Years ago when I was a kid, after Star Wars had come out, I ended reading a paperback version of the movie and remember being surprised at how simpleYears ago when I was a kid, after Star Wars had come out, I ended reading a paperback version of the movie and remember being surprised at how simple it was. It felt more like Dick and Jane / See Spot Run book. The dialog of Stars Wars is limited so that it doesn't slow down the action. The plot is simple. The wonder of Star Wars is its larger than life, operatic staging. Which is the opposite of Shakespeare with the complex, poetic dialog and complicate themes of betrayal and identity, love, loss and courage. So this mashup sounded very appealing.
Ah, but there's the rub. This is not Shakespeare, but rather faux-Shakespeare. Shakespeare did use choruses and asides to the audience, but with a much lighter touch. Certainly not every scene had a chorus or every other speech an aside. There's a great mangling of Shakespeare's more famous speeches. I understand why the author did it, but the book never caught fire or became greater than its parts. It remained slightly amusing, but never rose above that.
I think this is the sort of thing that would be very popular on a summer night in a Portland or Austin park. Certainly as I was reading this, I kept thinking about the part in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome where the kids from the plane crash gather around the fire and tell their origin myth. If you could get this kids to perform this play -- you'd really have something....more
It's Hellboy from the IT guy's perspective. Nazis, Lovecraftian monsters on the other side of portals to parallel universes, intradepartmental fightinIt's Hellboy from the IT guy's perspective. Nazis, Lovecraftian monsters on the other side of portals to parallel universes, intradepartmental fighting with matrix management. Amusing enough, does not get the technology grind wrong....more
It's Margaret Atwood, so it's well written, it's full of interesting ideas that keep circling back and echoing. Everything is there for a purpose in aIt's Margaret Atwood, so it's well written, it's full of interesting ideas that keep circling back and echoing. Everything is there for a purpose in a deeply layered story. But…
This is a story that teases you, that does a slow reveal. The narrator tried to convince you that he's gone soft brained, forgotten most of what he ever knew, when he's really the most reliable witness to the entire story, he's the one that knows what really happened. And you do finally get the whole story, but, man, it takes a long time to get there. And the author throws out these little ninja stars that hint at the end of the story without anything to support them. You have to go back and reread the sentence about 5 times and think, well, what the hell does that mean?
I'm interested in seeing where the story goes....more
I am just a sucker for this series of book -- in fact, I pre-ordered this one last year. They are beautiful, well-thought out stories. They're true toI am just a sucker for this series of book -- in fact, I pre-ordered this one last year. They are beautiful, well-thought out stories. They're true to their own sense of internal history and rules. And the characters within this sphere of a magical city built in the Arctic are so believable. They are so delicately steampunk. I could gush all day.
When I first heard about this book, it sounded like such a potentially rich story. The post apocalyptic tale where the end of the world is brought onWhen I first heard about this book, it sounded like such a potentially rich story. The post apocalyptic tale where the end of the world is brought on by children becoming toxic to their parents, the coming to grips, the denial that your fruit, the only thing you love more than yourself, is the seed of your destruction.
Except that wasn't it. Ok, it was a post apocalyptic tale where human develop a deadly allergy to spoken and written language (ha! You knew that flood of information from the Internet would get you) and only the children, running in roving packs, hurling words like winged knives, are immune. Even gestures will cause people to crumple inward, their faces becoming very tiny, their bones grinding up against each other.
Except that wasn't it. Ok, it was a rather passive story about how we need language. How without language we become so diminished. The intersection of language and religion, how religion is the listening half of language and yet every word we speak is the name of God. This is a writer's bad pizza dream, where the end of the world is where there is no more stories, only our unshared thoughts locked in our heads. Words as trails of salt that poison our world.
Like I said, it started out with such a great premise and then was such a puddle of silence and stillness. It was a tale of smoke and salt....more
Zombies are a very modern monster tale. They represent our fears about society's bottomless hunger, our fears of contamination from others, our plagueZombies are a very modern monster tale. They represent our fears about society's bottomless hunger, our fears of contamination from others, our plague fears. Eat bad takeout and watch the entertainment news about Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton and an hour of Fox News, and no one is going to be surprised if you said that you'd had zombie nightmares.
There are only two ways a zombie story can go -- (1) human resourcefulness and survivor grit prevail, a weakness is found, zombies are contained or killed or (2) humans fail because they are messy and complex individuals who don't deal well with pulsating waves of deadless eating machines. Everyone casts themselves in storyline (1), but even if that's the final ending, for most people in a zombie apocalypse, it's going to look like storyline (2). Zone One is a slice from the middle, an intimate ground level view of how one guy survives, his feelings of survivor's guilt, his tics and rituals that keep him alive, the stories he tells himself to keep from giving in to despair and allowing death to overtake him. In this story, you don't ever see the broad view, the arc of history, you are given no reason to hope.
It's very much a character study of a man trying to survive the next 15 minutes while trying to figure out why exactly he wants to survive the next 15 minutes. You'll either love it or it will be way too claustrophobic for you....more
This book starts out with a big bang, a big terrible thing that happens to everyone, and then views everything that happens as a result through the prThis book starts out with a big bang, a big terrible thing that happens to everyone, and then views everything that happens as a result through the prism of an 11 year old girl. And kids this age are very self absorbed, so we get more about what she's wearing and her soccer games and her first love and why does her best friend suddenly stop talking to her than the actual results of the big terrible thing. The big terrible thing lurks around the edge of the story which is too bad because the big terrible thing is really really interesting.
