The plot was predictable enough to rate 3 stars, however the good characterizations deserve four stars. The true brilliance of this book lies in its b...moreThe plot was predictable enough to rate 3 stars, however the good characterizations deserve four stars. The true brilliance of this book lies in its beautifully inspiring visualizations. You can see the circus, and it is fantastic! Its slightly weird, and definitely out of this world, and painfully hauntingly beautiful. I'd give 4.5 stars if I could, but it just doesn't quite rate 5. I'm probably just slightly too old and jaded for that. If I'd read it 10 years ago, and it could have imprinted itself onto my teenage mind, it would definitely have been a long term favorite. But still better to have read it now than never. (less)
What to say about this book? Its a choose your own adventure version of Hamlet. Its hysterically funny, witty, clever, random, silly, everything I cou...moreWhat to say about this book? Its a choose your own adventure version of Hamlet. Its hysterically funny, witty, clever, random, silly, everything I could ask for. You can even choose your own adventure as Ophelia, who loves science and can go scarpering off to have adventures of your own that have nothing to do with that whiny emo kid Hamlet. Its not really a "graphic novel" but it does have some fantastic art by some of my favorite webcomic artists.
I got it on the kickstarter promotion, and the only thing I regret is that I didn't give them more money and get more awesome things.(less)
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was definitely one of those books that just by changing one or two thin...moreI have mixed feelings about this book. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was definitely one of those books that just by changing one or two things it could have been FANTASTIC. The fresh look at zombies and vampires and fantasy creatures in a modern urban setting was nice. This is no True Blood, or Twilight, or even Charles DeLint, it is definitely its own thing, and I loved that unique view. I loved the concept, a human woman writing a travel guide for unnatural creatures visiting New York, awesome. It had a good sense of humor, definitely some silly moments, some witty lines. I understand that its supposed to be a fluff book, and I wasn't looking for anything too serious.
But... I got so sick of plot twists that entirely revolved around the romantic history and sex life of the main character. Really? I mean REALLY?! She's supposed to be a strong intelligent driven woman, so why is it always about the MEN in her life??? (view spoiler)[ Why is it always about the fact that she slept with her last boss who was actually married? Why is her coworker a super sexy incubus who somehow talks her into going to a bdsm sex club and nearly having sex with her in front of a crowd. (Which, of course, she doesn't protest at the time, but gets pissed about later). And of course, her next door neighbor just HAPPENS to be a super sexy knight in shining armor, employed by Public Works, the secret police force of the unnatural world. And OF COURSE the big evil of the climax of the book just HAPPENS to be her ex-boyfriend's wife, who is a voodoo queen coming to take over New York, and also has a personal vendetta agains the main character. I mean, really?! That just pissed me off no end. The villain of the book is the wife of the man the main character slept with. Think about what that says for a moment. And, by the way, the married guy in question isn't portrayed as evil, or a true shithead, just a kind of weak, icky womanizer. When the main character runs into him again, not only does she NOT kick him in the balls, or at least punch him in the nose, she saves his life. Twice. I'm not saying he deserved to die, and good for her taking the moral high ground. But she also doesn't even TELL HIM HE'S A SHIT HEAD FOR LYING TO HER AND CHEATING ON HIS WIFE. Neither woman knew about the other, the guy is the one who's really a freakin' jerk AND YET its the two women who end up battling each other with constructs in central park. I'm not saying every woman who's ever been cheated on by her husband is automatically a good person, but COME ON. That just left a nasty taste in my mouth. Especially since every other plot device was also SOMEHOW related to the main character's sex life and the fact she slept with her last boss who happened to be married. Ick. (hide spoiler)]
But enough about that. One of the other things I really liked about this book is that the author is local (to me :-D). She lives in Durham, and regularly mentions Raleigh, NC. Not in a super flattering light, but its still mentioned. And that makes me smile, because I love where I live, and I love that interesting people who are succeeding at their dreams are living here too.
