Not my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
The Google Books preview for Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is nearly ten percent of the b...moreNot my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
The Google Books preview for Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is nearly ten percent of the book (49 continuous pages out of 498 in the version they use), and absolutely nothing interesting happens in that time. That's one hell of a lead-up.
Here are the problems I encountered that make me not want to read on:
- The male narrator does not "sound male." I'm not one to believe women can't write first-person male characters or men can't write first-person female characters, but Ned never stops sounding like a Nadine to me. Perhaps knowing this was written by a woman set me up for confusion when I encountered the first "I," but something didn't click.
- The dialogue reads like an American is trying to write English characters. Upon looking at Connie Willis' bio, I wasn't at all surprised to find out that is the case.
- Sort of related to the former, but the "English humor" feels slightly...off. Not to mention a little juvenile seeming at times. Considering a hefty chunk of the 49 sample pages is dialogue alone, that's a bit much to slog through.
Not my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
Paullina Simons' style is a little stilted at times, but I tried to overlook that, wanting to become...moreNot my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
Paullina Simons' style is a little stilted at times, but I tried to overlook that, wanting to become immersed in Soviet history. Simons seems to be more interested in Harlequin romance than history, though. I knew this was a romance, but I didn't know it was a cliched one.
Here is the Stock Male Lead:
His voice was strong and deep...
...[she] raised her eyes to get a better look at him. And raised them and raised them. He was tall.
Underneath his umber cap he was dark-haired. The youth and dark hair were to his advantage, Tatiana thought, as her shy eyes met his eyes, which were the color of caramel...
Even his walk was from another world; the step was too sure, the stride too long, yet somehow it all seemed right, looked right, felt right.
Looking up at him, Tatiana got a crick in her neck... Even in high heels she barely came up to the base of his throat.
From his high forehead to his square jaw, his facial bones were prominent and clearly visible to her curious eyes.
Yes, yes, he's a god. Whatever.
And here's the Stock Female Lead:
Tatiana brushed out her very blonde long hair, wistfully wishing for thick dark curls like the rest of the family's. Her was so straight and blah blonde. She always wore it tied back in a ponytail or in braids. Today she tied it up in the ponytail.
All someone had to do was bump a chair against her knee and she was on the floor unconscious.
Tatiana turned red. She hated that about herself. She turned red all the time for no reason.
And isn't it just serendipitous that Stock Character 1 and 2 meet under this circumstance:
The wind blew her hair, and she held it back with one hand as she licked the ice cream in circles around the smooth ball. She crossed and uncrossed her legs, swung her head back, lolled the ice cream in her throat, and hummed the song everyone was singing these days: "Someday we'll meet in Lvov, my love and I."
For some bizarre reason, this draws the attention of the male lead. I WONDER WHY.
These passages, on top of an already dry and stilted read, don't speak well of what's to come, at least for my reading tastes. I'm going to guess this series isn't for me.(less)
Not my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
I wanted to like this one, as the summary made it sound good, but the characters were too over-the-t...moreNot my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the sample.
I wanted to like this one, as the summary made it sound good, but the characters were too over-the-top from the beginning. Also, I can't ignore how Nancy Kress got some of her science about sleep wrong. I don't expect science fiction authors to get everything right, and I'm not the biggest science nerd on the block to hold them accountable, but in a novel about genetically altering sleep, you'd think the author would more carefully research, well, sleep.
Here are the passages that made me drop this one:
"...Sleep was an aid to survival. But now it's a left-over mechanism, a vestige like the appendix..."
"Well, then," Susan said, "you already know that the reason people sleep is because a pressure to sleep builds up in the brain. Over the past twenty years, research has determined that's the only reason. Neither slow-wave sleep nor REM sleep serve functions that can't be carried on while the body and brain are awake. A lot goes on during sleep, but it can go on during wakefulness just as well, if other hormonal adjustments are made."
I'd have trouble believing sleep has no purpose for our bodies, even with a good explanation, but when this character says "over the past twenty years," she's talking about 1988-2008, as the first chapter is in 2008. (Don't ask me why Kress thought it would be sensible to place this kind of book only four years after her publishing year. Science isn't that advanced with this stuff.) While we don't fully understand why sleep happens, there's very little we've learned in those years that suggests it has no function. A quick and easy wiki search or search for the latest science would tell Kress as much.
So, interesting premise, but the characters seem like they would get old very quickly, and the science fiction seems a little light on science. I can't get into that.(less)
Not my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the 10% mark.
On the positive side of things, the English version of 1Q84 seems to be a good translation from it...moreNot my cup of tea. I couldn't get past the 10% mark.
On the positive side of things, the English version of 1Q84 seems to be a good translation from its original Japanese. Translator Philip Gabriel has clearly gone to great lengths to make this story feel "comfortable" in English. Unfortunately, Gabriel couldn't make author Haruki Murakami uncharacteristically concise, I'm guessing.
I'm reminded of Lord of the Rings, where every hill and door is supposedly worthy of multiple pages of description. Two chapters, right at 70 pages into 1Q84, and I'd only gotten through a traffic jam and a conversation. It doesn't seem to improve significantly beyond that. It's kind of as if the story itself is caught in a traffic jam.