There is geological proof that every now and then the Earth's magnetic poles flip over a very short period, maybe a couple hundred years (we're talking geologically short time). North becomes south and south becomes north. Is this because the Earth stops spinning one way and starts spinning the other? Maybe the Earth's core start to cool and this could affect the Earth's rotation? Where did all the extra power come from to light the wheat fields of Kansas? What was the East coast project to correct Earth's spin that went terribly wrong?
Oh, big terrible thing, we barely knew you. And the story, well, it just trails off. Humans survive without seeming to adapt as everything around them fades. There is no final resolution, nothing understood on page 369 that we didn't understand on page 1, no more or less hope....more
You know how Hitchcock movies have a MacGuffin, an object that keeps popping up, that distracts you and makes you think it's important to the plot, buYou know how Hitchcock movies have a MacGuffin, an object that keeps popping up, that distracts you and makes you think it's important to the plot, but it's not? This book has no MacGuffin. Every individual or object or place that is introduced is deeply involved in the plot. There is no misdirection. If the characters go through great efforts to find something, you can guarantee that you've seen it in the first few pages and a couple times after that. The meaningless phrase that is introduced in the first chapter is the all important phrase in the last chapter. So, it kind of takes the wind out of all the surprises because you guess them before you get to them.
It was a fine story, a good plane ride distraction, but I wished that more of the story had concentrated on the House of Windsor and Prince Arthur and on the Domino Men because they were much more interesting than the "everyman" protagonist. The main story ignores the idea of what would you do if you were suddenly grabbed by a secret society, told impossible things, and then rather cruelly used by them. He's not as skeptical as I think I would be, less curious about "wow, maybe these guys are the bad guys and I'm on the wrong side". Which of course, they aren't because there is no misdirection.
I do love the ending with the final reveal of the nature of the monster. It was enormously clever....more
*(%$&&@# Brillant. An entertaining, funny, intelligent riff on great literature, boy's adventure tales, post-apocalyptic, and just the shit we*(%$&&@# Brillant. An entertaining, funny, intelligent riff on great literature, boy's adventure tales, post-apocalyptic, and just the shit we make up and call it history or religion or creation myths. Easily ties for the best book I've read this year and easily the best China Miéville book I've read. A very, very enjoyable read....more
There's a line from an old movie that when a man is young, he mourns the loss of a single woman, when he's old, he mourns the loss of all women, he moThere's a line from an old movie that when a man is young, he mourns the loss of a single woman, when he's old, he mourns the loss of all women, he mourns the loss of the concept of love in his life. This book is set far enough past the apocalypse that we're (for the most part) past the upheaval and violence. When the small groups of survivors have knuckled into their niches and spider traps and have their rituals and routines all set in place to defend themselves without thinking too much about what they have to do to survive. But it is an incredibly sad story. It's the story of what it takes to get out of bed every morning after the end of the world and justify your life in the face of grief and guilt and despair of the people you loved and all the people you didn't and, oh, you have to kill people rather methodically to suffer along.
Well-written, ends on a moment of peace which it hints is about to be rather disturbed in the sequel....more
This book started with such promise for me. The opening section with fragments questioning humanity vs machines, the nature of machine intelligence, wThis book started with such promise for me. The opening section with fragments questioning humanity vs machines, the nature of machine intelligence, whether astronauts are still human once they are detached from Earth and then... *sigh* it moved into following the live stories of the original writer of Frankenstein, it moved into talking about the isolation of the Arctic, which was also interesting if less so. And then I hit the section of on the friend of Dr. Frankenstein now living in China exchanging letters with a leper (who's name he never knows, but that's ok because the letters are never sent) and translating an odd Chinese novel he found in the wall of the house he's living in....
And wow, I was only halfway through and it was moving slower than dirt.
I just lost patience with it. I may eventually go back to it, but nothing happens and interesting thoughts are not entertained....more
This is the book a Victorian polar explorer would have dreamed by his whale lamp, the sled dogs snoring and farting, as a time traveler from the 60s wThis is the book a Victorian polar explorer would have dreamed by his whale lamp, the sled dogs snoring and farting, as a time traveler from the 60s with copies of 1984 and Brave New World tucked under his arm whispered in his ear, barely heard over the crack of the ice. I found it poetic and mysterious, seen through a veil of velvet and steam. A beautiful tale sung by the Polar Kangaroo that echoes in the oddest places....more
This book started out so wonderfully with a wild riff on the introduction of this pantheon of Gods spilling off the bus from spring break to create thThis book started out so wonderfully with a wild riff on the introduction of this pantheon of Gods spilling off the bus from spring break to create the universe. If it'd stayed there, I would have swan dived into the abyss with happiness. Curious that this introduction is just long enough to be the free sample for an ebook.
But the real meat of the book is a self-referential collection of critical notes and annotations about the blind drunken bards performing the epic story about a guy who might be the favorite of same of the gods or the gods might be a figment of his imagination or he might be a stone statue that is dreaming all this. The author makes a lot of references to Russian stacking dolls as he has a phrase that he repeats and adds to and then repeats that, adding to it again, and repeating that. (Hint: if you put down the book and don't mark your place, because of all the repeating phrases, it may be hard to find your spot again.) But I think this book is more of a homage to Ouroborous or the serpent swallowing his own tail. This writing (I hesitate to call it story) has no forward progress and seems to run on a short circular track.
It's so post-modern and hip, it will make your teeth hurt by the time you finish it, but you will drawn along for the ride. It's enormous and sexy and such a train wreck that you will not be able to look away. It's filled with so many "good gawd, did he just say that?" moments.