"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
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
How many times a day do you like to be reminded that the world has enough nuclear bombs to destroy everything many times over, and that all it needs iHow many times a day do you like to be reminded that the world has enough nuclear bombs to destroy everything many times over, and that all it needs is a simple mistake, misunderstanding, or malfunction for it to begin?
If your answer is zero, you'll probably have the same reaction to A Canticle for Leibowitz that I did. I'm still shaking.
After reading, I'm faced with a new appreciation for the life I lead. Look at this beautiful apartment. This busy street. These wonderful people that are my family and friends. For this moment, these are people we can cherish, lives we can enrich, things we can value. For this moment.
Miller's book is a stunningly powerful one, contrasting the elements of faith and simplicity in the austere society of the monks with the seemingly crazed outside world. The life of the monks change little through the years (except those self-driving cars!) and that forms the rock-solid base for the rest of the story. It's easy to see how those living a cloistered life today could see a lot they recognize here. There are some pervasive themes: a certain helplessness, reaction instead of proaction, change is dangerous. Life is fragile, as we learn, and learn, and learn.
While the book is now more than 55 years old, its age barely makes an impression. The same future could still await us. At any moment, every nice thing I loved above could be thrown apart in a fit of terrible judgement by the ignorant but powerful.
Until then, I'm so happy it's not yet come to pass....more
This is my favorite post-apocalyptic novel, bar none.
In fact, it felt like this book was written just for me. The characters were lived-in and three-This is my favorite post-apocalyptic novel, bar none.
In fact, it felt like this book was written just for me. The characters were lived-in and three-dimensional, the plot intense but perfectly paced, and: AN ORCHESTRA! I just can't pass up a book featuring an orchestra. (view spoiler)[A much more spoiler-y reason is that the story also features a tremendous amount of hope. Looking at my other recent post-apocalyptic reads, the hope was always theoretical and this theoretical hope only showed up at the last moment. Station Eleven is a story of hope, of the fundamental goodness in humanity, and its emotional depth is visible throughout. The ending is one of the most uplifting I've read all year. (hide spoiler)]
The novel starts out with intensity and rapacious foreboding, and then suddenly it's all in the past — the collapse has happened, times have changed, the roughest eras left behind. You flit between character perspectives and piece together connections using paperweights, dogs' names, and comic books. There's a lot of portentous weather, some understated humor, plenty of Shakespeare allusions that make me wish I cared more about Shakespeare, and a handful of mostly accurate instrument stereotypes (go cellos!). The story gets darker as it goes along, especially when it returns to the time of the collapse, but it never feels hopeless and moves between storylines frequently. (view spoiler)[Perhaps the emotional highlight for me is when they reunite with the lost cellist — but that's not fair to Clark, to the town to the south, to finding Sayid... there are so many emotional highlights. (hide spoiler)]
What makes this book stand out is that it doesn't fall into the cycle of gratuitous adversity that drag down so many similar stories. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, but it's not completely lacking in them, either (ok, I meant figuratively). I mean, there's not zombies, and even better — a favorite moment — one of the characters vocalizes that thought. At least there aren't zombies. It's not like that.
Station Eleven is the book for anyone who loves the cultural groups they have joined — orchestras, theater crews — and the act of performing for others out of pure enjoyment. This is the book for anyone who appreciates it's not all about survival. This is the book for anyone who can't get enough post-apocalyptic fiction. This is also the book for everyone else.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
As soon as I started this book, I knew I was going to hate it. The second-person was constantly grating, the "self-help" introductions to each chapterAs soon as I started this book, I knew I was going to hate it. The second-person was constantly grating, the "self-help" introductions to each chapter flippant and vaguely insulting. What shoddy gimmicks! Not to mention, I'd seen this story before: Kid grows up in a poor village, pulls himself out of the gutter, falls in love, ends up with all the trophies. That's a staple storyline I'd read ten times since last Tuesday. But, alas: I was trapped on an airplane, the book was short, and I couldn't seem to sleep.
