This is definitely one of the stranger books I've ever read, but I did enjoy the mix of post-apocalyptic setting and ridiculous satire. I'm just, hmm,This is definitely one of the stranger books I've ever read, but I did enjoy the mix of post-apocalyptic setting and ridiculous satire. I'm just, hmm, I'm not sure that Harkaway's style is for me—I would've enjoyed the book more if it had been cut down 150 pages or so and had fewer digressions, but I think that would've defeated the whole purpose. There were parts I liked, parts that made me laugh, and storylines that I enjoyed (although they mostly went unresolved), so I don't count it as a loss, but I think it's one of those books that you really have to like the author's style to get into, and it just didn't pull me in the way it clearly has for a lot of people.
Also apparently the author is John LeCarré's son, so I guess I just can't escape LeCarré lately. I never would've guessed from the writing style/subject matter/anything about it, but that's got nothing to do with anything, just a note. ...more
This is the last of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, and I wish I saved it until last rather than reading it with several more novels and short story collectioThis is the last of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, and I wish I saved it until last rather than reading it with several more novels and short story collections to go. I'll certainly be reading it again once I'm finished with the rest of his work. It's half novel and half memoir, with typical themes and style and typically, it's brilliant. Not much "happens" in it; it's mostly an outline and fragments of a novel he never quite finished, mixed in with stories about his own life and family, with his usual wit and that weird amalgam of optimism and cynicism that is so prevalent in Vonnegut's works. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is. ...more
I found this book quite confusing at first because of the odd tense (it's set in the present era, 1986, but narrated by a spirit a million years in thI found this book quite confusing at first because of the odd tense (it's set in the present era, 1986, but narrated by a spirit a million years in the future who has been dead for equally as long), but once I was able to sort out the technical details I really enjoyed the novel. It is a typically Vonnegut take on evolution and the future/end of the human race, or at least of humanity, and although I didn't find the characters as memorable as, say, Bokonon or Billy Pilgrim, but his usual themes were strong here as in his other works. ...more
When grading his own books, Vonnegut gave Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! a D. I wouldn't give it a D, but I don't think any Vonnegut novel deserves tWhen grading his own books, Vonnegut gave Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! a D. I wouldn't give it a D, but I don't think any Vonnegut novel deserves that low a grade; however, this is definitely not one of his best. The novel is an autobiography of one half of a set of eccentric twins who, together, are geniuses, and apart are "ugly ducklings." The book focuses on Wilbur's plan to end loneliness in America by creating artificial families when he is elected president of the U.S.A. Like most of Vonnegut's work, Slapstick is a social commentary and satire with many sci-fi elements; the sci-fi aspects are lackluster in this one but the ideas regarding family and loneliness are interesting, if not as interestingly explored as they could have been if this were one of his better works. Although this one does contain one of my favourite Vonnegut lines ever, to be said to family members you don't care for: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling donut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?" ...more
This novel has fewer science-fiction elements than most of Vonnegut's other works. Nobody is unstuck in time, there is no magical freezing element, noThis novel has fewer science-fiction elements than most of Vonnegut's other works. Nobody is unstuck in time, there is no magical freezing element, none of Saturn's moons are home to Tralfamadorians. In contrast, a world with constant class wars, where outsiders see its lower-class labourers as akin to slaves, where men are replaced by the very machines they have helped to create—it does not seem so far off from our own society, or at least the direction we are heading. It's a meritocracy taken to the extreme, where those with high IQs are the haves and those without are the have-nothings. Dr. Paul Proteus is a high-ranking engineer, but comes to realize that a system that places value on machines over men is flawed and unnatural, despite the fact that he is one of the few who has benefited from their existence. Player Piano is Vonnegut's first novel and not his best—the ending is unsatisfying and the story drags in places. However, it is amazing to see how clearly Vonnegut has anticipated the "rise of machines" in an age before PCs and the internet and so much of the technology we have today that is taking over and replacing our lives, and his description of how some rebel against it and the society it creates seems particularly relevant even to current protests such as the Occupy movement. One on hand, the novel is a satire of what could be, but at the same time, in a way, it already is. ...more
**spoiler alert** I know that this third installment in the series is very divisive. Some people loved it, some people hated it. So it goes. I persona**spoiler alert** I know that this third installment in the series is very divisive. Some people loved it, some people hated it. So it goes. I personally think that Mockingjay isn't quite as good as the two books which precede it, but I still think it was a fitting ending to the trilogy. Collins captured the horror of war—the way people change, not always for the better, the fact that people do things they would otherwise be completely against out of fear or desperation or because they think it is their only choice, the idea that sometimes the "good guys" are just as bad as the bad guys and that sometimes the real "good guys," the people you want to protect, are the people getting caught in the crossfire. When I first read this book, I found myself getting angry at Katniss, at Gale, at Peeta, for not acting the way I thought they should, but this time around I thought—would I do differently? I'd like to think so, but I can't be sure. Perhaps I wouldn't have the chance, but only because they are far braver than I could ever be so I wouldn't have gotten that far to begin with. Anyway, I thought that the exploration into the creation of Panem and the relationship to District 13 was interesting and twisted and powerful, and the way each side used propaganda and media was very fascinating to me. I was Team Katniss all the way, of course, but apart from that I often found myself torn about who to root for, and I think that is fitting and realistic. In the end, I found myself angry, but not at the book, or at the characters (although I wasn't always on board with what they were doing, but I liked that they had obvious flaws), just at the whole idea of having to make those choices, of being responsible in the way Katniss, Peeta, everyone was forced to be, and at the society that put them in that position. Overall, I definitely had some issues with the book, mainly that I thought some of the deaths were just to add to the body count rather than having any real place in the plot. However, I was satisfied with the way it completed the trilogy.
