Tentative 4 stars.. might change in retrospect. Content note for scenes of graphic violence.
The point of this book are the moral questions. Not only whTentative 4 stars.. might change in retrospect. Content note for scenes of graphic violence.
The point of this book are the moral questions. Not only what if sin was visible? but what if the visible mark of sin could be hidden.. for a price? not to mention The poor working folk are clearly sinful and so deserve their place in life... and a good thing too because what would the gentry do without them?
I liked the setup and social/structural elements better than the interpersonal elements, for the most part, although I can see that literarily, one needed both. The scenes of graphic violence were not gratuitous but used to depict the depths of evil, but I would be unable to read this in an audio format where I couldn't skim over them.
The most disappointing piece is that (view spoiler)[although one of the major plot drivers in the early part of the book is uncovering evidence that the Smoke did not in fact always exist, and that books including the Bible have been edited to make it seem otherwise... this point is basically abandoned. We never find out where it came from, and the conflict in the book is between people who want to preserve the hypocritical status quo, and the people who want to embrace the Smoke as intrinsic to living a rich human life. (hide spoiler)]...more
I liked the story, most of the characters, the period details, the fact that we had likable viewpoint charactI liked it, but not quite 4 stars worth.
I liked the story, most of the characters, the period details, the fact that we had likable viewpoint characters on both sides. Got a little tired of the Spanish/Catholics being *such* the bad guys after a while, even tho it made perfect sense in the context of the story. The climactic scene (view spoiler)[, specifically the epilogue of the Boudicca play that invites/challenges/sparks the uprising, (hide spoiler)] was excellent & will stay with me.
I don't know the work of Shakespeare (or his contemporaries) well enough to fully appreciate the degree to which quotations from those works were incorporated in this book, sometimes directly, sometimes appropriately riffed. If I did, that would likely have been enough fun to push it up to four stars....more
This is in large part a novel about hermeneutics, although the word is never used: how do you read a sacred text, how interpretation depends on all kiThis is in large part a novel about hermeneutics, although the word is never used: how do you read a sacred text, how interpretation depends on all kinds of context (immediate, global, canonical, sociocultural), and -- most interesting -- how it is possible for a community to profoundly reinterpret its sacred texts in a way that moves from violence to peace, from a literal to a spiritual reading. The community, in this case, is an artificially recreated Mayan community; there's a similarly artificial Tamil community, but the themes are stronger in the case of the Mayans.
Oh, there's a plot, too, and it's a pretty good one (except for the cluelessness of the main character who is completely oblivious that (view spoiler)[his wife is having an affair, even though it is constantly telegraphed by everyone around him (hide spoiler)]). But the real draw for me is the religious theme, and the beauty with which both cultures are portrayed.
In addition to hermeneutics, we see a prophet being made; discerning his message; spreading his message; learning to live according to his message; and being rejected, (view spoiler)[not so much by his community, but by one man who cannot get past his personal hurt and so condemns the whole world to annihilation (hide spoiler)]. Good stuff....more
This is the book that redeems all the books I've slogged through just because my book group was reading them. Because I slogged through this one, too,This is the book that redeems all the books I've slogged through just because my book group was reading them. Because I slogged through this one, too, but it was worth it.
For the most part, I did not enjoy reading it. The beginning, with the neo-Shakers, was interesting and caught my attention; but our heroine leaves home relatively early, and there's a long section in the middle there where things get weird -- like, drug-trippy weird; and even though it's not drugs and there is a science fictional and integral-to-the-story reason for it, it felt a lot like the 70s New Wave SF that was heavily into drugs, which I actively disliked.
But when I was about 60% of the way through, I suddenly realized I was engaged with the story; I cared about the character; and I wanted to see how things would work out.
The book is at once a hero's journey, a coming-of-age story, a post-apocalypse story, a druggie vision quest story, and a story with some very interesting science fictional ideas, and I think it suffered by trying to do all of this at once. It also uses a storytelling strategy in which neither the viewpoint character nor the readers have any idea what is really going on, and everything is bewildering and confusing until gradually, in flashbacks, things start to become clear: in other words, the story is told backwards for much of the book. This seems to be an increasingly popular storytelling strategy which I find increasingly annoying, and I think I finally became engaged when I did because by that point I finally had enough of the backstory to start caring. I will say that the flashbacks are presented in a way that is perfectly integrated into the plot, which isn't always the case.
There were a lot of allusions to literature, music, and drama - I'm sure most of that went over my head as I'm not well enough read in the humanities. I suspect too that the author was deliberately attempting a literary version of jazz in this story, and I don't actually like jazz very much, which probably contributed to the slogging. A significant theme in the book was the relationship between life and art, and the temptation to value art more than life; this reminded me of School of Light, although it's treated much more lightly (ahem) in that book.
