Ok. Whilst reading my review ... or reading The Stand for that matter ... make sure you put on Anthrax's Among the Living. "I'M THE WALKIN DUUUUUUDE.Ok. Whilst reading my review ... or reading The Stand for that matter ... make sure you put on Anthrax's Among the Living. "I'M THE WALKIN DUUUUUUDE. I CAN SEE ALLLLLL THE WORLD"
Anyway, one of the joys of reading this colossal tome is that I now understand that Anthrax song. Yeah me! Seriously though, what a mixed bag of emotions I have. For one, this is the longest book I've ever read (the previous one was Lord of the Rings ... ironic methinks ... and that was at 1,009 pages. This book is 430 pages longer than that!) so there is a sense of accomplishment. And if I feel that as a reader, imagine the author! To write a book is challenging ... to write something as vast as this is even more so. So, I feel wonder at Stephen King for writing such a long book and, for the most part, keeping it together and consistent.
However, I also feel frustration. Frustration at the fact I am a slow reader and this took me nearly a month. Frustration in that in the near-month, I spent a lot of time with characters I came to care about (or loved to hate) and saw them die or go away in completely anti-climactic or unimportant ways. Frustration mainly, though, in the fact that a god damn 1,439 page book DOESN'T HAVE AN ENDING!!!!!!!
Sure, this book ends. But it doesn't really END, ya know? I feel that despite being 1,439 pages and despite being a very modern day attempt at Lord of the Rings (King even says that was the inspiration, even down to horrific elements like Mordor and the evil eye of Sauron), there was a sense of first-draft-ness to the conclusion. Like King was feeling it out and then just published it instead of doing something else. I mean, King spends 400 pages just introducing the main characters. Hell, he doesn't stop introducing characters until page 900. And the very end, the climactic action we've waited all book for, is roughly half a page.
And it isn't just the length of the end that bothers me but the failure to deliver on the promise. King crafts a unique universe. In Book 1 (of 3) in The Stand, we see the Earth's society (or, at least the U.S.'s) fall apart as a vicious plague wipes 99% of them out. In Book 2, we see the formation of society again from the sides of good and evil, both from a governmental sense and a spiritual, religious sense. In these two books, we get a grasp of the characters, learn their tendencies, their motives and religious qualities (some are skeptics, some atheists, some true believers in a God, etc). We really are introduced to an new society and feel like we are a fly on the wall seeing the old world fall apart and the new world rise. It really is brilliant stuff.
But the purpose of a tale like Lord of the Rings, and thus The Stand, is for a goal to be reached; for a problem to always be hanging in the background waiting to be solved even as other dramas play out. In this case, two ambiguous powers, one seemingly of evil and one seemingly of good, survive the death of the world and drive it's rebirth and all throughout explain that the two powers, in one way or the other, will meet to take a stand and it will change that which remains in the world.
While many themes run through the book, plot wise (and its in the title) we are meant to believe that at some point good, manifested in our 'hero' characters and evil, with our 'antagonists', will meet in a confrontation to decide the fate of the universe. It is mentioned from page 2 to age 1300. And while the journey to that moment is momentous ... sometimes a little meandering but somehow essential ... the CRUX of the book, the reason it has its title, the reason all the characters exist in the first place, is kind of ho-hum dealt with in a few paragraphs in a very bizarre way using visuals and phenomena not really seen anywhere else in the book. I won't go into details because of spoilers but ... yeah ... the ending is kind of a let down; a one star off let-down.
But sometimes the plot literally just drives other stories around it. Which is fine! The Stand may have failed to deliver on its over-arching premise, but it does deliver in many other ways. World-building is this book's strong suit but it is done so effortlessly that despite the length of the book, it never feels overwhelming. This is written like a 200 page book just with lots of detail (I always have to remind myself that length doesn't necessarily equal epic).
Plus, the arc of the characters is wonderful. Sure, some kind of disappear or, well, die in disappointing ways (almost like the author needed a death and knew, even if the act which caused death itself was underwhelming, the effect would be emotional), for the most part many of the main characters go from point A to point B in a satisfying fashion.
Also, the mix of genres helps. Book 1 is the strongest part of the book. In it we see the country destroy itself and it is beautiful misery. King provides gripping horror and lots of tension. And it is my understanding that in this UNCUT version, a lot of dramatic scenes were added (such as Frannie and her mother's parlor) that are VERY effective.
Book 2 gets more psychological and philosophical and the fantasy elements are turned up a bit while the horror is turned down. It is good reading but lacks the punch of Book 1 (especially during one sequence that seems to go on forever that is a transcript of minutes from a committee meeting or three).
Book 3 is more plot based ... the lead up to THE STAND!!!! ... and I've aired my grievances already. Book 3 feels like it wasn't edited fully and feels like a first draft. That's all I'll say as I've said enough on the topic.
