I'm hiding my old just-finished-Gravity's-Rainbow-holy-crap enthusiasm-hazed review in spoilers while no one has liked/read this review yet. This book...moreI'm hiding my old just-finished-Gravity's-Rainbow-holy-crap enthusiasm-hazed review in spoilers while no one has liked/read this review yet. This book deserves better. In the future. Better review to come. Here's the old one:
(view spoiler)[After hearing about Thomas Pynchon everywhere, I finally Googled "where to start with pynchon" and read the wonderful advice to go to your library, pick up the first Pynchon book you see, and read it. And that's what I did. I had no idea what the "plot", setting, or conflict was, and I definitely wasn't aware of the notorious difficulty this book is famous for. It doesn't help that the book contains no plot summary whatsoever (and there's no precious hints in the book itself to help you out, either! ...forsooth!). My cluelessness can be summed by how I first looked for Pynchon in "Scifi/Fantasy". Oh dear. I can't really explain that one.
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I read the first 30 pages still in the library and had a slight nagging suspicion that this book wasn't incredibly normal ... I used my 15-minute computer session to look it up on Amazon and see that the top review was instructing you on how to read it. Fantastic! ... I checked it out and spent a month reading it. And it was very well worth the time I put into it.
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The trick is knowing when to focus your attention and when to skim. If there's a page with more than twenty ellipses or umlauts in it, there's a pretty good chance you don't need to worry about understanding it too much. I laughed- get this- out loud (bah!) multiple times at the book's humor, which is exactly my taste ... It contains a surprising amount of humor, and of all different kinds. There are one liners everywhere, absurdist humor (the toilet scene, Margherita climbing into Slothrop's nostrils, sentient lightbulbs and kazoos, etc.), ... songs and limericks (this is Pynchon, yes), puns (there's some awful ones), potty/grossout humor (BOOGER BISCUITS! DISCHARGE DUMPLINGS!), random stories ("Kreplach!"), obscure historical or career in-jokes (with multiple jokes made about complex mathematical formulas), you name it ... It was not a chore to read this at all- I was by all means legitimately being entertained ... I don't see why it has some "unreadable pretentious artsy hipster garabe everyonne pretends to like because they want to look C00000L!!1!" status around it because it really isn't like that at all ... more of a guilty, stupid pleasure ... I do recommend checking out the Wikipedia page that summarizes each episode though. It's much better and snappier than, say, the Reader's Companion, which is more focused on every little reference or allusion. I looked at a digital copy, and wasn't impressed. It's kind of like figuring out that the hi-hat rhythm in a song you like is actually Morse code that says "GET A LIFE YOU VIRGIN." It's interesting, funny, yes, but it doesn't add or detract from the overall experience. If you just want a brief summary of each episode, you don't need to spend the 20 bucks.
[UPDATE: some Wikinazi saved the world by deleting the episode summary page for being too helpful, of course. However, I think it was based off of this one heavily, so that's there for anyone who misses the old Wiki page.]
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Some scenes can be particularly theatrical (complete with sections written like movie scripts), and are very visual in my mind. The beginning pages that describe the rocket's vapor stream reflecting the light from the sunrise were very serene and put a clear image in my head ... not even mundane things like Slothrop's desk and concrete hallways are spared these elaborate descriptions. The book also contains surprisingly sentimental and almost- ALMOST!- sad scenes, such as the man who could have Out-of-Body Experiences at will bids farewell to his family before he leaves his body forever, and Pökler's relationship with his distant but affectionate daughter and how it takes over his daily worklife. Some of the relationships such as this stand out for being quite sweet and innocent, in a novel where the large majority of "romance" is ridiculous BDSM, pedophilic, or coprophagic sex ...
