The worst thing, if you can call it a "worst" thing, about Brandon Meyers and Bryan Pedas (from A Beer for the Shower) is that their volume output excThe worst thing, if you can call it a "worst" thing, about Brandon Meyers and Bryan Pedas (from A Beer for the Shower) is that their volume output exceeds my ability to keep up with it. Unless I want to just quit reading other authors for a while. I actually skipped over a few of their releases to go straight to this one so I could get to it closer to its release date since I was already way past on the others. I'm not sorry I did so. This is easily in the top three books I've read so far this year (Brave New World takes the #1 spot), so, see, it took an 80-year-old classic to beat it.
I hesitate to call Lovely Death a horror story although it does contain some horrific elements. I'd say it's closer to a psychological thriller with supernatural elements. More and more of them as you move along, but it's the psychological aspects that I found interesting. How does a man deal with guilt and what is that guilt even about? And what will people do for love? Even unhealthy love and even when they know it's unhealthy love.
The book has a lot of symbolism and recurring themes, like the car and the idea of "our song" (and what that song is). Some of these are internal, important only to the book itself (like the specific "our song" that's used); some are external, more indicative of people in general (like the car and its representation of freedom). Consistent use of symbols can be a difficult thing to do, and Meyers pulls it off much more than adequately.
Another difficulty in stories like this is consistent characterization, because you inevitably need someone to do something stupid, like go down into the basement, to move the plot forward. That's often the point where not only does the audience yell, "Don't go into the woods!" but "She would never have done that!" There are none of those problems in Lovely Death. The characters are believable and consistent. It was... refreshing.
The book's greatest strength is that it's not conventional. I'm not going to use words like "unique," here, but the approach was not one I've seen before. It causes a "What's going on here?" reaction that will pull you in. Unfortunately, the book's greatest weakness is it's rather conventional ending. The kind of ending that you'd expect in a movie, which, granted, is probably the kind of ending most people want. However, because the beginning of the book strayed so far from the norm, I was hoping for an non-traditional ending. None of that is to say that I didn't like the ending; I did. It's just the ending I expected and hoped against. Well, except for one dangling plot thread that makes me wonder if there are plans to do more with this. I suppose I will just have to wait and see on that front.
I suppose I should mention the editing, since I always do, but it almost seems superfluous to mention it when I'm dealing with products from Pedas and Meyers. Other than a philosophical difference about a particular type of comma usage, the editing in Lovely Death couldn't really be better. There was one thing somewhere near the end, a missing word or something. I've read more "professionally edited" books than I can keep track of that had errors on every page, every page!, so one dropped word in a 300+ page book is hardly worth mentioning. I hear you wondering why I'm mentioning it, then, which is because I'm pointing out how spectacular the job is.
If you like supernatural, scary, horror, psychological, thriller type stuff, this is a book you should check out....more
There will be some slight spoilery-ness since this is a review of part two, but it's not going to be significant spoilery-ness. In other words, I don'There will be some slight spoilery-ness since this is a review of part two, but it's not going to be significant spoilery-ness. In other words, I don't think it's going to hurt anything for you to know any of what I might say in this review.
Okay, so we find out pretty much right away that there is some kind of conspiracy going on. That there is a conspiracy both helps the story and hurts it. Well, at this point, it hurts it, because it raises the "How the heck do you contrive a conspiracy to spread a deadly flu around and expect that work out?" question. Maybe, down the line, there will be an answer to that, but everything so far undermines the story's plausibility. Still, there are eight parts to go, and people do do incredibly stupid things, so I'm willing to go with that. For the moment. That there is a conspiracy helps in that it makes sense out of a few things from "A Flock of Ill Omens."
However, there is an issue from part one that carries over into this one, and it's something I have to talk about, especially in light of the current Ebola crisis. One of the things that is so far pushing the plot of A Shot in the Light (and, granted, this is only part two) is the lack of information to people. This bothered me in part one, but it's even worse in part two. There are repeated statements in the book about how there is no news getting out about how bad the flu epidemic is and how many people are dying from it (and even just in part two it's a considerable amount). The central characters (two of which are reporters) are having to do all of the research themselves. One of them even says something to the effect of how no one else in the world but her has the information that she has.
The problem, though, is that these characters in the book do almost all of their research online. Yeah, I said they are using the Internet to find all this stuff out, but the presentation is as if these people are the only ones with the skills to do this, so no one else knows what's really going on, and no one is reporting on this stuff. That includes the reporters, by the way. People are in the dark except for how things are immediately affecting them.
I just can't buy into this idea at all. It seems to me to go beyond just implausible to downright impossible. I mean, personally, I get all of my news online. All of it. Because that's what happens when you don't have TV. Okay, actually, I get some very minor parts from the radio when I'm in the car, but I don't spend a huge amount of time driving, so it is just a small portion and usually along the lines of getting the headlines, which I later read about online if I hadn't already seen it. I am not at all unique in getting the vastness of my news from the Internet, so the idea that the populace of the United States is ignorant of the extent of this flu virus in the book because there is no news of it is beyond what I can buy into. And, heck, with what we've seen of the coverage of Ebola in the US, it just heightens to me what a weak plot ploy this is.
Okay, yes, there's a conspiracy. But no conspiracy is enough to stop all the free roaming people of the Internet to talk about things. People would know what's going on.
Also, I continue to be bothered by how all of the characters have the same mannerisms. Although there are many point-of-view characters, it's like reading from the POV of the same character all the time. Even the military guy acts just like all of the women. Everything is all business all the time in the same crisp, efficient pattern. And that more than one character has thoughts of how everything is like being a spy just heightens that none of the characters have distinctive personalities.
The writing is fast paced, though, and, because of the Ebola issue, I'm interested to see where the author takes it, so I plan to keep reading. I'll read at least through part four and see how I feel at that point....more
The Woggle-Bug Book is not precisely part of the Oz books as it doesn't take place in Oz or really have anything to do with Oz other than the Woggle BThe Woggle-Bug Book is not precisely part of the Oz books as it doesn't take place in Oz or really have anything to do with Oz other than the Woggle Bug. Actually, the book is adapted from the musical adaptation of the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. Well, loosely adapted. The Woggle Bug is a supporting character in Marvelous Land, but it sounds like much of the plot of the musical is related specifically to the Woggle Bug and his love for a dress, which is what the book is about except set in New York. Maybe. Some American city, at any rate.
So, yes, the book is about how the Woggle Bug falls in love with a dress. He sees it on a department store mannequin and is taken in by its colors, but he can't distinguish it from the person who is wearing it, so the whole plot revolves around him chasing after the various possessors of the dress. And smashing hats. The premise is, in all actuality, entirely amusing.
