This book is so riveting and the story it tells so salacious in its essential details that it almost feels like a "guilty pleasure", a cheap tabloid rThis book is so riveting and the story it tells so salacious in its essential details that it almost feels like a "guilty pleasure", a cheap tabloid read. But then you remember that these are real men murdering and raping real women. And then suddenly it's just depressing as hell and rather difficult to read.
Krakauer's prose is unfailingly thorough, engaging, and credible. I'm becoming a really big fan. His books are always so memorable. I read Into Thin Air as a teenager 20 years ago, and never forgot his name, but for some reason I never read anything else by him until I picked up Eiger Dreams and Into The Wild earlier this year. He is as good as ever.
I'm not sure how so many reviers are seeing this book as biased against Mormons. For instance, Krakauer does a fantastic job of detailing all the oppression and murderous attacks faced by the Mormon community in its initial decades, and makes absolutely no excuses for the attackers. There are several passages in which he mourns the loss of Mormon property and life at the hands of antagonistic non-mormons, and expresses outrage at the fact that these criminals never got punished. He traces the rise of the mainstream LDS church striking a pragmatic rather than judgemental note as he discusses its movement away from plural marriage and absolute racism. I'm not sure how anyone could read this book and come away with the idea that Krakauer indicts all Mormons as a bloodthirsty murderous rape-loving bunch. ...more
LOVED IT. Atwood really blew this one out of the water.
As good as Oryx and Crake was, the POV character was really hard to like (which I thought occaLOVED IT. Atwood really blew this one out of the water.
As good as Oryx and Crake was, the POV character was really hard to like (which I thought occasionally bled over into the author's storytelling as well - see my review on goodreads). It was a weakness in an otherwise great book.
This one, though. WOW. We see the apocalypse from the perspective of the lower classes, the ones who don't live in hyperprivileged corp compounds, who have to scrounge and fight to survive. The heart of the book is the doomsday cult mentiioned onyl in passing in Oryx and Crake, the God's Gardeners, and these guys? They are a work of genius. I've been a staunch and occasionally "militant" atheist since I was old enough to wonder about God (~10 yrs old), but I'd be a God's Gardeners in a heartbeat. Adam One's sermons, the saints (St. Dian Fossey! St Stephen J Gould!) and the feast days, the songs praising every part of the biosphere from worms to predators, the idea of going back to earth in the midst of an apocalypse wrought of humanity's movement in the opposite direction.. All brilliant.
Equally brilliant is the depiction of the lives of women in this new era, how so little has changed sociologically for women while so much has changed technologically. Even the awesome Toby excuses and condones child molesters within their midst saying "At least he only touched the *girls*, not the boys." And yet the threat of sexual assault hangs over all the women, often realized but present even when not. The women are always looking over their shoulders, just as a matter of course, almost unnoticed by the reader.
I wish there was similar mention made of race and racism. But no. Race does not exist anymore, apparently, as a sociological phenomenon. Hard to believe. Atwood dropped the ball here.
More happens in this book than happens in Oryx and Crake. It is not all flashback, and even the flashbacks contain more action and more dialogue. There is humor flowing through this depressing book like a dark underground creek, the kind you're afraid to drink freely from for fear of where it's coming from.
I'm having a hard time getting my thoughts in order, into any sort of coherent flow, but there you have it. This book is good. Read it....more
(This review is spoiler-free until my warning near the middle)
That was... oddly compelling. Much better than I had expected it to be, given what I kne(This review is spoiler-free until my warning near the middle)
That was... oddly compelling. Much better than I had expected it to be, given what I knew of the plot. I'm not a fan of apocalyptic sci fi, and I'm definitely not a fan of apocalyptic sci fi in which nothing happens for long stretches of time. But somehow this one defied expectations and I ended up loving it.
Here's what I liked about this book:
1. The main POV character. Literally the only character in this book who was multidimensional and this actually shows how irredeemably, humanly flawed he is. He's an apathetic, sexist, self-centered manchild made loveable by the grace with which he deals with his new reality.
2. The nature of the apocalypse. Atwood is masterful at scaring the shit out of me because her dyatopias are sickeningly plausible. Maybe an exaggerated bit of paranoia here and some regrettable dated technological references there, sure. But brilliant and horrifying in its overall likelihood.
