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
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