D.H. Lawrence's 1926 classic short story, The Rocking Horse Winner pulls at your heartstrings from the get-go and refuses to let go until its tragic D.H. Lawrence's 1926 classic short story, The Rocking Horse Winner pulls at your heartstrings from the get-go and refuses to let go until its tragic culmination. As seen below, the opening paragraph does more than make for an emotional first impression, Lawrence's impressive and somehow beautiful prose sucks you in immediately, making it impossible to put down.
"There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. They looked at her coldly, as if they were finding fault with her. And hurriedly she felt she must cover up some fault in herself. Yet what it was that she must cover up she never knew. Nevertheless, when her children were present, she always felt the centre of her heart go hard. This troubled her, and in her manner she was all the more gentle and anxious for her children, as if she loved them very much. Only she herself knew that at the centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody. Everybody else said of her: "She is such a good mother. She adores her children." Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes."
From there, it only gets better. The dialogue is spot-on, relevant, and lifelike. The pictures that Lawrence delivers to the reader is incredibly vivid, increasingly compelling (I couldn't finish it fast enough, really,) and though there are little details like the protagonist's "uncanny blue eyes" that are emphasized for whatever reason, every word serves a purpose. It never felt verbose or unnecessary. On the contrary, literally every word is essential.
I have no more to say, other than read it for yourself if you haven't. Even if you have (this was a re-read for me,) give it another go, it's totally worth it. ...more
Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto was originally published on Christmas Eve, 1764, and would serve as a primary origin in holiday pub Introduction
Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto was originally published on Christmas Eve, 1764, and would serve as a primary origin in holiday publication. It's also considered one of the first gothic horror stories. Traditionally, the genre was characterized by settings in or "around ancient castles or monasteries deep in the gloomy forests, [and] involving proud Italian or Spanish nobles and the machinations of corrupt ecclesiastics." This was a quickly growing literary trend. Some willing participants include Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Matthew Lewis, Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin, and much later, Bram Stoker's Dracula. All of these works, and many others, featured Walpole's signature setting and era, which almost always took place in Catholic countries.
Robert Lewis Stevenson, however, changed the face of the horror genre. He accomplished this feat by incorporating many unique traits, but two things that proved most effective were: (1. modernizing his horrific tale, set in what was then present day London, and (2. he veered away from the countryside and allowed the action to unravel in the city. With its urban surroundings, all the action, intrigue and mystery had a chance to earnestly breathe, perhaps for the first time, and took on a menacing shape all its own. In this way, it feels all too real. Stevenson supplanted the reader in his world, his locale. You're right there alongside Utterson, Jekyll and Hyde. Also prevalent and valid here are adequate doses of psychology (thus amplifying the suspense and fodder for many stimulating conversations,) a sprinkling of philosophy, science, religion (two subjects that ordinarily oppose each other, but somehow Stevenson made work,) and a decently developed cast. Combine all these stellar ingredients, and you have the formula for a cataclysmic masterpiece. One that only Stevenson could have written.
Thematically, the author showcased his raw talent and maturity as he continued to delve deep into ideas he's begun to explore in The Body Snatcher and Olalla. Like the latter, a largely metaphorical tale of vampirism that emphasizes "forms of atavistic forms," Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde marked a return to similar themes. The masks we wear to conceal our insecurities and sin are very clear here, as is Stevenson's passion for his art.
It went deeper than that..
"..we were all startled by this transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead."
A mere two years prior to what would become his most beloved novel, he wrote The Body Snatcher," therein beginning to explore the transformation of self, personal identity, and what it meant to lead double lives. In Jekyll and Hyde, however, his vision was fully realized and developed, his craft honed.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This was a re-read for me. I first read it in high school, but recalled very little of its details. The bare minimum, really, and what I did remember proved unreliable. So when the buddy read came up (Stepheny, Holly, Anne, Tadiana, Jeff, Delee, and myself,) I was all for it, and greatlylooked forward to it. Thanks again, guys, it was loads of fun and proved very rewarding.
The short novel is presented, in many ways, as a legal "case," as the narrator, Mr. Utterson, is a lawyer propositioned by Mr. Enfield. The two couldn't be more different, but they're united in their desperate attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of their friend, Henry Jekyll, MD. As they reluctantly plumb the mysteries of the case, peculiar and disturbing evidence (especially in light of its publication date,) came to the forefront, forcing them to act...despite their hesitation. Because doing so meant acknowledging the presence of evil in the world, and if one could become infected like a victim of Captain Trips, then they might also be just as susceptible. As are we all. I think that's what Stevenson was trying to instill. We're all capable of sin, of great evil. Lesser men fall prey to its appealing nature. It takes stronger men to lead a virtuous life. Contrary to what some may believe, there is no such thing as being either good or evil. The world is rarely black and white.
