I wasn't sure what to expect going into Atlas Shrugged. I knew that the book was more a philosophy book than an outright, fiction novel, and I knew aI wasn't sure what to expect going into Atlas Shrugged. I knew that the book was more a philosophy book than an outright, fiction novel, and I knew a little about Ayn Rand's philosophy going in. I also have a lot of friends who have read this book and seemed to--not enjoy it, but get something out of it. But most of them are much more conservative than I. As a staunch moderate (is there such a thing?) I wasn't sure what I would think of it.
For me, the book was both good and bad. From a purely story perspective, it was so-so. Many parts of it were interesting, if a bit over-the-top. Watching as the characters faced insurmountable challenges and then overcame them did keep my attention for the most part. And the writing was pretty good. Then there were the problems.
Let's start with the characters. The characters were either unlikable caricatures or just arrogant jerks (and therefore unlikable). I found it really hard to root for anyone. Additionally, the book was really long and felt it. War and Peace was a faster, more fascinating read and it also mixed fiction with philosophy. And, of course, the story is notoriously broken by "we interrupt this story to bring you an important message" moments where Rand, through her characters, pontificates about her philosophy and where people go wrong.
But let's face it, this book isn't about the story or the characters. Not really. It's about Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.
I'm not going to critique her philosophy, nor will I say what I agreed with and what I reject (because, let's face it, no philosophy is perfect, in spite of the ego of the philosopher). Simply, I thought that there were parts of her philosophy that hit the nail on the head and there were parts that were way off the mark. I can certainly see the appeal of her philosophy, especially for younger people. But there seem to me to be some obvious flaws.
Instead of critiquing her philosophy, I'm going to talk about what I found most interesting: comparing her philosophy with the beliefs of the various political groups that have either embraced or rejected her. What surprised me the most about the books was that, although conservatives have largely embraced her ideas and philosophy, most are at loggerheads with her over several important parts, most notably, the moral and religious aspects. Rand espouses individual morality and all-out egoism, an "I can do whatever I want and the world be damned" attitude. She is also very anti-mystic (read: "religion"). In short, she would have a very hard time dealing with many of the Tea Party. I do realize that her views are more Libertarian than Republican, but I know many Republicans who hold up her philosophies as the way to go.
In fact, it was interesting reading this book while following the current primary elections. So many of the arguments made by the Republican candidates made so much more sense in light of Rand's philosophy. They are, essentially, channeling her and her ideas. Many of their positions became much clearer, because I suddenly understood why they believe the way they do, at least to a point.
For example, it suddenly makes sense, in light of Rand's explanation of morality, why Conservatives believe that Liberals are evil--not misguided or wrong, EVIL! When looked at from Rand's perspective, where anyone who espouses government sanctioned welfare (or, in her words "looting" from some to give to the others because of "need") is, in fact, evil.
But the most interesting part to me was where Rand's philosophy veered starkly away from the Conservative into Liberal territory. Please note, I'm not saying Rand was a Liberal, her ghost would probably rise from the grave and haunt me for the rest of my days for even suggesting such a thing. What I am suggesting is that some of her philosophy fits really well in the Liberal philosophies of today. Not the welfare stuff, that much is obvious, but in the matter of personal choice.
Rand is all about the individual. It's all about the ego and gratifying yourself. Everything in her philosophy is about yourself. The "hero" characters make it a point every now and then, to inform others that they are helping that they are only doing it for themselves and their own selfish interests. In the "perfect, idealistic" society that Rand creates in the story, everything is about your own profit and your own self-interests, the rest of the world be damned (literally, in the case of the novel).
And that is where she actually comes together with Liberals.
For example, let's talk about abortion. Conservatives are against it on moral and religious grounds, which Rand would reject outright. Liberals believe abortion is an individual right--because no one else can tell you what you can and can't do with your body. Rand would totally agree with that. Euthanasia and gay marriage would be other examples (though I think Rand would be more a proponent of government getting out of the marriage business altogether).
Again, I'm not suggesting that Rand was liberal, I was just surprised and slightly amused to see that her ideas crossed the traditional American demarcation lines.
So, what was my opinion as a moderate? I think she definitely has some valid points about over-regulation and even welfare, but I can never agree with her worship of egoism. For example, I could never agree to the oath her "hero" characters take: "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." I am a husband and father and I will live forever for the sake of my wife and my children, no matter what.
And that's just where I start to disagree.
Did I like the book? Meh. It was interesting (if very LONG!) and it gave me food for thought.
