After a devastating war with an alien race referred to as buggers, mankind is in search of brilliant commanders to lead the next assault; Ender is on After a devastating war with an alien race referred to as buggers, mankind is in search of brilliant commanders to lead the next assault; Ender is one gifted six-year-old boy selected for Battle School, where he is trained to be mankind's only hope in war. The novel is intelligent, both in concept and in plot: the science-fiction elements, both in alien race creation and inventions such as Ender's games, are contentiously created with a rational explanation and useful purpose. The young children that make up the bulk of the characters are exceptionally gifted, and so sometimes read too much like grown adults--but Ender's development in particular takes into account his young age. The end of the novel comes as no surprise, but that failing is an unavoidable consequence of the way the plot is scripted. This is a famous, innovative, accessible text, and I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
Ender's Game is a classic text of the sci-fi genre, and when reading it it's easy to see why. The science is existent and well-developed, but seamlessly integrated into the course of the story. The text is well-paced and accessible--almost too accessible and, by the end, too completely explained and laid out--but as a result, the core philosophical issues of the book are openly and honestly presented. I found myself thinking about this book for days after I had finished reading it, and went on to pick up the sequel. To me, that's a sign of a good novel--one that captures the reader during the reading of the text, and continues to provoke his thought after the final pages. I highly recommend the book, even with its faults, and I was happy to have the chance to read it.
(The author's a horrible human being, of course, but we know that.)...more
The two Dashwood sisters have opposing temperaments: Elinor is practical and logical, the epitome of sense; her sister, emotional and sentimental, isThe two Dashwood sisters have opposing temperaments: Elinor is practical and logical, the epitome of sense; her sister, emotional and sentimental, is the embodiment of sensibility. Both fall in love and both are disappointed, and it is only by understanding and changing their natures that they are able to resolve circumstances and find happiness in love. Told with dry, sarcastic wit and a touch of emotion but failing to create true suspense or sympathy, Sense and Sensibility is the second-class cousin of Pride and Prejudice. It is a short and entertaining read, but I'm not left with a strong impression or any desire to reread it in the future.
The writing style is a delight in this book: primarily, the text is a satire and reflection of the times and manages to mock and discuss them in subtle but humorous, dry and cutting language. The satire works well. The book both disparages society: the sudden nature of love, marrying for money, gossip, women, men, social stasis, and wealth are all introduced in straightforward language with slight exaggerations of event and character. The dryness prevents the text from becoming foolish or easy to push aside while the exaggeration proves the point and keeps things interesting. In the end, Austen seems to both ridicule and fondly embrace the mores and customs of her society, and the commentary really is interesting to read.
However, unlike Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility does not create emotional connections or a lasting impact. The strength is in the satire, but the rest of the text is week: the plot is dry, the twists sudden and cliche, and the romances are too satirical to be truly emotional. As a result, this isn't a book that creates fond memories or favorite characters. It's enjoyable, but it's impact is minimal....more
After an genetic apocalypse that has wiped out the human race, a man who calls himself Snowman watches over a band of genetically-modified humans. HeAfter an genetic apocalypse that has wiped out the human race, a man who calls himself Snowman watches over a band of genetically-modified humans. He is running out of supplies, and so he makes the decision to leave his treetop camp and trek across the jungle wasteland of a town in search of supplies. As he journeys, he thinks back to his childhood, his friend Crake, his lover Oryx, and the civilization and sequence of events that lead up to the apocalypse. The flashbacks and the current story come together when Snowman makes it to Crake's laboratory, the Paradice Project. A book of inventive, logical fictional science, Oryx and Crake is a gripping, engrossing, and though-provoking read. Atwood's analysis of human nature and society's future is incredibly realistic and unsettling, her exploration of genetic engineering is based in science and is similarly unsettling, and these concepts are told in a witty, dark writing style and surrounded by complex and realistic characters all with their own stories. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
This is the third book by Atwood that I've read, and I was surprised and greatly impressed by it. She has always been an accomplished writer, but Oryx and Crake shows maturity combined with innate talent. The concurrent plotlines, one of Snowman's journey, one of his childhood and the events that lead up to the apocalypse, are interwoven in a way that adds depth to both and keeps the story engaging and fast-paced without cheap tricks or excessive cliff-hangers. The characters of Snowman, Oryx, and Crake reveal themselves gradually, exposing realistic depth and back story, and each is fascinating, attractive, and sympathetic in an individual way. The science behind the genetically-centered plot is intelligent and obviously based in research: this is fictional science more than pure science fiction. Finally, the social commentary in Oryx and Crake makes this book as relivant as Atwood's most famous novel, The Handmaid's Tale. All in all, it is a skillfully composed, intelligent, engrossing novel.
