I guess I finished this. That's funny, because I don't have any memory of the story ending, just a memory of replacing it on my MP3 player with anotheI guess I finished this. That's funny, because I don't have any memory of the story ending, just a memory of replacing it on my MP3 player with another book. And that was only a week ago.
Which is to say, this was not a book that hit my sweet spot. I remember really liking the first book, and so I've had this one on my "remember this" shelf at the digital library for a long time. I pulled it up more than a month ago to listen to while doing chores.
It bored and annoyed me by turns. Something about the character of Odd seemed off. He was a 20 or 21 year old acting like an old man, and his philosophizing didn't seem to fit either age group. The amount of narrative devoted to re-explaining things from the first book felt ponderous. The amount of narrative devoted to explaining unnecessary background elements (the history of the casino building, for example) felt somehow poetically pretentious.
And not much HAPPENED. Murder! Kidnapping! Ooh, this should be interesting, right? No, because then we follow that up with "Police Chief believes in Odd's supernatural abilities while no one else does, and because he can't tell anyone, he goes into the sewers and a creepy old casino all alone and is chased by crazy bad guys a lot." The end. This story really did seem to last Forever, but not in the good way....more
I loved this. Rather unexpectedly. I picked it out because it is so oft-cited - in other works of fiction, in news and opinion stories - and I liked tI loved this. Rather unexpectedly. I picked it out because it is so oft-cited - in other works of fiction, in news and opinion stories - and I liked to read things that are part of the popular imagination. Also (I thought to myself, upon making my selection), I have not read much of The Russians, and I thought this would cure part of that lack.
Which is to say, I've read SO little of the The Russians that in fact I didn't really even know who The Russians were. I really had Nabokov clumped together in my brain with Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. I just assumed they were all part of the same literary tradition. I knew Lolita was shorter that War & Peace, but I fully expected Lolita to be a 19th century social commentary, somewhat dry and not always related to my own sphere of existence. Oops.
I was also a little wary going into this because everything I knew about the book before beginning was "it's about pedophilia!" and my (admittedly prudish) sensibilities don't usually go in for novels that thematically cross the lines of sex or violence very far. As background themes? Fine. As occasional scenes? Fine. But a whole book dedicated to a topic? Could I handle it?
And perhaps that is why I am so surprised at my enjoyment of this story. Were the acts of a sex criminal depicted, sometimes graphically? Yes, but somehow never indecently. I liked that I, the reader, was not involved in this story as a voyeur would be, but as a member of a convicting jury. From the opening of the story with the "introduction" from the lawyer, I was invited to pass judgment on Humbert. I was given permission to both disapprove of the actions described while enjoying the craft that went into their telling.
And such craft! Nabokov's writing is utterly beautiful. His vocabulary is a bit out of control - I saw words in this novel I've either never encountered or haven't encountered since studying for the GREs in every single chapter. But I even loved that. I loved how it was part of the narrator's personality, even. The flowing phrases and the word games (even knowing I only understood a small handful of these) are artistic genius.
My favorite aspect, however, was all the beautiful paradoxes: Humbert as a miserable foreigner who was somehow better at being American than many Americans; how Humbert waxed poetic about Lolita's perfection while at the same time describing for me a child who was perfectly horrible; the way he was so concerned about preserving everyone else's opinion of him while never doing anything other than what he personally wanted to do.
I had to do some reading up on this novel after I finished it because I felt like there was so much more going on beneath the surface than what I had gleaned. I would love to go over this book in a literature class. From what I read, though, I didn't do too badly, even if some of the more obscure symbolic imagery passed me by (the mythological and entomological implications of the word "nymphet," and all the associated imagery that went along with it).
