If I could, I'd give this 3.5 stars. The world-building is wonderful. The writing is lovely. The major characters are interesting. Unfortunately, theIf I could, I'd give this 3.5 stars. The world-building is wonderful. The writing is lovely. The major characters are interesting. Unfortunately, the book falls apart in the plot. Terrible things are happening in the Territory, but Isobel -- the Devil's Hand -- is always too late to see them occur. Often, she isn't even allowed to see the aftermath. When she does, the encounters never appear in the text.
Throughout the story, things happen to other people, but not to Isobel. At the very end, when all her protectors have been injured or stepped aside, Isobel finally gets the chance to DO something. Of course, then the confrontation happens in the white space between one scene and the next. I would have been deeply disappointed except that the omission of such a major moment from the story did not come as a surprise.
The book is about a hundred pages too long, too full of wandering around, conversations that repeat, and characters that don't advance the plot, but all those things could be forgiven if the heroine had ever done anything in the story.
It's immensely frustrating because I was enjoying the book so much for the first 200 pages or so....more
I own many, many cemetery books. This is the most beautiful of all of them.
Mark Ballogg's photography is a revelation. The range of tones and the precI own many, many cemetery books. This is the most beautiful of all of them.
Mark Ballogg's photography is a revelation. The range of tones and the precision of focus in his pictures is breathtaking, vertigo-inducing, and gives you a sense that his camera sees so much more incisively than you ever could, even if you were standing right there beside it. These are photos to be studied, to be treasured.
The book opens with a dirty, broken styrofoam crucifix lying amidst some weeds beneath a bouquet of silk roses. I've never seen life and death captured so well in a photograph. The sense of time passing, of things dissolving, continues in the photo from Avenue Eugene Delacroix, where the faces of the family have melted away, leaving ghosts in stone behind.
Now and then Ballogg pulls back to give a larger view of the cemetery. Its tombs stand side by side like houses along a street, but there are no people here, no wildlife -- not even a leaf on a tree, in some cases. Life has come and gone in some of these images, leaving only the photographer behind to capture what remains.
One of my favorite photos is taken through the cross cut into the heavy iron door of the Morel family tomb. Two stained marble faces stare out of the arms of the cross, while below, a cherub clasps its hands together. I really like the sense of the tomb's denizens returning my curiosity.
Ballogg is an architectural photographer, so the details of the stonework often draw his eye. The most spectacular photograph is taken on the Avenue Circulaire. It captures the cemetery at its most exuberant: full of solid tombs, filigree metal doors, an obelisk, a truncated column, a muse laying a palm, and a bearded life-sized duelist with broken sword upraised. I don't know how you could look at that photograph and not want to travel to Paris to see it in person.
If I am so blown away by the photography, why have I only given the book 4 stars? Unfortunately, the text does not measure up to quality of the images.
The introductory essay by Michael A. Weinstein is adequate, despite wallowing unnecessarily in academic artspeak. For instance, "It is only by looking into a photographic print made by a masterful modernist that one is able to experience it completely." Well, duh. It's a two-dimensional object. How else could you experience it? Still, I do like Weinstein's analogy that a well-composed photograph is like a lyric poem, something to be savored and returned to.
Despite the quibbles I might have with the punctuation of its title, I expected "The Pere Lachaise Cemetery--A Nineteenth Century Idealization of Parisian Society" to be a history of the cemetery. Instead, it's a kind of academic word salad where I couldn't figure out how one sentence led to the next. I know enough about the history Pere Lachaise not to be thrown by weird flow of time through the essay, but your mileage may vary. A linear progression would have served the material much better.
Luckily, it is entirely unnecessary to read the text in order to draw the maximum amount of pleasure from this book. It's slipcased, oversized, clothbound, with smooth matte pages that reproduce the photographs in a dense spectrum of grays. This cemetery book is a pinnacle of the subject and will be an ornament to your collection....more
Photographer Mauro Marinelli turned to polaroids to capture the cemeteries through which he found himself wandering. The nature of polaroids lends itsPhotographer Mauro Marinelli turned to polaroids to capture the cemeteries through which he found himself wandering. The nature of polaroids lends itself to glimpses rather than views, to details rather than landscapes of grief. Marinelli liked how the film softened edges and shadows, giving the grave sculptures a touch of myth.