Would I recommend it? Not unless you are fascinated by philosophy and want to see what all the fuss is about....more
You know, I think this may be one of my favorite graphic novels. It is so well put-together, so well-written, so well-drawn. The plot draws you in. ThYou know, I think this may be one of my favorite graphic novels. It is so well put-together, so well-written, so well-drawn. The plot draws you in. The characters are well-formed. It really is a great book. And the symbolism contained in it is pretty cool too.
I found out about this book when I read Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes. That book claimed that Kingdom Come was, in fact, a reaction to the "Chromium Age" of comic books. Where cheap gimmicks, over-the-top violence, and "'roided-up", grotesque superheroes without conscious reigned in the comic book world. Christopher Knowles claimed that the rallying of old heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman against a new generation of "heroes" that seemed designed to reflect the ones in comics of that day, was symbolic of classic comics overcoming the "Chromium Age" and launching a new Golden Age of comics. While he may have overstated his case a bit, you can definitely see where he was coming from. The story does, indeed, seem symbolic that way.
But in the end, it is just a good story and it leaves you thinking afterwards about violence, containment, rehabilitation, and the role of heroes in the world.
Books don't often make me mad at movies based on them. I tend to be able to take the two genres in stride and know that there are differences and thatBooks don't often make me mad at movies based on them. I tend to be able to take the two genres in stride and know that there are differences and that's okay. But very occasionally, I get very frustrated with a movie when they squander all of the potential in a book. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the premiere example of this: why on earth would filmmakers make THAT when they had THIS to work with? It is maddening.
Insurgent is one of those very rare books.
I have no idea what the filmmakers were thinking. Insurgent isn't a great book, it has some significant problems, but it is leaps and bounds better than the movie that pretends to be an adaptation. When I saw the movie, I thought it was passable. Not great -- or even as good as the first movie -- but decent in it's own right. I don't think that anymore. After seeing what the filmmakers had to work with -- which, quite frankly, I can't imagine being any more expensive just less "Tris-is-the-chosen-one-focused" -- I am furious at them. They had the chance to make a much deeper, complex film that opened up the world and, you know, made sense and even explained the title, and they chose to do an effects-laden mess focused on Shailene Woodley instead. It is so disappointing it's tragic.
That being said, the book isn't great. It has problems. Four's and Tris' moping gets old, fast. Some things happen just because, and the writing is decent but not great. However, it is a fun -- sometimes thrilling -- book and unlike the movie, it is occasionally thought-provoking. It also has scenes that I'm shocked the filmmakers didn't jump on because they would have played well on screen (Tris drugged by Amity anyone?). Tris and Four's relationship is more complex than the movie as well, which was a relief because it felt flat even before I read the book. And Jeanine's motivations make SO MUCH more sense here.
In the end, I enjoyed the book, but I don't know that I will be able to watch the movie again without getting really grumpy. I've been told that the third book is pretty bad and that it kind of ruins the whole thing, but right now, I'm looking forward to it. But I may have to skip the film. ...more
The wierdest book I've read in a very long time. In the end, it felt like it was some kind of philosophic contemplation of something, but it went righThe wierdest book I've read in a very long time. In the end, it felt like it was some kind of philosophic contemplation of something, but it went right over my head. I like Philip K. Dick, but this was not his best in my opinion....more
I've had a hard time with this series from the beginning. The story is actually pretty interesting--the maze, the trials, the world, etc. But the writI've had a hard time with this series from the beginning. The story is actually pretty interesting--the maze, the trials, the world, etc. But the writing is horrendous and most of the characters are too flat to be anything more than cardboard cutouts of people. So, in the end, I finished it for the story, but had to stomach through the writing itself. I recommend it to anyone who absolutely must read the latest young adult book. But if flat, telling-rather-than-showing, predictable (for the most part) writing gives you stomach cramps, be sure to have Mylanta close by....more
Meyer walks a very fine line in this book. She explains how her most evil character became the way she is, made you feel for her, but didn't destroy hMeyer walks a very fine line in this book. She explains how her most evil character became the way she is, made you feel for her, but didn't destroy her evilness. You will still hate Lavana in the end — even more than before, while still understanding how she became so bad. Very well done....more
I have to confess, while I love most things that Brandon Sanderson writes, the Reckoners stuff just isn't my favorite. Oh, I enjoy reading the terriblI have to confess, while I love most things that Brandon Sanderson writes, the Reckoners stuff just isn't my favorite. Oh, I enjoy reading the terrible metaphor-spouting hero as much as the next guy, and seeing the superhero genre get turned on its head brings me particular pleasure. But I just can't get into them like I want. They feel too young. I want a grittier take on the world—it certainly deserves one.