The psychological aspects, as well as the psychotic, made for very compelling reading. All of the above was a lot of fun. Stevenson's stunning way with words impressed me very much, and immensely added to my overall experience. The psychology of its Soho, London setting, however, is something of a rare gem. I'd never read anything quite like it. It's thrice as fascinating. See for yourself:
"..A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these assembled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr Utterson beheld a marvelous number of degrees and hues of twilight... As the cab drew up before the address indicated, the fog lifted a little and showed him a dingy street, a gin palace, a low French eating house, a shop for the retail of penny numbers and twopenny salads, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of many different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass; and the next moment the fog settled down again on that part, as brown as umber, and cut him off from his blackguardly surroundings..
The narrative itself is somewhat unique, for eight of the ten chapters are shown from Utterson's beautiful and haunted eyes. The penultimate from Dr. Lanyon's POV, and the conclusion from Jekyll himself. Tt had to be written that way, too, due to the way in which Chapter Eight ends. The novel is brilliant on many, many levels.
Unfortunately, I found the ending somewhat disappointing and anti-climatic. (view spoiler)[Seeing the events unfolding from Lanyon and Jekyll was interesting, even fascinating at times. Especially the latter. Like I said though, I think the conclusion itself is anti-climatic and quite poignant. I appreciate the fact that it isn't a "happily-ever-after" type resolution. A good horror story should rarely, if ever, feel happy. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I wanted much more. A significant and mind-blowing confrontation between Jekyll and Hyde, reminiscent of a classic X-Men battle or something, but sadly that never happens. Admittedly, you do see Jekyll earnestly struggling with the nefarious parts of himself, a battle of right and wrong, of wills, but it's all internal. The only external portion is in the death itself.
Regarding the rather abrupt and strange change and sunsequent demise of Dr. Lanyon and Dr. Jekyll, to an extent, there are some "interesting" theories that I thought I might share: "'..I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name'" recalls, and would certainly bring to mind in Utterson, friend of "down-going men," language associated with two conditions which preoccupied medics and moralists at the time: syphilis, and the supposed pathological effects of masturbation, both of which were believed to be retribution for carnal indulgence...." (hide spoiler)]
-Courtesy of a footnote in the Penguin Classics edition. The theory is quite long and goes into more detail, but said compound sentence is the gist of the theory.
The Body Snatcher
Inspired by real-life Resurrection Men in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1828, this short offering is coupled equally with vivid details, gritty exposition, compelling-albeit shady-- characters, and a denouement that shook me to the core, The Body Snatcher will render you breathless. At the same time, it left me wanting much more. It's like a prologue to potentially great novel.
I'm not sure how I feel about this one.. On one end of the spectrum, it's incredibly beautiful and profound. The story itself, and the players populating it, are impressively complex. Particularly the thought processes and motivations behind their questionable actions. Of the narrator, whom shall remain nameless, I would have loved to known him better (his upbringing, involvement in the Carlist Wars, etc...,) but you get enough of a sense of him, everything being very much in the present, that it's sufficient. Spanning to its opposite end, parts of Olalla are relatively simple. My favorite character, Felipe, openly personifies said simplicity. Simultaneously, there's a palpable unease emanating from the dilapidated mansion, rolling in-or out-- like an invisible shroud ascending from the depths of hell. There's more to it than a super exciting, amped up, horrific high point of the plot, too, as Stevenson alludes to a plentiful and fascinating history pertaining to the locale. Yet, he doesn't deliver. If this had been anything other than a short story, I have no doubt that he would have delighted his readers with a colorful history, and delved deeper into his characters. Themes of unrequited love, redemption, and atavism certainly play their parts, but for me, the shocking twist near the end (I had a vague notion of where it was going, thanks to the introduction, and I STILL didn't see it coming,) really threw me up, over the top. The denouement left me wanting more. A lot more. Ultimately, I'm saddened..
"..It was a fine day, and the woods to which I led him were green and pleasant and sweet-smelling and alive with the hum of insects. Here he [Felipe] discovered himself in a fresh character, mounting up to heights of gaiety that abashed me, and displaying an energy and grace of movement that delighted my eye. He leaped, he ran around me in mere glee; he would stop, and look and listen, and seemed to drink in the world like a cordial; and then he would suddenly spring into a tree with one bound, and hang and gambol there like one at home.."
