Seems I'm starting the New Year on a darker note with The Flame Alphabet. This one took me much longer that I'd expected; I'd been mostly reserving itSeems I'm starting the New Year on a darker note with The Flame Alphabet. This one took me much longer that I'd expected; I'd been mostly reserving it for lunch breaks and waits.
THE STORY: The Flame Alphabet follows a man as he navigates a curious epidemic: children's speech has become toxic to anyone exposed to it. What's interesting about our protagonist is that he is believably selfish in the face of this strange crisis, often abandoning his ailing wife and toxic daughter to save himself. You'll find none of the family-man heroics we've come to expect (especially in disaster films — I'm looking at you Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, and any man who's ever played a father in a disaster film ever).
THE TEXT: Truthfully this story is simple and slowly-paced, and often repeats itself across chapters (the plot seems to stagnate throughout the entire first section of the book because the author is too busy world-building). Marcus's writing does make up for this somewhat: his prose is gorgeous and lyrical. His descriptions are lush and grotesque and imagistic and you have no problem seeing in your mind's eye exactly what is happening in this world in turmoil. I should also add that the writing, although full of flourishes, is still easy to digest. My eyes never got snagged on a phrase.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Flame Alphabet is a beautiful read, but man-oh-man is it bleak. I also don't feel wholly satisfied. With such a compelling world, I wonder why the author chose to only present one man's story, and only thin slices of it. The narrator assumes that the reader has also been living the events of the book and often glosses over events with "Well, of course, you know what happened next", which is interesting, but unsatisfying. I feel like there were greater stories left untold.
I would recommend reading this if you find the premise interesting (because I've yet to come across anything else like it!), and if you don't mind a sort of low-key disaster piece. But read it for the writing more than for the story. If you're looking for something fast-paced and twisty, I suggest looking elsewhere. ...more
Serendipitously enough, I read this while on a business trip in Chicago. It added so much dimension to read a description and look up from the pages tSerendipitously enough, I read this while on a business trip in Chicago. It added so much dimension to read a description and look up from the pages to see those exact landmarks!
Overall this book was just okay to me. The plot and setting were intriguing and well formed, but the dialogue seemed really under developed.
This was the first work that I have read from this author, and I would definitely check out her others. ...more
This book tackles post-zombie apocalypse events from the angle of urban recovery. As a reader, you follow "Mark Spitz"and his crew as they move from bThis book tackles post-zombie apocalypse events from the angle of urban recovery. As a reader, you follow "Mark Spitz"and his crew as they move from building to building, trying to clear out bodies and pick of any remaining undead in hopes that survivors can rebuild society in Zone One (previously Manhattan). It was a quiet, dismal take on zombies that I appreciated after having read so many faster-paced apocalypse survival thrillers.
The writing is beautiful, if depressing. I particularly recommend this read to prose-lovers if only for the description of Broadway street flooded with zombies from every walk of life toward the end of the book.
If you are someone who needs books that provide perfect break-away points (aka chapters), then approach this book with caution. It is divided in to three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), and there are no chapters that divide within these days. There are a few section breaks that allowed for me to tuck my bookmark in and avoid that uncomfortable feeling I get whenever I have to put my book down mid-paragraph, but they were scarce. I had a really hard time letting myself get really absorbed into what I was reading because I knew that my lunch break would end or that my ride to work would arrive before I could get to a suitable stopping point.
This was probably my least favourite of the trilogy.
Maddaddam follows directly after the events of The Year of the Flood and is told primarily from TThis was probably my least favourite of the trilogy.
Maddaddam follows directly after the events of The Year of the Flood and is told primarily from Toby's perspective. The surviving characters are faced with protecting themselves and the Crakers from one threat: two escaped Painballers.
I think there are two reasons why I didn't enjoy this book as much as the previous two installments: One, I really enjoyed the world-building in Oryx and Crake, and that world was fleshed out a bit more in the second book as well. In the third book, there really aren't any gaps left to fill, and so there isn't really anything new that is introduced. Two, the stakes just seemed way too low. Even though Painballers are terrifying in concept, I couldn't bring myself to believe that there was the slightest chance that the good guys would prevail.
Margaret Atwood created such a rich world for this trilogy that I'm really disappointed that it wasn't better used in this book. I feel like there were many potentially more interesting concepts and plotlines that could have been followed instead....more
I really like Walker's voice. I picked this book up based on its premise: a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a dying world. One day, thI really like Walker's voice. I picked this book up based on its premise: a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a dying world. One day, the Earth simply begins to slow in its rotation. People begin to react ... pretty much exactly as you'd expect.
My only complaint is that a lot of the science seemed backwards to me (I consulted my astronomer-friends and the way they described the effects of a slowing Earth did not jibe with Walker's vision); HOWEVER, I was completely willing to suspend my disbelief and be taken into the work. I hope other science-minded people might do the same because it is really an enjoyable read....more
At first I felt guilty giving this read five stars (I'll flat-out admit that I generally reserve five stars to books with the most beautiful prose ...At first I felt guilty giving this read five stars (I'll flat-out admit that I generally reserve five stars to books with the most beautiful prose ... everyone has the potential to be a book snob in his or her own right).
But honestly, I haven't had so much fun in a long time. This book is a fast-paced, playful romp through virtual reality and 1980s pop culture.
And trust me, there is more that a few pop cultural references - they are the book's fuel supply. I followed most of the music and film references pretty well, but I admit references were lost on me when it came to video games...to the point that I began to suspect that some of them were imagined.
They weren't. Joust - an arcade game that involves jousting with an ostrich as your mount - is a real thing. The "gray dot" easter egg in Adventure really exists. I know. I watched playthroughs on Youtube after I finished the book.
The virtual reality that Cline creates is rich, and I suspect that his "reality" would be too, had he given the reader more than a few passing glances. I would have liked to have seen more of his dystopia. Then again, not knowing a lot of what was going on led me to suspect the worst.
The story itself ties together nicely: the twists are just twisty enough that you don't feel jarred when they're uncovered, and also you aren't guessing at them 100 pages in advance. There were a few plot points that I suspected would be left as loose ends (the Pac-Man token and the pile of books that topples over in the Basement), but even though they cut it close to the very end of the book, they were fit in in a satisfying way.
From the prologue you suspect that you know the ending. The narrator tells you that he wins the game that unfolds throughout the course of the book, but that knowledge doesn't detract from the reading experience. Parzival/Wade Watts is so painfully eighteen years old that - despite his obvious talents - you become frustrated with him to the point that you fail to see how he might be the winner that he claims to be.
I recommend this book to any nerdy friend, regardless of nerdery. It's just plain fun. Pure escapist fun....more