This book had a great premise, but the tag line is more exciting than anything that actually happens in the book. It was kind of boring, and while I'm...moreThis book had a great premise, but the tag line is more exciting than anything that actually happens in the book. It was kind of boring, and while I'm fine without pages and pages of exposition, a LITTLE explanation wouldn't have gone astray.
Mostly just a police procedural, and there's a reason I don't read mystery. I like my sci fi. But the fantastical element in this story really didn't do or matter much. The whole book, while well written and a page turner, left me feeling unfulfilled.(less)
So, I haven't read Ready Player One, which just about everybody seems to compare this to. Austin Grossman has a really interesting Wikipedia page, whe...moreSo, I haven't read Ready Player One, which just about everybody seems to compare this to. Austin Grossman has a really interesting Wikipedia page, where I learned he has been involved in such industry gems as Deus Ex, Thief: Deadly Shadows, and Dishonored. He's also been involved in the amazingly bad Jurassic Park: Trespasser (highly recommend the Let's Play) and the game that killed the Tomb Raider franchise, Tomb Raider: Legend. AND it told me that not only does he share a last name with Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, but they are twins! WOAH!
The point is, Austin Grossman has a lot of experience in the actual video game industry, and he has a twin who has written one well-received and one not as-well-received book.
This book was just BORING. I didn't care about any of the people, and I really didn't care about the fake history of a fake video game company. It started with an ASCII game and went on up, describing the play and the story and where the characters were in their lives. Then it described a Civilization 1-esque game. Then it described the next few games in the franchise. Then it described the first person shooter. Then it described the space colonization game. And then, finally, thankfully, there were no more fake games to describe.
So, so boring.
Also, even though he was a "writer and game designer" on multiple video games, I'm not actually sure he knows the limits of what video games are capable of. For example, he's trying to cross a moat, so he cuts down a tree and makes a bridge. There is no game I know of that is capable of this (especially in 1998) unless the programmers SPECIFICALLY wanted you to do that. Or maybe Minecraft, where you can repurpose the wood however you like. That is a small example I realize, but is a microcosm of how games are talked about for the entire novel. Most of the things I was rolling my eyes at were totally anachronistic for how video games actually work.(less)
There were parts of this book that had me saying Yes, YES! More! I loved that sexuality was ambi...moreI'm...not sure. More thoughts, later.
There were parts of this book that had me saying Yes, YES! More! I loved that sexuality was ambiguous and no one really cared who you were sleeping with. The main character's mother was in a heterosexual relationship but after her husband died, married a lady. Gotta love that. The love triangle is about a girl and a guy in love with the same guy for once, instead of two guys in love with the same girl.
Art and talking about art and how art is everything when you're an artist. Loved all the descriptions and that art was so important.
I loved that the characters all loved the city. So many dystopias are all about hating where you live, fuck the man, the machine of life will grind you down, etc. But here, even though it was deadly serious, there was also a lot of love and good feelings going around.
On the other hand...
The main character was whiny and privileged and also whiter than everyone else for some reason? Not sure why that was necessary.
The middle part got really boring. There was a lot of running around and introspection and general doldrums. Then (view spoiler)[when the main couple left the city (hide spoiler)], there was actually no purpose at all to that. It didn't accomplish anything except say to me the author was confused and didn't know where to go with her story.
The logic behind the "summer prince." It was pretty ridiculous and the holes in that kind of political system are obvious from a mile away.
It could have been a lot better.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I felt like this was very clinical. The setting meant little, the characters meant little. I DID enjoy getting a love story out of basically Uhura fal...moreI felt like this was very clinical. The setting meant little, the characters meant little. I DID enjoy getting a love story out of basically Uhura falling in love with Spock. It was plausible and it even made me a bit happy. The last 20 pages basically RUINED the love story, however.
It is important to note that about 200 pages of this book (i.e., most of it) is a scientific expedition. That's about as sexy as any anthropology expedition would be.
Over all, this book left me lukewarm and wanting something that was straight up Star Trek, rather than pretending not to be.(less)
The back of this book sounds SO COOL. It's rather misleading. Even the title is misleading. This book isn't really about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of...moreThe back of this book sounds SO COOL. It's rather misleading. Even the title is misleading. This book isn't really about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of about terrorism, but only peripherally. Mostly it's about describing what the narrator is seeing ad nauseum. For example, this is from the first chapter:
Joe put down the book on the low bamboo table and sighed. The small china cup before him contained strong Lao mountain coffee, sweet with the two sugars he likes to use, which was overdoing it, he knew, but that was the way he liked it. Besides him was an ashtray containing two cigarette stubs. Also on the table was a soft packet of cigarettes and a Zippo lighter, a plain one, which sat on top of the cigarettes. He sat, as he did every morning, in the small coffee shop facing the car park of Talat Sao in downtown Vientiane. Through the glass windows he could watch the girls walk past.
