For a book I practically devoured, I really didn't love this. For starters, I have no idea why this is such a massive, worldwide hit. It's mystery doeFor a book I practically devoured, I really didn't love this. For starters, I have no idea why this is such a massive, worldwide hit. It's mystery does very little to set itself apart from any of a million other stories, and its payoff is incredibly weak. The characters, while interesting, just add up to the same problems of a billion other characters in similar stories (alcoholism, bad marriages, inability to have children, etc.). I felt like I was reading an amalgam of every mystery written in the past 10 years.
Also, it barely even lives up to its own premise. We've all ridden trains or buses past or driven or walked by a house and wondered what the lives were like of the people inside. It's incredibly human, and a great setup for the story. But pretty quickly we realize Rachel (the main character), has a mild connection to the people she's daydreaming about, which kind of ruins the mystique of her wondering about the lives of strangers. It just makes her a creep, and hard to really care about.
Pretty much everyone in this book is thoroughly broken. Which, fine, I guess. But I don't think people in general are collectively as broken as every single character is in this book, which makes it very hard to actually connect to anyone. I'd love it if, say, just a couple of people were broken? Instead, everyone is hiding a deep, dark secret that is just waiting to tear their entire world apart. I know I personally don't have a deep, dark secret that is just waiting to tear my world apart, and I don't think many of my friends do, either. Most people go their whole lives without a deep, dark secret tearing their world apart, so the pileup of deep, dark secrets here feels pretty unrealistic.
All that said, this book does read well. I flew through it. Paula Hawkins has a real knack for keeping things moving and nailing the pace of a gradually-unfurling mystery. I was so impressed with just the actual pacing itself that I might even read another of her books, even though I didn't love this one in the end.
Also, one last thing about the ending, so major, major spoilers: (view spoiler)[
Why the hell did Tom suddenly start acting like a Batman villain at the end? This whole book, he's been shown to be nothing but a manipulative, calm, narcissist whose completely capable of making people do what he wants by telling very convincing lies. Then, all of a sudden, when he's accused of killing Rachel without any proof, he goes insane. He all but starts laughing maniacally. He starts yelling at Rachel and telling her how awful she is (something he's never done), and starts saying stuff like "You did this to yourself. Yes, yes. That's it! You're to blame!" He seems like he's steepling his fingers and twirling his mustache instead of calmly and methodically undermining Rachel and Anna the way he has successfully done for YEARS. I hated the way this was written. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What a beautiful novel. I went into this having no idea what I wanted or what this book was even really about. I'd just had it recommended to me withWhat a beautiful novel. I went into this having no idea what I wanted or what this book was even really about. I'd just had it recommended to me with very little setup, and I'm now so glad I read it. At this point, this book is 24 years old and still feels like it bucks every convention of a typical murder story, without ever feeling like that's the sole intention.
I found myself consistently impressed with Tartt's ability to maintain a subtle, haunting tone throughout the entirety of this book. She doesn't create an eerie or gothic atmosphere around the murder, which could be the easy way out, but instead uses the more general, sepia-tinged feeling of memory we all experience as we think back to a time when we weren't a fully-formed person yet. Only in the narrator's case, he also happened to witness a killing.
The Secret History never branches into the melodramatic, which I think is my favorite thing about it. Even at its most climactic, this book maintains a grip on reality and humanity that keeps it from ever feeling like anyone is overreacting or behaving like an idiot or crazy person. The biggest, wildest event in the book ((view spoiler)[a fever-dream bacchanal in which one character kills a stranger by accident (possibly) (hide spoiler)]) occurs offscreen, allowing the reader to question the reality of the event without ever getting hard answers about what really happened.
The one shortcoming I felt at first, which I ultimately decided I didn't care about enough to damage my opinion of the novel (hence the 5 stars), lay in the character development of the group. For a while, we only really get a sense of Richard (the narrator), Bunny (an annoying, fake jerk) and Henry (who is overly calm and shrouded in mystique). The other members of the group, who are arguably just as important, ultimately, just feel like three other undefined people until about halfway through. Part of me thinks this is intentional on Tartt's part, though. The narrator only has a fleeting interest in the other members of the group at first, so it stands to reason he wouldn't have much to reveal about them.
