Worst Rapp yet. Sloppily plotted, meandering mess. I could tolerate the right-wing rant tangents in the previous Rapp novels because they were sort ofWorst Rapp yet. Sloppily plotted, meandering mess. I could tolerate the right-wing rant tangents in the previous Rapp novels because they were sort of in the background, while the story was key. But in this one is total propaganda - culminating in the RIDICULOUSLY silly hearing in the Senate in which Mitch tries to point out a senator's "hypocrisy" for not letting him do whatever the fk he wants to "save lives," while she supports partial-birth abortion. The fallacies here are numerous. Just a terrible book. ...more
For some reason, Dutch writer Herman Koch's novel, The Dinner, is being hailed as the European Gone Girl. It's a sad, misleading piece of marketing. YFor some reason, Dutch writer Herman Koch's novel, The Dinner, is being hailed as the European Gone Girl. It's a sad, misleading piece of marketing. Yes, the characters are depraved — but this has novel has none of the craft, fun, or inventiveness that made Gone Girl so awesome.
Indeed, the best way I can describe The Dinner is as a 300-page troll. The characters are despicable —so much so, it's almost as if Koch wrote this entirely to piss off his readers. He spends 300 pages just pressing your buttons at every turn, and he clearly knows he's doing it. His characters spout political nonsense and literally hit each other with frying pans, seemingly for the sole reason of making sure the reader will despise them. And that's all before "the decision," which is the whole point of the novel. But I don't want to spoil the ending, if for some reason, you decide to subject yourself to this steaming pile, as well.
The story is this: In Holland, two couples (the two men are brothers) meet at a fancy restaurant for dinner. We soon learn that their sons (cousins, obviously) have engaged in some sort of very bad behavior — though it's not until after page 100 that we find out what, exactly, they've done. So for the first third of the novel, we get to see them sitting and having appetizers and stuff. Snooze. On the plus side, I learned what an aperitif is.
The rest of the novel is dedicated to backstory about our narrator Paul. His brother (and dinnermate) Serge is the leading candidate to be the new prime minister of Holland, and so the decision will have ramifications beyond their little depraved family. But so the whole point is, what the heck are they going to do about the very bad thing their sons engaged in?
So, yes, The Dinner is a total dud — and not just a dud, a book I actively hated. I rarely take such a negative tone in writing about a book — even one I didn't like — because there's almost always something to like in a novel. Not here, and so I write as public service announcement, so maybe I can help prevent you from making the same mistake I did. (My only consolation is that I got this as an ebook from the library, so I didn't spend a red cent on this travesty of a novel.) ...more
Meh. Foregone conclusion + Stieg trying to be dramatic about information he's already revealed to the reader + some hilariously unbelievable parts = MMeh. Foregone conclusion + Stieg trying to be dramatic about information he's already revealed to the reader + some hilariously unbelievable parts = Meh. ...more
A bit slow. No where near the moral urgency as A Time To Kill. It's about a will contest - and while there is a twist, it's just not as compelling asA bit slow. No where near the moral urgency as A Time To Kill. It's about a will contest - and while there is a twist, it's just not as compelling as other Grisham novels. ...more
Sooner or later, Marcus is going to deliver a mind-blowingly good novel that makes him a David Mitchell-esque superstar. The guy is an immensely talenSooner or later, Marcus is going to deliver a mind-blowingly good novel that makes him a David Mitchell-esque superstar. The guy is an immensely talented writer. Unfortunately, this novel about what happens when the sounds of kids' voices cause their parents to be sick, isn't it. It's rather original, but a bit of a slog....more
1. Is This The Same Guy? Right off the bat, I have to ask: Why doesn't Robert Langdon ever reference his previous adventures?! Wouldn't you think it'd be a huge credibility booster (and probably score some points with the cute lady he's running with here) to drop into conversation something like "Well, I did save the world once before from an anti-matter toting lunatic, so this time it should be no sweat" or "Remember that time I discovered that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene? That was pretty cool." But, no. Nothing. All we get is that he's still a symbologist, and he's still claustrophobic.
(I totally understand there's something beyond Langdon's control going on here. Dan Brown and Dan Brown's publisher wants each of the four Langdon novels to be self-contained so readers won't feel like they have to read the others to know what's going on. I assume that's the case. Right? Still...)
2. Bad Writing Is Badly Written: On the plus side, a reference to Langdon's claustrophobia (and according to this fantastic Book Riot post — Inferno By The Numbers— there are 13 such references) provided fodder for, by far, my favorite unintentionally comic passage in the novel. You ready?
Landon shrugged, “Your plane needs windows.” She gave him a compassionate smile. “On the topic of light, I hope the provost was able to shed some for you on recent events?”
Now, I know you don't read Dan Brown to be achieve literary enlightenment. Still... Oh, and here's another one — because you can't not gently chide Dan Brown's writing without pointing out one of his oh-so-dramatic italicized thoughts. So, here is my favorite:
Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus, Sinskey thought. And that’s fear.
