Codex isn't really a page-turner, even though it looks like one. It's secretly a literary novel, concerned with...moreCodex isn't what it says on the cover.
Codex isn't really a page-turner, even though it looks like one. It's secretly a literary novel, concerned with theme and character, that happens to feature an exciting, page-turning plot for about nine-tenths of its run time. But then, when it serves the author's purpose, the book shifts gears and becomes something slower and more ponderous - and I suspect pretty frustrating and disappointing, if you were mostly in it for the mystery and excitement. Karen Russell's Swamplandia! did something similar, around the halfway mark, and I think that's where it lost a lot of readers.
So if you want a smart historical mystery with a satisfying resolution, I'd skip Codex, because the end is gonna be hella disappointing. But if you like Grossman's writing, and you're up for something a bit puzzling without a proper resolution, it might be worth a read.(less)
Danielewski doesn't really write novels - in the sense that film isn't or a comic or a radio play isn't a novel. He's working in his own little medium...moreDanielewski doesn't really write novels - in the sense that film isn't or a comic or a radio play isn't a novel. He's working in his own little medium of one, prose-poems with understated illustrations, where the graphic presentation of the text is an important component of the style and the storytelling. (I think "graphic novel" would be the most accurate descriptor, were it not already taken.) So it's difficult to measure the quality of his work against any standard but his own. (And if you're inclined to dismiss his work as gimmicky and pretentious, The Fifty Year Sword won't change your mind.)
This one... is pretty good, I think. It takes about an hour to read, so get it from the library if you can. I read it twice and got more out of it the second time so I'm sure there were all kinds of nuances in the narrative and presentation that I missed. There's some language and some violence, so it's not really a kid's book, but I could see a smart 13 or 14-year-old really getting into it and puzzling everything out.
So worth checking out, and probably a good entry into the rest of Danielewski's work. Just don't pay full price, and don't expect to spend more than an hour or so with it.(less)
I was maybe 2/3 of the was through Lexicon, and wondering why it wasn't clicking, when I checked out the blurbs on the back. Lev Grossman says it "rea...moreI was maybe 2/3 of the was through Lexicon, and wondering why it wasn't clicking, when I checked out the blurbs on the back. Lev Grossman says it "reads like Elmore Leonard high out of his mind on Snow Crash" and Austin Grossman says it's "[l]ike someone let Grant Morrison loose on the Bourne identity franchise."
And that sort of put everything together for me. There are some interesting ideas here, about neurology and linguistics and such. But if you've read Snow Crash or The Invisibles, you're already very familiar with them, and Barry doesn't bring anything new to the table. So you're left with an admittedly very competent thriller with a few clever twists and (I found) unappealing characters.
If you haven't read Stephenson or Morrison then the ideas will be probably new to you, so go for it. But if you have, you can probably find a better use of your time.(less)
To give credit where credit is due: McEwan's prose is exquisite, and the reason I can't in good conscience give this book less th...moreThis book annoyed me.
To give credit where credit is due: McEwan's prose is exquisite, and the reason I can't in good conscience give this book less than three stars. If you appreciate beautiful writing, you owe it to yourself to read McEwan.
But perhaps not this particular McEwan. Maybe Saturday's social and political observations seemed fresher in 2005, but in a post-Iraq, post-recession world, it's difficult to muster much sympathy for Henry Perowne and his precious little life. Reading it today, it's difficult to take seriously McEwan/Perowne's attempt to wrestle with moral justification for war in the Middle-East after ten years of shameless and ultimately disastrous imperialism there; it's difficult to care much about a rich white doctor's big-ass house getting invaded when so much of our civilization's systemic injustice has been perpetuated by rich doctors and white dudes in big houses.
I don't mind an unsympathetic protagonist. But if you're going to give me one, convince me that you the author recognize that your creation is unpleasant, and help me understand why he is the way he is. But Perowne is totally oblivious to his privilege and his comically perfect life , and the fact that McEwan portrays a wildly implausible home invasion as a serious threat suggests the author is as well. I rolled my eyes when the antagonist (who vacillates between cunning and moronic as the plot requires) emerged from a strip club, because this means he is a Bad Dude who rolls with a Rough Crowd; I rolled my eyes harder when the scoundrel's plot of revenge via invasion and sexual assault was thwarted by a coed naked poetry jam with Perowne's impossibly beautiful, impossibly talented daughter. McEwan presents this scenario not as a blueblood's paranoid fever dream but as Plausible and Terrifying because It Could Happen To You. And at the end of the day, when Perowne redeems/seeks forgiveness from his injured transgressor via emergency neurosurgery, it registers not as redemptive but as smug and condescending. (And if the novel is meant to be an unflinching depiction of the tension between the haves and the have-nots, McEwan's failure to engage with race and racism is cowardly. There's one PoC in the novel - a cherubic fourteen-year-old aspiring neurosurgeon who Perowne patronizes, as if to assure the reader that even if he's [rightly] terrified of poor people, at least he's Not A Racist!) The way the plot is framed, as a clash across class lines between the saintly but humble Perowne and the noxious, self-destructive Baxter, reveals McEwan's bias even as he tries to present their conflict fairly.
