**spoiler alert** This book had some very funny moments in the first half.
This book is a parable about sustainability, and hits a surprising number of**spoiler alert** This book had some very funny moments in the first half.
This book is a parable about sustainability, and hits a surprising number of different aspects: how to sustain the quality of life a rapidly growing population, short-term vs. long-term interests, even invasive species put in an appearance.
But, despite those desirable features, this book only gets three stars because
1. I don't like Louis Wu. He's not very smart (an alien called a "puppeteer"...is manipulating us?!), and doesn't seem to have any desirable qualities for such an expedition. My judgment was confirmed by his truly disastrous first contact with the Ringworld inhabitants. No really, it seemed like he had to try to make sure the first contact went that badly. The only explanation I could come up with was that he was the control for Nessus's experiment, but even so, I don't enjoy spending time with dumb jerks. (Incisively witty jerks, like House or Sherlock, I can handle, but if they're not very intelligent, then what's the point?)
2. This book is steeped in misogyny. The females of the nonhuman species aren't even sentient. The only human females that show up are there specifically for their relationships to men (even Teela Brown, it turns out, had to be female for the plot), and the women are clearly less intelligent than those men. (Louis Wu has a moment where he realizes he had misjudged Teela Brown when he thought her to be an airhead, but she goes right back to being an unimaginative airhead for the rest of the book.) Nessus is referred to as "he", even though, as a puppeteer, sex is clearly not easily translatable into human terms, and even though his voice sounds like Marilyn Monroe's. In fact, that's the very first thing we learn about him. So why isn't he a she? Because all females are unintelligent and without their own lives and motivations, is the only way I can parse it. (If you have another interpretation, do let me know.)...more
What kind of person sets out to write a book like this one? To quote one of the characters, "Four woAs alluded to in "The Cheater's Guide to Love".
What kind of person sets out to write a book like this one? To quote one of the characters, "Four women get killed and it's like the start of a new INDUSTRY! Only the start, mind you. Mark my words, in 'undred years there'll still be [expletive] like 'im, wrapping these killings up in supernatural twaddle. Making a living out of murder." (In the appendix, Alan Moore goes on to say, "Sometimes, after all you've done for them, your characters just turn on you.")
The book is carefully researched, but from secondary sources. So if you want to know what the skyline of London looked like in 1888 from a particular corner in Whitechapel, this book is for you; if you want to learn more about the murders, you might as well watch the film Murder By Decree. If you are reading this book for the plot, know that certain scenes are so cryptic that the only way to know what's going on is to read the appendix.
This book is worth reading just for the prayer in Gethsemane.
After reading The Amber Spyglass, I was surprised by the commonly promulgated analysis that the His Dark Materials trilogy was an atheist answer to C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, I guess because I was expecting such an atheist tract to read like something from Richard Dawkins or the other New Atheists, who dismiss religion as merely fictional. But if religion is merely fictional, then why be so bothered to write a novel about it? In other words, if the Authority doesn't exist, then why do you need to go kill him?
Upon further reflection, I think the distinction between Philip Pullman and the New Atheists is precisely that Pullman is a novelist. He understands the power of fiction, and thus cannot dismiss religion as "merely" fictional: literature surely has a great power to change the course of human events, perhaps even as much as science does.
And it is that attitude that makes this book so powerful. This is not an atheist who isn't interested in Scripture and never made an effort to understand it. This is someone who knows the stories as well as anyone, and it is only someone who has really carefully thought about them that could be so angry: someone who understands how these stories could be a force for good, and so often haven't.
I'm not quite sure what the title's getting at (besides getting the passer-by's attention, in which case it worked), because "scoundrel" always makes me think of Han Solo, and is not the word I would choose for this character. Nor am I convinced that "good man" is appropriate, either.
Nor can I figure out what the story about the colored cloth is doing....more
I can identify with Harper Connelly a lot more than I can with Sookie Stackhouse. She's uncomfortable in social situations, and no one except her brotI can identify with Harper Connelly a lot more than I can with Sookie Stackhouse. She's uncomfortable in social situations, and no one except her brother likes her. I also admire her a lot more: she has found a way to use her gift/curse as the basis for a small business she has founded, with which she is able to support herself and her brother (whereas I always wondered why Sookie couldn't come up with something more useful to do with her talents).
And yet. And yet.
