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 I...moreAnother 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.(less)
Of all the books in the series, Mockingjay seems, at first to be the slowest. While I'd rather that the love story not take centre stage, the truth is...moreOf all the books in the series, Mockingjay seems, at first to be the slowest. While I'd rather that the love story not take centre stage, the truth is that the Katniss-Peeta dynamic is one of the more memorable elements in the story. However, while Katniss and Gale's relationship here lacks the chemistry of the former, it is necessary and an useful reminder of how relationships might change. And this book is probably the best of the lot, exploring themes of conflicted idealism, whether war can be ever just, the roles heroes play when they're useful and what happens when they are not.
I found Collins' treatment of war, particularly as Katniss fights it, interesting. I don't know why but I seem to find many YA books lacking when they write about war (I remember reading an awful one last year that had an invading army show up in SUVs. Unironically). I suppose it does make sense, given the Games, that the Capitol and Panem as a whole might respond to propaganda as much as military strength. The portrayal of the rebels and of District 13 was more layered than I would expect and drives home the point that the line between good and evil, and hero and villain is a murky one. Indeed, by the end of the book, the lesson seems to be almost nihilistic - there may be no good and no evil, but at the same time, it suggests that perhaps there is hope.
I know many people have a problem with the ending, but I was relieved by it. I cannot imagine that another one would be possible. My one grouse is that despite everything, I do not see Katniss come into full control of her life. Her character development is rather shallow as well, and as a factor of other people, rather than herself. All three victors, in fact, are more or less the same as when they started. They intensify, rather than grow. Johanna and Finnick on the other hand, show more layers between the last two books than the protagonists.
On the whole though, I did enjoy this series a lot and despite the flaws, can say that this might be a new favourite.(less)
One of the reasons I've grown to enjoy this series is Katniss Everdeen. I don't like her, but that's the whole point. She's a very real girl and a ref...moreOne of the reasons I've grown to enjoy this series is Katniss Everdeen. I don't like her, but that's the whole point. She's a very real girl and a refreshing departure from heroines who are preternaturally beautiful and/or *shudder* have "inner beauty" (someone please explain to me what that means). I didn't think I'd ever relate to Katniss and I am surprised that I do. Katniss can be weak, she can be unpleasant and she can be self-serving even when she has good intentions. Heroines, especially YA heroines, aren't supposed to be this messy. In fact, it's interesting to note that Katniss and Peeta are almost a gender-swapped version of the usual action couple dynamic. This time, it is the girl who is brooding and imperfect, and the guy who is the good little morality pet that everyone loves. Not that Peeta is necessarily that flat a character but it is rare to see any protagonist, especially a female one, who resorts to a cowardly drunk escapade instead of a "noble" acceptance of the horror before her.
I can completely understand Katniss' confused feelings for Gale but I thought that particular subplot could have done with less focus. Again, I get that Katniss does love Peeta and that the reader is supposed to see through her veil of mixed signals before she herself does but the love track despite its touching moments, takes away from the story as a whole. I liked seeing a more rounded picture of Haymitch this time but I'm disappointed that Cinna remains bland as ever (on a side note, for someone with a self-proclaimed disdain for fashion, Katniss sure describes her clothes in loving detail - what's up with that? Or is it just another hint at her unreliability in gauging her own feelings?)
I actually grew to love this series, despite its imperfections and I'm glad I gave it a chance.(less)
This is again one of those books I almost didn't read because of the hordes of fans insisting how great it was. However I changed many of my ideas abo...moreThis is again one of those books I almost didn't read because of the hordes of fans insisting how great it was. However I changed many of my ideas about reading and art since 2011, and one of them was to actually give bad art a chance so that my misgivings have some basis in reality. So far, I have to admit, I have always managed to find something to like, no matter how small.
