They say great minds think alike. They are wrong. Great minds think differently, that is what makes them great. Jasper Fforde has a great mind, what hThey say great minds think alike. They are wrong. Great minds think differently, that is what makes them great. Jasper Fforde has a great mind, what he does not have is the mind of Douglas Adams. The terrific creation of his world was somewhat undermined by the attempt to do what Adams can do and what Fforde can’t. Adams can make a dull character extremely entertaining to read about, Fforde can’t. Adams can switch genres with perfect ease, Fforde can’t. Adams can make plot twists of what you had dismissed as jokes, while Fforde prefigures new plot developments as effectively as a shadow in the shape of a bomb, accompanied by a growing whistling sound. Adams makes you laugh, Fforde can barely manage a chuckle.
Structurally, the book has the major flaw of talking too much about its own flaws, and again the cause is unwarranted imitation. Most of the books weaknesses result from Fforde trying far too hard to mimic Jane Eyre in both style and substance. This forces on Fforde a rather crude first person where it really isn’t needed and that he breaks from on occasion to give important information to the reader. The clumsy contrivance of the romantic subplot also serves no purpose other than to mimic certain points of Jane Eyre.
Both the narrative style and the romance would not have been so bad, however, if Jane Eyre hadn’t been there. Fforde makes such a point of informing us about these specific aspects of Eyre that we cannot possibly miss either what was coming or the inept symbolism of what went before. What makes this so frustrating is that in doing so Fforde comes extremely close to his own area of genius, and yet somehow completely misses it.
Fforde is fantastically good at making post-modernism palatable, at creating an engaging, entertaining world. He is also good at what I consider to be one of hallmarks of genius, which is that the significance of a thing is not explained, perhaps cannot be explained. I cannot explain how it is significant that surrealists and neo-classicists are having battles in the streets, but I know that it is. I cannot explain how it is significant that people treat their views on who really wrote the works of Shakespeare as though it were a religious faith. The significance of these ideas exists so inherent to their delivery that it seems impossible for me, a mortal, to untangle them. So when Fforde is so heavy handed in constructing the symbolism of the plot he makes a double tragedy. Not only does it mean that the book is too heavy on inelegant set-up, but also too light on the incredible ability which seeps through whenever Fforde isn’t watching himself too closely.
I sincerely hope that in the next book Fforde will have learned either how to dig himself out of these holes, or to not jump into holes in the first place. He gets three stars the fantastic world, and another for the potential to be genuinely brilliant. ...more
A delicious dissection of the fallacies of belief and obsession. Those who think it is just about a literary theory miss the point entirely, it is aboA delicious dissection of the fallacies of belief and obsession. Those who think it is just about a literary theory miss the point entirely, it is about ideas, how they spread, how they take hold of the mind. Delivered with Wilde's sense of flair and beauty in language it is a thoroughly entrancing read. ...more
Things you will learn from this book: What is the catholic child abuse scandal, how big is it, and what has been the catholic churches response to it? IThings you will learn from this book: What is the catholic child abuse scandal, how big is it, and what has been the catholic churches response to it? Is the Vatican legally accountable, is it a state, and if it was does that give it immunity? How are the abusive preists getting away with it, what is cannon law, and how does it protect them?
In my view, no one can claim to be literate on these questions until they have read this book. The history of the scandal is laid out cogently and clearly, as well as the popes continual obfuscation and the media manipulation that tried to continue the cover up even once it was exposed. The process of the cover up, and the hypocrisies of canon law, that allows an admission of peadophilia as an air tight defense, restrains everyone involved in the farcical process to "perpetual silence" on threat of excommunication, and has said excommunication as it's worst possible punishment, almost never given except to those who expose the rapists to the law, these are shown to be only an obscene parody of law. Robertson shows how the Vatican has claimed that this is the only law to which preists should be subject, and shows us why this isn't a law at all in any meaningful seanse.
Robbertson then gives us the history of the vatican as a sovereign state, and shows why it does not fullfill the requirements of statehood under international law, as well as how it has used it's pretense of statehood to retard the fight for human rights, especially for women and sexual minorities, throughout the world.
The legal sections occasionally get bogged down in acronyms and references, but the book still remains remarkably clear in it's analysis and the narrative it builds around the events of the scandal. ...more
As far as I can see, a popular science book should have two aims. The first aim is to answer the questions I was trying to pretend I was not asking. YAs far as I can see, a popular science book should have two aims. The first aim is to answer the questions I was trying to pretend I was not asking. You know the ones, the questions that bother you for a moment but you then dismiss as precisely that, as bothersome, as unimportant. The second aim is to convince you that they are important.
