Awesome. Despite all it's foibles, this is one example of my ideal science fiction book. In fact, I could very well read this over again and pop the r...moreAwesome. Despite all it's foibles, this is one example of my ideal science fiction book. In fact, I could very well read this over again and pop the rating up to 5 stars.
First, a note and a few warnings: Vernor Vinge was a true blue scientist first (computer science and mathematics), and so perhaps some reviewer complaints about the technical detail and less-than-preferred level of characterization can be explained to a certain extent. I for one prefer science and tech over "drama" and found the concepts flushed out in this text conceivable, imaginative and fascinating, though readers who prefer more "drama" and characterization may find this book to be lacking.
The beginning of the book is somewhat vague, and it takes some time to properly understand the universe Vinge has thrust you into. You will find such "cumbersome" names like Wrickrackrum and Jaqueramaphan in the beginning, but definitely hang in there as there is a very good explanation as to why names like that exist. He does a good job of explaining through his characters the Zones (of Thought) and how time and space operate relative to where one is placed in this universe, but the lag between the outset and the expression of that universe can make the context difficult to understand right away. Vinge's explanations of how his characters use technology can be very technical, and if you can't appreciate such details, will serve as tangents that bog down the overall flow of the story. Also, one of the primary alien races, while interesting and unique in the grand scheme of this universe, is described - and behaves - in a very human way. This description of the Tines' behavior gives the reader context for how they operate, and also makes them Less interesting (but not uninteresting) as an alien species though many of their other characteristics more than make up for the lack.
Some will love it, and some will hate it, but ultimately, I found this book to be imaginative and well worth the read. Humans come up both as a subject and a footnote, and in a "space opera" like A Fire In The Deep, that's how it should be! I fell in love with many of the characters such as Pilgrim and "Amdijefri" (SPOILER ALERT: some of them WILL die), appreciated the dynamics of inter-species relations, and now that I've spent time learning about the universe Vinge created, would be totally interested in reading other books that work within the same universal context.
I've always thought that a good science fiction text - especially one that aims to conceive of a universe rather than simply one world or another - admits the fleeting nature of civilizations and all their issues in the face of time. One quote: "Over the last few weeks, some newsgroups have been full of tales of war and battle fleets, of billions dying in the clash of species. To all such - and those living more peaceably around them - we say look out on the universe. It does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is." (less)
I love this series, yet I must say: Ender's Game is good, but Speaker For The Dead is the book that really blew me away. The beginning of EG is kind o...moreI love this series, yet I must say: Ender's Game is good, but Speaker For The Dead is the book that really blew me away. The beginning of EG is kind of "meh," written in a style that I want to chalk up to Ender's character being very young at that phase. The writing later in the book is much better, but Speaker For The Dead was stylistically miles ahead of Ender's Game. It does make sense - I seem to remember that Orson Scott Card technically started writing Speaker For The Dead first, so it follows that SFTD is significantly more indepth.
Because of this, I don't like EG as much as I did the first time I read it (I've read Ender's Game 3 times, and SFTD maybe 6), but I appreciate the text for the personality and legend it brought to Andrew Wiggin and the part it plays in the rest of the series. OSC's detailed explanations of strategies executed in zero g may come off as tedious for some (and I think he goes off in to a bit of physics here and there) but I totally loved it. Will probably read this a thousand times more. (less)
There are a trillion very concise (and very similar) summaries of Murakami's 69 so I'm going to skip all that and simply say This is a Fun, Fun Book T...moreThere are a trillion very concise (and very similar) summaries of Murakami's 69 so I'm going to skip all that and simply say This is a Fun, Fun Book That You Should Read. I was literally on the train laughing out loud as I read this; Ken Yazaki's smartass transparency is both charming and humorous, and I could go for reading a 70 and 71 as well! Ryu Murakami does teenager personality and voice SO well (from my not-a-teenager perspective); one of my favorite characters in Audition so happens to be the teenager (Shige) though the story was more on the horror/murder/crazy person end of things.