That's not to say there isn't good stuff in here - for instance, Perowne's complex feelings about his daughter's adulthood are well-developed and insightful. That's the kind of insight I wanted from the rest of the novel. Instead, McEwan wastes his time dancing around supposed social and political dilemmas that have been pretty conclusively resolved in the years since the novel's publication. And history hasn't been kind to Saturday.(less)
One of most frustrating things about studying literature in college is that it robs a lot of the magic from fiction. You get a sense of how everything...moreOne of most frustrating things about studying literature in college is that it robs a lot of the magic from fiction. You get a sense of how everything fits together, you understand how certain ideas and techniques combine to achieve a certain effect, and it starts to feel more like engineering than art. So the highest complement I can pay Scott Snyder is that the stories in Voodoo Heart all left me pleasantly baffled. There's always something that doesn't quite fit, some effect you couldn't anticipate - the stories are greater than the some of their parts.
It's like putting together a cuckoo clock, following the instructions exactly and anticipating it'll work perfectly, and then discovering - for reasons you can't explain - somehow every half hour the clock plays "shave and a haircut". It's like, where did that come from? The stories are briskly plotted and the prose is effective without being dense or showy, but it's those little inexplicable moments that I loved the most.
Like many here, I learned about Snyder through his comics writing. I dug Severed, a mannered-but-effective historical serial killer story, and Swamp Thing, which is good, but benefits from comparison to the rest of DC's (mostly) extremely dire New 52 line. And after reading Voodoo Heart I expect I'll enjoy Snyder's comic books more: Voodoo Heart is a shotgun blast of Snyder that throws his favorite themes (American identity, the fear of commitment, failed relationships, good people compelled to do evil) into stark relief, and better understanding the man and his concerns makes his other work feel richer. If you're a fan of Snyder's work in comics, definitely check it out.
But selling Voodoo Heart as a footnote to Snyder's work on Batman or whatever does the collection a disservice, because it's more than strong enough to stand on its own. (less)
1) If you read this you get to be a douche to Chuck Palahniuk fans. If you're at a party and someone starts t...moreHere's what you need to know about Crash:
1) If you read this you get to be a douche to Chuck Palahniuk fans. If you're at a party and someone starts talking about Haunted or the pool story with the butt stuff, you know the one I'm talking about, you can be all "yeah, I just read Crash by Ballard, it's about gross sex with car crash victims but he wrote it in the seventies, it's not as mainstream as Palahniuk so you might not have heard of it.
2) This also works with Brett Easton Ellis fans.
3) It's actually a lot richer and better written than, say, American Psycho, and Ballard keeps things accelerating until the end so it doesn't feel like the book over extends it's premise. But still... it's 200 pages of gross sex with car crash victims.
4) I got my copy from a dollar store and the inscription suggests it was given to its original owner as a wedding gift. This is a terrible idea and please never do this.
