"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
Quick and light read with a fun story and plenty of gimmicks. I enjoyed the central role that the store had in the story, and the parody of IKEA and sQuick and light read with a fun story and plenty of gimmicks. I enjoyed the central role that the store had in the story, and the parody of IKEA and similar stores was done very well. The gimmicky nature of the catalog was something I enjoyed, though I can see it not appealing to everyone.
However, the story is thin and the characters never really get fleshed out; there's a lot of lost potential there. Also, beware of the last 30 pages, it peters out quickly.
The story still gets four stars from me: solid scariness, plenty of retail quirks, and some failed attempts at Cleveland references: NOBODY calls it "Route 77", understood?
(Fun aside: In a Cleveland paper's review, the store was listed as being in Columbus...)...more
David Crystal's book is a succinct history of the English language, including the evolution of the spoken and written word, with a special focus on thDavid Crystal's book is a succinct history of the English language, including the evolution of the spoken and written word, with a special focus on the large variety of dialects spoken today. Almost everything in the book was new to me, and I enjoyed the details on words from other languages, word variation over time, and the notes on pronunciation, usage, and grammar. Crystal's main thesis, that English never had a consistent style and tone, and that any attempts to force everyone into one would be detrimental, was strongly made. There was a lot of supporting history around that, and I especially found it fascinating to learn how the different regional variants shifted and influenced the core language over time.
One of my favorite chapters focused on the words introduced by Shakespeare—turns out, introducing words was very common practice at the time, and often many authors would include different variants in their works (just one example: "discordant" was also written as "discordous", "discordy", "discordic", "discordful", and many other ways before settling down.) A half-dozen other literary individuals were discussed as well, having introduced dozens—or hundreds—of words into English themselves. What a time to be alive!
While I can't say I'm a huge fan of his relentless attacks on the prescriptive attitude of forcing everyone into exact spelling, usage, and pronunciation rules, I can sympathize with the underlying points. For many years now, English has been spoken more frequently by people who learned it as a second language than by those who learned it as their first. As much as it may make natural language processing a definite challenge, it's important to be open and accepting of those variants, as they add richness, character, and local cultural heritage to the language. I really enjoyed the section discussing uniquely South African words—a couple of which I've learned!
Crystal's book definitely has an agenda, but don't let that stop you from picking it up. One of my favorite etymology/language books yet, filled with plenty of individual detail without obscuring the big picture. It's also nice to have a British perspective on the language, as most of my prior books had a distinctly American slant to them. Definitely recommended to English language fans!...more
Of all the undying books of my childhood — and there were many — few so imprinted on me as His Dark Materials. Devouring the entire trilogy near the eOf all the undying books of my childhood — and there were many — few so imprinted on me as His Dark Materials. Devouring the entire trilogy near the end of middle school, the story has stayed with me ever since. An overflowing abundance of imagination, wonder, and mystery introduced me to worlds of fantasy that I had only begun to discover. I became overwhelmed with Lyra's universe, and, similar to other books I read around then, my naiveté prevented me from fully understanding the controversial and important themes the novel unveils. Who cares if they’re going off to battle God, my thought process went, when you have multiple universes to explore?
When I re-read the trilogy this year, I appreciated it for many reasons, but an almost entirely unique set from my 12-year-old self. This time, it was the tremendous prose and world building that made for such a compelling fantasy universe; the illuminating references and allegories, mostly surrounding the corruption and hypocrisy of organized religion; the strength and charisma of Lyra and the following she inspired. I’m sure I knew none of the authors with epigraphs in book three before; now, their perspectives were valued new pieces that deepened the underlying themes and message. Of course, I also saw places where the story suddenly fell flat — some supporting characters are surprisingly one-dimensional, a few plot holes and inconsistencies are surprisingly obvious to an adult, and deus ex machina is used liberally, to the point of cheapening some plot points. However, the strongest points were obvious on both readings: the imagination, the rich descriptions, the creativity, and the characterizations that brought me so quickly and warmly into these worlds.
I have to admit, there is one other item in the book that made it so remarkable to me at that young age: the depiction of love in the story. This, obviously, was the Lyra/Will situation. I realize now how arbitrary and uncomfortable it is to read, given their ages, not to mention abrupt; the entire romance thread seems an unnecessary tack-on to an otherwise complete epic. But, on my first read, it was shocking and beautiful. To my mid-pubescent self, eager to understand this strange new emotion, it was a perfect form of love. Upon this re-read, I took a minute to shake my head sadly at that earlier interpretation, and moved on. This time, the strongest aspect of love was the sense of love and loyalty and sacrifice that was shared between the main characters — that was a true joy.
Regardless of how I changed in the many years between my readings, it’s clear that this is a story I will always love. I can’t imagine growing up without it, and I would encourage others to include it as a must-read fantasy novel for their own children. Welcoming Lyra into your world is well worth the investment into reading the full trilogy.
(Bonus: This edition includes “lantern slides”, paragraph-long snapshots of omitted scenes in each book. It works wonderfully, exposing a tiny amount more story, just enough to satisfy.)...more
A unique genre, all it's own: literary programming books.