I hope you really like getting descriptions of who's walking by because there is a lot of that. Also complete descriptions of the minutiae in every room Joe walks into.
It was really boring.
Worse than that, it was SUCH a great idea, that was completely wasted, and I'm a little bit angry about it. I want to read the book that was promised from the description.
I don't get the comparisons to PKD AT ALL. I extra don't get how this won the World Fantasy award in 2011, given what it was up against.
I have a love/hate relationship with short stories.
I love how much originality it requires to write a really good short story. Character development, scene development, all of it has to take place so quickly, and just when you get comfortable, the story is over. Unfortunately, that is also why I hate short stories. To me, the sign of a good short story is that I would drop everything to read a novel that takes place inside the story. That is exactly what happens in After the Apocalypse - I wanted more than the stories gave me.
Each story was rife with promise. Any one of them could have been the pitch for novels, and I would have read all of them. It is frustrating that they are only in short story format, but that's all we're given, so we might as well enjoy what we can. Each story was incredibly vivid by the end, every character and setting clearly defined.
I went into it thinking that every story would be about an apocalypse of some sort, and that was the wrong way to look at it. It's just what the title made me think. Even so, the stories still have traces of strange futures, or some sort of apocalyptic feature. For example, in one story, the one feature is bird flu. In another, it's zombies. There may not be a nuclear bomb going off in every story, but the account of a woman surviving on her farm through an economic downturn is applicable not only to the near future, but also today.
Of the collection, my favorite stories were the first and last - which were both straight up apocalypse stories. The first, "The Naturalist," was an intriguing take on zombies. I am SO curious about the zombies in that little universe now. I really wish I could have a novel set there, it was so interesting! The last, "After the Apocalypse," is horrifying in a completely personal way. Very little of the horror is because of the apocalypse, but what happens AFTER.
And that is what this entire book is about. Not just what happens after the apocalypse, but what we do after we're done reading. For me, it's to not stop thinking about these extremely poignant stories.(less)
I don't feel qualified to write a review for this. It's a real book - it transcends being labeled as "fantasy." And that ma...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
I don't feel qualified to write a review for this. It's a real book - it transcends being labeled as "fantasy." And that makes me throw up my hands soothingly and say, "I didn't mean it, you know better, trust what they say over there!" I'm going to try to put down how I felt about it but I find it very hard.
First thing, both covers are gorgeous, and the one I had (the yellow and black) helped me understand what the hell he was talking about when it came to describing the "clock work book."
Angelmaker is written beautifully. The language is emotive and evocative. A few times I found myself wanting to read aloud certain paragraphs to whomever was in the room at the time, exclaiming over how pretty it was. The language and structure is so advanced, in fact, that anytime I actually got a reference I would be so proud of myself for understanding what he was talking about. I would then immediately feel stupid because that meant there were dozens of other references going right over my head. I also never understood "the apprehension engine" nor how it was transmitted by bees. Say what? How do you make someone an angel with bees again? I think I'm missing something here.
I actually didn't mind the shifting narratives, and I quite enjoyed Edie's sordid past. I think I liked the flashbacks more than the current events actually. You give me one big baddie with the awesome name "The Opium Khan," and I can picture him and know he is evil, and that is that. But the main story got so convoluted with bad guys and good guys and then THE BIG REVEAL at the end had me shrugging my shoulders with apathy. The best words I've heard applied to the characters is "Dickensian plotting." Which is really just perfect, because every character that you meet in the first 400 pages is guaranteed to show up for the big finish. Every side story is wrapped up conveniently in the denouement.
Unfortunately, I didn't think it was funny. At all. Like, I never even cracked a smile. Maybe it was because of all those references going over my head, or maybe it's because I don't really understand British humor, but I didn't even know it was considered a comedy until I read through some other reviews upon finishing it.
As a nerd, I find it my duty to watch through nerd shows. If you name any Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, I can probably rattle off a quick synopsis, or vice versa. So last year I decided I really need to see what all this hoop-la about Dr. Who is about. It is now a year later and I am only now finishing up season 2, because I find the show completely unbearable. No matter what happens, it is always, as I have come to call it, Dr.Who-ex-machina, or Deus-ex-Dr.Who, depending on my mood. A wave of the sonic screwdriver and all is fixed. Not to mention that all he has to do is show up and every woman for 10 miles around swoons and wishes she were as lucky as Rose Tyler.