However, the execution is lacking, especially by today's standards, considering that the book is filled with racial caricatures. I'm sure those things were amusing in their time, but it was a time when Blackface was considered a high form of entertainment. Needless to say, by today's standards, the stereotypes are, at the least, insulting.
I don't really understand the need to set the book in the real world for any other reason than to include those characters. Baum still felt the need to have the Woggle Bug encounter a bunch of talking animals, so it seems to me the book would have worked just fine in Oz. Except that it was done as a child's picture book, not a novel, so, maybe, they thought the book would work better in a familiar setting. It was more than a century ago, so it's hard to say. It doesn't translate well to modern day, though, because of the racial issues.
However, that probably makes the book ripe for a modern interpretation because, as I said, the premise is really very funny and put the Woggle Bug's life in jeopardy on more than one occasion. I wouldn't suggest the original for more than die-hard Oz fans.
And, now, for something I've never done before: a review of the specific edition I purchased. I picked up a free edition of The Woggle-Bug Book for my Kindle, and it was definitely an example of getting what you paid for. The person responsible for the adaptation did a piss poor job of it. For one thing, the original book had illustrations; evidently, those illustrations had captions. The captions were included in the narrative text of the book wherever they happened to fall, which was quite jarring. The book is in past tense, but the captions are in present, so you'd suddenly get this present tense summary of the current action of the book. Also, the book, especially toward the end, is full of typos. It was very apparent that not much time or attention was given to making the book presentable. I would certainly not recommend this edition of the book to anyone, even for the low, low price of FREE....more
"A Flock of Ill Omens" is the first part of the 10-part serial release of A Shot in the Light. If you decide you want to try it, you should pick up th"A Flock of Ill Omens" is the first part of the 10-part serial release of A Shot in the Light. If you decide you want to try it, you should pick up the compilation of the first four parts of the series because it's the same price as part one all by itself.
Having done a serially released book myself, I have a soft spot for the idea of serials. I think they have a lot of potential. As a first part of a serial, I think this does its job adequately. In that, I mean it draws in the reader and makes him want to know what's going on. As in me.
However, with me, that's not all a positive. There are some things I just have questions about. Technical questions. As in, "Is this part of the story or did the author fail to do adequate research?" So, basically, I'm holding my breath and waiting to find out. It would be normal for things to not make sense at this stage in the book, so I'm reserving judgement on the things that have caused questions for me.
Oh, except for one thing, because I'm pretty sure it was a one-off. At one point, one of the characters wants to decontaminate a house. He's afraid of a bio-hazard (which could just be a flu virus), and he's trying to eliminate it. He opts to buy a bug bomb, the kind you can buy at the grocery store, under the assumption that it will kill all living things in the house, including viruses. Um... That's not how bug bombs work, and the character should have known that, considering his profession. I get that the bug bomb made for a convenient way to "zap" the house, but unless they've started making some that actually irradiate their immediate environment, a bug bomb's not going to do more than get rid of some roaches and fleas. Maybe a mouse or two. Maybe.
The writing is pretty fast paced, possibly a little faster paced than I'm actually comfortable with. Things frequently felt rushed to me while at the same time having no actual results. I think that's probably in line with current conventions, though, so most people will probably feel very comfortable with the pacing. What I'm saying is that the writing style is probably a plus in a general sense. It wasn't a negative for me, but it also didn't do anything for me.
And, because it's me, the editing: The editing was pretty good. Mostly, there aren't any issues. Except for the one that is my current pet peeve: the misuse of dashes. I've talked about dashes before, so I'm not going to go into a whole rant about them other than to say that I wish people would actually learn what dashes are for rather than using them by feel. But, then, when you have someone like L'Engle using them to start paragraphs, I suppose it's understandable that there would be confusion about the purpose of dashes as punctuation. [Just to point it out, starting a paragraph with an m-dash is like throwing your commas at the beginning of your sentences. It's just wrong.] Anyway, other than the dash-abuse, and that wasn't rampant like I've seen in some books, the editing is pretty tight. Definitely well above average for a self-published book.
I already have part two set up on my Kindle, so, see, I'm still reading. However, considering that I'm also still reading L'Engle's time books, I don't know if that actually says anything significant. But these are way better than those. I mean, I'm willingly going to read part two, not out of some weird obligation to finish like I have with the Time Quintet. For the moment, though, I'm giving this a C rather like I did with The Skin Map, because I need to see where it's going and what's going on before I can make a better judgement than that. If it hadn't been for the bug bomb thing, though, I might have gone with a B....more
Yes, there will be spoilers, but, seriously, it doesn't matter, because you don't want to read this book.
All right. So this book deals with Sandy andYes, there will be spoilers, but, seriously, it doesn't matter, because you don't want to read this book.
All right. So this book deals with Sandy and Dennys, who have been little better than side characters in the other books. They are Meg and Charles Wallace's "normal" brothers. Twins. It also takes place prior to A Swiftly Tilting Planet, while the twins are sports stars in high school. The impression I got is that they are probably juniors and about 17 years old. Basically, the boys walk into their mother's lab and, when they walk out of it, rather than going back into the kitchen of the house, they end up in the days of Noah. Yes, that Noah. The one that built the big boat. Hence the title of the book.
There's never any firm conclusion as to how they got transported back in time. It may or may not have had to do with an experiment that was going on in the lab, though the type of experiment is never explained, or it may have had to do with them messing with their dad's weird computer, or, maybe, it was just God.
They end up in the desert. Of course, they're wearing winter clothing, which they soon discard... all the way down to their skin. Because that's always a smart thing to do in the desert. Get nearly naked, that is. The end result of that is that about 1/3 of the book deals with them being nursed back to health by Noah's family, who mistake the twins for giants, because no one in Noah's day was even near to being 5' tall. A lot of this section of the book also has the repeated conversation with, well, every freaking character they meet, "We're not giants." And it's not that I don't think they wouldn't have had to have had that conversation, but does L'Engle really need to repeat it 10 or so times.
This book also follows the pattern of all of the books in the series: The characters really don't ever do anything. Sandy and Dennys talk a lot about how they will get home... um, no, wait... They ask that question a lot. Every few pages it seems. "How will we get home?" "I don't know." "What should we do?" "Let's go garden." Seriously, that's their solution every time the question comes up, to work in Noah's father's garden. Basically, they end up being observers to the action going on around them and that's pretty much it. And what that comes down to is that the rising action in this book is about like a road in West Texas with a speed bump on it when Sandy gets kidnapped.