Some of the most beautiful photographs are the most ephemeral: the shadow of an angel reaching down to the rosebud on a grave, flowers withering in closeup beside the Pieta's wounds, the flare of the setting sun off a stone cross. In other cases, Marinelli highlights the sculptor's art in the raise of a stone eyebrow, a kiss captured in bronze, a marble finger raised to cold stone lips.
The essay at the back of the book is lovely, too. Marinelli says he's "crazy about cemeteries...as you might be crazy about a deep friendship, about an eccentric friend who challenges you to actually engage and have a discourse with deadly depth." He particularly likes the gifts left behind on the graves, "all these attempts to reconnect, to communicate over the great void of overwhelming silence, over the chasm of all that was never said, of all that can never be expressed again."
My only quibble with the book is that the statuary photographed is not identified. There is a list of cemeteries at the back of the book, but nothing that ties the images to their place or time. The book is still a work of art, but no functional use. It's not a major point, but I love to be able to follow in the photographer's steps, to see for myself. ...more
Well, I am humor-impaired, in that I don't find Galaxy Quest funny, but Redshirts made me laugh once at Chapter 24. It was a good laugh, though, and aWell, I am humor-impaired, in that I don't find Galaxy Quest funny, but Redshirts made me laugh once at Chapter 24. It was a good laugh, though, and added another star to my rating.
The problem with reading this book now is that you know the twists. It was probably mind-blowing when it was unfamiliar. Now, it's just kind of comfortable, like a fuzzy afghan, not challenging or emotion-inducing, merely cozy. Some of that is that parodying juvenile dialog and bad science fiction TV is not sufficiently different from reading juvenile dialog and bad science fiction. Maybe if I had more of a sense of humor...
I warmed to the adventure as I went along and I'm glad I finished it. I wasn't sure about the codas at the end, but the final one pulled things together nicely....more
I was so excited to see this in the bookstore. Tarkin has always fascinated me. This guy blows up a planet and everyone on it, just to impress a girl?I was so excited to see this in the bookstore. Tarkin has always fascinated me. This guy blows up a planet and everyone on it, just to impress a girl? I wanted to know what made him tick.
Instead, this book spends 5 pages of the first chapter on Tarkin designing a new uniform. Every change he makes on his boots made me think of elderly Peter Cushing marching around the Star Wars set in his red flannel slippers.
The final straw came for me on page 31 when an aide tells Tarkin he has a high-priority call coming in. Tarkin asks, "How high?" The aide answers, "Nosebleed altitude, sir."
I wanted to make it until Tarkin teamed up with Vader, but I just could not take the character seriously. I know Disney owns Star Wars now, but when is someone going to tell the story of how Tarkin became an epic mass murderer? This guy should be evil. He should be terrifying. He shouldn't be worrying about how high the heels are on his boots or letting flunkies sass him.
If only the book had lived up to its cover image!...more
What a disappointment. I read the first chapter for free and was intrigued enough to download the worksheets and order a copy of the book. UnfortunateWhat a disappointment. I read the first chapter for free and was intrigued enough to download the worksheets and order a copy of the book. Unfortunately, the book is not geared toward "creatives" at all, but people laboring for start-ups and larger businesses, "creating" under the gun for their corporate masters. It's about making yourself feel better about pouring your soul into work for someone else's profit.
Reading this book was less an exercise in getting out of it what I put into it and more a slog to find the few pearls that would connect to my life as a self-employed author contracting to publishers. In fact, Henry disses the "lone genius slaving away in their studio loft, occasionally gracing the public" when that describes my work situation exactly. Well, maybe not the genius part, but the slaving away in isolation could not be truer. Wish his disdain for who I am had been made clear in chapter 1 instead of chapter 10.
In addition, the writing in this book was surprisingly awful. As illustrated by the quote above, Henry doesn't want to commit to gendered pronouns, so he often uses the plural "they" to describe a singular subject. Made me wonder if anyone edited the book -- or proofread it.
The book about living in such as way as to "Die Empty" with all your creativity released into the world is yet to be written....more
I loved the idea of the locked-room murder in space, with the Agatha Christie moment when the detective calls all the dinner guests together to revealI loved the idea of the locked-room murder in space, with the Agatha Christie moment when the detective calls all the dinner guests together to reveal whodunnit. While that was handled pretty well, it still dragged out long enough that I had time to wonder about the things the main character was clearly missing.