While this book definitely had things I didn't like about it, it had enough things I did like about it that I will continue to read works by this author. I want to support local authors, but also because I think the flaws that so bothered me are somewhat from her being such a new author. This is apparently her first largely published book, I'm excited to see where she goes. Hopefully she'll find her strengths in her humor, and her fun new look at urban fantasy, and NOT in her sense of "romance" or dependence on male characters as plot points.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was so fantastic. I really wasn't sure in what direction this author could possibly go in after The Gone Away World, that book was so unique...moreThis book was so fantastic. I really wasn't sure in what direction this author could possibly go in after The Gone Away World, that book was so unique and wonderful. And this book tops it. This book is EVEN BETTER. (less)
This series is really truly brilliantly well done. Chock full of historical references to literature and culture (Bryant and May were even mentioned!)...moreThis series is really truly brilliantly well done. Chock full of historical references to literature and culture (Bryant and May were even mentioned!), with compelling characters and intriguing plots. The books just keep getting better. The only problem I see is that at this rate, he's going to to run out of history... The first book began in the 1880s, but this one goes all the way up to 1968. What happens when we reach current day?(less)
Meh, I was not a fan of this installment of the Peter Grant series. Partially, thats because its been too long since I read the previous book, having...moreMeh, I was not a fan of this installment of the Peter Grant series. Partially, thats because its been too long since I read the previous book, having read it when it came out, and then waiting for this one to be released, and I'd half forgotten what happened. Which was a problem, because Aaronovitch referenced it frequently, but didn't actually remind the reader what had happened. I admit, I'm equally annoyed by books that spend half their time explaining what happened in the previous book as if they assume the reader has never read it, but I do think there's an appropriate middle ground where you can reference and remind without being annoying and explanatory. Or, even better, have books that can stand entirely on their own as a single volume, I feel like the first two did that quite well.
Not only did it feel like this book started halfway into the action, it also definitely ENDED halfway into the action. I hate major cliff hangers at the end of a book. At the end of a chapter, sure! Keeps me reading. On the last page? No, I do not approve. It feels like a cheap gambit to get people to buy the next book.
The previous book in the series may be my favorite of all, and this one is definitely my least favorite. It felt rushed, dragged a bit in the beginning and middle, and then by the time you got to the end and finally started getting interested BANG it ends. With no information, no resolution, nothing.
Definitely a fun fast read. Star Trek fans especially will appreciate the first part of the book, but I think it'd have appeal even to people who've n...moreDefinitely a fun fast read. Star Trek fans especially will appreciate the first part of the book, but I think it'd have appeal even to people who've never seen an episode.
The writing style was a little choppy, but bearable once you got caught up in the story. A very simple main plot, but entertaining. And I confess, I liked the three codas (followup short stories) more than the main novel. Still good all around though.(less)
I confess, the main reason I decided to pick up this book was not the author; I'm not a huge Heinlein fan, though his books are "classic" sci-fi, and...moreI confess, the main reason I decided to pick up this book was not the author; I'm not a huge Heinlein fan, though his books are "classic" sci-fi, and I agree he is defintiely necessary to the evolution of the genre. I can admit to his worth as a writer without being a ardent lover of his writing style. I picked up this book on a whim, and because it had the subtitle of "A Comedy of Manners." If there's one thing I can almost always enjoy, its a narrative comedy of manners. Add in some science fiction and space travel, and how could I resist?
In my mind, I can break up this book into three disticntly separate books. The first third was filled with all the little details that really make "a comedy of manners" in my mind. We meet an ex-army man and his new (as of two hours ago) wife fleeing from the bureaucracy of space-station life after a complete stranger is awkwardly killed at their table in the finest resturant after delivering a mysterious message. They pick up a companion in the form of a man from the slums who was paid to kill them, but joins their side after promising not to kill them and help carry their luggage. They teach him about the importance of always being polite, and give him the charge of protecting the little bonsai tree they (for some reason) are determined to save while escaping the space station known as "Golden Rule." This third of the story is all about adventure, and travel, and about solving the mystery of why Richard and Gwen are being hunted down and who killed the stranger at their table. (view spoiler)[ The second third of this book is all about some free-loving. Heilein was well known for his very open views on sexuality, and they definitely make an appearance in this book too. Some of the mysteries resolve, as we find out that Gwen has a interesting history, across several time-lines and parallel universes. She takes Richard home several centuries in his future, to her large, complicated, and polygamous family who all happen to be members of the Time Corps who are trying to save various universes by rescuing the first intelligent computer from history.
The final third of the book is shorter in length than the first two, but dense in ideas. Its mostly a philosophical rambling about the possible nature of time and reality. Its rather heavy on the exposition and explanation, but nontheless contains some intereting ideas. In this book, Heinlein claims that all universes are real, everything that could possibly happen has happened, somewhere and somewhen. Even ficitonal universes and characters are real, what Heinlein called "The World as Myth." Richard even meets his the hero of his childhood tv series, and contemplates on the morality of creating fictional villians that will become a reality in some universe. Heinlein fans will enjoy this portion of the book more than those who haven't read many of his works because a good number of his characters from his previous books make an appearance, furthering his ideas that fiction is just as real as "reality."