The central plot of The Hunger Games is shaky. It is clearly inspired by Battle Royale, even if the name Panem seems to hint at Romans and their blood and popcorn matinees at the Colosseum. However, I think that such an audaciously cruel theatric involving underaged children fighting to the death is not the best recipe for stability of draconian rule. What easier way to fire up a rebellion than the death of an innocent child? This was one of the reasons, I preferred the movie to the book. While still following the same idea, the movies allow the reader to understand the Capitol's reasoning, however, faulty, behind such a death match. The books on the other hand seem to say "okay, you just gotta accept that these Games happen and people haven't completely demolished the Capitol over it yet it because this is going to create an interesting story for my heroine." Would it not have been more effective if the Games involved adults fighting to the death? That would give the masses the desperate hope and ensuing relief if a tribute escapes without the outrage that the murder of something vulnerable and innocent would cause. Either the Capitol has some serious muscle to squash rebellions or its citizens too passive to care, but the book does not make that clear.
I still, however, liked the book. It was well-written and well-paced. Its strongest point is the characterization, which is surprisingly nuanced for something in this genre. I thought Katniss would be another one of those perfect, action chick heroines but she strikes the right balance between a slightly larger-than-life heroine and a real, conflicted and imperfect girl. Peeta again, could have been the one dimensional, pretty boy hero but he is an interesting mix of goodness and guile. I also liked Haymitch but I felt that the Capitol citizens, including Cinna, were rather flat.
Despite my misgivings about the actual point of the Hunger Games, its clear parallels with the current obsession with reality TV was interesting enough to let me suspend my doubts and allow myself to be carried on with the story. The emotionally charged, lurid, 4 colour world of the Games, complete with publicity and rabid fandom is a striking contrast to the rest of Panem and the Games themselves, and Ms Collins manages to portray them well. (less)
I couldn't remember whether I had read the Ender's Game short story or this novel - I remember many of the scenes and definitely the ending, but I dec...moreI couldn't remember whether I had read the Ender's Game short story or this novel - I remember many of the scenes and definitely the ending, but I decided to read this again all the same.
Orson Scott Card isn't the most likable author but I can't fault this book. It's brilliant and shocking and heart warming all at the same time. I love the way Card represents warfare as something that's fought in the mind, as well as with the body. I think the book does go beyond simplistic notions of good and evil, and us and them. Card's treatment of the world of children is almost Roald Dahl-esque in its messiness and brutality. I can't exactly relate to Ender, or to Valentine, even though I like them; but it surprises me that it is Peter I can understand best, even when he repulses me. The scene in the beginning of the book, when he cries and apologizes to a sleeping Ender after his chilling speech detailing how he is going to kill him one day, added an interesting layer to his personality that I wish was developed further.
On the other hand, I felt that the last chapter was out of sync with the rest of the book. I'm all for new age quasi-mysticism but here, it stuck out like a discordant harmony (and reminded me why I still haven't finished Speaker for the Dead). And Peter and Valentine's plot to take over the work via blogging seems a little laughable now. I liked the differing dynamics that Valentine shared with each of her brothers but she herself comes across as rather bland. I think the siblings' genius is a little exaggerated, especially with Peter and Valentine where it is pretty much an informed attribute. However, in Ender's case, I could actually feel the strain that he must go through, genius or not - most works featuring prodigies tend to leave out the messy bits that Card adds in.
Ender's Game is not a perfect book, but it's one that makes me think every time I read it.(less)
I first started Splinter of the Mind's Eye a while ago but abandoned it when I came across this: "... whenever he looked at her, the other caused emot...moreI first started Splinter of the Mind's Eye a while ago but abandoned it when I came across this: "... whenever he looked at her, the other caused emotions to boil within him like soup too long on the fire". However, I'm more accepting of unintentionally hilarious writing now and willing to read even such gems as "Swerving slightly like a crippled camel in a sandstorm, the fighter continued to drop." Oh Alan Dean Foster, where would we be without your silly similes?
The story isn't half as deep as the title suggests. It's a basic sci-fi adventure: Luke and Leia land on swampy Mimban, embark on a quest to find the Force-enhancing Kaiburr crystal, strike up alliances with native races and dubious characters, defy the Empire and convince the reader to call bullshit on George Lucas' claim that they were always meant to be twins. Some of the elements in this book (which I'm told was to be a low-budget sequel in case the first movie didn't work out) seem to have been reused in the rest of the original trilogy: Mimban is rather like Dagobah and the battle with the Coway using their techniques to defeat stormtroopers is reminiscent of the Ewoks in RotJ.
