**spoiler alert** This review includes some spoilers.
Hawkes Harbor is in the "redemption tale" subgenre of vampire stories; unlike most, though, we ha...more**spoiler alert** This review includes some spoilers.
Hawkes Harbor is in the "redemption tale" subgenre of vampire stories; unlike most, though, we have multiple characters needing different kinds of redemption.
We follow our protagonist, Jamie Sommers, from age six to the grave. The book is structured in 4 intercut timeframes:
1. Jamie in his late 30s during a stay in an insane asylum. Narrated by his psychiatrist.
2. Jamie as a young man working his way around the world as a sailor, smuggler, and general adventurer in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. Told to the psychiatrist in Jamie's more lucid moments.
3. Jamie living at Hawkes Harbor, a remote old mansion in a remote New England town. It is here, while hiding out from the results of his last sea adventure--one both profitable and tragic--that Jamie experiences the shock and subsequent decline that leads to his placement in the asylem. Told to the psychiatrist.
4. Jamie's life after he is discharged from the asylum and returns to Hawkes Harbor--back to the mansion and employer which caused his breakdown.
Events in any one timeframe are not presented in chronological order, so it can be a bit dizzying to read at first. Second readings are rewarding.
The action concerns Jamie coming to terms with his morality and his concept of human versus supernatural. Raised in a Catholic orphanage from age 6, he clearly remembers the priest confiscating an expensive crucifix his mother had given him--his "promise of heaven"--as donations to the church. After this, his faith in spiritual redemption is weak.
As a young man, Jamie travels the world in the company of an unscrupulous, but steadfast, friend; throughout the book he slowly reveals to his therapist how severe some of his crimes (and their punishments) were.
When Jamie finally breaks with his friend's ways (but not with their friendship) and goes to hide in Hawkes Harbor he accidentally awakens Mr Hawkes, the vampire who founded the town two hundred years before. Hawkes takes control of Jamie and sets about returning to his mansion and integrating himself into modern life. As his servant, Jamie is forced to help Hawkes commit atrocities and to protect a monster from discovery.
In a straightforward horror story, the climax of the book would come when Mr Hawkes, begins work on a ritual of some unknown purpose while Jamie becomes caught up in the kidnapping of a young girl from town. Her boyfriend, the son of the sherrif, is convinced Jamie has taken her. These events are destined, in any horror story, to clash in some way disasterous to the hero.
But the book is interested in what follows, Jamie's slow and painful recovery from the physical and psychological trauma that results, Mr Hawkes' and his doctor-accomplice's reactions to Jamie's return. Jamie and the doctor work to redeem Hawkes, Hawkes and the doctor have very different ideas on how to take care of Jamie, and the doctor's own villany slowly dawns on her.
The real climax of the book occurs when Jamie, Hawkes, and the doctor finally bring their tensions to a head.
The book returns to Jamie's lost promise of heaven and the fate of his sailor friend. The real story is the redemption--or lack of it--that Jamie, Hawkes, and the doctor can find for themselves and one another.
It's also a great read. Well worth re-reading, too. Five stars for the subtle and believable changes in the relationship between Jamie and Hawkes and how their individual morals change. The last bit of the last star is for not everyone getting everything they want and not everyone growing the same amount. Redemption isn't the same to all people. (less)
I gave this book 5 stars. - As science fiction it would get 2 - As philosophy it would get 1 (the world-view it argues for is much better discussed in...moreI gave this book 5 stars. - As science fiction it would get 2 - As philosophy it would get 1 (the world-view it argues for is much better discussed in other books--some of them even by RAW) - As humor it would get 3. Maybe 4 on a good day - As conspiracy theory it would get 4 - As research it doesn't even rate 1 - As a good guide to things to research for yourself, it's a solid 4 (great game: open to a random page and pick 5 things to look up in a library)
But it crosses the line on two things: * Cultural references that make points and explain things in the SF/geek/outcase/introvert subcultures. The Roberts nailed the experience of believing you're different and believing that what you want or experience is different and wanting to share it with the world. The terms and phrases that come out of this (fnord, illuminati, AUM, "You'll like it inside the apple," All Hail Discordia, Law of Fives, Aneristic Illusion, Paratheoanametamystichood, etc.) may not all be original, but they have built a part of a culture. Much like it's worth seeing Monty Python even if you don't "get" the humor to understand the "code."