As for this particular story, it was cute and breezy fun without costing me too much time or brain cells. Unfortunately, it kind of had a "so what" feel to it, even though Sanderson tried to hint at something bigger toward the end. So, it was fun and enjoyable, if not particularly thrilling.
In the end, if you liked Steelheart, you'll probably like this one, too. If you thought Steelheart was only so-so, expect more of the same, just shorter....more
I enjoyed Across the Universe more than I expected after reading some of the other reviews. The opening scene is awesome and gripping, the book readsI enjoyed Across the Universe more than I expected after reading some of the other reviews. The opening scene is awesome and gripping, the book reads quickly and never gets dull, the characters are more complex than in most YA novels, and the world and it's secrets are well thought out. The book does have some problems. Notably a few scenes are a bit confusing and some places feel a bit too YA and some of the mystery is a bit too predictable. But overall, the book is a good read and fun. I'm curious about where she goes from here. ...more
So, to get it out of the way from the beginning: Uglies isn't as good as Leviathan. But it still has a lot to recommend it, including a very intriguing story line.
The book isn't perfect. It is a bit too predictable and the obligatory teen romance feels forced. It also has the problem of most books setting up a series--it doesn't really end. But that the same time, it is fun and the world it creates is unique enough that the flaws are easy to forgive.
The true measure of the first book of any series is whether it makes you want to read the next book. This one does in a big way, so that makes it a success.
I enjoyed this book. The rating is more like 3.5 rather than 3, though 3 means "I liked it," which is correct. It reminded me of The Road by Cormac McI enjoyed this book. The rating is more like 3.5 rather than 3, though 3 means "I liked it," which is correct. It reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, though not as dark or deep or noteworthy. It is, all around, much lighter than that other book, but this one is for youth, so that is to be expected.
Overall, this book was pretty well done. The characters were believable, the dialogue was decently written, the overall plot worked. The problem was the world.
As you know from the description, this is a post-apocalyptic tale, and indeed, the earth has been stripped of its people through a mysterious plague called simply P11. And that was the problem. P11 was too nebulous, too abstract. It was too much of a MacGuffin to take seriously. And it wasn't the only thing. Too much was left up to vague descriptions of dangers you never saw on felt. So much or it fell flat.
And that wasn't all. The romance comes practically out of nowhere. Things change too rapidly to get a feel for the world before having to adapt. And the reader is asked to just assume things are important, without enough background.
In other words, it just wasn't filled out enough for me.
That is not to say the book isn't enjoyable. It is. On top of that, it is a quick, easy read and a good way to spend a couple of hours. But The Road it is not, nor should you expect it to be.
In the end, as I have said, I enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a post-apocalyptic yarn. Just don't expect too much and you'll be fine....more
The Well of Ascension is a good book. It expands well on the world established in the previous book and takes the characters to interesting, new placeThe Well of Ascension is a good book. It expands well on the world established in the previous book and takes the characters to interesting, new places. As expected, the battles. especially the personal, one-on-one duels, are spectacular and the magic system is amazing.
The book does suffer a little from both "middle-book syndrome" and "characters are too dense to see the obvious disease". Both are very mild cases, but should be mentioned as the first book held together so well.
The biggest problem, when compared to the first one, is that this book is not nearly as fun as that one. The first book was epic fantasy mixed with a heist story. Kind of a "Magical Ocean's 11." This book lost that and turned into fantasy mixed with politics--way too traditional in the genre and just a little dry. The lost star mostly comes from that.
Even still, it is a good book and I am very interested to see what happens next. Anyone who enjoyed the first one will like this one, and the battles really are breath-taking. I just wish it was a bit more fun....more
My daughter, who read the Hunger Games trilogy before I did, has long assured me that Mockingjay wasn't nearly as good as the other two. So I really wMy daughter, who read the Hunger Games trilogy before I did, has long assured me that Mockingjay wasn't nearly as good as the other two. So I really wanted it to blow me away, just so I could tease her about it. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her.
While portions of the book maintain the same tense atmosphere as the first two books, and the political issues and allegories are just as strong, Mockingjay just didn't hold up--especially to the first one that was, by far, the best of the trilogy.
The book does a decent job of wrapping everything up. I wasn't dissappointed with the ending--in fact, I thought it very fitting. I also didn't have a problem with the ambiguity of the story, where it was hard to tell who was good/right and who was evil/wrong. I thought that part was very appropriate in a world that too often turns things into black and white.
