Oh my God. Thomas Hardy actually wrote a book where no one dies/ has their life completely and utterly ruined/ gets stuck in a bad marriage/ leaves yoOh my God. Thomas Hardy actually wrote a book where no one dies/ has their life completely and utterly ruined/ gets stuck in a bad marriage/ leaves you contemplating suicide. I swear, last year's brave attempt to finally tackle Jude The Obscure left me so traumatized that I was convinced the kids in Our Exploits at West Poley were going to drown tragically and/or get viciously lynched by irate villagers, thereby reminding us all once again how much human beings suck. Thankfully, this is - somewhat narrowly - avoided.
This book also contained Under The Greenwood Tree which I'd read before and four short stories meant to be something of a mini Wessex Canterbury Tales. Old Tom goes back to telling us how much being married sucks and how most men are pigs but these were - gasp - actually kind of funny.
On the other hand, I missed Hardy's poetic descriptions of the Wessex countryside. I think he can only wax lyrical about trees and stars and birds if he knows he can bump off someone in the end. Still, I might be sufficiently recovered thanks to this volume to attempt Two on a Tower or even The Mayor of Casterbridge sometime soon....more
This book is so embarrassingly juvenile at times that I actually stopped midway to check what age Mr. Callenbach was when he wrote this. Apparently heThis book is so embarrassingly juvenile at times that I actually stopped midway to check what age Mr. Callenbach was when he wrote this. Apparently he was 46, but you could be forgiven for thinking this was enthusiastically hammered out by a teenage boy who wants to save the world (provided everyone does exactly what he says) and would also very much like to finally get a girl to touch his weenie. I've read three books on utopian societies from three different eras - Thomas More's original, H.G Wells' exercise in patience and now, this one. There are few things less ideal than another person's notion of how the world should be run.
I can see that the author had good intentions and I did try to like the book despite cringe-worthy passages, such as the one detailing the Ecotopian propensity to ask themselves "What would an Indian do?" while isolating non-white races, including the afore-mentioned magical Indians - but they don't want to live around white people anyway so that makes it alright. Black people live in a place called Soul City, by the way. I only WISH I were making that up. And then there's Ecotopia's laughable "war games" where men - and only men - prance around hitting each other. Because real men overcompensate.
The biggest problem with this book, though, is its protagonist. Ernest Callenbach can be endearingly earnest but William Weston is a thoroughly unlikable creep. He whines about not being exclusive with Marissa (who by the way, Weston would like you to know, has "powerful sexual odours" - again, not making this up) and then proceeds to, in his own words, "more or less rape her" when she sleeps with someone else at the games. On the other hand, he is happy getting wanked off by a nurse (it's all standard medical procedure and he buys her a tent for her troubles) and taking part in a threesome (MFF, of course). It's disappointing to have a female character who seems promising at first and is then changed to suit the protagonist. I was hoping Weston might drown in the hot tub in the end but Mr. Callenbach chose to disappoint me.
There were bits that I did like and was happy to note ideas that have turned into reality. I liked the Ecotopian vision of public transport and the importance of teaching children survival skills. The train with the large windows is an idea I could definitely get behind, with or without communal marijuana.
In any case, I think I might leave off reading books about utopian societies for a while. ...more
I don't know if it's just me but there seem to be a lot of references to Twin Peaks here - Angua's looking for a "clean room, reasonably priced", VimeI don't know if it's just me but there seem to be a lot of references to Twin Peaks here - Angua's looking for a "clean room, reasonably priced", Vimes talking about being on the path and his particular description of his coffee preferences. Anyway, interesting take on fantastic racism (I was constantly reminded of that line in Witches Abroad about how, on the Discworld, "white and black live in perfect harmony and gang up on green.")
The relationship between Cuddy and Detritus was adorable and Angua makes for a great addition to the Watch. I love how every chracter in the watch is so distinct and yet comes together and complements the group perfectly. They're one of those groups of fictional characters that you wish you were friends with in real life. When they were sitting around, planning to save the city, I found myself wishing just that (yes, even with Nobby).
This book also has one of my favourite lines in the series: "If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat. They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar. So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word."
Also, can we talk about how amazingly picturesque this is: "Three and a half minutes after waking up, Captain Samuel Vimes, Night Watch, staggered up the last few steps to the roof of the city’s opera house, gasped for breath and threw up allegro ma non troppo."...more
One of my best friends gave me this book, a lovely battered copy with golden yellow pages that she'd had with her for years. That was a while ago andOne of my best friends gave me this book, a lovely battered copy with golden yellow pages that she'd had with her for years. That was a while ago and I wish I had come to this earlier.
I thought this was going to be one of those weepy fallen women stories the Victorians seem to love so much. However, while this book does seem like an inspiration for Hardy's Tess Durbyfield and Eustacia Vye, Eliot's characterization is much more nuanced and her plot less likely to make you want to drink yourself to death after you finish reading the book. Hetty is more sympathetic than you would expect - especially during her journey to find Arthur - although I found the constant descriptions of her as "round" and "soft" irritating - it made me feel like I was reading about a doughnut instead of a human being.