It inspired two (excellent) card games and a wide variety of "bits" of other games, books, comics, and so forth.
* This book is one of the best tools for an adolescent or young adult (not YA--young adult) colonostickectomy. A young person hiding their creativity and trying to be "serious" so they can make it through life will get a huge amount of value from this book. You have to forgive them for believing the viewpoint for a few years and then you have to forgive them for rejecting it for a few. In the end, they'll probably come to a happy medium, but they'll always be gratefull for getting that damned uncomfortable thing out of their butt.
Oh yeah... the first 100 pages suck. Really. They're bad. But they're never referenced again (well, until the last 100 pages, which you really just skim looking for jokes), so skim them or skip them. You really don't need to start reading until the words "Egyptian Mouth-Breeder" appear on the page.
Actually, that might be the simplest and best review of all: You really don't need to start reading until the words "Egyptian Mouth-Breeder" appear on the page. (less)
This book doesn't need another review saying how great it is, so let me just add some observations about reading it.
It is easy to see this book as bei...moreThis book doesn't need another review saying how great it is, so let me just add some observations about reading it.
It is easy to see this book as being about Hinduism or Buddhism. I've read reviews here on Goodreads that analyze the book that way. Zelazny wasn't especially interested in either belief, though: Sam reinvents Buddhism not because he's a Buddhist, but because he believes it offers something necessary to the existing society and he believes that his current opponents can't predict or respond to it. Much of Zelazny's work is about the value of the individual and the value of the community and how to balance those. LoL is his greatest foray into that.
He also loved to touch on the moral issues of those with access to technology versus those without that access, whether that technology is science or magic, or even if that distinction is meaningful. This is a major theme in LoL. As always, Zelazny's heroes do good for society through the act of doing good for themselves. He didn't create (or trust) pure crusaders.
A key point in LoL is the relationship between friends, companions, enemies, and people who simply disagree. Alliances change throughout the book (especially when the two time frames are compared--the book employs a frame-story structure with an extensive end to the frame) and throughout the book Sam interacts with people he's opposed before, opposes now, or plans to oppose. These people are also his only link to his past and the only people on the planet who can understand his history. He knows that winning doesn't always have to mean defeating, another frequent Zelazny point.
There is also something of an atonement story in LoL; Sam sees himself as having made many mistakes that hurt people (and non-human creatures). The atonement is kept in the background, for the most part, but is an interesting aspect to watch for.
LoL covers a lot of the same ground as Creatures of Light and Darkness, but takes more time to explore the details the and implications outside of the culture of the "god-like." CoLaD is very much a YA book on the same general concepts as LoL.
This omnibus collects all 5 YA books in the Weetzie Bat series.
These are fabulous books, although not every book will appeal to every reader equally,...moreThis omnibus collects all 5 YA books in the Weetzie Bat series.
These are fabulous books, although not every book will appeal to every reader equally, of course. The stories follow Weetzie Bat (yes, that's her name) from high school through mid-to-late 20s as she and her beau and their assortment of bohemian, artsy friends grow up and make lives for themselves in and around Hollywood.
Throughout, Weetzie maintains a wild and magical view of the universe. Characters don't get names, they get descriptions and we're told that everyone calls them by that name, even outsiders and family. Her feller is called My Secret Agent Lover Man--by everyone--and one of her children (well, a stepchild to her) is called Witch Baby. The group of friends make movies and never mention other means of support. Wishes are granted, ghosts are appeased, and shamans summon the wind.
