I ran through Four Ways to Forgiveness, even after reading its in-text line about reading books slowly rather than gulping them down like dog food. LeI ran through Four Ways to Forgiveness, even after reading its in-text line about reading books slowly rather than gulping them down like dog food. Le Guin's masterful prose in this book was deliciously simple and easy to digest, and I couldn't eat it fast enough. Excuse my manners.
She explores an uncommon topic that, thankfully, has become more common in scifi recently: women. Real (fictional--ha, ha) women, not exotic fancy space whores, not dangerous "dragon ladies," not even the less harmful but equally "expected" woman-in-name-only-badass-heroines-written-mostly-by-men. Women who exist and are not defined by the men in their lives or absence of men in their lives, but women who--perhaps despite the men in their lives--fully define themselves.
Another less common exploration is the nature of freedom, and Le Guin guides the reader through her views of freedom, which she unfolds through her characters as beyond mere political liberation. Freedom starts with the mind, or with the body, or with the spirit, or with forgiveness or some kind of release from the past.
These four narratives weave tenderness, nostalgia, brutality and strength into a work that seems more like social-science fiction and feels personal and deep. I highly recommend it....more
I enjoyed these tales, sparsely translated but rich with the past. Over 1100 years old—some likely written in the seventh and eighth centuries—they diI enjoyed these tales, sparsely translated but rich with the past. Over 1100 years old—some likely written in the seventh and eighth centuries—they differ much from modern fictional narrative. Plot-driven, with simple characterization and almost always involving an element of fantasy, deities or the supernatural, the tales are a refreshing read. The stories cover everything from wily fox spirits and demon monkeys to spousal abuse and filial piety to failed apotheosis.
"The Governor of the Southern Tributary State" stands out as a strange tale of portents and fugue spiritual selves that David Lynch could only dream of making up. "Story of a Singsong Girl" (that's a euphemistic way of saying courtesan. The tale is also known as "The Tale of Li Wa") is an interesting account of what life was like for young bachelors of standing in the capital and their often tragic relationship with the pleasure quarter....more
I don't usually read poetry, and when I do, I usually receive it lukewarmly. Khayyam's poetry, however re-imagined by its translator, I really loved.I don't usually read poetry, and when I do, I usually receive it lukewarmly. Khayyam's poetry, however re-imagined by its translator, I really loved. The alternation of resigned-to-death and living-for-today quatrains he delivers with an earthy wit. As I said in a comment, it's like Tyrion Lannister wrote poetry....more
Allow that Pages of Pain primarily speaks to young adults, and this book's shortcomings become forgivable. I read this book to experience more of theAllow that Pages of Pain primarily speaks to young adults, and this book's shortcomings become forgivable. I read this book to experience more of the ambiance of the Planescape setting, and I believe the book succeeded in that regard. I wish for a novel with more exposure to Sigil, but what little I received in Pages of Pain checked off some of the bullet points floating in my head.
The story itself is rather straightforward and the characters similarly simple. Troy Denning wrote some mystery into all of them, and they all either grew or refused to grow when plot created philosophical circumstances that challenged their beliefs and their ideas of self. I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed how Denning not only made real through the cast of characters the idea that, at least in Sigil and on the planes, not every evil or chaotic thing takes every opportunity to wreak havoc on others or its enemies. I also liked that the protagonist, the Amnesian Hero, understands this as little as any other clueless player of D&D when first encountering Planescape.
My complaint that finds no reconciliation even when discounting of the YA-nature of the novel, is the breaking of the fourth wall, particularly considering the source: the Lady of Pain, who has never been known to speak. That she narrated was difficult enough for me, but speaking directly to me was too much. I wanted to take a razor to the pages. Thankfully, those episodes are few and far between.
If you're not a fan of Planescape, or even a fan of D&D, I don't know that this novel will hold your interest. But if you are a clueless curious about walking the Planes or a blood curious to learn the dark of the lady's labyrinths, spend the jink and grab this book....more
I haven't played D&D since 2nd edition, and 5th edition seems to carry the best of 2nd edition forward. WotC had simplified combat from 2nd editioI haven't played D&D since 2nd edition, and 5th edition seems to carry the best of 2nd edition forward. WotC had simplified combat from 2nd edition with 3rd, 3.5th and 4th, but from what I've read, the simplification went too far in 4th edition. One common sense change, not having to worry about whether you want to roll high or low because you want to always roll high, makes gameplay much smoother. Advantage and disadvantage rolling also makes more sense, because it means having to fiddle less with creature numbers to make sure they're not too easy or impossible to hit given how powerful they ought to be. Spells do more damage in early levels, but mobs have more hit dice, and the spell levels taper off to be a bit less powerful than I remember of 2nd edition.
The race, class, and background descriptions impressed me. The directions to consider how your character's race, culture, and gender conformity would play into how other characters and NPCs would respond to your character was really progressive and, given that the D&D multiverse is infinitely more diverse than real life, sensible. WotC strengthened skill proficiencies, which to me indicates they advocate roleplay interactions and solutions as much as hack & slash.
I have generated one character and played one session of 5th edition so far, and I like it. The Player's Handbook has re-energized my interest, and that's as good a result as they could hope for....more
I feel more intelligent for having read this book. Catherynne Valente proves herself a gifted storyteller in this novel; weaving together several genrI feel more intelligent for having read this book. Catherynne Valente proves herself a gifted storyteller in this novel; weaving together several genres into a work that makes me ache for more. More that I can't get, because while the following book is obtainable-if-out-of-print, the publisher never released final book in the series. It exists only as a very expensive MP3 CD.
