Bizarre...I don't remember reading this book, yet here it is, marked and starred last year. >_> Maybe that is an indication of the quality of thBizarre...I don't remember reading this book, yet here it is, marked and starred last year. >_> Maybe that is an indication of the quality of the story that you can expect......more
A struggle to read...mainly because at pg.82, I still don't care about any of the characters. The science laboratory setup with actually real scienceA struggle to read...mainly because at pg.82, I still don't care about any of the characters. The science laboratory setup with actually real science details, rather than pseudo-crap a la "Pemberly By the Sea", was nice and different, but not so appealing that it can stand wihtout character investment.
The author also has a baffling habit of changing POV several times throughout a chapter, essentially hopping to every character in the room. I had always heard/thought that if you are going to switch POV, at least wait until a chapter break. The only time I've seen this rule violated was with crappy romance novels. In any case, the author goes through such lengths to reveal the thoughts of every character in each situation, and yet most of it is infodump on back-story or personality analysis and...I don't know. The infodump didn't feel particularly important, or maybe it was enlightening, but I wished it was presented in actually dialogue and actions rather than a block of narration.
Overall, I am underwhelmed, and will not be finishing this book....more
**spoiler alert** I'm a bit divided on how to rate this book. On the one hand, the language, crafting of the story, the observations and the flawed ye**spoiler alert** I'm a bit divided on how to rate this book. On the one hand, the language, crafting of the story, the observations and the flawed yet sympathetic portrayals of the characters, contrasted with the unpleasantness of trying to live in a foreign country make for a very interesting novel. It has the feeling of literature without falling into the put of LEE-terature, that is, bent in half from the weight of self importance and plotlessness.
On the other hand, it touches on all sorts of personal squicks, or at least blemishes my starry-eyed perceptions of China and missionaries, nevermind that I can certainly imagine all of these things being true to the foreigners-in-Asia experience.
The story is about a young Christian volunteer named Vincent who, despite knowing better, gives in to temptation and subsequently falls away from God and flees Taiwan to China in order to pull off a fake marriage scheme for a Taiwanese businessman. Thereafter, Vincent slogs through the dusty, dirty, unpleasant, mean-spirited, closed-off, and/or conniving underbelly of China to find this girl. There is very little good portrayed about China, which can be disheartening to read after awhile.
Vincent's mood reflects his surroundings, and his thoughts are filled with the heaviness of loneliness, general barrenness of of having little purpose or direction, and moments of spitefulness and uncharitable thoughts towards the people he encounters or the bad situations he finds himself in. At the same time, Vincent is still a good guy, who tries hard, is loyal to his friends, is conscientious, and never forgets what he did wrong. His spiteful thoughts are nothing I cannot imagine myself thinking if I were in his situation, and in that sense, he is incredibly resilient for staying in Taiwan/Asia.
The novel ends on a "happy" note, though it's almost hard to tell because the emotions are so muted, controlled, and hesitant. Additionally, Vincent never really does find his way back to God, and I found it incredibly disheartening that the novel ends with him lying to the dying owner of the ministry house Vincent is staying at, who is a firm Christian and who believes that Vincent is still teaching Bible study at the house. The owner thanks Vincent for putting him back in touch with God's grace. Meanwhile, Vincent only has eyes for the girl he has fallen in love with.
On the one hand, I could interpret that God uses even non-believers to give aid and comfort to his believers. You could also say that Vincent sees a little bit of God in the figure of the girl he loves. On the other hand, I feel that, based on all the bad things perpetrated by Christians throughout the book, that the author is instead trying to highlight the irony of a dying Christian finding comfort in Vincent's lies, and suggesting that all of Christianity is full of self-righteousness, sanctimony, hypocrisy and lies. That the only reason Vincent is a better person now is because he no longer tries to claim to be a "Jesus man" in the face of all his indiscretions. And that, I feel, is a very lopsided portrayal that is a more than a bit high-minded itself, as if Christians aren't people and can't make mistakes, as if the Word of God cannot transcend the transgressions of its followers.
But, if you are not phased by those sort of things, and enjoy an excellently-written and somewhat melancholic novel of human drama and white dudes misbehaving in Asia, then this book is for you!...more
Michael Chabon's prose is fabulous but...lately I've been too tired and exhausted to endure the thousands of strands of plot and character that ChabonMichael Chabon's prose is fabulous but...lately I've been too tired and exhausted to endure the thousands of strands of plot and character that Chabon loves to throw out, or the brainpower to really appreciate the work the way it deserves. Chabon has a very distinct and recognizeable style, and while it was amazing when I read The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay, I think I have had more than enough Chabon to last me a long time. ...more
Writing-wise, I might actually give this 4 stars. But in terms of how I felt about the content, I had to drop one star because affairs are a personalWriting-wise, I might actually give this 4 stars. But in terms of how I felt about the content, I had to drop one star because affairs are a personal squik of mine. I guess it's a testiment to the author's writing ability that despite the affair, I wanted to keep reading and hoped that the affair was "justified" after all. But alas, in the end, while one of the parties was justified, the other party certainly wasn't, and the end result was unsurprisingly, not a happy affair (haha). Queue the "jerk" and "you should have known better" head-wagging here.