Here's the one thing I noticed that I simply didn't see in any of the lit analysis commentaries I read: Humbert's original lover is depicted as being Annabel Lee from Poe's poem by the same name. Lines of the poem are outright stolen and reproduced as the words of Humbert in his descriptions of his first love. The setting and circumstance are identical to those of the poem (with the exception of the protagonist curling up to keep his love company after her death). Was Lolita, then, written as a kind of sequel to Poe's poem? Or was Humbert aware of the poem and consciously co-opted it for himself? Humbert mentions Poe within the narrative, which makes me first theory problematic, even though I like it better, but makes the second theory quite likely. The only mentions I could find about this question said that Poe's poem inspired this novel, though to me it felt like much more. (Perhaps all this stuck out to me because "Annabel Lee" was one of the first poems I liked enough to memorize, so I know it well enough to spot every reference.)
/tldr. I really liked this. I will go check out more of Nabokov's works....more
Maybe even 4.5 stars. Really quite beautiful. I didn't realize it was a zombie book when I started it (yes, I really will take suggestions from some pMaybe even 4.5 stars. Really quite beautiful. I didn't realize it was a zombie book when I started it (yes, I really will take suggestions from some people without ever asking "what's it about?"), and I'm not really into zombie books, so I'm glad I didn't know or I might not have read it. I can't think of any other zombie books I've ever read, actually. Goes to show, you shouldn't ban any particular thing with no exceptions. (Half star lost, then, because there WERE still a good share of zombie feasting scenes that aren't my cup of tea.)
In any case, I really enjoyed this story. The characters were interesting and believable. At one point I caught myself thinking "are they just a little TOO flawed?" It felt like maybe the author was being too hard on them, trying to make them almost unreedemable, like he wanted to make the reader give up on them because he was obviously going to have to kill them anyway. But no, I think given the circumstances of their lives, the hard and sharp edges of every character made sense, and I could find ways to like or admire every one of them by the end of the story.
I liked the science behind the zombie-ness. Solid, fascinating.
I loved the play on mythology throughout the story.
The end was absolutely perfect. It has the same melancholy and heartbreaking-but-obviously-right feel that "I Am Legend" has. Very cool. ...more
Beautiful, eerie, and sad. I liked the slow, backward reveal of what the world has become and how. The relationships between the characters were compeBeautiful, eerie, and sad. I liked the slow, backward reveal of what the world has become and how. The relationships between the characters were compelling and heartbreaking. The morals of the story were never directly stated, but were perhaps all the more powerful for that. I look forward to seeing the next books in the trilogy....more
Delightful. A captivating story from one end to the other. My capacity to suspend my disbelief was occasionally tried (specifically, by (view spoiler)Delightful. A captivating story from one end to the other. My capacity to suspend my disbelief was occasionally tried (specifically, by (view spoiler)[the lengths the entire world went to just to save one guy. Justification was provided, and I do believe that we (the US in particular) do irrational things for the benefit of single human beings once in awhile, but this was SO extreme. At the end, Watney suggests they probably spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" to save him, but I don't see any way the total could be less than billions. A year of paying huge contingencies of NASA scientists constant overtime, THREE scrapped space missions and parts, an extra 1.5 years in space for the crew of the Hermes? Like I said - maybe we would really do it, it just stretches my credulity a bit. The other thing that was a bit hard to swallow was Mark's and the Hermes crew's perfect ability to combat every single thing that came up with MacGyver excellence. The only setbacks were brought about by non-human interference (the weather, mostly). Don't get me wrong - I loved it every time one of the hare-brained schemes worked, I just don't ever have that king of luck myself, so maybe I begrudge it to other people. (hide spoiler)]).
Despite any of that, I gobbled it up and enjoyed every minute. I saw one criticism that the voice of the narrator sounded too much like a professional blogger and not like the kind of guy that NASA would hire for a serious space mission. This also troubled me a little in the beginning of the story (how many grown men, much less astronauts, say "Yay!" with that kind of frequency?), but at the tale progressed, I realized that this particular tone serves a vital purpose both within the narrative and also for the reader. Within the narrative, we have a man stranded on Mars for more than a year. He is the kind of man who is chosen for this mission specifically for his skill set and attitude. Would a man with less goofiness and less optimism have been able to do everything he did? Grim determination might have achieved the same end, but that's where the purpose for the reader comes in: this novel would have been hella boring if all we'd had to read about was a cranky, nearly robotic left-brained military man reporting each day's identical scientific and technical progress in bleak style. Ew. I'll trade that slightly more probable situation for goofy Mark Watney any day.