While it would be useful for the reader to be a Stones/Beatles/S&G/60's rock fan - or have a really cool friend who can provide you with a fancy schmancy mixed cd - one can completely make do with, say, an internet connection and a Youtube link. I was more familiar with the classical pieces (Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Symphonie Fantastique, etc.) but again, there's plenty of flavor there to make it a good read even if you aren't familiar with all the music/pop culture references.(less)
I definitely feel like this is a made-for-tv book (and clearly it is on tv now). Not a negative comment nec...moreDidn't love it, didn't hate it, thus the 3.
I definitely feel like this is a made-for-tv book (and clearly it is on tv now). Not a negative comment necessarily! Aside from the length of the text, GoT is a relatively light read with straightforward, understandable characters, some of whom you (eventually) want to survive - I did find myself rooting a little bit - and making you feel there is something at stake by killing characters that hold the primary third person narratives (note: one of my favorites does NOT make it... le sigh). The character developments for Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, and even Robb Stark (not a primary, but viewed through Catelyn Stark's narrative) were intriguing enough to move me forward, albeit slowly. And as a lover of strategy storytelling, I found myself very interested in the last couple hundred pages or so after the warring actually got started.
But it took way, way too long to get me there. The "something at stake" mostly happened because I forced myself to read the vast majority of the book over a day or two to make it go faster, and that was after struggling through the first couple of narratives over the course of a month. And I am not a slow reader! If it was maybe 300 pages shorter, I may have been amenable toward a higher rating.
I could have done without the bulk of Bran's perspective altogether, and experienced a very definite WTF moment during that last segment with Daenerys. Actually, there were quite a few WTF moments over the course of the book, and I'm saying this as a lover of science fiction and a fan of fantasy writing. I totally believe some plots are just conceptually better on screen than in the confines of a book; not because they are difficult to conceive of in writing, but because when it happens on tv you think "Well hell, it's tv, of course that would happen." I would apply that idea to this book. Someone who has seen the series will have to let me know how it translates to the big screen, and whether those WTF moments still carry over.
In that case, this book may be better for readers who normally aren't into science fiction or fantasy, and can come to this with fewer expectations than I did (and I didn't have many). Perhaps I will take a peek at #2. I have certainly run into #1s that were not as great as the #2+s, and GRRM is setting the stage in Song of Ice and Fire for an extended series of conflicts, which may be better appreciated in retrospect...(less)
So much to say. You could spend probably two weeks purely on discussion of Mishima's landscape and setting descriptions, let alone the intricacies of...moreSo much to say. You could spend probably two weeks purely on discussion of Mishima's landscape and setting descriptions, let alone the intricacies of his characters.
The plot itself is fairly straightforward: a sailor and a widow who runs a business meet and fall for each other, and the majority of the book is taken up by the woman's son's reaction to the sailor's appearance in his life.
The boys in Noboru's (the son's) gang abide by an understanding that the world is emptiness, and that they must actively install order through their own efforts (keeping in mind these are 13 year olds who later acknowledge that murder before the age of 14 is not punishable by law). To them, fathers are the vilest beings as their actions create limitations on what the boys view as an otherwise limitless existence. Noboru (the son) first views the sailor as a hero, an ideal symbol of manliness journeying out into that grand world of possibility without limitation; and as the sailor settles down for a definable, "limited" existence, the ideal disappears and Noboru strikes out.
These boys are clearly disturbed; but despite all the focus on their warped perspective of society ("objectivity"), this pervading sense of disenchantment with self and society - an element I've found across the Mishima books I've read - has made the biggest impression on me so far and it makes me wonder if I'll ever find a (male) character in Mishima's books who is even remotely satisfied with the hand he's been dealt in life - but considering the life of author, I'm not holding my breath.
Anyway, I am intrigued enough by this book to read through it again at a later date. (less)
I landed on 3 stars but let me tell you: if 3.3, or even 3.5 were options, I would have clicked one of those instead. I want to give it a 4, but the c...moreI landed on 3 stars but let me tell you: if 3.3, or even 3.5 were options, I would have clicked one of those instead. I want to give it a 4, but the conclusion was just such a bummer.