Aside from the lack of any real story or character development, the book is full of all kind of ridiculousness:
1. There are mammoths. Yes, in the desert. But these are not the mammoths you're thinking of. You know, the big, hairy elephants. No, these are tiny mammoths. Terrier-sized mammoths. In fact, they pretty much are small dogs that look like mammoths. The mammoths can scent things and follow trails like a bloodhound, but they are also used as dowsing rods to find water. Which explains why the desert people keep them as pets, I suppose, but how did they get tiny? Well, evidently, they... evolved to be that way? The explanation is something along the lines of them having grown smaller and smaller over a great time.
2. However, the Earth in this book is a brand new Earth. A very young planet still going through its growing pains, so the whole thing with the mammoths doesn't really make any sense. L'Engle seems to want to have the Earth both be billions of years old and only 5000 (or so) years old as in the strict Creationist viewpoint.
3. There are manticores and griffons. Or a manticore and a griffon. It's never clear on whether there are more than one of each. The manticore is "bad" and just shows up rather like a cartoon character to shout "hungry" and try to eat the little doggy-mammoths and have to be shooed away. The griffon shows up to chase "bad" girls away from Sandy and Dennys.
4. L'Engle seems to have a thing with unicorns, because there are more unicorns in this book. Virtual unicorns, as the twins call them. They don't always exist, only when you decide you believe in them and, of course, they can only be approached by virgins. The annoying thing with the unicorns is that even after the boys have experiences with the unicorns, they go on and on about how they can't believe in them because they don't exist, so they can only believe in the unicorns when the unicorns are actually standing right in front of them. I have to suppose that they ceased to believe in their family, too, when their family quit being right in front of them.
-- The issue with all of this is that L'Engle, from what I can tell, wants us to accept this book as being set in reality, our reality, and, yet, she undermines reality by introducing all of this mythological stuff into what we're supposed to believe is the actual pre-flood setting. It's more suspension of disbelief than I could handle, and I haven't even gotten to the Angels.
5. Oh, yes, the Angels. The pseudo conflict in the book is between the seraphim (the good Angels) and the nephilim (the bad Angels). In fact the whole "conflict" revolves around a girl, Yalith, who everyone is in love with, so it becomes a matter of whom she will choose: one of the twins (or both) or Eblis, the nephilim. It's an empty conflict through which L'Engle seems to deliver her message of "bad things don't happen to good people" (a message which makes me wonder what reality L'Engle lived in, because it's the same kind of message all of her books have: Love will always win and, ultimately, nothing bad happens to people who believe in love).
Speaking of Yalith and male/female relationships in general in this book: This may have been the most difficult part of the book for me to deal with. Yalith is the youngest child of Noah; she's nearly 100 years old (because people in Noah's time lived much longer (Noah is 700ish)), but she's basically a teenager. Because, you know, living longer means slower growth? Which makes me wonder how long would remain a baby in this time. 20 years? Because, man, if I was a mom, I'd be pissed. Having to care for an infant for 20 years... I can't even imagine it, especially since pregnancy still only last nine months (because there was a birth during the book). You could end up with, well, a lot of babies. Actually, what I think she wants us to believe is that everyone ages normally until they hit puberty when they, for whatever reason, quit developing. Still, that means around 90 years as a teenager! That would be the worst!
Oh, back to the twins and male/female relationships: So Sandy meets Yalith; Yalith is basically naked, because the people in Noah's time only wear loincloths. In the desert. Because we have examples of people today who live in the desert but only wear loincloths? At any rate, Yalith is all but naked, and Sandy is a teenage boy confronted with a naked girl and his response is to get a "funny feeling." Um, what? A funny feeling? What does that even mean? And that's how all of the interactions between the twins and girls go: They get funny feelings. I'm sorry; these boys are supposed to be 16 or 17 years old, and L'Engle is treating them as if they're, at best, 10. It's ridiculous.
The twins do end up back at home after spending at least a year in the desert with Noah. One of the Angels removes the boys' tans and, I suppose, the year or more they had aged, although that's not actually mentioned. So they end up back at home right at the point they'd left and nothing has changed. There was no character growth for the twins and nothing of consequence affected in the past. The flood still happens and all of that. It's a book where the goal is to return to the status quo but without even the benefit of the characters learning anything from the journey. In fact, the boys pick up talking about getting their driver's licenses as if nothing had even happened....more
As I mentioned in my review of The Wizard of Oz, I didn't know the Oz books existed when I was a kid, so I completely missed out on these until I wasAs I mentioned in my review of The Wizard of Oz, I didn't know the Oz books existed when I was a kid, so I completely missed out on these until I was too old to be interested. Well, as a high-schooler, I wasn't interested. After finishing the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, I'm really starting to be disappointed that I missed these books when I was a kid. So far, they are pretty marvelous.
As a writer, one of the things I find most interesting about the series is that there was never supposed to be more than just the one book, the one everyone knows because of the movie. But there was a musical, stage version of Wizard done -- co-produced by Baum -- and the actors portraying the Tin Man and the Scarecrow were so good that people (kids, mostly) began requesting more stories about those two characters. Not about Dorothy, just about the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. The resulting book doesn't even mention the Cowardly Lion.
We also get a book that is much more blatantly about the politics of the day, specifically, the suffrage movement. Virtually every character other than the Tin Man and Scarecrow, which includes all of the "human" characters, are female. Which may be a statement to cause some confusion, considering the main character is a boy named Tip, but you'd have to read the book to understand.
I think I like this one more than Wizard. Well, actually, I do. The one big flaw of Wizard -- that Dorothy wanted to go home, a place she didn't like -- is hard for me to get over. This one has no flaw like that and is even more whimsical. Not to mention that the characters are much more real in this one.
In Wizard, the characters are all "happy happy joy joy" all the time, but that's not the case in Marvelous Land. They bicker. They bicker a lot. Some of them even seem not to like each other much, and the Saw Horse doesn't get along with anyone. Tip constantly threatens the Woggle Bug because of his punning, and Jack Pumpkinhead is... well, I like Jack, but he's a whiner. Most interesting, though, is the Tin Man. He's developed a serious case of vanity and has had himself nickel plated. He's still a nice guy, but he spends more time worrying about his shine than he spends worrying about his friends. Also, I like the contrast between the Woggle Bug, who has lots of knowledge, and the Scarecrow, who has Brains but not lots of facts. It's a bit of intelligence versus wisdom and, mostly, it shows us that we need both.
At the moment, two books in, I'm really enjoying the Oz books and will definitely continue to read them. If you know your history at all -- well, early 20th century history -- there is the added enjoyment of all the social commentary that's been thrown in. Hmm... That sounds haphazard. Weaved in is more like it. In all of the best ways, these books are like the classic Looney Tunes cartoons: Kids find them hilarious, but you can't really appreciate them until you're an adult....more
Did you ever buy a CD for that one song you loved even though the rest of the CD pretty much sucked? Maybe you knew that ahead of time, maybe you didnDid you ever buy a CD for that one song you loved even though the rest of the CD pretty much sucked? Maybe you knew that ahead of time, maybe you didn't; I've done it both ways. Of course, you don't have to do it like that at all, anymore, but that's how it used to be back when you couldn't buy any individual song that you wanted to. Back in the day, not every thing got a single.
