I'm sort of conflicted about this book now. I was wrapped up in the novel as it went on, and as soon as it was over I want want wanted the next (as thI'm sort of conflicted about this book now. I was wrapped up in the novel as it went on, and as soon as it was over I want want wanted the next (as this is very obviously a series, fantasy books typically are)... but eh. Flaws.
For the first half of the novel I had a hard time keeping track of the different threads of the narrative. As soon as I got comfortable with one it shifted, and rather than feeling like the narrative was advancing I felt jarred out of place. This is partially just a personal thing; I like having just one main character, or at least bigger chunks of narration. But it never bothered me enough to put the book down (or flip to a different book on my Kindle, to be precise.) I just feel like everything was too scattershot. I saw some reviews say that the novel moved excruciatingly slow, and in some ways it is, but I think part of the problem is that Weeks was juggling so many threads he just couldn't get very far into any of them-- a jack of all trades problem.
I actually liked Kip. It's difficult to find non-caucasian characters in fantasy novels and even harder to find "tubby" ones. (Only Shaman's Crossing comes to mind.) The women are beautiful and skilled and smart and just humble enough and we still have a traditional male hero: Gavin Guile, the handsome, very single, very witty, genius, charismatic, etc. etc. etc. (figurehead) leader of the free world and Most Powerful Magician Ever. Course, he has some secrets, so it isn't like he's quite a Gary Stu. They're all likable, for the most part, but not quite alive.
I did like the magic system, though. I know other authors have used a color-based system (like Garth Nix in his Seventh Tower series, which is marketed as a children's book [but which is still pretty much the bee's knees]) but Weeks threw in enough little twists to make it interesting. Actually, now that I think about it, it reminds me of Brandon Sanderson's Allomancy, only with colors of the spectrum substituted for metals.
I'd recommend it, at least to other fantasy fans, and I am def. buying the other books, but this isn't stunning. ...more
I feel like I should be able to put on my resume that I actually finished this book. I won't even pretend to have understood everything Wallace has crI feel like I should be able to put on my resume that I actually finished this book. I won't even pretend to have understood everything Wallace has crammed into it, and I had to scour the internet to figure out what the heck was going on plot-wise, but good lord was it a fun ride. I fully plan to re-read this, and honestly feel like it's a requirement to run through it at least twice... but I spent all summer and most of fall on it and I have such a glorious backlog of books....more
This is absolutely my favorite version of Gilman's well-known short story, "The Yellow Wall-Paper." While, okay, not many people beyond literary acadeThis is absolutely my favorite version of Gilman's well-known short story, "The Yellow Wall-Paper." While, okay, not many people beyond literary academics are going to be interested in the differences between Julie Dock's "authoritative text," as the back cover reads, it also contains her exhaustive research into the history of the piece, and the various twists and turns the piece's framework has undergone from its initial and allegedly scandalous publication to its revival in the 60s (which isn't as clear-cut as it seems like it should be.)
I'd read the short story in a basic literature course which didn't stray much beyond the standard understanding of the text as a feminist outcry against the tyrannical expectations of housewifery, but I gotta say Gilman's personal vendetta with her psychiatrist was way more interesting.
This book includes snippets of Gilman's diary, manuscript log entries, and correspondence, as well as contemporaneous reviews of the work....more
Oh god a Chine Mieville (from me!) with fewer than five stars? What blasphemy! What horror!
Okay, okay. The City and the City is Mieville's flirtationOh god a Chine Mieville (from me!) with fewer than five stars? What blasphemy! What horror!
Okay, okay. The City and the City is Mieville's flirtation with the noir genre, one of which I am not particularly a fan. My other brief foray into the world of beat detectives and gritty city street-stabbings was Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (another of my Leiblingsautors [why the gratuitous German, Kate? I have no idea.]. Lethem's is a book more heavily laced with the speculative, with literally baby-faced antagonists and talking animals and a bureaucratic rather than theological system of karmic balance.
The City and the City takes place in two fictional, intertwined cities, Beszel and Ul Quoma. Residency is determined more by state of mind than location--before being admitted to the city, tourists must train to unsee the twin city, to decipher who is Ul Qoman and who is Besz, though they may walk shoulder to shoulder down the same street every day of their lives. Rather like how most people regard the homeless as if they are on another plane of existence, except rather more effortless and without the niggling guilt.
