This was a very good novel, and very disturbing. The lives of the students of Hailsham seem idyllic, if a little weird. As the book continues through...moreThis was a very good novel, and very disturbing. The lives of the students of Hailsham seem idyllic, if a little weird. As the book continues through a series of flashbacks from the point of view of our main character (I hesitate to call her a heroine, as she doesn't do anything heroic), we are treated to a view of a possible future gone very awry. The students of Hailsham have been raised in this skewed wordview, so indoctrinated in it that they don't even question their role until very late in their lives, and even then their attempts at deferring their inevitable fate are halfhearted at best. This novel showcases the very unAmerican idea of acceptance and making peace with something that these characters cannot change. It is heartbreaking as well, as Kathy is the last of her friends to undergo the process (which I am trying to avoid detailing to avoid spoilers for those who have not read this) and can only mourn her loss while awaiting her turn. (less)
This was a great read, fast paced with interesting characters in a nicely built (if limited) world. This is marketed as "young adult", which presumabl...moreThis was a great read, fast paced with interesting characters in a nicely built (if limited) world. This is marketed as "young adult", which presumably means teenagers, but I think the heaviness of the material might be rather disturbing for some young people. After all, it's about a teenager thrust into the annual Hunger Games - a tournament of kids ages 12-17 in which there is only one survivor. This awful tradition is forced upon the 12 districts of Panem by their totalitarian government, simply called "the Capitol". This is a yearly reminder to the districts of who is in control and the price they pay for rebelling. Given the conditions of most of the districts, where food is scarce and the work conditions harsh, revolt is clearly a worry for the Capitol. Anyway, our heroine Katniss Everdeen, volunteers for the Games after her sister's name is called for the lottery to determine who goes to fight to the death. Following this unselfish act, Katniss proceeds to alternate between altruistic and caring to cold blooded killer, often in the same paragraph. Her counterpart in the Games, Peeta, is a sensitive and caring boy very much in love with Katniss. Not that she notices.
In reading this book (and the sequels) it behooves the reader to remember that Katniss is a 16 to 17 year old girl raised in harsh conditions and used to making tough decisions to keep herself and her family alive. But she's still very immature in some areas and it shows - Collins does a fair job in documenting Katniss' confusion when it comes to her feelings for Peeta and her longtime friend Gale.
Overall, this was a pleasurable read, though if it were aimed at adults I would wish for more background and world development.
A marvelous book, good, fast paced writing that makes the repetitive parts (necessary for a person reliving his life over and over) fun and exciting....moreA marvelous book, good, fast paced writing that makes the repetitive parts (necessary for a person reliving his life over and over) fun and exciting. A classic in the world of what-ifs, the question of what if you knew then what you know now? What decisions would you make differently, and how would that affect the outcome of your life? The book does take more of a left turn after answering these questions for our protagonist a few times, but it works in the context of the novel. A good read. (less)
I'm actually unsure how to classify this book, but sci fi, fantasy, mystery or some combination of all three genres, this is a fantastic read. Engagin...moreI'm actually unsure how to classify this book, but sci fi, fantasy, mystery or some combination of all three genres, this is a fantastic read. Engaging, mind twisting and thought-provoking, The City and The City will immerse you in the world(s) of Beszel and Ul Qoma. It's hard to write about this book as well, partly because it's difficult to summarize the complexity of two culturally distinct yet geographically concurrent cities and themes like "unseeing". But I highly recommend reading this book, China Mieville takes you into a familiar yet unfamiliar world where things you might do everyday may be important skills in this new land. However, don't expect a lot of answers! Yes, the murder mystery is solved, but long before you get that far it becomes an unimportant question and the real questions are much more complex and worrisome. Thoroughly enjoyable. (less)
This was an excellent read. Set up documentary style, this takes us through the outbreak of zombies and the subsequent reactions of people (nations, s...moreThis was an excellent read. Set up documentary style, this takes us through the outbreak of zombies and the subsequent reactions of people (nations, small groups and individuals) to the growing threat. It's interesting the way Brooks points out the inherent flaws in the attitudes of the various world governments and military to this rather unusual threat. Traditional tactics don't work, ignoring it doesn't work, running from it doesn't work. It's the actions of various resourceful and downright lucky individuals and groups that turn the tide against the zombie apocalypse. The writing is fast-paced, the characters are varied and most are well-developed. This is such a great read I will probably read it again. Highly recommended.(less)
There is a reason this book has won several awards and is cited as one of the best sci fi novels of all time. It is brilliant. (Though I had an issue...moreThere is a reason this book has won several awards and is cited as one of the best sci fi novels of all time. It is brilliant. (Though I had an issue with some of the pacing, in reality it should be a 4.5 or 4.75.) Echoes of the Vietnam war show strongly, both in the confusing conscription and training of the soldiers, who just want to survive, and the inability to re-integrate into society once they return to Earth. There are reviews that will compare and contrast this with Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and there are definite points of comparison between the two. Amusingly, my edition had a forward by John Scalzi, in which he tells the story of reading The Forever War for the first time - after writing Old Man's War. Scalzi claims this was a good thing, as he would have made different decisions for his novel if he had. I haven't read Old Man's War as of this review, but will soon.