My only complaint is that, based on such an original idea and running into concurrent plotlines, the final resolution of the book seems a little mundane and anti-climatic. Obviously I can't talk about the ending in detail without running the story, but sufficed to say the explanation of the apocalypse and Snowman's involvement in the events that lead up to it all comes down to a fairly simple explanation as far as the facts go. With an entire book's worth of build up and so much mystery and unfolding in the plotlines, this ending seems a bit fast and doesn't have the impact that the reader hopes for. However, Atwood does leave enough unfinished ideas, including Crake's motives throughout the book and Snowman's eventual fate, to keep the end of the book sufficiently complex. By leaving questions and putting the events of the plot in a greater, post-apocalyptic context, the simple and explainable ending to the book feels less disappointing or limited.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to all readers, and I look forward to rereading it myself. I think it will appeal to science fiction fans and general fiction fans equally: while science fiction is an important aspect, the writing style and characters stay strong throughout and make the book widely appealing and readable. This is a unique, thought-provoking, well researched and highly intelligent text, and it manages to grab and hold the reader's attention as well. I encourage you to pick up a copy....more
Revolution in Basawar reveals the terrifying power of John's true nature as The Rifter draws to a close. John's growth in this final third is, as muchRevolution in Basawar reveals the terrifying power of John's true nature as The Rifter draws to a close. John's growth in this final third is, as much of the series has been, a long, slow burn, but it's ultimately effective and the scale of both his power and the book's conclusion is epic and well-detailed. The relationship between the two protagonists is also more successful in this volume (perhaps thanks to the addition of sex scenes, perhaps simply because it's been so important for so long by this point). The Rifter has numerous flaws: it's one or two hundred pages too long, supporting characters vary in quality, the protagonists remain more compelling as individuals than they are in a relationship, the actual climax fails to be as memorable as John's apocalyptic abilities, and the bridge that unites the two Basawars is sometimes simplistic and sometimes sketchy. But the series ends with the same satisfying cohesion that has made it such a pleasure to read--it's a carefully developed story and world, imperfect but relentlessly engaging, and the author's love for her creation brings it to life. These aren't books I'll cherish, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and give them a solid recommendation. I will probably read more by Hale at a later date....more
John has created a secure, if uneasy, life for himself in Basawar, but change is coming that will link John's present with Basawar's tumultuous futur John has created a secure, if uneasy, life for himself in Basawar, but change is coming that will link John's present with Basawar's tumultuous future. These middle arcs have less worldbuilding and more plot than their predecessors, and Basawar feels more vibrant and alive as a result; the revelations of the plot aren't terribly complex, but they're satisfying. The Rifter has forethought without predictability, the sort of plotting which encourages theorizing without giving away all its secrets. The developing relationship between the protagonists is more transparent--despite the complexities of the characters and setting, the relationship has an underlying, nearly saccharine purity; the utter absence of sex scenes is glaring against the amount of detail everywhere else, and contributes to the sense that the central relationship lacks the depth and complexity of the world which surrounds it. But on the whole, the series continues to be a surprising success. It's overlong in places, strangely shallow in others, but always thoughtfully developed and engaging. I'll see it through to its end....more
A convicted murderer and pedophile receives letters from a young woman who is planning her first seduction of a child. The End of Alice is a self-awarA convicted murderer and pedophile receives letters from a young woman who is planning her first seduction of a child. The End of Alice is a self-aware successor to Nabokov's Lolita, but is in tone as grotesque as that book is seductive. This narrator is blatantly unreliable, but his conviction rarely wins the reader's sympathy--in large part because the narrative is a contrived trio of overlapping storylines which feels manufactured rather than immersive, especially in its overly neat conclusion; in short, for all of its excessive and dirty detail, the book never feels real. It's as compelling as a car crash and has the ingredients for success--the voice is strong, the themes thoughtful (though often problematic, especially while demonizing female sexual maturation), and it's carefully compiled. But there's more artistry than mastery here, and besides that it's joyless and horrible to read. I appreciate the attempt but find it unsuccessful, and don't recommend it....more
