I haven't read a Discworld novel in a while now and I miss having them to take the edge off another serious or unsatisfying book. This is the first DiI haven't read a Discworld novel in a while now and I miss having them to take the edge off another serious or unsatisfying book. This is the first Discworld audiobook I've listened to and I was surprised to find how much I liked it. Th books are perfect for audio and the version by Nigel Planer that I listened to truly brought the story to life.
Hogfather has the dependable Discworld humour: "It's a sad and terrible thing that high-born folk really have thought that the servants would be totally fooled if spirits were put into decanters that were cunningly labelled backwards. And also throughout history the more politically conscious butler has taken it on trust, and with rather more justification, that his employers will not notice if the whisky is topped up with eniru.". Mr. Tea Time is another colourfully engaging character, despite how unpleasant he is and I liked Susan almost as much as Death.
At the same time, this book has a depth and heart that I would not have readily expected in the first few pages. Mr. Pratchett manages to make you laugh at and laugh with and cry for the same characters, even when they're part of the large supporting cast. It's the little touches, like Banjo's room when he seemed all set up to be just a thug - and I liked the way Mr. Planer played him. The climax of the book, with a tone that is decidedly different from the rest - more primitively magical, more raw - was powerful in every sense. And I remembered why Death is one of my favourite characters in the verse. He glides through the stories like a twee sugar skull and then all of a sudden you remember why he's what he is when he says something like this:
“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
"So we can believe the big ones?"
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
"They're not the same at all!"
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"
MY POINT EXACTLY.”
This is definitely one of my favourite books in the series and I was happy to discover a great story, told so well....more
I wanted to like this book so much but I have to admit that I am very glad I watched Blade Runner before reading this cumbersome book or I might haveI wanted to like this book so much but I have to admit that I am very glad I watched Blade Runner before reading this cumbersome book or I might have given up on some interesting ideas.
The elements that made the movie an absorbing watch make this fairly engaging, in places. The problem is all the other tripe that gets latched on to it. Deckard is an unlikable protagonist and he often came across as downright creepy and repulsive. Isidore, while not perfect is at least someone you want to root for. And if you start to doubt when this book was written, the misogynistic treatment of its female characters should remove any doubt that this was created in an era when it was perfectly acceptable that the chief purpose of a woman in a novel was to be little more than a pair of talking boobs.
And it's a pity because the book does throw up some very interesting questions about the concept of human-ness, about religion and society, about the hierarchies we choose to follow. However, the more frivolous parts of the book take away from the overall impact. ...more
The writing was slightly better in this sequel and it had enough entertaining plot twists, although anyone with even a basic knowledge of Hindu mytholThe writing was slightly better in this sequel and it had enough entertaining plot twists, although anyone with even a basic knowledge of Hindu mythology could see the big reveals coming....more
Paper Towns takes on the same themes that the more popular Looking for Alaska but in my opinion, does a much better job of it. Part of the reason is tPaper Towns takes on the same themes that the more popular Looking for Alaska but in my opinion, does a much better job of it. Part of the reason is that while the latter merely explores the perspective of a boy who chooses to fall in love with the idea of a girl, this book actually explores the feelings of a girl herself as well.
Another reason why I liked this story was that the characters here were far more engaging. Q makes for a likeable protagonist - he retains the normalcy and mundaneness of Miles and his infatuation with the idea of a girl, with a sense of level-headedness that was severely lacking in the latter. The journey of his feelings for Margo, from fascination to realization is bittersweet and real: “And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
I liked the other characters too. While still the token minority, Radar is a step up from Takumi and Ben is the slightly disgusting but ultimately loyal friend that I can completely imagine having in real life (and do). I also liked that almost everyone, particularly Becca, has different layers that the book takes the trouble to show. I found the writing to be funnier than Looking for Alaska and I particularly liked the road trip.
John Green's pop poetry is everywhere here and I confess I do like it, despite the feeling like it was craftily tailored for Tumblr reblogs and Facebook status updates: “When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
But like I said, my favourite part of the book was the exploration of Margo's own feelings; the manic pixie dream girl turning into just a girl. I couldn't relate to Margo - I have never been that kind of a social queen bee - until I got to the part where she asserts that the closer people get to her, the less attractive she becomes. And most of all, when she talks of feeling like a "paper girl". So even if I am nothing like her on the surface, I can perfectly understand a lot of things she feels.
I always say that I don't like works that are solely concerned with human relationships but I did like this one; if for nothing else than for the relief of meeting characters that I can relate to. ...more
The first Platonic dialogue I ever read was The Symposium and I liked Aristophanes' tale, frivolous as it was intended to be, of humans searching foreThe first Platonic dialogue I ever read was The Symposium and I liked Aristophanes' tale, frivolous as it was intended to be, of humans searching forever for their other half, separated from them by jealous gods. That was many years ago and when I was looking to get back to reading the classics, I thought I'd try something similar.