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Now, yes, this is a bit random, but I kind of had the impression of this as a- uh, how do you say- a post-modern precursor to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? I found Slothrop to be much like a, mm, slightly more determined Arthur Dent sort of fellow, and many incidents such as with that Byron chap, yes, the lightbulb, as the kind of anecdote you find in the Douglas Adams story. I'm sure you remember the bowl of petunias and that sperm whale (poor bastard)? And that talking elevator? They could've been in either of these books quite easily, really... interchangeable, yes...
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This is a very fun, rewarding, vague blur of a book, just don't take it too seriously, don't let the amount of pages left daunt you, and have a good— (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book made me into, well, a Philip K. Dick Reader. I knew the man's name by the movies he's responsible for, but I never looked into his works or...moreThis book made me into, well, a Philip K. Dick Reader. I knew the man's name by the movies he's responsible for, but I never looked into his works or researched him. For me, this was just a book by an author I've heard of that wound up in an armful of books I acquired at a Barnes & Noble. All of these short stories are fairly (dare I say) "normal", and well... they're scifi. Good scifi. The image I had in my mind of PKD after finishing this was worlds apart from what it became after I read my first novel of his, "Lies, Inc." (Yep. "Lies, Inc." was my first PKD novel.) You won't find the man's full-on reality bending here, but it definitely is hinted at. Overall, a fantastic place to start for those of you interested in Philip, and remains one of my favorites to this day.
NOW. Time to go over each bad-boy in this.
"Fair Game" (1959)
A story with a twist that reminded me of a cross between The Far Side and Goosebumps.
"The Hanging Stranger" (1953)
DARK. A predictable ending, but the imagery described in the beginning is unnerving.
"The Eyes Have It" (1953)
Every English class doing a unit on figurative language needs to assign this one. Brilliant, clever, funny, short.
"The Golden Man" (1954)
An odd story that I can't help but imagine taking place in the X-Men universe. If you imagine Nicolas Cage as the Golden Man, it's a lot better.
"The Turning Wheel" (1954)
An intelligent stab at L. Ron Hubbard and reincarnation/caste systems. Some creative predates to some themes in "The Man In The High Castle" can be found, and is enjoyable even if the main character is a bit of an ass.
"The Last of the Masters" (1954)
Quite primitive, and probably one of the few in the book worth skipping.
"The Father-Thing" (1954)
Laughably unrealistic children, and a plot I'm sure R.L. Stine would've loved. I can't tell if this is a parody or not. It turned out being a great success for the kids, for sure... if the ending turned out to be BLOODY MURDER, for one, that would be predictable, and two, a total mood killer. Sometimes it's nice to have little kids who are right, and win!
"Strange Eden" (1954)
An overall funny story, that reminds me of ancient mythology mixed with a spin on the general consensus about where human evolution will lead.
"Tony and the Beetles" (1954)
One of the best out of the book. I could imagine this being a scene of an scifi epic, or even a decent movie. A coming of age story... IN SPACE. It'd sell millions.
Parody? It's hard to tell.
"To Serve the Master" (1956)
Standard sci-fi fare, with an ending not too incredibly hard to guess (not that I did).
"Exhibit Piece" (1954)
This is the most "Dickian" short story in this book. New readers, THIS is what you're getting into.
"The Crawlers" (1954)
A mildly disturbing premise with poor execution. Unintentionally funny for some of the images that are brought up in my mind... a certain Invader Zim episode involving babies comes to mind.
"Sales Pitch" (1954)
A thought-provoking piece of black humor about to what heights of intrusiveness advertising can climb to. I can see this happening, sadly. PKD didn't like the ending, but I thought it was genius.
"Shell Game" (1954)
Hm, pass. Doesn't really give me any burning desire to dive into "Clans of the Alphane Moon". Maybe I need to read it slower next time.
"Upon the Dull Earth" (1954)
This one stands out in Philip K. Dick's work. For one, it's quite clearly fantasy. Two, SCENERY IS ACTUALLY DESCRIBED. Zoinks. If it weren't for the ending, I would assume some mix-up occurred at the publishing house.