This slow, steady development works for some readers. I don't have the attention span for it, though, and can never shake the feeling that the author was padding the narrative to reach a certain word count.
Also, as a purely personal pet peeve, I tend to struggle with stories that fall victim to the Most Writers Are Writers trope, as this one does.
Not my cup of tea. I skimmed this--after pirating the book, because I wouldn't dream of buying something like Blindness.
I think there are two types of...moreNot my cup of tea. I skimmed this--after pirating the book, because I wouldn't dream of buying something like Blindness.
I think there are two types of people in the reading world, those who are impressed when authors drop punctuation and common technique to be "edgy," and those who can't stomach it. Except on rare occasion, I can't stomach it. I don't think authors who refuse to use quotation marks, commas, periods, and/or paragraphs are "stylistic geniuses" or "edgy," I think they're lazy and trying to come off as being clever with the least amount of work required. It's the same feeling I have when eating at a "fancy" restaurant where the portions are twice as expensive for half as much food; this may impress a lot of people, but not me.
Before I started Blindness, I knew of the author, José Saramago. I knew he was known for, as Wiki puts it, "many long, breathless sentences in which commas take the place of periods." But this book is rated so well and lauded so often in book clubs, that I felt I had to give it a chance.
Early on in the sample, it became clear this wasn't the book for me.
As the blind man had said, his home was nearby. But the pavements were crammed with vehicles, they could not find a space to park and were obliged to look for a spot in one of the side streets. There, because of the narrowness of the pavement, the door on the passenger's side would have been little more than a hand's-breadth from the wall, so in order to avoid the discomfort of dragging himself from one seat to the other with the brake and steering wheel in the way, the blind man had to get out before the car was parked. Abandoned in the middle of the road, feeling the ground shifting under his feet, he tried to suppress the sense of panic that welled up inside him. He waved his hands in front of his face, nervously, as if he were swimming in what he had described as a milky sea, but his mouth was already opening to let out a cry for help when at the last minute he felt the other's hand gently touch him on the arm, Calm down, I've got you. They proceeded very slowly, afraid of falling, the blind man dragged his feet, but this caused him to stumble on the uneven pavement, Be patient, we're almost there, the other murmured, and a little further ahead, he asked, Is there anyone at home to look after you, and the blind man replied, I don't know, my wife won't be back from work yet, today it so happened that I left earlier only to have this hit me. You'll see, it isn't anything serious, I've never heard of anyone suddenly going blind, And to think I used to boast that I didn't even need glasses, Well it just goes to show. They had arrived at the entrance to the building, two women from the neighbourhood looked on inquisitively at the sight of their neighbour being led by the arm but neither of them thought of asking, Have you got something in your eye, it never occurred to them nor would he have been able to reply, Yes, a milky sea. Once inside the building, the blind man said, Many thanks, I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused you, I can manage on my own now, No need to apologise, I'll come up with you, I wouldn't be easy in my mind if I were to leave you here. They got into the narrow elevator with some difficulty, What floor do you live on, On the third, you cannot imagine how grateful I am, Don't thank me, today it's you, Yes, you're right, tomorrow it might be you. The elevator came to a halt, they stepped out on to the landing, Would you like me to help you open the door, Thanks, that's something I think I can do for myself. He took from his pocket a small bunch of keys, felt them one by one along the serrated edge, and said, It must be this one, and feeling for the keyhole with the fingertips of his left hand, he tried to open the door. It isn't this one, Let me have a look, I'll help you. The door opened at the third attempt. Then the blind man called inside, Are you there, no one replied, and he remarked, Just as I was saying, she still hasn't come back. Stretching out his hands, he groped his way along the corridor, then he came back cautiously, turning his head in the direction where he calculated the other fellow would be, How can I thank you, he said, It was the least I could do, said the good Samaritan, no need to thank me, and added, Do you want me to help you to get settled and keep you company until your wife arrives. This zeal suddenly struck the blind man as being suspect, obviously he would not invite a complete stranger to come in who, after all, might well be plotting at that very moment how to overcome, tie up and gag the poor defenceless blind man, and then lay hands on anything of value. There's no need, please don't bother, he said, I'm fine, and as he slowly began closing the door, he repeated, There's no need, there's no need.
That's one paragraph and the sound of cute, furry things dying.
Maybe it's because I care about some level of accessibility, but I can't understand how anyone sits and reads something like this. It's like reading pink text on a green background.
On top of Saramago's "brilliant" technique, I just don't think the story itself is that groundbreaking or interesting; if the style was different, I suspect few reviewers would like it (or feel they should like it). The story is that everyone's gone blind and society falls apart as a result. Readers follow a group of the afflicted people, one of which has not gone blind, while all those around her have.
When I got to the end of the book, I was very grateful I'd only skimmed this beast, because this is the supposed core of Saramago's idea:
(view spoiler)[Why did we become blind, I don't know, perhaps one day we'll find out, Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.(hide spoiler)]