If Tolkien wrote as a linguist of imaginary tongues; if Ursula Le Guin writes as an anthropologist of imaginary cultures; then Jordan is the tourist-wIf Tolkien wrote as a linguist of imaginary tongues; if Ursula Le Guin writes as an anthropologist of imaginary cultures; then Jordan is the tourist-with-a-phrasebook of an imaginary post-high-school gap year.
These books imply that Jordan sh*ts on linguistics. Doesn't matter whether people live centuries apart or continents apart; they all speak the same language exactly the same way, except Illianers do be talking like this and Seanchan have a Texan drawl, and except for a very small number of words unique to the Aiel or Seanchan. On the other hand, nations that are only a few decades or centuries old already have such distinct national dress codes and behaviors that everyone's a clone: every Domani woman is seductive, every Arafellin has bells in their hair, every Two Rivers man is an amazing archer. Or, as another reviewer put it: "and then there's Siuan Sanche, whom having grown up as a poor fisherman's daughter uses fishing metaphors for EVERYTHING, seriously, like a smurf uses the word 'smurf'." Damn smurfing right.
~~~ Re-reading in Nov 2013 ~~~
Everybody knows this is basically Lord Of The Rings fanfic. But I didn't realize until this reading that it's also fanfic of Harry Potter and Star Wars:
"Rand" (Frodo/Harry/Luke) is an adopted kid living in the middle of nowhere interesting. Instead of inheriting a magic ring he needs to destroy, he *is* the magic ring/force that'll destroy Voldemort/Sauron/Vader. His girlfriend "Egewene" (Hermione) has Muggle parents but eventually goes to wizard school, although it's not coed here. His best buds "Perrin" (you might think this is Merry + Pippin based on the name, but it's really Sam who becomes a Wookie?) and "Mat" (confusingly, this one is the Merry/Pippin character, who plays pranks and touches things he shouldn't) come along with him when he leaves the Shire, after a crazy celebration gone wrong. The rest is mostly LOTR again. Gandalf's character gets split up: there's "Padan Fain," the old guy with a cart peddling fireworks, but he turns out to be Gollum really; and there's a wizard, but it's a woman, "Moiraine", though she is still best buds with Aragorn aka "Lan" the uncrowned king, who gets hit on by magical and knowledgeable-about-herbs Arwen aka "Nynaeve". They stay at the Prancing Pony (I can't remember now what it gets called here). They meet ents, excuse me, an Ogier and a Green Man, and they travel through abandoned paths of last resort *cough*Moria*cough twice.
Basically, this first book covers so much of the ground of other fantasy books that, like many reviewers at the time, I cannot imagine why it'll take a whole 2 more books to finish the series... much less the 14 or so it ended up being.
Ah, and, of course, unlike LOTR (which had almost no ladies at all), EVERY. SINGLE. CONVERSATION. has to be a battle of the sexes. This might actually be fanfic of Jane Austen, where the entire plot is driven by the fact of males and females being unable to communicate like reasonable adults. Arwen and Hermione Bennett are constantly angry at Aragorn and Harry Darcy, who are in turn confused. Dang.
What I can never remember is WTF the "Eye Of The World" is. So for later recollection: It's (view spoiler)[a pool of The Force For Dudes, so that Luke/Harry can fight off Darth Voldemort. And when he uses it up during the battle, at the bottom of the pool they find the Horn of Valere (hide spoiler)]. Which begs the question of (view spoiler)[why the 2nd book is about the hunt for the horn if they already have the horn? Just don't lose it, come on guys I mean seriously! And why does it have to go to Illian instead of just being blown now? You would literally get all the heroes of past ages, you could go beat up Sauronmort while you've just weakened him before his strength grows, bam boom, end of story. (hide spoiler)]
~~~ Review from last time I read it, in 2007 or 2009? ~~~
As much of the series as I've read (up to book 5) is a really well-told yarn! I hadn't read these (except the 1st once?) since high school, so I wanted to re-read and catch up since the final one was supposed to come out this year... ...except for a few frustrations: First, I didn't realize before how much Book 1 is a blatant rewrite of Lord of the Rings. He's not even trying to be subtle about it. I can forgive this because the later books do diverge from LOTR's plot, but the other complaints are harder to ignore:
--It gets really annoying that EVERY dialogue and internal monologue has to turn into a rant about how stubborn men/women are. A gentle touch of that would have added flavor to these books, but they're drowning in it... --How do these characters manage to spend weeks straight riding or walking together without ever letting each other know some important fact or asking for advice? They have WEEKS to compare notes about their weird dreams, the goals of their quest, any scraps of knowledge of the enemies they'll face... but they totally ignore it all. They also never say "sorry" or "thank you" for anything. I have no idea what they do talk about. --The whole ta'veren thing seems to turn into a deus ex machina for the author when he can't think of good *real* reasons for characters to do what the plot requires.