The book ends abruptly, with Richard and Gwen in the middle of the mission to save Mike (the intelligent computer) probably at the cost of their lives. It is revealed that the whole of the story has been narrated by Richard, in this moment speaking into a recording devise. And he asks, in one poignant question, who is the author who is causing such pain and despair? Who is the author who wrote his universe and is forcing him to live, and die, in these circumstances. (hide spoiler)]
While I loved the initial set-up of the story, I ended up rather disappointed with the end. So many of the mysteries that intrigued me were never answered, or even worse, were poorly answered in awkward exposition that left plot holes an elephant could fall through.
The development of the charming and witty relationship that developed between Gwen and Richard was put aside in favor of annoying justifications for "free love" and polygamous marriages.
Had the story continued in the same vein as that first third of the book, I think this novel could have won five stars from me, but Heinlein lost the thread of the most important piece: the actual plot. His priorities were obviously more on describing his idea free-love society, and on his World as Myth philosophy. While I did find the latter interesting, I think there may have been better ways to incorporate it into the story than pure exposition and long non-plot centric conversations.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
[Reread a year and a half later, and I actually like this book MORE than the first time. My major complaints then were that the surprise ending was to...more[Reread a year and a half later, and I actually like this book MORE than the first time. My major complaints then were that the surprise ending was too much of a surprise. But rereading it now, and knowing that surprise already, moved my focus from "Tell me what happened" to "tell me how and why and when and where ALL of it happened." Which this book does, and does amazingly well. Already knowing the big twist made me focus on the actual storytelling. And what storytelling it is, beautiful and witty and enthralling. Yay.]
This is one of those reviews that is impossible to start. The book was intense, and well written, and wonderfully creative. But what could I possibly say that wouldn't give everything away? This books almost *needs* to be experienced going into it blind.
It is written entirely in first person narrative, and the style is intensely personal. Instead of feeling like you're just following the main character around seeing what he sees and hearing what he says, you know you are there, inside his head. Its one part stream of consciousness, and one part past-tense vivid reminiscence. The author writes ridiculously long run-on sentences, but in the sort of way where you don't notice until you're halfway down a paragraph and realize you're just now finishing the thought that he started six lines ago. It grabs you, and holds your attention for several sentence worths of words. The book is also full of witty one-liners that make you giggle, or make you sad, or just make you apreciate words and all the varieties of things they can mean. And you want to share them as quotes, but you realize the moment you take them away from their surrounding context, they actually don't mean the same thing anymore. They're whole philosophies built into one sentence, but in fact they need the 500-some pages of background support to actually mean what you read.
The main character and Gonzo have been best friends since childhood. They are the perfect foils to eachother; One a man of action, the other a man of thought. Gonzo has a crazy idea, and he has to come up with the plan that wont get them both in trouble. They both study martial arts in childhood, from a silly wise old man who is most definitely not a secret ninja, definitely not. They go to the same college, and eventually somehow both end up in the special operations military, fighting a nonsense-war in a distant country. And then someone creates the Go-Away bomb and nothing in the world is the same anymore.
(view spoiler)[ If this book has a flaw, it is that the climax has one of those mind-blowing revelations that's supposed to be the BIG SURPRISE TWIST. And trust me, it IS a surprise twist, you don't really see it coming. But as with most twists like that, the reader feels a bit cheated and used. 350 pages in, and you've been lying to me the whole time?! But I thought we were friends! And the other flaw with big twists, is that they never make one hundred percent logical sense. There are definitely plot holes where you go "wait, what about _____." And I have to admit, one of the "great secrets" that you finally learn about is a little TOO overdramatic and silly. The only thing I could think of when I read it was that infamous moment: "Soylent Green is PEOPLE!" (hide spoiler)]
The first three quarters of the book weren't precisely slow, but they were excruciatingly detailed and very much thought out. The last quarter of the book is fast and dramatic in a jumping-out-of-a-plane sort of way, but where the parachute never opens, you just end up on the ground looking up at the sky and wishing you'd gotten that slow moment to actually look at what you were approaching and see the whole thing from a point of view where it actually all fits together.