I was surprised to find that the digression in the middle of the story, where Eliot talks of genre painting and her approach to realism in writing , was less disruptive. Maybe it's because I love Dutch art for the same reasons but this is, in my opinion, how an author should insert an opinion piece into a work of fiction (I'm talking to you, Leo Tolstoy).
What I didn't like was Dinah giving up her own ambitions towards the end of the book, just like Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch. She was portrayed far too much as a saint, and not being very religious myself, I couldn't be particularly interested in her as a nice, godly girl, but I did like her better when she is torn between love for another man and her love of God - it made her easier to relate to. And I loved the scene where she and Adam meet at dusk....more
The magic of Holy Wood must be genuine because it seems to have seeped through to my world with this book. In its affectionate parody of cinema, it reThe magic of Holy Wood must be genuine because it seems to have seeped through to my world with this book. In its affectionate parody of cinema, it really brought alive for me the excitement, the fantasy that those early movies must have had, for the people who made them as well as those who watched them. I found this to be the most - atmospheric, for want of a better word - of the Discworld books. The scenes in the undersea cavern were genuinely eerie, as well as Holy Wood on the day of the big premiere.
I liked Gaspode and it was fun to have a whole book's worth of C.M.O.T Dibbler. I also liked the bit where the wizards sneak off to the cinema - I loved how it combines comic relief with bittersweet musings on growing old: "Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." I've realised that while I don't particularly care for Rincewind, I really do like the rest of Unseen University (also, I ship Granny Weatherwax and Mustrum Ridcully, especially since Cutangle was put on a bus).
Between all the jokes about Uncle Oswald and the hilarious King Kong reference in the climax, Moving Pictures talks about that powerful desire to make something, to be something. I didn't particularly care for Ginger until she made that touching speech about wanting to be someone, or rather, more than someone. "You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?’ said Ginger, not paying him the least attention. ‘It’s all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they’re really good at. It’s all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It’s all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad ploughmen instead. It’s all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it’s even possible to find out.’She took a deep breath. ‘It’s all the people who never get to know what it is they can really be. It’s all the wasted chances."
I haven't read too many of the standalone Discworld books, but if they're anything like this and Pyramids, I might be taking a break from Death and the Watch soon....more
Another one of the many books I really wanted to like. There were elements I really enjoyed in the book but it suffers from many of the failings thatAnother one of the many books I really wanted to like. There were elements I really enjoyed in the book but it suffers from many of the failings that so much early science fiction seems to fall prey to - badly developed characters and tedious writing.
For a book that flashes through so many different protagonists, it is severely lacking in variety. It takes Mr. Asimov 200 pages to even introduce a female character (she looks at bling and says "oh"). Throughout this book there is only one speaking female character and then she is little more than the caricature of a nagging housewife. I want to take into consideration the time this book was written and the type of social mores the author would have grown up with (and frankly, I'd rather have no female characters than the godawful portayals in say, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) but the lack of female voices or even a hint of any female participation - outside of clamouring for "feminine fripperies" and being discontent about atomic washing machines. To be fair, the male characters aren't particularly unique either. There is a dreary, cookie-cutter sameness about all of the male protagonists following Salvor Hardin; it feels like you're reading adaptations of the same story over and over again with faint changes in costume and props.
That said, the story is interesting enough to make me want to check out the rest of the series; I can only hope there is more diversity in character and plot in them....more
This was a great introduction to the Discworld outside of Ankh Morpork and the Ramtops. I loved Pteppic's schooling at the Assasin's Guild and the litThis was a great introduction to the Discworld outside of Ankh Morpork and the Ramtops. I loved Pteppic's schooling at the Assasin's Guild and the little nods to Tom Brown's School Days and I wish we had a little more of that. Tsort and Ephebe were hilarious; I loved the confrontation between the armies with not-so-subtle references to Trojan horses and Spartans. Also I laughed far more than necessary at "Now their gods existed. They had, as it were, the complete Set."
As always, there's plenty to think about with this book between the snorts of laughter. What is true power, and is it just tied to its name, to the limitations of belief? When do you hold with tradition and when do you break with it? And this one: "“We're really good at it, Teppic thought. Mere animals couldn't possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid.”...more
This book was such a curate's egg. The writing was lovely, almost tactile. The very first scene in the book stood out right in front of me as I read iThis book was such a curate's egg. The writing was lovely, almost tactile. The very first scene in the book stood out right in front of me as I read it, I imagined it all candlelight and winter shadows. Most of the characters are well written and I like the touch of the unreliable narrator that Cathy has.
However, there is little of the promised gothic in this apart from that. Rob is strangely featureless and bland, despite his importance in the story. The second half of the book is where the story derails. Characters return, weakening the impact of their departure; others permeate the pages but remain indistinct even when brought back into focus. The ending in particular is weak and does not tie in with the course of the story in my opinion. I think I'd have rather read about Harry and Liza Callan.
