**spoiler alert** I have history with this book. I have tried to read it several times, but every time, right before I finish...something happens. Las...more**spoiler alert** I have history with this book. I have tried to read it several times, but every time, right before I finish...something happens. Last time, I lost the book and couldn't find it anywhere.
So this time, after I hit the half way mark, I decided to stay up and finish it, even though I ended up staying up until 3 in the morning. I wasn't taking any chances.
And I after all of this time, I'm kind of disappointed. I like the book, but the happily ever after is just way too strong, simplified and rushed for my tastes.
Next time the universe is telling me to quit while I'm ahead, I'm gonna listen.(less)
This guy's a jerk. And really, how do you write a boring story about North Korea? He selfishly does things that may get his hosts in trouble, without...moreThis guy's a jerk. And really, how do you write a boring story about North Korea? He selfishly does things that may get his hosts in trouble, without regard for their safety. He mentions how crappy it was to have to have guides and translators following his every step, but doesn't really capture the way this would make a person feel. Really, he doesn't capture anything. Except how much it sucks to be him, who by the way is the only enlightened person around. He's so clever! But he has to eat with dirty table cloths. Poor him! Waaaa. Oh no, they refill my water too early in the morning. Boo hoo. Oh and their food is so oily. Sob.
And then he called their gifted children "savant monkeys." What a douche bag. (less)
ok, see this book with a happy puppy on the cover, surrounded by sunflowers and bright blue skies? SADDEST FUCKING STORY EVER. For reals. This book sh...moreok, see this book with a happy puppy on the cover, surrounded by sunflowers and bright blue skies? SADDEST FUCKING STORY EVER. For reals. This book should be the poster book for the phrase "never judge a book by its cover." Why do I keep falling for this? How many books am I going to pick up because they have happy, cute animals on them only to be immersed in sadness? I'm going to make a resolution to never fall for this again!(less)
This is a pretty amazing collection. Harlan Ellison's use of language makes me shudder. The man has skills. Reading this reminds me that writing can b...moreThis is a pretty amazing collection. Harlan Ellison's use of language makes me shudder. The man has skills. Reading this reminds me that writing can be a craft, not just a way to put down brain dribble. Most of these short stories build up and up and up until Ta-Da! Mind Blown. He's very good at misdirection too. He'll set the reader up to think one way and then BAM! You had it all wrong. Didn't you know? Clever stories. Before each story, he also writes a brief introduction to it-why he wrote it or where the idea came from. Stuff like that. Most of the time, it enhanced the story, but once or twice I kind of wished I didn't know what his thought process was before he wrote it. There were two stories that I didn't really enjoy as much-The New York Review of Bird and From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet. The rest were awesome.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"Madam, why don't you take your fat-ass husband, your ghastly hairdo, your conspicuous consumption of the Gross National Product, not to mention the certainly ill-gotten dollar he's trying to pry out around his obesity, and insert them vertically where they'll do you simply a world of good." -To a couple trying to give a "beggar" a dollar. pg. 173
Having found the "finest acoustics of any world in the universe," beings come to play their best sounds. Here's one that was brought:
"On the eleventh moon of the world called Chill by its inhabitants, there is a flower whose roots are sunk deep, deep into the water pools that lie far beneath the black stone surface. This flower, without a name, seems to be an intricate construct of spiderwebs. There are, of course, no spiders on the eleventh moon of Chill.
Periodically, for no reason anyone has ever been able to discern, the spiderweb flowers burst into flame, and very slowly destroy themselves, charring and shriveling and turning to ashes that lie where they fall. There is no wind on the eleventh moon of Chill.
During the death ceremonies of the spiderweb flowers, the plants give off a haunting and terrible sound. It is a song of colors. Shades and hues that have no counterparts anywhere in the stellar community.
DeilBo had sent scavengers across the entire face of Chill's eleventh moon, and they gathered one hundred of the finest spiderweb flower, giants among their kind. DeilBo had talked to the flowers for some very long time prior to the Gathering. He had told them what they had been brought to the Maelstrom to do, and though they could not speak, it became apparent from the way they straightened in their vats of enriched water (for they had hung dejectedly when removed from the eleventh moon of Chill) that they took DeilBo's purpose as a worthy fulfillment of their destiny, and would be proud to burn on command.
So DeilBo gave that gentle command, speaking sounds of gratitude and affection to the spiderweb flowers, who burst into flame and sang their dangerous song of death....
It began with blue, a very ordinary blue, identifiable to every delegate who heard it. But the blue was only the ground coat; in an instant it was overlaid with skirls of color like wind through dry stalks of harvested grain. Then a sea color the deepest shade of a blind fish tooling through algae-thick waters. Then the color of hopelessness collided with the color of desperation and formed a nova of hysteria that in the human delegates sounded exactly like the color of a widower destroying himself out of loneliness.
