It was fine. 2.5 stars, more than 3. I liked the riffing on fairies and Midsummer Night's Dream. I like the form that Mack's magic took - a lot. For mIt was fine. 2.5 stars, more than 3. I liked the riffing on fairies and Midsummer Night's Dream. I like the form that Mack's magic took - a lot. For me, this was the best part of the story. It became even more impressive when we learned that it wasn't good magic, but that didn't mean Mack himself was evil. I found that to be a really neat dynamic to explore.
On the other hand, that made it a bit surprising that a kid who is responsible for evil things would be so quickly accepted as good simply because he says so. In fact, all the characters do an awful lot of talking about strange things that people then proceed to simply accept. And then the characters reexplain these things too many times, so that occasionally I got bored and a little annoyed by the repetitiveness of the explanations. Thank you, yes I KNOW that it's all Oberon's fault and that he's imprisoned and that Mack is his minion but it's not Mack's fault and that we need your help to fix all this. (I'm not marking any of this as Spoilerific, because it comes up very early in the novel and then we keep going over and over it.)
The other shortfall, for me, was that I feel like the book tried so hard to keep reminding me that its characters were black that the effort took away from the telling of the story. The blackness of the characters wasn't important to anything, it was just a part of the setting. Some of the characters were very interesting, but not because they were black. Some of them felt like caricatures, but I can't actually worry too much about that since I don't have much in the way of experience around black culture, being stranded here in the middle of the whitest part of the country. I accept OSC's comments in the author's notes about why and how he took this approach, but... it was still kind of strange. ...more
This is the first of Robinson's books I've read. I found the narrative perfectly balanced between things that annoyed me and things that absolutely faThis is the first of Robinson's books I've read. I found the narrative perfectly balanced between things that annoyed me and things that absolutely fascinated me.
Annoying: Some of the denser theoretical and philosophical flights that Ship went on.
Fascinating: The journey of an AI to actual sentience, the exploration of what form that might take and what its broader implications might be.
Annoying: The political squabblings and unreasonabble attitudes of the poeple on Earth. (This is just me. This kind of story arc tends to annoy me as a rule. All of it was logical and necessary to the story.)
Fascinating: Pondering the unexpected attitudes people might develop regarding human destiny and our duty to find and cross new frontiers, plus questions of defining Home and what our connection to Home should and can be.
And then all the rest was just fascinating. Island biology applied to long-term starships. Devolution of a species in a confined space. The impossibility (improbability) of finding another habitat that can be made suitable to humans. The difficulty of making decisions in the present that will affect our descendants in ways we can hardly comprehend. Starships!
So overall, I enjoyed this read quite a lot. It felt like more of a philosophical and theoretical scientific exploration than the kind of story I traditionally prefer, but that's a nice detour to take now and then.
(Fun trivia: I watched the movie Interstellar the same night I finished reading this book, the result of which is that I had some serious nightmares about giant waves.)...more
I liked the world Doctorow created, and how most of it was only hinted at. The nature of the Ad Hocs was interesting, but I found the actual "intrigueI liked the world Doctorow created, and how most of it was only hinted at. The nature of the Ad Hocs was interesting, but I found the actual "intrigue" of what was happening at Disneyworld to be less than perfectly compelling. ...more
2.5 stars. It was fine. Reading about the lives of the three (plus three half) main characters held my interest for the most part, though recurring th2.5 stars. It was fine. Reading about the lives of the three (plus three half) main characters held my interest for the most part, though recurring themes of jealousy, discontent, and the changes brought about by progressive stages of life got to feel a little forced and repetitive. If you had asked me after Chapter 2 to guess what was going to become of all the characters, I wouldn't have made too many wrong guesses. The lives that all these people lead are so different from any life I ever had or ever will have that I had a little trouble really relating to them, even though I think one of the (the primary?) messages of the whole book was supposed to be "all people are interesting if you just think about it from the right perspective."
Eh. By now anyone who reads my reviews probably knows that I simply prefer my fiction a little more out there. A little more... fictional. If you enjoy a tale of complex people living complex lives in a very real world, this would be an excellent pick for you. I'm going to go find a book with wizards, now. ...more
As a child in a place with lots of winter and lots of thunder, but never at the same time, I found the title of this book absolutely intriguing. I seeAs a child in a place with lots of winter and lots of thunder, but never at the same time, I found the title of this book absolutely intriguing. I seem to remember feeling that the brilliance of the story didn't quite live up to the title, but to this day I can still remember the images Sandoz crafted in my mind of all those children huddled together in a cave made of snow. ...more
2.5 stars, I suppose. It was just fine. An easy read, but left me scratching my head on questions of logic and character development too many times to2.5 stars, I suppose. It was just fine. An easy read, but left me scratching my head on questions of logic and character development too many times to be completely absorbing.