The book does capture the adventure of the movies and I liked the character of Halla, mainly for the fact that she seems to have shades of Han and Lando. There aren't many interesting female characters in the original trilogy apart from Leia, so this morally ambivalent old woman with an obsession and a bit of the Force with her was a good touch. I also liked Foster's explanation of why Leia joined the Rebel Alliance: because the Empire oppressed creativity and original thought as much as rights. As she says, "A sculpture, a manifesto, a manuscripted adventure can double as a cry for rebellion. From corrupt aesthetics to corrupt politics was a smaller step than most people around me realized."
On the other hand, I never quite understood why Luke and Leia were travelling separately to Circarpous in the first place: they might have skipped the trouble of finding each other after they crash. If Luke's job is to protect Leia, shouldn't he be around her at least? And the end just cheerfully forgets to address the whole reason why they agree to help Halla in the first place. Did Foster just forget to get them off Mimban after making that the point all along? Halla says that getting off-planet is tricky, but instead of trying to commandeer transport after their Indiana Jones moment in the temple, they stick around making fun of Threepio. Talk about loose ends.
Anyway, this was a fun read and an interesting look into the direction in which Star Wars might have gone.(less)
Only Kurt Vonnegut can write a book about not writing a book and get away with it. Almost.
Timequake is basically an essay on time, on destruction and...moreOnly Kurt Vonnegut can write a book about not writing a book and get away with it. Almost.
Timequake is basically an essay on time, on destruction and on free will thrown in together with a loose tale about a timequake that sends everyone back ten years, Kilgore Trout storylettes and plenty of trademark Vonnegut quotable quotes ("... AIDS and new strains of syph and clap and the blueballs were making the rounds like Avon ladies run amok.")
I found the theme of free will interesting. Vonnegut compares World War II to a timequake: he describes his time as a soldier as a suspension of freewill. How many of us are living in a timequake even now? Do we really make decisions because we want to? It seems that giving in to your desires is the easiest thing in the world, but I've discovered that it's much easier to do what you think you "should" than to do what you love.
The little Trout stories sprinkled through are always interesting to read, as is the fact that Vonnegut pegs Trout's death down to the age of 84; Vonnegut, bless his soul, died at 84. So it goes. On the other hand, this book feels essentially incomplete: the characters, the plots never come into their own. At times, it feels downright lazy.
So, why did I like this book? Because it's honest, unpretentious and direct. In that Vonnegut always reminds me of Mark Twain and through Twain he presents his other theme. Twain said, "I have never wanted any released friend of mine restored to life since I reached manhood." Vonnegut says, "For practically everybody, the end of the world can’t come soon enough." Is this the reason why we have wars, why we simply choose to wipe out entire races? That we are, at the heart of it all, ashamed to live? (less)
I wouldn't have read this book if it weren't for the constant Goodreads Book Club ads. Once I did, though, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that...moreI wouldn't have read this book if it weren't for the constant Goodreads Book Club ads. Once I did, though, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it did have some of those elements that interest me after all. I love reading about time: it's the only true constant in human lives. So, I was looking forward to see how Jennifer Egan expands on the basic theme of this book: "Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?".
I liked the structure of the novel, the loosely interconnected stories. It was interesting to discover minor characters tucked away as protagonists in later pages, to see their journeys in the future and past. Egan's writing is sometimes quiet and beautiful: "... What moved Ted, mashed some delicate glassware in his chest", sometimes quick and witty. I am somewhat undecided about the infamous PowerPoint chapter. I like the concept and the title, Famous Rock and Roll Pauses reminded me of something Debussy once said that I love, about music being the silence between the sounds. Still, the writing was often self-conscious and pretentious (a grown woman, not a 12 year old is more likely to use the words "primordially cute"?) and this is one of the reasons that the book couldn't enchant me despite it's subject.
