I have actually read this, both for a High School "Origins of the Holocaust" course and then a University course about autobiographies as a genre.
Sadl...moreI have actually read this, both for a High School "Origins of the Holocaust" course and then a University course about autobiographies as a genre.
Sadly, because it is an attempted autobiography (or at least contains many autobiographical passages), and because of Goodreads' new policies, I cannot say anything else about it. To do so would involve somehow discussing the man who wrote it, and as we all know, books should be judged on their own individual merits rather than the character of the author. Even if the book is ABOUT the character of the author.
Oh no! I mentioned the author! PREPARE FOR DELETION!(less)
Powerful. Moving. Subtle. Alternate-history like I've never read before, with an emphasis on the loss of personal privacy and the conflict between the...morePowerful. Moving. Subtle. Alternate-history like I've never read before, with an emphasis on the loss of personal privacy and the conflict between the performed and the lived. I've never really given Harry Turtledove a chance before, but I will be after reading this. (less)
A fun, brisk, pulp novel with its own particular take on the multi-verse. There's scheming, but not too much; there's combat, but not too much; and th...moreA fun, brisk, pulp novel with its own particular take on the multi-verse. There's scheming, but not too much; there's combat, but not too much; and there's nods to real-world mythologies, but not too much. This was just the right amount of everything, with a conclusion that came as entirely unexpected. Good on ya, Roger Zelazny. (less)
I read this nearly 2 decades ago and didn't really enjoy it then. Now that I'm older, wiser, better educated? I despised it. It was a maddening slog i...moreI read this nearly 2 decades ago and didn't really enjoy it then. Now that I'm older, wiser, better educated? I despised it. It was a maddening slog in which Brust retconned his characters' motivations, personalities & histories to force them to fit the new conflicts he wants to introduce -- it's part propaganda, part author-using-art-to-work-through-his-personal-issues, and everything is sacrificed in the service of those goals. You see, Steven Brust is a devout Trotskyite and his marriage had imploded at the time he wrote this. Both are so obvious here that it's almost as though he's trying to hit the readers heads over the head.
What is more, the order of this entry in the series is awful. Book 1 ("Jhereg") was an introduction to the characters, who were happily married; Book 2 ("Yendi") was a flashback tale of how the happily married characters met and fell in love; but now Book 3 ("Teckla") was a massive retcon, informing us that, two weeks after Book 1, their marriage is in shambles, because Cawti was a political fanatic all along and secretly despised Vlad. Never mind everything that went on between them prior to this novel. Never mind the fact that she worked happily alongside the aristocracy -- indeed, her sisterly relationship to the heir to the throne is entirely jettisoned and the heir goes unmentioned during this novel, no doubt because it fails to fit Brust's political agenda and re-imaginings of the characters.
I suppose we're supposed to be impressed with the hollow, childish, anachronistic rhetoric the Revolutionaries spout or Cawti's self-centered, fanatical hypocrisy or Vlad's baffling gullibility... But I certainly wasn't. Not a bit. And I may not re-read the rest of the series as a result.(less)
Good, in that it contains a lot of primary sources and some genuinely thoughtful analysis. This is par for the course, since the contributing authors...moreGood, in that it contains a lot of primary sources and some genuinely thoughtful analysis. This is par for the course, since the contributing authors come from an age in which people actually KNEW their Classical literature and in which scholars saw their work as more than simply revising history to fit whatever political or social fads happened to be en vogue at the time.
But Bad, in that it contains a lot of wild conjectures, bizarre theories, and outdated "facts". This is to be expected, since the contributing authors come from an age in which people were more open to...speculative...scholarship.(less)
Oddly, the second book in the series is set before the first, which becomes a tradition for Brust's "Vlad Taltos" novels. Every other book, starting w...moreOddly, the second book in the series is set before the first, which becomes a tradition for Brust's "Vlad Taltos" novels. Every other book, starting with the first, is set in the "present", while the rest are all set in the past... So the order should be: 4, 8, 2, 8, 13, 1, 3...
Also, Brust's writing is rather like Sanderson's in that there is very little description to it. You never really know what anyone or anything looks, feels, smells, tastes, etc. like; the action is bare bones, and even the dialogue tends to be extremely simple. The difference is that Brust can pull it off because his novels are usually 200 pages or less (I haven't read the other three he wrote), so you don't really FEEL how empty they are -- they're fun pulp set in a sci-fantasy world, and that's all they need to be.(less)
When Max Brooks isn't bludgeoning you over the head with textbook US Liberal political, social & economic theories, he has the beginnings of a pre...moreWhen Max Brooks isn't bludgeoning you over the head with textbook US Liberal political, social & economic theories, he has the beginnings of a pretty gripping work. Sadly, most of the emotional impact is lost beneath the waves.
I first picked this book up because it had cover art by Alan Lee, and at the age of 13 (as today) I was an avid fan of Lee's work. What is more, I som...moreI first picked this book up because it had cover art by Alan Lee, and at the age of 13 (as today) I was an avid fan of Lee's work. What is more, I somehow managed to read the entire thing, enjoy it thoroughly, and NEVER CONNECT IT WITH BRUST'S "VLAD TALTOS" SERIES. Despite the fact that it mentions animals specific to the world in which that series was set. Despite the fact that I was already a fan of Brust's work. DESPITE THE FACT THAT I HAD JUST READ THE FIRST SIX BOOKS IN HIS "VLAD TALTOS" SERIES. I'd picked them up from a used book store while visiting my grandparents the previous Summer. What I'm saying is that adolescent Ian wasn't always the most observant reader. Maybe the beauty of the cover art just distracted me?