3. HERE BE SPOILERS HERE BE SPOILERS The stories Snowman makes up for the Crakers. There was just something so creepy and primordial about it. I felt like I glimpsed some very unsettling truths about human nature in the precise stories Snowman tells and the Crakers' reaction to them.
HERE BE MORE SPOILERS
What I didn't like about this book was how awfully sexualy objectified all the women are. Maybe it was deliberate. Maybe that's just Jimmy's/Snowman's way. But regardless it was painful to read. Oryx especially. Augh. Was there even a single stereotype about sex workers NOT crammed into her story? Even in death she is denied the dignity of humanity granted to Crake: her corpse lies demurely face-down, swathed in pretty silks, forever the sexy pixie dream doll. Couldn't have allowed a single fart to escape her perfectly sexy buttocks as she died, could we? It's places like this where I think the line is crossed between character building of Snowman and straight up objectification by the authorial voice.
Those are my thoughts. For now. Can't wait to read the next book.
I listened to this as an audiobook read by Campbell Scott. Scott is one of the good ones. His reading style is bland and unadorned, but despite this he is compelling rather than boring, and honestly, the style just added to the book's atmosphere. ...more
Wonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so exWonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so expertly builds up to.
Half the trouble is that this book seems to want to be a reinterpretation in many ways but it stays frustratingly faithful to the original in all but one subplot that has no impact on either characters or story. It stays true to the original as a faithful retelling even to the extent of remaining conservative in its morals despite starting off wanting to be feminist.
But there was much to love about this book, most especially the relationship depicted between Krishna and Draupadi. Reading this also made me realize how different Draupadi is from the other Pandava wives in all her choices throughout the story. There is a real heroine there, and the book did a great job highlighting this in such a sly, playful way, as glimpsed through the curtains of her all-too-human flaws and obsessions....more
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoilUrsula Monkton: creepiest villain ever, hands down. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler) she ended up not being the main villain. I was so disappointed with that unnecessary turn of events that I took away one star from this amazing book. Why, Gaiman, why!!! She was perfect! Why did she need to be made insignificant in favor of some other villain that wasn't even a tenth as terrifying.
Everything else about the book was seriously brilliant. One of my favorite recent reads. Can't wait till my kids are old enough for me to read this one to them....more
Funny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for tFunny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for the sort of story that, in a lesser writer's hands, would usually make me fling my e-reader across the room. David is a 30-something physics professor traumatized by the recent loss of his wife and daughter in a plane crash. Molly is his 16-yr-old babysitter set on a collision course with a world far less innocent than she imagines.
But this is no seedy romance - the book is much too feminist for that. Right from the beginning, Ms. Hutchison's trademark unflinching realism grounds us solidly in characters closely observed and fully realized, which means, among other things, that any romance or lack thereof is far from a foregone conclusion.
(We are kept in complete suspense about whether they will ever get together. At various points in the book I was either rooting for them to get it on already or convinced that it was hilariously impossible for them to ever do it. Will they, or won't they? The book kept me guessing and ended up surprising me. It's the most original UNromance that I've ever read.)
Both David and Molly come of age in this book, and we end up rooting for both of them because of how real they are to us. Molly, to give one example, is a very mature and emotionally intelligent young woman, but she also keeps reminding us in little ways that she's indubitably a teenager, with sudden fits of deadly sarcasm, spite, cocky judgement, or endearing cluelessness. David's depression, to give another example, never resembles pathos... instead he's exactly like that guy we all know who turned into a zombie for a couple of weeks and then into an asshole for a few weeks more, until he found his way back to semi-normalcy, flailing and floundering in hilarious ways.
The supporting cast SLAYED me. Cassandra, Molly's mother, is one of my favorite characters ever: she's the feminist mother I want to be (well, barring the awful sculptures, I guess) and I could write pages about all the things I love about her. She's the only person around Molly who's fully an adult, and fully respects Molly's autonomy as a young woman. I admired the heck out of her. Her boyfriend Colin is one of the comic highlights of the book. The Thanksgiving scene left me in stitches.
I am a fan of Sandra Hutchison's first novel, The Awful Mess: A Love Story. (It was one of five semi finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards general fiction category.) I used to be in a writer's group with Sandy many years ago, and I've followed her work ever since. She's one of those writers you can always bank on turning out a great read. And with this book I think she establishes herself as not only technically great but a deeply courageous writer, too. It takes guts to write this kind of story and mastery to pull it off so successfully. ...more
If nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding sIf nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding something new to think about each time in that chapter. Friedan does this trick of hitting it out of the ballpark a couple more times in the book... a ho-hum chapter here and then suddenly WHAM. Certainly makes one sit up.
