About half way through 1984, I started to compare it to Asimov and Bradbury's works, as I could see a lot of similarities. Orwell writes like a sci-fi...moreAbout half way through 1984, I started to compare it to Asimov and Bradbury's works, as I could see a lot of similarities. Orwell writes like a sci-fi writer of his age. That being said though, Orwell is not nearly as dry as Asimov, nor is he as unenthusiastic in his character developments as Bradbury. At the same time, it took a lot of will power to power through this book. The book still is dry by modern standards, and there is a lot of minutia about the politics of Oceania (which is important to the story, but I've never been keen on politics.)
Taking place in the distant future of 1984 (the book was written in the 1940's), 1984, in case you've been under a rock, is a dystopian warning about the censorship that can evolve in society if we aren't careful citizens. While I could get into the exact plot, I'm just going to mention one point I found very interesting in 1984.
While Orwell introduces a variety of new terms, the one that really resonated with me was 'doublethink'. This is the ability for two contradicting ideas to exist in a person's mind at the same time. Doublethink isn't just a fictional creation. As Erich Fromm (the writer of the 1984 Afterward) points out, doublethink occurs in our everyday lives. Take the commandment 'Thou shall not kill', then look at the crusades - wars started in the name of Christianity and murders committed in the of Christianity.
After reading Fromm's Afterward, I found myself much more able to apply Orwell's lessons to my own life. I started thinking of all the incidents of doublethink in my own life and country. While I won't get into those here, it is worth noting that while 1984 may be fiction, it certainly is built upon a foundation of truth.
**spoiler alert** I'm just going to review the final Hunger Games, and say it suffices for the entire trilogy.
*First, I enjoyed this trilogy. I found...more**spoiler alert** I'm just going to review the final Hunger Games, and say it suffices for the entire trilogy.
*First, I enjoyed this trilogy. I found it refreshing to read a YA book where the heroine was not some bimbo. What do I mean by bimbo? Katniss wasn't bound to the laws of religious and hollywood stereotypes of what a woman should be. Then again, Katniss wasn't some cold terminator either. Katniss was imperfect, she grew as the series progress, and was still caught up in teenage life. Sure, she had to hunt for her family, kill other kids, etc. but none of that negated the fact that she was 16. I've heard people criticize the fact that she was struggling to survive and still getting caught up in something as stupid as a love triangle. I would like to point out that being put in a life or death situation doesn't make the rest of your life go away. While it may seem improbable that Katniss would be in the Hunger Games and still be wondering about herself in terms of love, it isn't. In fact, something as trivial, yet emotionally strong as love, would be the perfect thing to think about instead of the fact that she could die at any moment. Hope is what makes a surviver, and Katniss is certainly that.
*I've also read reviews that the Hunger Games characters are poorly developed and somewhat two dimensional. This is a relative claim. The Hunger Games is YA, not Russian Lit. The likelihood of any teenager reading the Hunger Games cover to cover, with 300 extra pages of character development, is slim. The Hunger Games gets kids reading, and more importantly, the Hunger Games offer kids a heroine who is worth reading about. It is easy to rail on the Hunger Games for being juvenile, but Collins wrote the book for juveniles.
*Now to address the fact that the Hunger Games is not original. Nothing is original. Is the Hunger Games based on Battle Royale, or Lord of the Flies? Does it matter? What was Lord of the Flies based on? Everything is based on something, and for anyone who claims this untrue, I can't wait to read your work.
*I found the second book the weakest book in the trilogy. I never found the allure in Gale. I found him cold and way too mission driven. The second book annoyed me because Katniss was so wrapped up in thinking she should love him. I don't hold this against the trilogy though, as when I was 16 I no doubt could have, and probably did, get wrapped up in something as seemingly stupid.
