Enjoyable, but forgettable. The premise for this novel is great, but unfortunately the writing is a bit hit or miss. It's not terrible, especially forEnjoyable, but forgettable. The premise for this novel is great, but unfortunately the writing is a bit hit or miss. It's not terrible, especially for a first book, but it did detract from the overall effect. While some of the characters are spot on, others feel forced and disappointingly artificial.
Overall, I simply wanted more from this book. The concept and the characters are exciting and innovative, but the novel as a whole fell a little flat.
I will offer accolades for a realistic portrayal of programming in fiction. Unlike many authors, Stephens clearly has some experience with the subject. Printing source code and reading it in hard copy may be rather exceptional, but considering I've done it once or twice myself, I can't be overly critical!
I cannot be as positive about the Brilliance Audio narration. I've seen people rave about it, and the pace and clarity were excellent. Luke Daniels does a great job in the narration, but while he manages to give each character a unique voice, some of them were extremely distracting. His interpretation of Foster constantly sounded like a buffoon, and Katarina was a complete brat. I felt that one of the strengths of the novel was its multi-layered characters, and this performance undermined that....more
I'm surprised to say that this was the worst book I've ever (tried to) read. I've read some pretty bad books in my day, but they almost always have onI'm surprised to say that this was the worst book I've ever (tried to) read. I've read some pretty bad books in my day, but they almost always have one or two redeeming qualities, and I'm not one to give up on a book without finishing. This is the first exception.
I simply could not bring myself to keep reading this. I found Doyle's writing style to be unnecessarily complicated, and I had to stop and study almost every sentence one by one. After investing all of that work, I was disheartened to realize that he was essentially saying the same thing over and over in ridiculously verbose language. I pushed myself through the first few pieces, but I just couldn't keep going. Perhaps I missed some worthwhile gems later in the book, but if so, I question the editing.
I was honestly surprised to learn that Doyle is a regular columnist. His writing reminded me of the sermons of a small-town clergyman, repeating his message over and over in different language, so that even if you doze off for ten minutes, you don't really miss anything. Unfortunately, if you actually stop and pay attention to the entirety, the insight of the message falls far short of the effort invested in repeating it....more
An insightful description of human nature, society, and Christianity/Catholocism.
At times difficult to read, Miller's prose attempts to mimic the stylAn insightful description of human nature, society, and Christianity/Catholocism.
At times difficult to read, Miller's prose attempts to mimic the stylistic trappings of a historical religious text while telling a story of mankind's possible future. The frequent use of Latin and artistically long run-on sentences add to the flavor of the book but also create stumbling blocks and encourage a habit of skimming the text. I'm honestly torn on this point. I enjoy the anachronism and historical repetition, but I wish the novel was more accessible to people less willing to struggle with the language.
My other issue is that the plot feels decidedly dated. It was obviously written during the height of nuclear paranoia, and half a century later, we have not only managed to stave off this disaster but also to work towards disarmament. Rather than increasing, the tension between nuclear powers seems to have lessened over time, rendering the moral point somewhat moot.
However, though Miller's view of future technology is also dated, I found it charming. A world full of robot cars and interstellar space travel still uses teletype displays and flickering VHF broadcast signals. I continuously chuckled at the juxtaposition of fantastic futuristic ideas with outdated technology.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I'm left with some questions, and I'm not entirely sure I understood all of Miller's underlying intents....more
Although it's still technically science fiction, I felt like the book was really a discussion of philosophy, and I was impressed withI loved Anathem.
Although it's still technically science fiction, I felt like the book was really a discussion of philosophy, and I was impressed with how well Stephenson blended the philosophical questions and discussions into the story. I read Sophie's World when I was a teenager, and because I realized so much of it passed over my head back then, I've kept it on my shelf waiting for a re-read ever since. I don't know if it's a question of delivery or of experience, but I picked up much more from Anathem.
Before I picked it up, I had heard some criticism about the book's pervasive made-up vocabulary, and some people called it distracting. At first it was, but after a few chapters I got used to it. Since most of the words have recognizable roots, by the end of the novel I was never quite sure (until I looked them up) if some words were actually made up. I felt that the replacement words for certain things that clearly have Earth parallels helps remind readers that this is a different cosmos. This subtly frees them from their contextual biases or preconceptions that could distract from the book's theoretical discussions....more
I picked this up because I love reading fictional books about computers and programming. I was hesitant after reading the description, because while tI picked this up because I love reading fictional books about computers and programming. I was hesitant after reading the description, because while the programming and politics sounded interesting, I wasn't sure about the fantasy twist.