Unfortunately, this is abridged.. According to the January, 1888, issue of Scribner's Magazine, whom originally published Stevenson's essay, he was often inspired by the images contained in his dreams. The origin of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. He wrote, "..And then, while he [Stevenson] was yet a student...he began, that is to say, to dream in sequence and thus to lead a double life-one of the day, one of the night-- one that he had every reason to believe was the true one, another that he had no means of proving to be false...Well, in his dream life he passed a long day in the surgical theatre, his heart in his mouth, his teeth on edge, seeing malformations and the abhorred dexterity of surgeons.." In the five pages comprising this inferior version, he goes into the vivid details of his dreamscapes. I love stuff like this. I really, really much to get my hands and mind on the essay in full. Even more enlightening, Stevenson does not take full credit: he claims his "sleepless Brownies" (or the Muse) collaborated with him in the creation of his work. It's like a dream within many dreams, revealing exponentially more than I've disclosed here.
Diagnosing Jekyll: The Scientific Context to Dr Jekyll's Experiment and Mr Hyde's Embodiment
Interestingly enough, Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, recollected him being blown away by an article on sub-consciousness which was yet another inspiration for him. In addition to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde being in “legal case” format, it’s regarded in part as a fictitious “case-study” in what was then referred to as “morbid psychology.” Numerous sources voiced their opinions on this aspect, and the novel in general, including a critic from The Times. He was curious if the work was “a flash of intuitive psychological research,” and went on to claim that its conclusion put everything into account, “upon strictly scientific grounds, though the science of problematic futurity.” Alongside the author’s personal circle, Stevenson’s comrade, John Addington Symonds, was dissatisfied with it overall, on the basis that it contributed artistically “to a process” that took “place in the physical and biological sciences of reducing individual freedom to zero, and weakening the sense of responsibility.”
But the author of this section and the marvelous introduction, Robert Mighall, delves ever-deeper. He though it advantageous to analyze the novel’s scientific context of both Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. He examined its historical aspects, as well. Conveniently divided into four brief sections, Mighall begins with Double Consciousness:
“..an evolution of two memories..” Through very rare, there were patient’s, even then, whose memories were separate of one another, while in the guise of a single, mentally sound individuals.
“I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to either, it was only because I was radically both.”
An adequate underscoring of said pathology is equally important.
(II) Moral Insanity:
Pathologists, or as they were then known, alienists, were earnestly troubled with the idea of moral insanity. In all fairness, the term’s meaning and presumption of it (especially the way it sounds currently,) didn’t necessarily jive. In the late 19th century, it was characterized by “eccentric or inappropriate behavior.” Such practices were implemented in large part with the publication of James Cowles Prichard’s Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind, circa 1835. I’m almost positive that Stevenson was vastly influenced by the work, as there are simply too many similarities.
“If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable.”
(III) Criminal Responsibility:
In Jekyll’s mind, Hyde is akin to his nether element, and he’s described as having ape-like tendencies. If the physician’s to be believed, Hyde was animalistic, both superficially and behaviorally. He even makes an off-hand comment on how furred he was. It’s interesting to note the astounding correlations between the text and that of eugenics co-founder, Francis Galton (cousin to Charles Darwin,) regarding the indescribable countenance of Hyde, and the scientist’s photographic experiments in criminality.
(IV) Sexual Perversion:
Around the same time as the novel’s publication in 1886, another work, though non-fiction, would prove just as controversial and at the same time, sensational, if not more so. That book was Psychopathia Sexualis, by Richard Von Krafft-Ebing. Within the textbook’s pages, sexology became a major contender. The German Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology documented a plethora of lust-murderers, beastality fiends, and exhibitionists, amongst other taboo subjects, and their disturbing connections to sexual deviation. Like the alienists of the time, Krafft-Ebing attempted to define that ever-present fine line between crime and “mental pathology.” Sexology was primarily tasked with categorizing perversions. I think it’s safe to say that the world’s perception of sex was eternally altered.
Psychopathia Sexualis also resulted in countless fans and critics alike of Jekyll and Hyde to form theories pertaining to Stevenson’s intent. And rightly so; there are several cases of sexual innuendo which aren’t hard to miss. ” ‘Down-going men,’ ” being the least of them.
The two works also seemed to share startling connections, if only indirectly, to the Ripper killings, as all three coincided with each other. I can’t speak for the professor’s work (though it seems to be implied,) but as a result of the everything going on, Stevenson’s tale sparked civil and social unrest, as crime rates skyrocketed. No one, especially prostitutes, for obvious reasons, felt safe.
“The wild beast…is slumbering in us all. It is not necessary always to invoke insanity to explain its awakening.” -Dr. Edward Charles Spitzka, December 1888
Picking up where Eldest left off, Christopher Paolini transports the reader back to Alegaesia and Eragon, Saphira, and Roran as their journey continu
Picking up where Eldest left off, Christopher Paolini transports the reader back to Alegaesia and Eragon, Saphira, and Roran as their journey continues. As exciting as that sounds, the overall story sadly plummets, which is not to say that there aren't some redeeming qualities, because there are.