Well, you'll be glad to know that this book isn't like that at all. If you like... hmm... not exactly horror... suspenseful? They are certainly suspenseful. Stories with odd twists? Yeah, that's closer. Stories that will leave you feeling like you have bugs crawling on your skin. That's it exactly. That's not a genre, is it? Well, it ought to be. At any rate, if you like that kind of stuff, there's a good chance you'll like this whole collection.
An interesting thing they've done with this collection of tales is made the book a book within the book with a story of a guy reading the book as bookends to the book. Not that this is an original thing to do, but it's not done all that often, which makes it notable. That story will make bugs crawl on your skin, too. Especially since... Oh, you'll have to find that out on your own.
Since I generally talk about how well edited the Beer Guys' books are, I figure I should mention that. This is the least well edited I've seen of their books, meaning I had to go two hands instead of being able to count mistakes on just one. Mostly, there are some formatting quirks in various sections where the paragraphs indentations shift back and forth. Other than that, though, it means that this book is still has better editing than virtually all traditionally published books I pick up (including the one I'm reading right now).
I should mention that the very excellent "Like an Axe Through Bone," that Bryan Pedas wrote based on my world from The House on the Corner is included in this collection, although he seems to have shortened the title to just "An Axe Through Bone." If you haven't read that, you really should.
My favorite story is "These Walls." It's a different take on the typical haunted house story, and I really enjoyed it. I have to say, I would love to live in a house like that. I'll be nice; I promise.
"Bedridden Honeymoon" and "Life and Limb" are both quite disturbing, but I think Honeymoon wins by a corpse, considering it was inspired by a true story.
And, then, there's the story about a deal with a demon... And I haven't decided how I feel about that one, yet. I alternated between wanting the guy to defeat the demon and wanting the guy to get "eaten" by the demon. Probably, one of those options happened, and I'm not sure if I approve of the ending or not because I'm still ambivalent about how I feel about the protagonist. But it's a good story.
There are more that I haven't mentioned. Seriously, if you like stories that are liable to make your skin crawl, you should give this one a look or three....more
On the surface, this is a pretty simple story. An unhappy guy with a girlfriend he doesn't like and a swirling vortex he keeps hidden behind the bookcOn the surface, this is a pretty simple story. An unhappy guy with a girlfriend he doesn't like and a swirling vortex he keeps hidden behind the bookcase. You have to ask yourself, though, is that what the story's really about? What is the guy really contemplating, and what really happened? You should probably jump to find out except the story will just leave you with those questions to work out on your own....more
Seeing that this is book four, I'm not even going to try to do this without spoilers. I'm not sure there's a good way to even try. I will, though, beSeeing that this is book four, I'm not even going to try to do this without spoilers. I'm not sure there's a good way to even try. I will, though, be as general as possible, so any spoilers may not make sense anyway. Except for one, which will be a huge spoiler, so, if you even think you might want to read this series, when I get to the part where I'm talking about the new conflict, well, you'll probably not want to read that part.]
The elapsed time span in this novel seems to be much shorter than the previous books, at least as it passes with the central characters. There is still all kinds of back story as it relates to the Flinders-Petrie family and Burleigh, which is all interesting, but I'm not certain exactly how much of it pertains to the "present day" story. Well, I think that the stuff to do with the map is at least quasi-important, because the map (the skin map) is very important, so how it ended up in pieces is probably going to end up being important. But, still, the advancement of the main plot, the story around Kit, doesn't make much progress.
However, that doesn't mean there are no significant events. We're introduced to another new character, and I'm not sure how vital he will end up being to the overall story, but he was at least vital in one area in this book. Still, it's kind of weird to me that Lawhead has continued to introduce major characters this far into the series. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing; it's just not usual. Generally speaking, series like this give us the whole cast of characters right up front and, if not, certainly by the end of the second book, but Lawhead gave us two major characters in book three and at least one in book four (and possibly a second, I'm not sure, yet), so that aspect is interesting to me.
The other thing of interest to me is the conflict (and, yes, this is where the major spoiler comes in). During the first three books, the conflict is really just over the skin map itself. Kit and his group (the Zetetic Society, even though Kit didn't know that) on one side and Burleigh on the other. The skin map is a twofold prize: 1. The obvious one, it provides a map to travelling the leys, and there is a lot of profit in ley travelling if that's your motivation. 2. There is a secret hidden the map. There is speculation that the secret is the Spirit Well, but no one is quite sure if that's it or not. Of course, the Spirit Well, all by itself, is a prize beyond compare.
So for three books we're going with that as the conflict, but The Shadow Lamp introduces a new character, Tony Clarke, and, through him, we discover that there is something much worse going on, something that could lead to the actual destruction of not just the universe but the entire multiverse. Of course, getting the skin map may be the only way to stop the threat. All of it leaves one wondering how in the world he will wrap all of this up in the fifth (and final) book, which is something I started wondering in book three, actually.
Now, here's my problem: Bright Empires is not really a time travel story even though it has time travel, of a sorts, in it. However, this book develops a time travel issue, and I'm not sure, yet, how I feel about it. [This continues the spoiler warning, because I'm going to get kind of detailed with this conflict.] There's a lot of theoretical talk in the book about multiple dimensions and how time works and all of that kind of stuff, and I'm okay with that. On the whole, it all deals with current ideas, so it's not wild speculation by the author [Which I would probably be okay with, too, but I do want to point out Lawhead has not just made up all of the theory stuff in this series. There's science that goes with it.]. However, there is one theoretical position that I have not read about [So it could be made up? I haven't tried looking it up, yet, to see if it's something that's being said out there in SCIENCE.], and the logic with which Lawhead uses it kind of baffles me.
The idea is that time flows... well, it flows backwards. Instead of flowing from the past to the future, as we experience it, the idea in the book is that time flows from the future to the past. Okay, interesting thought, but what does it have to do with anything? Well, because of this reverse time flow, if something happens to mess up the future, that error gets carried back into the past and wipes everything out. In the book, this will result in the collapse of the multiverse and it will be as if it never existed. Time itself will cease to exist.