This book seemed like a more sophisticated version of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife in a lot of ways. Both are about time and both have an interesting approach ruined by unlikable characters and pretentious writing (although there's less name-dropping in Egan's book). Sasha is just not believable: when teenage girls run away to become groupies, more often than not, they are more likely to end up without a kidney somewhere than travel around Europe and Asia. On a side note, I don't understand the recent trend I've noted in a number of books, of quirky-but-troubled-pale-redhead heroines. These writers (it may be a coincidence but they're almost always female) seem to use physical appearance as a shortcut to character development, instead of you know, actually spending time giving a character depth and personality. Frankly, the offbeat redhead is as tired a cliché as the dumb blonde and the sensible brunette. As for the other characters, Jules is interesting until you have to plough through the tiresome rant that is his escapade with Kitty Jackson. Lou is never anything more than an old lech. To be fair to Egan, she does have some sympathetic characters, like Scotty, La Doll or even Bosco.
The tone is often depressing, as looking back on the passage of time is and Egan reminds the reader constantly of what time can do: "... such universal, defining symbols made meaningless by nothing more than time". However, there is also redemption. Egan doesn't forget the circular nature of time. Time taketh away, and time giveth.(less)
Return of the Jedi isn't my favourite Star Wars movie, but I can't like it any less than the others. It just wouldn't feel right. It's the same thing...moreReturn of the Jedi isn't my favourite Star Wars movie, but I can't like it any less than the others. It just wouldn't feel right. It's the same thing with the novelization. Not that this was completely unreadable: like the movie, it just had a few aspects that could have been better thought out. Still, it's Star Wars, and all said and done, it has the elements that make the trilogy so great - honesty, courage and lightsabers.
My first thought was that James Kahn's writing was possibly the best out of the three. The prologue invoked the majesty of space - "aging orange embers" has such a nice ring to it. Maybe he overestimated what was basically half a Death Star but it could have been worse (*cough*night-stalking ferret*cough*). Then I read this - "Poot-wEEt beDOO gung ooble DEEp!". Kahn feels the need to supply not just Artoo, but Chewbacca, the Ewoks and even Nien Nunb with dialogue. It breaks up the flow of the narrative and is simply a bad idea. Referring to the Emperor as "the Evil One" is campy and unnecessary - it has been obvious he's evil right from the time his 10 foot tall head ordered Vader to hunt down Luke - does this need any clarification? There's another line about the Emperor selling the Rebels real estate which is somehow analogous to the Star Destroyers' attack plan but I haven't figured it out yet.
These are minor nitpicks though, because it's the movie itself that fell short. Reusing the Death Star as a plot device was lazy and unimaginative. Ewoks are everyone's number one complaint but the problem is the way they were dealt with, rather than the creatures themselves. I understand that Lucas wanted to show the toppling of an empire by a "primitive" race and the Wookies weren't savage enough so a few letters were changed around and we got Ewoks instead. But Chewbacca, for all his howling commands respect, whether because of his skills or his courage. The Ewoks, on the other hand, think C3PO is a god. Skipping over the fact that any race that thinks Threepio is divine automatically loses my respect, hasn't this been overused? Why do all tribal societies in fiction deify the first stranger off the boat? Besides, attempts to show them as a brave enough to take on the most powerful entity in the galaxy, despite the latter's superior technology might have succeeded if they weren't called teddy bears all the time.
Still, there's a lot to like in the movie as well as in the book and Kahn gets it right when it comes to emotionally-charged scenes, particularly Luke's second duel with Vader and the latter's last moments. He does a good job of capturing Luke's spiritual turmoil, his brush with temptation and his eventual mastery of it. For the most part, Vader's death is handled with the right touch of drama - "It was a face full of meanings, that Luke would forever recall. Regret, he saw most plainly. And shame. Memories could be seen flashing across it... memories of rich times. And horrors. And love, too. It was a face that hadn’t touched the world in a lifetime." I found his use of Yoda's line on luminous beings particularly powerful; a subtle indication of his final return to the Jedi he used to be and I wish it had been used in the movie.
I also loved the bond between Luke and Leia. Their twinning might have been made up on the fly, but it's saved by the spiritual and emotional link they share. Plus, Leia seems stronger in both this book and the movie than she did in the previous two episodes. She may have had to undergo the travesty of being conscripted into fan service in a Hutt-issue slave girl costume but she does get to execute one of the most awesome kills in the series, and I liked the scene describing her awareness of the Force among the forests of Endor. Apart from Leia, Lando also comes into his own here; probably a replacement for Han now that he's mellowed down. But that's what I liked most: the growth of the characters through the series, whether it was Luke learning to be stronger or Han learning to love beyond himself.