However, they are few and far between. Following their foray with the repulsive Ra'zac within The Gates of Death, they go their separate ways, once again. From there, Eragon embarks on a brief sub-plot. Paolini does keep it interesting, unexpected even, but it only seems to detract from the story.
Shortly thereafter, we're reintroduced to Nasuada, a character whom I believe be of the most vital to the Cycle. For the sake of all that's right and just, she willingly endures considerably more than any woman (or human being, for that matter) should ever have to, and she does it with a sense of pride. Through the Trial of the Long Knives, Nasuada's character earnestly begins to come into her own. Her former arrogance seems to have diminished, while retaining the same coldness that helps define her. At this time, I grew to respect and like her a bit more.
I found the chapter entitled, Intersecting Sagas, particularly interesting, due to the insights gained. Yet, you're left wondering what hold-up is, and impatient for something-anything-more exciting; something beyond the norm. I mean, is is really necessary to know Eragon's every waking moment?
Later on, our Dragon Rider is sent on another mission, venturing back to Farthen Dur, where he must be an influential party in the upcoming Dwarvish election. I appreciate the fact that politics are utilized in this installment, as well. But at the same time, it's like, "Enough is enough already, get on with it!" Admittedly, it is done well, to the point of fascination, so part of me wanted more. Ambiguous, I know..
While in Farthen Dur, Eragon meets a woman named Glumra. She's a great character, one I'd like to see more of, actually. Through her, Paolini presents a recurring theme: religion.
Several chapters further, Roran pays the penultimate price for insubordination, a gut-wrenching experience that made me cringe the entire time. Ultimately, he is changed by it. Will he ever be the same again?
Further yet, Eragon and Saphira travel north, to Du Weldenvarden, home of Oromis and Glaedr. Their stay is all too brief, though wholly necessary, IMO. I LOVED seeing the silver-haired elf again, and that alone is one of my most treasured aspects of the novel. While they're there, several mind-blowing revelations are disclosed. I don't say that lightly, either, they are MAJOR!
Also, it's always a pleasure to see the Menoa tree again. And the two chapters seen from Saphira's perspective are just amazing. The words used to describe how she sees her surroundings are very neat, indeed. I wish there had been more of them!
All too late, it's around this point that Brisingr really takes off. In the end, an epic battle ensures, albeit not without unforeseen casulties and sorrow. The war again the Empire and Galbatorix is full-swing now. How will it all end? After such a disappointment, I sure hope for a big payoff in the form of Inheritance.
Having read this originally in the summer of 2007, I wanted to re-read books I-III, in preparation for the final installment, Inheritance.
It's been Having read this originally in the summer of 2007, I wanted to re-read books I-III, in preparation for the final installment, Inheritance.
It's been a bit of a bumpy ride, to say the least. Not that I didn't enjoy Eragon, I enjoyed it immensely. For starters, I'd forgotten just how vivid and beautiful Paolini's writing really is...some of his descriptions of the scenery (especially) are truly mind-blowing, IMO. And with that came a deeper respect and appreciation for his unique vision. His characters are fairly well developed, the story is engaging (though not AS engaging as the first time around,) and there are plenty of twists and turns, along with a few stunning revelations. Even as a re-read, said revelations came as a pleasant surprise.. In fact, much of the novel shocked and delighted me in unexpected ways, as I'd forgotten a majority of it. Like almost all of my re-reads, this one was also like reading it for the first time. Now as brilliant as his writing tends to be, I was slightly turned off by its overall simplicity, but that's completely subjective. I prefer books that challenge me in some way or other, and his writing simply doesn't do that. Considering its simplicity, I feel I should have finished it much sooner, and I think some of that stems from just that: it's almost TOO simple.
Despite its flaws (perhaps that's too strong of a word,) the novel's conclusion left me wanting more, and I cannot wait to find out how everything unfolds. I'll definitely be moving on to the second installment, Eldest! ...more
It truly kills me to give GRRM anything less than four stars, but I'm only being honest. It's the only way I can be.
And it isn't as if I hated Feast It truly kills me to give GRRM anything less than four stars, but I'm only being honest. It's the only way I can be.
And it isn't as if I hated Feast, because I didn't. There's a lot that I loved about it, actually. For instance, the further development of those characters we both adore and despise. Martin has always done this exceptionally well. With individuals such as Cersei, Jaime and Brienne (especially Cersei,) I gained much understanding into the events which helped mold them into who they are today. While I'll probably never like the Queen Regent, I undoubtedly understand why she's so vile and, to a limited extent, misunderstood. Her chapters were some of my favorite, and made for very fun reading. I also greatly admire the path Jaime's life has taken. But like pretty anything, there are drawbacks to that, as well. In a way, it limits the direction the overall story could have taken, seeing as how these are very much character-driven books.