And really, I think that's all I can say about it. I refuse to actually give any details because I think it only makes sense when you read it, and maybe not even then. But its definitely not the sort of book you can describe to someone. If anyone out there has read it and wants to discuss it, I'd love to do that. Maybe you have some insights that fit the pieces of it together than the way in which I put them together, because I'm still seeing plot holes? Or maybe that's the point, and its not supposed to make perfect sense....["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Comparative Connie Willis A look at To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout and All Clear, and The Doomsday Book
So I have a very mixed reaction to Connie W...moreComparative Connie Willis A look at To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout and All Clear, and The Doomsday Book
So I have a very mixed reaction to Connie Willis. I was first introduced to her writings about a year ago with "To Say Nothing of the Dog." I was amazed. It quickly became, and still is, one of my favorite books. I've reread it twice since then. Its a light-hearted story set about 50 years in an alternate future where time travel has been invented, but its pretty much useless to everyone because you can't take anything from the past, you can take anything to the past, and its physically impossible to change the order of events. So the only people who use time travel are historians, who go back in time to study and record events in detail. Enter Ned and Verity, two scholars from Oxford, who find themselves together in the Victorian age. Ned is hiding from a rich patron of the history department who needs him to find an artifact from the past, and she wont take no for an answer. Verity is worried that she has somehow accidentally changed the future by saving the life of a cat. And so they're thrown into a hilarious series of events that witness the first jumble sale, the ridiculousness rules of victorian love stories, and the ugliest statue ever to have been created. Willis also pays homage to a classic of the time, "Three Men in a Boat," and her story is full of references to other literatures of the times, Alice in Wonderland, and the mystery novels that were just becoming popular and would eventually pave the way for Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. (Infact, it was this book that first got me reading the Lord Peter Wimsey series, for which I am eternally greatful.)
That December, Blackout and All Clear had just been released and I was ecstatic. It was that great feeling you get when you are introduced to an author, and you love them, and it turns out they've written tons of books you get to go catch up on, and they're even writing more books, and you know you wont run out of things to read for a long time. So it was with happy anticipation that the day after Christmas I curled up under a blanket and opened Blackout....
One hundred pages later I was into the story, but not enthralled. Two hundred pages later, I was bored. Three hundred pages later, I was bored and annoyed. Eventually I made it to the end of Blackout, but I was not impressed. Why had this gloroius author failed me so badly? How could she do this, to me, personally?! Where were the silly time-travel hijinks? Where were the witty observations? The unlikely heros, the mystery to solve, the comedy of errors, all were missing! Sure, I expected more dramatic and serious book, it was set during World War I, there's only so much comedy you can create. But I still expected a coherent and interesting plot. I'd read 512 pages, and the only thing that'd happened was to get three historians lost in London during the blitz. They coudln't find the way out, and they couldn't find eachother, and they spent every one of those pages saying "its ok, Mr. Dunworthy will find me eventually, all I have to do is this..." The reader has spent those 512 pages knowing that they're all within a couple miles of eacother, and they've all almost run into eachother three or four times, but they've just narrowly missed eachother. A tragedy of errors you could call it. In a lighter book, it'd be amusing, but in this situation it just feels sad, and slow, and, well, annoying. And it sure doesn't advance the plot at all.
I almost didn't pick up All Clear, but in the end I decided to give Willis another chance. I rationalized it by saying she intended the story to follow the pace of the war. Long periods of boredom interspersed with terror and drama. Slow to start, full of hope in the beginning, eventually giving way to exaustion and despair. Well... Yes, that's about how my emotions went during the readings of All Clear. Not because I felt worry for the characters, or was invested in the story. But just because I eventually resigned myself to the fact that nothing I wanted to happen was ever going to happen. I wont even mention the ending. I like to pretend that the final two chapters didn't actually happen.
Now, nearly a year later, I finally picked up her previous novel "Doomsday Book." I had sort of decided that "To Say Nothing of the Dog" was mostly a fluke, and I didn't actually like Connie Willis at all. Yes, Doomsday Book had won all sorts of awards, and everyone loved it. But then again, Blackout and All Clear won all sorts of awards too... But I was bored, and it had been sitting on my shelf for awhile now, and I thought, why not, just one more try. And lo and behold I enjoyed it! Not with the same love I still feel for Dog, but it was a good book. I could see why people liked it. And then I realized, wait, it has the exact same plot as Blackout and All Clear... Lonely historian accidentally trapped during the beginning of the Black Plague in Englang. In danger, but unable to return. Circumstances in Oxford keeping them from rescuing her. Connie Willis just did the lazy author thing, she just rewrote Doomsday Book, made it three times as long (but didn't actually add anything to the plot) and set it during a revered and honored time in history hoping to get more awards for it.
And it worked. Getting the awards for Blackout and All Clear, I mean. I still don't believe the novels deserved them. I think she needed an editor to stand up to her, hand her a whole package of red pens, and tell her to get to work cutting out about 500 pages, and make it into one novel. Then, I might have enjoyed it.
I think Connie Willis sees that more books get awards for being heart-felt dramas than get for being light-hearted comedies. But her skills really truly lie in the happy endings, and she needs to realize that that doesn't make a book less important. Her voice with Dog was amazing, and perfect. Her characters well-rounded, and likable, and believable. Definitely not the case with Blackout/All Clear, and even a little shakey on Doomsday. Its a lesson I wish all authors would learn.
More pages does not equal a better book! Dramas and tragedies are not automatically more important than happy endings and comedies. Silliness does not decrease the long-term value of a story!(less)