And here's my problem with that: If such a thing happened and time actually ceased to exist, then nothing would ever have happened to begin with. There would be no story, because it never would have existed. Which may not make sense, and would also negate the, well, telling of the story, but, what I guess I'm saying, is why make it so that nothing, not even time, would exist, because then there was nothing to begin with. And I may be getting to metaphysical for this discussion, so I'll just say that that one logic hole bothers me. Probably not enough to run the series for me but enough to put me back to reserving judgment till the next book.
That said, I like Lawhead. He's one of the few authors whose books I will just pick up and read whenever he has a new book out. He gets to go to the front of the line, so to speak, which is not so figurative as it may sound. Also, I've really enjoyed this series, especially after what I felt was a lackluster start to it (see my review of the first book). Even though I'm having ambivalence about his whole "utter annihilation of the entire multiverse" thing, I'm sure I'll enjoy the last book. At least, I hope so. I suppose I'll let you know whenever the paperback is released....more
Secrets is a great example of how even a poorly written novel can be popular. And, when I say "poorly written," I mean it on just about every level thSecrets is a great example of how even a poorly written novel can be popular. And, when I say "poorly written," I mean it on just about every level that you can mean it. Still, though, it's better than Snow Crash but, then, Snow Crash is a level of stupidity all its own.
The first and most obvious issue the book has is that it needed an editor. This may be the most poorly edited book I've ever read. There were misspellings, homophones, tense issues, missing words, wrong words (above and beyond the homophones, which are, technically, wrong words), missing letters, wrong letters... um, did I cover everything? I'm not actually sure. And it's not that there were these things; it's that there were these things on every page. And not that there was, like, one per page, it was a handful per page. And I haven't even mentioned the punctuation... oh, wait, there, I did. Let me just say, and not just to whomever edited the book (I'm assuming the author (but I don't know that)), but to everyone (because this is becoming a real peeve of mine): a dash is not a "catchall" piece of punctuation. You can't just stick in a dash (either kind) because you feel like it. Dashes have a purpose, and they are much more limited than most people think. [Let me just put it like this: Quit using dashes! Seriously.] There were more punctuation issues than just the dashes, but it was like someone just sneezed dashes all in the book.
At any rate, if editing is an issue for you, don't attempt this book, because you will want to pull out a red pen and mark all over your Kindle screen (or whatever screen).
The next issue is that it's first person but not just first person: It's written from two different first person perspectives in alternating chapters. Which, in and of itself isn't an issue [I mean, I've done that, so who am I to complain, right?] except that both perspectives are written in exactly the same voice. There is nothing to differentiate them and, especially considering one is male and one is female, there ought to be some differentiation. The author doesn't even bother to give us alternate perspectives on the same event once we get past the first few chapters. For the most part, they just pick up where the other left off or show us what is happening where the other character isn't. Not to mention the fact that [spoiler alert] during the climax, when Olivia starts to doubt Holden, there is no suspense because we've been in Holden's head the whole book (and so has she, actually, for part of it) and we know how he feels about her.
[More spoiler alert.]
The story itself is pretty typical; in fact, I felt like I was watching a cheap knockoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through most of the book. So let's see: 1. Female protagonist born with a hidden destiny that she doesn't know about. 2. Bad boy romantic interest whom only she can save and turn to the light. 3. Good boy romantic interest to create some tension. 4. Traumatic death of a loved one. 5. Enigmatic mentor who never tells her anything useful other than that she's "special." Yeah, it's got it all. Actually, it's worse than what I'm saying, too, because the female protagonist, who hasn't been in a relationship for over a year, finds herself instantly infatuated with two men at the exact same time. What are the odds? [Is the sarcasm coming through?] She immediately begins acting in ways that are just not her. Of course, we don't know that other than that she tells us that "she never does this kind of thing."
There are two things here: We have to take Olivia's word about things way too often. The author never shows us how Olivia supposedly really is. For instance, when Quintus tells her that she's been born this guardian (the first one in 2000 years, so she's mega-special), he says to her something along the lines of "Haven't you always been a loner? Someone on the outside looking in?" But we never see that about Olivia. In the book, she has an awesome best friend who has been with her since middle school (that doesn't sound like a loner) and she's quite adept at being a socialite, so none of that stuff rings true in the book (it reminded me of Percy Jackson and how, at least in The Lightning Thief, he is constantly telling the audience he's one thing (a rebel and troublemaker) while acting completely the opposite).
It's quite difficult to take Quintus as a love interest seriously since Holden is the one offering the alternate perspective to Olivia's. To put it another way: Quintus is never a credible threat.
And speaking of vampires, Holden is "Vampire Lite." It's like the author really wanted to do a vampire story, but she also wanted her vampires to be able to go out in the daylight, so she just calls them "jinn," instead. Or "jinni." She seems to use the terms interchangeably, and they have nothing to do with the actual jinn mythology. It's just a word she uses, which, actually, bothers me. If you're not basing it on the actual thing, make up a word, or, you know, make your vampires all sparkly. Oh, and jinn have demons in them that operate much the way Whedon's vampires do without the actual changing into vampires.
Perhaps the thing that bothered me most, though, is the sudden, inexplicable, telepathic bond Olivia and Holden develop. It's all very much "we love each other so much, we know each other's thoughts! We're just made for each other! Two halves of the same soul!" [Yeah, I want to go wash my mouth out from just typing that.] So, yeah, their connection is so deep that they spontaneously develop the ability to read each other's minds. And, yet, at the end, even though Olivia has been inside Holden's mind, she doubts whether he really loves her and thinks that maybe he's just been using her the whole time.
Mostly, I just found the book tedious. There's nothing in it that hasn't been done elsewhere and done much better. If it had been well edited (or just edited), I might even would say: If this is the kind of thing you like (cliche love-at-first-sight stories), give it a read; as it is, I can't say that. Evidently, though, based on the other reviews and ratings, most people don't care about that kind of thing, so, I guess, if you like cliche love-at-first-sight paranormal(ish) love stories and don't mind bad grammar and poor punctuation, give it a read. I won't be going on to the next book, though...
Which reminds me! Considering the cliffhanger ending (which I won't spoil), it shows how much this book didn't hold my attention, because I don't care what happens enough to endure another of these books. The two stars I'm giving it is me being generous. I'd say it's a 1.5 star book; I didn't hate it....more
I was hoping that I was going to be able to say that this one is better than the first and, for a while, a long while, I thought I was going to be ablI was hoping that I was going to be able to say that this one is better than the first and, for a while, a long while, I thought I was going to be able to say that. For one thing, Ghost Brigades is in third person, so that was a great improvement for me. For another thing, there is much less exposition about Scalzi's scientific ideas. And Jared Dirac is a much more interesting character with much deeper internal conflict than John Perry from the first book. Everything was there for this to be a better book.
Then it wasn't.