For instance: you're trapped in an elevator and need to communicate with the ships gathered outside, but everything's been disconnected. They don't use Morse code in this universe?
One of the minor characters is named Loyal Jeck. He's never described. In terms of the murder, he's not ever interrogated. When eventually his real identity is revealed, it's extremely tangential to the plot -- and hinges on Andrea not being briefed about him in advance. There's so little reason for his inclusion at all that I wondered if he was a subplot the author meant to drop in the final revision.
More upsetting though was the moment when Andrea loses her temper and beats one of the witnesses. The woman has been kidnapped out of her life, implanted with something that makes her eager to please anyone in any possible way -- and Andrea takes out her horror at this by beating the crap out of the poor victim. Afterward, Andrea feels bad about it, but only because her own lover watched the beating.
I understand that this is a dark universe we're in. Actually, I'm fine with that. But when not only the bad guys, but the heroine as well, is abusing the innocent, that crosses the line for me. Of the many characters in this book who were due some karma, not a single one gets what they deserve. Not even Andrea....more
I kickstarted this book because I am excited by the work of the Thanatos Archive. The photos here are carefully chosen to make the people in the pastI kickstarted this book because I am excited by the work of the Thanatos Archive. The photos here are carefully chosen to make the people in the past seem so real, like someone you know and would mourn as intensely as these must have been. It's a truly lovely, thought-provoking collection.
I knocked one star off for the design of the book, however. While the glossy black pages do emphasize the photographs, the teeny italicized font that captions them is practically unreadable except in very strong light -- which sort of undercuts the mood of the images, if you see what I mean. Even the text of the few, short essays is miniscule. This is the first time I've read a book with a magnifying glass in hand.
The essays span from useful (Adam Arenson's summation of Death in the 19th Century and Bess Lovejoy's Mourning as Memory were terrific) to not long enough (Marion Peck's Remembering Death left too much unsaid) to not worth the effort (Joe Smoke's The Soul & Its Substitutes was too theoretical for me).
The photos, though, are the purpose of the book and very much worth its price. They range from deathbed portraits to post-mortem photos, records of the aftermath of crimes or wasting diseases, explorations of the changes the body undergoes after death and the ways technology adapted to hold them at bay. Most unfamiliar to me were the images of mourners, both staged and captured in their wild-eyed moments of grief. The dead are objects of curiosity and pity, but the living are truly heartbreaking....more
Half my life ago, I read this novel on assignment for a Science Fiction as Literature class at the University of Michigan. I'm not sure that the classHalf my life ago, I read this novel on assignment for a Science Fiction as Literature class at the University of Michigan. I'm not sure that the class was the first of its kind back then, but it was definitely a rarity. We read mostly short stories, but among the novels were this one, Brunner's The Sheep Look Up, and A Clockwork Orange.
All of which changed my life.
This was the only one that I felt betrayed by. Being a bright young college girl, full of her sexuality and as well read in SF as my classmates -- the vast majority of whom were male -- I expected a book by the lone female author to represent me. Instead, its sexism is made even worse. Every time the Envoy, the sole gendered character, speaks of women, he hates how soft and cunning and emotional they are. Every time he glimpses something feminine in the neutrally gendered Gethenians, he loathes it.
It was horrible to sit in class and hear my classmates agreement.
All of it could have been made better if the Envoy and his sole Gethenian friend had consummated the love they clearly felt for each other. If he'd been such a misogynist because he was gay -- not just hateful toward otherness -- I would have adored the book. But that was the book I wanted to read, not the one in front of me.
My classmates were horrified by the possibility of homosexuality in the book. They were comforted by the lack of sex. As a bisexual, I misread LeGuin's talk of the bisexual society from which the Envoy had come. She meant bigender, of course.
Anyway, I reread the book at last, to discover it's not what I thought it was at all. As an adult, I see the beauty in Genly and Estraven's love, which didn't require consummation to prove its strength.