Phaedrus is smaller in scope and to be honest, slightly less engaging but it does throw up some interesting ideas. I liked Plato's analogy of the charioteer with two horses, one noble (reason) and on not (passion). On the whole though, I found the discussion on love in rebuttal to Lysias to be somewhat tiresome, especially with all the necessary mysticism that Socrates claims recourse to in order to make his speech.
On the other hand, his speech on writing and memory were my favourite part of the book, especially as, just then, I was wondering to myself why we read classics and if there is any value thereof. I think yes there is, but perhaps what is more important is how relevant the classics are to our lives beyond being mere records of another time and place. With Phaedrus, I have to admit that at this point the only lesson of relevance I can take away is that as long as love exists, people will not cease to think of ways to explain it. ...more
I always find Neil Gaiman's books to be better-written when they feature children as protagonists - two of my favourite Gaiman books are Coraline andI always find Neil Gaiman's books to be better-written when they feature children as protagonists - two of my favourite Gaiman books are Coraline and The Graveyard Book and they both had that whimsically frightening quality that makes his writing so enjoyable.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is well balanced between wonder and horror. Gaiman's writing has this Roald Dahl-esque quality of being able to truly understand children, as well as the fears of childhood. What I found interesting about this book is how seamlessly real horrors blend with the unreal, human monsters with those from other worlds. The most chilling part of the book for me was not any of the more fantastic scenes but rather the words of a child standing up to his parent: “Does it make you feel big to make a little boy cry?”
I loved the Hempstocks and their world was creatively imagined. This is a short tale that nevertheless has plenty of potential for exansion and I would love to read a sequel. ...more
I've been seeing quotes from this book all over Tumblr for years (the "I was drizzle, she was a hurricane" one seems especially popular) and I was conI've been seeing quotes from this book all over Tumblr for years (the "I was drizzle, she was a hurricane" one seems especially popular) and I was convinced that this was yet another one of those novels where boring boy meets quirky and conveniently hot girl who turns his life upside down and everything is buttercups and balloons ever after. I've never liked the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, whether in fiction or in real life. And then I read about John Green's assertion that this book was a deconstruction of the trope and that intrigued me.
The book was better than I expected but it still lacks in places. Part of the problem is that Miles is such an utterly unlikable protagonist. I don't think he ever really lets go of his idea of !Alaska versus the real girl. My favourite character in the book was the Colonel and I felt that his no-nonsense honesty, his relationship with his mother as well as his friends, and his strong sense of his own convictions were one of the few genuinely enjoyable elements of the book.
I didn't like Alaska but I was surprised to find that I understood her. She seemed completely unbearable at first, thanks to Miles' irritatingly oblivious judgement of her. Of course she manages to be both thin and amply endowed. Of course she's smart without being boring. Of course everyone wants her. And yet, I have to admit that I can relate to her in some ways - when she's moody, when she's rude, when she's ranting. I've said plenty of the same things she has - including venting about the need for gender equality in porn :P I just wish the reader could see more of what she really was like, without Miles' wet dreams getting in the way.
I didn't care much for the shenanigans the main characters get up to and honestly, the plot itself is fairly boring. To be fair, this kind of human drama which doesn't touch upon larger things isn't really my favourite genre. But I liked the writing enough to want to read more of the author's work....more
This was pretty hilarious as far as the Rincewind books go. I liked the Silver Horde and the politely radical protest signs but sometimes the OrientalThis was pretty hilarious as far as the Rincewind books go. I liked the Silver Horde and the politely radical protest signs but sometimes the Oriental stereotypes got a little tiresome, even if the McSweeney's are indeed a very old established family :P...more
I always thought that Indian mythology deserves to get more street cred than it does. The Immortals of Meluha attempts to do this, but it doesn't quitI always thought that Indian mythology deserves to get more street cred than it does. The Immortals of Meluha attempts to do this, but it doesn't quite succeed. The back of the book states that the author is a "boring banker turned happy author". I am glad that writing has brought Amish Tripathi happiness but you don't doubt the boring banker bit once you start reading.
This is not a bad book, but it is a pretty badly-written one. It drips with that terrible MBA-textbook English that makes fiction sound like a brochure for haemorrhoid medication. Some of the writing is so clunky and out of place that you wonder how it got past any editor. For example, there is a scene in the beginning of the book where Shiva's tribe, having survived a massacre by a rival tribe, makes the difficult decision to leave their home in Tibet for India. They are met by an "orientation officer" and directed to the "registration desk". In 1900 BC. I practically cried when I read that bit, I'm not even kidding.