"Foster, You're Dead!" (1955)
This should be required reading somewhere. An extremely meaningful piece that goes over capitalism and coming of age (sort of), that I think of regularly, even if it is a bit anti-climactic
"Pay for the Printer" (1956)
All good scifi authors predicted future technology. This is PKD's turn, predicting 3D printers in 1956. Yowza.
"War Veteran" (1955)
A slow going but great read, with characters and a writing style very reminiscent of his novels.
"The Chromium Fence" (1955)
This is for me the best piece of satire PKD has ever wrote, this time about ambivalence and political radicalism. Although the ending is overly dark, this one has almost haunted me, and I think about it regularly.
"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (1966)
A lighthearted and comical story, that had to have at least some inspiration towards "Beautiful Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Knowing that Michael Gondry is making a Ubik adaption in 2012 (supposedly), I would not be surprised. It's quite obvious that this story was thrown into the book just so "Total Recall" could grace the book cover... it's eight years newer than any other story in the entire collection. Tsk tsk tsk.
"The Minority Report" (1956)
The great story behind the good movie. Why the movie didn't keep the original's ending I will never know.
For as action oriented as it is, I enjoyed it. It makes you learn to appreciate the random things you find in your pockets every now and then.
"Second Variety" (1953)
Predictable ending is predictable. The last couple sentences make up for it though. (less)
The word "dreamlike" is a complete cliché, a meaningless buzzword that gets thrown around for a lot of books. I really don't want to use it here, but...moreThe word "dreamlike" is a complete cliché, a meaningless buzzword that gets thrown around for a lot of books. I really don't want to use it here, but it's true– VALIS is very similar to dreams, the kind you wake up from each morning. It's not "dreamlike" in the sense that's a wish come true, or a sunshine-shining-on-me-and-that-girl-who-won't-return-my-unrequited-advances's-faces-as-we-skip-through-the-meadow-hand-in-hand dream. (view spoiler)[(Do people honestly have those sorts of things as dreams, anyway? "Dreamy" has a far more positive connotation that I find my dreams to ever be. My dreams are not "dreamy.") (hide spoiler)] VALIS is dark and surreal, with an abstract danger that always feels out of anyone's control. The enemy isn't clear, when it isn't simply internal or physchological. Details and theories thread off. Characters and plot points ebb out of existence. When the characters look back on previous events, and details are spontaneously created or changed. The scene where "the gang" is analyzing VALIS (the in-universe film) after watching it and talking about how they saw hidden VALIS satellites throughout reminds me of how in dreams you can look back on events and come to stupid conclusions and observations that weren't really there– false memories that are created spontaneously, and simply "are so." The logic of the book is seemingly genius, suspenseful, and infallible (if a little over-the-top) as you follow it, but is questionable in hindsight– when you "wake up" so to speak by finishing the book.
I don't know why it's taken me more than a month to notice all of this, but no other book has better emulated the mood of a chaotic dream better than VALIS. Bravo, Philip, bravo.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Just as every other person on the planet as mentioned, Counter-Clock World is not part of Dick's prime, and not the place to start with him. However,...moreJust as every other person on the planet as mentioned, Counter-Clock World is not part of Dick's prime, and not the place to start with him. However, the book is by all means entertaining, and stays relatively coherent for the entirety of the novel. The "Hobart Phase" is disappointingly ignored, leaving much to the imagination, with its only addition to the novel is as an excuse for Anarch Peak returning to life to be sold to the highest bidder. Counter-Clock World also does not have anything that could be counted as a "twist" ending that PKD is usually known for. This is a great book for obsessive PKD fans, but just an okay book for anyone else.(less)
This was my first PKD novel (yes). It's really just horrible, and hands-down his most difficult book to slog through. But! This is the one PKD novel I...moreThis was my first PKD novel (yes). It's really just horrible, and hands-down his most difficult book to slog through. But! This is the one PKD novel I've spent the most hours daydreaming about, either trying to figure out what the heck was going on, or the serious mental implications the paraworlds (the novel's shared hallucinations that several characters experience) would have on someone. I know that the nonsense of the book is due mostly to publication hell and executive meddling, but I've wasted plenty of showers fantasizing about it anyway. One theory I've thought of was that the Part 2 is simply Applebaum going nuts on an 18-year-long travel, alone. That might seem like a copout (and yes, it is), but if you look at the publication history... Part 1 was first published in 1964, and wasn't published with Part 2 until 1982... 18 years! Part 2 is really some meta way of showing the deteriorated state of Applebaum's mind at his final arrival at Whale's Mouth! IT'S INGENIOUS!
