An ambitious attempt from a fledgling writer who has decided to craft a semi-fictional bildungsroman for one of the philosophical greats from comparatAn ambitious attempt from a fledgling writer who has decided to craft a semi-fictional bildungsroman for one of the philosophical greats from comparatively recent history. This should come as no surprise, as Steinberg’s aim is by no lower in her other works, using Freud and Jung as the focal point of additional fictional biographies. I cannot speak to the historical veracity of the work beyond what Wikipedia can tell me, but any liberties taken are extrapolations based upon what (at the least) internet resources provide, the rest seems sound.
As a writer, Steinberg is one who aspires to profundity, insight, pathos, and all else one wants from a great work. This is apparent in her writing, which is passionate and earnest. Though it does not always hit the mark, at worst it strikes a glancing blow. In the opening pages alone, Steinberg finds a steady grip on irony, as anyone with an understanding of Nietzsche’s theological opinions will immediately identify.
This fictional work does not follow a linear timeline, which is by no means a requirement. It can be an effective method to tell a story, to showcase the development of a character by comparing the past to the present or the present to the future. The reader, like Billy Pilgrim, comes unstuck in time, and finds themselves ricocheting through the pinball machine of Nietzsche’s existence, disappearing into one hole to pop up unexpectedly somewhere else.
If one must find a flaw, it would be an absence of thrift. Steinberg is in no hurry to tell this tale and meticulously sculpts every wrinkle. If you decide to spend time with Steinberg’s Nietzsche, you can expect to be with him for a while. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing....more
Purchased this story to facilitate my children's imagination and teach them it's okay to have one. Probably unnecessary, as the oldest, Graham, has noPurchased this story to facilitate my children's imagination and teach them it's okay to have one. Probably unnecessary, as the oldest, Graham, has no trouble imagining he is a dinosaur or other animal (he watches a lot of Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train).
My imagination, though, is not always as welcome, as evidence of Graham's most common protests: "No, daddy, I am not a drum!" and "No, daddy, I am not a tasty food!"
While I fully enjoy Graham's imagination, which I've seen at work many a time, this book took him somewhat by surprise. The premise, that a mere box could be so much more, seemed to stun him. I've seen him play with boxes before, so his perplexity surprised me in turn, and I wonder if he thought he was the only one in the world with an imagination, as if we're all dullards permanently fixed in reality.
I don't know if this book allowed him to take a step forward with his own imagination, perhaps transforming existing objects into much greater ones, or opened the possibility that other people might share in a vision he had considered exclusive to himself, but either way, I feel the book served a great purpose. As a writer who creates and visits worlds myself, that's very gratifying, and gives me hope that he might someday be willing to join me in them....more
Savage may score some philosophical points with his work, but what he does very well is look into his crystal ball, see the future with perfect claritSavage may score some philosophical points with his work, but what he does very well is look into his crystal ball, see the future with perfect clarity, and spin that vision into a compelling yarn plotted in such a way that you’ll mow through chapter after chapter, unwillingly, waiting for a break in the forward momentum so you can take a breath.
The initial challenge you may run into is that Savage does not ease you into the future. You are expected to know what things are—in context, it isn’t hard to figure out, and you get enough detail to feel your way through the gadgets and gizmos and behaviors and environments. Why shouldn’t you? Why should a character stop to explain the world around them, a world with which they are perfectly familiar? Thankfully, Savage refrains from breaking the fourth wall and allows the reader to figure the world out themselves. Fortunately, while technology has changed and adapted to life in low gravity, people are essentially the same, and that familiarity helps guide you through the unfamiliar landscape of the future.
“Yeah.” John Mendoza glanced at his screen. “Ranchers. 36-kilometer M-type hollowed out and spun up to 0.73 gees. O’Neill-style habitat. They raise grass-fed, quote unquote, beef for the luxury comestibles market. They also sell milk. And methane.”
On an initial read, this paragraph might seem impenetrable. With a minimal amount of effort (and context), you can determine from this densely packed statement, John Mendoza is describing farmers inhabiting an asteroid with less gravity than Earth.
It won’t matter, though, because amidst all the attempts at disorienting technobabble, Savage fails to lose the reader. Despite Magellanic clouds of detail, one never gets lost. The details are too well chosen, too carefully placed to do anything but conjure lucid images and experiences.
Through all of this titillating debris, Savage also includes characters of engrossing complexity negotiating their way through an interesting and engaging plot. And that, not the immaculately articulated vision of the future, is the strength of what is a very good book....more
Dark Matter Tiding is an interesting examination of human nature, a test of what we consider truly crazy behavior, and a rattling of our confident senDark Matter Tiding is an interesting examination of human nature, a test of what we consider truly crazy behavior, and a rattling of our confident sense of how we perceive the world around us. Philip K. Dick might have looked upon this story, and main character Camera Hence, who assesses her reality frequently and with suspicion, favorably.
Dark matter, according to well-regarded scientist Rosita White Feather, bombards the Earth at regular intervals. During these episodes people's grip on reality loosens, making wild assertions about the world around them (e.g., people are lizards in disguise; blurting non sequiturs in normal conversations about people being aliens; claiming to be vampires).