The editors must have been charmed enough by the story and the characters to look past the painful writing, and I can understand why. For all the shortcomings in his writing, Tripathi is a good world-builder. His Meluha is imaginative and complex and you can see how much thought he has put into even the most insignificant details. I particularly liked the battles, which went beyond simple adrenaline and blood, concentrating on strategy as well.
What impressed me most, though, was the surprisingly layered attitude of the book. Tripathi avoids lapsing into a black and white view with paper heroes and straw villains. Meluha might be the gold standard for empires but it is also a rigidly stratified society with questionable philosophies. Swadeep might be a chaotic mess of a city (I laughed out loud at the obvious shout-out to Bombay) but one which values freedom and individual choice. Through Shiva, the book asks if the truth of our beliefs might not be more complex than we imagine it to be. This extends to the characters as well, most of whom are believably human with both flaws and strengths.
The swearing, pot-smoking Shiva of the story makes for very likeable protagonist; a frank and forthright reluctant messiah in the finest tradition of frank and forthright reluctant messiahs, although his fanboying over Ram seems out of character. Sati was a refreshing change from the decorative, bland, arm candy that Bollywood loves and she had one of the most epic fight scenes in the book. Shiva and Sati's relationship, though slightly mawkish at times is, on the whole, well sketched out and easy to root for.
And this is what frustrates me the most, that a well-conceived story like this should be hampered by such juvenile writing, especially when the author's earnestness is evident. I think this would have been better off as a screenplay for a big-budget Hollywood-style blockbuster (although hopefully, with better acting) where the clever ideas and engaging plot could be in focus....more
I'd been looking for this book for almost year since a friend recommended it. When I finally started reading it, it was on a chilly day after work, wiI'd been looking for this book for almost year since a friend recommended it. When I finally started reading it, it was on a chilly day after work, with three blankets and the beginnings of a prodigious flu attack. So I don't know if it was the fever but I knew I was going to like this book when I burst into tears a few pages in, on reading Fielding's gorgeous and heartbreaking description of old Newfoundland:
"After it rained, the schooners would unfurl their sails to let them dry, a stationary fleet under full sail, the whole harbour a mass of flapping canvas you could hear a mile away. How high those sails were. If they had not been translucent, they would have cast a shadow in the evening halfway across the city. Instead, in the evening, in the morning, the sun shone through the sails and cast an amber-coloured light across the harbour and the streets, a light I have not seen in twenty years."
I've noticed that whenever I read books that span years and decades, I like the beginning more than the end, as if I were nostalgic for the past myself. I did like the first few sections of this book more, although there wasn't anything in the end to particularly dislike. I liked the beginning simply because I liked the younger Smallwood more than the older one. The Smallwood of the early chapters is the perfect underdog that you can't help but root for, even admire. His determination, the way he navigates his believably volatile family life, the compassion he feels for the whalers - you can literally see him as he is being built.
Unfortunately, Smallwood loses some of his charm for me after the New York arc, mainly because of his bad decisions; whether it's his spinelessness with Squires and his poor judgements once he assumes the reigns or his decision to make a loveless marriage of convenience while continuing to be fascinated by another woman. But this is merely my personal attitude to Smallwood - I have the terrible habit of treating fictional characters as real people and feeling disappointed when they make bad decisions and proud when they make good ones. The story remains engaging and I understand why Smallwood would act thus and certainly his decisions do move the story forward. Besides, based as the story is in actual events, I understand the constraints on the author. It's just that the younger Smallwood was someone I would want to be friends with, the older one was not.
Interestingly, it was the opposite when it came to Fielding. I didn't like her at first, and I don't know if I can say I likeed her in the end, but she became more and more engaging as the book progressed. Fielding is surly and somewhat uni-dimensional through Smallwood's eyes - it is only through her journal and her columns that she comes alive. They contained some of the best writing in the book, acidly funny and intelligent at the same time and yet underneath all that, strangely sentimental. Her Julius Caesar pastiche of a counterattack to Smallwood and Prowse was genius; it made me laugh out loud - as did most of her writing - but the strong emotional core of the piece was evident.
At the same time, there are lapses in the storytelling. The plot can get weak at points with convenient coincidences scattered around. And the riddle about the letter and Hines' melodrama at church took away from the story. While Smallwood and Fielding's relationship is the heart of the book, I thought it could have been told better; it was trite in parts and difficult to understand in others. The last few chapters were hurried and I would have liked to read more about Smallwood's actual ascension to power after all that buildup.
And yet, the book shines because of its writing, which perfectly complements the land it writes about, equal parts beautiful and stark; whether it is Fielding's memories of ships or Smallwood's journeys through the remote islands and lost lands of Newfoundland. Johnston combines dry humour with wit and heart, and this is what made this book such a great read. That, and his talent for creating believable, nuanced characters and scenes that stay with you after the story is done....more
Okay, I did not get this book at all. It seemed something that I would totally love - fairies (the magically scary kind), a place that seems to be asOkay, I did not get this book at all. It seemed something that I would totally love - fairies (the magically scary kind), a place that seems to be as real a character as any of the human ones, "houses made of houses within houses made of time" and lots of shout-outs to poetry and mythology.