The misogyny is still hard to take, but what else could you expect from a man who chooses to go so far from home that his parents have been dead 70 years, to bring galactic contact to the last inhabited planet on the edge of space, one in the grip of an Ice Age, where he can never be warm or sure of understanding anyone around him? Genly is fundamentally broken, or else he wouldn't have applied for this job....more
I love a book with a basis in real historic grimoires and Lightbreaker is drowning in that. It might be a bit much if you're not familiar the authorsI love a book with a basis in real historic grimoires and Lightbreaker is drowning in that. It might be a bit much if you're not familiar the authors and their titles, but I ate that up.
I liked the morally ambiguous narrator and his buddy the neophyte magus cop. They would have made a great ongoing team.
Still, I was puzzled by what the Chorus was, exactly, where it came from, and why Markham uses it so effectively sometimes while holding it back at others (as the plot requires?). For a "weapon" that plays such a part in the end of the book, it was poorly defined.
Mostly, though, I felt the book was unnecessarily long. There's a whole lot of time spent taking ferries back and forth to Seattle, not too mention days spent locked in a shipping container in the dark. I know some of the character development happened then, but I would have enjoyed it more if there had been character development concurrent with plot.
I'd go on to read book 2, which is apparently the only other one available so far....more
I read this when it first came out and thought at the time that it didn't stand up to Nine Princes in Amber. That's still true.
There are weird logicalI read this when it first came out and thought at the time that it didn't stand up to Nine Princes in Amber. That's still true.
There are weird logical gaps -- Merle's ex-girlfriend gets killed in the morning, but when Merle shows up to interrogate her boyfriend that evening, the cops haven't been by? Even if her body somehow vanished, the apartment has been trashed and the window blown out into the garden. Someone would notice.
A whole lot of time is wasted in traveling and traveling through Shadow. Since it doesn't have any impact on the plot, it's skimmable.
And in the end nothing resolves.
Makes me want to go read the Amber books again....more
I re-read this for the Cypress Lawn Book Club and enjoyed it a second time, but I still don't find it particularly funny. Some of that is my familiariI re-read this for the Cypress Lawn Book Club and enjoyed it a second time, but I still don't find it particularly funny. Some of that is my familiarity with Forest Lawn in its current incarnation, complete with speakers in the trees piping music across the flat grave markers. It's hard to be over the top when the bar is set so high.
The book club was put off by the way the female characters are depicted, but the book was published in 1948 and I don't think anyone comes off particularly well. I could look past that.
I think that if you're curious about backstage mortuary practices, if you're a cemetery aficionado, quite possibly if you loved Mad Men, you should check out this book....more
I was warned when I bought this that it wasn't as good as the first book. It does suffer from having a single storyline, when I was looking forward heI was warned when I bought this that it wasn't as good as the first book. It does suffer from having a single storyline, when I was looking forward hearing more about Breq's past.
Still, I love the relationship that develops between Breq and the AI on her ship, the Mercy of Kalr. Breq misses being an appendage of the Justice of Toren, which was destroyed by the tyrant who rules the galaxy, and Mercy of Kalr misses having ancillaries, the human bodies captured and stored until the AI downloads into them.
Watching Breq navigate human societies is fascinating. People can't figure her out or predict her, because she doesn't behave like a human. Her affinity for slaves, servants, and all underdogs is fascinating, since she doesn't seem to feel compassion.
In the end, I found the characterization more interesting than the plot, but I am still very much looking forward to the third book in the series, due in November....more
I adored this book so much that as soon as I finished its sequel, I read this first book again. I enjoyed it more the second time.
Which is not to sayI adored this book so much that as soon as I finished its sequel, I read this first book again. I enjoyed it more the second time.
Which is not to say that I didn't struggle with the beginning of the book. The massive coincidence that opens the first chapter is a lot to swallow. The double storyline confused me. I was frustrated by all the characters, all the description, all the strange words.
Then a child sings about the corpse soldier and I was hooked. The main character as an extension of the ship's AI in a co-opted human body made sense. The multiplicative "I" first-person narration blew me away.
The limitations to the point of view fascinated me. Breq spends more than half the book in a fury, but isn't open enough to explain why. She can see anger in others, but generally isn't curious enough to puzzle out the explanations. When Seivarden chooses to follow her -- befriend is too warm a word -- Breq can't believe it. She's seen friendship but never had a friend. It's heartbreaking and lovely.
I'm very much looking forward to the third book. October seems very far away....more