In any case, this eventually falls away and we get a thorough understanding of everyone's relationships to each other, which I believe is where the book really shines. Tartt's exploration of the formation and dissolution and reformation of friendships feels very real to me, even as a person who never murdered anyone (promise). The murder is a huge catalyst, but we all have smaller catalysts for the same things in our own lives. This book made me reminisce pretty heavily about friendships I used to have and people I haven't spoken to in years. Needless to say, it's pretty heartbreaking.
OK, I'm gonna stop now before this turns into therapy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This Vader series just keeps getting better. Kieron Gillen is my choice for clear frontrunner in the new Star Wars comics canon, managing to both sticThis Vader series just keeps getting better. Kieron Gillen is my choice for clear frontrunner in the new Star Wars comics canon, managing to both stick to the mythos of Star Wars and create satisfying new characters and scenarios therein.
In this volume, Vader's plan to track down Luke Skywalker behind the Emperor's back starts to hit some roadblocks. I really love Gillen's ability to keep Vader feeling intimidating while still placing him in relative peril. Also, the Space Sherlock Holmes character Gillen creates to put a wrench in Vader's plans is an incredibly fun read. He's even basically wearing a deerstalker cap.
This relatively short book manages to juggle a lot of different genre work, all within the Star Wars realm. I'd love to see this kind of stuff play out in the movies more. We get a heist, a mystery, an Indiana Jones-style adventurer, murderbots. Finding the Star Wars counterpart to these genres seems to be Gillen's go-to method for this series, and I couldn't be more excited to see what else he has planned.
Pretty big drop-off from the first entry in the new, ongoing Star Wars series from Marvel, but still pretty fun overall. The story in this one feels aPretty big drop-off from the first entry in the new, ongoing Star Wars series from Marvel, but still pretty fun overall. The story in this one feels a lot more forced and coincidence-based than that of the first book (Luke literally falls into a new plot point, for instance), but Jason Aaron has such a knack for nailing the tone of Star Wars that I can't complain too much.
We got a couple of things going on in here. First, Luke journeys to Nar Shadda, the Smuggler's Moon, to see if he can hire someone to sneak him into the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Things get a little out of control and he winds up, well, enslaved as a gladiator (duh). It's action-packed, but ultimately just a diversion from the actual plot of the series (Luke investigating his roots as a Jedi). I am glad they brought back a couple of things from the old Expanded Universe, though (Nar Shadda and Jedi Holocrons).
The much shittier B-story revolves around Han Solo's "wife" showing up, demanding he return to her, and damaging his relationship with Leia in the process. It's INCREDIBLY forced. We know from moment one that Han Solo can't really have a wife (because of, you know, all the movies where he doesn't), and the majority of the conflict stems from Leia just refusing to allow Han to explain himself. We've seen their bond grow over the course of the previous book, so the fact that she would suddenly just decide to storm off and tell him to shut up every time he tries to explain himself is both wrong and infuriating. Eventually, obviously, it turns out that the woman isn't really his wife, she's an old smuggling partner just trying to get some money Han owed her. Why didn't she just say that to begin with? Why pretend to be his wife? This story sucked.
Anyway, there was a lot of blasters and some lightsaber stuff, so the 12-year-old part of me was placated. That's about all I can say about this, though....more
Now THIS is a Star Wars comic. After having just finished Gillen's run on Journey into Mystery and jumping straight into this, I think he may be my neNow THIS is a Star Wars comic. After having just finished Gillen's run on Journey into Mystery and jumping straight into this, I think he may be my new favorite Marvel writer. The other Star Wars stuff so far averages out to being pretty decent, but by the numbers. Not this. Gillen is actually taking some chances and doing some great character work, making the series his own.
This is exactly what Star Wars needs, honestly. Fewer people trying to write fan fiction in George Lucas's voice, and more people bringing their own voice and style to the universe. This is what has made Marvel great for so many years. Mark Waid and Frank Miller can both write incredible runs of Daredevil that both honor the character, and yet feel wildly, incredibly different in overall tone. There's no reason Star Wars can't be the same. It's the only way it'll stay fresh.