I've been reading these books and watching the trilogy again at the same time. It's been a great eleven days since I started and I'm thinking of giving the novels another chance. Maybe I'll take another shot at Splinter of the Mind's Eye or The Truce at Bakura. It's comforting to know that I can rediscover the magic of Star Wars again. And most of all, it has been a pleasure discovering the rich narrative. After all, it is an elegant story, from a more civilized age.(less)
Although Star Wars (fine, 'A New Hope') is my favourite movie in the series, I understand that The Empire Strikes Back is, critically speaking, the be...moreAlthough Star Wars (fine, 'A New Hope') is my favourite movie in the series, I understand that The Empire Strikes Back is, critically speaking, the best of the trilogy. So, I was curious to see how it would turn out in print.
Donald F. Glut's writing is somewhat less melodramatic than Alan Dean Foster's. It's not perfect, but then again, excessively erudite writing is neither expected nor necessary in a book with lightsabers and a floating city. I heartily disagree, though, with Glut's assertion that Vader quakes in fear of the Emperor. It is unlikely that Darth Vader is "afraid" of anything. The very thought! Plus, the depiction of the Battle of Hoth is dry and stretches on longer than needed. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Glut manages to keep the Luke-Vader duel gripping - "Again Luke attacked. Once again their energy blades clashed. And then they stood, staring at one another for an endless moment through their crossed lightsabers." Say what you will, but those lines captured the drama of the fight for me.
It's also a relief to read of the Force, of the Jedi as a spiritual concept again rather than some sort of fungal infection (I'm looking at you, midi-chlorians). "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Quotable as ever, Master Yoda. I was hoping the novel would resolve some of the discrepancies in Luke's training (he seems to train for about the same amount of time that Han and company take to be swallowed by a space slug, escape, land in Bespin and get frozen in carbonite which, all said and done, isn't a very long time). It is implied that Luke is longer on Dagobah than apparent but the times still don't add up.
Still, his training is an interesting take on the Hero's Journey and reminds me why Luke Skywalker is my favourite character in the series - he grows from a farmboy to a Jedi knight and along the way he feels hopelessness and anger and insecurity and he learns to overcome them. In the first novel, I could perfectly understand Luke's desire to be something more and the insecurity and despair he feels at being unfulfilled. But this is Star Wars, this is a world where "Wormie" can become "Commander Skywalker" - that's what's so great about it (I couldn't help feeling strangely proud every time I read those two words - "Commander Skywalker" - God, I'm such a sap for Luke). In ESB, he moves forward to a more spiritual growth. The boy who once fainted at the sight of a Tusken Raider takes on the most feared man/ mass murdering cyborg in the galaxy and he doesn't do it because it's in his genes or because it has been foretold, he does it because it's the only way to grow.
Of course, the best thing about Star Wars is that it has all these spiritual elements, this space opera take on the monomyth but it still doesn't ignore the vicarious thrill of a good adventure. I can over-analyze Luke's Jedi training but I can also appreciate Star Destroyers colliding. And I might be a sap for Luke, but that doesn't mean that Han is anything but one of the most memorable characters ever. Han's awesomeness reaches epic proportions in ESB but you also have Leia and Lando (gotta love the cape!) and Chewie who can rip off droid arms as well as he can reconstruct them.
On a side note, I realised that I started reading the first book on the release date of the first movie. See? If that doesn't prove that The Force wants me to read these books, I honestly don't know what does. On to RotJ!(less)
This is going to be a spectacularly biased review. Also, I'm listening to the Imperial March while writing this. *I should do this every time.*
The rea...moreThis is going to be a spectacularly biased review. Also, I'm listening to the Imperial March while writing this. *I should do this every time.*
The reason why I am giving this book five whole stars is because it let me have my childhood back, if only for the duration of 200 odd pages. Plus, I'm criminally low-brow. So I'm writing this review partly out of sentiment and partly out of dedication to my decision to review every book I read this year.