I am glad I read this book ... I find it both an accomplishment AND a lot of fun. For those worried about length, it is not quite as laborious as it seems and I think once you see it on your shelf, at the very least you'll think, "I read that. Wow"....more
I've heard some people complain that this is more of a film companion than an art book. I'm not sure I can disagree more as the central premise of theI've heard some people complain that this is more of a film companion than an art book. I'm not sure I can disagree more as the central premise of the making of the film was that it was birthed from storyboards and art design. The script, in the traditional sense, was written only after literal years of visual input.
Plus, we have to look at the word 'art'. Is that strictly paintings and drawings or, in the film sense, does that include set design, set dressing, and props. I think it does. And because of that, this book is a true art book as it shows the creation of multiple forms of art. Those complaining of seeing stills from the movie in place of actual 'art' fail to remember what I mentioned in the beginning: the film started as a pen-to-paper visual feast and the book is simply showing the concept turned into reality.
This book also gives you a lot of detail on the universe and how films are made, which I appreciated. I absolutely adored reading this and learned a lot about quite a bit....more
One thing I like about Douglas Coupland is his ability to repeat the same themes and even the same plots (though 'plot' is relative as his books are vOne thing I like about Douglas Coupland is his ability to repeat the same themes and even the same plots (though 'plot' is relative as his books are virtually plotless) without it feeling redundant or repetitive. I've read six Coupland books in two months and though many things certainly feel 'repeated', they aren't actually cloned, simply told differently.
Generation A is a science-fiction (lite) version of Generation X. JPod was a fantasy (lite) version of Microserfs. Etc. The main issue with Generation A is that it doesn't START like a sci-fi take on Gen-X and is a very compelling character piece focusing on five characters from different parts of the world. And though these characters certainly belong together at some point ... the second half of the book becomes a DIRECT retelling of Gen-X from 21st Century eyes and it completely destroys the flow and fun.
Generation X found a way to blend characters living in a uniquely Coupland world and telling fictional stories that felt like they were birthed in that world. In Gen-A, the characters certainly live in a sci-fi Coupland world but then tell stories that feel tacked on and unreal to the world. Coupland doesn't exactly clone his previous work but for the first time, I felt a bit of the redundancy that doesn't infect his other work.
The short stories would have been great on their own while a satisfying ending (though, once again, 'ending' is relative in a Coupland book) would have been great for the excellent characters written here. Oh well. It ends all too sadly and ... repetitively....more
Jalen Rose is one of the most unique voices in current sports broadcasting: a former player who had a movie-like rise to stardom and was riled in justJalen Rose is one of the most unique voices in current sports broadcasting: a former player who had a movie-like rise to stardom and was riled in just enough controversy to make him appear like a friendly uncle on your telecast and not a corporate suit or company man. His insights border on insightful and he always has a fresh take though, working for ESPN, he doesn't cross any lines or break any new boundaries; he simply bends the rules.
His book does much the same thing. He makes promises to provide arguments and conversation but he straddles the fence on shaking the foundations of the game of basketball (like he did when he was a player at Michigan) and keeping his bosses happy. He's walking the tightrope but has plenty of safety nets to help him.
I expect this on television or radio, where Rose works, as he works for a mega-corp called ESPN that is quite restrictive (and, relatively speaking, he pushes those ESPN boundaries, but that isn't saying too much). But in a BOOK, not published by his overlords, I expected a little bit more. I expected the line to be crossed ... in an intelligent way, of course ... but to be crossed. I wanted to get some juicy details of the college bball system and the behind the scenes juice of the NBA all from a perspective of a man of color, from an underprivileged background, living in a white man's world.
And while his NBA stories do provide some good gossip, Rose doesn't inflict much damage with his opinions. He certainly tries to tear apart the NCAA but all his viewpoints have been made by others, so they aren't fresh. He tries to get into the dirt behind the deterioration of his and Chris Webber's relationship ... but comes across as wanting to make an intervention, not actually tell it like it is. Plus, he spends the final 1/4 of the book talking about his (admittedly nobel and incredible) charitable organizations and general, surface level observations of youth in decay.
The plus to all this is that Rose didn't write this with anyone else. This is his voice so your inner narrator is clearly Rose. So that does help a bit as you feel like you are conversing with Rose on a pseudo-personal level. But that talk you have with him is one you'd have at work with some workplace colleagues ... you might say a few things you'd say without the boss around, but for the most part, you're sticking to a social script and not revealing too much.
