I got this audiobook as a promotional freebie from Audible (as I write this review, they still offer it for free). Let me mention that I am not famili...moreI got this audiobook as a promotional freebie from Audible (as I write this review, they still offer it for free). Let me mention that I am not familiar with the Galactic Center Saga Series and hence starting with book #5.5 might not be the best way of getting acquainted with a series.
So, for those readers in the same boat with me, here are some of the author's notes related to this series:
The series comprises six novels, composed over a twenty-five-year span. The events stretch from the early 2000s to A.D. 37518, an immense scope imposed because its central focus, our galactic center, is 28,000 light-years away, and characters had to get there to take part in the galaxy's larger games.[...]
The themes of the series resolve in favor of humanity as unique and worth saving, even in as hostile a galaxy as I envisioned. But I suspect that if natural life is as foolish and vulnerable as we seem to be, quite possibly machines may inherit the galaxy, and thus sit bemused, watching us with cool indifference from afar.
This added story deals with an essential question asked of humans at the beginning of their decline, about A.D. 36000. It also reveals several aspects of the dreaded Mantis I never found room for in the novels." (Gregory Benford)
The question Mr. Benford talks about (or so I understood from bits and scraps of conversations) is why the Mantis, a superior machine or mech, harvests humans. And the answer is a rather unexpected: it sees humanity as an endangered species and tries to chronicle its existence through "art." What the mech understands by "art" is something each reader has to find for himself/herself.
What I think it's interesting about A Hunger for the Infinite is the fact that humans have nearly forgotten the concept of artistry, while the machine dwells in the "happiness" of creating statues. Hence Mr. Benford points our to a direct correlation between the development of a civilization and the existence art.
The story itself is rather episodic (it spans about 100 years in 50-or-so pages/2 hours of narration). I understand that this technique was intentional, as the author tried "to convey the huge scales of both time and distance that a galaxy implies" (Gregory Benford). Yet, at times it felt scattered, in spite of the rich, effusive writing.
Who saw the movie and, in spite of the great cast, found it too gory, dehumanized, obsessive, and (sh...moreReview subtitle: Don't Judge a Book by its Movie!
Who saw the movie and, in spite of the great cast, found it too gory, dehumanized, obsessive, and (should I say it) psychotic? Raise your hands! (Count me in... ☝) I'm happy to say that the original novel was a different story. All the elements that bothered me in the movie adaptation are there, yet there is always a (relatively) sane motivation for even the worse decisions.
The synopsis is simple: using a couple of diaries, the descendants of two stage magicians try to unravel the mystery of their feud, which more than a hundred years later, still continues to claim victims in both camps. Alfred Borden, a genuine talent, almost a prodigy in the field, sees Rupert Angier as a fraud, a worse than mediocre magician... and so the conflict is born. Over the years, both men try successively to mend the gap and unfortunately they always fail. In my opinion, this is the essence of the novel: not the obsession (which is the apparent theme), but the tragedy of two people unable to break free from a vicious cycle.
One of the reviewers said that the characters are not likeable, but I disagree. They both make dreadful choices, but in the end what I felt for them was an infinite sadness for never being on the same page. If only they could have put their anger aside, they would have seen (before it was too late) their similarities and end the enmity. And how similar they are! They both "kill" a part of themselves in order to prove to the other that they are better.
What I found extremely interesting about this novel is that the story is circular: the end is a "karmic" reflection of the beginning and both protagonists have to pay for their pseudo-suicides. (view spoiler)[Rupert Angier who started by faking a communication with the spirits turns into a "ghost" and the Borden-twins, who always pretended to be one person, remain one after being separated by death. (hide spoiler)]
Although not your typical SF story, this is altogether an excellent read!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing w...moreThe Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing where one is going to be tomorrow. I'm not Jewish, but in my opinion this novel tells the millennia-old story of a people always forced to run, always prejudiced against, always oppressed. Because from Antiquity (going through the horrid Inquisition era) to World War II, these people never enjoyed a pause in the their flee. Do they even enjoy it now, during the twenty-first century?
But first things first, let's get over with the writing technique that everyone talks about. Simple test: do you like the following sentence? "The clock on the hospital wall hummed to itself, got antsy, kept snapping off pieces of the night with its minute hand." YES → lucky you; you're in for a great ride. NO/MAYBE → this novel is about 380 pages of akin sentences to the one above.