*The third book was the most powerful in the series. I've read that a lot of people found the third book uplifting, but I'm wondering if we read the same book. Sure, the revolution was successful and the districts were freed, but what about Katniss? I found this book very powerful on a subtle level. Half of MockingJay Katniss is sedated. She is freaked out, worried, and unsure of how to react to what is going on around her. She is the MockingJay, but she is still a teenager. As I mentioned earlier, just because she is the focal point of a revolution doesn't make her any less moody or unsure of herself. There are points when she's focused enough to do what needs to be done (shoot the scenes for the propaganda, or whatever), but the rest of the book she cannot deal with everything that has happened. She tries, but she is a minor player in the revolution at that point. The only reason the story still follows her is because the book is where it is because of her. We like her, we want to know what happens to her. Which brings me to the epilogue. I cannot think of a sadder ending. After reading the epilogue we know that while the rest of North America is free because of Katniss, she will never be. She is broken and afraid, and even though she has a loving family, she will never fully appreciate that. This book does a great job at highlighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trauma like that doesn't leave a person. It is easy to read the third book and not see any of this. You can read the Hunger Games and simply see the story of a girl who starts and finishes a revolution, but it doesn't stop there. I don't find these books two dimensional, and I think they parallel our lives more than we know. One doesn't have to have fought in a war to have scars that shape the rest of their life. War is a really effective way to communicate that kind of trauma however.
Not a huge fan of this one. Despite the reviews that this is "Timeless Vonnegut", I found myself forcing myself to pick up the book and keep reading....moreNot a huge fan of this one. Despite the reviews that this is "Timeless Vonnegut", I found myself forcing myself to pick up the book and keep reading. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a strong narrative and this book is rather disjointed. If you haven't read any Vonnegut, I don't recommend you start with this one.(less)
This is absurdist fiction. Kinda like Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse 5, but cruder and without the WWII themes. I listened to this book and had to stop on...moreThis is absurdist fiction. Kinda like Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse 5, but cruder and without the WWII themes. I listened to this book and had to stop on several occasions so that I wouldn't drive off of the road. I had never read a Christopher Moore book before this, but I'll be reading more. This is definitely worth the time, if you like funny things, and death.(less)
Wow. Could writing get any worse? I guess it could have been longer. I know that Dick won a Hugo for this book in 1963, but I attribute that fact to t...moreWow. Could writing get any worse? I guess it could have been longer. I know that Dick won a Hugo for this book in 1963, but I attribute that fact to the fact that the entire award committee must have been on drugs. There is no other possible explanation for how anyone could have enjoyed this book, let alone thought it was worth an award.
In this post-WWII novel, Dick assumes that the Nazis and Japan won WWII, and have since divided up the world. The story follows several different characters (whose stories rarely, if ever, intersect) throughout their lives in America under Nazi and Japanese control. Dick's paranoia bleeds through the story as events are, at best, vaguely explained, and there always seems to be someone behind the curtain pulling the strings.
While the book was boring and so paranoid it was hard to follow, the thing I found most grating was Dick's female character, Juliana, who ends up 'solving' the book's mystery for the reader. (I put solving in quotes because the book was not really ended.) I wonder if Dick ever met a real female in his life? I mean it seems strange he wouldn't have, with the prevalence of females in the world, and the fact that he had to have had a mother, but his writing implies he has no idea that women are capable of rational thought. When Dick graced us with the narration of Juliana's thoughts, I found myself wanting to throw the CD out the window and then back up to drive over it. For a while, I assumed that Juliana must have had an ulterior motive. I figured that she had to have been a spy, or something, because no one would really think her thoughts unless they were guarding their thoughts, which makes sense if I was as paranoid as Dick, but I was wrong. She wasn't a spy, and cardboard could think more coherently than she. Dick apparently really thought he was writing a smart female character. I guess no one on the 1963 judging panel had ever met a woman either.
I found this book really informative, and more importantly, easy to digest. I find myself shying away from most books on writing due to the fact that...moreI found this book really informative, and more importantly, easy to digest. I find myself shying away from most books on writing due to the fact that they are published like a novel, read large tracts of unbroken text. I have never found such books helpful because they aren't broken up in a way that lets me actively take in what the author is saying.