Ok, I know, this isn't a review of Dr. Who, and yes, I am going to continue watching the series because I really REALLY want to understand why people like it so much. But if you, like me, are perhaps not the biggest Dr. Who fan, then you will understand why I didn't like Angelmaker. It also probably works the other way I'm guessing, in that if you love Dr. Who, you would probably love Angelmaker. The same tropes appear, and that is why I have begun to suspect I just don't get it because it's British. Joe Spork magically saves us with some sort of mechanical miracle that I still don't completely understand. He's a clueless nobody with nothing but good intentions, but he manages to bag the hottest girl around, with very little preamble except, "Amazing sex, you are now my life partner."
Man oh man, Polly Cradle: the love interest. She was so perfect, she became a caricature of herself. How convenient that she falls in love with our reluctant hero when neither one of them does anything the least bit romantic. She is basically around to convince us, the readers, that Joe Spork is in fact turning into a man. I'm not convinced, and Polly telling me it is so does not make it so.
This book will speak to the right person. I, however, just didn't get it.(less)
This was a strange one. I feel like I am exactly the target audience: I was a quiet girl in high school a...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
Actual rating: 3.5
This was a strange one. I feel like I am exactly the target audience: I was a quiet girl in high school and was never without a novel to read, and also kept a diary. This book was made for the 15-year-old me. And yet, it still didn't quite hit the mark it was going for.
It is essentially a love letter to classic science fiction. If you have more knowledge of that genre than I do, I can definitely see getting a lot of enjoyment just out of recognizing all the books Mori mentions. Here's the complete list of every book mentioned in Among Others - it goes on and on! I got a lot of awesome recommendations, as I had only read a mere fraction of all the books paid tribute. Unfortunately, that means my eyes inadvertently glazed over a lot when lists of books were being rattled off. I couldn't help it. They simply didn't mean anything to me besides titles. So to enjoy this book as you are meant to, I feel like you have to be very well versed in some pretty obscure sci-fi. Otherwise a lot of the book will simply pass you by, like it did me.
So if you are like me, and many of the titles were just that - mere titles, with no story that you're aware of. There was still something that came across that said "You are a reader. I am a reader. We have something in common, even if it is only that." No matter what happens in life, no matter where you go, there will always be books. Even if you have no one to talk to them about, someone, somewhere, has read that book and loved it as much as you did. The reader community is one I hold near and dear to my heart, and there is nothing I like more than talking about books to people. Anyone who considers themselves a "reader" can identify with this, and understand some of this book simply because of that fact. Reading sci-fi and fantasy makes me feel so hopeful for the future - and this book set a tone that reminisces on what it was like to remember discovering sci-fi and fantasy for the first time.
The novel is in diary format which I enjoyed, because that seemed very real and made the characters close. I can totally see Mori alternately scribbling down everything that happens in her life, going to class, and spending any free moment reading. Thankfully she is very thorough. Sometimes when books are written as diaries it is easy to fall victim to the "Oh I haven't mentioned this person yet but we met last month and now I'm going to talk about her/him." Everyone important was always acknowledged as they appeared. Unfortunately, that meant that while we got to hear about Mori's mother every once in a while, she was never actually there, and her evil influence was not tangible enough. The climax felt rather dismal because of this.
Overall, the characters were strong but the story was weak, and it was more about the books Mori was reading than the book Among Others. I'm honestly not sure who I would recommend it for, as I feel like I was the exact right person but I still thought it was missing something.
Among Others won the 2012 Nebula Award for best novel and was also nominated for the 2012 Hugo Awards - congratulations Jo!
On an unrelated note, Jo Walton is a blogger for Tor.com, and I HIGHLY recommend her blog. It's awesome; she's a great writer!
Also, I didn't know who Cory Doctorow was upon reading the blurb on the front cover. I have now remedied that. I am ashamed.(less)
First, the cover art is awesome. It caught my eye when I first saw it a few months ago, and after I was finished, it was ob...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
First, the cover art is awesome. It caught my eye when I first saw it a few months ago, and after I was finished, it was obvious the art fit even more perfectly than I had originally thought. I do wish you were able to see the moon a little easier; I had basically completely missed it. But maybe that's just me.
The main character is the old guy casting the bad ass spell. How cool is it that our main hero is well into his 60s when this story picks up? Adoulla Makhslood is still the best at what he does. He's strong, wise, and loaded with a hilariously jaded point of view. I was able to picture him more clearly than any other character in the novel, and he seemed the most real. At first he's just another adventurer who doesn't want to deal with it anymore, but doesn't trust anyone else to get the job done. And in this case, the job is killing boat loads of ghuls. Did I mention how cool it is that the cannon fodder are ghuls? I love that! And it fits so perfectly in the setting.