In the near future, humans, even children, communicate almost exclusively through computers; real world meetings are rare and state surveillance is coIn the near future, humans, even children, communicate almost exclusively through computers; real world meetings are rare and state surveillance is common. This should make murder nearly impossible, but the serial killings of Japanese youth catch the interest of a group of female students, their counselor, and a wayward policeman. This is a murder mystery with supernatural themes and an intelligently constructed futuristic setting; the intent is strong but the execution is poor. What Loups-Garous lacks is immersion, a willingness to throw the reader into the story despite the strange setting. The world is thoughtfully developed but over-explained; like Glukhovsky's Metro 2033, almost all dialog is appropriated for detailed worldbuilding, and the awkward translation makes this even more clumsy and unbelievable. The plot has a satisfying complexity, but it's padded by so much exposition that the book is frequently a slog; the climax has better pacing but a comically large scale. What Loups-Garous does well is intriguing and even haunting: its supernatural elements are largely metaphors but they're effective ones, finding the animal that lingers within mankind's hyper-industrialized, artificial world. But the book needs to trust the reader, cut out a hundred pages, and let the world--and its demons--speak for themselves. As it is, I appreciate the effort but don't recommend Loups-Garous....more
The strangest thing in John's life is his tattoo'd, knife-bearing roommate--until he opens his roommate's mail to find a key that unlocks a strange, The strangest thing in John's life is his tattoo'd, knife-bearing roommate--until he opens his roommate's mail to find a key that unlocks a strange, magical, dangerous world. The world of The Rifter is crafted with love: it's complex, robust, and unromanticized, and while I fail to find it particularly compelling it's undeniably real. But more worldbuilding that plot happens in The Shattered Gates, and though the book never drags the series promises to run a little too long. It's the dual narratives that make it worth reading: the protagonists have distinct characters, the alternating timelines give a broad view of the setting, and there's constant mystery and revelation as the two narratives begin to overlap. The Shattered Gates feels self-published--there's typos, stiff phrasing, and it could stand to lose a few hundred pages--but it's engaging and calling it "finely crafted" is something of an understatement. Whether I recommend it hinges on the rest of the series, but I'm enjoying it so far....more
In Prentisstown, all men's thoughts are broadcasted in a mess of public Noise and all the women are dead. But when Todd finds a strange pocket of spacIn Prentisstown, all men's thoughts are broadcasted in a mess of public Noise and all the women are dead. But when Todd finds a strange pocket of space without any Noise at all, he flees Prentisstown and discovers that the phenomenon of Noise is stranger and more dangerous than he knew. The Knife of Never Letting Go, like a lot of YA, has a good hook: surprisingly coherent, intriguing worldbuilding and a good initial pace that balances mystery, discovery, and action. But as the book progresses, it flounders. Revelations in the worldbuilding grow increasingly predictable, and both Noise and the society it creates have problematic gender issues; Ness clearly is trying to write commentary on them, but his commentary is insubstantial and his tropes are conventional, and the result puts heternormativity, gender essentialism, and sexism on display and then just lets them lie there to be viewed and then overlooked by a male point of view. The plot, meanwhile, grows tiresome; its themes, antagonists, and false sense of forward movement are almost comically repetitive, and the climax when it arrives is heavyhanded but, because of the cliffhanger end, offers no real closure. Again like a lot of YA, Knife is often compelling and, even given the stylistic strangeness, always readable--but in no ways good, despite initial appearances to the contrary. I don't recommend it, and don't plan to read the sequels...more