The chapters set in Dorne and the Iron Islands were some of my favorites, too. They fascinated me, really. However,they are few and far between. Surprisingly, I desperately longed for much more of them, and less of those set in King's Landing. The back-to-back Jaime, Cersei POV's eventually become somewhat tedious.
By embracing the changes presented therein, I surprisingly didn't miss my five most beloved characters: Tyrion, Dany, Bran, Jon Snow and Ghost. Not too much, anyway.
Most damning of all, I think, was the lack of shown details pertaining to the war, as opposed to "telling" what's taken place. I don't agree that this installment is stagnant, making virtually zero progress. Contrarily, GRRM does a decent job of describing the aftermath of this brutal, brutal war, and the utter chaos of the realm. Simply put, it's a purely anarchic, no-holds-barred world. My heart breaks just thinking about how low it's devolved... and it can only get worse before it gets better..
In no way do I regret this re-read, either, for it contains my favorite GRRM quote so far:
“Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell's grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow's smile. He used to mess my hair and call me "little sister," she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.."
It's unbelievably beautiful, breath taking and sad, conveyed in incredibly simplistic terms, IMO. Very telling, too.
Towards the end, I was very pleased (and somewhat shocked) by how it all came together, and particularly the direction it took. When you're anticipating an epic battle, only to see the aftermath through a certain character's eyes, it was pretty disappointing. Almost anticlimatic, in fact.
Last but not least, there were a lot of unanswered questions, like who is Pate, really? What roll will he play later on? What was the significance of the mysterious key?? Plus many more.. There's also quite a bit of unconfirmed events..
Having said this, I think it's important to recognize that this is only half of the story. In order to do it the justice it deserves, Martin had to divide it into two books, simply because it's way too long and complicated. Essentially, he's made the series all-encompassing, which I greatly commend him for.. To do it well, I think it was only inevitable.
Once again, my intent was never to criticize or bash the novel in any way whatsoever. I'm merely stating my personal, honest opinions. In all earnestness, it probably pains me more to admit such disappointment than for others to glimpse it....more
Largely due to the failure of his forth novel, The Armageddon Rag George R.R. Martin took a ten-year writing hiatus, starting in 1986. But in 1991, h Largely due to the failure of his forth novel, The Armageddon Rag George R.R. Martin took a ten-year writing hiatus, starting in 1986. But in 1991, he was inspired by a sudden, all too vivid image which sparked his imagination, and eventually marked his triumphant return.
”I started with a vision of a scene where some wolf pups are discovered being born with a dead mother in the snow. It just came to me very vividly, and I wrote it. I didn’t know what story it was part of or what world it was part of. I didn’t know anything. But by the time I finished writing that chapter, I knew the second chapter. And once I was 50-60 pages into it, I decided I had a novel – or maybe more than a novel – so I thought I’d better draw a map and think about who these people were …”
He was also inspired by the real-life edifice Hadrian’s Wall (serving as a blueprint of sorts, for his seven hundred foot creation, which he aptly titled the Wall.)
”Well, some of it will be revealed later so I won’t talk about that aspect of it, but certainly the Wall comes from Hadrian’s Wall, which I saw while visiting Scotland. I stood on Hadrian’s Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch. To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest. Of course fantasy is the stuff of bright colors and being larger than real life, so my Wall is bigger and considerably longer and more magical. And, of course, what lies beyond it has to be more than just Scots.”
Amongst others, he’s cited the novels The War of the Roses, Ivanhoe, and the frequently compared, The Lord of the Rings.
Martin’s themes tend to be rather vague, ranging from idealism, melancholy, and tragic herocism. Courtesy of reviewer T. M. Wagner, “Let it never be said Martin doesn’t share Shakespeare’s fondness for the senselessly tragic.”
Throughout A Game of Thrones (the first installment of seven,) there are healthy doses of the historical and religious, which I believe play significant roles. In the introduction to the 1955 classic, The Iron King (yet another source of inspiration,) GRRM writes:
”Over the years, more than one reviewer has described my fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, as historical fiction about history that never happened, flavored with a dash of sorcery and spiced with dragons. I take that as a compliment. I have always regarded historical fiction and fantasy as sisters under the skin, two genres separated at birth.”
Seen throughout the series are a number of fictitious religions, many based on actual faiths. The Seven gods, for example, came from from the Christian Holy Trinity; while the Mother, Maiden, and Crone derive from Paganism. Or in Greek mythology, it’s the Fates who embody this aspect, while the Father, Smith and Warrior come from “abrahamic” masculine elements. Additionally, the Lord of Light, R’hllor, was loosely based on Zoroastrianism and the Cathars (who were destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade.)