Actually, there was a pretty significant hiccup at the beginning of the book, and I was willing to overlook it when it was the only wrinkle but it becomes more noticeable when combined with how the book ends. I mean, when the opening is weak and the ending is weak, well... it makes it difficult to look kindly on the book.
The book opens from the point of view of an alien [and this is a bit of a spoiler, but it's only the first 15 pages or so, so it's not much of one], only we're not supposed to know that. The way we don't know that is that we're experiencing everything through the character's internal perspective without any external descriptions. That way, see, we're "surprised" to find out that this character was really an alien with animosity toward humanity. The problem I have with this is not the trick of it (okay, actually, I get annoyed with these kinds of tricks by authors where we're only fooled (if we are) because the author purposefully left out information which, honestly, we ought to know) but that the alien acts entirely human. His emotions and thoughts and everything are equivalent to what humans would have so, really, he's not an alien when he ought to be completely strange. Just on Earth, humans can have such cultural differences, while still being human, that we are, at least, disconcerted to be around the other person. That a species of an entirely different planet would think and act like a human so much so that we are "fooled" by it is mildly ridiculous at best.
But I got past that issue, completely forgot about it, once I moved into the story proper. That character at the beginning of the book is mostly inconsequintial and easily dismissed once we've gotten caught up in the mystery of Charles Boutin and Jared Dirac. And that was a good, engrossing story right up until somewhere around 75-80% of the way through the book.
Then the bottom falls out of it.
At least it did for me. And there will be a major plot point spoiler here, so feel free to skip past.
There's this bit of tech in the book (both of them) called the BrainPal. It's pretty much what it sounds like, a computer in the brain to assist the soldier and allow things such as internal communication with other soldiers with a BrainPal. Scalzi felt the need to disable the BrainPal en masse, so he went back to an 80s trick and had Boutin do it with a secret backdoor in the code. Now, I get that this a thing that we've been seeingin movies and books for about three decades, but, at this point, the idea of a secret backdoor in a program is ridiculous. Everything about it is ridiculous.
So, in the book, the reason the backdoor is there is to allow Boutin easier access to the program he's working on, but I think we all know that to access, well, anything all you need to do is input your password (or whatever the equivalent is). To get in through a backdoor, you have to input your password (or whatever the equivalent is). It doesn't allow any kind of ease of access or speed up the process, so, from that standpoint, it's pointless.
Beyond that, Boutin is not the sole architect of the computer program he's working on. In fact, he's not even the primary architect. He's just part of the design for one small part of the BrainPal, the consciousness transfer aspect of it. Asking us to believe that Boutin was able to put in an exploitable backdoor when working within a group and not even the lead in the group is asking us to believe something that is totally implausible, and it's easier to accept things that are plausibly impossible than implausibly possible. Basically, Scalzi is asking us to believe that everyone Boutin was working with was incompetent, in which case, the BrainPal wouldn't work, anyway. [This is on par with expecting us to believe that John Perry is the only one to understand the truth about the Consu in Old Man's War. It's just not plausible.] Scalzi does, at the end of the book, acknowledge (through the characters) that a backdoor like that shouldn't have existed, but it doesn't make it less of a contrived scenario to create tension at the end of the book. Basically, he had created a "Superman scenario" and used the backdoor as his Kryptonite.
So the book fell off of a cliff for me and plummeted to the rocks below. There's nothing that will ruin a book more than bad ending.
Sure, it might just be me, but anyone who knows anything about computers and how people work together and will probably find the contrived backdoor fairly laughable.
And I'm not even going to talk about how ridiculous the motivations of Boutin were. I thought as I was reading through the book and the obvious motivations were given that it must be a trick because it was so cliche. I figured Scalzi had something more interesting, more clever, up his sleeve but, no, it was all straightforward cliche and based on things that went against how given characters and races should have acted. It even had the super villain monologue at the end. To say that I was disappointed doesn't come close to how I felt at the end of the book.
Still, I will probably read the next one, though I'm not sure if I know why. I do want to find out what Scalzi has going on with the Consu, which is barely touched on in this book, so, yeah, I will probably read at least one more to get more of the meta-story. I just hope it's better than this one, though....more
"The Faerie Guardian" started off on the wrong foot with me. It's not really the fault of the book or the author. I mean, I'm the one with the thing a"The Faerie Guardian" started off on the wrong foot with me. It's not really the fault of the book or the author. I mean, I'm the one with the thing against first person/present tense presentation. But it is first/present, and I couldn't stop myself from groaning inwardly when I started reading it. And this example is pretty typical of the stuff I've read using first/present, so it did nothing to distinguish itself for me. But, you know, I get that that style is popular, right now, so I can hardly fault the author for choosing the style. I'm just not into it.
So the main character is a "fairie" girl, and I say "fairie" because she's just like a human teenager down to the pop culture references that, as far as I can tell, she shouldn't have knowledge of. In fact, she seems more conversant in pop culture than she does in the culture of her own people. In fact, in her narration she refers to other fairies as "fairies," as in "the fairie stood there," which would be like me saying, "the human stood there," which is not a thing I would ever say nor have I ever heard any human say. Awkward. All of that to say that I had a hard time buying the protagonist as anything more than a human teenager with some convenient magic. And that doesn't even touch that the purple-haired fairie is named Violet.
The other main issue I had with the story also started right up front along with the first/present stuff. Violet is in a boy's room to guard him from a snake fairie thing, and, of course, she sees him sleeping. And, of course, she is smitten by him just from watching him sleeping. Maybe this is just a disconnect because I'm a guy, but the whole romance angle seemed more contrived than realistic to me. There was just no reason for it and it felt out-of-character to for Violet to react that way. I mean, there's no indication that she has a habit of instantly falling in love with sleeping boys, so I need something more from the story than that she arbitrarily had feelings for this one boy because she saw him asleep.
From a technical standpoint, the book was fine, and I can see why people like it (and based on the other reviews, I see that most people do like it); it just didn't appeal to me. The writing is fine. It's well edited. But it's not my story. This is one of those where I can see that it's (probably) good, but I don't like it. For this one, I'm being that guy at the party that goes over and gets a helping of whatever it is everyone is raving over, I put it in my mouth, make the yucky face, and spit it out. Everyone looks at me like I'm crazy. Eventually, like, one other person comes over and pats my arm and whispers, "I didn't like it either."...more
Lost and Found may be the best ghost story I've ever read. Not that I read a lot of ghost stories, but the ones I have read have all been pretty typicLost and Found may be the best ghost story I've ever read. Not that I read a lot of ghost stories, but the ones I have read have all been pretty typical. This one is far from typical. So far from typical that you don't know... Um, wait... I want this to be as spoiler free as possible and saying that this is a ghost story is almost a spoiler all by itself.