In short, when I pick up a trashy fantasy novel, I know I'll be suspending disbelief about magic or whatever, but frankly it gets boring when you're forced to suspend disbelief about human nature for too long. I wish someone would write a fantasy novel about a mysterious far-off world (it can even have trolls and elves if you like) where people's destinies are NOT predetermined, young farmkids CAN'T sword-fight better than experienced soldiers, bad guys make their FIRST attack strong instead of sending just-barely-too-few minions every single time, etc.
Don't get me wrong: This series so far is really well-written, usually fast-paced, often tense, and sometimes even funny. Mr Jordan imagined and described an amazingly coherent and detailed world, with some really nifty weaving of old legends and religions into the mix. And I love that it's not purely GOOD VS EVIL RAH RAH RAH -- there are complexities in there too, like the Whitecloaks who can do nasty things in the name of good without worshipping dark gods or whatever. I just can't make myself slog through a 6th book of Nyneave complaining about wool-headed men.
Next up: The Great Hunt["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Sure, the drawings are really nice. But the (lack of) humor, (bland) characters, and (derivative) plot are so uninspired that I couldn't get even a fiSure, the drawings are really nice. But the (lack of) humor, (bland) characters, and (derivative) plot are so uninspired that I couldn't get even a fifth of the way through this 1300-page brick. And PLEASE, comics people, stop using "th'" for "the" and bolding every other word. Stale newspaper comics from the fifties should not be the standard of excellence to which you aspire. And don't think you have to put a speech bubble in every panel. If the character's climbing a tree, you shouldn't have to have him saying out loud "Now I'll climb th' tree." That is, unless you're such a bad illustrator that you shouldn't be making comics in the first place....more
I quit after about 60 pages. Sorry. I know it's a classic but I just did not have the patience to keep track of all the made-up words. If I want to leI quit after about 60 pages. Sorry. I know it's a classic but I just did not have the patience to keep track of all the made-up words. If I want to learn a new language, maybe I'll just spend that time, y'know, actually learning a new language? http://xkcd.com/483/ I didn't find the characters or setting interesting either. But most of all: when I come home from working in a cubicle with a computer and I want to unwind with a book, not a laptop screen, I can't really empathize with someone who's eager to spend all day in cyberspace. Maybe I'll try it again some other time....more
This is definitely not a space opera about rockets and robots; nor, despite some reviews, does it seem very "feminist" to me.
It's just a brilliant novThis is definitely not a space opera about rockets and robots; nor, despite some reviews, does it seem very "feminist" to me.
It's just a brilliant novel about people, relationships, and desires, a thought-experiment that leads to lots of insights about deep topics: The impact of gender differences on human cultures. The ethnographer's role as a student, diplomat, or missionary, and difficulties of being alone in a foreign culture. Hospitality and honesty in harsh climates. Fear, deception, and misunderstanding in power politics and patriotism. Origin stories and other mythology. Dualism and unity in culture and religion. The importance of keeping face and respect, and how that can drive us to bad decisions. Facts vs truth. Local vs global, concrete vs abstract, specific vs general. I'd love to reread this book and discuss it with other people.
I didn't quite understand the motivations behind the behavior of the king's cousin, Tibe, who seems to think in ways foreign to his countrymen. But he is a necessary plot device for Le Guin's thought experiment to express itself.
In fact, the only thing that didn't seem to have a point in the context of the rest of the novel was the telepathic "mindspeech." I didn't realize until later that Le Guin actually wrote other Ekumen novels; I'm guessing she stuck mindspeech in here only for continuity with the earlier books.
UPDATE: There's a quote from LeGuin that seems to describe pretty well why this book covers deeper ground than "mere" feminism: "Because of our lifelong social conditioning, it is hard for us to see clearly what, besides purely physiological form and function, truly differentiates men and women. ... How to find out? ... I eliminated gender, to find out what was left. Whatever was left would be, presumably, simply human. It would define the area that is shared by men and women alike."...more
You can call it a graphic novel, but it's really a comic book about superheroes. And that's good, because that's the only way this story could be toldYou can call it a graphic novel, but it's really a comic book about superheroes. And that's good, because that's the only way this story could be told! If you're creating a twisted ironic story about comic-book superheroes dealing with the real world, then you also need to be able to mess around with the conventions of the medium where your subjects arose. A novel or play or whatever just wouldn't work as well.
There are some really powerful sections (especially Rorschach's story and its effect on the psychiatrist and his wife). There are lots of great metaphorical parallel stories, illustrating one conversation with imagery of another event.
But my favorite part was how each character takes a different idea of justice to extremes: - we have a duty to do good to one another, using only good means, whenever possible - we should do good, but the ends justify the means - forget the idea of "doing good"; evil must simply be punished by any means necessary - the whole distinction between good and evil is all one big joke - good and evil, and for that matter all of humanity, are irrelevant in the big scheme of things
In my view, the first philosophy is best since it's the only one that never treats human beings as mere things, abstractions, obstacles or toys. (Terry Pratchett's Discworld books have a surprising amount to say on this topic.)