Some spoilers follow, not many, but you can choose whether to read it.
(view spoiler)[I loved how this novel shows how things change while William Mandella is away at war. Told from Mandella's point of view, we only have access to whatever knowledge he possesses and experiences he shares. The army controls every aspect of his life, from who he has sex with to his thoughts and emotions regarding the enemy. It's a point driven home when the soldiers are sent to their first battle, where questions of "why?" are not only discouraged, they are forgotten as the team struggles to first survive, then live with their actions. Haldeman spends a lot of time on the process of being in the army, the training, the battles, the horror and the boredom. The men and women who find themselves dragged into the war are changed by their experiences, and it is this as much as the time dilation that separates them from the rest of humanity when the survivors return. This is the catalyst for returning to the army - at least it's a familiar life, one that doesn't change all that often.
Returning to Earth is more than just jumping forward in time, Mandella and the others are still struggling to survive, only it is the Earth humans who are the aliens. Or is it the other way 'round? Everyone on Earth has had time to adapt and adjust to the changes, Mandella was dumped into it blind. It is interesting to note some of the"predictions" Haldeman wrote have, to some degree, come true. It is also interesting to see the mentality that infused most of the populace of the early 1970's reflected in some of today's political rhetoric on both sides of the great divide. (i.e. things like anti-socialism and individuality, widespread gun violence and reduced security, increased corporate power and governmental intrusion on personal lives.) Analyzing all of that could be a book in and of itself.
What I found most interesting, however, were the ideas of sex and sexuality that percolate throughout the book. Haldeman handled such things as sexism, promiscuity, homosexuality and just plain human interactions and relationships beautifully. There wasn't too much angst or stupid plotting and mooning, these were adults - young, yes, but adults at war in a dangerous setting. The ideas started out a little weird - randomly assigned bed mates? It is apparently military law that the women are "promiscuous and compliant," which would normally bring out a "Whoa, what? Can we say non-con?" response, but it's implied (though not explicitly stated) that perhaps the same is expected of the men. This stays a part of the military training even once homosexuality becomes the norm and William has to adjust his thinking. As a heterosexual throwback, William is odd man out - the people in his unit even call him the "Old Queer," a hilarious inversion of how the word is used now. He struggles a little, but overall handles it reasonably well - he didn't even gloat when things change again and his underlings find themselves the relics.
What seems to be easy sexism of the sleeping arrangements does not result in women being persecuted for promiscuity, even once they return to Earth, and overall women are treated equally. Sometimes this means equally bad, but still equal - they are expected to perform their duties just as well as the men, there are few special dispensations for women and they are sent to die just the same. There is little jealousy, perhaps because of the partner switching, and for the most part these men and women handle their relationships like adults. Birth control is simple and effective - men get vasectomies, opposite of the usual attitude that contraception is a woman's responsibility. Heavier topics such as disease and rape are not really covered, but one can make the assumptions in this world that disease is easily controlled by the scientifically advanced military and rape would be uncommon to women who are trained to kill people with their bare hands. Also, perhaps just the attitudes portrayed gives way to less rapes being attempted, at least in the army of the future. Earth is another story, part of the one that drives William away and into the far flung future. There is a happy ending, though, so yay. :-) (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This novel is in the same vein as World War Z, but not as good. Perhaps I would have rated it higher had I not read World War Z first, but still proba...moreThis novel is in the same vein as World War Z, but not as good. Perhaps I would have rated it higher had I not read World War Z first, but still probably not as high as WWZ was rated. The plot was sadly predictable and a lot of the characters were stereotypes. Written in a "found footage" type of style, there were times where you know that no matter how good the coverage the robots surveillance there was no way everything was captured in such detail. But I suppose that is the case with most found footage type narrative, be it written or film. There was enough humour and personal narratives to save it from being only "ok".(less)