There were also a lot of beautifully written sentences and paragraphs -- I kindle-highlighted a *lot* of passages in this book -- which makes me believe that the slogging was the result of an intentional stylistic choice that I don't enjoy, rather than an inability to write; and makes me want to read more by this author. Probably even the next book in this series, although not for a while yet: this one needs time to settle. It will be interesting to see if I like the "Blues" better than I did the "Jazz".
My biggest peeve: although the protagonist is a young woman, and although there are several other important women characters in the book, most of them turn out to be (view spoiler)[proxies for either the mother, or the wife, of the man whose fault everything is, and a great deal of time is spent on his relationships with them. So for a book with so many women, it weirdly feels like it's actually all about this one guy, his mom, and his girlfriend. Ugh. (hide spoiler)]
There are some good meaty themes here, and some original ideas, both of which were interesting to read about and to think about. Despite how little I enjoyed reading this book, I'm extremely happy to have read it....more
Three+ stars, almost four. (Terrible title, though: ignore the title, read the synopsis & reviews.)
This was a pretty absorbing/engaging read, andThree+ stars, almost four. (Terrible title, though: ignore the title, read the synopsis & reviews.)
This was a pretty absorbing/engaging read, and the setting was very rich. There's the overall culture on earth, the splintering of the nations + the amalgamation of the corporations + the major & minor religions*; the technology, orbital mechanics, and social culture of the space stations; the culture of the acting troupes (mainly Stanislaus Troupe but others as well); the culture of the faith-healing compound.
((*Pro tip: if you're describing the state of global Christian religions, don't forget the Orthodox East!))
Then there's the personal relationship dynamics: within and around Stanislaus Troupe; within the faith-healing family; among the corp-religion handlers. And all the political and personal intrigue.
Then there are the deeply explored themes of embodiment, life, death, living, dying, and killing; with interlocking themes of love, loyalty, and betrayal. This is really what the book is about. Is living as a brain in a box really living? If you want to die, should you be forced to go on living? How do parents, children, spouses, siblings love each other? When does love turn to something else? How many forms of betrayal are there?
Really, this was a very good book. Only two things kept me from giving it four stars: 1) one of the main characters, Glynn, spends too much time being too whiny for me -- not that this was unrealistic for a 15yo boy in his situation, just that it got on my nerves. 2) one of the characters has an extremely idiosyncratic speech pattern that is as much or more about playing with sounds and repetition as it is about conveying meaning. (Greeno does something very similar with the speech of the ghatti in her other books (starting with Finders-Seekers). It's a very recognizable quirk, and if the character had remained marginal with relatively infrequent dialogue, I would have appreciated it. But she became a sufficiently significant character that talks a lot, and again, it just got on my nerves.
I was especially intrigued by the Little Sisters of Mortality, a Nuevo Catholic religious order of assassins.
Some of the exposition in the beginning was a bit clunky, but it wasn't too bad, and sometimes was slightly clever.
I liked Greeno's ghatti books, but they have a fairly standard fantasy feel. This book was stronger. I think she writes better SF than fantasy, and I'd like to see her write more of it.
I really enjoyed this! Interesting magic system, interesting moral themes both implicit and explicitly discussed -- it's not often you get to hear a dI really enjoyed this! Interesting magic system, interesting moral themes both implicit and explicitly discussed -- it's not often you get to hear a discussion between an atheist and a theist in a fantasy novel! Sympathetic characters, especially Shallan and Kaladin, whose stories really stood out.
Nice graphic touch: Shallan is an artist, and the chapters told from her perspective have a facing page that looks like a page from her sketchbook, with drawings and handwritten notes. (I just wish her handwriting were a bit clearer and larger!) I don't usually care for art in my books, but this was very well done & enhanced the book.
This was a very hard book to rate. I really disliked the beginning, but really liked it by the end. I hated all the graphic violence, which I did notThis was a very hard book to rate. I really disliked the beginning, but really liked it by the end. I hated all the graphic violence, which I did not read but leafed through. Ugh. If it had not been for my book group, I would not have finished this book.
But. By the last, hm, third? of the book, I was thoroughly engaged. I cared about the characters. I was drawn in by the profound moral quandaries in which the various characters found themselves, and their various responses.
I really, really liked the portrayal of Anna, one of the viewpoint characters who is a Methodist minister on the ship. (Well, I liked the portrayal in the latter part of the book; at the beginning, I not only didn't care that much about her, but mixed her up with another strong woman character in the earlier book.)
How often do we get a nuanced, positive portrayal of a clergyperson who is deeply serious, not only about how she lives out her faith, but about how she tends her flock? Anna's flock isn't neatly presented to her in a church congregation; she hasn't been called by a church, she's been tapped by the UN to go on a symbolic "let's go to this scary dangerous completely alien thing and Speak Meaningfully About It", along with a bunch of other religious types and a bunch of artists. It's the kind of thing our society does, turning to religion and art only to comment on Meaning and only when convenient. But Anna's flock sure enough calls her, by ones, or twos, or small groups: and she is profoundly faithful to them and to the core values of her faith.