The song of colors went on for what seemed like a long time, though it was only a matter of minutes, and when it faded away into ashes and was stilled, they all sat humbled and silent, wishing they had not heard it." pgs. 119-120
"I can't explain how I knew, I simply understood somewhere deep in the blood and bones that this woman was determined to rip out my throat. Or perhaps I can explain it.
Take the film they made of Jaws. That is a terrifying film. It collapses entire audiences, and not merely because of the cinematic tricks. People in the middle of Kansas, people who've never even seen the ocean or a shark, go into cardiac arrest. Why should that be? There are terrors much closer to us-muggers on the streets, positive biopsy report, being smashed to pudding in a freeway accident--terrors that can reach us; why should we be so petrified by that shark? I reject abstractions: the vagina dentatus, that paranoid hobgoblin of Freudian shadow-myth; the simplicity of our recoiling from something filled with teeth, an eating machine. I have another theory.
The shark is one of the few life forms that has come down to the present virtually unchanged from the Devonian. So few; the cockroach, the horseshoe crab, the nautilus, the ceolecanth--probably older than the dinosaurs. The shark.
When we were still aquatic creatures...there was the shark. And even today, in the blood that boils through us, the blood whose constituency is the same as the sea water, in the blood and somewhere deep in our racial memory, there is still the remembrance of the shark. Of swimming away from that inexorable eating machine, of crawling up onto the land to be safe from it, of vowing never to return to the warm seas where the teeth can reach us.
When we see the shark, we understand that that is one of the dreadful furies that drove us to become human beings. Natural Enemy from beyond the curtain of time, from beneath the killing darkness. Natural Enemies.
Perhaps I can explain how I knew, that next day that Netta Bernstein and I were blood enemies.
The moment I walked into the conference room and saw her sitting next to Sloan--a clipboard fat with charts lying on the table in front of her--I knew she was lying in wait for me. The teeth, the warm seas, the eating machine that had followed us onto land." Pgs 53-54
I particularly love this passage. Harlan Ellison took the extreme, paralyzing fear of being hunted and brought it into an ordinary conference room. It helps us to relate to his characters; we know what this man is feeling in his gut right now. It's fucking genius. He could have just said "She sat waiting for me like a shark." But he took the time to really develop what that metaphor means. I love it. (less)
So this was the companion book to Howl's Moving Castle, but I actually liked it better. We get updates on Sophie, Lettie and Howl, but not until the e...moreSo this was the companion book to Howl's Moving Castle, but I actually liked it better. We get updates on Sophie, Lettie and Howl, but not until the end. Lots of cool magical happenings.(less)
Wyclef (*shakes head from side to side*). Your god complex is showing (he even compares himself to Jesus several times). A bunch of stories from Wycle...moreWyclef (*shakes head from side to side*). Your god complex is showing (he even compares himself to Jesus several times). A bunch of stories from Wyclef's life including stories from his childhood in Haiti, his youth in the US, his introduction to music, his time with the Fugees, his work for his humanitarian organization and the alleged scandals, his relationship with Lauryn Hill, his repeated justifications for his infidelity during his marriage and his relationship with Reverend daddy. Oh and let's not forget about the time he tried to poison his grandma.
Very cool. Extra points for having Barry Ween guest star at the end. I also loved the first page of each chapter, where they flashback to the girls wh...moreVery cool. Extra points for having Barry Ween guest star at the end. I also loved the first page of each chapter, where they flashback to the girls when they were little. And it always makes me happy to see female characters that aren't in ridiculous costumes/poses that can take care of themselves.(less)
I wasn't sure if this would be a good book to just read straight through but it turned out to be a good read.
Here are some of my favorite bits of inf...moreI wasn't sure if this would be a good book to just read straight through but it turned out to be a good read.
Here are some of my favorite bits of info and quotes:
"The chances of any individual animal leaving behind fossilised remains are infinitesimal. First, its dead body has to lie in a place where sediment accumulates. That is most commonly in a lake or sea. Bones lying on the surface of the land are much more likely to be destroyed than preserved. Next, the sediment has to cover the bones before they disappear, preferably even before they are disarticulated. After that, the mud-and the bones within it- has to be compressed and turned into stone by the great, infinitely slow, movements that distort and crumple the earth's crust. That has to happen without the total obliteration of any sign of the bones. And finally, those bones have to be located in the tiny proportion of rocks which happen to be sufficiently close to the surface for them to be discovered by a prospecting palaeontologist. Thus not only have the vast majority of individual animals disappeared without a trace but great numbers of species and families have doubtless existed of which we have no knowledge whatsoever."-pgs. 9-10 ...And maybe never will?
