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
For a book that starts off so great it sure went WAY downhill by the end. Let's talk about the good. I loved the first half. It was incredibly rivetinFor a book that starts off so great it sure went WAY downhill by the end. Let's talk about the good. I loved the first half. It was incredibly riveting to see this dysfunctional couple try to negotiate a dead marriage. Both seemed unreliable and flawed right off the bat, and both seemed oblivious to their own faults. That was a fantastic setup.
Let's just get this out of the way: I LOVE female villains. I write them. I desperately want more of them. My life's ambition is to see all kinds of iconic female villains - Darthina Vaders and Jabbie The Huts and Voldemortas and Hannie Lecters and Jackie Torrances and female T-1000s and female clones and female demons and female robots and female vampires, all terrorizing helpless males and females alike - before I die.
But THIS female villain? She isn't subversive. She isn't an example of diversity in the roles female characters are allowed to play. She is the opposite: the cliche and the archetypal murderous female psycho bitch whose rage against her man is ignited when he spurns her love. This archetype is so old, so very old: "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" .... plus "bitches be crazy".
This scorned woman, like all of them, has turned men into an obsession that literally consumes her life. How is that subversive?
This woman's methods of revenge are not blowing shit up or arranging a quiet hit during her daughter's baptism or painting someone's body over with gold paint or telekinetically raining Armageddon down on people. No. Her methods are: lie about being raped. Lie about being a domestic violence victim. Lie about being pregnant. Lie about who she is in order to get a man. Spermjack him and trap him with a pregnancy. What is subversive about that?!
This woman's reason for seeking revenge is her husband's infidelity. What is subversive about that?!
Okay. So there is that. Misogyny = automatic loss of two stars in my book.
Now to the other things. I did not find many of the characters' motives and actions believable. I don't know why Nick does not leave Amy, even in the beginning, let alone the very end. I don't know why nobody checks into all the credit card transactions to figure out who bought that stuff. I don't know why Nick wants a baby with this woman so badly, even when he knows what she is. It's hard to understand. Most of all, I don't know why this smart, beautiful, deadly ambitious woman wants to stay with Nick in Missouri and be a stay-at-home-mom. One star off for that. I'd take off more if the first half wasn't so good....more
Boring generational saga told from the perspective of a pointlessly omniscient and ridiculously self-important narrator whose salacious telling of theBoring generational saga told from the perspective of a pointlessly omniscient and ridiculously self-important narrator whose salacious telling of the story is a slap in the face of actual intersex people.
When will straight cis white men stop hurting everyone else by laying claim to and then mangling everyone else's stories? Eugenides seem to think, like so many vanilla straight cis white men do, that writing sleazily about the exotic/demonised Other is a good way to get awards - and hey, he was right!
Boy, this book made me mad.
Two stars because it was, after all, well written. Grrrr. ...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
This book did not work for me. It is a satire, clearly, from the tone and the content, but a satire of what? Of gurus and swamis and their devotees? OThis book did not work for me. It is a satire, clearly, from the tone and the content, but a satire of what? Of gurus and swamis and their devotees? Okay, but then it is too shallow a satire of that, enough material in there to fit into a short story, just barely. A novel needs more development. A novel should not be capable of being summarised completely in one sentence: a man takes up residence in a tree and dispenses made-up homilies and metaphors that devotees receive as wisdom.
Is it a satire of chefs with wild imaginations and even wilder tastes? Of young love? Of monkeys in urban India? I don't get it. I just don't get it. ...more
Didn't finish, too boring. I have a great deal of patience, but the combination of (a) a ridiculously hubristic thesis and (b) meandering style ... maDidn't finish, too boring. I have a great deal of patience, but the combination of (a) a ridiculously hubristic thesis and (b) meandering style ... made me give up. I read more than half this book. I kept waiting to see any inkling of a justification for the author's bold claim that his is the One And Only Grand Unified Theory of why humans are the where we are today. Nope! All he has is a theory that guns, germs, and steel partically explain human conquests and borders.
His research is interesting enough to be almost worth a read in its own right, but again, the meandering style makes even the most interesting bits yawn-worthy. ...more
I liked the original article very much. But this book is boring, far too little material spread out over a big book, as is so often the case with artiI liked the original article very much. But this book is boring, far too little material spread out over a big book, as is so often the case with articles that get turned into books. I was also listening to this as an audio book and the person who was reading had an extremely monotonous, dense style....more
Such an interesting experience to read a book that's completely not my cup of coffee but written by one of my favorite writers. I fell in love over anSuch an interesting experience to read a book that's completely not my cup of coffee but written by one of my favorite writers. I fell in love over and over again with a turn of a phrase here, a joke there, a character here (Croup and Vandemar, ahhhhh, delicious!), an insight there (Gaiman's thoughts on waiting). And inbetween, while plot was happening, I was... kind of bored out of my skull. The monomyth delivered so straight, and especially, wrapped in a fantasy package, doesn't much appeal to me. But I'm not sorry I read this, and I would easily recommend it to fans of the genre....more
Fluffy, compulsive reading. It's all empty calories, of course: Bridget Jones falls in love all over again with a conveniently perfect guy, after haviFluffy, compulsive reading. It's all empty calories, of course: Bridget Jones falls in love all over again with a conveniently perfect guy, after having lots of awesome sex with a conveniently perfect younger guy. It's very silly and much fun. What's life without a little cotton candy?...more
Well written and interesting, but I think there is something fundamentally changed about my tastes these days: I have so little patience for sweepingWell written and interesting, but I think there is something fundamentally changed about my tastes these days: I have so little patience for sweeping dynastic sagas populated by a hundred casually examined strange characters who all invariably keep deadly secrets. You know the kind of book I'm talking about. To me it feels clichéd even when the characters and settings are as interesting as the ones in this book.
So, all apologies to Mr Verghese, but I couldn't finish this book. I simply got distracted by other titles in my reading list that looked like (and were!) so much more fun. (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions, Matt Taibbi's The Divide, Carol Shields's Unless, Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the end of the lane, etc.)...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