Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch is simply a humorous look at a middle manager in a dying industry and a sexless marriage who is looking to reinvent hims...moreRussell Wiley is Out to Lunch is simply a humorous look at a middle manager in a dying industry and a sexless marriage who is looking to reinvent himself. It is a clever, if not brilliant, book so long as one does not take it too seriously. I laughed out loud on several occasions with Hine's use of psuedo-business acronyms and jargon, such as "Unicorns" - as opposed to "horses." Other clichés such as "Let's not get too granular" made me wonder if this was my workplace. Truth is, this is pretty much anyone's workplace. In between laughing, one may even pick up a few business tips. The fictional piece is not autobiographical in the strictest sense. But, Hine seems to draw enough from his own experience in the periodical world to make the situations, and the humor, quite plausible.
This is Mr. Hine's freshman effort, if I understand correct. And, yes, Mr. Hine, "you did good poopie (read the book)."(less)
It is possible to write a fictional work that tops 700 pages. But, it is not easy. Kim Stanley Robinson missed the mark in Blue Mars, the final book o...moreIt is possible to write a fictional work that tops 700 pages. But, it is not easy. Kim Stanley Robinson missed the mark in Blue Mars, the final book of his Mars trilogy. Like the predecessors (Red Mars and Green Mars), the final installment had fantastic moments of political intrigue along with well-researched concepts in geography, physics, economics, and psychology, and neuroscience, among other fields. Robinson was particularly insightful when he drew comparisons (without specific reference) to the Nature Conservancy, cap and trade, and ranked choice voting. And, like the other books, the majority of the work was excellent.
However, also like the other books, Robinson missed badly at times. There were too many portions of the book that meandered with little advancement of the plot(s). This trend seemed to get worse with each book. The general liberal/socialist preaching also became more obvious with each book, culminating in Blue Mars. I can forgive the latter if the story is good enough. And, for the most part, it is good enough.
The story dragged particularly in wilderness scenes. Clearly, Robinson is fascinated with geology, extreme climates, and climate change. These themes recur frequently in his other books including Antarctica, The Years of Rice and Salt, Fifty Degrees Below, and seemingly everything else Robinson has written. Robinson’s imagery could add much to the foreign environment that is Mars. But, eventually I stopped trying to keep up with the vast descriptions. I could also do without endless descriptions of the characters breakfast selections (especially if they are the same items every day!). The vocabulary, while impressive, was dense and distracting at times. Finally, Blue Mars does not stand well on its own without its predecessors. Robinson does not explain character backgrounds well in this book. And, the advances in timelines were choppy and misplaced. Simply put, Robinson could use a good editor.
Fortunately, Robinson brilliantly concluded Blue Mars and the trilogy by, in a limited sense, bringing the story back to its beginnings. After reading 2500+ pages of the Mars trilogy, there was simply not enough left to keep my interest. It was good, but enough already. Blue Mars clearly ran out of steam. One is virtually obligated to read the final installment if one has already read the first two. One should be generally satisfied, but not blown away, by the final chapter.
My Kindle edition of this book was packaged with The Martians. That book is evidently an add-on to the trilogy that features various short stories, poems, and documents related to the trilogy. Other reviewers have described The Martians essentially as “outtakes” from the trilogy. As good as the trilogy was, the first three books contained plenty of items that could have been chopped. I do not think I have the stamina to pour through The Martians.(less)
Regarding Ducks and Universes is a light science fiction mystery with elements of social commentary thrown in just for good measure. The book’s centra...moreRegarding Ducks and Universes is a light science fiction mystery with elements of social commentary thrown in just for good measure. The book’s central character is Felix Sayers, an instruction manual writer and an aspiring mystery novel author, who travels to a known parallel universe to investigate his “alter” in Universe B. Along the way, Felix meets a research team that explains how Felix himself may be the creator (“prime mover”), in essence, of the alternate universe. Meanwhile, he also suspects that someone may be trying to harm him for reasons unknown.
Neve Maslakovic, the debut author, deftly moves the plot. She uses brief metaphysical discussions of parallel universes to engage the reader and to advance the story. She does not bog down the reader in endless theory and physics, which would likely detract from a good story. Technically, the book is a mystery. But, most of the mystery regards the parallel universes. The murder-mystery element is largely a side plot. But, there is just enough there to keep the reader interested in that background as well.
Neither universe in the story is “our” universe in the truest sense. Both universes differ from our own in most ways small. But, the small differences in some cases have profound impacts. That allows Maslakovic to take a refreshing perspective on our culture from environmental practices, to e-readers and coffee, without being preachy. There are pros and cons to most everything. Maslakovic does not pass judgment on either universe, or our own for that matter. She simply acknowledges different alternatives based on choices we make both individually and collectively.
Most of the small criticism on the book has been that the story is short on detail; and that there is little character development. Those charges are true, insomuch as they matter. The book is a clever, quaint, quick read that is as engaging as it is entertaining. Regarding Ducks and Universes is a great debut for Maslakovic. Amazon Encore pulled off polished another diamond in the rough. (less)
I don't get it. After all this time, I still do not understand the moral, theme or premise of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. The book starts promisin...moreI don't get it. After all this time, I still do not understand the moral, theme or premise of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. The book starts promising; and the story captivated me early. But, I did not have a good feel for where the story was heading even after the story ended - such as it was. The story begins with what a first-time reader will assume to be the protagonist commiserating with his old World War II buddy. And, the first-person narrator, who is an author, describes a book he is about to write about the Dresden firebombing in World War II. The rest of Slaughterhouse-Five is simply that book, with the actual protagonist, Billy Pilgrim.
To make a short story even shorter, Pilgrim wanders through World War II, becomes a prisoner of war, lives underneath the firebombing of Dresden, and wanders through various points of his life courtesy of his time-traveling (although "traveling" is not completely accurate - it doesn't really matter) alien abductors, the Tralfamdorians. Slaughterhouse-Five ends with Pilgrim. And, we never really understand why Vonnegut begins his story with the narrator, who remains anonymous. The author mentions before leading into the Pilgrim narrative that “the story is so short and jangled.” I wonder Vonnegut did not insert the first chapter with the narrator after the fact to cover for the notion that Vonnegut’s story is so “short and jangled” indeed.
I have read any number of possible themes for the book. Among the most popular, of course, is that Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war book. That is entirely possible. Slaughterhouse-Five is certainly not complimentary of war or war makers. But, it does not exactly call out the offenders either. Rather, the theme -- if there is one -- is that war is irrational and destructive, yet inevitable. However, by the time the reader gleans through aliens, Hollywood starlets on the Planet Tralmafadore, and optometry sessions - all courtesy of Billy Pilgrim - any hopes of finding a theme are long past.
Vonnegut's long-lived reputation as a creative narrator is well deserved. The narration is succinct and flowing. It has a symmetry and repetition that is endearing and captivating rather than annoying. Unfortunately, I did not find much of a story beneath the creative writing technique. I really wanted to like this book more.