"Interestingly, the newly hatched larvae of salamanders are indistinguishable to the naked eye from the hatchlings of the Queensland lungfish" pg. 15-speaking of the giant salamander of Japan. It's particularly interesting since Queensland lungfish has paired fins that are a lot like the fossil form of Tiktaalik, and these allow us to visualize the first possible vertebrate that moved from water to land. In fact, Tiktaalik, a 375 million year old species may have been that vertebrate.
"If an axolotl is kept in a tank and a little thyroxine added to its water, the animal loses its external gills and assumes a terrestrial life." -pg. 16 It seems that poor nutrition and lake conditions lead to the thyroid gland not developing properly. Still, it becomes sexually mature while retaining its larval characteristics.
"Many amphibian eggs are black with the pigment melanin that protects their delicate cells from damage by ultra-violet light. Newt eggs, however, are white and lack pigment so they need protection of leaves."-pg. 20
"Female caecilians, however have many different ways of dealing with their young. One Brazilian species feeds them with her own skin. The female lays her eggs in cluster and then protectively curls her long body around them. After they hatch, the young-at three day intervals-suddenly and simultaneously start to bite her flanks and tear off strips of skin. She lies there passively, allowing them to swarm all over her until she has been stripped of the entire outer layer of her body. The frenzy lasts for some seven minutes. Then the family rests for three days while the female grows another layer of skin-and another meal."- pg. 28
"Caimans sometimes adopt a creche system. Several females will use the same nursery pool. As the young grow, mothers begin to leave until a single female is left guarding as many as a hundred youngsters in a single pool." pg. 140
On anoles: "Creep up towards a displaying male, holding a mirror in your hand, and as he catches sight of himself he will respond with repeated flicks of his throat flag. Persist and he may become so infuriated by this rival who does exactly what he does that he may eventually turn around and abruptly leap at the mirror in an all-out attack."-pg. 153
About a tokay (gecko)'s call: "The number of repetitions, however, varies and the local people, who are often dedicated gamblers, will sit late into the night placing extravagant bets on how many times a male will next repeat himself." -pg. 173
Monitors: "Some, however, including the perentie, have discovered a way of providing their eggs with an environment that remains at exactly the same temperature and humidity whatever the weather-and without any effort whatsoever on the part of the females. They lay their eggs inside a termite nest." Pg. 189
Shinglebacks: "But when spring returns, an adult will once again seek out the partner it had during the previous season. Such partnerships may last for as long as two decades. If one individual is killed...the survivor may stay beside the body gently licking it." Pg. 193
Snakes: "Particularly large meals stimulate changes in the snake's internal organs that are necessary to deal with the task of digestion and storage. Its heart swells by 40%. Within two days, its liver has doubled in size. Absorbing the whole meal may take a week or more." Pg. 220
King Cobra: "It is easily the biggest of all venomous snakes, reaching a length of 5.5 metres. It is thought to be among the most intelligent of all reptiles. If threatened it rears up almost to the height of a man, spreads its neck into a hood and growls loudly. It is the only snake to make a nest of leaves for its eggs. This it will actively defend against intruders of all kinds, including elephants which it can kill with a bite on their trunk. And its main food is other snakes-pythons, rat snakes and even other lesser cobras." Pg. 241
"The Gaboon viper, by contrast, which is less than a third of the king cobra's size, has fangs four times longer." Pg. 245
rattlesnakes hibernating: "As autumn approaches and temperatures fall, great numbers of rattlesnakes set out on long cross-country journeys of many miles following traditional routes to the places where they and their parents before them hibernate each year. some of these wintering dens may contain a thousand individuals. So those human beings who hate snakes and who, in spite of the rattler's sophisticated early warning system, believe that they are a constant and lethal threat, are also able, at this season of the year, to massacre rattlesnakes y the thousands." pg. 253
"The tuatara's most efficient operating temperature seems to be around 12 degrees C. At such low temperatures, the chemistry of an animal's body works very slowly indeed and in consequence, the tuatara has a very lethargic life style. It only breathes about once every seven seconds, even when active, and when resting it may go for an hour without breathing at all. It takes about twenty years to grow to maturity. A female, having started to develop her eggs within her oviduct, needs four years to complete them. Even wrapping a shell around them, which a bird manages in a matter of a few hours, takes her six to eight months. And once her eggs have been laid, they take about fourteen months to hatch-the longest embryonic development of any reptile. Such is life in the slow lane. On the other hand, it is thought that tuataras may live for as much as a hundred and twenty years or more-and that is longer than any known lizard." Pg. 272 (less)