But these aren't magical realism. It's clear from the beginning that we're seeing the world through Weetzie's eyes as she magnifies everything for us and filters it through a Hollywood history of fantasy and archetype. Weetzie--and later, her children--shows us more about the characters' and events' impact on one another than their actual mundane behavior. It's a highly effective device in Block's hands.
The books are worth reading on their own. Each addresses typical YA themes: finding love and identity, being the outsider, etc., but doesn't sugar-coat the pain and compromises even though the world is technicolor and liable to break out into a Busby Berkeley number at any time. The book where Witch Baby visits New York City and tries to abandon her mother's fanciful influence is especially interesting.
Whether or not the YA stories appeal to you, these quick reads are a must to prepare for the non-YA, mainstream book Necklace of Kisses, where Block strips away Weetzie's fantasy and shows us the same characters and world in the bright light of modern realism--at least for the first portion of the book. The shock of learning My Secret Agent Lover Man's given name and the normalcy of their day jobs makes the setting, which involves their reaction to the attacks on 9/11/2001 and a middle-aged introspection, will resonate with everyone who has ever wondered where their wonder went.(less)
Reading Islands in the Net now, it may take a minute to figure out why it's a cyberpunk classic. There is very little VR, and what is there is not des...moreReading Islands in the Net now, it may take a minute to figure out why it's a cyberpunk classic. There is very little VR, and what is there is not described in detail. Most of the book is off the grid (but then again, much of Neuromancer is, too). The heroine isn't a hack, programmer, or counterculture sympathizer, in fact, she's a corporate worker.
But read further in and you'll see that it's about the essential cyberpunk issues. Corporations consolidating power and those who don't get any. The impact of instant world-wide communication and what happens to those who aren't included. How technology and society change one another and how the morals of those involved matter. Whether the masses can threaten a global social order. What kind of crimes, if any, can be forgiven for the sake of technical or social genius.
The major action of the book is completely relevant today: global terrorism and the questions of social and economic breakdown in Africa. What is likely, what is preventable, how do they affect the rest of the world, and does anyone have both the power and the will to affect the issues?
The book is written in Stirling's slightly-dry style and the setting changes back and forth in ways that may large sections of the book less interesting to some readers. It's worth it and it's far from a slog, but be aware going in that it's best to either do it in one quick read or spread out over many days.
The story follows Laura Webster. She is a high-flyer rising in Rizome Corporation, a multinational megaconglomerate. (The pun on "rhizome" is no doubt intentional.) At the beginning of the book she's starting up a new subsidiary, a Lodge in Galvaston the company uses as a combination retreat, vacation spot, and meeting place for the most discrete business. Her architect husband designed the place and now spends a lot of his time playing Worldrun, a sim game of modern politics. Like most players he can't master the art of keeping Africa stable.
Laura and David--and their baby--become involved in Rizome business with offshore data pirates, learning the ins and outs of international banking crime. Along the way they meet other people sheltering offshore, criminal scientists and artists. As her involvement deepens she finds herself stuck between Rizome, the newly-recreated Church of Isis, terrorists, rogue states, African nationalists, American nationalists, rival multinationals, and the interests of her own family. Terrorist acts threaten the almost-one-world government, a meltdown of African societies threatens to both her safety and her morals, and the implications of the gulf between Net-haves and Net-have-nots, whether by reason of location, income, or literacy, rises to the world stage.
This is one of the few cyberpunk books written from the suit perspective, and it's a pleasure to see genuine idealism alongside power-plays in the zaibatsu.(less)
Among the few practical and practicable writing books, this is a classic.
Knight was a fabulous short writer. With many authors that doesn't translate...moreAmong the few practical and practicable writing books, this is a classic.
Knight was a fabulous short writer. With many authors that doesn't translate to writing good writing advice, but Knight as also introspective, insightful, and interested in theory. The book contains both cognitive models to help organize thinking and steps/processes to help get stories done.