(You can practically hear the dramatic music behind the text, can't you?!
3. A Mini-Review: So, how is the actual novel? If you like Dan Brown, you'll probably like this — it's a novel generated directly from the Dan Brown Plot Formula. Only the names and places have been changed. This time, we're in Florence and the puzzle and clues are Dante Alighieri- and Divine Comedy-themed.
Our good buddy Robert Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital, having no memory of how he got there. And so he has to re-solve all the mysteries he solved the previous evening before he was shot in the head, which apparently caused his memory lapse. It's The Hangover, Part 4, Starring Robert Langdon! (And as much fun as that might, it's not — it's a little silly and seems a tad contrived.) And so we lucky readers get to follow him around, as he's chased by an assassin and evil government forces, trying to remember what the hell happened last night.
But soon, a larger issue emerges. As The Lost Symbol was "about" Noetic Science, Inferno's about world overpopulation. And the question is: Will Langdon solve the puzzle in time to stop a madman hell-bent on creating a 21st century plague that will effectively thin the herd, as the Black Plague did in the 14th century (which, incidentally, lead to the Renaissance)?
Langdon's sidekick is the beautiful, brilliant but troubled Sienna Brooks. Since Dan Brown needs to have Langdon tell us things in conversations with other people, Dr. Brooks is the unwilling victim of this edition of Langdon's Mansplaining. Anyway — away we go from Florence, to Venice, to Istanbul, and this time, Brown's even got a few tricks up his sleeve. Not everything is as Langdon assumes. (Dramatic music, again.)
4. Dan Brown's Italy: Along the way, Brown takes an inordinate amount of time (usually at the beginning of each chapter) describing each and every landmark he thinks we should know about. So a lot of this novel reads like a travelogue — which prompted this tweet, which is so accurate I'm mad at Jeff for thinking of it first:
(If you're not familiar, here's who Rick Steves is.)
This tour-guiding put a rather fierce dent in my enjoyment of this novel. I even skimmed a bit. And I never skim.
5. The Divinely (Unintentional?) Comedy: When this novel is funny, both unintentionally and intentionally, it's VERY funny. In one scene, Langdon is trying to talk his publisher into letting him use the company's private jet. And the publisher tells him his books don't sell well enough to give him jet privileges: "If you want to write Fifty Shades of Iconography, we can talk." That is legitimately funny.
One recurring theme I also found hilarious is how condescending Mr. Langdon seems to be in this one. For example, there a few times in the early parts of the novel when the supposedly genius Sienna doesn't know something Langdon does. And so Langdon thinks (in a signature italicized aside): "Nice to know a 208 IQ can be wrong sometimes." Whoa, there, fella?! What's with the 'tude?!
So, to sum up: This is my least-favorite Dan Brown novel since Digital Fortress — which wasn't a Langdon novel, but which is my no-hesitation answer to the "worst book I've ever read" question. If you're curious, here would be my order of Dan Brown Langdon novels: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, and then Inferno. I really struggled to get through Inferno — I was just bored a lot of the time....more
Chances are, if you've read Mark Helprin's 1983 novel Winter's Tale, you loved it. It's even mentioned sometimes as a "favorite novel of all time." ThChances are, if you've read Mark Helprin's 1983 novel Winter's Tale, you loved it. It's even mentioned sometimes as a "favorite novel of all time." This, sadly, will be a dissenting opinion. I haven't not finished a novel since 2002, but this one nearly broke that streak. Finish it, I did, though. And I was relieved beyond measure when it was over. I don't mean to sound jerkish, but I really had trouble understanding the allure of this.
Here's what seems to be point of the book, as a character says near the end:
"He knew that, in the eyes of God, all things are interlinked; he knew that justice does indeed spring in great surprise from the acts and consequences of ages long forgotten; and he knew that love is not broken by time."
Another theme seems to be that we can't understand everything in the world through our senses, or science, or logic and reason. Okay. Fine. But it took us nearly 700 pages of flying horses and "cloud walls" and giant mysterious ships and people returning from the dead and incredibly descriptive descriptions (redundancy intentional) of New York City to get there.
If you're not familiar, Winter's Tale is often categorized as a "magical realist" novel, so weird stuff is always happening. I can dig it, and that wasn't my problem with the book. My problem was that it just felt incredibly overwrought, and ultimately, just tiresome. I really struggled with it. It reminded me of a Thomas Pynchon novel, without near the quirkiness or humor. It had a bit of the feel and scope of a Charles Dickens novel, only without the super intriguing characters and interesting, page-turning story. Or, if you like, it felt like a David Mitchell novel, but without near the smarts.