I liked the funky alien physics control, too. And there were a bunch of good witty lines in various contexts. And some interesting plot twists and tangles. But it's the morality drama and the character of Anna that makes the book for me....more
Like The Fire's Stone, with which I have this bound in a double edition, this book has a terrible title that doesn't convey what the story is about, aLike The Fire's Stone, with which I have this bound in a double edition, this book has a terrible title that doesn't convey what the story is about, and I always forget about it after I've put it back on the shelf.
The main characters are a young woman who is mentally disabled, and also sees and interacts with the fey creatures in the world; and a young man who is a musician, presently a busker, and otherwise drifting a bit aimlessly through life, at least by modern standards. These two who don't fit very well into the modern world, the Innocent and the Bard, are drawn into a story of light and darkness, a battle to save the world from evil, with help from a representative of the Light (an angel, but not the kind with wings) and other beings both ordinary and otherwise. The fantastic elements are extremely well integrated into the modern setting, which lends a nicely surreal tinge to the story for the readers as well as the characters (for whom it's more than just a tinge surreal!).
What a delightful read this was: just the thing to lift the spirits.
Like the Mrs. Pollifax novels, this has a good deal of light fluffy playfulness,What a delightful read this was: just the thing to lift the spirits.
Like the Mrs. Pollifax novels, this has a good deal of light fluffy playfulness, even silliness in it. But this is playfulness that's grounded in something not at all silly underneath. Sister John is an inspiration, and so is Sister Hyacinthe in her own way. I'd love to read more about the Sisters of St. Tabitha.
I especially liked (mild spoiler)(view spoiler)[Sister John's delighted encounter with one of the "new nuns," as well as the intensity with which she took up the cause of the migrant workers (hide spoiler)] - particularly in light of recent controversies about nuns in habits or on buses.
What a gem. This goes on the "good stuff" shelf of my bookcase....more
Three and a half stars. I liked the world, I liked the religion, I liked the dragons, I liked the music, I liked Seraphina... but she kept doing thingThree and a half stars. I liked the world, I liked the religion, I liked the dragons, I liked the music, I liked Seraphina... but she kept doing things that were oh-my-gosh-dumb, which was distracting and annoying.
I was enthusiastic enough when I finished it to look for the sequel right away, and was annoyed it wasn't out yet. So I think the flaws were mostly outweighed while I was immersed in the book. ...more
A pleasant journey through the second century Roman empire, as seen through the eyes of its Christian inhabitants, by a reliable guide whose life's woA pleasant journey through the second century Roman empire, as seen through the eyes of its Christian inhabitants, by a reliable guide whose life's work is the serious study of the subject. Students of the era will enjoy recognizing persons, surviving texts, and the various Christian movements of the time; those who are unfamiliar but curious to learn more will find helpful pointers in the author's endnotes, which also provides a dramatis personae clearly indicating which characters were historical and which fictional. I only wish that my Kindle edition had included a link to the appropriate note at the end of each chapter, as I would have enjoyed reading this material as I went along.
The plot was a bit thin, but it mainly serves to drive the exploration of the setting, which is the real point. The main characters were a bit flat, and their dialogue tended to be overly earnest: though whether this is due to a lack of skill in the author, or a lack of cultural competence in this 21st century reader, I couldn't say. But Justin's quandary of what to do when faced with scrolls containing variant readings of the gospels, additional gospels outside the four that he knows, and his struggles to discern how to most faithfully carry out his vocation as a scribe in the face of these challenges have a genuine ring.
Eighteen centuries later, our approach to these varying surviving texts, both in and out of the canon, tends to be systematic and somewhat abstract. It had never occurred to me to wonder what a scribe of a church who had preserved one textual tradition would do when faced with another. The Scribes gives this abstract issue a human face, and is the hidden prize of this little book....more
I was disappointed in this - I was quite looking forward to it because of the historical setting charged with religious complexity. But, although theI was disappointed in this - I was quite looking forward to it because of the historical setting charged with religious complexity. But, although the background bits were great, I never cared that much for any of the characters. And I didn't like the ending.
I might try the next one from the library, in hopes that the characters will develop in more interesting ways. But I don't have high hopes....more
Rereading this since taking early church history last semester, I keep getting distracted by trying to map Kay's variant races, religions, races, persRereading this since taking early church history last semester, I keep getting distracted by trying to map Kay's variant races, religions, races, persons, and events onto real history - it was less of a problem the first time I read it!
This time, I'm again appreciating the beautiful articulation of art and beauty through the eyes of an artist, and additionally appreciating the witty turns of phrase. ...more