I had a hard time getting into the head of the gumshoe protagonist, Tyador Borlu, and never felt very impressed by the plot. I'm bad at mystery novels--I find it difficult to stop and reflect and think critically about things. I am a gormless, wide-eyed escapist, content to let the author lead me around by the nose. I was just never all that surprised by anything.
The other big let-down was the fact that Mieville scaled down his luminous prose for this first-person narrative. It was the correct decision--Borlu is not going to go on glorious stream of consciousness raves about the blood on the tundra or the slide of sinuous monsters through the ocean's darkness... but I kinda sorta wish he had, I always enjoyed those passages.
Okay, yeah, it's a zombie book. But it's (the second in a series of) zombie book(s) about journalists far enough from the date of the outbreak that huOkay, yeah, it's a zombie book. But it's (the second in a series of) zombie book(s) about journalists far enough from the date of the outbreak that human society has grown around the zombie phenomena, that we've shrugged and adjusted to the same way we've shrugged and adjusted to antibiotic-resistant flesh-eating bacteria. Light reading, a ton of fun, just like the first one.
Though, I gotta say this one focuses far more on the conspiracy that sort of lurked around the edges of the first book. I hadn't read the first one in ages, so I was a little shady on the events of the first book. I actually debated putting it down and re-reading the first, but I got too wrapped up with the second and after the first few chapters, the references to Things Previously abated (or flew so high above my head that I didn't notice them).
There's less action here, but the pacing is better. I had a hard time putting this book down, while I felt that there were some distinct slow spots on the campaign trail in the first. I am super-duper excited for the next book, for reasons which would be HUGE SPOILERS....more
I liked the premise of this, even though I felt like the actual mechanism was a little... weird. If it wasn't clear in the first couple pages, for a bI liked the premise of this, even though I felt like the actual mechanism was a little... weird. If it wasn't clear in the first couple pages, for a brief period of time in single city, the souls of the dead re-enter their shambling, broken bodies. They're Zombies, But Different! Okay, sort of cool. Like in Let the Right One In, Lindqvist divides his narrative... but I feel like he split it a few too many ways. I felt more like I was reading a series of split-up novellas or short stories rather than one cohesive narrative, and I could never get far enough involved with any of the characters to really... well, care. It was interesting, it was decently written (with some of the same weird syntactical choices that probably stem from translation), but honestly not all that memorable. Probably going to sell it at Half-Price Books....more
This book made a bad first impression on me. The beginning felt like it was horribly tacked on to the end of the last, and Quentin seemed extra-frustrThis book made a bad first impression on me. The beginning felt like it was horribly tacked on to the end of the last, and Quentin seemed extra-frustrating in the same way that Holden Caulfield frustrates me (though it says something about me that I related strongly to Quentin's what-the-hell-do-I-do-now ennui in the middleparts of The Magicians, particularly now that I am finished with my undergraduate education).
At some point I might give this a longer review....more
Though it ends with an act of arson and several near death experiences, the novel Skippy Dies by Paul Murray left me feeling serene. I felt filled witThough it ends with an act of arson and several near death experiences, the novel Skippy Dies by Paul Murray left me feeling serene. I felt filled with an overarching sense of meaning, of internal stillness, that comes at the end of a very good book. This is not altogether a good thing--it's difficult to be fully engaged in a text whilst you are still suspended in the amber of its magic. But it left me grasping at disparate details, at small things, to assemble them into a whole, to pick apart the compositional threads of the novel's wholecloth and then try to weave them back together.
I'd argue that that's what the whole book is about.
But I'm putting the cart ahead of the horse. This is a good book. The actual, physical book is nice. The American hardback is published by Farber and Farber Inc., and you can tell they invested in it. The paper (oh the paper, the glorious paper) is smooth and soft and lends it a reassuring solidity. The cover is abstract, but in a good way: it communicates something in the end, resembling waves drawn in watercolor, shaky and bleeding into each other at the intersections.The typography is nicely balanced and not at all intrusive, and there's some fun stuff with formatting that would be lost in a digital edition: an instance of E. E. Cummings-like fiddling with spacing and symbols; a popstar's name rendered in what looks like Curlz MT instead of the steady serif of the rest of the text; a sci-fi inspired font for SMS communication. They're small, these variations, and used sparingly, but they make the text feel whole. It feels polished and finished, like an entity unto itself. (Might I add how nice it is that the kids text in this book? I feel like in a lot of literary fiction, technology simply fades into the background. It's like Facebook or any facsimile thereof simply doesn't exist. No one skypes, no one has to go charge their car, no one almost walks out into traffic because they were playing games on their phone while walking around with earbuds in. Tcheh.)