Young Zel and her mother live in near isolation far from the village--but when they go into town for market, Zel encounters a young man who her motherYoung Zel and her mother live in near isolation far from the village--but when they go into town for market, Zel encounters a young man who her mother feels they must protect themselves against. Zel is a dark, delicate retelling of Rapunzel. Napoli's voice is stylistic and poetic--it's unusual, even offputting, and it fails to be a convincing voice because it stays static even when the narrative headhops into first person, but the language is terse, beautiful, and evocative; this is a book for reading between the lines. The story doesn't stray far from the tale of Rapunzel as we know it, except that it delves painfully deep into emotional motivation and response. This is at odds with a sense of predestination that runs through the text: characters stick to the Rapunzel script as though following it rather than creating it, and it undermines their decisiveness. These flaws are visible but can't overwhelm the book's sparse, powerful, dark beauty; Zel has deceptive weight and it lingers in the mind. I recommend it, and will read more from Napoli some day....more
Two campers discover a vast chasm and a discarded journal that records the unusual, supernatural events of the house which used to reside there. The HTwo campers discover a vast chasm and a discarded journal that records the unusual, supernatural events of the house which used to reside there. The House on the Borderland is composed of fantastic disparate parts sewn together by perhaps too tenuous a thread. The individual parts are on their own evocative, from the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house besieged by monsters to the the dreamlike exploration of the house's long-distant fate; they're creative, striking, and vast in content although the atmosphere and language are both unremarkable. The plot which unites these episodes is sketchy at best, and while this prompts meaningful questions in the reader--how are these aspects connected, what themes unite them?--it also makes one long for coherency and perhaps a stronger sense of purpose. Otherwise the book has aged well; fans of its successors (Lovecraft noted Hodgson as an inspiration, but almost all speculative horror fiction draws from these roots) will find it accessible and resonant, despite the lack of coherent plot and some archaic stylistic trappings. It's a flawed book--or perhaps just an early one--but fascinating, and I recommend it....more
On Halloween night, a group of boys find themselves missing their leader, the most remarkable young Pipkin--and so, at the bidding of the ghastly MounOn Halloween night, a group of boys find themselves missing their leader, the most remarkable young Pipkin--and so, at the bidding of the ghastly Moundshroud, undertake a journey to discover the true meaning of Halloween and to rescue their friend. The Halloween Tree overlaps Bradbury's nostalgic and speculative writing, finding a home next to From the Dust Returned and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Its atmosphere is equally dark and magical, but its style is repetitive and twee with a cloying atmosphere of Americana; the result is a frenetic, creative, stylistically wearying book which frequently butchers aspects of Halloween which it intends to explore--the heart is there, the multicultural aspects are not. The Halloween Tree is a mixed bag, as is all Bradbury in this style: as much as I want to love it, I have no appetite for the nostalgia for the youthful white boys of middle America which overshadows the atmosphere of Halloween that Bradbury conjures with mixed success. Not one I personally enjoyed nor recommend.
"So much was going on that Tom said: 'My gosh, so much is going on!'"...more
Each of the Sparrow women has a gift--the power to detect a lie, to share someone else's dream, to know how someone will die. These gifts that have drEach of the Sparrow women has a gift--the power to detect a lie, to share someone else's dream, to know how someone will die. These gifts that have driven the family apart, but now that one threatens to land someone in jail three generations of Sparrow women reunite in their old family home. The Probable Future has a repetitive style and recurrent emotional themes; it's transparently written and at time almost artless, but in the end it works. This is precisely what I'd expect from Hoffman: a story about family and love, featuring multiple well-defined female protagonists but not straying far from the heteronormative mainstream, with a magical atmosphere tainted by excessive mundane detail, predictably plotted with overwritten but effective emotional arcs. It's unremarkable, and I don't recommend it, but it's a harmless distraction. ...more