...no, I don't really believe that, but nonetheless, this is one of the most truthfully thought-provoking books I've ever read.(less)
UPDATE: I gave this three-stars. It's gotten better in my mind. I didn't like it when I was reading it but I have fond memories of it now.
This isn't a...moreUPDATE: I gave this three-stars. It's gotten better in my mind. I didn't like it when I was reading it but I have fond memories of it now.
This isn't a bad book, I just "didn't like it." I feel unoriginal, giving a book I was required to read for school a low-review but I just didn't feel like I gained from it. There are better coming-of-age stories out there (To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?). Even the English teacher who assigned this said "Asher Lev" was better than The Chosen. The writing style itself was very readable, except for maybe the first Book. The characters and even the narration were very repetitive, repeating entire sentences or ideas multiple times on the same page. Some people argue this is "realistic" for people in real life, but I ask who wants to read "CLOP CLOP CLOP 'EM CLOP CLOPPERS" for every other piece of dialogue in the later half of Book One. An interesting history lesson, and definitely made me more aware of orthodox Judaism, Zionism, and more relevant issues of the day. The ending I found to be a "light" version of East of Eden's ending, which was far more powerful and, well, sensible. Better than (view spoiler)["I AM DUMB MAN AND I TRY OUT DISTANT-FATHER CHILD-RAISING TECHNIQUE BECAUSE I AM DUMB AND I LOVE YOU AND YOU WILL BE STRONG AND SMART AND SMARTER THAN MEEEE." (hide spoiler)]
I might check out Asher Lev, but not for a while.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
My first Palahniuk book. A disappointment. The first act of this book is incredible, which is a real shame, because the last two acts of the book are...moreMy first Palahniuk book. A disappointment. The first act of this book is incredible, which is a real shame, because the last two acts of the book are completely forgettable if not downright irritating. I can't pinpoint why I love the first act so much, but I read it in one sitting. Something about the descriptions of how to remove various stains from the carpet or prepare a lobster are oddly mesmerizing. (Hm... I can't rewrite this sentence to make it sound any more convincing. You'll know what I mean if you've read it.) The characters are Palahniuk's usuals, who work fine up until about the second act.
As soon as our narrator is the last remaining Creedish, you can close the book. All plausibility of plot and characters are dropped soon afterwards. There's even an odd supernatural gift to one of the main characters which feels completely out of place in the tone of the story. Things happen far too fast near the end of the book, leaving the reader with a feeling of surprise when the protagonist boards the plane on which he speaks the entire book into.
One thing that particularly annoyed me about the book is how it's main moral message is that asexuality is wrong and (view spoiler)[a product of religious conditioning (hide spoiler)] and that you're not a real person until you are unwillingly forced into having sex with someone. (Rape on the wrong end?) This might not be what Palahniuk intended, but it's what I nonetheless picked up from the book.
I don't regret reading this, but I don't think I'm going to bother with any more Palahniuk.
5 stars for the first act. -1 for each of the last two.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Random anecdote: I asked the I Ching how the outcome of me trying to read Ulysses would turn out. I got Hexagram #64, "Unfinished". Heh. I take that a...moreRandom anecdote: I asked the I Ching how the outcome of me trying to read Ulysses would turn out. I got Hexagram #64, "Unfinished". Heh. I take that as a challenge!(less)