This book gets four stars. It got five for achieving both of those aims spectacularly on a topic I love. It looses two stars for it's occasional incomprehensibility. It gets one back for annihilating the arguments of language pedants. ...more
This is something of a puzzle. It shouldn't work. Book thirteen of a series that we were promised would defiantly, absolutely, have number 12 as it'sThis is something of a puzzle. It shouldn't work. Book thirteen of a series that we were promised would defiantly, absolutely, have number 12 as it's last. Then the author died, and now it's going to be 14 (I am assured, 14, defiantly, absolutely, the last). There seems like there should be something wrong here.
So, thoughts. It has some typographical errors, which is entirely excusable. It has some minor continuity errors, which is possibly pardonable. It has no discernible structure as a narrative, which is, as usual, ugly. But i'm content with it's ugliness. If anything, it should be uglier. The great strength of a series of, so far, 13 books of around six hundred pages each is that it has the space for the sprawling mess of reality. It is, in a way, almost a shame to see it slowly (very slowly) being brought to a conclusion. I liked that this world was big. I liked that it had unique and invented children's games. I like it less when those children's games turn out to be vast plot points. The thing I fear most From the conclusion of an epic story is that I will find that the answers are less satisfying than the questions. Or worse, that at the end, no questions remain at all. The great strength of Tolkein was his ability to know when to have every eliment worked out to it's finest detail, like his languages, and when to let something stay magical, like Beorn. I fear that by the end of the next book every detail of the world will come to be relevant. I don't want this, nor do I want it explained.
In terms of the writing styles there are moment when you know you are reading one author or the other, sentence length, I find, is the most striking difference, but the crucial split between the new books and the old is this; that the old were essentially light, in both senses. The new have a heaviness to them, and a gloom. I personally cannot help but feel this has added something to the texture of the words, and as we head into the final battle, I think it might give a depth to the emotion that is needed.
On the end, I think Sanderson has added more (though still insufficient) focus to the narrative of the new books. This was the prime lack of the later Jordan novels, which had begun to seem as though he had just kept writing and handed over what ever he had when his editors calls became so frequent the next one started before the current one had finished.
Four stars for being a continued adventure of a world I love, for being written with talented words which, though sometimes muddy, are able to invest the reader in the characters, world and story. ...more
I found this book to be quite abysmal. The author states he set out to write a more accessible biography of Jefferson for the casual reader but in theI found this book to be quite abysmal. The author states he set out to write a more accessible biography of Jefferson for the casual reader but in the end has created something entirely useless for anyone who does not already know just about everything about Jeffersons acheivements. Most of the space that could have been spent talking about his actual accomplishments is instead taken up with commentaries and refutations of the most dismal scholarly minutia. The only mention of his relationship with Miss Hemmings is to tell us that there is no evidence it started in France. The fact that Jefferson later had four children by Miss Hemmings, a fact not even alluded to during what is supposed to be a biography of Jefferson. His relationship with Miss Hemmings and the emancipation of his children by her is crucial to any study of Jefferson because of it's impact on his relationship to the question of slavery, and the fundamental contradiction of Jeffersons life. This is only one of many omissions or bizarre and glancing treatments of the most important parts of Jeffersons life.
With a style that seems to be Peter Wodehouse without the talent (or competence, or insight, or understanding, or wit, or...) the author gives us a stWith a style that seems to be Peter Wodehouse without the talent (or competence, or insight, or understanding, or wit, or...) the author gives us a startlingly empty piece of prose. If any thought went into this book it's about as easy to detect as dark matter, that is to say, it seems in theory she must have had a thought at some point in the writing but detecting it has been problem.
It reads to me as though she had a list of things a fantasy novel ought to have, she put them in one after the other and hoped that a plot would just sort of happen. Alas, not. What happened instead are these appalling moments of cringe-making affectation. Appearing in her list under 'P' for 'Portentous' we get a man describing the weather as follows, 'this night is bad. And tomorrow will be beyond imagining.' and just in case you didn't get it she insists on vomiting up the phrase at every conceivable opportunity. It first appears on page 16, flares up briefly on 24, is repeated in full (italicized) on 28, again on 31. I stopped looking after that. Still, it isn't repeated with anything like the frequency of the phrase "the dark is rising". I suspect that if I were to remove every page where a character says this stupid and meaningless cliche then there would simply be nothing left of the book when I am done. It is almost as if the author felt she had to repeat it so incessantly out of fear that if she did not she would forget that it was the title of the book.
In the end I gave it two stars because it has the virtue of not being Twilight, but otherwise it constitutes nothing but crap from start to finish and I intend to have it filed under 'P' for 'Pointless' and use it as tinder as soon as possible. ...more