The first book - Hunger Games - was AH-mazing. The second book - Catching Fire - left a little to be desired, but was a great followup to the first. This final one took an interesting turn into the dynamics of the rebellion, which is in and of itself pretty interesting. I appreciated the moments that point out Katniss' huge imperfections as pertains to her "new role" (how believable would it be if she were perfect all the time?) and the clever plot twists - hence the 4 temptation- but it's hard to get around the fact that the first two books spent loads of time building up the tension between Peeta, Katniss and Gale only to spend about 45 seconds tying it up at the end of book three.
And it wasn't just the relationship situation amongst those three that was cut short; it seemed like Collins galloped through the last 1/4th of the book to a "nice" but anticlimactic end. Two of the primary characters just drop off the face of the earth. Perhaps if the relationship bit wasn't such a driving force in the plot I could have tolerated the ending a little better. So disappointing! (less)
But I should note: objectively, March deserves a 4. Personally, I would give March maybe a 3.5 or less.
4 because it is a well-written, emotional, imag...moreBut I should note: objectively, March deserves a 4. Personally, I would give March maybe a 3.5 or less.
4 because it is a well-written, emotional, imaginative piece of historical fiction. Grace Clement, a former slave who appears many times throughout the book usually as a constant source of strength and character, is hands down my favorite in this piece; she's seemingly the most sensible out of the "March" bunch, and by the end of the book is the only person able to practically counter Mr. March's idealistic passions and send him where he needs to go.
3.5 or less because of the above: passionate, emotional characters tend to be impulsive and, more often than not, do/say lots and lots of stupid things that result in bad things happening to everyone. And while those actions are at times impressive and admirable, they are practically foolish and said characters suffer "needlessly" (leaving that up to opinion). Mr. March often throws himself headlong into situations and struggles that are clearly beyond his capacity to secure success, and many of his introspections are spent roiling in emotional guilt over his "failings"; this is a quality that makes him as much a lovable character as a source of constant frustration for me throughout the book.
You could easily make an argument that this one point is a commentary on the nature of war, and there are several moments throughout - one of them generated by Grace herself - where this fact is pointed out: despite the best of intentions, "war is full of misfortune." Bad things happen no matter what. At the same time, given my preference for characters who exist with a healthy sense of skepticism about the world around them, and are far less idealistic than the "inconstant, ruined dreamer" Mr. March, I would have to say a second read is not in my future.
I would also like to note that I have not read Little Women, and have been told that this is a good read for those who enjoyed it. Just not my cup of tea!(less)
Not one of my favorite Murakami books, but very well-written, short and sweet.
The reason why I like Haruki Murakami so much is because he has this way...moreNot one of my favorite Murakami books, but very well-written, short and sweet.
The reason why I like Haruki Murakami so much is because he has this way of (re)shaping the mundane into something I can't get enough of. Of course in this format he doesn't really go in depth, but I think that's kind of the point; we're getting snapshots of the lives of people around the time of the Kobe earthquake in 1995. Some were deeply affected; others not so much. Life goes on after tragedy, for better or worse, for people who had friends/family in Kobe and for those who have simply watched it on tv, or heard it on the radio. Characters who had crappy lives before the earthquake, suffered from insecurity, guilt, or any other number of personal problems continue to experience those things afterward.
I would have liked to have read a little more of that quirky storytelling that he has become so famous for (the short story with the Frog is a prime example), but I think he rounded out the text smoothly with his character descriptions, and I will re-read these short stories over time and find something new about the to enjoy.(less)
I give the plot a solid 4. Aoyama, a widower, uses the false pretext of holding auditions for a film to essentially find himself a suitable partner. Y...moreI give the plot a solid 4. Aoyama, a widower, uses the false pretext of holding auditions for a film to essentially find himself a suitable partner. Yamasaki Asami, a seemingly demure, fascinating woman appears to be Aoyama's dream girl; however, his infatuation with her overpowers the numerous clues into her true nature, and various events reveal her to be a pure bred psycho killer. Thus a classic Ryu Murakami thriller is born. Aoyama's teenage son is my personal favorite, with his witty but honest remarks to his father about the state of circumstances and the part he plays in the Aoyama-Asami situation. Yamasaki Asami herself nearly meets my creeptastic expectations for a RM main character, but I never fully understand or believe what motivates her to become a psychopathic killer. I believe there are a few, translation-related reasons why this is the case.
