Strong storytelling continues, and still many parallels to the Wool series in structure. However, many of the concepts here are drawn from a variety o...moreStrong storytelling continues, and still many parallels to the Wool series in structure. However, many of the concepts here are drawn from a variety of sources, and VanderMeer does a great job of synthesizing different tropes into a strong story.
I think most of my complaints are generally stylistic, and in some cases add to the immediacy and tone of the story. Surprisingly for a middle novel in a trilogy, the pacing was upbeat. There were also quite a few issues with some parts of the internal consistency of the world, though this isn't unique to book 2.
I’ve often wondered what is so appealing about apocalypses. How can someone be sufficiently satisfied with the human experience that they desire to de...moreI’ve often wondered what is so appealing about apocalypses. How can someone be sufficiently satisfied with the human experience that they desire to depict it broken and defeated? Or, could it be the opposite? Do they so despise the world that, in their portrayal, we must watch it burn?
Here we are, back in this state: the world has ended. Again. It did so more decisively this time, as if my concern at the wishy-washy ways it ended in California was registered. As usual, we're stuck with the “lucky" ones, the survivors. (What contrast to those who died early! For them, the period of suffering is brief. But are their stories less valued in their brevity? Too little time for foreboding, dread, and worry?)
While I suppose it’s true for the majority of apocalypses, you can't really go back from zombies. It’s a done deal. For those survivors, it makes you think: what's your goal here? Is even the most positive outcome worth living in? I get pretty bummed out any time I'm reading about zombies.
So, what makes this story any different? Because the first words I'd use to describe “The Girl With All the Gifts” are “compassion” and “warmth”. Because I’ve never read a zombie novel so full of life, so supportive, so positive. Because it doesn’t read like a horror flick: it's a buddy adventure. Carey's writing turns this into so much more than another cookie-cutter zombie thriller, and the rich characters and well-executed backstory means I would have loved to devour another 200 pages.
Whatever the future holds, I remain optimistic: It can't be as bad as it’s portrayed, in so many apocalypses sitting in so many books. Every time we read an apocalypse, we are renewed in our present, reaffirmed that we are full of potential, our lives valuable, our bodies vigorous. We have so much. We have so many blessings, or, should I say, we have so many gifts.
Footnote: Terrible jokes from my 7th grade science teacher that are spoilers (view spoiler)[ "Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties?" "'Cause he's a fun guy!"
"I think there's a fungus among us” (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Awesome short read recommended to me by Jared. Mystery/adventure with plenty of sci-fi/fantasy thrown in. Lots of fun, very fast pace, one of the few...moreAwesome short read recommended to me by Jared. Mystery/adventure with plenty of sci-fi/fantasy thrown in. Lots of fun, very fast pace, one of the few books this year I've finished on the same day I started.
Reminded very strongly of Lost (though darker), Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Wool (in pacing/tone).
Will definitely be finishing the trilogy, and probably checking out more of VanderMeer's works.(less)
From beginning to end, I was impressed by the Diamond Age. Stephenson seemed prescient at times (about everything except tape drive storage) and his w...moreFrom beginning to end, I was impressed by the Diamond Age. Stephenson seemed prescient at times (about everything except tape drive storage) and his worlds were truly imaginative. I could not help but be drawn into the story of Nell, Hackworth, and the others. There is much going on here, and it builds into a strong story. Strangely for Neal Stephenson, the book could have used another hundred pages. (Someone must have told him that, and now he uses those pages in every subsequent book he's written, whether he needs them or not.)
I will admit it – I did not love all of this book. Plot gets messy, imagination overwhelms rationality. But the parts that I did love, the windows into storytelling bliss, were more than sufficient to outweigh the truly odd machinations of the final third. The genius of Neal Stephenson pops up over and over again, and I was always excited to see what was coming next.
P.S. In the dedication, one line reads: “Douglas (Carl Hollywood) Crockford” Yes, that Douglas Crockford. I wish I knew why...(less)
As a fan of Pessl's first book Special Topics in Calamity Physics, I was eager to get my hands on Night Film. I wasn't sure what to expect, but suffice to say it's nothing like her debut novel.
I was hooked almost immediately -- within the first twenty pages. The prologue and first chapter set a very high bar in this novel, though the rest isn't as suspenseful. The story draws you in quickly, and you can get consumed by the intense creepiness early on. I was drawn into Scott's life, a deeply flawed man that we alternate between cheering and anguishing over. His two sidekicks quickly slip from annoyances to personal friends, and I could hardly stand to leave any of them, even for a minute.
This novel is impressive in so many ways. It starts with a vibrant yet ominous New York City that holds much of the action. The characters are well-drawn and never two-dimensional. The mystery is handled incredibly well, too; it's almost diametrically opposite Lost. The writers there could learn a thing or two from Marisha Pessl on how to handle a mystery. (Not to mention, this would be awesome as a miniseries)
The novel also explores a number of intriguing topics. Risking spoilers, I will say that the exploration of supernatural occurrences is handled very well. What should you believe in? How much proof do you need? The nature of celebrity and isolation is also explored, and how that affects one's public image. And the ending… the ending is better than I could have imagined. There were times I doubted that I would get a satisfactory resolution, but there's no need to worry.
