This is (probably) a great book, but it does have one significant barrier for the reader. I don't consider bringing it up to be a spoiler, since it's...moreThis is (probably) a great book, but it does have one significant barrier for the reader. I don't consider bringing it up to be a spoiler, since it's an idea and not a plot point, but if you hate even minor spoilage, you should stop reading NOW.
Time Enough for Love consists of a framing story, set in (our) far future, about the oldest man in the universe, and his reminiscences. The final section merges the two. It's less a solid, streamlined novel than a fixup. Which is fine with me; fixups are my favorite strategy for long-form fiction. The reminiscences (and the last section) are extremely readable, and I (mostly) found them hard to put down. The parts of the book that aren't centered on the main character are often tedious, cringeworthy, or both. (For instance, the leadup to the last section took me many days to get through; by contrast, the last section, which was perhaps 3x as long, was hard for me to put down.) The most famous of the reminiscences is the centerpiece, titled "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter"; it's often referred to among Heinlein fans as "The Dora Story", and Virginia Heinlein wrote that when Robert died, she turned to it for consolation.
The main character would be horrifically unlikeable in real life but, due to Heinlein's considerable skills, comes off as a charming, eccentric old coot rather than one of the hectoring lecturers who inhabit far too many of Heinlein's novels. (Of course, your mileage may vary.) One of the things I like is that he is clearly an unreliable narrator; he claims that some of the stories aren't about him, but about one of his friends, and the stories are larded with inconsistencies with each other and with the real world. (Or "our timeline", anyway.)
Why do I say this is "probably" a great book, and what is the significant barrier? This is a book about incest. Heinlein leads up to it gradually, and in a gingerly fashion, but it becomes more and more central to the story. (If there is a form of heterosexual incest that isn't featured here, I missed it.) I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend who's a bigger Heinlein fan than I am, and he warned me that it was a book he hadn't been able to finish (and he didn't want me complaining later that I hadn't warned him ;-). If it hadn't been for that warning, I might not have been able to finish the book (motivated slightly, perhaps, by my desire to finish a Heinlein book that he hadn't ;-). I therefore extend the same warning to anyone reading this.
I'm a big fan of Ted Chiang's work. While this isn't my favorite, it's an amazing book in terms of ideas; it certainly represents the state of the art...moreI'm a big fan of Ted Chiang's work. While this isn't my favorite, it's an amazing book in terms of ideas; it certainly represents the state of the art, as of 2010, in SF's thinking about artificial life, and perhaps the state of the art outside SF as well; Chiang brought up some wrinkles I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. On the downside, the characters aren't as sharply defined and memorable as in some of his other work.
(Finished 2010-08-23 09:02:56.9 +/- 0.03s. Approximately ;-)(less)
Why I read this book: It looked interesting on the library shelf near Silverfin. The mention of Judge Ooka on the flap made it a must-read.
I'd rate t...moreWhy I read this book: It looked interesting on the library shelf near Silverfin. The mention of Judge Ooka on the flap made it a must-read.
I'd rate this 9 out of 10. Once you get past the setup, which felt longer than it actually was, this is a fast paced and entertaining mystery. The authors do a good job of presenting it from the point of view of a culture that's rather different from ours, in a way that we share the characters' puzzlement at the odd behavior of (e.g.) Westerners.
As a child, I read and loved I. G. Edmonds's The Case of the Marble Monster, a collection of stories about Judge Ooka, so it was very nice to see him here, though we don't get to see him as closely as we do in the Edmonds book, and he's presented somewhat differently. I suspect the Hooblers' rendition is more historically accurate.
This book reminded me of Barry Hughart's Chinoiseries, which is very high praise from me. It's aimed more at children, and isn't as violent as Hughart's books can get—apart from one rather bloody and tragic death.
I see that this is the first book of a series, and the third won the 2005 Edgar for Best YA mystery. I'm definitely going to read more of these.
Why I Read This Book: I'd enjoyed reading Pirate Latitudes and was intrigued to read about this book in the Wikipedia; it was an early novel that Cri...moreWhy I Read This Book: I'd enjoyed reading Pirate Latitudes and was intrigued to read about this book in the Wikipedia; it was an early novel that Crichton wrote under a pseudonym, and it won the Mystery Writers of American 1969 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.
The story is narrated by a Boston pathologist whose obstetrician friend is accused of having committed an illegal abortion that killed a young woman. The fact that the obstetrician performs abortions is something of an open secret at the hospital, but the narrator is convinced his friend is innocent in this particular case, and is being railroaded.
