This cyber-punk detective book has an impressive start and builds an imaginative universe. I enjoyed the character, Takeshi Kovacs, an Envoy soldier w...moreThis cyber-punk detective book has an impressive start and builds an imaginative universe. I enjoyed the character, Takeshi Kovacs, an Envoy soldier who is "re-sleeved" into a detective's body to solve the attempted murder of a 300-year old wealthy man. The story derives its essence from the hard-boiled detective novels of yesteryear. Who did it? By the end, I did not care, and simply was looking forward to finishing the book.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book set in Victorian England and centered on the Pilaster family, a banking dynasty. This book explores the world of high f...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book set in Victorian England and centered on the Pilaster family, a banking dynasty. This book explores the world of high finance and the intrigues around a family fortune. Follett is a gifted historical fiction writer, and this novel is a strong standalone novel. I found it engaging but admittedly plodding at times. His characters are well-defined, rich, multi-dimensional, albeit slight modern portrayals, particularly the women. This book is well-worth the read if you admire other Follett books. (less)
Spin is an award-winning Hugo novel by Robert Charles Wilson. I enjoyed the complex storyline, and was fascinated by Wilson's imaginative plot structu...moreSpin is an award-winning Hugo novel by Robert Charles Wilson. I enjoyed the complex storyline, and was fascinated by Wilson's imaginative plot structure. In writing the book, we never get too close to the principal characters, Tyler Dupree, Jason Lawton or Diane Lawton. This distance does not invest the reader too much into the characters as they struggle against a cosmic event. After reading a third of the book, I had my doubts about the book's pace and my own interest, however, the slow unveiling of the story is intentional by the author. In a way, like his character Jason at the end, we need to know the truth why one night the stars disappeared from the sky. I think die-hard sci-fi fans will enjoy this book, however I only enjoyed the second half.(less)
A post-war novel, The Remains of the Day is a first-person narrative of an aging, consummate English butler named Stevens. Stevens, a butler at Darlin...moreA post-war novel, The Remains of the Day is a first-person narrative of an aging, consummate English butler named Stevens. Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall, takes a drive to visit a former housekeeper Mrs. Benn/Miss Kenton. Stevens believes from reading a letter from Mrs. Benn, that she may wish to return to service. Stevens relates their story while he takes a "motoring holiday" cross-country. His life is revealed in a series of flashbacks, including his service under Lord Darlington, an amateur diplomat. Ishiguro does an amazing job capturing the cadence and language of Stevens, giving the novel a sense of vivid realism. This novel is a sad story of human frailty, delusion and missed opportunities. I fully recommend this book.(less)
The Winds of War, a 800-page novel blends several layers of narrative to tell the story of how the United States became involved in the Second World W...moreThe Winds of War, a 800-page novel blends several layers of narrative to tell the story of how the United States became involved in the Second World War, namely from the point of view of two families: the Henrys and the Jastrows. One level of narrative is taken from members of these families, a second level is Wouk's overarching narrative, and a third level is English translations of a former German general's assessment of the strategic points of the War by one of the Henrys.
I'm a fan of the historical fiction, and I never read any of Herman Wouk's books. For most part, I was not interested in the period, mostly World War II. After reading the first 50 pages, I came to the conclusion that Wouk has mastered not only historical fiction, but a fiction writer on the level of a Hemingway or a Bellow.
No historical fiction writer has achieved Herman Wouk's level of writing. The characters are fully fleshed out, the language is dead on for the period, his female characters are rich, nuanced, and real. He ambitiously covers the entire world (United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, Poland, Philippines, Hawaii) with his main character Victor (Pug) Henry, a naval captain looking for his next big command.
I will read "War and Remembrance" his follow-up at some point.
This is a classic novel, and in my opinion, lacks the appreciation that it deserves. Highly readable and enjoyable to boot.(less)
Khaled Hosseini's second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story of the power of love, friendship, and sacrifice between two Muslim women who become...moreKhaled Hosseini's second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story of the power of love, friendship, and sacrifice between two Muslim women who become reluctant wives to a Kabul shoemaker during Soviet-Mujahideen-Taliban rule. The title of the book is loosely derived from a verse written by the renowned 17th century Persian poet Saeb-e-Tabrizi.
Mariam, a bastard daughter of a rich Herati cinema owner, is betrayed by her father into marrying the beastly Rasheed. Rasheed takes Mariam to Kabul where she lives a life of a lowly servant. When Mariam proves to be barren, Rasheed, guilt-ridden by the death of his first son through his own neglect, beats her into submission for failing to produce a son.
Laila, when her family is killed by a bomb, is retrieved by Rasheed in the wreckage of her home. Laila is pregnant by Tariq, her first-love who leaves Kabul with his family weeks earlier. Her unborn child is technically a bastard child. Rasheed tricks Laila in believing that Tariq is dead in order to gain her hand as his second wife. A grief-ridden Laila agrees to the marriage. She produces Tariq's daughter and hides the secret from Rasheed. She also bears a son later. Mariam and Laili, after some conflict, become friends and realize that they share a common enemy: Rasheed.
Hosseini divides this book with two narratives, that of Mariam and of Laila. The first parts of the book presents the lives of these two women separately, and in the middle, each chapter switches between these two female narratives. The book takes some time for it to build up the tension during the first parts, but in the middle pages, the reader plunges into the heart of darkness as two women strive to protect their lives during the patriarchal rule of the Taliban.
Hosseini's first novel The Kite Runner was an amazing first book. I loved every page. This second book is even more audacious, since he brings together the lives to two women. Hosseini captures these women well and I enjoyed reading about their hopes and dreams. I did learn how horrible the conditions are for Afghanis caught in the wars of foreign countries, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union. How this land was used as a Cold War battleground and how the instability encouraged the rise of the Taliban. Hosseini is a gifted writer, and I admire his efforts to tell the story of his homeland. One hopes that he can continue producing more novels of this type. The world is better with his exceptional storytelling.(less)