This was a great biography of a very strange and brilliant man. There are better books about some of the things in here (for a great look at the creat...moreThis was a great biography of a very strange and brilliant man. There are better books about some of the things in here (for a great look at the creation of the Mac, I recommend Stephen Levy's Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything) and there are better looks back at the live of the key players here. But this is easily the most complete picture of the life and times of Steve Jobs, and on those merits alone, it's worth reading.
Jobs was a complicated and frankly unpleasant person. He achieved greatness, and did indeed change the world, but he was utterly obsessed with the notion of his legacy. He desired above all else to build a company that would survive beyond him, and whether or not that is the case remains to be seen. What this book does show, however, is that it won't be easy for Apple to achieve anything without him. Even though others did the "real" work, most of the incredible feats in Apple's history can be tied to thoughts from Jobs' own head.
I did like that the book doesn't shy away from showing the dark side of Jobs. He was a lousy father, which is sad, because of all of his legacies, the one that should have mattered the most to him didn't.
But anyway, if you have any interest in the life of Jobs, I'd recommend this book. Any biography can be a little dry, but Jobs' life was filled with such dizzying highs that this one rarely gets dull. (less)
I enjoyed Robopocalypse. It's not great, but it goes fast, and has lots of little interesting details thrown in for fun. The premise is essentially Wo...moreI enjoyed Robopocalypse. It's not great, but it goes fast, and has lots of little interesting details thrown in for fun. The premise is essentially World War Z with robots instead of zombies. The difference here is that the stories aren't quite as interesting as those in WWZ, and it's also not quite as well written. The book has a few problems...each of the stories is bookended by one character's notes, and oftentimes these notes tell you more about the significance of these events in the larger war than the story itself is able to convey, making the whole thing feel anticlimactic. Speaking of anticlimactic, for a planetary war, the whole thing ends pretty quietly. And while we do get stories of a handful of people, there are billions (literally billions) of other people involved that we get no information on. You don't really come away with much of a feel for the scale of this thing, something that World War Z was able to pull off.
Still, I liked Robopocalypse. It's not great, but it's a good light read. (less)
This book just never clicked with me. I never found myself fully immersed in the world, and I never really cared about any of the characters. It was a...moreThis book just never clicked with me. I never found myself fully immersed in the world, and I never really cared about any of the characters. It was also weirdly violent. That doesn't usually bother me, but it felt out of place here. And the glee with which the main character exacts his revenge wasn't particularly indearing. (less)
A magnificent collection of short stories by an absolute master of the form. It is rare to read so much information crammed into such a tiny bit of sp...moreA magnificent collection of short stories by an absolute master of the form. It is rare to read so much information crammed into such a tiny bit of space. If this collection of collections has any flaws, it is that Hempel doesn't have much of a range. With few exceptions, these are stories about middle aged women and their dogs. I found myself confusing events in one story with another from time to time because they were so similar.
But if you can get past that, it's a remarkable book to read. Hempel tells more in a single sentence than most writers do in whole chapters. (less)
This is a strange and wonderful little book. Not so much science fiction as a novel about four college kids in the early 70s, it goes way beyond its p...moreThis is a strange and wonderful little book. Not so much science fiction as a novel about four college kids in the early 70s, it goes way beyond its premise and develops into something truly unique. Highly recommended.(less)
Everville is a good, but slightly strange book. It's the second book of three - the first was The Great and Secret Show, and the last has yet to be wr...moreEverville is a good, but slightly strange book. It's the second book of three - the first was The Great and Secret Show, and the last has yet to be written. And it's a book without much structure. It has a collection of characters, some old, some new, but it didn't really feel like there was much of a backbone here.
Still, it's Clive Barker, and even a formless trip into his mind is a worthwhile one. And the central story of The Art is a really, really good one, and I look forward to seeing it finished some day. (less)
What a great book. This isn't an autobiography so much as a series of anecdotes from his crazy life. The whole tone feels like you're sitting next to...moreWhat a great book. This isn't an autobiography so much as a series of anecdotes from his crazy life. The whole tone feels like you're sitting next to him at a bar listening to these great stories. Feynman had a truly brilliant mind and unique personality. Highly, highly recommended.(less)
Wow, did this book ever rub me the wrong way. It's not that I don't like Stephenson (I do!) and it's not that I don't like this kind of flimsy, Islami...moreWow, did this book ever rub me the wrong way. It's not that I don't like Stephenson (I do!) and it's not that I don't like this kind of flimsy, Islamic terrorist plot storytelling. Apparently I just don't like when the two come together.
My big problem with Reamde is that the story is actually pretty simple, but Stephenson approaches it as if it were intricate, giving us loads and loads and loads of unnecessary detail. Which is great when he's dealing with a somewhat interesting or original subject matter, but this is the domain of novelists whose work is proclaimed in bold letters from airport newsstands. Those guys know how to write this material: quick and to the point.
Instead, Stephenson devotes hundreds upon hundreds of pages, breathlessly filling in every conceivable logical outcome, and it never adds up to much of anything.