As per the science: I know enough about the things discussed to be terribly impressed, but not enough to know if any of it was too far fetched. I really enjoyed reading about it, though, and cheered for every MacGyvery solution.
This was also a rather refreshing bit of "plausible" science fiction. (I use the word lightly.) I've been reading so much far-future sci-fi and dystopia lately that something this close to probability feels like it might only be fiction because it hasn't happened yet, not because it probably won't ever happen.
And finally: it's obvious why this is movie material. I might even go see it. :)
(Post Script: did anyone else read the "reader's guide" questions at the end and find them grossly self-laudatory? Oh, publishers...)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yup, it was just fine. I enjoyed the author's note at the end a little more than the actual story. Not sure what that says. Sorry for the lousy reviewYup, it was just fine. I enjoyed the author's note at the end a little more than the actual story. Not sure what that says. Sorry for the lousy review - we listened to this on audio over a period of about 4 months, and I may have dozed through a couple of bits. Not the usual punny, irreverent Pratchett, but still a fun little bite of history....more
Before I start picking on this book, let me point out that I really enjoyed reading it. The premise was very interesting and the story plotted out resBefore I start picking on this book, let me point out that I really enjoyed reading it. The premise was very interesting and the story plotted out respectably well. My gripes are all about narrative technique, and they are perhaps a bit gripier than they would normally be considering my previous reading project.
So that first: I have recently finished reading Gardens of the Moon, a book famous for its intricately detailed world and for its author's refusal to explain that world to the reader, instead forcing the reader to figure it out on her own as she reads. I really enjoy that - I like it when the author trusts me to figure things out (even if, occasionally, I'd wish for a little more clarification. Stevenson's response to my plea for more context was most often a literary middle finger ["because you asked, I will introduce thirteen new characters in this chapter!"]).
Eh hem. So coming off of that rather chewy reading experience, now I have this. Scalzi starts the novel with a very helpful and fairly comprehensive introduction in the form of an encyclopedia entry detailing the history, social, and political implications of Haden's disease. It's a beautiful set up for the story, giving us all the information we need to proceed directly into a plot set in the world thus outlined, without having to bog the narrative down with a bunch of info dumps meant to convey the same information.
... Except then he bogs the narrative down with a bunch of infodumps meant to convey the same information.
Well, they're not precisely infodumps. Instead, there are a lot of conversations between characters that remind me of that melodrama I acted in a few years ago:
::picking up the telephone:: "Hello, Muldoon Manor, home of the mysterious Lady Muldoon whose husband disappeared three years ago this Friday under misty and mysterious circumstances, how may I help you?"
The characters spend a LOT of time telling each other in great detail about things the speaking characters all already understand clearly. These dopey conversations do convey a lot detailed information to me, the reader, that I might not have been able to figure out by myself, but in a lot of cases, I feel like I wouldn't have missed any depth in the story without that info. Or maybe it could have been explained more gracefully in a non-conversational fashion.
I was also annoyed with Scalzi's propensity for reminding me of things that I already knew. A simple example is how he kept referring to the husband of a big corporate boss (male) as "his husband," as if Scalzi was worried that I would miss the social implication he was trying to make. It's okay, man! I got it the first time! It was a nice touch until you bludgeoned me with it for the fourteenth time.
Narrative peeves aside, the story was fun. I liked exploring the social implications of this disease that causes people to be locked into their bodies so that they have to function either in digital environments or through the manipulation of robot avatars. Really interesting, even when the directions the socio-political aspects of the background were a little confusing (why would locked-in people who necessarily depend on people in the physical world to do things like take care of their bodies and build the components for their avatars think that forming a locked-in-persons-only society would be practical...?)