I fear that much is lost in the Japanese to English translation. I truly wish I could read this in Japanese, as I don't want to falsely blame the translator for the one-dimensional take on this text, but it really is hard to believe RM could come up with such amazing characters and yet compose their personalities and the world in which they live in such a flat manner (thus the 3). There are a few phrases/descriptions scattered throughout the book that I believe allow a peek into Ryu Murakami's literary style, but not enough to make the opening of most of his books very enticing. This leaves the onus entirely on the plot to drive the suspense, which, I will note, ALWAYS happens. Ryu's main characters are fascinating creatures that are so dark and gritty its difficult to not continue on once you start cracking open the shell of creepy.
Warning: I don't quite remember the ending of In The Miso Soup (which I remember enjoying immensely), but Audition carries on the tradition of Murakami's rather abrupt endings. And by abrupt I mean the book ends mere metaphorical seconds after the "climax," and I haven't yet decided whether I love or hate this method of closure. At least by now I expect it and incorporate it into my feelings about the book as a whole.(less)
Reading this book was a grueling process. The first 30 pages or so were pretty interesting as intro to the protagonist...moreMore accurately 3.5, 3.65 or so.
Reading this book was a grueling process. The first 30 pages or so were pretty interesting as intro to the protagonist - typical quirky beginnings - while the middle 200 pages were largely like watching mold grow on bread.
The main character's conversations with the executive who sends him on the "wild sheep chase" and his girlfriend (also unnamed, which is appropriate) are both fun and fascinating. I love when Murakami allows a character to dig, at length, into an obscure subject that may or may not directly advance the plot. It's a fun, appreciated quirk that I look for in all his books.
BUT, with a character as obstinate and unwilling to move forward as the one in this text, I found the progression slow and almost unbearable. The whole story is definitely more literary than most of the others I've read; and this will sound funny, but despite the premise of the whole sheep situation, I found it very down to earth, very... normal in way, less fantastical than I would have expected from HM.
Thank goodness the end is so amazing. It makes dragging through the middle of the book entirely worth it. If not for the last 30 pages in addition to the quirky items I liked, I would have put it at a solid 3 or less. In fact, the last portion helps you appreciate the snail's pace build up of the first 240 pages and serves as an excellent jumping off point to #4 (Dance Dance Dance), where the main character's development really takes off.
So read this one with the understanding that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! (less)
First, a disclaimer: Dance Dance Dance is a follow-up to A Wild Sheep Chase, which was so slow I felt like I'd visibly aged by the time I got to the e...moreFirst, a disclaimer: Dance Dance Dance is a follow-up to A Wild Sheep Chase, which was so slow I felt like I'd visibly aged by the time I got to the end. In respect to plot advancement speed, DDD is no different.
However, the carry off is a little more complex; rather than being in HM's regular idiosyncratic and fantastical style, DDD was more mystery/intrigue, and more direct and continuous personal/social commentary than I'm accustomed to seeing in his books. I wouldn't be surprised if he originally wrote WSC and DDD as a whole text, and separated them due to the darker slant in the second half.
You can go without reading A Wild Sheep Chase before Dance Dance Dance, but I wouldn't advise it; I was more inclined to bear with the minute-by-minute grind of the main character's life precisely because of what happened near the close of the first book. So critical!
To be honest, I originally disliked the main character - whose name is not revealed between the two texts - and for 90% of WSC, remained uninterested in any and everything he did without his somewhat supernatural girlfriend. In following it up with Dance Dance Dance, I immediately got a sense of the his growth from one to the other; the final events of the first make a clear and understandable change in the way he behaves, thus the darker tone of the follow-up. So as I understood his behavior better I liked him more, especially throughout his conversations with the thirteen year old girl (Yuki), one of the few characters as obstinate as he is.
So would I recommend this book? Definitely! It requires more patience than many of HM's other books, but across the board it is still good writing and good storytelling. It also offers insight into Murakami's literary progression over the years so definitely give Dance Dance Dance (and A Wild Sheep Chase) a go.(less)