No, I did not read this book because of the state of my haircut, much to my husband's dismay. I saw it offered on the Goodreads Giveaways and it was t...moreNo, I did not read this book because of the state of my haircut, much to my husband's dismay. I saw it offered on the Goodreads Giveaways and it was too ridiculous a title to pass up. All the other things I entered for were for your hoity and toity books. But THIS is the one I won and thank heavens. I may not remember what A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was about or whether The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad was any good, but I read them cover to cover based only their names. Authors of the world: MORE RIDICULOUS BOOK TITLES PLEASE.
What if one day, everybody turned to woooooood was bald? The cannabis smoke having cleared, the author presents us with an otherwise kind of boring dystopia to set his story in. Take all your current stereotypes -- America is rife with gun violence, Shanghai is wealthy but polluted, the masses are more obsessed with celebrity and image than anything else -- and draw them to your predictable extremes and you've got Earth circa some time in the vague future.
In short, Tieryas is not a subtle writer. But then again, why would I expect that?
Oh. The blurbs.
Guys. Never read blurbs. Blurbs are terrible. In this case, there was a lot of talk of the mashing up of things like Blade Runner and, I don't know, 1984 into something new and, uh, I think one guy said "hypnotic."* I'm sure guy who wrote a book I never heard of** was trying to be helpful here by whipping the potential reader into a frenzy of psychedelic excitement, but, having become the actual reader, I was disappointed by the decidedly mundane writing.
Which is a real shame because this book was an entertaining read. You start out with some outsized buddy nonsense involving a couple of movie makers and a couple of North Korean cuties (who are spies, naturally). You roll your eyes a little at the seemingly bullet proof main characters, but then, about halfway through the book, things go wrong, get weird and then worse before wrapping up in a fairly tidy ending. The part of me that reads for fun and diversion was more than satisfied at having stumbled upon this novel.
But my Serious Reader*** parts are left unimpressed. Like I mentioned before, the book lacks subtlety and surprise. The major plot points may be initially exciting, but once revealed they go more or less where you'd expect. Though the world is gritty and difficult, the major characters don't actually seem to be affected by it. They jet off here and there as they please except when being actively hunted by one another. When the main character does get into serious trouble he is twice in a row delivered by chance.
Even the tidy ending bothers me. In the last chapter or two, the explanations come rushing in from nowhere in the form of avenging angels whose characteristics would seem to make them stand out despite their secrets while how they came into their capabilities is glossed over. I don't want to give too much away, but imagine if one day you had a chihuahua and the next day when you have fallen into a well, your dog suddenly transforms into a collie and you are rescued with great skill and aplomb. While terribly dramatic, this is not terribly believable.
People die and bad things happen, but you don't get a sense of the consequences because the action just keeps bouncing along to the extent that the characters feel a little flat. This is a first person narrative told from the perspective of the protagonist. Every so often he finds the time to go off on some tangent about his past and why he became an emotional basketcase incapable of giving or receiving love, but we don't really see the consequences of those traumas in his decision making. He seems like a great guy, no problem, happy to meet you. So he doesn't jump the bones of everything with boobs; that's a sign of maturity and good sense in a world where your waitress is very clearly a North Korean spy, not brokenness.
Anyway. The second half of the book is better than the first. So, if you get that far, I recommend finishing it. Despite its flaws, it was a pretty good time.
*I could go get the book and do some actual quoting of the quotes, but the baby's asleep and I'm typing in the dark.
**I sound pretty arrogant here, but really I'm just alerting you to my taste in books so you will know whether or not to care what I think. Probably you shouldn't?
***Who can be a real jerk so feel free to skip the rest of this review except maybe the last paragraph.(less)
I read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my seco...moreI read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my second. Thus, the supreme inconvenience of pregnancy, the utter danger of childbirth, and the crap-shoot of infant survival were pretty high up in my mind while I read.
I don't think I've ever read a book where "survival" was the dumbest option, but I do remember a comedy bit where the guy said that in the event of zombie apocalypse, his survival tactic would be to shoot himself in the head. Frankly, that really did seem like the best option to me. Food in cans never gets better, guys.
Meanwhile, my husband has been reading some of the less bad Dune sequels. Dune always struck me because of the detailed world Herbert builds. No aspect of Dune's flora or fauna or anthropology has been neglected. So, it was a real change of pace to be dumped on Russ's little weirdo planet where nobody knows anything about anything and nobody will ever have the time to figure it out. It had never occurred to me that just because plants grow in a place, that doesn't mean there's anything there for you to eat.