Overall worth a read, if you've got the stomach for it.(less)
How can I give this book anything but 5 stars? How could any right-thinking American? Merely purchasing the ebook it has caused my reader to smell fai...moreHow can I give this book anything but 5 stars? How could any right-thinking American? Merely purchasing the ebook it has caused my reader to smell faintly of Acqua di Gio, and inspired beautiful women to come up and stroke the casing without quite understanding why. Some will argue that this book is just an internet joke taken too far - but unlike the "Old Spice Guy" or "Chuck Norris," Joe Biden is a real person, and his astonishing true story is as inspiring as it is arousing. I recommend "The President of Vice" the way Vice President Biden lives his life: without hesitation, regret, or prophylactics. (less)
I can't think of any author whose work I've read so extensively, and derived so much benefit from, without really enjoying it that much. This isn't ev...moreI can't think of any author whose work I've read so extensively, and derived so much benefit from, without really enjoying it that much. This isn't even premium Eco, I'm afraid - that'd be [i]Foucault's Pendulum[/i] and [i]The Name of the Rose[/i], and each of those had a prize-at-the-bottom-of-the-box climax of thrilling action that made up for a lot of enriching but dull stuff in the chapters leading up. There's still plenty of cleverness here involving the protagonist's slippery identity, and some terrific insight into the history of anti-semitism and the pathology of hate. But at the end it's still frequently dense and frustrating. Definitely worth a read, if you're a fan of Eco's, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list.(less)
I'm kinda stunned at who much hate gets dumped on this book. Maybe it's because the beginning is so lively and engaging (Satanic water parks! Necrophi...moreI'm kinda stunned at who much hate gets dumped on this book. Maybe it's because the beginning is so lively and engaging (Satanic water parks! Necrophilia! Mom's got cancer! Goddamn alligators everywhere!), it sets up certain expectations for plot and momentum, and then the book gets slower, denser, darker as you move towards the conclusion. Now, I had no problem with this whatsoever - it felt entirely appropriate to me. But I read a lot of slow books for school and what have you, so I can be patient with an author if I have to. If you're expecting a thrill ride the whole way through, you'll probably be disappointed... but if you can keep up with Russell during her long trudge into the swamp, you may find the journey rewarding.(less)
HUGELY DISAPPOINTED - OUTRAGEOUS FALSE ADVERTISING - THE BACK COVER PROMISED "A TALE OF LORDS AND LADIES, SOLDIERS...moreNO WIZARDS ZERO STARS DID NOT FINISH
HUGELY DISAPPOINTED - OUTRAGEOUS FALSE ADVERTISING - THE BACK COVER PROMISED "A TALE OF LORDS AND LADIES, SOLDIERS AND SORCERERS" - WHICH SEEMED TO SUGGEST WIZARDS WOULD FIGURE PROMINENTLY - AND INDEED, GIVEN MARTIN'S REPUTATION FOR FRANK DEPICTIONS OF SEXUALITY, PERHAPS SOME WIZARDLY EROTICA? MIGHT WE FINALLY LEARN HOW THE WIZARDS UTILIZE THEIR MAGICAL SKILLS AND PROUD, FIBROUS BEARDS IN THE BOUDOIR? BUT THE BOOK CONTAINS *NO WIZARDS WHATSOEVER* - THERE'S ONE GUY WHO SAYS HE'S A WIZARD BUT IS PROBABLY LYING AND THERE'S A LADY WHO DEFINITELY KNOWS SOME SPELLS AND MAGIC, BOTH OF WHICH GOT MY HOPES UP, BUT IN THE END NO CHARACTERS FILLED EVEN THE MOST LENIENT QUALIFICATIONS FOR WIZARDLY CLASSIFICATION - THESE CHARACTERS WERE CLEARLY 'THRONE' IN (OR MAYBE 'PHONED IN' LIKE THIS BOOK) JUST TO APPEAL TO WIZARD AFICIONADOS - BUT NO MAGIC WANDS, NO POINTY HATS, NO BEARDS EQUALS DISSATISFIED READERS, MARTIN - AUTHOR CLEARLY DOESN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT CONTEMPORARY READERS WANT - I PLAN TO WRITE MARTIN TO DEMAND A LENGTHY APOLOGY AND A REFUND OF THE FOUR DOLLARS I SPENT ON MY USED COPY OF "LAME OF THONES"
...if for some reason you can tolerate the appalling lack of wizards the plotting is dense, the characters vivid and diverse, the world compelling. I had some serious issues with his depiction of women (creepily eroticized scenes involving one of the protagonists as a thirteen-year-old child bride, and both the hero's daughters are annoying clichés: the spunky warrior who wants to fight like the boys and the snobby, naive wannabe-princess) and these issues might put off other readers. But overall I found this to be very compelling.
IF YOU CAN SOMEHOW IGNORE THE TOTAL AND UNAPOLOGIZED-FOR DEARTH OF ANY POINTY-HATTED WIZARDS WHATSOEVER(less)
You don't know the history of psychiatry, but Michel Foucault evidently does. Peerless in the quality of both scholarship and rhetoric, and absolutely...moreYou don't know the history of psychiatry, but Michel Foucault evidently does. Peerless in the quality of both scholarship and rhetoric, and absolutely necessary for anyone interested in the secret history of mental illness. I think this guy is going places.(less)