The book begins with a great introduction on "Three Reasons I Should Not Have Written This Book" two being myths/half-truths about whether writing can be learned and one being the belief that learning about writing stifles creativity. Knight addresses them without dismissing them entirely. He admits to his personal dogmatism without claiming either to be right or to have minimized it in the text. And he gives several practical and practicable techniques for reading a book on writing.
After those incredibly educational three pages, we get to the actual material :-)
The sections of the book are interesting: 1. Developing your talent as a writer (21 pages, 5 exercises) Motivation, stages of development, observation
2. Idea into story (75 pages, 2 exercises) Getting ideas, research, constraints, conflict, plot types, theme, meaning, some excellent and detailed examples
3. Beginning a story (47 pages, 4 exercises) Five questions about your story, four decisions to make
4. Controlling a story (29 pages, 9 exercises) Being interesting, compression, surprise, tone, voice, style, dialog
5. Finishing a story (9 pages, 1 exercise) What to do when stuck, targeting a market, working with editors
6. Being a writer (16 pages) Bylines, work habits, drugs and alcohol, reading, networking, spouses/partners, etc.
That's an interesting layout: it's both structured/linear/small-chunk (idea, beginning, "controlling," and finishing) as well as theoretical/cognitive and large-chunk/big picture (developing talent, "controlling" as a metaphor, "being a writer"). That's both part of Knight's talent as a writer and part of his message for writers, that the small and cognitive details are equal to the larger structure and more fuzzy concepts like voice, style, structure, and character. The exercises, examples, and suggestions complement this.
The book is written in very small sections, many no more than a page, that pack a lot of training into a small number of words--sometimes almost covertly.
A major part of the value of the book is in Knight's rare ability to cover multiple elements of the process of writing at once. In his classes on managing a school classroom and in his classes on public speaking, Michael Grinder uses the "ABCs" of kinds of teaching: teaching Attitide, teaching Behavior (or skill), and teaching Cognition. Very few teachers do all three well and extremely few combine them into one. Knight does that here.
In a TusCon panel on writer's block, I presented the model that a writer needs five things: motivation to write, conviction that the story is worth writing and they can write it, decision to write the story and about the elements of the story, creativity to create the story, and a process to write. Most writing books cover one or two (Writing Down the Bones covers motivation and conviction, the Fundamentals of Fiction Writing series cover decision and process, etc). Knight covers each of these both explicitly in their own sections and implicitly/covertly in his presentation.
Much, much, much better than its predecessor. The basic storyline is just as minimal as in Nymphos (someone killed a porn star and our hero goes to LA...moreMuch, much, much better than its predecessor. The basic storyline is just as minimal as in Nymphos (someone killed a porn star and our hero goes to LA to investigate), the side story is more interesting than Nymphos (Vamps in LA might be about to break silence and no one knows why), and the character story is fabulous.
The real story here is Carlos joining up with the down-at-the-heels, universally disliked-but-tolerated, and proudly barrio-living Hispanic vampire Coyote. Coyote loudly and frequently proclaims himself to be more than he seems (he calls his run-down house in the barrio a castle and his beat-up, push-start car his magic chariot) and everyone agrees that he is; they just don't like him anyway. He's a perfect mentor for Carlos.
The story progresses to involve the usual mixed-up land deals, secretly broke and secretly wealthy people, and sudden revelations about relationships that are staples of LA PI stories since Chinatown and they come off quite well. All in all, the detective story (the obvious heart of the book) is more than good enough.
The character development is excellent, particularly in the way Carlos influences Coyote as much as Coyote (and others) influence Carlos.
There is an interesting surprise towards the end that deprives Carlos of one of his most-used and most-powerful abilities. I hope the author hasn't written himself into the trap of having to explain why Carlos can't just vamp his way out of the problem in every book. It worked nicely this time, but the schtick of explaining why we can't use a known ability gets old.
Having said that, the deprivation of the power works really well in this, and it gives a possible insight into how the power works.