I thought I was tired of apocalypse fiction, and kind of felt that way for about the first 200 pages of The 5th Wave. Though the writing is excel...more4.5/5
I thought I was tired of apocalypse fiction, and kind of felt that way for about the first 200 pages of The 5th Wave. Though the writing is excellent, I just wasn't seeing anything particularly new in the story itself: "plucky young heroes coming of age while fighting totalitarianism/supernatural apocalypse/alien invasion/etc." has kind of become the go-to plot in YA fiction.
But then Rick Yancey proved me wrong, with the kind of plot twist you really don't see coming, and the remainder of the novel kicked into overdrive. Intricate plotting, and maybe most importantly, vivid, descriptive writing that carries the reader along for every excruciating inch of the ride -- The 5th Wave kept me riveted far too late into the night.
Personally, I prefer Yancey's Monstrumologist series, but then I'm a whore for period gore. But so far, anything he writes is a welcome addition to my shelves. The 5th Wave series will have a reserved space. (less)
Wow. Intricate world-building and the kind of writing that elevates genre to literary. Possibly longer than necessary, but even the parts with little...moreWow. Intricate world-building and the kind of writing that elevates genre to literary. Possibly longer than necessary, but even the parts with little narrative thrust sparkle with detail both beautiful and terrible. That's one hell of a first novel.(less)
If you could change the past, would you? And, perhaps more importantly -- should you?
King hits another one out of the park with the absolutely engross...moreIf you could change the past, would you? And, perhaps more importantly -- should you?
King hits another one out of the park with the absolutely engrossing story of Jake Epperson, a high-school teacher from 2011 who finds himself saddled with the improbable task of preventing Kennedy's assassination. On the assumption that the world will be a better place (starting with no Vietnam) if he can take out Oswald before November 1963, he agrees, and finds himself a stranger in a strange land: America, 1958. (The impetus and details of his trip there, I will leave for the reader. Suffice to say it's the only supernatural device in the story. All the monsters here are human.)
The nod to Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" (from which the "butterfly effect" theory takes its name) is made loud and clear -- one character even mentions the story -- but King's fleshed-out version of the tale hits closer to home, with fully-realized characters who become much more to the reader than players in a cautionary tale. The meat of the story takes place as "George Amberson" builds a double-life for himself in the years leading up to that fateful day in Dallas.
After some eventful stops, including the grim and familiar Derry, Maine, George makes his way to Texas, where he finds himself a job teaching high-school (back when you could easily fake your resume and identity) in idyllic small-town Jodie. There, he makes friends, falls in love with Sadie, the lovely high-school librarian with a tragic past, and drives a bitchin' car . . . all the while also observing Lee Oswald and his sad little family from near and far . . . and changing the course of history just a little bit every moment he spends there.
While there are obviously science-fictional elements to 11/22/63, in some ways it's one of the most realistic of King's novels. It feels true, if you get my meaning. Take a spectacular attention to -- and obvious love for -- the period's details, add in what must have been an ungodly amount of research about that terrible day in Dallas, and finish with a star-crossed, complex, grown-up love story that gives The Time Traveler's Wife a run for its money, and you've about got the idea. And of course all of this is overlaid with the gripping sense of a ticking clock, as George's purpose draws inexorably closer. Can he do it? Will he?
Ultimately, 11/22/63 isn't a book about the Kennedy assassination, about bad guys or monsters, or even about time-travel. It's a book about choices, about the paths we take and the ones we miss, about how our best intentions can still go not-so-well. About how we change lives and let our own be changed in return. It's also propulsive, humane, sad, funny and thrilling reading. I do not know how Stephen King works his magic, but it just gets better with time. (less)
I'm not sure I loved this book, but I certainly feel warmly towards it. Clever, funny and thoroughly geeky, Ready Player One is a cornucopia of pop an...moreI'm not sure I loved this book, but I certainly feel warmly towards it. Clever, funny and thoroughly geeky, Ready Player One is a cornucopia of pop and gamer culture, with easter eggs for just about every kind of nerd on Earth scattered throughout. If you were a teen in the 80s; if you ever haunted video arcades with pockets full of quarters; were a Dungeonmaster; love John Hughes or William Gibson or Joss Whedon; got strung out on an MMORPG; or invested any time studying "The Hero's Journey" and its effect on popular culture -- then there's something in here to make you chuckle. (I wonder if anyone has compiled a geeky reference concordance for this book yet? That would be a fun project!)
Its flaws? Ready Player One is maybe a little too long, and potentially bewildering, at times, to those without a gamer's points of reference. On the other hand, the dialogue is quippy, the plot twisty-turny, and the characters quite likeable, though a tiny bit stereotypical, in the "I'm hiding behind an online identity because I'm fill-in-the-blank different" kind of way. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and I'd run a dungeon with Ernest Cline anytime. (less)
On one hand, I wish I could convince everyone I know that Mieville is the best science/weird fiction writer working today; on the other I'm kind of gl...moreOn one hand, I wish I could convince everyone I know that Mieville is the best science/weird fiction writer working today; on the other I'm kind of gleeful to have encountered his alien genius before he really does become the next big thing (at least among smartypants nerds). He is a writer always testing the boundaries of genre, and Embassytown is likely the most “literary” book he’s written so far . . . though perhaps not the most immediately accessible. Prepare for a novel that both blows your mind and gives it an excellent workout.
You know you're entering heady territory when a novel's epigram is a quote from Walter Benjamin: “The word must communicate something (other than itself).” (Although it might equally be another, quite different, quote: “Gifts must affect the receiver to the point of shock.” I'll let you work that one out as you read the book.)
In Embassytown, Mieville continues to showcase his deft world-building skills on the planet Arieka, a crucial node in the interstellar shipping lanes. Here, human colonists coexist in a state of mutual disconnection with a culture so physically and intellectually alien from our own that communication is nearly impossible, only achieved by a select few “Ambassadors,” genetically altered and rigorously trained for the task. Though the main thrust of the narrative is a tale of political intrigue, be aware that a significant amount of time is spent pondering the brain-bursting concepts of linguistic and semiotic construction. For example: the native Ariekei are unable to communicate or conceive of anything but that which is is literally true – they are incapable of a lie, and must construct elaborate, surreal tableaux in order to formulate even simple similes or metaphors. (Our protagonist, Avice Benner Cho, is herself a simile, having as a child participated in the creation of the unpleasantly loaded phrase "the girl who ate what was given her.") But what might change for the Ariekei -- and us -- when a communication breakthrough occurs?
In Embassytown, Mieville has mostly jettisoned his tendency to revel in the minutia of the grotesque, as he does in the Bas-Lag novels. Instead he works in simple, elegant prose to consider and illustrate evolution and destabilization of the ways in which thinking beings communicate -- constructing meaning (and misunderstanding) from sounds and other signifiers, and constructing civilizations from those meanings. (Now that sentence gave me flashbacks to grad school . . .) With his latest book, Mieville once again defies genre expectations, raising the bar for thoughtful, challenging science fiction.