Well what can I say about The Lord of the Rings that hasn't already been written?
This was a tremendous book; a real experience. It's been said that thWell what can I say about The Lord of the Rings that hasn't already been written?
This was a tremendous book; a real experience. It's been said that the world is divided into those that have read The Lord of the Rings and those that haven't.
I'm not sure what it means now that I've read the books, but I think if I were to ever meet someone in a pub who had also read them, I can imagine a subtle nod of understanding passing between us. A silent sharing, so to speak, of just how bloody difficult is to read these books! How incredibly dry they are. How we both waded through the most boring descriptions of the places throughout Middle Earth and the peoples who populate it and made it through!
But that aside, the struggle through these books was well worth it. Between the dryness are some wonderfully fleshed out characters and immersive history.
I sometimes thought that Middle Earth was real and that Tolkien had been there, like the kids in Narnia. It felt like he knew the place, studied it, and lived in it with these magnificent creatures. Their customs and even languages are captured by Tolkien and one can't help but think, how did he do it if not immerse himself in these cultures as if he were there? This brings a sense of realism not found in other fantasy books and the reason why all Fantasy writers look upon these books as the Holy Grail.
I recommend everyone read these books; fight through the dryness and boredom to find one of the greatest stories ever written, then give me a nod when we next meet. I'll understand. I get it. Seriously....more
My wife has been trying to get me to read "Stranger in a Strange Land" for years. It was always her favourite book. When we met, she told me about thiMy wife has been trying to get me to read "Stranger in a Strange Land" for years. It was always her favourite book. When we met, she told me about this great book about an alien from Mars who comes down to earth and ends up becoming like Jesus. It sounded interesting. I asked her the book's name; she didn't know. But, after a bit of Googling I managed to track it down, bought two copies, one for me and one for her, and handed it to her as a surprise gift. Immediately, she opened the first page, and began reading, very excited that I'd been able to track it down.
Mine went on the bookshelf, and sat there for a number of years gathering dust until I picked it up a couple of months ago to read.
So, what's it about? Well, it's about an alien from Mars who comes down to earth and ends up becoming like Jesus. There.
No, it's so much more than that. In fact, I'd go so far to say it's less an allegory of Christianity than it is one of Buddism.
Our main character is Michael Valentine Smith, a human born on Mars to human parents who were on a research envoy to the red planet. At no point in time do we see Mars, or the martian's, but they do exist and are explained as beings out of time who essentially live forever and can "discorporate" and become a spirit. These beings are considered the Elders of the Martians whilst those remaining in corporeal form are merely the fledglings or the infants. Throughout time, the Martians have also managed to gain certain abilities that have been taught to Michael Valentine Smith. Some of these are:
* The ability to move objects with his mind * The ability to effectively shut down his body and mind and leave his physical body * The ability to make objects/people disappear into a kind of fourth dimension
His perceptions on reality are very much buddhist in nature, particularly upon his arrival on Earth - a place he has never been before. Mindfulness is a key tenet throughout the book, called "groking". Upon Michael's arrival he struggles to "grok" things and spends a lot of the book coming to understand humans, our customs, and the world in a way that only mindfulness can do. Even sinking into a meditative state to leave his pysical body is very much like mindfulness meditation (with the exception of stopping the heart from beating and lungs pumping). There's a great scene in the book where he dives into a pool to hide, curls up into a feotal position, shuts down his body and leaves it behind to save his friends.
The book is also political in nature as certain people want to use him for their own benefit.
Religion plays a big part of the book, as Michael becomes interested in the subject. He investigates a number of religions and discovers all are lacking or incorrect in certain ways. So, he decides to create his own religion and teach his followers what he has learned from the martians.
I won't say what happens at the end of the book, but I strongly recommend reading a copy; don't let it sit on your bookshelf.
"The Hunt for Red October" has been on my bookshelf for about five years (I bought it for $1.99 on sale). I'd often looked at it longingly, with a pla"The Hunt for Red October" has been on my bookshelf for about five years (I bought it for $1.99 on sale). I'd often looked at it longingly, with a plan to read it as soon as I'd finished reading my current book. But, for some reason, it continued to be put aside for something else.
I loved each of the Jack Ryan movies; even the most recent one with Chris Pine was pretty good. If you haven't seen them, I recommend you check them out.
Anyone who has seen a Jack Ryan movie should know what to expect from this story. Unparalleled action, intrigue, and some nice twists and turns. I would define "The Hunt for Red October" as an intelligent thriller that is highly technical in nature.
The general story itself is pretty straightforward:
A highly accomplished Submarine Captain has been given their most sophisticated sub to test. Not only is it large, driven by a nuclear reactor and capable to single handledly destroying the United States, it also has a near silent "catapillar" drive to make them invisible to enemy ships. The problem is, Captain Ramius, has no intention of just testing the submarine; he (and many of his crew) plan to defect to America.