I read lots of comments from people who wondered what was the purpose of the plethora of Yiddish terms? Does Mr. Chabon try to create a language barrier and hence suggest the idea of isolation? It turns out, the language was in fact the spark that kindled the idea of this novel. Here is the story as told by the author himself in "Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts," an essay first published in 1997 (yes, ten years before the novel first saw the light).
In 1993 the author bought a book published in 1958, named Say It in Yiddish (by Uriel Weinreich and Beatrice Weinreich). It was an modern phrasal dictionary, which he calls "probably the saddest book that I own." The issue that gnaws at him is the futility of this phrase-guide, since by that time Israel already abandoned the Yiddish language. From there to brainstorming about possible needs for such a dictionary, there was only one step. (He puts forth two speculations but, for lack of space, I'll mention only the relevant one.)
"I can imagine a different Yisroel (Note: a post-war equivalent of Israel), the youngest nation on the North American continent, founded in the former Alaska territory during World War II as a resettlement zone for the Jews of Europe. (I once read that Franklin Roosevelt was briefly sold on such a plan.) [...] The resulting country is a cold, northern land of furs, paprika, samovars, and one long, glorious day of summer. It would be absurd to speak Hebrew, that tongue of spikenard and almonds, in such a place. (Nota bene: so he assumes that they would speak Yiddish instead)[...]
But grief haunts every mile of the places to which the Weinreichs beckon. [...] By taking us to Yisroel, the Weinreichs are, in effect, taking us home, to the 'old country.' To a Europe that might have been."
It is the old country that the author attempts to recreate in The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and he success admirably. Because this world is not just a scanty pencil sketch - it is a luscious Renaissance-style oil painting (you know, the ones that dwell in every minute detail). Mr. Chabon "paints" credible humans with their emotions and personal histories, which are part of a plausible community history, placed in a made-up but once again believable development, subject to the bigger geographic interaction. No element is left aside and no effort to improve on the novel's world is too small. The author could have chosen to tell the story of the old country from a historical perspective, with much less time-cost and subsequent creative effort. But, by molding a contemporary world, Michael Chabon appears to point out that the character's feelings of uprooting are in fact still a painful reality.
This is not a happy story, but neither is altogether a dejected one. The relentless bereavement of the people who have lost their land is an ever-present shadow. But so is the hope that one day they will find their land. ------✁------------
P.S. At the end, the edition that I read (Harper Collins's ebook published in 2012) has a Glossary of Yiddish Terms, which unfortunately is nowhere before mentioned. Do yourself a favor and check to see whether your edition has one. You'll need it...(less)
For such a quick read, "The Mountains of Mourning" is the heaviest story in the series so far (and I just finished Ethan of Athos): it drips with mess...moreFor such a quick read, "The Mountains of Mourning" is the heaviest story in the series so far (and I just finished Ethan of Athos): it drips with messages and lessons for tolerance, acceptance, and respect even more than Barrayar did.
Yes, it is a bona fide mystery, but the crime is only a pretext for exploring the implications of being different in a world that prizes above all physical perfection. This theme in itself is not new; what is new, however, is the fact that Ms. Bujold delves into the causality of this compulsion for corporeal superiority: the reason the population on Barrayar is so obsessed with perfect bodies can be found in its tumultuous history, when regular folk were not able to care of the sick and weak. The author looks with understanding at the poorer population who initially became so intolerant not from evilness but as a necessity to survive. Even Miles's final decision is a exhortation toward tolerance, if not forgetfulness.
I found this novella a wonderful, if melancholic, addition to the saga.
P.S. "The Mountains of Mourning" is not a stand-alone story: there are references to evens and characters from the previous novels that someone new to the series wouldn't grasp. (I know this for a fact since my sister started the series with this novella and she was thoroughly confused.)(less)
I must be the exception from the rule because I thought that this novel was more enthralling than the previous installment, Paladin of Souls. I won't...moreI must be the exception from the rule because I thought that this novel was more enthralling than the previous installment, Paladin of Souls. I won't go again over the exceptional writing technique of Ms. Bujold, which I discussed at length in my reviews of The Curse of Chalion (link) and Paladin of Souls (link). Enough to say that the author's style continues to be consistently impressive and gripping.
Quite a few readers complained that they didn't find the religious twist from The Hallowed Hunt as compelling as the theological system from the previous two novels of the series. Maybe it's just me, but what I consider irresistible about these novels is the investigation performed, the questions asked, not the author's discovery, and even less the religious system devised to facilitate the inquest. But if we are to discus the actual doctrine of this book, I happen to welcome the shamanic branching, as a necessary infusion of fresh energy and information after the ubiquitous interference of the Bastard God from Paladin of Souls.
