I found this book very interesting, and timely - my book club actually chose this title for this month before all the stuff that has happened recentlyI found this book very interesting, and timely - my book club actually chose this title for this month before all the stuff that has happened recently with the FLDS group in Texas. Oddly prophetic selection. I actually didn't know much about the origin and history of the Mormon church, and this book provides ample background of the only major religion (fastest-growing in the US) founded in the era of the printing press. It was intriguing to see how this affected the development of Mormon doctrine. The other major focus of the book is the grisly murders of a 24-year-old woman and her 15-month-old daughter by two Fundamentalist Mormon brothers who claim to have killed the woman and child, their sister-in-law and niece, on God's orders. The author, in discussing this heinous act and the subsequent trial of the two brothers for it, raises the contentious and problematic question of where we draw the line between legitimate religious beliefs, and delusions symptomatic of mental illness.
The book takes a journalistic, rather than historiographic, approach to discussing how and why the murders occurred. A clear, discernible argument is never quite presented, although you can sort of piece one together with the information and evidence the author provides.
My two main complaints with this book are that it spends a lot of time with characters that seem more ancillary than crucial to the history of the church, which makes it a tad overlong, and that the author's stance on Mormonism and indeed organized religion in general is so clearly extremely negative from the outset. While I agree that many of the beliefs and practices of Mormonism, particularly among the various Fundamentalist sects, are very hard to reconcile with rational, modern scientific and critical thought, I wished he had presented it all more straightforwardly. I got the strong feeling, from about the second page of the introduction, that the author himself considers all organized religion and/or belief in any higher power to be irrational and borderline delusional. He writes about this topic with a distinct undertone that to an extent all religion is crazy, and all believers are some degree of cuckoo. Leaving that aside, however, I found it both disturbing and fascinating to learn more about the Mormon history, especially the schisms that created the Fundamentalist splinter groups and how the culture was created which seems so rife with the potential for exploitation and abuse. If you were ever interested in how groups like the one creating all the ruckus in Texas came to be, this book offers a compelling compilation of their shared history....more
As is sometimes the case with a concluding title in a series, I just didn't find this to be as satisfying as the first two books. Exploring Lyra's worAs is sometimes the case with a concluding title in a series, I just didn't find this to be as satisfying as the first two books. Exploring Lyra's world in the first book, and then the intersections of multiple worlds (and a new protagonist) in the second book were somehow more compelling than the new elements in the Amber Spyglass. I don't want to be a spoiler for those who haven't read it, but the author spends a lot of time with a type of non-human creature with many anthropomorphic qualities, and I found those sections to be rather dry and dull - more anthropological or ethnographic than fantastical or even entertaining. I think this is almost a case of the book having so much potential built up by the first and second books that the author didn't know how to manage it all, and wound up going off on a random tangent instead of fulfilling the promise of his previous efforts. There is also a lot of theology happening here, sometimes to the detriment of the entertainment value of the book. I didn't believe the hype about the books being anti-Christian until this one, in which a key character states that "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all." But I don't want to make it sound like the trilogy isn't worth reading, it is. The first two books are great. I read the second book in about a day and a half. The characters are strong and compelling, and their world draws you in with its richness and possibility. Just be prepared for a possible letdown in the third installment....more
I think this might be my favorite book of the trilogy. I always wish there were more Iorek Byrnison, but other than that this book had all the elementI think this might be my favorite book of the trilogy. I always wish there were more Iorek Byrnison, but other than that this book had all the elements for me. I liked Lyra in the first book, but she got on my nerves sometimes. Will was consistently compelling and likable, even when he was making a mistake (not that it happens often). I really enjoyed the way his story unfolds and he comes into his own, though some of that does also happen in the third book. I also enjoyed spending more time with characters that were more ancillary to the first book, like Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala. Of course I also enjoy all the subtle (haha) and not-so-subtle literary references. I found the mythology of this installment to be the most compelling of the three books. Don't get me wrong, there were things that happened in this book that royally pissed me off, but I never wanted to put it down....more
Great fantasy novel on the order of Harry Potter, but darker and far more political and theological. The whole anti-Catholic thing is bunk, though I wGreat fantasy novel on the order of Harry Potter, but darker and far more political and theological. The whole anti-Catholic thing is bunk, though I would venture to say it is emphatically anti-theocracy. I found it both very enjoyable and thought-provoking....more
I found an original of this book in Bookman's Alley in Evanston last year, and the physical book itself was so beautiful that I had to buy it. I do inI found an original of this book in Bookman's Alley in Evanston last year, and the physical book itself was so beautiful that I had to buy it. I do intend to read it one of these days, but I'm almost afraid to because it's so old and I don't want to damage it. It has great old-fashioned plate illustrations of 'city scenes' from the late nineteenth century....more
This was a selection for book club that I was worried I wouldn't finish before the group meeting this Sunday. I read it in a day and a half because IThis was a selection for book club that I was worried I wouldn't finish before the group meeting this Sunday. I read it in a day and a half because I could not put it down. Haddon's writing style is lush, visual and inventive and his characters are deeply believable, flawed but earnest human beings. This novel is rich, sad, funny and engrossing - I recommend it....more
I love Dave Eggers' style. I didn't love every piece in this collection, but I am so drawn to his ability to refresh the short story form. I think parI love Dave Eggers' style. I didn't love every piece in this collection, but I am so drawn to his ability to refresh the short story form. I think part of the reason that I love people who play with form and style is that I would love to do more of that in my own writing. I'd love to be more willing, as Eggers is, to abandon expectations. I'm also wildly jealous of his gift with titles - my two favorite stories in this book are called "The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water" (I love compound adjectives!) and "After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned." The latter is an utter gem that is narrated by a dog. Beautiful....more