I've lately been throwing 5-star ratings on everything, but a book that kept me so enthralled can't be given anything less, despite its egregious abuse of italics. This is easily one of my favorite books of 2013 so far. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a great thriller.(less)
It's a pretty big jump across the fiction spectrum to go from Carlos Ruiz Zafón to Hugh Howey. I think it's a testament to the strength of the Howey's...moreIt's a pretty big jump across the fiction spectrum to go from Carlos Ruiz Zafón to Hugh Howey. I think it's a testament to the strength of the Howey's novel that I still feel comfortable with 4 stars here. While the prose, especially, falls flat compared to Zafón, the story stands very well on its own, and it was a pleasure to read. It was an engrossing read, and I found myself heavily invested in its characters from the first section -- always a good sign!
That said, I felt that many of Howey's ideas were just not that unique; it's easy to see the The Hunger Games' dystopian influence here, and it feels like many of the ideas are recycled. But I guess that's the state of much of modern sci-fi? It's forgivable, especially for a first-time novelist. Let's hope that he keeps writing, and continues to produce works that are at least this inventive.
I think most fans of dystopian novels will enjoy this; it has good characters and story and suspense. I was happy to lose myself in their world (not literally!) for a few days.(less)
I have not read a book with such an emotional intensity in a long time. The premise I found rather tired at first -- the whole "walking journey" thing...moreI have not read a book with such an emotional intensity in a long time. The premise I found rather tired at first -- the whole "walking journey" thing -- and it took some time for me to really feel interested in Harold's progress. If I hadn't heard such good things about this book, I may have made the tragic mistake of stopping at page 40 forever.
It's shortly after that point that Harold began to seriously contemplate his history with Maureen and David, and it was there that the heart of the story was revealed. The difficulties of raising and connecting with children is explored so deeply here that I could have learned a few things just through reading. (view spoiler)[Then, of course, the many emotional hits at the end of the book are devastating, one after another, until you can barely keep reading. The major reveal was the first time I've been brought to tears by a book in a long time. (hide spoiler)] The emotional depth here is incredible. I felt so connected to Harold and Maureen by the end of the book that I could have known them my entire life. At the same time, it felt so instructive for what I do not want my retirement to be.
If you're looking for a remarkable narrative, characters you can't help but empathize with, and plenty of personal introspection, this is the book for you. It's definitely one of my favorite books of the last few years.
I enjoyed this, but I'm still waiting for the real story to begin.
Like I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, I am, for whatever re...moreI enjoyed this, but I'm still waiting for the real story to begin.
Like I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, I am, for whatever reason, much more invested in the framing story than the story that the main character is telling. So, the book itself earned sort of a "meh". It was a good epic fantasy, certainly, and I have no problem with that. There were just times when I felt like there was just a lot of plot for no real reason.
That said, the story never dragged, and I very much enjoyed reading it, mostly due to the author's writing style. It's one of the most engrossing books I have read recently, because it just sucks me in and keeps me there. I don't wonder "why are we still in this part of the story?" until I stop reading, realize another hundred pages have passed, and we're still off on some side quest.(less)
Definitely enjoying the series now that we are in book two - the love triangle part seems a bit forced ("we can't have a YA series without a love tria...moreDefinitely enjoying the series now that we are in book two - the love triangle part seems a bit forced ("we can't have a YA series without a love triangle in it!") but I felt everything else was handled very well. (less)
I was fairly disappointed by this book. It came recommended from a number of sources, but I thought that the book shied away from being something much...moreI was fairly disappointed by this book. It came recommended from a number of sources, but I thought that the book shied away from being something much grander and more important by focusing too strongly on 80s nostalgia. Many of the issues the book brought up were ignored or quickly discarded, and the plot was rather predictable. While there were certainly parts that I enjoyed, as I whole I felt that it does not live up to its potential.
For a similar read that, while somewhat dated, doesn't shy away from the larger issues, see the Otherland series by Tad Williams. (more accurately, it acknowledges that it's not fully dealing with them)(less)
This book was recommended to me from a whole bunch of people, so I couldn't not read it eventually.
I'm impressed how fresh the series seems, despite...moreThis book was recommended to me from a whole bunch of people, so I couldn't not read it eventually.
I'm impressed how fresh the series seems, despite treading over incredibly familiar territories. That said, it had its fair share of clichés and predictable outcomes. They were a few places where it delved into territory that made me think, "Oh, that's Harry Potter" or "Oh, that's Wheel of Time", but it wasn't too bad. The writing was great, and it had a nice mix of action and world-building.
What was odd, though, was that I found myself caring more about the framing story than about the flashbacks that make up most of the novel. While I was excited about the story, perhaps I was excited too much about the wrong parts. There's no guarantee we'll get any substantial additions to the framing story. As I neared the end of the book, I thought to myself, "I can't wait to get this trilogy(!) out of the way so I can find out what actually happens next!" I guess I look at the three books planned as a prequel trilogy to a main story. In any case, I'm not sure I have the right attitude here.
In any case, a very strong high fantasy title that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new read in that genre. Nothing ground-breaking, but a very solid novel.(less)