I liked the protagonist and the little literary game Scalzi played with his female partner, Vann, being a stereotypical hard-boiled detective.
All in all, a very solid 3.50-star "liked it" for this book, and despite my gripes, I'll surely read more of his novels....more
I found the third (final?) installment of this set somewhat less engaging than the previous two. The author introduces new elements (the Stelians andI found the third (final?) installment of this set somewhat less engaging than the previous two. The author introduces new elements (the Stelians and the Cataclysm) and characters (Karou's "grandmother," Eliza Jones) that tip the scales of the world-wide conflict, and getting my mind around them when all the other elements of the story were so well-established was trickier than I think it should have been. I also felt myself less engaged with the ever-elusive resolution to the love story.
I did like how she handled the larger conflicts in the novel with a degree of seriousness that can be lacking in fantasy tales, especially some of those aimed at YA audiences. Two previously warring armies came together under a treaty, but the result wasn't purely hearts and roses. Even after they find an equilibrium, we understand that the peace they form will remain a work in progress. Duty is given a higher priority than the love interests of two individuals, which I liked as well (even it that might have been one of the reasons my investment in the love story waned).
Ultimately, everything was satisfactorily concluded and Taylor's prose remained as lovely as ever, there was just some minor element missing to meet the needs of my attention span....more
Three-point-five contented stars. (Look at me there, defying the 5-or-1 trend!) One chapter in, and having read Bethany's review, I realized this wasThree-point-five contented stars. (Look at me there, defying the 5-or-1 trend!) One chapter in, and having read Bethany's review, I realized this was not going to be a story with a real plot, and decided to enjoy it as a rather long vignette, as a capturing of time, texture and emotion. Rothfuss' language is so beautiful that it often had the feel of a long-form poem, and I was happy enough with that, taking it for what it was and, as Auri would have done, not wanting it to be anything other than its truest self. I enjoyed learning more about Auri, I loved wandering around the Underthing with her, and I even found in her mindsets something very familiar to me, an echo of a girl I was who saw life and wants in every inanimate object.
(You should have seen the collection of sticks I picked up on a golf course one day, shedding an actual tear for one because it felt so lonely to me. My dad made me leave the sticks behind when we went home, and that might have been the moment when I forced myself to toughen my resolve and worry less about all the lonely Things of the world. [Now I limit myself to worrying about the lonely cats.] But some of this must remain in me, because when I read of Auri's struggles to make the brazen gear fit and be happy, I looked at the picture of it, propped with its empty tooth facing the ceiling, and knew immediately that the empty tooth should have been pointing the ground instead. Some things just need to be certain ways!)
But while I enjoyed it, I wish it would have given a few more clues about Auri, particularly about her past. We don't get much - the name of an old teacher, knowledge that he has had enough screaming in her past, and that she is highly skilled at chemistry, alchemy and - presumably - naming things. I don't want the whole mystery drawn out for me, but I'd love a few crumbs to better speculate upon.
And my last grumble is petty, but I had a hard time getting around it: Rothfuss abuses the word "grin" in this story. I have this idea that a grin is something fierce, toothy, and devious. Skulls, for example, are said to grin. Five-year-old boys who know they are getting in trouble grin. Demons grin. Murderers grin. Grinning felt all wrong for Auri, and she did it ALL THE TIME. For someone so delicate and tiny, all that grinning struck me as incongruous. I would have preferred more smiles, or giggles, or ... I dunno. Obviously a very personal preference that doesn't have any ultimate bearing on the story.
So yes, thanks for the little stopgap, Mr. R, but I shall continue to await your third novel anxiously!...more
Oops. Took too long to write this review, and now most of the particulars have slipped my mind.
I enjoyed this book. I liked that it was told from a mOops. Took too long to write this review, and now most of the particulars have slipped my mind.
I enjoyed this book. I liked that it was told from a male perspective, and thought the authors did a nice job capturing the teenage perspective in general. I liked that the protagonists were both just dumb, lost teenagers and that the romance was teenage-flavored rather than svelt and perfect in (actually) magical ways.