When asked about religion: “I suppose I’m a lapsed Catholic. You would consider me an atheist or agnostic. I find religion and spirituality fascinating. I would like to believe this isn’t the end and there’s something more, but I can’t convince the rational part of me that makes any sense whatsoever. That’s what Tolkien left out — there’s no priesthood, there’s no temples; nobody is worshiping anything in the Rings.”
World-building is easily one of the strongest tools in his impressive repertoire. Laying the foundation throughout Thrones prologue, we see snapshots of the enigmatic and aforementioned Wall, coupled with smigdeons of folklore (also a recurring theme,) surrounding this architectural monster, which signifies “the end of the world,” and protects its inhabitants from horrific creatures such as the wildlings. From there, GRRM expertly explores Winterfell (home of the Starks, the Kings of the North,) Riverrun, and takes the reader to locales like the Eerie, Dothraki sea, and seemingly everywhere in between. Populating the Seven Kingdoms are an abundance of colorful, well rounded individuals, whom I won’t forget for a very, very long time. From all walks of life, the shady Lannisters, honor-bound Starks, Targaryen’s, not to mention many other Houses, they’re all vying for the coveted Iron Throne. Martin’s exquisite writing, character-driven plot made for fun, utterly compulsive reading. It would not be complete without a wide variety of twists and turns; political intrigue; romance, adventure; and backstabbing betrayal. Nothing is quite as it appears. No one can be trusted (least of all GRRM,) whom takes the age old adage, “Kill your darlings,” and makes it all his own. Some may even say that he sometimes takes it to the extreme, and I concede.. to an extent. Yet, I can’t fathom the books lacking such shocking moments, and I don’t want it to be any other way. So go on, George, keep doing what you do best!
”…when my characters are in danger, I want you to be afraid to turn the page, (so) you need to show right from the beginning that you’re playing for keeps.”
A Game of Thrones has been criticized for its gradual momentum, and a lack of action, considering its immense bulk. Some might say this view is warranted. After all, there is only one major battle scene, which doesn't take place until the last couple hundred pages. However, I think it’s important to recognize that the author’s setting the stage for what’s to follow. And unless you prefer cardboard flat characters, it’s essential that we become acclimated to his brilliantly rendered characters. No one’s wholly good or evil. The protagonists and antagonists aren’t defined. Hence, I take pleasure in rooting for them all. Except for those that I truly despise..
Immediately after embarking on this re-read, it was like I’d returned after many years of exile, while at the same time feeling as though I’d never left. Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms felt very much like home to me. Indeed, I am home!
”When you play the game of thrones, either you win or die.”
The first thing that stuck out for me about Eldest is the overall maturity of Paolini's writing.. and the realization occurred to me rather quickly.
The first thing that stuck out for me about Eldest is the overall maturity of Paolini's writing.. and the realization occurred to me rather quickly.
I love the fact that this installment picks up where Eragon left off. And at first, there's plenty of action to keep this reader interested. But shortly after the epic battle involving Murtagh, the Twins, an invading horde of urgals, and many other participants, the story tapers off dramatically. But despite said mediocrity, Paolini delves further into political intrigue, which I found very fascinating. I loved every word, and its implications.
Later on, Eragon and Saphira (along with their dwarf friend, Orik,) must travel to a far-off land known as Du Weldenvarden, to be trained by one of my absolute favorite characters of the series, Orimis.. or The Cripple That Is Whole. He's an elderly, silver-haired elf. He's also incredibly wise. But Eragon isn't the only to receive training; Saphira learns many invaluable skills and knowledge through the elf's dragon, Glaedr.
There are many memorable moments throughout the book, including the life altering ceremony referred to as the Blood-Oath Celebration.
While all this may sound interesting enough, the chapters involving Eragon's cousin, Roran, are almost more engaging. It's great to be reunited with him and the desperate residents of Carvahall (their former home,) and chronicles their action-packed exodus. By alternating between these two very different elements of the story, Paolini is able to develop his characters quite well, which is always highly commendable. In so doing, he's also taking the Inheritance Cycle into various, all-encompassing, directions.
In conclusion, if not for the epic battle near the end, featuring several mind-blowing revelations and emotional reunions, Eldest would be less than mediocre; it's be plain old boring and tedious, in fact. But it does pay off, to a certain degree. Having said that, I can't help but wonder if the 40 pages of preparations were really necessary. Admittedly, they had to be made, but I believe Paollini's work (not to mention his loyal fans) would have been better off if it had been condensed. As bad as this may sound, the end left me wanting to know what happens next.. surprisingly.