Luckily, the story moved fast and the spare prose was admirably consistent and readable. The bizarre second-person became more comfortable, the "self-help" paragraphs still kitschy but less jarring. I just couldn't escape the feeling that it was going nowhere. If nothing else, I told myself, I had one more book against the reading challenge.
The tears caught me by surprise. It's hard to start crying on an airplane, with so many people so close. People invading personal bubbles; playing Monster Truck Rally on their tablets; coughing, sneezing, snoring. Yet, here I was, probably the only one on the plane to fit in the category "sobbing". What had just happened?
By the last page, there's no question -- Hamid is a master, and manipulated the novel's structure to leave you utterly vulnerable, disarmed. The gimmicks I had dismissed were my own undoing, and the variety of emotions that poured down during the final chapters brought out memories and feelings I was unprepared to handle, especially at 30,000 feet. If the plane had landed at the same time I closed the book, I might have jumped to the front of the line to buy a ticket home that very evening, taking the red-eye back for one more hug from those close to me.
This short novel packed the biggest emotional punch of anything I've read this year. I was shocked by how decisively my expectations were demolished, how effortlessly it captivated, enlightened, and loved. There is a great deal to unpack here -- you'll re-examine your job, your family... security... environment... government... it's a cacophony of little punches. If you've ever made a hard choice about your future -- if you've ever worked too hard, loved too long, or missed too much -- this book will mean something to you....more
This is one of those books where I can't help but want to talk about it afterwards. It has been some time since I've read a book that provides so muchThis is one of those books where I can't help but want to talk about it afterwards. It has been some time since I've read a book that provides so much to think about afterward.
The structure along was enough to intrigue me; I am attracted to unconvential novels in this regard, even if it they can be gimmicky. I thought the six novellas were less tied-together, and had more dubiously-connected symbols, than I would have preferred. The stories, though, were stirring and heartfelt, well-written, and I found myself deeply engaged in each world.
In my mind, the book is a ziggurat. At the cusp of the downward trip, the end of the center-most story, I was depressed, and thought the book could be concluded there. Having knowledge of the dystopia ahead, I felt there was little point in returning to the other storylines. In the end, though, I'm glad it did. Ending at that point would have made for an even darker story, where nearly every storyline ends in defeat and/or death; happily, we were able to find a few more positive marks on the way down.
The book resonates as being liberal and anti-corporate, with strong collectivist and anti-slavery themes. I often don't see themes in books, and yet, by the top of the ziggurat, I could have precisely delineated them. Then, Mitchell hits us with them again in every story on the way down, a tiresome bludgeoning at times, until landing us in the thesis on the last page: "For the human species, selfishness is extinction."
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" thingI 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.
After the third book, I did not have high hopes for the end of the series. The previous books had left too much unfinished - too many characters had dAfter the third book, I did not have high hopes for the end of the series. The previous books had left too much unfinished - too many characters had dropped off the map, too many unexplained occurrences, too much dull backstory (*cough* book three)
This book, however, was fantastic. The writing was fantastic, the plot moved along at a good clip, and storylines and characters were wrapped up in a very satisfying way. I enjoyed the callbacks to the previous books, musical, and movie - though I'm sure some will find those to be cheap distractions. It absolutely exceeded my expectations, as I feared there was just too much there for Maguire to work with. I should not have worried!
I felt this was excellent way to end the series. If you enjoyed books 1 & 2 (even if you weren't a huge fan of book 3, like me), you're really going to enjoy this final volume. ...more
I've enjoyed Terry Pratchett books for many years now, but have typically stuck with his Discworld books, as I have liked them the best. This book isI've enjoyed Terry Pratchett books for many years now, but have typically stuck with his Discworld books, as I have liked them the best. This book is the clear exception.
The plot is fairly simple and a little bit predictable at first. A single boy needs to put his civilization back together, but he is alone. Feels like I've read this before. At the same time, the emotions and empathy triggered by this book is like little I have ever read before. The sheer beauty of this work is inescapable.