The narrative style was fine, though three or four times I noticed very minor narrative inconsistencies (this is the part where I waited too long and now can't remember any actual examples, but they were very minor. No giant plot holes). Some parts of the ending struck me as altogether implausible, however: (view spoiler)["Gee, these kids all hate me and there's my cousin who's trying to get me killed but I think I'll go party with them anyway, despite how terrified I am that something might go wrong." No. Why? Because she wants so badly to be a normal teenager that wanting the popular kids to like her trumps a FEAR FOR HER LIFE?! I have a really hard time buying that. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, and I have no idea what the title has to do with anything in the story.
But it was entertaining while it lasted. I may check out the next ones if I run out of other audiobook options...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Listened in the car on the way home from Yellowstone with Matt and Francy. It reads exactly like a TV episode, which was goofy, but I enjoyed it anywaListened in the car on the way home from Yellowstone with Matt and Francy. It reads exactly like a TV episode, which was goofy, but I enjoyed it anyway. ...more
Confession first: I listened to this on audio, and whether it was author's narrative or the audio's narrator, I could not stay awake. Dustin had to keConfession first: I listened to this on audio, and whether it was author's narrative or the audio's narrator, I could not stay awake. Dustin had to keep catching me up.
So I really can't say much about the quality of the mystery part of the story. I was pretty confused about that for most of the read. However, the excellent way Roberts depicted life in the last years of Rome's (in)famous Republic were well worth sticking it out for. I liked how he characterized the players, giving them humanity but not shying away from the devious and twisted motives of life in that time. I liked his depiction of the city itself, with all its grandeur and grit. I even liked the way the story's narrator was speaking from a time in the future, dropping hints that helped the reader find context for the story's contemporary action among the solid facts most of us know from studying Highlights of History 101.
And Dustin really liked it (I think), so I suspect we'll find sequels on the menu. ...more
A fascinating read. I like Pollan's narrative style, and the histories and sciences he relates are very interesting. I enjoyed hearing more about theA fascinating read. I like Pollan's narrative style, and the histories and sciences he relates are very interesting. I enjoyed hearing more about the true tales of John Chapman. I like learning what made Dutchmen go nuts for particular tulips. The discussion of our brain's natural THC production is totally bizarre and really provided a new perspective on the idea of getting a high. Pollan's treatment of GMOs was much milder and unbiased than I expected when that section started (though you get a definite understanding of his personal views as well).
I struggled most with the idea that plants manipulate humans to enhance their evolutionary odds of survival. If you accept the premise that flowers evolved to make themselves more appealing to bees, of course it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to believe that flowers can evolve to make themselves more appealing to people. And yet, and yet... The difference between what motivates a bee and a person is so large that I struggle to jump the gap. Wouldn't Occam's Razor suggest that certain species of plants have just gotten lucky? (And then, in the end, Pollan even points out that our attention to some plants may eventually lead to their downfall. That's not a very evolutionary concept.) [But then, you say, isn't evolution mostly about luck anyway? Meh. There are many reasons why I don't delve too deep into the theories of evolution. Here's one.]
All in all, very interesting and enjoyable, even if sometimes it felt a little more philosophical than strictly biological. ...more
I liked a lot of things about this book. Sullivan's vision of a future in which people have evolved themselves into a race of perfect, practically immI liked a lot of things about this book. Sullivan's vision of a future in which people have evolved themselves into a race of perfect, practically immortal clones is fascinating. I liked how he arrived at the conclusion of that future. I even like how he worked with a cast of future characters who were made from the same pattern and yet yearned for individualism.