On the plus side, I really did enjoy the first 200 pages — which starts in the early 20th century and tells the story of an orphan thief named Peter Lake, who grows up with a tribe across the Hudson called the Baymen, but then is set adrift in New York City as a teenager. Eventually, during a robbery, he falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the city's newspaper mogul. Peter has various adventures in the city, including dodging the evil gang leader Pearly Soames, and his gang of Short Tails, who keeps trying to kill him and his beautiful white horse Athansor. But then, the story jumps forward to right before the turn of the 20th century and tells the tale of a number of New York residents, who all came to the city with their own unique origin stories and expectations of the city. And then Peter Lake comes back to life. And so does Pearly Soames, whose mission, for some reason, is still to kill Peter.
So, in a case like this (the only other example from my reading I can think of where I was so annoyed by a book everyone else loved is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian), where I'm clearly in the minority, I'm hoping you can help. What is the allure of this book? Why did you love it? What did I not see, or understand?
There's good news and bad news about Lethem's new novel. First the good: If you're a diehard, and I do mean DIEHARD, Lethem fan, you'll probably loveThere's good news and bad news about Lethem's new novel. First the good: If you're a diehard, and I do mean DIEHARD, Lethem fan, you'll probably love Dissident Gardens. The bad news: If you're not, you probably won't.
Dissident Gardens is, in a word, dense. It's the story of Rose Zimmer, a Communist living in Sunnyside, Queens, in the mid-1950s. And it's the story of various other characters — Rose's daugher, Miriam, Rose's lover's son, Cicero, Rose's gross cousin, Lenny, and Rose's grandson, Sergius. The novel's told in 20- to 30-page episodic increments, each slowly (and slog-tastically) building the story of each character — showing how interactions with each other in their formative years affects the way these characters interact with each other in the future.
It's also a novel is about ideology — specifically how rigid ideology (Rose's communism, etc.), ideology that doesn't consider actual human people and the ideologist's relationship to them, can easily alienate the people closest. What happens, the novel asks, when firmly held beliefs fail to bear out in the real world?
A few of these mini-stories are really entertaining — one of the first chapters is teenage Miriam coming home with a boy, determined to lose her virginity, but Rose interrupts, and they fight. And this singular fight affects their life-long relationship. Another shows Sergius in modern times, meeting a girl at an Occupy at a small college town.
But for the most part, these episodes (Lenny trying to talk William Shea, the new owner of the Mets, into using a folk song as the new team's theme) were either just weird, or felt like the writing a novelist must do to learn more about his characters before actually writing the novel and setting them into the story. So, unless you're a Lethem Diehard, I'd think about skipping this one. ...more
If you're part of the small but vocal "Neal Stephenson can do no wrong" contingent, you may want to turn away. I'd suggest taking a breath, climbing tIf you're part of the small but vocal "Neal Stephenson can do no wrong" contingent, you may want to turn away. I'd suggest taking a breath, climbing the stairs of your parent's basement, going outside, and doing your light saber exercises.*
While this is the first Stephenson novel I've read — I'd been meaning to read him for awhile because his fans are always raving about his novels, particularly Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon — and while I didn't care for REAMDE, it wasn't enough to put me off him forever. That said, after finishing REAMDE, I put the novel down and breathed the hugest sigh of relief I've let loose since finishing Gravity's Rainbow. Again, it wasn't all terrible, but it was a gigantic relief to be finished.
The novel is a thousand-page doorstop about a computer virus called REAMDE that infects players of a World of Warcraft-like video game called T'Rain. Three groups of characters with vastly different backgrounds — including a Chinese gamer, a Hungarian computer nerd, a sexy Asian MI6 agent, a Russian gangster, an international Islamic terrorist, and an adopted Eritrean-refugee who is the niece of the impossibly wealthy creator of T'Rain — are thrown together by circumstance, and then literally blown apart to all corners of the globe. Traversing the globe — from an island off the coast of China, to the Philippines to the British Columbian wilderness — they must reunite to stop the Islamic terrorist from doing really bad things on American soil.
I'd love to tell you that because this is an "international thriller," it hums along at breakneck speed. It does, sometimes. Mostly, it doesn't. If you're familiar at all with Stephenson, then you know that "concise" would never be a word used to describe him. Normally, I don't mind verbosity — my favorite writer is David Foster Wallace, for God's sake. But here, a lot of the "information dump" feels really superfluous and really slows down the pace of the novel. Indeed, the last, supposedly high-drama scene, as all the characters find their way back together, takes place in the wilderness of Idaho — and reads like part hiking instructional tome, part gun manual, and part, yes, actual thriller. Also, it takes place over almost 300 pages! THREE HUNDRED PAGES! Just this part could've been it's own freakin' novel.
So I wasn't a fan, but if you're into gaming, guns, the Idaho wilderness, or China, this might be a novel you enjoy much more than I did.
*Apologies to non-geek Stephenson fans, but after suffering through this thousand-page novel, I'm well within my rights to make fun of his notoriously geeky fans, I think. ...more
Horby could've saved a lot of time and headache for his readers had he just published the famous quote by Harold Bloom, instead of this silly novel: "Horby could've saved a lot of time and headache for his readers had he just published the famous quote by Harold Bloom, instead of this silly novel: "Until you become yourself, what benefit can you be to others?"...more