Described as one of the great Czechoslovakian novels of the Cold War era, this layered novel tells the story of main character Danny in a great numberDescribed as one of the great Czechoslovakian novels of the Cold War era, this layered novel tells the story of main character Danny in a great number of parallel time frames, mostly flipping between WWII-era flashbacks and the 1970s main story. It's dense but rewarding, and it provides a window into Czechoslovakian history that I was quite ignorant toward.
The novel has a lot of literary elements — about once a chapter, I felt I was missing an important reference or name — but there are times when its comedy shined through as well (it claims to be a comic novel.) There were definitely shades of Gravity's Rainbow in here, with an ungainly cast of characters and rapid-fire movement between plots, but it was more focused than Pynchon gets.
Not a book I would bring to the beach, it was ponderous in parts and mostly geared toward a demographic I do not belong to (that is, the Czech emigrant community). Consider if you're a Pynchon fan, but I would stop short of a full recommendation.
One great note: I picked this up novel while working on the Lacuna project this year, and saved it (based on the title alone) right before we attacked it with a drill press, to be added to the structure of the installation. Amazingly, one of the main plot lines of the novel involves drill presses, which I found a fitting coincidence....more
This book felt a lot like Neal Stephenson trying to channel Thomas Pynchon. Maybe it's because the last two Pynchon books I've read had the same settiThis book felt a lot like Neal Stephenson trying to channel Thomas Pynchon. Maybe it's because the last two Pynchon books I've read had the same settings as the storylines in this book, but the joint characteristics of overshared micro-details, serendipitous run-ins with major historical figures, and poorly-calibrated tangents were strong. Unfortunately, I don't think Stephenson got close to Pynchon's level of writing.
There were definitely some things I enjoyed, including a significant dose of cryptography and cryptographical history. Additionally, Stephenson's uncanny ability to predict the future is showcased at length, as he basically explains the purpose and value of Bitcoin through his characters. Of course, this was written nine years before Bitcoin was a thing, and there's even a (somewhat flippant) theory on Twitter that Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto himself. There's also a fun obfuscated Perl program, and a few nuggets about grep and the like. Not to mention Stephenson bringing in another person who would be much more famous now than then: Bruce Schneier provides an appendix on a cryptographic theory used in the book, five years before his blog started and even before he coined the term "Security Theater."
While I've enjoyed a lot of Stephenson's work in the past, it just felt gratuitously over-wrought here; most of the book I was just counting down until it was done. The book could have been cut by 50% and retained its storyline and cryptographical detail. There was also a little more bizarre stereotyping and uncomfortable pigeonholing than I would have liked – the few and poorly-written female characters were especially grating. I would hope that a similar book written now would strive to be a little more aware of those issues.
In general, I can't really recommend this to anyone; if you're looking for great Neal Stephenson, choose Diamond Age; if you're looking for a book on cryptography in fiction... I'll let you know if I find one. ...more
"Time travel novel." Sounds cheap, right? Some genre hack writing a dime novel that fuses a shoddy theory with poor characterization and thoughtless p"Time travel novel." Sounds cheap, right? Some genre hack writing a dime novel that fuses a shoddy theory with poor characterization and thoughtless prose. I wasn't sure what to expect from Stephen King – yes, I knew it wouldn't be that – but you never really know what you're going to get from the outside of the package.
I have to admit: I was never someone who cared much about JFK and his assassination. I passed up a chance to visit the Sixth Floor Museum in college because of the $16 entrance fee. Happily, this didn't seem to matter in my consumption of the story; ambivalence or not, I was quickly engrossed. You could say I've now visited that museum, all for the price of a used hardback.
Complex and beautifully realized, 11/22/63 surpassed any expectations I might have had. It was classic King, blending genres while introducing strong characters into carefully crafted locations and eras. It's clear that a tremendous amount of research was performed; it's detailed in the back of the book, but in summary: it made a difference. Despite a few minor gripes, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and the five stars are deserved.
11/22/63 is a great showpiece for King's versatility across genre boundaries, and his characters and setting exemplify a storyteller at the top of his game. Highly recommended, especially to those with their own memories of that day... I was lucky, and borrowed my mother's....more
[I picked up this book solely because of the author -- she was a professor of mine back at Washington University in St. Louis. So, I admit the review[I picked up this book solely because of the author -- she was a professor of mine back at Washington University in St. Louis. So, I admit the review may be a bit biased; I enjoyed her class.]
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp is a classic tale of the Old South, a literary novel that in many ways reflects the time period it is written about. The Florida and North Carolina landscapes are richly described and fully realized pieces of the narrative, and a wide cast of characters exposes many sides of the Great Depression -- at least from the perspective of the wealthy. I thoroughly enjoyed the immersion in Southern society, as the story presents a beautiful portrait of an age only my grandparents could have known. (well, they were in Cleveland. but you get the idea)
Admittedly, I'm not a frequent reader of books about teenage girls, horse camp/boarding schools, and the Great Depression; I'm not sure this is the first book I would choose to get away from the usual. From my perspective, it felt like a few parts were slogs -- please! not another horse scene! But I suppose I knew that was coming when I picked it up.
The larger issues, to me, were in the plot and characterization. It was hard to get into the protagonist's head, so as to root for her and to understand her motives. Additionally, the story doesn't seem to really move anyone forward and bring closure to anyone; I was disappointed in the way it ended, and wanted something better for these families.
While this wasn't my favorite, I'm sure there are plenty of demographics where this book would be a hit. For me, it ended up as more of a "meh"....more
This is a beautiful book. Even in translation, the skill and care that went into every sentence is obvious. The book was able to wring out so many emoThis is a beautiful book. Even in translation, the skill and care that went into every sentence is obvious. The book was able to wring out so many emotions that it could be hard to continue at times. There was so much to savor and explore in this book.
The story being told here is a traditional one, but it had the feeling of a story that can be told again and again and retain the magic that made is so special the first time. There were a few times when it descended to cliché, but those didn't really detract from the storytelling. The book also tended to tie itself up in knots with extended backstory, but I found that it didn't interfere with the story either. I'm sure there were some plot holes, too, if you looked hard enough, but I decided not to. I very much enjoyed losing myself in post-war Barcelona.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a powerhouse of Spanish literature, and I can see why. This is a book I could have read straight through, and I very nearly did. Highly recommended for fans of historical novels, love stories, and everyone in between....more
Good, but not excellent. Some of the characters thoughts seems a little anachronistic at times, and I found it not quite exciting or as enjoyable as IGood, but not excellent. Some of the characters thoughts seems a little anachronistic at times, and I found it not quite exciting or as enjoyable as I was hoping. ...more