Okay, so let's start with the technicals. Bryan and Brandon continue to deliver the best edited independent books that I've read. I think I counted, maybe, three typos. Not that I was counting, because I wasn't, but the lack of errors made the ones I did see kind of jump out at me. But it may have only been two. Few enough as to not be worthy of commenting on. I know, then why am I commenting on it? Well, the traditionally published book I am currently reading (you know, the one with a budget to hire professional editors) has already have three or four times as many errors, so I think it's worth noting that these guys do a better job of polishing their work than the "professionals."
Okay, so back to the story: The story is told in two parts: "Lost" and "Found." Both stories are completely independent of each other in that you could sit down and read either of them and come away from whichever one you'd read and think, "Well, that was pretty good. Not spectacular but pretty good." However (and this is a big "however"), when you put the two stories together, they interlock and are spectacular. Seriously. And I wish I could talk about it, but that would be the spoiling part.
So let's call Lost and Found a psychological thriller with a paranormal twist, which still doesn't cover it, but it's probably as close as I can get. It's creepy, maybe scary, but not gruesome in any way. It has a little bit of Ghost Whisper and a little bit of... um, I'm not sure... some kind of reality hunter type show. You should probably just go read it. Yeah, you should probably go do that right now....more
Let me just say right at the start of this that I really enjoyed this book. It's not spectacular in the sense of The Avengers or something like that,Let me just say right at the start of this that I really enjoyed this book. It's not spectacular in the sense of The Avengers or something like that, but it's very solid and quiet. In fact, it is much like getting to know people, a little at a time. I want to get that out of the way because some of the things I am about to say might lead someone to believe that I didn't like that book or that it's not very good, but that's not the truth at all. In fact, the book is very engrossing in the sense that you really want to know what's going on in these people's lives, but, if you want a book to pick you up and carry you along, this book is not for you. This book is calling up your friend and saying, "Hey, Bumpy, would you like to get some coffee and hang out a while?" You have to take the initiative, but it's well worth doing so.
Because it's me, let's just get this out of the way: The book needs some editing and formatting help. Mostly, it's nothing all that serious, an overuse of commas that most people won't notice, but there are some spots where there are wrong words or names and a couple of those spots did make me have to go back to figure out who was talking at a given a moment. There is also some inconsistency in the formatting, but it's hard to say whether that's a real issue or not. For me, there is a minor visual distraction, but I don't know if it's the kind of thing most people pay attention to or not. In a book that's not as well written, the editing and formatting issues would be bigger problems, because they would highlight the problems in the book as a whole, but, here, they are more like swatting at an annoying fly rather than being caught in a swarm of yellow jackets.
Now, the major element in the book that is likely to cause problems for people is something that is there on purpose and which I enjoyed very much: the story is told non-linearly. In general, we don't like non-linear stories all that much, but I think this one worked well. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This is like how it is to get to know someone." When you meet someone, you don't get their chronological life story laid out in front of you. What you get are small stories that are shared at relevant times and those things rarely happen in sequence. That is how we learn about Sarah and Bumpy, little pieces of a year or so of their lives connected sort of by theme rather than by when they happened.
So, as I said, I kept thinking about this idea of getting to know people as I was reading the book, then, when I got to the end, in the author's note, Briane Pagel talks about choosing to write it that way because that's how you get to know someone, so, with that intent in mind, I have to say he pulled it off perfectly.
That non-linear aspect to the story is what propelled the reading of it. You find out early on (so this isn't much of a spoiler) that Sarah's fiance has died. She thinks it was murder. So, of course, you want to find out what's going on there. To some extent, Sarah blames her brother, Bumpy, for what happened, but that's complicated by Sarah's guilt over a childhood event between her and her brother for which she blames herself and which causes her to blame herself for, basically, Bumpy's life and how messed up it is. How messed up it is according to her, at any rate. So, then, because she blames Bumpy's irresponsibility on herself, she also, somewhere in there, blames her fiance's death on herself, too. She's a little messed up, to say that least.
The other issue that is potentially an issue for people is the lack of resolution to most areas of the lives of the characters. I will admit that when I got to the end I had a very "What? It's over!" reaction. I was a bit upset. But the farther away I get from finishing the book, the more okay I become with the way it ends. This is not an action/adventure thing where the space ships take off from the previously hidden rebel base to fight the enemy space station and it just ends leaving you hanging. This book is like being in people's lives, and people come in and out of our lives, and it's more the kind of thing where you to turn to someone several months down the line and says, "Hey, you remember Sarah? I wonder what ever happened with that thing with her fiance? Did they decide it was a murder or not?" And the other person says, "You know, I haven't seen her in months. I wonder what did happen with that. Have you heard what happened with her brother?" That's exactly how this book feels to me, like my life crossed paths with these people for just a little while, I got to know them a bit but not all the way, and they passed back out of my life. So it's not that there aren't resolutions; it's just that I don't see those people anymore so I don't know what happened with them. Sometimes, I'll wonder but, mostly, I will just go on with my life.
There's your measure of deciding if this book is for you. It's certainly not your typical fare, and I think that's a good thing. If you need a bunch of action, look somewhere else. If you want to get involved and invested in some characters, pick up Up So Down...more
Disclaimer: Portions of this review are going to sound like I liked the book much less than I did. Just know from the beginning that I liked the book.Disclaimer: Portions of this review are going to sound like I liked the book much less than I did. Just know from the beginning that I liked the book. I'm going to read the next one. But I'm still going to talk about the things that bothered me as I was reading. Mostly because they allow me to talk about some writing things within a context that gives an example of what I'm talking about.
Also: Although this is a traditionally published book, (if I have my facts straight) it started out as an indie book published serially on Scalzi's blog where it was "discovered," so I'm sort of looking at this from the aspect of covering an indie writer, albeit an indie writer that has made it big.
But let's get on with the review.
The first thing to note is that the book is in first person. Now, this is my own bias, but I'm beyond tired of first person stories. Unless there is some specific reason for first that can't be accomplished in third (like the tone of The Dresden Files and the fact that first person is part of the whole detective genre thing), I'd rather not see first person for a long, long time. Like I said, this is my own thing and may come from the fact that almost all I see is first person stories from the middle schoolers I work with despite how often I tell them to write in third. I only mention it at all because it does cause an internal groan from me at this point when I open a book and it's first person.
