(7/10) Well, after having to read three Austen novels for a course I think it's safe to say I'll never be a huge fan of dear Jane, I did like Pride an(7/10) Well, after having to read three Austen novels for a course I think it's safe to say I'll never be a huge fan of dear Jane, I did like Pride and Prejudice a good deal more the second time around. What stands out here is the tight and measured pacing, arcing perfectly towards the romantic ending, and a likeable heroine with genuine bite. There's no better example of the genteel British comedy of manners, for better or for worse, and while a lot of this book will fall flat compared to a modern novel it's still one of those books you just have to read at some point in your life. Austen's subject matter and many of her characters leave me cold, but the execution is top-notch, and I can only wish she lived in a society that let her write about more than balls and country manors....more
(10/10) Maybe my favourite book of all time, this is Vonnegut at his finest, downplaying neither the horror or the absurd humour that defines human li(10/10) Maybe my favourite book of all time, this is Vonnegut at his finest, downplaying neither the horror or the absurd humour that defines human life and history. At multiple times I felt like I wanted to cry, but I wasn't sure if it was out of happiness or sadness. At the end of the day Vonnegut leaves you to decide whether the science-fictional elements are real or grieving hallucinations, whether the novel is a tragedy or a comedy, or whether we should take any of his approach to life seriously at all. These are also decisions we have to make in life itself -- whether to take a pessimistic, savage view of things or a gleefully absurd perspective. Vonnegut just maybe shows us the way to blend them, creating a humour that isn't oblivious to horror and vice versa....more
(10/10) 2011 re-read: If I wasn't sure about the all-time greats status of this book before, reading it again confirms it, in one of those lovely time(10/10) 2011 re-read: If I wasn't sure about the all-time greats status of this book before, reading it again confirms it, in one of those lovely times when your current, hopefully more evolved taste confirms your past ones. More than just a reasonably prescient vision of the future, Brave New World is a fundamentally modernist work, and not just in its more experimental sections. What Huxley is grappling with is a sense of lost authenticity, a true meaning apart from consumerist bliss. John and Bernard are in a way searching for the same thing that Joyce and Eliot and all of those other High Modernists are. But of course authenticity has always just been lost, existing in some era we can't quite remember, or in the virtuosity of emotions that are unsustainable. Once again, it's hard not to think that Lenina, with her passive acceptance of superficial pleasure, might be the smartest person in the book. The society of Brave New World is not just a dire prediction of the future, but a part of the world around Huxley, the novel is then a consideration of modernity itself and the divided aims of humankind. That it addresses these ideas while still being accessible enough for teenagers to read it by the millions is a sign of its true greatness.
I'm not really sure why I'm reviewing this, because everyone has read it in high school already, but it's next up in my queue of old unreviewed books, so Ima do it anyway. Brave New World is usually paired with 1984, and that makes it look like the more prophetic of the two, predicting a dystopia not controlled by authoritarian fear but by consumerist complacency. The future, according to Huxley, is not a boot stomping the human face forever, but a human shopping for boots while the world burns. Despite this, it manages to be almost ambiguous: there's a case to be made that, whatever the intellectual angst of the Bernards of the world, a society where everyone is happy (even artificially) is indeed a just society. Huxley grasps that all dystopias present themselves as utopia, and it makes his vision of the future stronger. Of course, there's not much of a novel here: it's mostly flat characters wandering around the setting, but the setting is so distinct and well-conceived that it makes this book a classic in both literature and science fiction in spite of any flaws one could list....more
(8/10) Much more than the conventional scary-zombie-monster-thing that it's been adapted into over the years, Frankenstein is a kind of Romantic manif(8/10) Much more than the conventional scary-zombie-monster-thing that it's been adapted into over the years, Frankenstein is a kind of Romantic manifesto, placing the creations of an overconfident science against the beautiful but devalued state of nature. It's obviously not a perfect novel, and it wears it's flaws on its sleeves, but there's a kind of undeniable power to it, both in terms of literary depth and slasher-movie excitement over seeing who the next body will be, making this the rare book that can be considered both a significant work in the quote-unquote literary tradition and a foundational genre text. Grit your teeth and bear the first fifty pages, and you will be rewarded....more
Before I read it I was vaguely aware of "The Kindly Ones"'s status as the peak of The Sandman, in terms of both quality and narrative. It lived up toBefore I read it I was vaguely aware of "The Kindly Ones"'s status as the peak of The Sandman, in terms of both quality and narrative. It lived up to the hype.
The plot of this volume centres around (Hippo)Lyta Hall's search for revenge on Morpheus, who she believes has taken her child. But this description feels incredibly inadequate. The actual revenge plot could probably be condensed into at most a regular-sized Sandman volume. What makes this into a huge comic is the epic scope of the story, which encompasses parts of all of the previous storylines and many different mythologies. The plot is simply a skeleton for the story, and although it is well-crafted enough in its own right, often seems rather distant.
If that sounds like a weakness, it's not. With the possible exception of "Brief Lives", The Sandman has always been less about Morpheus than those on the margins of his life. Given that, perhaps "The Kindly Ones" is able to capture his character in the most complete way possible by showing the web of connections developed throughout the series. To put on my lit-crit hat for a moment, the narrative distance and digressions -- checking in on an old character or telling a fable while the world is at stake in the background -- may reflect Morpheus's own ambivalence over his fate.
As great as the writing is, let's not neglect the graphic half of the graphic novel. Marc Hempel's art is a break from the style of previous Sandman volumes, and is much more stylized and abstract. It casts the whole story in a light which is both mythical and psychological -- most of all, unreal. This style takes some getting used to, but I think it's held up a lot better than the drab art you see on a lot of Vertigo titles from this era.
Beyond all the talk of narrative structures, Gaiman's writing is simply very enjoyable, showing both wit and great originality. No matter how many tangents the story goes on, you always want to see them through to the end, and even after 350 pages the book feels too short. This volume cements The Sandman as a must-read series.
*I have no idea how to properly write the title of a volume in a graphic novel series, so I went with quotation marks....more