Indeed, the setting for Throne is the best part about it. It takes place in a fantasy Middle East instead of a fantasy Europe, and that is so refreshing and original. The names of people and places fit perfectly for the environment, but still retain an obviously fantastical slant. The characters constantly intone "God's peace" to one another - which for some may become annoying but I'm coming off of a year long Robert Jordan marathon, and no amount of repetition from another author can bug me at the moment. Instead, I found it completely endearing. It just set the tone so well for Dhamsawaat (where most of the action takes place) and an Arabian fantasy.
If you know Dungeons and Dragons at all, the main character is essentially a "cleric." Every time he casts a spell, he says a little prayer to release the power. I love this! "God is the Oasis in the Desert of the Soul!" "God is the Mercy That Kills Cruelty!" "God is the Hope of the Hopeless!" Much like making "God's peace" the main greeting, instead of, "Good morning," this tells us a lot about not only Adoulla, but also the society he comes from. I was beset upon by a mad desire to immediately go roll up an Arabian cleric.
Of course, I liked the werelioness (yes, I typed that right) bad ass love interest, and the dervish, Raseed bas Raseed (Raseed, only Raseed). They both have a ton of potential story, and I really want to see more of them.
The story is relatively short, for fantasy. That should make it a quick read, but for me, it went a little slow. Why? There are some action scenes, of course. This is a sword and sorcery after all, but it is important to note that, like I said above, the main character is in his 60s. A few of the other characters are nearing retirement age as well. That fact demands the story to move slower. They don't bounce back from a near death situation and fight the next day, like we've just about come to expect from the fantasy genre. So what happens after a battle scene?
They go run errands.
At first, I was miffed. I said, What?! Slowing down in the middle of MY story?! I mind! The dude minds, man! This aggressions will not stand, man!
Once I was done quoting The Big Lebowski inside my own head, I settled down to enjoy the story. And it was very enjoyable. But know going into it that it simply does not have the pace a lot of fantasy does. Instead we explore the capital city Dhamsawaat as seen through the eyes of our intrepid adventurers. We drink tea quietly as people bustle by. We complain about politics and shake our fists ineffectually at the palace. We watch wide eyed as the Falcon Prince pulls an amazing stunt in plain view of the city guard.
Honestly, I can't wait to see where the story goes. The setting and the characters all have a TON of potential. I hope the next one holds up to the expectations its garnered!(less)
Let's talk about hype machines. They're annoying, right? No one likes being inundated with t...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Let's talk about hype machines. They're annoying, right? No one likes being inundated with the same images and catch phrases over and over again. But somehow it works, and hype makes money and wins awards for things that sometimes just don't deserve it. Hype is a fickle beast. Too much of it, and there is so much ground to make up it's almost impossible to reach my expectations. Not enough of it, and I think, "There must be a reason why no one has read this book/seen this movie," and it will have extra ground to make up as well. What a horrible knife edge to walk for all the things I consume! And I know that is not an uncommon occurrence; it's why we can talk about a piece of media as being "underrated" or "overrated."
The Night Circus, unfortunately, falls into the "overrated" category.
I first heard about it from the Goodreads Choice Awards last year and it feels like I haven't stopped seeing it since. Everyone on my friend's list was reading it, it showed up at Costco, and Powell's had it on display right in front of the store screaming "Buy me! Buy me!" I succumbed and was soon flipping pages (well, clicking pages) feverishly as the premise drew me in.
Let me start off with saying that I have issues with second person narration. It is the hardest narration to use, and use seriously, and in this case I really did not like it. I can see that Ms. Morgernstern was trying to show us the wonders of the circus. She wanted us to breathe the smells (caramel and wood smoke) and revel in the sights (black and white), but it only accomplished the exact opposite, by taking me completely out of the story. There are probably only 6 or 7 chapters utilizing this narrative form, but that was 6 or 7 too many. Especially the last chapter; I groaned so hard my cat woke up to glare at me. The imagery is imaginative, but by using the second person, the soul was completely taken out of it. However, the use of third person present for the entire rest of the book did not bug me, as it seems to have bugged many others. I didn't even notice it after a while.
With that said, the first 50 pages inexorably drew me in. By the time I had finished the book, I realized the first 50 pages were the best part. The author had so many good ideas that I soon felt bombarded with them, but none had a satisfactory pay off. I loved the idea of a contest, until the reason for it was revealed. Then it was very slowly made apparent that nothing exciting was going to happen with the contest. A good love story is always nice, but there's not even a reason revealed for that, besides endless repetitions of "I love you." The book was simply too long for how little of interest occurred.
If you have a soft spot for circuses, or went a lot as a child, there might be some enjoyment simply from nostalgia. I don't, and my enjoyment was minimal.(less)