The presence of dark matter makes people a bit neurotic. Strangely, this has a deadening effect on true atrocities, such as the massacre of an entire community as a result of their proximity to an oil pipeline. At the same time it highlights how we, and perhaps a more pointed, and well-deserved jab at the stereotypical big business in seek of profit before all else, deem those things, and people, not immediately useful as altogether useless. That sort of elitist, hoity-toityism is itself a dehumanizing psychological disorder (though the DSM is steadily reducing the volume of “normal” people in the world with its ever expanding codex of symptoms and diagnoses—from 144 pages in the 1950s to almost 1,000 in 2013) in a book where each character tends to have their own, skewed, narcissistic worldview.
Camera is different. Where most manifest the effects of dark matter as paranoid delusion, Hence’s delusions appear as illusions that remind her of misdeeds and perpetuate a sense of guilt for things that she has done or have happened that she did not (and honestly, could not) prevent. But she isn't crazy. Certainly not as crazy as everyone else. Or is she?
After an introduction to our main actors and the state of the world, the book settles into a mystery in which the main character seeks to suss out the cause of her brother’s mysterious behavior. Her brother, Nathan, who is heir to their recently-deceased father’s estate and innately irresponsible, makes an appearance long enough to cast himself as someone as a Happy Loman, a well-liked but incompetent fellow who falls in with the wrong people.
Maree weaves a tale of misleading hearsay for Camera, determined to track down her brother to save her family's ranch, trying to distinguish reality from a network of half truths, delusions, and outright lies, while the reader attempts to determine the veracity of the unreliable narrator's assertions. Interestingly, as other characters become less trustworthy, Camera begins to suspect her own viability.
In the simplest sense, the book is about a woman trying to locate her aloof (and often seedy) brother, retain the ranch ceded to him, and contend with the possibility that dark matter is having the same extreme effects on herself that she believes it is having on others. In a larger sense the book is about determining who you can trust in an environment in which you may well be unable to trust yourself.
This latter sense holds true with the book itself. Knowing what you know, or knowing that what you know may not reflect reality, casts an entirely different light on the conclusion of this Dicksian (Like Philip K. Dick. Not Dickensian. Dickish?) work. Do we interpret this as the resolution we received because it is the natural conclusion to the tale, or is it the resolution we wanted realized by the coercive influence of dark matter, acting upon our fears and intruding upon reality to make us believe it has granted our wishes?
Confronting the terror of seeing a ghastly horned king thirty years ago and the latent fascination with something that frightened me was half the poinConfronting the terror of seeing a ghastly horned king thirty years ago and the latent fascination with something that frightened me was half the point of reading this book. Having seen the Disney adaptation of the Black Cauldron, I lived in mortal fear of the film and the possibility of encountering the screechy-voiced skeletal wizard that was the antagonist.
This guy scared the living Christ out of me as a 7-year old.
This character is an amalgamation of multiple characters in the book, which came as something of a surprise. The encounter I'd expected never occurred, leaving me to go back to the film (still creepy) to overcome that hobgoblin. Fortunately, the terror has worn off, probably as direct consequence of living in a house full of children and a dog dedicated to protecting me from animated monsters from my childhood. In that sense, I was a trifle let down. The majority of the intrigue for me was the overpowering fear of an enemy the protagonists had to overcome.
The book itself proved something of a disappointment. As a child I might have appreciated it more, but as an adult, having read T.H. White and Piers Anthony (hey, his earlier work was comparatively pretty good), the veneer that was this fantasy world always seemed thin and inconsistent when taking itself seriously. At one point the villain has people burned alive; at another point there is an encounter with an important character, the Dwarf King, who turns out to be a childish caricature--I find it discomfiting when an authority figure comes across as meaninglessly goofy.
It's unfortunate that I read Tolkien before this book because the comparisons are obvious and easy, and if the two stood next to one another Alexander's work would seem thin to the point of transparency. Shave off the bulk of the background in LotR, change the ring to a pig, Sauron to Arawn, the Ringwraiths to the Horned King, Gandalf and Aragorn to Gwydion, Frodo and Sam to Hodor Taran, Gollum (a feral creature with off-kilter speech patterns and a penchant for referring to himself in the 3rd person) to Gurgi (a feral creature with off-kilter speech patterns and a penchant for referring to himself in the 3rd person)(view spoiler)[in an astounding bit of anachronistic borrowing, Andy Serkis' Gollum, with the nasal, back-of-the-throat voice, sounds almost identical to the animated Gurgi, so I suppose it has come full circle in that respect (hide spoiler)], and you've more or less got The Book of Three. I don't intend to accuse Alexander of plagiarism, as certain myths often employ similar vehicles, but the similarities are striking.
Ultimately, as is the case with The Phantom Tollbooth, I think I'm the wrong age for this book. But where Juster's manifest puns had something to teach, I didn't see the interactions between the adventurers and those they encountered as anything more profound than a convenient meeting that allowed the main characters to proceed on their mission and the typical fantasy trope of Be Brave and Persistent. I kept waiting for them to mean something significant, but maybe that will occur in the next book, The Black Cauldron.
Granted, there is nothing wrong at all with that particular trope, but there was something in Alexander's narrative voice that sang well below my age group. There are plenty of authors who can write in a way that appeals to a broad range of ages, with a simple style for children yet with an undercurrent of complexity that can appeal to adults. Diana Wynn Jones for one. Any of the writers for any of the Pixar films for another.
Alas, I feel like I'm not giving this book a fair shake, that I'm being too harsh, and that unsettles me. I'll keep this series for my boys and see how they enjoy it in a few years, and if they do (if it can walk the tightrope of entertainment and terror successfully), then I will feel gratified that the book has vindicated itself as a childhood classic.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more