Nonetheless, the author has a fabulous ability to make romantically-inclined characters interesting and appealing even as they go the wrong way. I only wish more romance novel authors could write the way Tom Perrotta does....more
Well...I went in expecting a crime mystery, and what I got was a not-quite-slice-of-life of various lowlifes in Chinatown, plus random tidbits of theWell...I went in expecting a crime mystery, and what I got was a not-quite-slice-of-life of various lowlifes in Chinatown, plus random tidbits of the detective who is supposedly the focus of this novel...except his story only takes up at most a quarter of the book, and very little of that is investigating.
The other portraits of various gangsters, a bookie, an illegal immigrant hairdresser, etc. are only tangentially related to Detective Jack Yu if at all, and most of the events are not related to any cases he is working on. Jack Yu had the potential to be an interesting character, but with so little time devoted to developing him, he became somewhat bland. All the other characters flickering back and forth on the pages had an equal amount of blandness, not helped by the fact that they were not sympathetic characters.
I did enjoy the Chinatown environment and had fun picking out the Cantonese terms and Chinatown streets that I recognized. There really aren't enough Asian/Cantonese-centric fiction out there. But I would have prefered if there was a strong, over-arching storyline to get involved in....more
Another anthology of short stories and comics. Predictably, it was a mixed bag. The short comics were too short to satisfy, as were the very short ficAnother anthology of short stories and comics. Predictably, it was a mixed bag. The short comics were too short to satisfy, as were the very short fictional/nonfiction? essays at the very end.
The first short story, an excerpt from Nisioisin's xxxHolic novel, was decent enough, though I think the animated episode that derives from it was a bit more effective if only because xxxHolic relies very heavily on the fantastic visuals to convey the atmosphere and supernatural.
The 2nd short story by Kouhei Kadono was awesome-- not distant the way many Japanese fiction is, with fast pacing without forgetting to delve where it needs to. Enjoyable and interesting. The only flaw is that I wish it didn't end. I'll definitely be checking out this author's other works.
The 3rd short story was ridiculous-- trotted out as a gem of "avant-garde", this story was essentially some weirdo monologuing without end his deviant sex dreams. The dreams themselves don't have any plot that I could tell (but I stopped reading halfway through); like real dreams, they make very little sense when spoken (or written) aloud, and get very tedious very fast. Just a lot of splashy, "cutting-edge", messed-up, sexed-up imagery.
The 4th story was boring. Heavy tie-ins with Doraeman, which I never watched, so I can't appreciate the nostalgia that the story was banking on. Takeshi Obata's art is very nice, but ya know...that's not enough.
The 5th story....yeah. >_> I lost interest in that point. It's too bad, I may have finished it if it was placed before the 4th story....more
Oh defense contractors. I feel so secure about the state of our nation's defense industry after reading this. :P
This is very true-to-life (unfortunateOh defense contractors. I feel so secure about the state of our nation's defense industry after reading this. :P
This is very true-to-life (unfortunately)depiction of the defense industry, the workers, and their management while exaggerating things just enough for a little extra humor and horror. The engineers depicted made me appreciate that true geekiness is achieved when it manifests itself in the most random situations. Some stellar scenes were the poop-weighing contest (so so awesomely done) and the miniature-writing contest.
There were a lot of very technical terms and concepts thrown around that may be difficult to understand for non-engineers, but overall, they were explained just enough to get the idea without getting mired in exposition.
The only flaws would be the overly explicit bedroom scenes and the portrayal that male engineers (or any males probably, but in this case, engineers), when they are not beating themselves against the bulwarks of impossible specs, are sex-obsessed and think dirty thoughts with little to no prompting. I like to keep thinking that the many, many male coworkers around me are as nice and pleasant on the inside as they are on the outside, thanks.
Wow...definitely Literature, with the big L. Gorgeously written, lyrical sentences that went on forever, pulling, but so laid back....excess of big woWow...definitely Literature, with the big L. Gorgeously written, lyrical sentences that went on forever, pulling, but so laid back....excess of big words, a couple of made up words, and a bajillion references to people, places, events and things that I stopped caring, but hey, I really didn't need to know them to get the story and the meaning. I made friends with the dictionary even more than when reading Rafael Sabatini, and with the references, I handled it the way anyone does when dropped in an immersive experience in a place you've never been to, in a time far before your time-- I let it go over my head and kept going!
In a way, it had a similar feel to Empire Falls, which makes sense since they are both very much modern literature and both won Pulitzers. But whereas Empire Falls dithered for so long without a point with no character growth or much interesting characters to begin with (hard when the characters are supposed to be the bottom rung of loser), Cavalier and Clay had people reaching for multiple things, trying and succeeding and failing all at the same time, while swimming in the fascinating context of comics and war. When the plot wandered off somewhere, I could latch onto the comics history, and when that got too much, the plot usually came back. But Literature being Literature, I had to take a break from it for awhile before finishing it. ...more
Only read the first chapter, but 22 pages was enough time spent. The plot was non-existent, the characters bland and privileged, and it was pretty obvOnly read the first chapter, but 22 pages was enough time spent. The plot was non-existent, the characters bland and privileged, and it was pretty obvious from the getgo that there was going to be some death or sickness to make the boring girl character lose faith in God. Which, really, wasn't the problem. I've read good books with meandering plotlines about people with no personality, no life, a quiet life, etc. etc. But even charmed, sweet people can be written so that they're *interesting*. If they're interesting, then it doesn't matter if the plot is predictable.
So, this book was pretty mediocre to me, but standard to upper-quality fare for contemporary inspirational fiction....more