I can't think of another writer who changes so much from book to book as China Miéville. The Bas Lag novels, which ten odd years ago blew the top of mI can't think of another writer who changes so much from book to book as China Miéville. The Bas Lag novels, which ten odd years ago blew the top of my head clean off and made it all but certain that I would read everything else he ever wrote, are rich in detail and brimming with plot. They are both heavy in weight and heavy-handed in execution: Miéville sledge hammers his intentions into the reader's skull with a pleasant lack of subtlety quite in keeping with the crude, boisterous world he creates.
Since that trilogy Miéville's instincts and interests have taken him to some very different terrain. Even though he has yet to fully return to the world and story-telling style that I first fell in love with I always find him interesting, often provocative, and occasionally mind-blowing.
Which makes THIS CENSUS-TAKER all the more sad. It is the first Miéville title that I slogged through without any pleasure at all. I feel like it embodies all of Miéville's worst instincts as a writer: opaque settings, gnomic symbolism, emotionally stunted characters with deeply ambiguous motivations, and an obscure vocabulary that only draws attention to the artless sentences in which it is utilized.
I'm still going to follow Miéville's future work with interest, but this one was a blow to my confidence in this author....more
I you liked the Math SAT, boy are you going to love this book! Scientifically-informed problem solving is one of the cornerstones of science fiction gI you liked the Math SAT, boy are you going to love this book! Scientifically-informed problem solving is one of the cornerstones of science fiction going back to the days of the golden age, but The Martian takes it to a whole new level. Barely a page goes by without our crafty, smart-ass protagonist Macgyvering his way through another high-stakes engineering problem. It's like that scene in Apollo 13 where a team of NASA engineers are herded into a windowless room and given some plastic bags, tubes and a roll of duct tape and told to make an oxygen filter. But in the movie we cut away immediately, probably because Ron Howard didn't think people would want to watch a room full of nerds work through the mathematical minutiae of the problem for some reason. Reading The Martian, however, is like being in that windowless room, but instead of a team of smart people there's only one super-resourceful person. And the room is on Mars....more
This is such a lovely book. On the one hand it is a brilliant intellectual accomplishment: a re-purposing of a classic epic poem from a feminist perspThis is such a lovely book. On the one hand it is a brilliant intellectual accomplishment: a re-purposing of a classic epic poem from a feminist perspective, and a clever interpolation of contemporary narrative with ancient literature and myth. On the other hand, it’s just a beautiful novel: a portrait of a shattered family, an unconventional love story, and a frank depiction of the often violent ways societies respond to change. Add to this a rich, loving portrayal of ancient pre-Roman Italy that feels somehow true, and it has earned a place next to Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian as one of the best fictional depictions of ancient Rome out there. ...more
It's like the Hobbit, but about love and memory and trauma and forgiveness, instead of an invisible-making ring, and starring old people instead of hoIt's like the Hobbit, but about love and memory and trauma and forgiveness, instead of an invisible-making ring, and starring old people instead of hobbits. But it is about killing a dragon. Ishiguro seeds several little mysteries into the opening and then sets the reveal to "leisurely", to gratifying effect. Also starring: Sir Gawain, of Green Knight fame, for some reason. The ending made me misty-eyed. ...more
This novel gets all the stars. Since reading Station Eleven I’ve taken to describing it as a post-apocalyptic pastorale, a sub-genre that to my knowleThis novel gets all the stars. Since reading Station Eleven I’ve taken to describing it as a post-apocalyptic pastorale, a sub-genre that to my knowledge contains only this novel. I tend to avoid post-apocalyptic and disaster stories in general because I feel (fairly or not) that writers often let the drama of the setting do most of the hard work of creating tension and fomenting dilemmas for their characters, and the narrative arcs from one story to another seems same-same.
Which made Station Eleven a relief: after a parge-turning introductory chapter in which a deadly virus sweeps the planet and sends some 99% of the planet’s human population to an oozing, mucus-y death, Mandel hits the fast-forward button past the immediate aftermath and the lean years of raw survival to a point where society has stabilized a bit. Her travelling theater troupe moves through a kind of collapsed wild west landscape with a kind of esprit and camaraderie that was downright Lonesome Dove at times.
But it was not just a relief from over-done genre beats, it was also a joy to read. The cast of characters Mandel follows are vivid and lively, and the intricate web of interconnection (woven over the course of several pre-collapse flashbacks) provided more than a few a-ha! moments. The first thing I did after finishing this book was to add Mandel’s back catalogue to my TBR pile. ...more