As for this book, Gillen truly makes Vader feel like a badass, unstoppable Sith Lord. Maybe moreso than any story ever has. I mean, there are scenes in this that make him seem more formidable than even the original trilogy managed to, simply because the art allows for more intimidating, violent Force use than the originals had the capability to do at the time.
I'll also say this: tying this Vader to the shitty, whiny Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker was a potential bad move, but somehow Gillen even manages to make that work. He skips over the dumbest stuff from that and only flashes back to things that humanize Vader adequately enough to make him seem even more evil. He's not just a rampaging half-robot, the anger and vengeance that flood out of him are real, and that's kind of terrifying.
The only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is because of the very last issue, which seems to be setting the next book up for a potentially silly storyline (Vader versus a bunch of robot people with pretty ridiculous "powers"). I kind of just want to see Vader busting heads for the Empire and scheming behind the Emperor's back, not fighting a knockoff of General Grievous. But, I'm hoping that gets resolved quickly or plays out more interestingly than the final issue here seems to indicate....more
Between this and Kieron Gillen's Vader series, Star Wars is off on the right foot with Marvel. I'm very excited to continue reading both of these seriBetween this and Kieron Gillen's Vader series, Star Wars is off on the right foot with Marvel. I'm very excited to continue reading both of these series. They're some of the first Star Wars comics I've ever read to actually capture the joy, humor and adventure of the original trilogy, rather than getting bogged down in extensive histories and complicated backstories (and trust me, I've read a LOT of Star Wars comics).
This stuff is just FUN TO READ. It doesn't feel like it's teaching you a lesson in Star Wars lore, it feels like you're experiencing it alongside the characters. And sure, it's set between Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, so we know the ultimate outcome, but who cares. Watching the gaps get filled in is a blast, and answers questions I never even knew I had about these movies. I mean, how DID Vader know Luke was his son in Empire, when he seemed to have no inkling of it in the first movie? How did Luke get stronger in the Force without Ben as a teacher? These are questions that didn't need answers, but instead of shoving in nonsense answers (midichlorians), they just explore these ideas in a way that allows for more adventure and character development. This is what Star Wars comics have always needed to be, and I'm so glad they're finally here.
You've sold me, Marvel. I'm into it. Good work....more
This was the first of the new run of Marvel Star Wars series I read, and I have to say it was a pretty dismal start. I really can't believe Mark Waid,This was the first of the new run of Marvel Star Wars series I read, and I have to say it was a pretty dismal start. I really can't believe Mark Waid, the writer behind many of the best runs of comics out there, is behind this boring, poorly-plotted slog of nothing.
The story follows Leia immediately after the destruction of the Death Star, and her pursuit to unite the survivors of Alderaan who were off-world when the planet was destroyed. This could've been a pretty grounded, surprisingly human take on Star Wars lore (which is usually just blasters and lightsabers), but no time is really devoted to the loss of billions of lives. Instead, the Alderaanians in the story just IMMEDIATELY start bickering and getting upset about petty governmental squabbles, who loves Alderaan the most, etc. Imagine if, after 9/11, everyone in America immediately turned on each other and started arguing CONSTANTLY, instead of the mass sense of patriotism and determination that actually occurred.
Now I'm not saying that Star Wars has to include 9/11 allegories and handle complex human emotions and war scenarios, but also you can't really kill off a whole planet worth of people, then focus on those people's struggle to maintain their identity, without hitting a few of those notes. It's a heavy subject to just turn into more blaster shooting and squabbling. I found it to be pretty terrible.
But even if you don't agree with me on that part of it, this is also just very terribly structured. The story jumps around at random, never giving any real weight to any single plot point. There seem to always be 10,000 things going on at any given moment, none of which are given the time they need to actually feel important.
Also, while I love that Waid wrote almost exclusively female characters in this story, I wish he'd taken the extra time to define them beyond "the subordinate one" and "the difficult one" and "the naive one." Most of these characters are so one-dimensional you can't even see them.
So, not a great start for the new Marvel Star Wars stuff. But, spoiler alert, I've already read a couple of the other books, and they're much, much better. So there's hope!...more