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
Ermagerd, I have such a reader crush on Brandon Sanderson. I have got to stop reading first books in his series when there are no other books availablErmagerd, I have such a reader crush on Brandon Sanderson. I have got to stop reading first books in his series when there are no other books available yet, though. He sucks me in and then it's over and I just want to keep going. Next one in this set isn't due out until 2017, *sob!*.
Right. Review the book.
I really loved the book. Stylistically and thematically, it borrows from several of the contemporary greats: Harry Potter (a school for kids with special talents), and Alvin Maker (an alternate American history featuring a boy with a special destiny) came often to mind. The system of magic is, once again, brand new and unrelated to any other fictional system of magic I can think of, though even here the magic and worldbuilding ring slightly of Sanderson's other worlds: mysterious beasties of mysterious origin threaten to overwhelm the civilized world, ala Way of Kings; the source of magical talent seems to belong to some physical encounter, ala the Mistborn books.
It's all good! Borrow, amend, upgrade, and tell it all so beautifully that I do extra housework just so I can keep listening to the next chapter.
The characters were excellent as well. As a sidekick, I really liked the sassy, dramatic, underambitious Melody. Professor Fitch was just what a mentor should be, and a bit more interesting to me for also being rather downtrodden. Our Protagonist, Joel, had good depth and a believable skillset, but what fascinated me most about him was that - unlike Harry Potter or Alvin Maker or any number of other YA fantasy protagonists - Joel does not belong to the set of magically talented individuals that populate the story. Instead, he is an outsider looking in, wanting to belong but having missed the external spark that would have ignited his ability. One definitely gets the feeling that he will eventually come into his own as a Rithmatist, but the fact that he did not by the end of the first book felt enormously satisfying to me. That's a big carrot drawing me toward the next installments.
It also made the secondary climax, at the Melee, really a fantastic note to go out on. (view spoiler)[ I might have cheered out loud when he and Melody proved victorious against Nalizar's team. (hide spoiler)]
And speaking of Nalizar, he was a worthy antagonist. I liked the Snape-like ups and downs, and wonder if Sanderson might actually have been playing around with an assumed reader-expectation of Snape-like qualities? Snape is kind of a new trope. It could happen. (And is it just me, or does "Nalizar" smack of "Salizar (Slytherin)"?)
Eh hem. Anyway.
Really good read. If you like any of Sanderson's other stuff, if you like Harry Potter or Alvin Maker or magic school fantasies or magical alternate histories, give this sucker a read. Or maybe you should wait until he finishes the series. It's gonna be a bummer of a wait. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Everyone talks about this book as the one where the series really takes off. Maybe I haven't been paying close enough attention, since I've been listeEveryone talks about this book as the one where the series really takes off. Maybe I haven't been paying close enough attention, since I've been listening to them on audio, but I didn't really spot a marked difference between the quality of this one and of the previous two. I liked meeting Michael, I liked the relationship development between Harry and Susan, I mostly like the theory of the antagonists. I love learning more about the system of magic in the books. It all makes such good sense.
Anyway. Very enjoyable read. Looking forward to the next. ...more
I did it. I finished a Chuck Palahniuk novel. I've started two others - Choke and Haunted - and couldn't make it to the end. This one had the advantagI did it. I finished a Chuck Palahniuk novel. I've started two others - Choke and Haunted - and couldn't make it to the end. This one had the advantage of being quite short, and being audio. The premise was entertaining - kind of like The Breakfast Club in Hell, kind of bad-ass warrior queen, kind of backward-told mystery. Even so, it didn't take too long until some of the story's conceits started wearing on me. You can only hear about the Sea of Partial Birth Abortions and the Desert of Used Bandaids and such things so many times before it starts to feel like they're trying too hard to get you to laugh at the joke.
I liked Madison, as a character. I liked her sassiness, her intelligence, and her kick-butt attitude. I liked learning more about the other characters. I'm not sure what to make of the existential ending, but I guess that's where the "to be continued" bit comes in. Not sure that I'll continue. ...more
I keep hoping the next OSC book I read is going to be the next one I really love. I REALLY loved some of his early work, and keep waiting for him to mI keep hoping the next OSC book I read is going to be the next one I really love. I REALLY loved some of his early work, and keep waiting for him to meet those expectations, but coming up lacking. This book wasn't as far lacking as some others I've read recently, but it wasn't the next Ender's Game or Pastwatch.
For starters, I had serious difficulty getting behind Danny as a character I could root for. For a 12- to 16-year-old kid, he was kind of an asshole. He was too smart and too trickstery, lacking in comprehension and compassion. He did see some personal growth by the end, but it was awfully slow coming.
I liked the bits about Wad best, though reading them, I had to wonder at this being a YA novel. Seemed a bit steamy (which is probably just to say I've lost touch with the YA genre...).
The plot dragged a bit through the middle, though the pace picked up very near the end. Getting the Greek girl back into the story perked up my interest again, but then it was just over. So...
I own the second book (thanks, Bargain Bin), so I'll probably read it eventually. ...more
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