The first chapter of Dead Until Dark is possibly the greatest first chapter I have ever read. Within just a couple of pages, Charlaine Harris not only conveys a rather complicated premise (the Japanese have invented synthetic blood, so now the vampires, who have been living secretly among us all this time, have come out and are trying to integrate into society, since they have a new violence-free way of sustaining themselves; plus, the protagonist is a telepath), but goodness gracious plot happens. I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't read it, but a lot happens in that first chapter. The pace is thrilling.
Contrariwise, Harper and Tolliver seem to spend most of their days tacitly detained in unfamiliar towns, but, instead of exploring the local culture, they sit by the phone and wait for cops to call with updates, or else indulge in utterly generic pastimes you could do anywhere. The pace is frustrating, and connections make no sense. Harper and Tolliver go to see a movie for seemingly no other purpose than that the author really liked the idea of the scene of their psychic acquaintance tracking them down and accosting them outside the multiplex; true, it's a dramatic moment, but couldn't the arrival to that point have been a little more well put-together?
So I find myself in the very unfamiliar situation of liking Harper more than I like Sookie, but liking the Southern Vampire novels more than the Harper Connelly novels. It's a little unnerving....more
I really like Girl Genius, so I really enjoyed reading this book, but am not sure I would recommend it to anyone who's not already a fan of the web coI really like Girl Genius, so I really enjoyed reading this book, but am not sure I would recommend it to anyone who's not already a fan of the web comic.
The prose explains the back story on a few characters. I think a great deal of the art of the comic is gradually learning what kind of world these characters are living in, but if you'd like more backstory on exactly what are constructs, exactly what happened to Dr. Dim, and exactly why Bangladesh Dupree is working for the Baron, this is the book for you....more
**spoiler alert** I've gotten to the point where I have a hard time keeping track of the characters. For example, Rose Red's mentor: am I supposed to**spoiler alert** I've gotten to the point where I have a hard time keeping track of the characters. For example, Rose Red's mentor: am I supposed to know who that is?
I never really bought the Mister Dark as an unbeatable villain plot (he's more powerful because he's an archetype? In that case, why is the North Wind an archetype any more than the Big Bad Wolf, or the Wicked Witch of the Woods?), so I'm glad to see that that plotline appears to have run its course....more
**spoiler alert** Ok, I understand what work chapters 1 and 2 were doing, but I still think this book would have greatly benefited with some editing t**spoiler alert** Ok, I understand what work chapters 1 and 2 were doing, but I still think this book would have greatly benefited with some editing to do something about the pacing.
I was really glad that Charlaine Harris got (at least somewhat) back to the original "whodunit" format: if nothing else, it makes sure that some plot happens (unlike many of the recent installments).
But I have a really hard time sympathizing with what seems to be the central drama of this book (Sookie's relationship with Eric), because I have a really, really hard time liking Eric. (And, in fact, I thought the whole source of the drama of Dead to the World and, indeed, "Dracula Night", is that Eric is usually an unlikeable character.)
And I don't know how many more times Sookie has to learn the lesson to stay away from Were ceremonies. This is at least the fourth by my count.
Thank goodness this series is ending imminently....more
So unlike Pirate King, at least Garment of Shadows has plot, and even a mystery to solve. But I'll repeat my criticism of not just Pirate King, but reSo unlike Pirate King, at least Garment of Shadows has plot, and even a mystery to solve. But I'll repeat my criticism of not just Pirate King, but really, every book in this series after The Beekeeper's Apprentice: the reason we Sherlock Holmes fans read Sherlock Holmes stories is that we want the brief glance at a stranger's sleeves followed by the confident recitation of their entire life story: "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." But there's none of that in this book.
I also thought the way the dialect was spelled was an unnecessary barrier. Unnecessary, because if someone sayStudying up for Gleam.
I didn't get it.
I also thought the way the dialect was spelled was an unnecessary barrier. Unnecessary, because if someone says "I", and pronounces it like the transliteration "Ah", it's not that that person is saying "Ah": they're saying "I" the way they think it should be pronounced. To spell it "Ah", I think, suggests that there is a correct way to pronounce "I", and this is not it (when in fact there is one correct way to spell "I", thanks to the invention of the dictionary, there still is no one correct way to pronounce it: the way a British, Irish, Scottish, Australian, or American person pronounces it is no more or less correct than the way any of the others pronounce it: that's just how it's pronounced in that region).
The spelling really slowed the pace at which I could read the book, and I wasn't really sure what it was supposed to be adding. Was the author worried that I wouldn't notice the characters were early twentieth-century African-American Floridians otherwise?
I had hoped that Gleam would make everything clear, the way that the Court Theatre's production of Pericles did, but it just didn't....more