Now, yes the plot slows down a lot in this novel, and in truth there isn't much going on, but the characters are wonderfully nuanced which makes up for the lack of action. Lord Ingrey, the main male character, blurs the line between good and not-so-good: I won't call him quite evil, yet he is the darkest and most ambivalent of all Chalion heroes. And unlike Lord Cazaril and Royina Ista, whom were both profoundly blighted in their prime, Lord Ingrey has fared quite well notwithstanding a difficult childhood: in fact the book starts when he is at the hight of his dignity (at least up to that point). However, IMO the character that pulls the book together, is Lord Wencel Horseriver. He remains uttermost obscure to the reader up to very late in the novel, never giving us enough clues as to decode his true nature (or when we are giving some cues, they tend to be conflicting and cluttered).
The part that I didn't care much in The Hallowed Hunt was the ending: I simply thought that the villain's motivation was weak. It's not that, if I put myself in this character's shoes, I couldn't understand it, but, as a reader, I was hoping for a more electrifying play of events. Even so, I cannot wait for the next book in the series (and I hope there will be one)!(less)
I am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony...moreI am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony of writers, rarely one can recognize a unique voice, distinguishable from thousands others. And yet, I believe that's the case with her. Her pen brings words to life: if she talks about a character, I find myself inside that person's head; if she describes the environment, I'm there looking at mountains or wading barefoot through rivers. I believe her style's strongest point is the character development, although quite a few people seem to regard the introspection as a slowing in the rhythm of the story. I guess it's a personal preference: I'd rather read a few extra pages to understand the actor's behavior, than dive head-down into the story and without gulping for enough air to bring the tale to life. As I said in my review of The Curse of Chalion (link to review), I don't think anything in her stories is gratuitous.
However overall I found Paladin of Souls less captivating than The Curse of Chalion. It took me a while to realize what there seem to be the "problem" (not that it greatly affected my reading experience, as my one-day-start-to-end read proved it). Some folks complained that there isn't that much going on in the book; but I believe that's only a side effect since there are much more action numbers in Paladin of Souls than in the previous instalment. In my opinion, the novel would have done better with an extra negative character. In The Curse of Chalion we have the Chancellor dy Jiornal who plays the secondary villain next to the curse itself. But in the second novel, there is no one besides the mysterious demon-driver to bring more tension (and twists of fate) in the scene. Yes we still have a version of the positive character turned negative through a perverted quality (in The Curse of Chalion this is Roya Orico who, by being too lenient, tips the good-bad scale; here it's Lady Cattilara whose morbid love threatens the lives of all those around her). But as these characters always turn good in the end, their contribution to the angst is not the same as a true rogue.
On the other hand, I found the characters from Paladin of Souls more nuanced and multidimensional than those in The Curse of Chalion. Ista is not only torn apart by a catastrophical early life, but also between her resentment (and let's admit it, esoteric fear) of dealing with the Gods and her true divine calling. Her furtive and rather concisely described love affair is charming and much more convincing than that of Royina Iselle in The Curse of Chalion. Both male characters, Lord Arhys and Lord Illvin, although extraordinary in their military skills, are quite regular men, easily tempted by a hot-blooded beautiful woman and frighten by their portended bleak fates.
Finally, although the goods' presence is much more widespread in this second installment (the Bastard Good is a singular character), I found the pure metaphysical discourse shy away in front of the mystery with metaphysical vibe.(less)
I loved this book so much and for so many reasons that I wish there was a 6-star rating. I happened to listen to an audio version of this novel, but I...moreI loved this book so much and for so many reasons that I wish there was a 6-star rating. I happened to listen to an audio version of this novel, but I am considering reading it too just to take it apart and analyze under the microscope the writing style. Why? Because Ms. Lois McMaster Bujold's technique is probably as close to artistry as modern writing gets!
Let me start by saying that I read several reviews (possible some of them were from Amazon) stating that the novel is too long and it should have been edited down to at most 300 pages. I couldn't disagree more! I can't find reason to delete a single word from this book because every single detail, as meager as may be, is important for the course of action or building characters; and sometimes they are crucial in more than just one way. For instance most writers use recollection as a way of developing the characters. But for Ms. McMaster Bujold the past is not only a tactic for revealing personalities but also (and this is a mild spoiler) an intrinsic part of the mystery Lord Cazaril tries to solve. He would never have a chance against the curse if it wasn't for the past developments, which are sometimes educed deceivingly obscure.