Though some parts of this book are a little dated (its focus on white middle-to-upper-class women, its insistence on devaluing motherhood, its support of Freudian antihomosexuality etc), there are overwhelmingly more parts of it that are still fresh and very relevant today. This is a must read for any feminist and probably an eye-opening read for anybody else. ...more
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining sLoved this one.
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining stylings by someone who knows how to spin me a good story of little consequence. For example:
There are souls...whose umbilicus has never been cut. They ever got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus.
A scientist can pretend that his work isn't himself, it's merely the impersonal truth. An artist can't hide behind the truth. He can't hide anywhere.
Perhaps it's dubious praise coming from me, since I neither read nor understand most books labeled True Literature (tm), but this sure felt like the real deal. The book felt meaty even though it's quite short, especially for this genre.
I found myself lingering over the simplicity and clarity of the writing, which was sometimes almost poetry. For example, the opening lines:
There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
and later in the book -
Gvarab was old enough that she often wandered and maundered. Attendance at her lectures was small and uneven. She soon picked out the thin boy with big ears as her one constant auditor. She began to lecture for him. The light, steady, intelligent eyes met hers, steadied her, woke her, she flashed to brilliance, regained the vision lost. She soared, and the other students in the room looked up confused or startled, even scared if they had the wits to be scared. Gvarab saw a much larger universe than most people were capable of seeing, and it made them blink. The light-eyed boy watched her steadily. In his face she saw her joy. What she offered, what she had offered for a whole lifetime, what no one had ever shared with her, he shared. He was her brother, across the gulf of fifty years, and her redemption.
For the first time ever I want to ANALYSE a book in a very textbooky fashion after I've read it - I'm going off in daydreams pondering questions like (WARNING: MINOR SPOILER) "Why does Shevek reject his mother? Is this significant in terms of the Odonian belief in gender equality?" (END OF MINOR SPOILER) and "Is LeGuin saying an anarchist society can only exist in a desert, not a land of plenty?" When I was at school, they made us ask and answer such questions on whatever we were supposed to read for Lit class, it used to ruin the book for me.
Another first is that even though I obviously loved this book, and found LeGuin very convincing and very impressive, I'm not a convert to Odonism/anarchism. That's a minor miracle, you know. I'm very convertible. Ask anyone. But LeGuin has a faith in the goodness of human nature that I don't share - in her anarchist Anarres it takes seven generations for even a semblance of a power structure to form; I don't think real human beings would "be good" for a seventh as long. Le Guin's argument is that a strong-enough culture of constant revolution is capable of achieving that. Maybe she's right, who knows? I was brough up in the opposite sort of culture, the capitalist one, which so frequently reminds me that man's basic nature is greed/power-seeking that it probably is self-perpetuating. I probably cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have the other half of human nature - goodwill, sociality, pure love of work/play that is its own reward - reinforced a hundred times a day by the world around me...
There I go on another daydream.
Interesting side note: I read this book in half-hour installments because that's how long my commute to work is, and since I have to walk a little to/from the bus stop, I spent about 10 minutes before and after the half hour reading session thinking about what I had read. That really added to my experience of this book. I think it would have been quite different if I had inhaled it whole in three hours on the couch, as is my usual fashion. Hmm... Something to be said there for patience with one's reading material, but of course it's very rare to find a book that deserves it as much as this one does.
(Immediately, Odo admonishes:
"For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think."
But I disagree: discrimination is important and valuable when it comes to ideas. We cannot go through life treating each as if it were exactly as deserving of our time as the next.)
Well, I can never find a good way to end reviews of this sort. I loved it, I think you should read it, it's an awesome book. That is all....more
A near-perfect YA fantasy whose only shortcoming is the forced "witty" dialogue which is bad enough to throw the reader out of the book enough times tA near-perfect YA fantasy whose only shortcoming is the forced "witty" dialogue which is bad enough to throw the reader out of the book enough times to subtract a star. The book's biggest strengths are its complex and very well thought-out relationships between the characters and the powerful, stunning surprise ending. Definitely worth a read.
The American edition has an unfortunate cover indeed, all pouty lipglossy angst-muffin. I like the UK one much better....more