The book tries too hard, as if, like the characters that people its pages, it believes itself to be possessed of a Destiny as well, to Somehow be Mystic and Romantic and Poetic. Only, it doesn't work. The problem with Little, Big is that the characters, and by extension, the story, have no soul. Everyone is so passive, so fatalistic as if the story is happening by accident to them - and well, it is - and the reader comes across them via some sort of literary channel surfing. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of them, not even the house, not even the forests.
And Crowley's writing, while witty in bits, is often affected and self-satisfied in others. The plot is unnecessarily meandering and contrived. I quite literally facepalmed at the convoluted explanation of Sylvie's nickname - you can literally feel the author winking and nudging you, going "Get it? Auberon and Titania? See what I just did there?!" I did like Auberon (the second one, the first one was just plain creepy) and Sylvie (despite the bad Spanish and the tired Spicy Latina stereotype - which is still not the most outdated stereotype in the book; just wait till you read Fred Savage's lines) but their story panned out halfheartedly, its focus taken away by the other minutiae of the plot. The ending itself left me indifferent. The only thing I could think was, okay, well that's done now. I did not get the feeling of epicness that the author clearly wanted to convey, only a sense that he could have achieved in 300 pages what he tried to do in 600.
I might have liked this book better if it didn't wander off, if the stories were more concrete and purposeful. I find magic realism and fantasy work best when there is an underlying structure to tie the fantastical elements together. Practical, solid beams to hold up all the castles made of air. Little. Big does not live up to the wonderful potential in its story because its underlying structure is weak as smoke, and just as easily swept away from the reader's mind once the book is done....more
Another great find from TV Tropes. I stumbled upon this while looking at the trope page for star-crossed lovers, I think, (no, I do not remember how IAnother great find from TV Tropes. I stumbled upon this while looking at the trope page for star-crossed lovers, I think, (no, I do not remember how I got there - TV Tropes is a total rabbit hole) and the idea of a colour-coded society where your worth is determined by the colours you can see was something I knew I would like.
My favourite part of the book, obviously, was all the colour. Just the names - East Carmine, Jade-Under-Lime, Oxblood, Cinnabar, High Saffron - were a delight. I felt like I was sampling my way through a box of bright jellybeans every time I saw a new name. The writing was rich and vivid and I could really understand the characters' reactions to colour - such as that deafening red door or the mural in Rusty Hill - despite the fact that they're fundamentally alien creatures.
The writing felt like some sort of strange P.G. Wodehouse/ sci-fi mashup. Perhaps it's the 1950s English boarding school feel of Chromatacia, or the fact that Eddie, pleasant, ordinary and often clueless, makes me think of Bertie Wooster. In any case, Fforde's writing is smooth and readable. I also liked Jane - she manages to be the fiery tsundere sci-fi heroine without getting on your nerves because the author isn't trying too hard to get the reader as well as the protagonist to fall in love with her. I also liked the Apocryphal Man, and the Yellows - especially Courtland Gamboge - were wonderfully detestable. I loved the humour of the book - it was an interesting contrast to the more obvious dystopian elements. The witty writing and colourful (no pun intended, honest) characters almost make you forget that this is about a ruthless totalitarian regime.
At the same time, Chromatacia isn't your typical dystopia. The Greys, while clearly at the bottom of the food chain, are nevertheless accorded certain rights (such as the privacy of their homes) and privileges (the Vermeer in the Grey sector). And more interestingly, greys can ascend - they aren't the usual downtrodden slave race you see in such fiction. The subservience of lower colours to higher ones reminded me more of the waiting on seniors in Enid Blyton boarding school stories than of class hierarchies. I also liked the intriguing references to human society, which make this a double layered science fiction story actually - there are two societies here; the Eloi-like Chromatics and the humans that came before them, both of them quite unlike what we are now. (Why indeed, are Mr. Simply Red and the legend of Chuck Naurice lost to time? :P)
On the other hand, I thought the writing lost track of the plot at times, trying to balance post-apocalyptic sci-fi with romantic comedy, A good part of the book is spent on world building and infodumps and as a result, the ending seems rushed and incomplete. The reveal about High Saffron has been overdone in this genre and thus fails to shock. I wish the book spoke more about the Riff Raff and the Apocryphal men, as well as how and why Chromatacia was formed. I'm assuming these will be saved for the sequels, but the missing information makes for an unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise fascinating book. I am looking forward to the two sequels and I hope they will be worth the wait.
Ultimately though, the reason Shades of Grey works is because it avoids a very common pitfall of books with unique concepts - it manages to be original without sacrificing likeable characters and readability....more