I initially picked up this book because of my interest in the period of history in which it is set but there was very little to tie it to the world outside, even WWI passes through the insularity of the story and the characters with only a ghost of an impact. Still, that might be an intended feature of a story that seems to explore the different shades of isolation.
Should the author take to writing poetry, though, I think I should like to read it very much....more
This is the first time I picked up a Discworld book since he passed away and in the beginning all I could think of was not beingAh, I miss Sir Terry.
This is the first time I picked up a Discworld book since he passed away and in the beginning all I could think of was not being able to have any new stories to read. There were just so many books in this series that I thought I had all the time in the world to read them and more would come before I was done. And then this book gently took me by the hand and told me to fuck that because the Discworld will always be there, and within its pages that unique mix of humour and sharp insight to the world we live in and the creatures we live with.
I'm currently listening to Nigel Planer's excellent readings of the series and I find them increasing the wit and the warmth in these books, even in ones that I've read before. Death and the witches were my favourite books within the series but now I think I have to add the City Watch to that list. Sam Vimes, naturally "knurd" is a gem of a character and I find his love story with Sybil Ramkin to be one of the most endearing within the series. The rest of the watch, each distinctly and hilariously sketched out just adds to the feeling of being on an adventure with friends, instead of a mere bystander. And this is the book which made Havelock Vetinari one of my favourite characters. The Patrician really comes into his own in this book for me and any man that can manipulate rodents with Machiavellian genius has my respect. Plus that door was brilliant.
As I write this, I realise that while I have always loved these books chiefly for their writing and the kind of one liners that will cheer you up on bad days, I didn't credit their characterizations as much as I should have. Every one, from protagonists to characters that are mentioned but once (usually as vessels for the afore mentioned one-liners) stand out. And this book is probably the first I have read (and I won't count Temeraire here) that manages to help you empathize with a dragon while at the same time retaining the essential non-human, alien thought processes in such a creature: “But we were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless and terrible. But this much I can tell you, we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.”
So I don't think I will miss Sir Terry anymore, because there are so many stories within the ones he has already told that I should be well provided for for the rest of my lifetime....more
I first heard of The Wind in the Willows from its TV adaptation; I remember it vaguely because I was very young but there was a pleasant theme song aI first heard of The Wind in the Willows from its TV adaptation; I remember it vaguely because I was very young but there was a pleasant theme song and pretty countryside landscapes and talking animals including a frog (I didn't know of toads then) in a car and that was enough to convince me that I wanted to watch it.
Those vague memories - and I'm not going to lie, the fact that I found this book for 49 bucks - finally got me around to reading it. It was surprisingly less juvenile than I expected, perfect for any adult wanting to indulge in reminiscing about childhood.
Mr. Grahame's writing is lyrical and vivid and so very evocative of the rivers and woods that make up the home of his characters. I disagree with the introductory essay by Roger Sale that declares that some of his descriptions are embarrassingly breathless. Just look at this one - "Leaving the main stream, they now passed into what seemed at first sight like a little landlocked lake. Green turf sloped down to either edge, brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below the surface of the quiet water, while ahead of them the silvery shoulder and foamy tumble of a weir, arm-in-arm with a restless dripping mill-wheel, that held up in its turn a grey-gabled mill-house, filled the air with a soothing murmur of sound, dull and smothery, yet with little clear voices speaking up cheerfully out of it at intervals." It makes the whole scene come bright and alive right in front of you and it's a pleasure to read aloud. My two favourite stories were Dulce Domum, cozy and warming and Wayfarers All, in essence, the opposite of the former.
My copy also had lovely illustrations by Les Morrill that added another touch of magic to the stories (I loved the one that showed Rat in a deer stalker in a chapter where he performs a fine bit of deductive reasoning). I did have issues with Toad's change of character, which I thought could have been done less abruptly; the book seems somewhat hastily wrapped up. Then again, this is one of those stories that's more of a portal into an experience and I think I'll be picking it up again when I want to feel like I'm floating down a river in a boat on a summer afternoon....more
I found this book while searching for stories about fairies (the morally ambiguous monsters of folklore, not the candy coloured Victorian version). II found this book while searching for stories about fairies (the morally ambiguous monsters of folklore, not the candy coloured Victorian version). I forgot about it until the middle of the night at an okonomiyaki restuarant in Osaka because I finally missed having something to read while eating alone and it was the only one I had on me at the moment.
I did like the premise of the story but there were rather too many humans and far too few faeries. The initial meeting between Tara and Hiero was promisingly magical but it ultimately deteriorated into a rather halfhearted portrait of fairies as hyperintelligent (and hypersexual) dwellers of another world. I guess it's a matter of personal taste - I wanted to read about folklore and the modern(ish) take didn't really capture my interest and the fact remains that I rarely enjoy reading about modern human relationship dynamics, which is honestly the heart of this book (though I must say it is dealt with quite well). Mr. Joyce's writing was however, lyrical enough in parts to make me want to search out some more of his work....more