I was immediately thrown for the loop when, within the first two chapters, the author made references to Twitter, Vimeo, Google, and a couple other very current forms of social media. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself - the characters' use of these platforms was not incorrect it was just... jarring. For some reason, hauling name-branded, only fleetingly-famous (maybe) bits of technology makes me squirm a little. Like I'm worried on behalf of the book that it won't feel relevant anymore, five years from now.
But okay, okay, not the point of this story. The point of this story is to follow Wes, aspiring film student, and Annie, a ghost-who-won't-admit-to-being-a-ghost from the 1820s who desperately needs Wes's help finding a cameo she has lost.
Question A: Why does Annie appear when she does (~2015 New York)? What's special about that time and place? The explanation provided is that she needs to find someone who is willing to see her and can help her, but...? Why is Wes so much more willing and able than anyone else? He's not sending out "I wish I had a damsel in distress" vibes. The medium at the seance can't be responsible, because not only is she a fraud, Annie appears well before the seance even begins. I needed something a little more concrete to help me pin down this point.
Question B: Why does Wes fall so hard in love with her? She's cute, okay. But immediately after observing her at the seance, he forgets about her until Tyler reminds him about the release form, then he's like - "oh yeah, she was hot and I should check that out." Then, within about two days he's nutty about her, even though she's ... well, not much but cute. She's helpless and shallow and... maybe guys really dig that? I was having trouble digging that.
I guess I wish Annie had been just a little more interesting. She was a little rebellious - sneaking out to meet her man - but ultimately, she just wanted to be with her man, and nothing else mattered to her until all the sudden at the end she wants to save the world. I'd have liked to see a lot more of that from her earlier.
As for the ending? I am mostly satisfied. In some ways, it seemed that nothing had changed - we were just uncovering the truth about the events in 1824, which rolled out the way they did because of the help Annie got in 2015. I like that as a resolution to stories like that. The truth about the lost ring implied this was supposed to be the case. But then other things did change, leaving me a little boggled.
I really enjoyed this book. I glanced at the other reviews before I started writing this one, and saw a whole heap of hate being piled on it by most oI really enjoyed this book. I glanced at the other reviews before I started writing this one, and saw a whole heap of hate being piled on it by most of the popular reviewers, which makes me sad, but certainly reminds me: different strokes for different folks. It WAS kind of long, but I enjoyed Simmons' narrative (and exposition, okay) enough that I didn't even mind. I liked all the characters immensely, and didn't feel that he treated Mallory with the kind of negativity other reviewers saw.
I can't remember the last time I learned so much reading a novel. I'm not sure what made me pick it up. It isn't my usual fare. I learned about mountain climbing and early twentieth century exploration and international sporting competitiveness and most of all, of course, about Mount Everest.
The mountain, I must point out, was the most interesting character in the whole book. It was at turns fickle and kind, mysterious and complex, and it never ever apologized. The other characters related to it as an adversary, a puzzle, and even a lover. Never overtly. Simmons didn't try and come out to directly make any of these metaphors (which would have grossed me out if he'd tried, but completely impressed me for simply being placed out there to observe).
I was also hugely impressed with how Simmons conveyed the physical challenge of climbing Everest. By the time the characters reached Camp III and survived their first snowstorm there, I already had the impression that they'd accomplished a nearly impossible feat. But their ascent had hardly even started. Simmons' description of the scenery is extraordinary, and I was able to visualize in (occasionally painful) detail the heights and views and challenges the characters faced. By the time they were at "Camp VII," though, I confess the superlatives of physical exhaustion and height had gotten so extreme it hardly seemed possible to believe anymore. And yet... what else is Everest if not superlative and impossible?
The weakest points in the story, for me, were the justifications for Lord Bromley having been on the mountain, and the ultimate justification given by the characters that the only possible solution (for Bromley and for themselves) was to flee to the summit. It was a good tension-building device, but it seems like there could have been so many other less extreme options.
I also started to doubt the ease with which they raced up and down the mountain between the camps. After all that beautiful struggle he painted as they achieved each camp in the beginning, how could it be possible to flit between camps, breezing through 5,000-foot elevation gains above 8,000 meters as if it was a summer hike? My belief came a little un-suspended in a few of those parts, but THEN, doing some extracurricular reading about Sherpas, I discovered that the record for climbing the ENTIRE 11,500-foot mountain, from basecamp to summit, is just over 8 hours. Freaking unbelievable.