Some other reviewers complained that the pace of the novel is too slow - but I don't believe that to be the case either. Yes, if you are looking for a book with twenty fights per hundred of pages and countless acts of instant-gratification magic, this is not the one for you. Even so - "The Curse of Chalion" isn't slow-paced but alertly introspective. It is through this inner analysis that we find its purpose.
And here I am, finally arriving to the main question: What is the purpose of this book? What is all about? It's most definitely not a wizardry book, although the word "magic" abounds in it. IMO, it could be seen as a mystery novel, a rather peculiar one since there is neither a dead body, nor a murderer, nor a detective per se. We deal instead with a few characters severely affected by a curse (the victims), a curse (the killer), and a tutor trying to solve the mystery and protect his pupil from being the next victim (the detective).
Yet, I believe that the whole murderer-detective story, donned in a fantasy attire, is just a pretext for the author's de facto mystery: her theological exploration. The Quintarian theology might seem as idiosyncratic, with its Bastard god maintaining the balance between the four established gods, but the questions Ms. McMaster Bujold raises are very universal to anyone who ever gave metaphysics any thought: free will, communicating with gods, destiny, miracles, etc.
And so it is that I believe this book is not about removing a curse, but about finding our place in the Universe.(less)
******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read thi...more******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read this novel, which I might not have purchased otherwise. -----
6/11/11 Currently reading - review to follow. Right now I just want to say that the fonts of this book are incredible hard-to-read, making the experience very tiresome. The publisher may want to consider a different format for the next edition. -----
6/15/11 This book was a really nice surprise: I expected it to be a young-adult reading, and was utterly amazed by the beautiful writing style. James Daniel Ross is not a metaphor-writer; he is a simile-writer, with a very dramatic pen. I expected that reading his novel would feel like eating popcorn, when in fact it felt as if slowly enjoying a rich dinner (talking about similes :D).
"I Know Not" is most definitely a 99% action-and-adventure novel, and much less (last 30 pages) a fantasy one. Crow wakes up in the middle of a carnage, with no recollections of who he is, and more important, no clue whether he was among attackers or defenders. The whole book is told from his point of view, and represents the record of his adventures afterwards.
What I liked about it was the fact that there are really no completely good characters. Crow chooses to help others just because it's convenient for him at the time or because he sees a material gain. The Duchess is a spoiled noble-born, so obnoxious that although I always look forward for a forever-after, this time I was thinking that I hope he won't stay with her. The Reverend Sister wishes him dead and helps him only because the Duchess orders her. The only really good characters (although secondary) are the boy-guards.
The reason I gave it only 4 stars is because in the middle of the book, there is a part with so many fights that I got bored of them (and I usually love these parts if this says something). I also didn't think that Crow's profile fit with the fact that he chose to stay with the group once they reached their destination (he wasn't in danger anymore, he wasn't paid well, and he declared that he doesn't love the girl). Also this book needs a serious editing (there are typos, grammar errors, punctuation issues, capitalization in the middle of the sentence, etc.)
Finally, I'm really glad I won this book which I wholeheartedly recommend to those interested in the genre. (less)
******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read thi...more******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read this novel, which I might not have purchased otherwise. ------
So far I was mind-blown by Sarah Bower's literary style. I read some of the reviews before I started the novel, but nothing prepared me for such an amazing writing. This is not prose - it is poetry disguised as prose. Very powerful visual images and exquisite descriptions make this the best example of literary prose I read in very long time. A full 5-star rating for the execution. ------
I finally finished this book and I really liked it in spite of being so sad. The literary style is so complicated that sometimes reading it felt like a heavy meal of which you don't want to have too much, but to which you return for more later on.
It is a slow-moving book but I don't hold it against it as some other reviewers did. This book is supposed to be the memories of a real woman, and let's be serious, how exciting really is the real like? We just go day after day doing the same things and having the same dreams. That is how this book reads: like a young woman's recollection of broken dreams and unfulfilled desires. And maybe the reason I liked it so much and felt that it rang so true was because I am in similar state of mind myself.
About characters: I read reviews saying that Violante was childish. Well technically speaking she was 15-16 during the most important part of the novel. How mature most women are at 15? I do in fact feel that the characters are well penned, including the males who are only secondary ones.
Finally, I would say that this is most definitely a women's novel - I doubt a man would care much about it. (less)