While Card's book on writing certainly isn't free from opinion, as none are (his mormoness certainly comes out when he starts speaking against writing while under the influence of everything from drugs to, gasp, caffeine), most of his advice is very sound. Perhaps one of the most important things I learned from this book was the uselessness of prologues. Card really painted a clear picture of how prologues only confuse and muddle the story, which, when I thought back on it, I realized was very true. I couldn't remember the last sci-fi/fantasy story I read where its prologue added anything to the story other than confusion.
Another thing Card does a great job of is explaining the importance of the fundamental rules in a science fiction story. Then he helps you figure out how to make the rules that will govern your story. For example, he defined what light speed was, hyper-drive, etc, and explained how if you employ one or the other, you have certain questions you need to answer. For example, if you create a universe where your characters are traveling over long distances in space, you need to set ground rules. So if you have a distant space colony in some remote galaxy, and they are human, how did they get there? Did they 'jump' or did the ancestors of those people travel on a ship for generations before reaching that planet, hence cutting off all ties with their original world? Whatever you decide is fine, but what Card stresses is that you have to be consistant, or your readers will see through your writing.
Card also talks about the differences between sci-fi and fantasy which is interesting. The last section of the book is pretty interesting. Written by a variety of authors, the last part of the book gives definitions to things like political systems of the middle ages, or typical mythical creatures. I found the last section helpful as a reference tool for mostly fantasy writing.
Overall I recommend this book very much to anyone who is interested in becoming a stronger writer in science fiction or fantasy. Card really breaks down key issues sci-fi and fantasy writers need to pay attention to. My writing improved ten-fold after reading this book.(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this book in an afternoon. The writing was compelling, the story moved, and the situation was so terrifying you just had to k...more**spoiler alert** I read this book in an afternoon. The writing was compelling, the story moved, and the situation was so terrifying you just had to keep reading and hope that something good would happen. At the same time, I was a little disappointed with the story. I have a bone to pick with two points. First, the lesbian love scene with Simone. It felt forced. There isn't really much to say other than I knew something of that emotional magnitude needed to happen for the plot to move forward, but, well, it was just forced.
Second, I wasn't sure what to think about her not revealing the name of Adian Dale. At first, I was wrapped up in the idea of their love. Then I got mad. The woman's rights (and human rights) in the USA in this book is abismal. People like Dale are the reason why women are 'not brought up to think'. Her protection of him enraged me. Then it occurred to me that this is what Jordan was hoping to provoke, a conversation about this particular plot point. As much as I wanted the story to end in a blaze of glory for Hannah and all other oppressed woman, I knew that that's not how dystopian novels work. At the same time, Hannah is slowly discovering how to think for herself throughout the book. She is growing as a character. It angered me that she never grew out of her 'love' for Dale, and saw what he was, A HUGE COG IN THE MACHINE. Sure at the end he makes a speech about his affair, but did that do anything? We don't know.
Oh, and her rendezvous with Dale at the end, I know this is just semantics, but seriously. Wasn't having unprotected sex the foundation for all of Hannah's current problems? Love him or leave him, whatever, but let's be smart about things here. After everything Hannah went through, you think that she would have had the presence of mind to not invoke a sequel.
Now that I got those two (three) things off of my chest, I want to say that this book is a good and important read. Sure, people will argue that books like Jordan's When She Woke and Atwood's The Handmaids Tale, are the least likely of all dystopian novels to reach real life realization, but I disagree. Look at women in the FLDS, or women in Saudia Arabia. Women and rights don't even go in the same sentences in such cultures. I couldn't put this book down because I was afraid. I was afraid for Hannah and all of the other characters, but I was afraid of the idea. I was afraid that I could have been born into such a culture because every day women in this world, in 2012, are. My favorite line is when Kayla and Stanton ask Hannah what she thinks, and she says, "I don't know. I was raised not to." This line is the truest line of the book, and it rings true for millions of women today.(less)
I read When She Woke (Hillary Jordan) and then this, back to back. In terms of stories, I liked When She Woke better (it takes place in the not so dis...moreI read When She Woke (Hillary Jordan) and then this, back to back. In terms of stories, I liked When She Woke better (it takes place in the not so distant future of Texas, and therefor was easier for me to picture), but I think the Handmaid's Tale is better crafted. I really liked the end of the the Handmaid's tale. I felt that that was a great way to finish the story in a believable way.