I'm very glad I gave the book a chance, because once I found my way into the story, I loved it. The fantasy aspect reminded me of Neverwhere, building a complicated parallel world hidden within reality. As the characters discover this hidden world, the book elicits that delightful sense of wonder one feels as Richard Mayhew finds himself London Below or Harry Potter first enters Diagon Alley.
The first half of the novel's plot follows an adventure-style quest or treasure hunt format, which is a narrative pattern I particularly love. Once the tale's mysteries have unfolded, the story changes slightly, but the investment in the characters and their outcome should keep even a more distracted reader's interest through the rest of the book.
As for the programming, Wilson does a fair job. For the most part, the technology references don't sound forced, and a few references are rather clever. The descriptions of the programming process itself (which plays a significant role in the story) is understandably (if disappointingly) metaphoric. Programming simply isn't an activity that's exciting to observe, forcing film and fiction to create more artistic representations.
Overall, the book was an engaging adventure with enough substance and setting to create a very rewarding read....more
For the first half of this book, I would have called it "hippie dystopia." The "Make Love Not War" message came on a bit too strong at times (Did sheFor the first half of this book, I would have called it "hippie dystopia." The "Make Love Not War" message came on a bit too strong at times (Did she really need to mention the need for temporary sterility in the youth halls? And does "close communion" mean what I think it means?), but like most dystopian societies (and cults) the happy world of Green Sky is not as joyful as it seems.
Like many others I played the video game (on my grandmother's Apple II) and love the treetop world of Green Sky. I was around 8 years old when I found the novel on the shelf of the library, and I eagerly checked it out to have another chance to explore the world I loved from the game. Unfortunately, I never made it past the first chapter. The book went back to the library unread. As an 8-year-old girl, I always played as Pomma and spent hours exploring the branches of the trees more than following the quest. The book took too long to get to its descriptions of Green Sky, and I was too young to understand Raamo's angst.
Twenty-five years later I picked up the novel once more. This time it was a return to the world I'd loved as a child, and as the story unfolded my favorite game began to make more sense.
Considering the book from a less sentimental perspective, with the popularity of YA dystopia, it suddenly seems almost contemporary. The writing style is slightly dated as the children's and YA mediums have matured in the last few decades. Judging by my 8-year-old reaction, this book would have made a better YA novel than a children's book, and could have benefited from a bit more description and fleshing out of the details. However, I feel like it would still make a good dystopian book for anyone who felt that current YA selections are a bit too graphic for younger readers.
The ending is not much of an ending and seems more like a milestone in a longer novel, so I suppose I will have to pick up the next two to finish the story. And I have to admit that I look forward to returning to Green Sky a few more times....more
More of a discussion of religious theory than a traditional science fiction novel, this book explores questions of morality and the responsibility ofMore of a discussion of religious theory than a traditional science fiction novel, this book explores questions of morality and the responsibility of "intelligent life." Its opening, describing the Grassan nobility and aristocratic hunting culture are a bit misleading as the book quickly turns inward, focusing more on the character of Marjorie and her inner conflict. Tepper uses the flexibility of the science fiction setting to construct a stage on which her theological drama unfolds....more
A simple and quick read that provides a modern look at Islam from a younger point of view. Beyond theology the book focuses more on the issues that faA simple and quick read that provides a modern look at Islam from a younger point of view. Beyond theology the book focuses more on the issues that face young Muslim women in today's society. While the plot does include a few clichés, it challenges a few others, making it overall a very unique YA novel and a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the thoughts that go on beneath the veil.
Rather than reading Amal's inner dialogue as preachy, I interpreted it instead as an explanation of the will-power and self-convincing that it takes her to stick to her decision. I will, however, acknowledge that much of the book falls on the cheesy side of "feel-good," and Amal's relationship with her mother is a bit far-fetched swinging from one extreme (the girlfriend-style confidantes who shop together) to the other (the "I hate you, and you're ruining my life" accusations of teen stereotype).