But I still didn't like most of the book.
The biggest problem was Katniss. She just didn't feel like Katniss throughout most of the story. The book chronicles her being steadily pushed to madness. It was logical based on what she was going through, I guess, but it got very old. I missed the old Katniss from the first and even second book who stood up and fought and beat the odds no matter what. This Katness was too weak, too defeated, too ... dare I say, boring?
It is still a good book and if you read Catching Fire you have to read this one to get the conclusion. But part of me wishes I just left the trilogy alone after the first book, which worked pretty well on its own. Not that I regret reading Mockingjay, I was just dissappointed....more
I've been told more than once (especially by my daughter) that this series declines a lot in the third book, but you wouldn't know it from the first bI've been told more than once (especially by my daughter) that this series declines a lot in the third book, but you wouldn't know it from the first book. While not quite as gripping as the first book, I thought it was very well done and that it logically built from the previous entry.
My biggest complaint was that it was predicatable. More than once I guessed what was going to happen several chapters before they actually occured. More than once I became a bit annoyed with the characters when they couldn't figure out--or even speculate--on something that was pretty obvious.
Also, the first half was a bit slow--or at least it felt like it took a long time for the story to really get going.
And then there is the abrupt, middle-book ending. But I'll let that one go.
Even with those faults, the book is still very good. The second-half is just as tense--maybe more so--than the first and the stakes are higher this time around, which only adds to the tension. The romances felt more natural this time around and Katniss, though still somewhat dense, was still very well written.
My daughter assures me that the third entry will disappoint me. I hope not. But after reading Catching fire, there's no way I can't read it....more
4 stars for the story, but 3 stars for the writing, so consider this a 3.5 star review.
I saw the movie before reading this, and I left the theater dyi4 stars for the story, but 3 stars for the writing, so consider this a 3.5 star review.
I saw the movie before reading this, and I left the theater dying to read it and see how different it is. For anyone wondering, the movie is spot on in concept, but the details are very different from the book. And overall, I still enjoyed the story. The idea of children trapped like mice in an impossible maze was fascinating. However, in spite of a few flaws, I think that the movie did it better.
The problem is the writing. I was underwhelmed. It felt like it was written for the Percy Jackson audience, which is fine, but given the level of violence here, it seemed very inappropriate. Additionally, Dashner has a terrible habit of telling rather than showing. Without the movie, I wouldn't have been able to adequately picture the maze or the Glade or the characters. And one problem shared by the both book and movie is that sometimes it felt like the characters were "sent to the clues" rather than discovering them organically.
I do realize that this is a YA novel, so my expectations aren't that high. But then again, some YA books are exceptionally well done -- including direct competitors to this book (Hunger Games, etc.), so that shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy writing.
In the end, I still enjoyed the story and will continue the series, but the writing is underwhelming at best. Take that for what it is....more
So I got to the end of the book and my main reaction is "meh." I thought it was OK, but not great. It was interesting to see an update of Starship TroSo I got to the end of the book and my main reaction is "meh." I thought it was OK, but not great. It was interesting to see an update of Starship Troopers considering the Vietnam era (which was pretty evident, in the book), but it still left me feeling very overwhelmed.
First, the main character isn't interesting. He is actually kind of a jerk and extremely lazy. I sure wouldn't want him as a commander or leader of any kind. He doesn't seem to have any talent for it and will, in fact, just make things worse in the long run. I understand that this is recounting some of the leadership problems around Vietnam, but it just made for a very irritating character.
Also, a whole lot of nothing happens. I think this was because Haldeman was trying to mimic the Heinlein's political musings that permeate Starship Troopers. But here it just got long-winded. Why, for example, do we need a whole chapter on how the enlisted men managed to create an economy based on alchohol? I'm not sure what it was supposed to add, except to illustrate how the main character was an idiot and willing to practically rape a girl.
There are some battle scenes throughout the book (though not as many as you'd expect). The strange thing about them is their clinical descriptions. They were neither rousing nor provoking nor interesting for the reader. They just were. At least, that's how it was to me.
So, in the end, I didn't really care for it. I understood what it was trying to be and what it was trying to do, it just didn't interest me and left me more irritated than interested. So again, "meh."...more
I'm going to bump this up a star. I read this book back in high school and, between this book and 1984, this is the one that stayed with me the most.I'm going to bump this up a star. I read this book back in high school and, between this book and 1984, this is the one that stayed with me the most. But at the same time, I didn't fully get it and didn't really like it back then. I returned to it now to see if I would feel the same with more life and (hopefully) more culture behind me.