Still, I recommend The Habitation of the Blessed. Its delightfully weird and wonderful world is a joy to be lost in....more
In The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi wrote characters that I couldn't like. I empathized with them at times, pitied them at times, and felt disappointIn The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi wrote characters that I couldn't like. I empathized with them at times, pitied them at times, and felt disappointment and disapproval often. If he aimed to write characters complicated and flawed enough to elicit these reactions, he succeeded, but I never cheered on any character.
Much more interesting to me, he wrote about a humanity that suffered near-apocalyptic change and adapted. The particulars of the adaptation: genetic reworking of plants, animals and people as well as reliance on systems of nonelectric, nonchemical potential engine "batteries" that change everything from transportation to computing and weaponry. Despite some serious omissions (wind, solar, and water--particularly the last two, because his setting of a levee-dependent Bangkok would have plenty of sun and a huge potential water power source), he created a convincing and engrossing system that picked at my brain. While at first the squalor and discomfort facing the denizens of this world seemed bleak, it really is an optimistic vision, because somehow the world, governments, countries, individuals, and systems adapted without entering a new medieval period.
Though, there should have been more war between nations, at least the way I understood the role of the "calorie companies" and the various plagues mentioned in the book. But, I don't feel like that was well explained. ...more
The City & The City has a fun, twisty plot. The characters, aside from protagonist Inspector Borlu, were pretty flat. The two cities concept remaiThe City & The City has a fun, twisty plot. The characters, aside from protagonist Inspector Borlu, were pretty flat. The two cities concept remained interesting throughout the book and never wore out for me....more
It's hard to call something "fluffy" when it treats so seriously with death and mourning. This forms the puzzling doings of Kitchen: a novella that exIt's hard to call something "fluffy" when it treats so seriously with death and mourning. This forms the puzzling doings of Kitchen: a novella that expresses death, grief, mourning, lonliness and aloneness, and loss through casual interior monologue and conversation, with a spartan smattering of sparse, sometimes tritely translated descriptions. Even "novella," that diminutive word, taunts the reader into thinking it's small and trivial.
But, it's not. Yoshimoto Banana expresses these dark emotions and thanatic themes and with a cutting honesty. Her characters carve the experience of loss into something small, delicate and of great sentimental value. I mean to imply all that carving describes: the sharpness of knife, the tool of language, the loss of parts and the gouging and chipping and boring holes. The novella, in this way, shows how grief can produce something beautiful—a jewel box full of memories that help us celebrate the wondrous joy of life, and the appreciation of the beautiful meaning our loved ones bring to our lives, even after they are gone.
But it doesn't let the reader escape the pain of the carving....more
In the spirit of taking a novel for what it is on its own, rather than measure it against another novel, I won't take pains to unfavorably compare ShiIn the spirit of taking a novel for what it is on its own, rather than measure it against another novel, I won't take pains to unfavorably compare Shift to its more enjoyable predecessor, Wool.
The slow pace of Shift exposed a thousand problems with the microcosm of the silos as built by Howey. To wit: mechanics who can fix highly complex machinery but who, against all common sense, never have the creativity to imagine building an elevator; hundreds of men in homosocial environments who somehow fail to form strong social and sexual attachments to one another, in defiance of prison and military realities; IT and engineering folks who never master radio or other broadcast technologies; miners who never think to defy the admonitions against mining sideways because they accept commands at face value; the idea that the cylinders of soil and bedrock of Fulton County, GA beneath the silos being rich with oil, gas and metal supplies enough for a thousand years. And on and on.
Aside from the protagonists, Donald and Jimmy/Solo, the characters feel like faceless movie extras, and it's a wonder Howey bothered to give them names. I found myself skipping over paragraphs in the Fulton County sections in the first third of the book, and then later skipping over paragraphs dealing with Jimmy/Solo.
At the end a big "why" and "what next" is revealed, I felt much of the substance of this felt unlikely and forced, that the characters wouldn't come to those decisions feeling they had good reason to.
I'll head onto the next book with the hope that it's better. Wool showed that Howey is capable of writing interesting, likable characters wound through thoughtfully composed, thrilling plots. ...more
"Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome / Once gave a lecture he entitled 'everything I know' / Taking the title literally, he spoke four y"Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome / Once gave a lecture he entitled 'everything I know' / Taking the title literally, he spoke four years or so / And I intend to do the same / (Pull up a chair, smoke a cigar or something)" --Momus, from "The Penis Song"
The first in a series of books about "Life, the Internet and Everything" according to Star-Trek-star-turned-social-media-sensation George Takei, Oh Myyy! tackles mostly the second item, the Internet. The Internet according to George Takei is a place of fiction and nonfiction, full of "doubters" and "grammar nazis", but whose potential to engage and enrich the lives of its individual participants realizes itself daily through social media. As a septuagenarian, Takei shares his social media experience with wise words and gentle tongue-in-cheek, imparting precious strategems for using social media effectively to giving a humorous survey of Internet content and personalities.
Oh Myyy! is an easy and pleasurable text, made even better by reading it in George Takei's voice in your head. Which, for an "Adventure Time" fan such as myself, means imagining Ricardio narrating the story. Fun!...more