And for the most part, I really liked Ellis as the protagonist. My difficulties with the story arose from the long string of very stupid things he did to move the plot along, all of which felt like they were outside of his established character. Here's the synopsis I gave Dustin after we agreed that we couldn't forgive Ellis for one more boneheaded move (spoilers):(view spoiler)[
Ellis: Hi, I'm a terminally ill brilliant scientist who is discontent with his life and going to die soon anyway, so I'm going to test this time machine that I built. Warren: Okay, whatevs. Ellis: Oh my gosh, I found a letter that shows my wife was cheating on me with Warren! Guess I'll go to the future. ... Ellis: Hello future! Ooh, a murder. But here's a nice guy in a bowler hat who will be my friend. Pax: Let's be friends! Ellis: Wow, the future is SUPER cool! Hey look, my friend Warren wound up here too! Hello Warren who is my best friend and I'm not at all mad at about that wife-screwing thing! Warren: Hey. These future-people are lame. Let's blow them all up. Ellis: I'm not totally convinced that's a good idea, but you should leave now Pax, because my wife-stealing friend Warren deserves my only loyalty, even though he's clearly bonkers. Pax: Sob! I'm devastated and emotionally unstable! Ellis: Then you'd better take my gun. Warren: Let's cook ourselves some wives! Ellis: Huh, that doesn't seem like a good idea, but since I've apparently forgotten that you cuckolded me, and since I am your friend, I'll go along with your very terrible plan. Wait, why do you want to have ladies? Warren: To have a billion babies, Old Testament-style, and to take over the world! Ellis: Oh right. Yeah, that's a terrible idea, but I'll keep helping you. Say, where's Pax? Pol: Probably dead. Ellis: Oh, bummer. Say, tell me one more time what you plan to do up here? Warren: Blow everyone else up so we can rule the world. Ellis: Oh yeah. You know, upon chapters and chapters of reflection, I've decided I can no longer support your plan. Pax: Told you so. Ellis: Yay, Pax isn't dead! Let's go foil these guys. (hide spoiler)]
So all that is to say, I feel like Sullivan focused so much on developing the relationship between Ellis and Pax (which was very nicely done, though the moral lesson of it was a bit heavy-handed) that he completely bungled the relationship between Ellis and Warren, which I never, ever understood. I just can't bring myself to believe that a man who is a brilliant enough scientist to invent a time machine and a sensitive enough dude to develop the relationship with Pax could be such an idiot about Warren's actions and intentions. Adequate justification was never provided.
But again: beautiful world, fascinating (if occasionally dubious) technology, and overall a very entertaining read. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was a really fun read. Zoomed right through it. 3.5 stars, leaning toward 4.
The first thing that struck me about the story is that you're bThis book was a really fun read. Zoomed right through it. 3.5 stars, leaning toward 4.
The first thing that struck me about the story is that you're being asked to root for the bad guys. The plot is a bit Ocean's 11-style, where the protagonists are trying to pull of an impressive heist... except there's no good reason to root for them. They're criminals, and they're doing something awful (looting the last, only, unspoiled tomb of an Egyptian pharoah - a crime that particularly horrifies my inner archaeologist). They're not doing it for any hidden noble purpose, either - they just want to get rich. I found myself rooting for the boobytraps inside the tomb.
Crichton ('scuse me, Lange) seems to be playing with this idea of protagonists behaving badly, though, and that's how it ended up still being so much fun, even if I cringed every time Pierce swung a mallet. Lord Grover and Lisa are constantly trying to gauge their own and others' moral standings, Grover is reading mystery novels and rooting for the bad guys, and the resolution... well, let's spoiler this.
(view spoiler)[The resolution does what needs to be done to allow everyone to feel good about what they've done. I mean, it allows the characters to feel justified in their crimes but also to have the reward without the punishment, and it allows the reader to think "ah well, it all ended with everyone on the side of goodness and light." But that's not really true. No one is held in any way accountable for the horrific crime's they've committed against history, and I personally find that very unsatisfying. (hide spoiler)] Also, I feel like I couldn't fully read between the lines in the last chapter to understand what happened. (view spoiler)[I understand why the Egyptian government did what they did, but what part did Grover play? What did his letter say? Matt, when you finish reading this I insist you explain it to me. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more