I am pleased to say that I DID enjoy it more. More than that, I think I understood it more. While this book is obviously a far-fetched fantasy, it is easy to see how many of the problems that we have today are manifest in this society. I don't think that Huxley was really warning about actually manufacturing children and society as much as he was creating a parable that took certain trends to their ultimate extreme.
Yes, it is a problem that everything is manufactured in this society and so on. But it is a bigger problem that the weightier aspects of the world -- the thought, philosophy, religion -- and so on, are chucked in lieu of perpetual infantilism, something that is, I believe, a real problem of today. The "man child" who refuses to grow up and take responsibility is NOT an admirable state. Free love and pursuit of self-gratification without the balance of morals may seem good, but do not actually bring happiness. Indeed, the absolute avoidance (or, in the case of the book, removal) of anything trying, difficult, or painful does not lead to happiness. Just the opposite.
So in the end, I got a lot more from this book than I did previously. It moved me and made me think, and that is what I wanted. I also suddenly understand why they have kids read it in high school, in spite of some of the more risque aspects. But I don't know that high schoolers are quite old enough to appreciate it.
Why 4 stars instead of 5? Well, I really liked it and it moved me, but it didn't move me that much! I felt it was well-written and powerful. But I didn't LOVE it. I found it hard to connect to some of the characters and the world. That is, I think, at least mostly on purpose, but that lack of connection left me feeling just a little bit "meh" at the end when I wanted to feel inspired.
I guess you should count this as 4-and-a-half....more
Like so many others, I read 1984 in high school. About the only thing that really struck me from the book at the time was that it had sex in it, whichLike so many others, I read 1984 in high school. About the only thing that really struck me from the book at the time was that it had sex in it, which was shocking for a sheltered kid growing up in extremely conservative, rural America. The rest of the book, the point, and most of the plot was pretty much lost on me.
As I have grown and my taste in literature has matured, and as my interest in dystopian science fiction has increased, I decided that the time was right for me to return to 1984 and see what all the fuss was about. By this time, of course, I had become very familiar with the cultural impact of the novel -- Big Brother, and so on. I'd also had several positive experiences with classics that turned out to be much better than I'd expected (I'm looking at you, Moby Dick). So I was hopeful that would be the case here. In the end... well... it just didn't strike me as much as I wished.
Don't get me wrong, the book is very well-written and interesting. The world is suitably frightening and claustrophobic and the moral is clear and poignant. But even with all that, the book just didn't grab me. I could have easily put it down and walked away without a second thought. So while I appreciate what the book was trying to do -- what it, in fact, succeeded in doing -- I just felt underwhelmed. Maybe it was a case of expecting too much.
The one thing that really bothered me -- and I stress that this was just a "me" thing -- was how depressing the whole thing was. I went in knowing it was going to be depressing -- it was one of the few vague memories I had of the book from high school beyond the sex scenes, but even still the whole thing was just a downer. I KNOW that it is supposed to have that feel to it, that the ideas Orwell was writing about are heavy, serious things and that levity would have destroyed the whole thing, but I just wasn't in the mood for it, I guess. It seems kind of petty now that I write it out, but that is how I felt.
In the end, I really don't have to recommend or really say anything about this book. What could I say that hasn't been written 100X over already by countless high school students and experts far beyond me. So I'll just say that it is a good book, it is more than worth a solid reading, just be prepared to get very depressed when you read it....more
I think I've decided that I'm not the biggest fan of Philip K. Dick. He's okay and I enjoy some of it, but he is to "out there" for me -- and sometimeI think I've decided that I'm not the biggest fan of Philip K. Dick. He's okay and I enjoy some of it, but he is to "out there" for me -- and sometimes it kind of feels like he crams the philosophy down your throat. And since he is most interested in the philosophic aspects of his stories, that can be problematic.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is, of course, the basis of the movie Blade Runner. Because Dick focuses so much on the philosophical aspects of the story, it would be nearly impossible to translate the story as is to the big screen, so Ridley Scott adapted it. Heavily. Aspects of the story remain, but if you expect the book to be like the movie or vice versa, you are in for a serious disappointment.
The biggest problem for me is that, within the philosophy, some of the story lagged. It almost felt tacked on to what Dick was really writing about -- secondary, somehow. The characters at times felt weak and not fully formed, and I confess that the ending left me a bit baffled.
Still, it is a good book if you enjoy classic science fiction. Just don't go in expecting the movie....more