Enjoyable for anecdotes on life as a high school and college superstar (though he approaches these sections with rose-colored glasses and mildly cheesy nostalgia) and as a NBA Journeyman but shockingly little in social commentary. The best 'quotable' bits are on the back cover of the book ... you may want to read that as a greatest hits and move on....more
While the Last Colony is entertaining and full of meaning, it lacks the emotional punch of the first two books in the series. Each book in the seriesWhile the Last Colony is entertaining and full of meaning, it lacks the emotional punch of the first two books in the series. Each book in the series takes some time to get going. Old Man's War took about 30-35 pages ... the Ghost Brigades about 50. But The Last Colony doesn't get cracking for 150, about half its length! The Ghost Brigades was very exposition and dialogue heavy but The Last Colony blows it away as all action and events are mostly explained in conversation between characters.
There isn't necessarily a problem with this if the discussions are good. Scalzi nails interaction very well and he has cranked the humor and snark waaaaay up (and it is effective) but a lot of the tension and stress of the events seem to be missing. This feels like an episode of a TV series rather than a momentous movie or entry in a series ... which is fine, if not a little disheartening. Nothing feels immense or important ... and that is a shame.
Scalzi is definitely influenced by Star Trek. While Old Man's War was more of a Heinlein military-sci-fi clone (and a great one at that!), The Ghost Brigades bridged that world with a Trekian like world in which moral ambiguities and philosophical debates entered the fold. It was welcome. But in The Last Colony, the military aspects are gone and the series enters full Trek, all the way down to the existence of a "federation" of aliens/cultures and a Prime Directive of sorts. The twist though is that this "Federation", known as the Conclave, is treated ambiguously. From a Trek perspective, it brings up the viewpoint of "what does the Federation look like to cultures on the outside looking in"? So that is a plus. Star Trek is awesome so mimicing it is not a bad idea.
It was awesome to have John Perry back, our hero from the first book. The Last Colony makes mention of some events from The Ghost Brigades but mostly leaves the events in the past and forgotten, almost as if it didn't exist. In this trilogy, while Book #3 feels the more episodic, it does appear Book #2 was the outlier in regards to continuity. Book #1 and Book #3 organically flow a lot better and maybe the author realized that, taking the best bits from #2 and keeping them in #3.
In other matters, Scalzi's immense skill in the first two books is in introducing small characters. Some of them are seen for a few pages but are memorable and three dimensional. Some last the whole book in small doses but share that same degree of three dimensionality. The problem with The Last Colony is all the supporting characters are dreadfully annoying, both in character and in presentation, so there is not much to latch onto besides the recurring characters we already know. This may be why some of the emotional heft is wanting ... The Ghost Brigades in particular was masterful in creating small, meaningful characters that expanded the universe.
This had a nice ending, one that mimics both Star Trek and, to a degree, the film Serenity (almost exactly) but stays true to the characters. I was definitely more interested in the final 1/3 of the book then the rest and happy this 'trilogy' (though I hear there are more books in the series) ended on a high note....more
I really don't want to get into it. All I feel is hate for this book.
All I'll say: Douglas Coupland managed to write one of my top 5 books of all timeI really don't want to get into it. All I feel is hate for this book.
All I'll say: Douglas Coupland managed to write one of my top 5 books of all time and one of my lowest 5 books of all time. That is quite a feat.
The first 70 pages is vintage, perfect Coupland but then he gets preachy ... and then he decides to hit us all on the head with his philosophy and cause the motherfucking apocalypse ... literally. This one took way too long to read and it is short. It hurt. I hate. Hate....more
I've now read four Douglas Coupland books. My first was Microserfs which easily became one of my all-time favorite books. I was so enamored with thatI've now read four Douglas Coupland books. My first was Microserfs which easily became one of my all-time favorite books. I was so enamored with that book that I didn't want to leave the "feeling" of it. So I picked up JPod and read that. Sure, it wasn't as good but I still loved it. I went back to the beginning and then read Generation X and, whatdoyaknow, it is one of my all-time favorites.
So, decades late, Coupland is becoming one of my favorite authors. I also seem to see his 'periods'; Early, middle, and late Coupland. The Gum Thief is a late Coupland book but is basically identical to Microserfs in structure. And, thankfully, it is almost equal in excellence.
Coupland has this way of making things I truly hate about literature be entertaining. I really should think he is a pretentious snob but I actually become fully engrossed in his dream-like narratives, less run by plot and more by raw emotion, pop psychology and stream of consciousness.
The Gum Thief ups the ante a bit by having a novel within the novel that is pretty fun and runs parallel, thematically, with the main action. Plus, unlike the other three books I've read of his, there is an actual ending!!!! And it feels satisfying (other reviews point out that is not a supported claim).
In place of overworked computer programmers or fringe-homeless living in the desert, The Gum Thief focuses on Staples employees and the tragedies and frailties of their lives. The Gum Thief is certainly the most pessimistic of Coupland's books I've read ... every character is either recovering from immense tragedy or realizing their youth is dying (or has already died) ... but it is also as close to real, at least for my experience, then the other four. Yes, Microserfs actually made me cry but that book had a dream-like, not-quite-existing in reality reality to it ... while this book, though taking liberties of course, feels like a more honest look at being human.