Two notes about the end and the epilogue: I don't know if this is a common theme but I've seen one or two people annoyed with the way the trial happened of screen, and one or two more annoyed with the epilogue because they think Peeta forced Katniss into having children. I have to say I disagree with both of those issues—I think the trial occurring offscreen was perfect because it emphasizes that Katniss was really just a pawn to the adults. All of her successes, as we are reminded early in the books, all of the times she made people love her, are things that she did unprompted, independent. It makes sense that they would want one last chance at trying to decide her life for her, rather than letting her interfere and be the mockingjay that she is. Frustrating maybe, but unsurprising. As for the children, well, some years had passed. Obviously not everyone wants children, but as her main reason was that she worried for their safety, I could see her coming to terms with the fact that the last Hunger Games had occurred and changing her mind. I do wish she had had more of a "choice" with Gale being around for her to decide between him and Peeta, but for me I always thought she would be with Peeta in the end so it didn't have enough of an impact to really bother me. But I always liked that Katniss was the focus than the focus being on her decision between Peeta and Gale—it kept the love triangle for being unbearably love-triangle-y and it made sense since they obviously had much more important things to do than worry about who was kissing who. ...more
I think I actually liked this book even better the second time through. Part of it was knowing how everything ended; Catching Fire had even more of aI think I actually liked this book even better the second time through. Part of it was knowing how everything ended; Catching Fire had even more of a "to be continued" ending than The Hunger Games, and so knowing what everyone's part in the rebellion was and more about each character's personality straight off helped. I definitely didn't like, for example, Finnick, as much the first time through as I did this time around. At the same time, it's also a little heartbreaking to be introduced to several knew characters and get to know several more a lot better, knowing how things turn out. I was a little worried that the series, particularly this book, would be less intense on re-read, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. I was just as shocked and horrified when the Quarter Quell was announced as I had been the first time through, and everything that circled around that. As in the first book, I like the description, the vivid mix of emotions and battles, and Katniss is just as interesting a character as the unwilling victor as she was as the defiant tribute. I'm going to mark my Mockingjay review as spoilers so I can talk about spoilery stuff for the series as a whole......more
I've always been fond of talking dragons, ever since reading and loving The Enchanted Forest Chronicles as a kid (and as an adult, let's be honest), sI've always been fond of talking dragons, ever since reading and loving The Enchanted Forest Chronicles as a kid (and as an adult, let's be honest), so it was to be expected that I would enjoy this book. I loved the historical setting; it combines the fantasy/science fiction aspect with the Napoleonic Wars without adding too much extra technology. It isn't a steampunk book, just an alternate universe that is history plus dragons. Captain William Laurence recovers a dragon's egg from a French vessel, and when it hatches he becomes Temeraire's handler. Everything about the battles and the anatomy of different dragon types is interesting, but the most important part of the book, I think, is the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. The two are immediate friends, and Laurence must leave his captaincy in the Royal Navy to become a dragon handler, which he does not mind at all due to the fact that it allows him to be with Temeraire, who he almost instantly considers his closest friend. The dragon himself is smart and also sort of adorable in his wonder at the world around him, and I loved all of the details about his and Laurence's adventures, whether it was a fight against the French military or watching fireworks. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. ...more
I love science fiction as a whole, but I especially love science fiction that isn't just about how many spaceships can be crammed into one story (althI love science fiction as a whole, but I especially love science fiction that isn't just about how many spaceships can be crammed into one story (although I do enjoy that kind of science fiction as well). The best science fiction is social, or political, or provides some sort of commentary on humanity, even in a very inhuman (i.e. extra-terrestrial) setting. The Left Hand of Darkness definitely does that with Le Guin's exploration of gender and sexuality in the Gethenian race—a group of people ("people") who have the ability to be male and female and whose sexual identities are different in many ways than those of humans such as Genly Ai, the emissary who comes to them for diplomacy and debate. The book was a little difficult to get into and even to get through, due to the density of the worldbuilding, with so many words and concepts related to Gethen and its inhabitants, but it was also this denseness which made it so interesting. I particularly liked the descriptions of Winter on Gethen. This book was recommended to me by a number of people, and I'm glad they did. ...more
What a strange, strange book. Two cities, both occupying the same space, but so hostile one to the other that their citizens must "unsee" signs of theWhat a strange, strange book. Two cities, both occupying the same space, but so hostile one to the other that their citizens must "unsee" signs of the other, no matter the geographical closeness or the importance of the visual. Passage between the two cities is a bureaucratic, legal, and cultural nightmare. It's futuristic and dystopic and odd and bizarre. And it's fantastic, some of the best world-building I've ever seen in a novel. While some of the concepts were difficult to wade through, it was due to the depth and detail of Miéville's creation. The plot was less interesting, a murder mystery that is largely ignored at points in favour of more worldbuilding, and only brought up to discuss the mysterious Breach, but I found myself so engrossed in learning more about Bezel and Ul Qoma that I didn't mind the lack of plot in favour of the breadth and depth of the setting in which it takes place. ...more