***1/2 The Earth dies hard in this novel, puking lava, belching toxic gases, crying acid rain; all because of the Moonseed infection. What will mankin...more***1/2 The Earth dies hard in this novel, puking lava, belching toxic gases, crying acid rain; all because of the Moonseed infection. What will mankind do if the Earth dies completely? This is a hard Sci-fi novel that is: (1) weak on characterization; after 662 pages I still don't know who Henry is as a person, other than a cardboard cut-out of The Scientist, and I don't care about him (2) has too many throw-away characters (some of which are introduced simply to die and illicit some sort of emotion from the reader, which Baxter fails to do; he could take lessons from Ben Bova who is a master at creating whole life-story-filled characters in a few paragraphs only to kill them off in a page or two and make you feel bad about it!) (3) is TOO LONG by about 200 pages (4) has themes that are not carried through the narrative successfully (I am thinking of the Venus radiation/protection from it) (5) Baxter leaves characters for 100-200 pages before returning to them; a more even cross-cutting between characters/scenes would have helped the narrative flow. Baxter has an easy, conversational writing style that doesn't get bogged-down in long descriptive paragraphs or technical dissertations. If only he knew how to self-edit. I enjoyed his origin story for the Moonseed; and, I thoroughly enjoyed his detailed description of spaceflight. Now I understand what the astronauts went through. Finally, his omnipresent view cataloging the dying Whole Earth was chilling and sad.(less)
Part biography, part writing seminar. The biographical early childhood anecdotes are entertaining and reflect King's masterful collection of novellas,...morePart biography, part writing seminar. The biographical early childhood anecdotes are entertaining and reflect King's masterful collection of novellas, DIFFERENT SEASONS. His recounting of the debilitating van accident adds depth to his fictionalized account in the DARK TOWER series. The writing tutorial is informative and useful, but I disagree about shunning adverbs (I actually found his 'bad' examples to be just fine). I tend to enjoy florid or verbose language and an extra adverb placed here and there to solidify or accent an idea charms me. But what do I know, I am a failed writer... I think the successfully franchised King should learn to self-edit these days being that editors probably fear to criticize him; his books from the DARK TOWER series on have been in need of heavy axe work. An excellent audiobook listen, read by the King himself.(less)
Like the modern German who, wanting to rise above the past and enter a new age of normalcy, must open the wounds of the Holocaust and come to terms wi...moreLike the modern German who, wanting to rise above the past and enter a new age of normalcy, must open the wounds of the Holocaust and come to terms with its legacy and its indelible mark of Cain, Alice Walker opens a tremendous, but previously hidden wound for African-Americans (and humans in general) who look to Africa for self-evaluation and identity (for we are all 'Africans' in the evolutionary sense): female genital mutilation. Ms. Walker shines a blistering halogen light on this unbelievably barbaric and abjectly misogynistic practice in a series of alternating monologues by several characters, all centering on the vengeful actions of Tashi Evelyn Johnston, a victim of ritual 'bathing' of the genitals (one must cut away that which is unclean!). Coming to this novel I expected an 'Oprah Winfrey Presents' or 'Lifetime Movie' melodrama that over-sentimentalized woeman's suffering and hid all extreme acts so as not to offend middle America. How wrong I was, gladly. Stylistically, this novel is like Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING; and it is as powerful in its explorations of loss, madness and family dynamics. There are wonderful images & ideas presented: termite as Christ; a logical explanation for a virgin birth; a chicken that has a bizarre culinary preference; God's destruction of termite mounds as excuse for FGM; a little girl's tears tracking through the red dust on her cheeks as a portentous river of blood; a rare hemophiliac young girl. This is not a book you enjoy. Instead you learn from it, feel pain and sorrow and outrage during reading it, and you come away viewing the human-made world differently (such as how the animal world suffers for our vaccines). On a personal note: A few years ago I went on a date with a young woman who spoke of herself and her friends as being new 'revolutionaries' during the Bush years. At the end of the date she said to me, "At some point in life everyone should possess the secret of joy." I never spoke to nor saw her again after that one date and had wondered what she had meant... until now. I now know what the secret of joy is. I don't possess it. However, I also know that the Borg think it is futile... (less)
Thomas Disch was an acclaimed Sci-Fi writer, but from the tone of the essays in this book it appears that he was a self-hating Sci-Fi writer. The book...moreThomas Disch was an acclaimed Sci-Fi writer, but from the tone of the essays in this book it appears that he was a self-hating Sci-Fi writer. The book in general attempts to illustrate how science fiction has shaped/influenced modern (mostly American) culture. Some of his conclusions are:
Sci-Fi is responsible for sociopathic klller/suicidal religious cults; Feminist Sci-Fi writers are Rushian feminazis; Heinlein was a bomb-loving racist; If you believe in UFOs, then obviously you must be a reader of Sci-Fi; The original Star Trek was pajama-wearing propaganda for office-working drone-ism; Ray Bradbury is a perpetual child-man like Pee-Wee Herman (??? The same man who wrote the Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man & Fahrenheit 451 is really a Pee-Wee Hermensch? I would say that Bradbury is like Spielberg, both of whom create stomach turning family-values, child-like innocent pablum at one point, then create frighteningly adult masterpieces).
The fine points of the book are the sections on The New Wave & Cyberpunk. I expected more analysis of the literature of sc-fi, rather than its influence upon pop culture. That was my mistake coming to the book. Disch’s mistake was in writing it (is that too harsh?). Ok, perhaps his mistake was in twisting or padding the evidence to conform to his thesis. And his tone does feel hateful towards sci-fi, which offended me.(less)
An impressionistic, plotless character study of Nebraska folk. From the title, I expected a portrait of the pioneers who tamed the western land; howev...moreAn impressionistic, plotless character study of Nebraska folk. From the title, I expected a portrait of the pioneers who tamed the western land; however, all the pioneering has been done long before this novel begins. What we get instead is a rich portrait of a strong-willed matriarchal sister who manages her dead Swedish parents's farm along with her three less-intelligent, less-industrious brothers. The overarching theme is of love: of the land, of siblings, and of the unrequited and illicit type. An intriguing or challenging plot would have made this a more fulfilling read.(less)