The next thing springs out of the first thing. There's this thing that frequently happens with sci-fi writers (sometimes fantasy, too, with magic systems). They come up with these brilliant sci-fi ideas, and they want to share them with you. Like, for instance, if I want to have a teleporter in my story, but I can't just have the teleporter because that's been done a lot, right, so I have to have some cool idea about how a teleporter works; that's what makes it mine. And, if I have the idea, I want to share it with you. In a third person story, this isn't such a big deal, because you can include a description in the narrative and it doesn't necessarily seem out of place. However, in a first person story, it's usually like inviting someone into your house then explaining how the TV works and the computer works and the cell phone works. The thing is, most of us don't have more than just a vague idea of how those things really work, so when a character in a book who is just a normalish guy starts explaining how high tech gadgets work, then it feels out of place.
Fortunately, Scalzi doesn't quite fall prey to that trap. Rather than have John Perry explain all that stuff to us, he has it explained to him, which makes Scalzi's desire to share his clever ideas mostly acceptable. Actually, the first clever idea is more than acceptable, because there's a political reason for the tech, and that was interesting. The second clever idea is also acceptable because it's something that's happening to Perry, but they start becoming gratuitous after that because they're things that most people wouldn't have an interest in knowing and are actually frequently accompanied by "you don't have the math" to explain why Perry doesn't and can't understand the things being explained to him, yet he persists in having the people give the explanations while maintaining that he doesn't know what they're talking about.
The other thing I had an issue with was that Perry was the cleverest guy around. Which isn't of itself an issue except that he would point something obvious that no one else had ever thought of. This is actually a major plot point in the book, that Perry notices something that decades worth of people, many who should have been much smarter than him, have completely dismissed as irrelevant or trivial. It was a thing I couldn't buy into. There wasn't even a "yeah, we noticed that, but we don't know what it means," which could have worked. Instead it was, "yeah, that's nothing. It doesn't mean anything." Which, of course, was wrong.
Beyond that, I had a difficult time having any emotional investment in the book. I was never worried about Perry or, even, really cared about him. I think it was the first person and the style he used within the first person. It had that feel of someone sitting right in front of you telling a story, but, you know, the guy is right there in front of you, so you know everything comes out okay in the end, so to speak. It made it hard for me to engage beyond a surface level.
That said, it was a great surface level book. The world (multiverse) that Scalzi has created is interesting, and I want to see where he's going with the meta-story. Perry's voice as the narrator was engaging so, even though I wasn't worried about him, I did want to know what was happening. It was engaging right from the beginning, too, so there was never any point where I thought I might not be able to get into the book. The parallel opening and ending was a nice touch.
In short, it's a quick, light read. If you like space opera, you ought to read this book....more
"Murder kills only the individual-- and, after all, what is an individual?"
"What is an individual?" may be the central question of Brave New World. Wha"Murder kills only the individual-- and, after all, what is an individual?"
"What is an individual?" may be the central question of Brave New World. What is his worth? To himself? To society? It's an interesting question, especially within the context of Aldous Huxley's novel and his world of mass-produced "individuals." Individuals who have been conditioned to be just like everyone else. [Yes, you may now say, "We're all individuals!" "I'm not!"]
The mass production of people, identical people, is a fascinating concept, and Huxley handles it in a way that is, frankly, amazing. Especially considering that the ideas he was dealing with hadn't really been invented yet. Especially the genetic engineering part, which is not what he calls it, but the concept is there. Basing it all around Henry Ford's assembly line transformed it into a vast social commentary which, evidently, didn't meet with much favor in his day. [Ford was still alive when the book was published in 1932, and I wondered about how he felt about Huxley's use of him in the book, but, as far as I could find, Ford never commented on it. I have to wonder, especially considering the initial reception of Brave New World, if he even knew.]
The real temptation here is to not talk about the book at all but to talk about Huxley and the context from which he was writing, about how he had wanted to be a doctor and his very scientific mind, which you can certainly see in the book. Not just in the science he talks about in creating people (which, yes, is fictional, but was probably quite plausible from 1930), but in all of the things he envisioned: helicopters, immersive television (which may be just around the corner), and social controls involving government-sponsored drug programs.
The book threw me right at the beginning. It starts out with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and that's exactly what it is, a tour of the facility and, thus, the world setting for the reader. We follow a few of the side characters around for a bit before we are finally introduced (quite a ways in) to one of the major characters, and we're introduced to him through the eyes of "normal individuals" who see him as an odd one. We wouldn't necessarily see him that way but, once we've gotten to know the conditioned people, we're able to see him as someone who doesn't quite fit into "normal" society. And to say more would be to start spoiling the story, and I don't actually want to do that.
One other interesting bit is that the book was known as an "anti-utopian" when it came out. It's interesting to me in that the term "dystopian" already existed; it just wasn't in common usage. But Brave New World may be the best example of an actual dystopian novel that I've ever seen, from a literary standpoint, that is. Dystopian being something that looks utopian but has something sick or rotten at its core. That's actually part of the core of this book, too. Society is stable and people are happy. What have they had to give up? Individuality. Or, as it is put at one point (and this is a bit of a spoiler), the freedom to choose to be unhappy.
It's an interesting question, especially in a society that values the right to pursue happiness. If you were offered the option of a happiness, even artificial happiness, and all it meant was giving up the right to choose to be unhappy, would you do it? Would you choose a place that is basically a land of perpetual happiness and pleasure if it meant giving up the things that differentiate you from other people, because, after all, it is the things that make us different that make us unhappy. The things that set us apart. Sure, they are the things that make us who we are, but they are also the things that cause unhappiness in us. Too short? Too plain? Imperfect teeth? Too dumb? Too smart? Not a problem. None of them.
Unless, you know, someone gets too much alcohol in your blood-surrogate....more
I'm talking about these books by Jeffrey Brown. The books have brightly colored pictures that are easily appealing to kids. Funny things happen, like LI'm talking about these books by Jeffrey Brown. The books have brightly colored pictures that are easily appealing to kids. Funny things happen, like Luke hitting Lobot in the head with pasta sauce at dinner, which are also appealing to kids. However, it takes a certain knowledge of Star Wars and of being a parent for these books to really hit home.
I love Darth Vader and Son. It captures a moment when Luke is probably around six or so and is a great picture of what it's like to be a dad. As in the scene with the pasta sauce: Vader's hand is to his forehead in that great "I can't believe he just did that" pose. It takes a classic situation and puts a great Star Wars spin on it. The whole book is like that.
Vader's little princess is good, too, but it doesn't quite live up to Vader and Son. Mostly, it's because he used all the great kid moments in the one about Luke. Because of that, the one with Leia is less focused and strays up into teenagerdom and young adulthood. I have to say, though, that some of the dating stuff with Han is pretty funny.
The books are a lot of fun if you're Star Wars fan and worth having around as conversation pieces, if nothing else. But, if you're not going to buy them, you should at least make a special trip to the bookstore to check them out. They don't take long to read, and it's totally worth it....more