I did a lot of extracurricular reading with this novel. I wanted to know everything about Everest, about its history, its character, the people who climbed it, the Sherpas. There is an absolutely incredible website that provides a virtual tour of the mountain: http://explore.glacierworks.org/en/#trek
The foreignness and strangeness of the Himalayas in the 1920s was every bit as alien to me as any science fiction I've ever read. For an accidental find on a bargain books shelf, this book was a huge treat and I will definitely go check out Simmons' other novels. ...more
I liked it. Let's say 3.5 stars, leaning toward four. It took me longer than it should have to realize what kind of book I was reading (I never read dI liked it. Let's say 3.5 stars, leaning toward four. It took me longer than it should have to realize what kind of book I was reading (I never read dust jacket summaries), and even once I realized there was a Shocking Secret waiting to be revealed, it took me longer than it should have to guess what it would be. I blame some of this on myself as a willfully obtuse reader, but also somewhat on the author. Despite lovely writing and an excellent POV, the scene in which the turning point of Cadence's life is presented felt insignificant. For the first two-thirds of the book, I didn't realize that her fall into the water and resulting head injury was more than just another anecdote in what I was expecting to be a rather straightforward coming-of-age tale. It wasn't until the author started annoying me by having the other characters refuse to help her remember the details over and over and over that I realized I should have given the whole thing more thought from that point in the tale onward.
Speaking of rubbing points in, the setting among a family of wealthy, privileged white folks was both interesting and infuriating at times. It was interesting to peek into that life, but infuriating to see the way they handled situations that was sometimes more foreign to my experience than anything I've encountered visiting other countries. The refusal of the family to admit any kind of weakness in itself, the trust funds and infighting over inheritances. I thought Lockhart did a good job both letting her characters exist within this world and also having them challenge the world and its precepts.
And ultimately, I really liked the ending. Emotionally, I thought it was handled very well. I imagine the Big Secret won't come as much of a surprise to other, more tuned-in readers, but I was happy with the way it rolled out. (It doesn't hurt that the gal reading this on audio was fantastic. I felt the lip a'quavering more than once through the last couple of chapters.) I liked the emotional resolutions, and I liked the nature of the phenomenon ((view spoiler)[that is, I liked that the kids were sentient ghosts and not just projections of Cady's damaged mind (hide spoiler)]).
I loved the weaving in of altered fairy tales. I think there was a lot of literary fun happening there, which would probably be greatly highlighted by a reread.
My single serious gripe is about the title. I see how there was a bit of playing about with the concept of lying (to oneself, within the family, between the children, etc), but not once is an explanation given for why the group of young people are called the Liars. Early on, she says they were not called that until Gat came, but then... nothing. What happened after Gat came that earned them that title? Why did they adopt it for their own? Without that clue, the title makes no sense to me, and I'm a big fan of titles with significance. If there's something major I'm missing here, someone please let me know!
So overall, an interesting read, very well read on audio. It was just the right length, too. Any longer would have been too much. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3.5 stars. I waffled on the fourth star, but gave up on it because the beginning of the book was SO dark, and dark just isn't my style.
That said, the3.5 stars. I waffled on the fourth star, but gave up on it because the beginning of the book was SO dark, and dark just isn't my style.
That said, the darkness was terribly atmospheric. I have no idea how accurate a portrayal of Soviet era Russia this is (some other reviews left by Russian readers seem to suggest it is more of a caricature), but Smith depicted a world so utterly different - in societal structure, in personal thought patterns - from everything my little Western mind has ever known, that my brain kept rebelling against the possibility of it. HOW could the protagonist spend the first third of the book truly believing the state rhetoric of Lenin's Russia? Truly believing that if a person was suspected of a crime, he is guilty? That confessions received under torture are valid? That if your wife is accused of state crimes, you have to investigate her because it is your job? That you must denounce her because that's the only way to save your life and the lives of your parents?
Fortunately, our hero has a few flashes of insight - hard won, which is nice, actually - that set him on the path of the novel's central plot. In setting off to solve a crime that the state insists does not exist, he is up against not only a killer, but a the whole society. This tension is what sets the novel apart from every other crime story. It isn't just a bad guy, or a government conspiracy to be feared, but every single person he meets every single day, including his parents, wife, coworkers, and strangers on the subway. Any one of them could ruin him at any moment. It's a sticky mess to navigate and the ways Leo manages to do it are remarkable.
With the darkest bits of the setting established and moved past in this book, I would definitely pick up future installments. I like Leo, I like his wife, I like learning about the wildly foreign culture of the USSR. ...more
Meh. 2.5 stars. It was just fine. A dystopia without much in the way of surprises or new plot twists. The protagonist was a flake who relied on othersMeh. 2.5 stars. It was just fine. A dystopia without much in the way of surprises or new plot twists. The protagonist was a flake who relied on others to make things happen for her. In fact, the most troubling thing about this novel was how it handled gender roles. The message seems to be, When the end of civilization comes, we must revert back to our primitive roles, wherein women are submissive mothers, cooks, and teachers, and men do the hunting, driving, and thinking. The way the near-rape scene was handled made me want to punch things. To be fair, lots of women think they are to blame in similar circumstances, but using that as a convenient plot device to force a separation on our lovers felt cheap and mean. There was no real lesson in it for anyone.
I probably won't look for the second book, even if (or because?) the ending was a cliffhanger. ...more