So, again, how can I NOT like this book? It's Luke. And Han and Princess Leia and Chewie and ol' Darth and R2D2 and C3P0 and Jabba and Greedo and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and Tusken Raiders and, and... heck, and even Admiral Motti (except he's not the one getting Force-choked here, which I find disturbing). Despite Alan Dean Foster's (I think we can all stop pretending Lucas wrote this) magnificently purple prose, despite his inexplicable bigotry towards Jawas, despite all the differences from the movie, I loved this book because it made me feel like I was discovering Star Wars all over again.
Surprisingly, there were things I genuinely liked about this book. I enjoyed reading a more detailed descriptions of Tatooine and Yavin IV, for one. With the movie, you're way too busy watching the X-Wings and stuff to appreciate the rebel base hidden inside an ancient temple. I mean, part of the reason Star Wars is so awesome are all the worlds. And it's interesting coming across familiar scenes and lines of dialogue, and seeing them treated differently. It's interesting to see what Lucas had in mind before the characters and events become the ones we know now. Also, Han shot first and this book proves it. Still, I prefer Jabba talking in Huttese and going all "Han ma buki" than in English (or is it Basic?). Also, it's a shame that the word "battle station" has to be used all the time. "Death Star" is possibly the best name EVER for a starship (and one of my favourite words in the English language apart from "drawings" and "forest" and "antebellum").
But the best part, of course, is the same adventure and feeling of being transported into another world. If you ever watched Star Wars as a kid, if you ever wanted to grow up to be a Jedi (or a Corellian smuggler, or a princess from Alderaan, or a Sith lord) then I dare you to read about the Millenium Falcon coming in to save Luke right before he blasts the Death Star and not smile. I dare you to read this - "Only when the freighter fully eclipsed the sun forward did the new threat become visible. It was a Corellian transport, far larger than any fighter, and it was diving directly at the trench." and not feel wildly happy. Go on, I double dare you.
I could complain a little about the writing, which has gems like - "... multiple treads that were taller than a tall man." Really, Mr. Foster? Really? And what were you thinking when you described Obi-Wan as a "night-stalking ferret"??? But honestly, I don't care. And sometimes it's so bad it's actually kind of funny - "Luke had never seen its like before; he knew neither its species nor its language. The gabbling might have been an invitation to a fight, a request to share a drink, or a marriage proposal."
I had once promised to stay away from the EU and anything other than the movies (this was after I read about Han becoming an alcoholic and Chewie dying) but I enjoyed reading this so much that I'm going to read the other two novelizations as well. What can I say, I have a very good feeling about this.(less)
When I was about 10, a friend lent me an anthology of Satyajit Ray's stories after her praise for his chilling ghost stories got me interested. I reme...moreWhen I was about 10, a friend lent me an anthology of Satyajit Ray's stories after her praise for his chilling ghost stories got me interested. I remember reading about an ill-fated attempt at a parapsychological experiment in a rural haunted house and a strange little story about a man who hung himself upside down from a tree like a bat. When I found this book, I bought it in hopes of re-reading some of those tales. The last one is not here, but the first, Anath Babu's Terror is, and is still delightfully frightening after all these years.
The horror stories, whether the horror is human or supernatural, are the highlight of this volume. There is the restless ghost of an English indigo planter in the title story, a ventriloquist's dummy which slowly becomes more and more like his estranged mentor in Bhuto (incidentally, the story that my friend told me about first), and in Fritz a grown man discovers his childhood plaything is more sinister than he imagined. Other stories are less typical in their horror: in Ratan Babu and That Man, the protagonist's initial delight at finding his doppelganger takes a dark turn and Mr. Eccentric details the story of a man in a sleepy hill town with a macabre hobby.
Also included are a few fantasy stories, a few others for children, a humorous Roald Dahl-esque tale called Bipin Chowdhury's Lapse of Memory as well as a couple of slice-of-life dramas. Of these Patol Babu, Film Star is a gentle look at a failed actor and his continued devotion to his craft. Ray's own career as a film maker makes this an insightful story and it is one of my favourites in the collection. Pikoo's Diary is an unsettling account of the breakdown of a child's family, written by the child himself.