It also takes away from the tension. In the last chunk of the book, all the characters converge on one place for a final confrontation, and Stephenson feels the need to tell us not just what weapon everyone is carrying, but how many bullets, the status of their safety, the history and make of every component they're carying, the history and purpose of every twist in the road and so on. It's just relentlessly dull, and drags on and on.
Don't pick up this book thinking it's about a massively multiplayer game, or represents Stephenson's triumphant return to cyberpunk. The MMO is nothing more than a MacGuffin, which is weird considering the hundreds of pages he spends defining every aspect of its gameplay and history. No, this is a story about terrorists. And not an especially good one, either.
Had it been 1/3rd the length, I might have enjoyed it. But there is so much fluff, so much sheer indulgence in this book, that by the end I just could not wait for it to be over. This book is a colossal disappointment from a very talented writer. (less)
More literary excercise than story, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Recommended, just don't go in looking for an in-depth narrative. This is a d...moreMore literary excercise than story, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Recommended, just don't go in looking for an in-depth narrative. This is a dream, not a novel.(less)
Having not been a huge fan of the first book, I'm not sure what possessed me to try the second. In some ways, this book is better. It's not as concern...moreHaving not been a huge fan of the first book, I'm not sure what possessed me to try the second. In some ways, this book is better. It's not as concerned with the excruciating details of everyone's computer (however we are treated to an entire IKEA catalog at one point) and it isn't quite as extreme in its depictions of violence. But it is ultimately more of the same. Another not terribly interesting story, with revelations that seem more interesting to the characters than the reader (this one, anyway). Like the first, it drags quite a bit in the last third, but unlike that book, it has a thoroughly unsatisfying ending. Which I suppose means the third book picks up right where this one left off, but I'm in no rush to read it. Maybe in another year, I'll have forgotten about this one and want to try yet again.(less)
Picking up more or less right where Grossman's The Magicians left off, The Magician King continues the adventures of Quentin and the other surviving g...morePicking up more or less right where Grossman's The Magicians left off, The Magician King continues the adventures of Quentin and the other surviving graduates of Brakebills. They are now joined by Julia, his childhood friend who found her own route to magic after failing the Brakebills entrance exam, and miraculously showed up at the end of the first novel to lure Quentin back into the magical land of Fillory.
Tonally, The Magician King continues the dour, realist vibe from the first book. This is not Harry Potter, and it very much takes place in the real world (except of course when it doesn't).
The difference between this and the previous novel, is that the journey simply isn't as interesting. The story of how Quentin became a magician, for all its faults, was a pretty good one. Here we get two stories: the quest to find the seven magical keys, and a flashback laying out the extremely difficult tale of how Julia came to magic. Julia's story (which gets pretty bleak, even by the standards already established) is by far the more interesting of the two. Quentin really doesn't have much of a journey here, at least not compared to the first novel.
Which isn't to say this wasn't an entertaining, or worthwhile read, it's just not as good as the previous one. And considering how utterly depressing much of it is, that does bring it down significantly.
The ending does suggest that we will get another novel in this universe, and I do look forward to it. However I didn't get the impression at any point in either book that Grossman had much of a set plan for where he wants to take these characters. This novel in particular felt bolted on, instead of growing organically. I do like these characters (the ones left standing, anyway) and hope the next book brings a tale worth telling, rather than just putting them through another awful situation. (less)
Reading the Harry Potter series, I can't say I was ever troubled by the fact that the kids in those books don't act like real people. I never got the...moreReading the Harry Potter series, I can't say I was ever troubled by the fact that the kids in those books don't act like real people. I never got the sense that those characters existed in the same world as video games and the Internet, or that they were your typical screwed up adolescent teenagers. Lev Grossman apparently had a big problem with this. And so we have The Magicians.
The Magicians starts off very much like Harry Potter, except instead of a kid going to a magical high school, this is a high school student going off to a magical college. And more importantly, this isn't some young adult, very british kid, but a normal, modern, messed up teenage kid from Brooklyn.
The characters in this book absolutely exist in the same world as video games and the Internet. They swear, they have sex, they get jealous, they drink and do drugs. And somewhere along the way they learn some magic and have some adventures.
They also exist in the same world as the Harry Potter novels, which is good, because it helps disarm criticisms that this is just a big ripoff of that series. For the record, it really isn't, but it's undeniably influenced by it.
A big part of the story these characters get involved in revolves around the world of Fillory, a Narnia like series that everyone seems to have read. I won't get into specifics, but the world and creation of the story forms the latter half of the novel.
The Magicians is a pretty quick read, and it's enjoyable, but because Grossman is so intent on making these characters feel real, it can be a bit of a downer. He's also big on this notion that magic is tied to deep emotional trauma, which doesn't help things either. At one point the book feels less like Harry Potter, and more like Trainspotting, as you have a group of alcoholic post-collegiate magicians lying around, having sex with each other and getting wasted all the time. That was unexpected.
But it does get back on track, and goes off in a different, more interesting direction, even if it's never quite what I would call upbeat.
I enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading its sequel, The Magician King. I have no idea where he's going with these characters, but it's interesting enough that I'd like to see them get there. (less)