In the early eighties, Stephen King and Peter Straub embarked on the ultimate coming-of-age tale. The Talisman easily solidified the collaboration's In the early eighties, Stephen King and Peter Straub embarked on the ultimate coming-of-age tale. The Talisman easily solidified the collaboration's super status. Then, nearly two decades later, they returned to their literary roots. Black House portrays a different Jack Sawyer, now a semi-retired Los Angeles detective. He won't remain there much longer, though. By requesting his expertise in a major case, a colleague-turned-friend leads him to Wisconsin, where his life will be irrevocably altered...in numerous ways.
Black House is very different from its predecessor. One of the most significant changes is the unique writing style. Almost everything's shown by way of what I like to call "an eagle's eye" view. This can be somewhat difficult and frustrating to adjust to, and I completely understand that critique. It's also a little slow at first. We're not actually reunited with Jack until the first 60 or so pages. My first time through the Coulee Country, I struggled with it a bit, too. But it being a King novel, I knew a big payoff was inevitable.
And maintaining his "I'm retired" mindset, Jack is reluctant to aid the local police investigation of a string of grisly serial killings. It's only until a young boy is abducted that Jack agrees to assist the authorities.
With the addition of a handful of eccentric characters (including the ever positive, delightful, and beloved Henry Lyden,) we're given recurring appearances of one or more characters from The Talisman.
One new addition, named Charles Burnside, alludes to a less than pleasant childhood, leaving something to be desired. I wanted to know more. For instance, how exactly was he mistreated (presuming, of course, that was the case,) what were his parents like? Who were his parents? What events helped form the individual shown throughout the novel? More importantly, can he be empathized with, knowing what we do about him? Should we be expected to? I felt next to nothing for him, whatsoever. Unless my utter abhorrence of him is put into consideration. That particular emotion resonates in every fiber of my being. But if I may return briefly to the aforementioned alluding, my heart does go out to him. Though all too fleeting...
How about his time in Chicago? He displays an abundance of scorn which tells the reader of his pent-up resentment. What specifically happened there, though? That being said, I love the duality of ol' "burn, burn's" voices and/or accents. (In general, it's always a pleasure to find elements of duality in fiction, but in this case, I think King and Straub pulled it off exceptionally well.) Reminiscent of some nefarious-yet equally skilled- ventriloquist, the sequence baffles the mind in every sense of the word.
Additionally, I think I probably would have been more impacted if our killer had been less supernatural and more human. Why do I emphasize this point? Because, as of late, I've come to realize that villains who are more less fantastical (Rose Madder's Norman Daniels or The Shining's Jack Torrance, to name a few) have a much larger affect on me.
I almost wish that the killer's identity had been withheld a bit longer. I believe if they'd done so, it would have created a much more suspenseful, biting-your-nails quality. Then again, the story's pretty dark and creepy. King and Straub probably weren't very interested in its mystery; contrarily, this story is very horror-orientated.
All throughout, a recurring theme is explored in interesting way(s:) repressed memories. This literary technique is seen in multiple characters, primarily our protagonist, Jack Sawyer. On a related note, scientific studies indicate that particularly traumatic experiences often result in repression, as a defense mechanism. And speaking personally, I'm a firm believer. I can recall very little of my childhood. I'm not the only one, either. King and Straub said it best: "Amnesia is merciful." Indeed.
The final showdown (and the all-important journey toward that end,) felt slightly long-winded, but the psychological aspects almost demand it. As for the battle itself, I am torn. On the one hand, it is quite phenomenal. On the other, there's a comic book quality which renders it somewhat unrealistic. As a result, I'm left with many questions whose answers I'd be interested in learning.
Then, due to unforeseen events, Jack is inadvertently transported back to his past, so to speak. By taking their story in this direction, King and Straub present a few very suspenseful closing pages. I was literally holding my anxious breath and hoping for the best. I also realized the depth of my love and admiration for this amazing man. And through certain revelations, things are left open. There simply MUST be a 3rd book!!
Prior to going into my second reading of The Tommyknockers, I wasn't sure that I even wanted to read it. Needful Things, Lisey's Story, or The Talism Prior to going into my second reading of The Tommyknockers, I wasn't sure that I even wanted to read it. Needful Things, Lisey's Story, or The Talisman would have been preferable, as those three novels have been on my mind a lot lately. The only reason I decided to go with The Tommyknockers is because it won the SK group read for September, and I'd never participated in a group read, and wanted to be a part of it. Having said that, I am so glad that I did!