Nevertheless, our protagonist answers the question of why the heck early people would pay attention to the movements of the heavenly bodies in the very first place: sheer goddamned boredom.
I mean, really. Why else do humans do anything?
I hesitate to call this a "feminist" book, because it offends me that women have to have our own category despite the fact that we're A) over half the population and B) arguably more important for the survival of the species. We keep ONE rooster, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, I think this book gets right exactly how hard colonization is in even the best of circumstances. I remember reading Card's Homecoming Saga and the women just started popping out babies like the helpful Mormon ladies they were. Nobody talked about how hard reproduction is. Nobody dies, that I can remember, in labor. None of the children are born with defects or dead or any of the other highly statistically probable things that are bound to happen in a tiny, inbred colony. No no. You know what got lauded in that book? A gay dude takes one for the team and makes it with a lady. High five, pansy, for reaffirming the preeminence of masculinity by doing like two minutes of work!
It is also possible that I am just bitter about Orson Scott Card. You can forgive me this, surely.
Anyway, the narrator of this story is under no illusions about how the world works. Her flashbacks give you some idea of the civilization humanity has built for itself and her experiences in her old life have made her an astute observer of human nature. She had an idealistic part of her life as a "neo-Christian," and so she knows what fervor for the impossible can do. This is why she's dead set against it. She's also an educated woman, and so she knows what a return to barbarism will do to them. That is foreshadowed fairly early in their stay when the knuckle-headed young man decides he's had enough of listening to the whiny bossy-pants woman.
But of course, it would be very easy to get a little depressed about this book. Most of the people end up being pretty much how you would expect. But, you have to keep in mind that the whole thing, much like Offred's story in The Handmaid's Tale, is a diary. So, these experiences are recounted to you as she remembers them, so naturally the people are going to behave in ways that conform to how she expects. She's been beaten into cynicism too hard for it to be any other way. Plus, if she is really as hopeless as she says, why bother to keep a journal in the first place? Even she wonders about this, asking who she expects to find it. And yet, here we are, reading it. Who are we? Was she, after all, wrong to lose hope?
We can't know. And this lends a palpable tension to the whole book. I more or less knew where the book was going before I began reading, but even so I felt a twinge of hope for these people. On the one hand, I completely agreed with the narrator regarding the facts of the situation, but on the other I know it's fiction and anything can happen and very often does. There's a long history of proving the nerd wrong. But then, the ghost of Cassandra is always there to haunt us. (In this book, literally so.)
So, like all books that are kind of downers, I don't know where to stick this in my headspace. It's well-written and gripping. I wanted to return to it when I put it down. The characters were a little stereotyped in the Gilligan's Island kind of way, but I think the author knows this. I can see this book being a real reaction to all the survival fiction out there where brave men (and women sometimes) beat all the odds to live happily ever after. I know that when I read that genre, I think about myself in the same situation and I just know it would be the end of me. Those books can portray civilization as corrupt and nature as restorative, but in reality it isn't that simple.
The narrator comes from a civilization where most of the technical problems of survival have been eliminated, but instead of creating the utopia that mankind seems always to be striving for, they have just created more of the same. Wealth is power, new ideas are dangerous, most people do busywork that keep them out of trouble. Nevertheless, she would return in a heartbeat. She has friends she loves, music she adores, experiences she would like to have again. The wilds she has come to lack the corruption and banality of humanity as she knows it, but it also lacks the simple pleasures of, say, having a glass of water without worrying that you are slowly poisoning yourself. Nature is only restorative to humans if it's temporary -- if one day, you can go back to someplace with your lessons learned or you take the nature and you turn it into the civilization you left behind. The planet they land on offers neither option.
In the end, the narrator prevails. But was that the best outcome? We just can't know. (less)
I got the book from the library, but then Greg produced his own copy. So there's that.
The guy managed to write a whole book about characters whose pri...moreI got the book from the library, but then Greg produced his own copy. So there's that.
The guy managed to write a whole book about characters whose primary feature is that they haven't got their own personalities. A neat trick indeed. It was a pretty good page turner and it ended happily, if wildly hyperbolicaly. Definitely one of those science fiction books where the author starts with a premise and runs single-mindedly with it through the whole book.