(view spoiler)[ But in this book, the Machiavellian character proves most effective, though it feels extremely immoral. Hence I feel a little gratified (yet also largely saddened) that, in the wake of September 11th, it's clear that the these heroes' way of saving the world wouldn't really be effective at all. Terrorism should be a perfect foe to unite against; but instead, we managed to screw it up to the point where the world's nations are freaking out and becoming either more aggressive or more isolationist. (hide spoiler)]
I can't say it's an "enjoyable" read - quite depressing and creepy with too much blood and gore for my taste. But it's DEEP, and I definitely feel it'd be worthwhile to read it again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A quick read and probably worth it, but mostly for inspiration -- I was left wanting far more discussion of "how" instead of ranting about "why."
Also,A quick read and probably worth it, but mostly for inspiration -- I was left wanting far more discussion of "how" instead of ranting about "why."
Also, the authors say the book (the physical object) was supposed to be an example of a cradle-to-cradle-designed object that could be recycled indefinitely (not just "downcycled")... but then they say they couldn't quite get it to happen. I'd love to see this stuff happen one day soon, so it's pretty depressing that the flagship team promoting cradle-to-cradle design can't even do it right themselves....more
It's possible that people who have never experienced much actual trauma or severe discrimination might not understand how on-target this book can be. It's possible that people who have never experienced much actual trauma or severe discrimination might not understand how on-target this book can be. If that's you, you'd probably find it really interesting to check out Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman for a solid overview of how/why trauma survivors can be crippled by fear in seemingly irrational ways. And The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz is a surprisingly good book on male violence (and not just against women).
Reading the first 3 Earthsea books, I couldn't understand why some people called Le Guin a "feminist writer." In Tehanu this finally comes across clearly - and it works very well. I love that each of the Earthsea books is very different, and this one certainly takes fantasy novels in a new direction. Dealing with your own weaknesses and other people's ignorance and fear in daily life can take far more courage and perseverance than any heroic quest. Honestly, the feminism of this book is no different from themes that are found in all her other books: no matter what status or power you have, it's important to have respect for people, maintain balance in your actions, and not rely excessively on force.
I'm not sure what to make of the ending, which doesn't tie up some loose ends... but then that's sort of her point, right? Things are never neat and tidy. Life is complex; life goes on.
As usual with Le Guin's books, the flow of the plot is not the strong point. It's more about the sum of experiences and discussions that the characterAs usual with Le Guin's books, the flow of the plot is not the strong point. It's more about the sum of experiences and discussions that the characters have, if that makes any sense. So although this one has a more hackneyed plot than any other book of hers I've read, there are (as usual) quite a few really nice moments and deep insights. She spins out some more thoughts about balance and equilibrium, continuing the conversation from A Wizard of Earthsea. Here, Earthsea is being overrun by greyness and utter lack of joy or courage or conviction. Sparrowhawk goes out to find the problem, but he's getting old, so naturally the philosophical bits tend to deal with balancing life and death, finding a successor to carry on the fight, knowing the value of your own life, etc.
In particular, I liked some things she said about life and death and rebirth, seeming to imply that the reason we value and enjoy life is that we know our time will run out and we will die. If we were immortal, would we really say, "Ah, now I can finally have time to do all those things I should do and the things I've wanted to do"? I worry that I would instead say, "Ah, now I don't have to feel guilty about sitting on the couch reading trashy fantasy novels all day because I know that I'll have all the time in the world to do everything I want to do... later." And then perhaps I'd sink into greyness and never do anything interesting again. Knowledge of our mortality (and, for that matter, deadlines in general) is what keeps us moving, acting, living.
Of course, that's not the whole story. I know that my parents left Communist Poland because greyness can also arise from a system with no outlets for individual passion and ambition (beyond pandering to the rulers). If you'll get rewarded the same no matter how hard you work, there's no reason to work hard. This'll kill any desire to take pride in your work, without which nothing good can really be done. Le Guin points this out as well: "For discipline is the channel in which our acts run strong and deep; where there is no direction, the deeds of men run shallow and wander and are wasted."
Sure, I'm reading into it things that perhaps she didn't explicitly mean. But in that case, the fact that it got me thinking makes it a pretty good book, doesn't it?
There were a few excellent sections on the ways in which Copernicus' De Revolutionibus was accepted, understood, interpreted, etc. by astronomers andThere were a few excellent sections on the ways in which Copernicus' De Revolutionibus was accepted, understood, interpreted, etc. by astronomers and the Church. I wish those chapters were organized and tied together in a more cohesive way, so that someone interested in understanding the context and effects of Copernicus' book could just read those sections. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the book is a set of unconnected anecdotes about the author's search for copies of De Revolutionibus. Some of them are interesting, but in many ways they detract from the history-of-astronomy aspects. (Conversely, people who read this book because they love tracking down old books will probably find the astronomy distracting.)...more