I love the idea of this novel, and I was willing to overlook a few weaknesses in the writing in favor of enjoying the opportunity to take a look into Amal's life as a modern young Muslim....more
When I read Ender's Game I found that although I enjoyed the story that takes place at Battle School, I enjoyed the events at the end of the book evenWhen I read Ender's Game I found that although I enjoyed the story that takes place at Battle School, I enjoyed the events at the end of the book even more. How did Ender deal with what had happened? How did the human race as a whole react to the events? These philosophical and anthropological questions entertained me even more than the tale of the gifted child.
And so I was not surprised that I liked Speaker for the Dead even more. If you liked Ender for the action or the tactics, you will probably be disappointed with Speaker. The second book is more subtle, questioning the definitions of "intelligent life" and how best to engage and interact with a new and different species. It discusses religion and questioning beliefs. Rather than just the continuation of the story of Ender, this is the story of a family, a community, and even an entire species....more
Although Lamming's book is described as a novel, it seems to be more a collection of short stories. Each chapter is told as a first-person narrative bAlthough Lamming's book is described as a novel, it seems to be more a collection of short stories. Each chapter is told as a first-person narrative by a woman in the Bible who is generally overshadowed by her male family members, and reveals an insightful and distinctly feminine perspective on the traditional stories. The book begins with Eve, describing the terrifying flight from Eden, and continues through both the old and new testaments. Among the narrators are Moses' adoptive Egyptian mother, Lot's wife, Sarah the wife of Abraham, Martha the sister of Lazarus, and the wife of Pontius Pilate. In each case, the women discuss the emotions, reactions, and motivations of the famous Biblical episodes in which they appear. Through their well-crafted voices they provide a fresh, unique look at these familiar tales.
What struck me most about the book was the haunting way in which the stories are told. In each case, the woman is speaking directly to a friend or relative, who always remains silent and unseen. In some cases, the speaker's narrative is periodically interrupted by household concerns, which lends an extra note of realism to the setting, but can also be a bit confusing as the speaker jumps back and forth between her past and her present.
Another point of confusion to some readers is that Lamming assumes her audience already knows the stories as they're written in the Bible. In her retelling, she makes direct references to the original stories but doesn't explicitly summarize them. While this may be awkward for someone who isn't familiar with the originals, it creates a much more realistic voice for the characters as they're not forced into recounting a history that their unseen listener would already know. It also builds a level of rapport with the modern audience, who can easily slip in and take the place of the characters' companions, mentally nodding in recognition as the storyteller makes references to her past.
The only criticism I have of the book is that a few of the stories felt a little too long and drawn out. A few times this made it hard to push on and keep reading, and I personally think the collection would have been made stronger by shortening the longer chapters and making up the length by including a few more women....more
I enjoyed this novel for its wonderful descriptions of the harem and women's court in its Near-Eastern setting, and the book gives life to its base stI enjoyed this novel for its wonderful descriptions of the harem and women's court in its Near-Eastern setting, and the book gives life to its base story. However, I felt that the pacing of the plot was a bit off and the ending seemed rushed and anticlimactic....more
I'm amending my earlier review, because I have since realized at least one aspect of the novel that I missed before and that gave me more respect forI'm amending my earlier review, because I have since realized at least one aspect of the novel that I missed before and that gave me more respect for the book.
I wish I had read this in the environment of a literature course where I could have been pointed to some of the nuances and layers without having to flounder around and find them for myself. On the surface, there isn't that much to recommend The Handmaid's Tale over other modern dystopian classics like A Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451. ...unless you're a raging feminist... It's possible (nay likely) that all three of these have a subtle net of complex subtext and clever ideas woven through them, but the fact that I was able to pick up on at least one of them raises the novel a notch in my opinion.
I am a bit of a post-feminist, and I feel like this novel is pretty much beating you over the head with the feminist stick, but given its original date of publication, this really just makes it a bit dated in the same way that we feel we've slightly outgrown parts of 1984.
I think that people react strongly to their first loved dystopian novel in a way that will never be repeated. It's that moment when you read a book that questions society's future and you say, "Oh my! What if this really happened?!" For me that was A Brave New World back in high school, which opened my eyes to an alternate world view (in a realistic and frightening way that didn't involve a parable of barnyard animals). I imagine that The Handmaid's Tale fills the same space in many other readers' hearts. Which is better? I don't know. Perhaps it's time to re-read Huxley. However, there's still something about the hype that The Handmaid's Tale just didn't quite live up to....more