The 21 stories are by themselves enchanting but the various genres - horror, humour, fantasy, drama - sit awkwardly together. It is jarring to finish reading about a murder and plunge into a humorous alien encounter. I would have preferred if the editor had decided whom the stories were meant for. It is true that Ray writes as well for children as for adults and his stories are often meant for both, but the book could have done with a more focused selection.(less)
If this book consisted only of the last chapter and perhaps a few excerpts from the ninth, I might have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it's an awkward, te...moreIf this book consisted only of the last chapter and perhaps a few excerpts from the ninth, I might have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it's an awkward, tedious mess of words and dry sociological debate with an adventure into a parallel universe thrown in accidentally amongst the discussions on eugenics and self-cleaning apartments.
Perhaps it was just my mood but right from the beginning, the book and its narrator irritated me. The protagonist is so pompous, you want to club him before you're past the first chapter. His grandiloquence on every subject is a chore to read through and often it is patently ridiculous. A "World State" that knows everything about you (even the places you've checked into), shipping off "undesirables" to isolated islands, deciding who gets to marry and have children and who doesn't - Wells' idea of Utopia often borders on a dystopian police state. When people are classified and graded like apples and eggs, it is impossible to be fair. Who exactly is "undesirable" and "inferior"? How long until these terms are twisted for the benefit of the powerful as they always have been throughout history?
The chapter on women in utopia fails to prove their better treatment under Wells' ideal regime. He grandly states that they are to be equal to men but Wells' idea of equality seems to begin and end at childbearing. Women, whom he considers as possessing "weaker initiative" and "inferior invention and resourcefulness" aren't fit for much else other than continual childbearing. It is also interesting that a certified philanderer like Mr. Wells (an "inveterate womanizer" the introduction calls him) considers female infidelity a public offence while if a woman "does not mind" her husband's transgressions (which after all can have such trifling consequences as "violent perturbations of jealousy") then "nobody minds". The entire chapter is so infuriatingly absurd that I had a half a mind to chuck the book into the nearest bin.
Similarly, Wells' views on racial equality while certainly ahead of his times had an artificiality to it. Maybe "negroes" are handsome, maybe there may be a few good souls among the non-white multitudes. And simply letting an "inferior" race be is not a solution. No, if such a race exists, according to Wells, it must be terminated but humanely of course. Still, he makes a few valid points and recognizes the racial cruelties in world history as well as the unreasonable arguments against racial equality that people tend to harbour.
The only thing that saved the book for me was Wells' idea of the samurai, although it wasn't perfect (Wells considers acting and singing undignified, the husbands of his female samurai have no obligation to follow the Rule while the wives of their male counterparts enjoy no such luxury and devotes an unnecessarily long rant to the vilification of women's fashion).
However, I loved his descriptions of the samurai pilgrimage (although he ignores the idiocy of going off alone into the wild without fire and a tent) and the general idea of a ruling class that has actual responsibilities and virtues instead of the indolent gentry of the time. The last chapter again was moving and vivid in its descriptions of a return to a less perfect world. Unfortunately, Wells fails to make the reader feel any desire to return to his Utopia.(less)
Like in '1984', the themes in this book were so pioneering to the science fiction genre today that perhaps their originality was lost on me. Neverthel...moreLike in '1984', the themes in this book were so pioneering to the science fiction genre today that perhaps their originality was lost on me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it. The first part was a little slow and dragged on longer than it should have. The reiterations that most of the population was simply disinterested and unaware of an alien landing is somewhat incomprehensible today. And the idea of aliens landing in 'cylinders' is delightfully quaint to someone brought up on images of starships.
The story became far more absorbing in the second part; particularly the artilleryman's vision of the future and the deeply atmospheric description of the narrator's walk through London.
I liked Wells' portrayal of the Martians. While he depicts them as coldly ruthless, he also implies that their actions are not unlike those of humans, whether towards animals or towards each other. The book could have easily turned into a jingoistic Hollywood-esque celebration of human triumph over 'those ugly, sadistic aliens', but as Wells reminds us, it is simply the courtesy any being shows to another he considers inferior. And in the event that humans one day reach the technical sophistication of the Martians, Wells implies that there is little to say that we won't act like them. Quoting Kepler in the epilogue, Wells asks: "And how are all things made for man?" Certainly it is something to think about.
On a side note, I liked the design of this particular edition, especially the typesetting. A very well made book.(less)