I started the year by reading this, the latest Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel, a Christmas gift from my parents. I always feel before I startI started the year by reading this, the latest Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel, a Christmas gift from my parents. I always feel before I start one of these that there is something objectionable about a white guy from Scotland writing from the point of view of a woman in Botswana, but then I start reading and I fall in love with Mma Ramotswe all over again. She remains one of my favorite fictional people. I would love to sit down and drink a cup of red bush tea with her. So as long as Alexander McCall Smith keeps writing these, I'll keep reading them. ...more
After reading several well-researched biographies marred by clunky prose, it was a pleasure to read this one that has the pace and flow of a novel. IfAfter reading several well-researched biographies marred by clunky prose, it was a pleasure to read this one that has the pace and flow of a novel. If I had more time, I would read more in this sequence, but this was the volume that overlaps the most with the current Hemingway exhibit at the Morgan Library (fall 2015-winter 2016)....more
I enjoyed the setting, the characters, and the plot of this well-written mystery. This could make my five-star list when and if I revisit it. I thinkI enjoyed the setting, the characters, and the plot of this well-written mystery. This could make my five-star list when and if I revisit it. I think it is worth rereading, at any rate. Highly recommended for fans of mystery and/or historical fiction. ...more
Native Tongue explores a dystopic future in which women have lost all legal rights and humanity has colonized the solar system and made contact with mNative Tongue explores a dystopic future in which women have lost all legal rights and humanity has colonized the solar system and made contact with multiple alien species. The main thrust of the book follows the efforts of a group of female linguists to create a language for women that will change their oppressed position in life.
Some interesting concepts here—it isn't surprising that the author, a linguist, has put more thought into the potential challenges of communicating with aliens than most sci-fi authors bother with. For me this is the strongest thread in the book. But I found the men vs women main thread mostly tedious. Yes, the patriarchy is bad. Yes, it could even be worse, as it is on this future Earth. But even in a patriarchal society most fathers feel affection for their daughters, brothers for sisters, etc. And even in the most repressive societies there are examples of families that quietly, perhaps only behind closed doors, value the minds and hearts of the women in their families. Not here. The men are universally awful. If they are not actively sneering and belittling the women around them, they are murdering babies. No exaggeration. I would have appreciated more nuance and less cartoonish thuggery from the male cast of characters.
I also have difficulty with the main premise here: that a language for women would solve the problems with patriarchy. The purpose of language is communication, and severing communication by splitting language into that for men and that for women would only reinforce the mostly artificial, socially constructed divide between the sexes, the divide that leads to problems in the first place. It also reinforces the idea that biological sex is a simple duality that maps perfectly onto constructed gender. This is one way the book had not aged well. We now know things are more complicated than this....more
**spoiler alert** A vividly imagined world, interesting characters, and a compelling plot. This book is excellent. I'm docking a star for multiple chi**spoiler alert** A vividly imagined world, interesting characters, and a compelling plot. This book is excellent. I'm docking a star for multiple children murdered by their own parents, though. One is hard to take, two is extreme....more
This was the last of my Hugo nominee novels to read for the 2015 vote. For the first third of the novel, I thought I'd probably rate it at one, or atThis was the last of my Hugo nominee novels to read for the 2015 vote. For the first third of the novel, I thought I'd probably rate it at one, or at most two stars. I still think it has flaws, at least to my taste:
*I lost track of the number of point of view characters. It's over 20. I admire Anderson's ambition in terms of scope for this story, but I don't need to know every character's backstory, inner thoughts, and eye color. To me much of this should have been a pre-writing exercise, to give the characters depth. I don't need to know every why and wherefore, as long as I have the sense that the author knows.
*Anderson's treatment of gender got up my nose a fair bit. Points for a diverse cast of characters and women who are more than accessories, but it is distressing to me that an author can imagine interstellar travel and intergalactic warfare, telepathic trees and artificial intelligence, but can't manage to create a world (universe) in which women aren't still struggling to balance their careers with their families, and in which grandfathers aren't still encouraging granddaughters to make a bit more of an effort on their appearance for the boys. Gag. And the bit about the male-voiced teaching "compies" (robots with AI) sounding more professorial and less maternal than the female-voiced ones made me want to throw my book at the author's head.