The Handmaid's tale chronicle's a woman in the not so distant future of the ex-USA who is still fertile. She is used solely for reproductive purposes. I've read lots of reviews of this book stating that people read it in one sitting, but I couldn't do that. I had to put it down and do something happy for a while. Then again, this could be because I just finished When She Woke, and that is pretty similar to this book.
I do like Atwood's transitions in this book. The main character's, Offred's, narrative drifts between memories and current events. The transitions are smooth and almost dreamlike, adding to the nightmarish quality of the book. Atwood is clearly a gifted writer. There were several plot points in When She Woke which did not work in the story. Nothing like this occurred in Atwood's the Handmaid's tale. The plot worked and continued to work.
Overall this book is well written and well crafted. The subject material is very heavy though, and while I know that is the point of the book, this is not a book to take to the beach. I look forward to reading more of Atwood's work in the future.(less)
Whoa. I liked this book WAY more than the Golden Compass. I found it started faster and while initially I didn't know what was happening, I knew enoug...moreWhoa. I liked this book WAY more than the Golden Compass. I found it started faster and while initially I didn't know what was happening, I knew enough to keep reading. I think the first book took a while to get into because I knew nothing about what was going on.
I liked the parallel stories, and I liked the way the book built to a climatic ending. Although that ending takes place in the Amber Spyglass, the Subtle Knife had plenty of intrigue of its own. Characters start to flesh out and the mystery of Dust is slowly starting to come into focus. There are even some deaths in the book which I wasn't expecting from children's book.
I am glad I got through the first book to read this book. I have heard a lot of interesting view points about the Amber Spyglass, so I am excited to read it.(less)
This was my first Bradbury book. I appreciated the 'sci-fi' of the book, i.e. the demonic carnival, the dust witch, the merry-go-round, etc. I wasn't...moreThis was my first Bradbury book. I appreciated the 'sci-fi' of the book, i.e. the demonic carnival, the dust witch, the merry-go-round, etc. I wasn't so into most of Bradbury's descriptions. If I were to divide writing styles into only two camps, those camps would be:
Concise. Very little adverbs and adjectives. Short sentences, i.e. Hemingway.
Verbose. Long sentences. Lost of adjectives, adverbs and power verbs (i.e. "NO!" He spat angrily) and long sentences. I.e. Bradbury.
Some of Bradbury's descriptions I found crystal clear. For example, when he described the dust witch's balloon 'as the color of moldy cheese'. I think that was perhaps the best line in the book.
Most of his descriptions I found long and not really clear. They were long and windy and a little over the top. He also liked to use the word 'moth' as a descriptor a lot, which I found kind of weird.
I also found the character of Charles Halloway a little too convenient. I did like how Chalres Halloway didn't become a major character til the end of the book, but then Halloway became our translator. Halloway was able to just explain everything away with very little evidence. I found this frustrating.
Overall I am glad I listened to Something Wicked This Way Comes, but I wasn't that into it.
Also, the short story, A Sound of Thunder, didn't do it for me either.(less)
I read this book in a matter of hours. While it touches on a great number of themes, one of my favorite is: TIME DILATION! Awesome. The way Haldeman u...moreI read this book in a matter of hours. While it touches on a great number of themes, one of my favorite is: TIME DILATION! Awesome. The way Haldeman uses time dilation and space travel to not only portray how long wars really are, but to show how soldiers returning to society have an extremely difficult adjustment to make, is down right brilliant.
I was also very impressed with Haldeman's portrayal of women soldiers. His female soldiers weren't two dimensional. They were the same as the males, and I found that incredibly refreshing.
I would say the strangest part of the book is Haldeman's outlook on homosexuality. I can safely say that whatever you think about homosexuality, you aren't thinking the same thing as Haldeman. With that said however, the parallels he makes to today's political debates on civil rights are pretty interesting, especially since this was written in the 1970's.
If you enjoy sci-fi, if you enjoy military fiction, if you enjoy a well written book, read The Forever War. (less)