But, when the Russians find out what Ramius is doing they send their entire fleet of subs and ships to try and catch him before he can make it to the US.
To the Americans, seeing their enemy's fleet suddenly turn and head towards the US shores leads them to believe the Russians are about to attack. Argh! Scary!
Only one person, Jack Ryan - an analyst for the CIA - believes otherwise - and correctly. So, he's given a short amount of time to prove the Red October and her crew are defecting, rather than attacking.
But, having the US and Russians in close proximity is very dangerous, and both political sides are essentially in the dark as to what's happening underwater.
As a result, it's up to Ryan to find the Red October - which is diffult given their silent drive - and then find a way to contact them to confirm their plans - which is difficult given the sub is underwater.
In between the core story, a reader has to deal with technical jargon, the likes of which I've never come across.
Here's an example (there are many!):
"The reactor coolant pumps went to fast speed. An increased amount of hot, pressurised water entered the exchanger, where its heat was transferred to the stream on the outside loop. When the coolant returned to the reactor it was cooler than it had been and therefore denser. Being denser, it trapped more neutrons in the reactor pile, increasing the ferocity of the fission reaction and giving off yet more power. Farther aft, saturated steam in the "outside" or nonradioactive loop of the heat exchange system emerged through clusters of control valves to strike the blades of the high-pressure turbine."
Blah, blah, blah blah blah.
Sorry, but, BORING!!!
The underlying story of "The Hunt for Red October" is great, but unfortunately it's bogged down by technical blurb like this (and some a lot more technical).
Personally, as a reader, this type of writing takes away from the story. And, as a writer, it's something I was very attentive to. When jargon like this takes place in the middle of a scene it becomes more than simple padding, it's just becomes annoying, and confusing.
Tom Clancy's has many loyal fans because of the highly technical nature of his books, but for me it just detracted from the story.
Overall, I gave this book three stars out of five, because of the story and characterisation and whilst I greatly respect Tom Clancy's technical knowledge, knowing all the details just detracted from the book, and as a result I won't be picking up another Clancy book....more
OK, here's my long awaited review of Anne Rice's latest book, "Prince Lestat". Before reading "Prince Lestat" I read all the other books in the vampirOK, here's my long awaited review of Anne Rice's latest book, "Prince Lestat". Before reading "Prince Lestat" I read all the other books in the vampire chronicles (well, the first five - the main ones).
To say I was excited about this book would be a massive understatement. I'm a huge fan of Anne Rice's work, though it is patchy in places (see my review for Tale of the Body Thief as an example).
I think the first, second, and third books are the best in the series. Unfortunately "Prince Lestat" is one of the worst (if not the worst).
I remember reading a story about Anne mentioning that all the familiar characters we came to love from previous books would be in "Prince Lestat", which in truth they are, however they play only bit parts, and walk-ons.
Amel is barely present, Jessie, the newest and perhaps strongest of the vampires, takes up maybe five pages or so. Maharet and Mekare, though in the novel to a greater degree are not the characters we came to love in the previous novels. In fact, I'd say all of the characters we felt we knew well are now completely changed, perhaps by time, or more likely Anne's inability to reconnect with them after such a long time.
Perhaps, not having felt the love from their creator, all those characters so beloved by her readers simply turned their back on her? And in doing that, she was left only one other option, to create more characters! And, there are many of them. Too many. Way, too many. So many I can only remember a few. And none of them hold the same fascination as the characters introduced in the previous novels.
Even Lestat "feels" different. He doesn't act like Lestat would. It's like he's grown up. The Brat Prince is truly dead and we're left with a boring adult version of a character who has lost his pizzaz and attitude. There are scenes in this book where I couldn't help but think, Lestat would never do that!
This is not Anne Rice's Tour de Force, this is her "Phantom Menace". Such a shame too as she had created so many wonderful characters who could have been used to much greater effect.
Marius played a bit part and should have been much more prominent. Same with Louis, Armand, Daniel, Jesse, David, and the rest.
So, if you're looking for your Vampire Chronicles "Fix", if you want to connect with well defined, flawed and interesting characters then read the first four books, and the associated novellas, but if you're looking to start from scratch with totally new characters (the number of which could rival War and Peace) then read "Prince Lestat". Ironically, you won't need to read the first four books as those characters are merely glossed over in this book, and there is ample explanation of what happened previously to get you up to speed.
I'll be reading the next book, for sure. But my expectations will be greatly lowered.
Suffice to say, as a writer, I learned a lot from this book. It's just unfortunate I learned what not to do. :-(...more