I finished last night, and what can I say? For the most part, I loved every word, although I do think it drags a bit here and there. That final scene with Hilly and David served as the icing on the cake for me. It's such a tender moment, and very sweet, too. Also, a lot of readers don't particularly care for Book II, but it's my personal favorite. The town's history is fascinating, and I loved the "now-let's-eavesdrop-on-our-fellow-neighbors" feel of it, which is very reminiscent of Under the Dome. In all earnestness, I don't feel that the middle section is disjointed, clunk, or otherwise disconnected to the rest of the novel. On the contrary, every aspect seems to be in direct (or indirect) relation to everything else. Additionally, I love intricate stories with a plethora of characters, and this is no exception... especially Ruth McCausland and Hilly Brown. They are easily my two favorite characters. I really got into young Hilly as an individual, mostly because he and I share some similar attributes. And he is HILARIOUS. I literally laughed aloud at some of the things he got himself into!
As King's epic tome comes to a close, there are several scenes that stick out very much, one in which I won't forget any time soon. For instance, the Shed People's various inventions, or modifications, if you will. Then there's the classic Coke machine and the maniacal smoke detector, soaring through the woods like something out of Star Wars. Finally, there's Gard's ascension, and most importantly, the dire circumstances behind it. I LOVE how it's fueled by virtually everything and everyone around him. It's a very powerful scene, IMO.
There are so many other aspects of the novel that I could go on and on about, but I won't, for fear of spoiling the story to those that haven't read it yet.
For the most part, I immensely enjoyed Song of Susannah. It's a fast-paced novel with plenty of surprises, revelations, and much more.
The 2nd Stanza
For the most part, I immensely enjoyed Song of Susannah. It's a fast-paced novel with plenty of surprises, revelations, and much more.
The 2nd Stanza, in particular, really stands out for me, as it sets up the rest of the book quite nicely. And King does it so seamlessly.
I think the entire Tet are developed well, but that of Eddie Dean is truly exceptional. I love how irate he became over Calvin Tower's obsession with his precious books. In this scene, the reader realizes just how far Eddie has come from his former lifestyle, which is exactly why he was so very angry. Even Roland takes note by his rather candid question: "You want to kill him, don't you?"
Along with this comes the development of their dinh, Jake, Father Callahan.. even Oy, to some degree. But in light of the novel's apt title, I would have liked to see more emphasis on Susannah's character development, as opposed to Mia and their chap. Speaking of which, I think that said sub-plot tends to drag on slightly. At the same time, I realize that in the long run, it all takes place in a relatively short amount of time... it probably just seems a lot longer because it's interspersed throughout the entire novel.
I also loved the notion of Susannah's Dogan being her subconscious, and the various personalities combating one another and also working together in unique ways.
The insertion of "the writer" is very interesting, too. I loved it the 1st time I read it, and this was no exception. It's brilliant, yet quite ballsy. I clearly understand why so many readers would be turned off by what could easily be perceived as arrogance on King's part, or a God complex, if you will. And the opening scene of the chapter where Eddie and Roland not only sense the enormous power of the forest, but actually see the omnipresent faces is truly awe inspiring. I love, love, LOVE that scene!
Last but certainly not least, the reader is left with quite a cliffhanger at the end. You just NEED to know what happens next! ...more
Hmmm... what to say about Wolves.. It's been about a week and a half since I finished reading it, and I remain uncertain as to how I actually feel ab
Hmmm... what to say about Wolves.. It's been about a week and a half since I finished reading it, and I remain uncertain as to how I actually feel about it.
First and foremost is Sai King's exquisite writing. It has never disappointed me in the past, and this certainly isn't an exception. If anything, my second journey with Roland and his ka-tet has served to heighten my heartfelt appreciation and respect for his work. I also love the Calla, how it's vividly described, and all it entails. I especially enjoyed the incorporation of Pere Callahan's character. However, I'm not sure if his extensive back story was entirely necessary to the Tet's quest. Admittedly, I think it's relevant to the series, and it certainly goes far toward character development, but I ask again: it it wholly necessary? That I cannot say. It's definitely interesting, though. But the Father (Donald Callahan, from 'Salem's Lot,) isn't the only one "telling tales." There are two additional ones told, which are-in the long run-helpful in figuring out the mystery that is Wolves of the Calla. One, in particular, brings to light a HUGE advantage in the form of Susannah's Riza throwing abilities.
Additionally, I very much enjoyed the friendship between Jake and Benny Slightman the Younger.
As for the actually battle itself, it almost seems anti-climatic, due mostly to the nearly constant up-build and hype throughout the novel, and the fact that it lasts a mere five minutes. Keep in mind, I said "almost anti-climatic." With the unanticipated and sudden cliffhanger, I think King makes up for the slight letdown of a battle.
All in all, another fantastic Dark Tower installment! ...more