The title is a spoiler. Daniel "Skippy" Juster is a boarder at a prestigious Irish school. He is in his second year, which is roughly equivalent to 8th or 9th grade, and within six pages he is dead. So, okay, while the jacket copy's comparison to Infinite Jest is mostly off the wall, the two are similar in that they revolve around a death, and that though Skippy is the protagonist, the novel just as often takes place from the perspective of other characters: Lorelei, girl he's infatuated with; Howard Fallon, his history teacher; Carl, the menacing and more than slightly crazy classmate who harasses him. Murray invokes the poltergeist of adolescent lust almost too well. Awkward, all-consuming infatuation, lust, jumbled sex ed, schoolyard politics... and a reminder through the adults that all that still lurks below the polish of maturity.
He also uses the second person, and though the first time I was taken aback by the sheer novelty, it feels natural. It lets him slip readers into a pocket dimension within the book's greater arc--into Carl's fracturing and dream-like reality, into Skippy's video games. It works. It makes me so happy that it works.
The one thing that irks me a little is the end. In places it feels rushed--that act of arson pulls back from the limited perspective of the rest of the piece. It moves quicker, yes, but it felt a little glossed over. And the novel's thesis of sorts is spelled out rather plainly in the last few pages... but I sort of liked that.
I'm dumb sometimes. Epiphanies cannot be summoned on command. But the experience of this book, and books in general, is one similar to my layman's knowledge of the relationship between the quantum and the relativistic as they stand now: two realms indivisible, their interactions incomprehensible, except for the beautiful idea that we are all comprised of buzzing strings that bind us into one whole, across infinity, across space-time and n dimensions. (I said layman's knowledge, okay?) But it felt like Murray (and his publisher and editors) has been spinning this web of stories, of characters and actions and plot and typography and cover design into one whole, into one moment dwindling down to a single point, into a supercompact dimension a breath away from ours and unimaginably dense: pages 654 and 655. It felt like an ending, and a good one at that....more
I had the pleasure to take several classes from Tony for my undergrad minor in sociology. I didn't know he was a novelist when I signed up for the firI had the pleasure to take several classes from Tony for my undergrad minor in sociology. I didn't know he was a novelist when I signed up for the first one, and never got around to reading my copy of Just a Couple of Days until after I was done with college altogether... but I had such strong flashbacks to sitting in a UTC classroom listening to many of the same ideas.
This is a book with a pretty transparent agenda, and it comes across so strongly that I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is not already dabbling in anti-consumerism and the nature of perception by others, self-perception, and self-construction. If the whole Burning Man ethos frightens and concerns you, Tony Vigorito does not write books you will enjoy.
This is a novel to read for the ideas it contains, not the quality of the fiction....more
I have absolutely no clue about what I just read, or even if I liked it or not--reading on was sometimes more chore than pleasure. "Strange things hapI have absolutely no clue about what I just read, or even if I liked it or not--reading on was sometimes more chore than pleasure. "Strange things happen" pretty much summarizes the plot, with lots of philosophizing and implications about the nature of self and reality and metaphor... but it's all very fuzzy and dreamlike, and now that I've finished it, it feels like a dream--the shapes of concepts and the feel of them, sand-blasted into anonymity.
I'm not sure I got much out of this one. Kafka is slow and plodding and takes much patience to get through, and like I said, sometimes I just wanted to put it down and move on to something more potentially entertaining. But I was concerned that I was missing something, that whatever makes people go crazy for Murakami's work was just a couple pages away, that whatever he's trying to do here would gel into some sort of cohesion.
Well, no such luck. Maybe it's because I have a headcold, but all I thought when I put the book down was that I should really go make some strawberry jello, because jello is wonderful and nobody in this house is going to make it for me. I feel a little of that bookish feeling, that pause and stillness and sense of suspension of self or normality or what have you that is perfect for writing pretentious and terrible poetry, but I don't know what do with it. Murakami's done something, but I have not a clue what. ...more