever. It is full of allusions to other literature, historical events and figures. Zelazny was having fun writing this, but he was also teasing and engaging the reader in a multifaceted discussion on the nature of identity, without dragging the plotting down.
The July edition of the New York Review of Science Fiction has an amazing essay that examines all of the brief, cryptic references and allusions. This bit of fantasy is more than just a minor sword and sorcery tale crossed with some science fiction. If you've finished this series (the first five), I highly recommend their article, available at http://www.nyrsf.com/2012/07/suspende...(less)
The story of this time-traveling, in-fighting and incestuous family dressed in anachronistic medieval attire really hit its stride in this volume. The...moreThe story of this time-traveling, in-fighting and incestuous family dressed in anachronistic medieval attire really hit its stride in this volume. The pacing and political intrigue are tight and complex, yet comprehendible. The things revealed by twists are unforeseen and captivating. If you've read the first book or two and wondered what all the hoopla was about (the series has appeared on many Best Of awards lists and name-checked as an influence by a healthy number of talented writers, Neil Gaiman among them), stick with it and you'll probably be rewarded at this point. (less)
Very much a transition book. Most of it focuses on the main character's preparations for vengeance and his ultimate assault on his broth...moreGuns of Avalon
Very much a transition book. Most of it focuses on the main character's preparations for vengeance and his ultimate assault on his brother's forces. The science-fictional concept of carrying out a plan to bring working guns from one parallel world to another, where gunpowder doesn't function, is a neat idea. It's this idea that prompted me to read this series in the first place (mentioned on Wired's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast) and its execution didn't disappoint. But it lacked the novelty and urgency of the first book.
The end, however, is a surprise and forces me to continue the series, despite the fact that this volume was mostly exposition and set up for the rest of the series. (less)
"Look, Manlio, we’re proceeding along a planned history. We know that Hari Seldon worked out the historical probabilities of...moreGalaxies! Check this out:
"Look, Manlio, we’re proceeding along a planned history. We know that Hari Seldon worked out the historical probabilities of the future. We know that some day we’re to rebuild the Galactic Empire. We know that it will take a thousand years or thereabouts. And we know that in the interval we will face certain definite crises. Now the first crisis came fifty years after the establishment of the Foundation...Almost seventy-five years have gone since. It’s time, Manlio, it’s time.”
That's got to sound really cheesy to if you haven't read it before. And it is amazing how goofy a lot of this stuff is, especially taken out of context, yet it ultimately comes out of something intelligent and compelling. I'm addicted to the feeling of discovering fictional universes with traits that sound corny and stupid on the surface, but are actually deep and fascinating once I take the time to get to know them.
The most unique thing about this book is probably how protagonists and their rivals change regularly as the story spans multiple generations. The concept great - a plan to save the collected knowledge of sentient beings over a millenium as an empire collapses and regresses. It was challenging trying to keep track of all the characters, but not that bad. Chapters are usually 8 pages or less (much, much less in many cases) and the plot is engrossing. You have to keep reading to see how they're going to solve each new crisis. Each time the hologram of the plan's creator appears (and this is rare) to guide his descendants, I'm palpably excited, almost as much as the characters themselves.
The central mechanism upon which this whole thing is built requires your acceptance that something called 'psycho-history' is developed in the future, and that it can reliably predict future actions of human groups - for at least a thousand years. This can be difficult to accept at first, and for some reason seems to make the writing feel a little dated. It's explained that the ability to understand and predict human behavior requires really large sample sizes, which is something I deal with in my statistics work as well. It's a sound, if very basic, truth about any data set, and you'll learn to live with a little disbelief since the rest is so exciting.(less)
I normally love Ed Brubaker's stuff but I didn't love this. It was a bit difficult to follow and the occult elements were only slightly intriguing. Ma...moreI normally love Ed Brubaker's stuff but I didn't love this. It was a bit difficult to follow and the occult elements were only slightly intriguing. Maybe this will really hit its stride in the next volume but since Incognito was also a let down I may just return to their Criminal series instead. It sounds so good in theory but I'm just taken by it.(less)
I highly recommend this to anyone who's into the history of comics as a medium or fans of German Expressionist film. This Library of America edition i...moreI highly recommend this to anyone who's into the history of comics as a medium or fans of German Expressionist film. This Library of America edition is really high quality and the introduction by Art Spiegelman and the essays by Ward are fantastic.
The best here is definitely Vertigo which is Lynd's last and longest work. It succeeds wonderfully in fulfilling the ambitious depth of story first attempted in Madman's Drum (which was overly complicated and failed in conveying story and character development clearly) and a more nuanced characterization.
Reading a story through Ward's wood blocks can be a surprisingly deep and moving experience. I'm eager to hunt down his children's books and other authors' works that he illustrated.
Some quotes from Ward's essays:
"Some day, I fear, scientists will successfully demonstrate that life had its origin in an ancient accident in which several previously isolate basic substances were merged into one by a flash of lightning, with the complexity of all human experience the unforeseen result.
"But until that day arrives, we have implicit permission to look back on whatever portion of that complexity we can remember, collectively or individually...There is nothing more exhilarating than the discovery of an overall purpose behind the seemingly unrelated events that comprise the part of either a nation or a citizen."
On qualifying works as true pictorial narrative: "If understanding is dependent on the words, the narrative is probably more properly described as a work of illustration, one in which the verbal element is primary and the pictorial element - no matter how impressive in draftsmanship or how much of the available space it occupies - is secondary."
On the Great Depression (eerily applicable to our present times): "It seemed that only the morally crippled or the socially irresponsible could fail to react to the obvious effect that the vast, complicated, and impersonal social forces were having on the substance of so many individual lives."
"...it might even be possible to suggest that an impersonal social force is the accumulation of individual actions for which individuals are finally responsible."(less)