This might not be the first Coupland book to pick up if you've never read him ... nor, honestly, is it his best ... but is is damned good....more
A thrilling book that manages to be a period piece and a timeless view of youth.
I see a lot of people complain that, "Generation X would have impresseA thrilling book that manages to be a period piece and a timeless view of youth.
I see a lot of people complain that, "Generation X would have impressed me when I was a stupid teenager". And while this is undoubtably true, they are missing the point by using this as a criticism. What gives the book power is the author's ability to convey the psychodrama that exists in the mind of the evolving youth. I would have LOVED this book when I was 18-25 and would have taken it as truth and preaching then. As a 30-35 year old, I see it now as a time capsule of how I used to think. And I love taking a trip down memory lane and seeing how silly it is and how serious I thought it was.
Now, granted, I am a white male who comes from a middle class background. I had the luxury of thinking like the characters in this book at one time or another so the book is strengthened by my experience. But I am, indeed, glad I read it at my current age because this kind of pseudo-nihilism and woe-is-me attitude is what makes twenty-somethings so fucking unbearable! So, you'll either see yourself now or how you were or, frighteningly, if you have kids, how they might turn out!
This is my third Coupland book and it continued the trends I wanted when I started with Microserfs. I haven't read any of Coupland's other work outside of this, Microserfs and JPod but all three of these books were intensely similar. And since I never wanted Microserfs to end, having it revived in two other books (same episodic content, virtually identical characters, plot-less fun) kept my love alive. I plan on finding other Coupland books that are similar in style but so far, after reading the synopsis of the others, I don't know if it exists. We shall see.
So of the three I've read, I'd go 1)Microserfs, 2)Generation X, 3)JPod.
There would, naturally, be a let down. I like The Ghost Brigades a lot ... but I loved Old Man's War so, yes, there is a bit of a let down. But it isThere would, naturally, be a let down. I like The Ghost Brigades a lot ... but I loved Old Man's War so, yes, there is a bit of a let down. But it is still very, very, very good and I plan on moving on to The Last Colony as soon as possible.
The major problem with the first book was that is seemed to lift quite frequently from other, classic material. But that was eventually ok because it was a more 'modern' take and it had the author's spin to it. The major problem with Book #2 has nothing to do with ideas (or the 'homage' of ideas previously used). In fact, Book #1 had a blistering pace due to its familiar approach. Not so in The Ghost Brigades.
The book has a LOT of talking. Whereas the first book had quick dialogue and short scenes of exposition put in-between lots of action, Book #2 involves a lot of world building but the author can only world build by having people sit down and talk. Especially in that god damn general's mess hall. Fuck. I hate that place now.
Not to mention that the book's main villain is like a Bond villain and explained EVERYTHING. He actually does nothing of consequence during the book where he appears (just outside of the story and in the past). That is a shame because Book #1 had no villain so to see a big bad in this universe was a cool idea. Oh well.
It sounds like I'm simply trashing everything but that isn't the case. Old Man's War sacrificed a solid universe for loads of action and great characters. The Ghost Brigades, though doing it the wrong way, manages to really let the universe breath and gives a lot more depth to the myriad alien cultures and planetary governments. Plus, the author digs into his inner Star Trek and busts out all kinds of psychological, philosophical and religious debates for you and your friends to discuss.
So I give it four stars because it made me think, further built a fun universe and made me want more. You can't ask for much else in a book series....more
Everyone knows I am a notoriously slow reader. Not sure what it is (probably the OCD) but I read slow as hell. But not with this book. I read this inEveryone knows I am a notoriously slow reader. Not sure what it is (probably the OCD) but I read slow as hell. But not with this book. I read this in about two days (four sittings). I couldn't put it down. It wasn't revolutionary or anything ... more a modern update of stuff Heinlein was doing decades ago ... but it is comfort food that slowly but effectively ramps up the dramatic intensity and complex world building.
The first 30 pages are a bit rough and there were a few times when I thought, "is this really for me?". But somewhere down the line, the high concept of old folks joining an interstellar army with new, sciency bodies, catches on and you just can't stop. Not too sci, not too fi ... just right. Imaginative, with sharp dialogue, and impressive military action, I am anxious to read the next book in the series....more
While it can't touch Microserfs in terms of character development and emotion, JPod is a slightly less passionate pseudo/spiritual sequel that cranksWhile it can't touch Microserfs in terms of character development and emotion, JPod is a slightly less passionate pseudo/spiritual sequel that cranks up the humor (as well as the need to suspend disbelief). This is almost Microserfs retold as a fantasy novel. Which is fine ... it is great. Just not Microserfs great....more