I enojyed it. It was fun. Probably I don't need to read it again. The end.(less)
It's a locked room mystery set outside time and space because of kind of a super dumb reason. There's a lot of shouting and bumping around, and then i...moreIt's a locked room mystery set outside time and space because of kind of a super dumb reason. There's a lot of shouting and bumping around, and then it's over. But lordy lord I do love a locked room mystery. The fact that history is bananas is just added bonus. It's a fascinating premise and I've just discovered there's more. If I sort it out, I'll let you know. (less)
Welp. We're doomed. So long guys. Being around was great and all, but I think it's time we sat under a tree and watched the sun go down. Good night, e...moreWelp. We're doomed. So long guys. Being around was great and all, but I think it's time we sat under a tree and watched the sun go down. Good night, everybody!
In other news, read the paragraph near the end about the Polynesian natives and tobacco. Then, think about your electronic gizmos. That is all.(less)
Cheap cheap cheap. I think I hate suspense novels. Their whole premise is like a creepy man promising one more and one more piece of candy if you just...moreCheap cheap cheap. I think I hate suspense novels. Their whole premise is like a creepy man promising one more and one more piece of candy if you just walk one more and one more block down the road with him. And never you mind that unmarked delivery van at the end of the street.
The book starts well, as a regular old first person narrative. But then the novels switches over to diaries. The second of which goes on to include all the boring little bits of daily life that, by that time in the book, is stalling. Maybe it's the misdirection the illusionists are all the time going on about. Whatever. That part of the show is boring. Boring!
But what was the book about? It was a lovely little tale of mystery. Clearly magic is being done, but there is no such thing as magic so there must be another answer. What is that answer?
SCIENCE FICTION. NOW WE ARE A SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL HA HA
So cheap! Somebody on Netflix said that this business with Tesla was just to misdirect the one magician as that magician had done to the other. But I suppose he can say that because maybe the film didn't contain the framing story set in the late 20th century.
Also, I think the author was trying very hard to have his characters speak from their time, but near the end I didn't buy it. And then, when he switched back to the framing story, he couldn't quite shake the antiquity out of himself.
And what was the deal with that framing story, anyway? Why was it in first person? Specifically, in the last chapter, the person of the journalist? I would have thought it would have been more appropriate to be third person so as to unite all the threads together, which was clearly what that last chapter was doing.
AND THEN IT ENDS ON A CLIFFHANGER. "Hello, I'm Christopher Priest and I haven't been able to figure out how to end this story for, like, 100 pages already so, since I think we've got enough pages here to publish, let's just forget about the ending and ship it. They'll think it's mysterious. Yeah. It's thematic. Clearly I am a genius. Me and Tesla."
Needless to say, I took the film out of my Netflix queue.(less)
**spoiler alert** Having just finished The Age of Wonder it was only natural for me to read this fruit of that era.
The science is highly implausible,...more**spoiler alert** Having just finished The Age of Wonder it was only natural for me to read this fruit of that era.
The science is highly implausible, but the emotions and the people are very real.
What I noticed most was Frankenstein's blindness to his own pride. Things don't work out the way he wants them to so he throws a hissy fit about it and tries to erase his mistakes rather than fix them. I've been thinking a lot about entitlement and privilege lately. Frankenstein thinks he's a really great guy and it's really too bad that this monster's running around ruining his life. Do you think that's too harsh an assessment? Then why doesn't it occur to him that when the monster says that he will be with him on his wedding day, the monster might mean "to kill your dang bride"? This is despite the fact that the monster has already killed three people dear to him, one of them specifically for revenge. No, no. He's so focused on his own little tragedy that he's oblivious to dangerous problems and their obvious solutions.
Namely: BE A PAL, DAMMIT.
I'm not sure where Shelly's sympathies lie, but mine are with the monster. I keep thinking about how certain classes of people are hated just for being poor or a minority or funny looking or whatever. They get abused and exploited and rejected and then the "decent" people of the world wonder how so many of them end up in jail.(less)
This book is a delightful toy! Cleverly formatted and simple to follow while still being devious in it's complexities.
I would describe it a Choose you...moreThis book is a delightful toy! Cleverly formatted and simple to follow while still being devious in it's complexities.
I would describe it a Choose your own adventure flowchart. Choose between chocolate and vanilla ice cream to let the adventure begin! Look for secret codes and hidden paths. Don't get lost! But if you do, you can always go back to the ice cream shop at the beginning at try again.(less)