*The dialog is often corny and cringe-worthy.
*The novel repeats itself a fair bit. Maybe the author or the editors were worried that with so. many. characters. we would get lost in the details (and it did take me a few sentences sometimes to reorient to some of the POV characters), but the book gets irritatingly repetitious at times--to me, anyway.
The book's strength is its plot and (in spite of my complaints for how it's handled) the scope of the story. Book jackets throw the word "sprawling" around a lot, but this story really does. While I think it is unnecessary to get into the head of so many of the characters who live in this sprawl, I did appreciate the sprawl itself. I will probably read the rest of the story as more novels come out, but I won't be voting this one the winner.
I don't know what to say about this book, how to rate it, or even what "shelf" to put it on (just now published, but written decades ago, is it 21st cI don't know what to say about this book, how to rate it, or even what "shelf" to put it on (just now published, but written decades ago, is it 21st century or 20th?). I enjoyed it for its relationship to Mockingbird, for how it shows how Lee improved as a writer and how her ideas developed. It is flawed as a novel: too much exposition and impassioned argument, not enough story. The best parts by a mile were the anecdotes about Scout's childhood. I'm so glad Lee's editor saw those diamonds in this rather clunky novel. Also, unlike Mockingbird's stirring and timeless struggle for justice, the political arguments here feel dated and cringe-worthy (Alabama's black population isn't ready to vote yet because they are too uneducated, too child-like, and not yet ready for the responsibility. Gag.) And the climactic confrontation is very strange, in my opinion. I'm not sure what to make of it. I think on the whole I find it unsatisfying....more
Moving between China’s Cultural Revolution, present-day China, and a virtual computer world, this novel investigates the mystery of why modern-day sciMoving between China’s Cultural Revolution, present-day China, and a virtual computer world, this novel investigates the mystery of why modern-day scientists are committing suicide in alarming numbers. Wang Miao, a Chinese physicist, begins to get an idea of why when he starts seeing mysterious visions, specifically an ominous countdown that no one else can see. He turns to Ye Wenjie, the mother of one of the dead physicists, whose own work in science may hold the key to understanding what is happening to him.
I liked what the author did with the classic physics scenario called the “Three Body Problem” that gives the book its name. The so-far unpredictable nature of three large bodies in gravitational range of each other isn’t just an interesting problem posed within the book, it has real-world consequences for the characters here. Although the book explains the problem clearly (eventually), I found it useful to look this up early on as I read. I’m not a physicist, and I was not familiar with it beforehand. This and other science concepts, though, are explained in a way that non-scientists can understand. This novel really puts the science in science fiction, and should be of interest to those who enjoy hard-core sci-fi.
While I enjoyed the hard-core science in this very intelligent novel, it did seem to me that the book focuses on this aspect to the detriment of others, especially plot, but also to some extent, character. It's hard to say what is lost in translation here, but I can't imagine that the balance (or rather, imbalance) between scientific and literary concerns within the novel was distorted by the translator.
Because of its lack of real interest in plot and characters (an aesthetic difference between American and Chinese readers?), I won't be voting this as the Hugo winner, but I am glad this thought-provoking novel made it onto the list after some initial kerfuffle in the nominating stage....more
I read the Dresden novels for fun, though the more recent books are feeling a bit repetitive and tired. As fun as they are (or were) I can't think ofI read the Dresden novels for fun, though the more recent books are feeling a bit repetitive and tired. As fun as they are (or were) I can't think of any justification to nominate this, the fifteenth in the series, as one of the best sci-fi/fantasy novels of the year. Anne Leckie is a feminist, so to balance that out we need super-macho Harry Dresden on the list of nominees? Ugh. Nope nope nope. If this is the best that the so-called "Sad Puppies" has to offer, then they can stop looking for a conspiracy as to why conservative books aren't making the list. It isn't biased judging, it's mediocre writing....more
These were well-written, intriguing stories that seem to center on grief and loss. I am generally more a fan of novels than short stories, but these cThese were well-written, intriguing stories that seem to center on grief and loss. I am generally more a fan of novels than short stories, but these characters were overall so sad, I didn't mind leaving them behind when their stories ended....more