To paraphrase TV series Life on Mars, reading a book about 1968 Boston is "like I've landed on a different planet". Abortion is illegal and angrily denounced among Boston's large Catholic population. Racism is rampant; the obstetrician friend faces some bias because he's Chinese American, and a hate crime (to use the modern terminology) affects the outcome of the story. Further, one character refers to a place as "where the n------ go." (That pretty much made me recoil from the page, but since it's the only occurrence of the N-word [again, to use modern terminology:] that may have been the intent.) There's also a strong undercurrent of casual sexism, and the relations between the sexes seem strange.
On the plus side, the book has tremendous narrative drive (as I expect from Crichton) and the usual amusing footnotes and appendices explaining the slang and culture among doctors in 1968.
Ultimately, I found the book a bit unsatisfying because the solution seemed awfully complicated and a bit contrived, and some of the stereotypes got a bit much. Still, it was hugely entertaining—and awfully hard for me to put down—for most of its length.
I'd rate this 9 out of 10 (!). It's very fast paced and highly entertaining, and I learned lots of amusing things about the life of 17th century Caribbean privateers. I *will* confess to being annoyed by—how shall I put this without spoiling it?—a rather unlikely event that dominates Chapter 33, but the last words spoken in that chapter almost make up for it.
Why I reread this book: I put the EPUB version on my iPad recently, took a look at it ... and found myself hooked, all over again.
This is probably my...moreWhy I reread this book: I put the EPUB version on my iPad recently, took a look at it ... and found myself hooked, all over again.
This is probably my favorite of the Judge Dee mysteries I've read. Like the others, it has pleasant viewpoint characters (the Judge and his "lieutenant" Tao Gan); unlike the others, this has a whiff of horror about it, both in the atmosphere (the setting feels a little like a haunted house, with ghosts and secret passages) and the final revelation, which is a bit unpleasant but certainly unforgettable.
One gripe: I bought this as a Fictionwise Multiformat book; as such, it has rather slipshod formatting and is missing all the illustrations. I'm glad I also own two dead-tree copies.
Why I reread this book: ... I'm not sure. For some reason I was reminded of it; maybe I saw a reference to it on the web?
This isn't great literature,...moreWhy I reread this book: ... I'm not sure. For some reason I was reminded of it; maybe I saw a reference to it on the web?
This isn't great literature, and it seems a bit consciously written (and packaged) to become a bestseller. But I found it compelling reading nonetheless, and I'm absolutely stunned at how many little tidbits I remembered—after all, I only read this once before, and that was thirty-two years ago! Perhaps the golden age of science fiction really is 12 ;-)
On the other hand, there are elements I completely missed before: a couple of romantic threads, and some fairly strong parallels with the real-life events of Apollo 13. Harrison seems to really have done his research: The mission control culture seemed quite accurate (including a flight director who reminded me of Gene Kranz), and there are some nice descriptions of the Space Shuttle—which didn't have its first flight until five years after this book was published.
Speaking of packaging, although the ISBN is the same, the "enormous explosion" front cover art shown on Goodreads is on the back cover of my copy; the painting on my copy's front cover is a striking painting of (I presume) the main spacecraft (though it doesn't exactly match the description in the text—four boosters instead of five). I seem to remember that when I bought the book (I must have been about 13), half the copies had the spacecraft on the front and explosion on the back; the other half had the explosion on the front and the spacecraft on the back. I guess they were trying to appeal to SF fans with the spaceship and bestselling disaster novel fans with the explosion. I picked a copy with the spaceship. ;-)
Yet another delightful Babar book by Jean de Brunhoff. Babar and the elephants only appear in a tiny illustration on the first page; the rest of the b...moreYet another delightful Babar book by Jean de Brunhoff. Babar and the elephants only appear in a tiny illustration on the first page; the rest of the book is taken up by the somewhat fantastical adventures of Zephir, their little monkey friend.
I'm unsure whether I read this one as a child; the story doesn't seem familiar, but a few of the illustrations strike a chord with me.(less)
I'm pretty sure I had this book as a child and read it numerous times. It may be my favorite of the Babar books by the elder de Brunhoff; it's got a l...moreI'm pretty sure I had this book as a child and read it numerous times. It may be my favorite of the Babar books by the elder de Brunhoff; it's got a lively plot, vivid illustrations, and even manages an anti-war message that isn't overbearing.(less)