I don't imagine it helped that I read it while forced to attend an actor's training camp in Berkeley (back in the days when my parents seemed to think acting would be my "thing"). I think this was my self-prescribed reward for finishing the tedious Emma (my least favorite of Austen's work) which I had been assigned to read for school. I remember being perched in an oak tree, hiding from the burning rays of the Californian sun, and devouring this novel, but I also remember being repeatedly distracted by the other young "thespians".
Now I'm re-reading the "Vlad Taltos" series (can decades really have passed since I last read them?), and coincidentally discovering that Brokedown Palace is set in the same world is a decidedly surreal experience.
It was recommended to me by my ex-girlfriend's grandfather, so I had no idea it would turn out to be a work of evangeli...moreThis was...an interesting read.
It was recommended to me by my ex-girlfriend's grandfather, so I had no idea it would turn out to be a work of evangelical fiction; he tends to be secularist, so I assumed it would be one of those disposable thrillers, the sort of thing James Patterson and his ilk write. And for the first half, it was. The writing is crisp and the pacing is good; the characters are well-drawn and the plotting makes sense; the author even had some excellent insights on the nature of the West's approach to the Islamic world, insights I'd before encountered in Bernard Lewis' scholarly works.
I've seen a couple reviewers (Shi'a Muslims, I assume) ranting about how the author is "lying" by referring to the Mahdi as the Islamic Messiah, but those rants betray a general ignorance of A) what the word "Messiah" actually means in Hebrew, and B) what the word has come to mean in the West, because 9 times out of 10, the people referring to the Twelfth Imam as a "messiah" in the book are Westerners. And, if we're being perfectly honest about it, the whole Twelver-mahdi-veneration thing IS remarkably messianic, in both an ancient and a modern sense, and is pretty clearly the result of Persian Zoroastrian & Christian influences on Shi'a Islam. The Mahdi resembles both the Christian Christ AND the Zoroastrian Saoshyant, even in Twelver depictions.
In any event, the author did such an excellent job of grounding the work in the real world that I actually believed the appearances of the Twelfth Imam were the result of special effects or hallucinogenic drugs or simple hallucinations. Then Jesus started appearing, people began converting to and reading from the Bible, and I became very, very confused.
As it turns out, the author is an evangelical Christian (something I would not have guessed from the name "Joel C. Rosenberg"), and this book proposes something genuinely interesting -- that the Twelver mahdi is actually the anti-Christ, leading astray a vast swath of the world's population in preparation for the final confrontation with Jesus. Whether or not that fits your own personal theology (it does not fit mine), it is certainly an intriguing and original premise.
Unfortunately, Rosenberg misses the mark in his depictions of Christian conversion and the ending of the novel. All it takes for lifelong, devout Muslims to convert is an appearance from Jesus...even as the mahdi is out performing miracles. And the novel ends abruptly and weakly with what I assume to be a set-up for a sequel...despite the fact that the book itself is not presented or marketed as the first in a series, and nothing outside of the final 10 pages indicates that the story is finished.
Overall, a solid, if confusing 3 star book. Highly readable, quick, but weakened by its author's poor incorporation of his ideology into the narrative and sudden, unexpected ending.(less)
Amazingly cynical and subversive detective stories, of the sort I never would have expected from Chesterton!
The titular character gives himself that...moreAmazingly cynical and subversive detective stories, of the sort I never would have expected from Chesterton!
The titular character gives himself that monicker because he is related to / friends with nearly all the important people in Britain, and therefore knows exactly how the country is REALLY run and how the legal system REALLY works. This inspires in him a sense of fatalism and resignation, as he sees the backroom deals, cover-ups and treachery which make the world go 'round, and he solves numerous crimes only to see the guilty parties escape justice due to their power, influence, wealth or even the prejudices of the local constabulary. In essence, it's Chesterton criticizing both British politics and human nature through the medium of dark-yet-beautiful detective stories. And it works. (less)
This may shock Americans over 40 years of age, as well as conspiracy theorists, but not all of us know much about President Kennedy or his assassinati...moreThis may shock Americans over 40 years of age, as well as conspiracy theorists, but not all of us know much about President Kennedy or his assassination. Never having much of an interest in politics or post-1935 American History, everything I knew about John Fitzgerald Kennedy (until reading this book) I learned from conspiracy theories and The Simpsons.
So for me, this book was an excellent education. I learned a lot about a President I had never before considered terribly interesting, about why people seemed to care so much about his wife, and about the pre-assassination life of Lee Harvey Oswald. And frankly, I admire O'Reilly & Dugard's restraint in avoiding the by-now-predictable conspiracy theories. As with their depiction of Lincoln, it's clear that both of these men deeply respect Kennedy, but they don't shy away from his (well-documented) infidelities and political machinations. It isn't as strong or moving (for me anyway) as Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, but it's incredibly informative and it actually helped me better understand the history of the Civil Rights movement in America -- which I was definitely not expecting.(less)