An entertaining story that takes place before the events of A Game of Thrones, during a time when Westeros was still ruled by the Targaryon Dynasty. IAn entertaining story that takes place before the events of A Game of Thrones, during a time when Westeros was still ruled by the Targaryon Dynasty. It tells the story of a hedge knight that got in over his head while trying to do the right thing. The events in this graphic novel are actually mentioned in The World of Ice and Fire history book and they have a major impact on subsequent events. As far as the art goes, it was nothing ground breaking but did a good job conveying the action in the scenes. I think I probably would have enjoyed the novella (also called The Hedge Knight) a bit better since the comic format didn't allow for the expansive and descriptive prose Martin is known for. Still, all things considered, this was an enjoyable read....more
To his most esteemed and gracious lord, Robert Tommen the first of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men...
Thus begins a nift
To his most esteemed and gracious lord, Robert Tommen the first of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men...
Thus begins a nifty in-universe history book about the World of Westeros (and beyond). But just who are the Andals, and Rhoynar, and First Men? Those of you who have paid attention while reading the Song of Ice and Fire books will know a bit about them. The First Men were the first humans to enter Westeros. Thousands of years later another wave of immigration brought the iron toting Andals to Westeros as conquerors. The Rhoynar, on the other hand, were some group of much later immigrants that settled in Dorne. Beyond this not too much is related.
This is where The World of Ice and Fire fills in the stupendous history of Westeros, Essos, and beyond. Written in the format of a history provided by an in-universe Maester Yandel, Martin et. al. does a wonderful job giving the book a voice instead of just being a dry data dump. Yandel follows some excellent historical methodology referencing in-universe primary and secondary sources like Archmaester Haereg's History of the Ironborn while also cautioning the reader about the reliability of some sources. This writing style works extremely well and was a joy to read. Plus, because he is writing for a king with Baratheon and Lannister Blood (view spoiler)[(ok, just Lannister, but he didn't know that) (hide spoiler)], he is overly fawning of both those Houses' histories. A nice touch in my mind.
The structure of this book also works quite well. It starts with ancient times and works its way forward chronologically. It then takes a deeper historical dive into each of the seven kingdoms and their notable personalities. It finishes up with looking at Essos and other lands, really imbuing these rarely touched upon regions with a sense of depth and history.
While there is a lot to be said about this compendium, I want to highlight a few of the parts I enjoyed the most:
Iron Islands/Ironborn: While we get a fair amount of page time with Theon and his sister Asha, we never really got much of a feel for the Ironbown. We know they value reaving and paying the "iron price", they rebelled against Robert and then got curbstomped, but little else. Thanks to this book, we know that the Ironborn have been, and always been, the assholes of the sea. Since the beginning of recorded history they have been raping, killing, and stealing everything that wasn't bolted down (which they would just burn if they couldn't take it). It was interesting to see how their culture developed and changed, especially in reaction to the coming of the Dragonlords.
The Targaryan Dynasty: Sure everyone knows about MAd King Aerys and a bit about Aegon the conquerer and Balor the Blessed, but we don't get much depth about the other rulers and family members (of which there are waaaaaaaay too many Aegons). this book fills in all those empty spaces in history with a very fascinating development of the Targaryons and the uniting of Westeros. Plus we get a really good description of the Dance of Dragons, the Targaryon Civil War. Apart from needing an English History Degree to be able to follow the convoluted family tree (where sibling marry), it was quite informative.
Mysteries of the World: Since this was written as an in-universe document, there is much that Yandel doesn't know about. Mysterious buildings that predate the First Men in Westeros, just what happened in Valyria (though Yandel does list some interesting theories), what exists in the far east of Essos, forgotten and vanished races that left strange structures behind. While I am sure Martin knows the answers to these question, it is nice that e is holding somethings back to possibly drop into the books. Plus it kept the framing device realistic.
The World at Large: Essos is awesome. The Free Cities (especially Braavos) have fascinating cultures and histories. Yen Ti, what little we are told, leaves me wanting so much more. And I must know more about Asshai-by-the-Shadow. There is some much potential for amazing stories and characters. In an ideal world, once Martin finishes the series, he will open the universe up to other writers in a manner similar to the Star Wars expanded universe to explore all these fascinating niches that are thus far unexplored.
The Art: This book has some stunning artwork that really blew my mind. I mean, just look at this gorgeous art:
The Iron Throne as Martin envisioned it, quite a bit fancier than the show's
Robert Baratheon/Rhaegar throwdown
Aegon the Conquerer
The book is chock full of gorgeous art that really enhances the world of Westeros.
This book, however, we not without flaws. My biggest issue was the lack of maps. There was a general map of the known world (with no labels for cities, bodies of water, or regions) and a collection of maps for each of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. There was no comprehensive map of Westeros to fit all the pieces together. I would have found it much better if "Yandel" had provided some maps outlining the Targaryan expansion into Westeros. Finally, given how little we see of Essos in the books, a bunch of maps showing where all these newly introduced areas were would have greatly enhanced the history. I can think of no good reason these were excluded and strikes me as a horrid oversight.
All in all this book hit both my fantasy and history weak spots. I adored revisiting Westeros and learning more about this fascinating world. I know we all want Martin to finish the next book series, but this book really did an excellent job giving the books more depth and weight. This is an excellent read for anyone who has enjoyed the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Fatherland takes a well worn subject, what if Nazi Germany had been successful in WWII, and takes an unusual avenue to explore it. Unlike other booksFatherland takes a well worn subject, what if Nazi Germany had been successful in WWII, and takes an unusual avenue to explore it. Unlike other books on the subject Fatherland does not concern itself with the big military picture and it doesn't dally in the political decisions that changed history. It takes the changes as a given and explores this strange and horrifying world through the eyes of a simple police officer trying to solve a crime. It infuses a 1960's Nazi dominated Europe with all the recognizable elements of a noir mystery thriller: abuse of power, a femme fatale, a man just trying to find truth in an otherwise corrupt system, death, deception, and double crosses.
The world that this story takes place in is indeed a depressing one. Nazi Germany has come to dominate Europe and is locked into a cold war with the United States. Xavier March, a member of the German police, is called out to a strange crime scene that propels him down the rabbit hole of Nazi secrets, power plays, and lost history. All the keystones of classic Noir setting are present in this book, but with much higher stakes because, you know, Nazis.
Harris does a top notch job introducing the reader to this strange world. Tantalizing hints are dropped about how this world in different but it never becomes the focus of the book. He explores just what it would be like to live under a Nazi police state through the eyes of a war Veteran that remembers life before the party and is somewhat disenchanted with its ideology. We see how such a society warps and controls children, replacing family, community, or religion with the Party and the State as a center for loyalty. It creates a nation of followers that Harris brilliantly portrays and March cunningly exploits at various points in the book.
Because of this setting the acceptable bounds of behavior of the bad guys is much wider. That cop who threatens to put a bullet in your head isn't crooked, he is just following orders from higher up and would likely get a commendation for his act. March himself is a part of the system and faces the unique challenge of seeking the truth in an environment that is both hostile and fatal for the seekers of certain truths.
Harris also sets up the politics of Nazi Germany quite well. It isn't some monolithic entity of pure evil, but a highly bureaucratic one with many factions vying for power. Harris explores the dark nooks and crannies of the Nazi power structure through March's investigation and gives the reader a good feel for what the banality of evil looks like writ large (spoiler alert: it doesn't look good).
What I most enjoyed about this book was how vibrant the characters were. Relationships felt natural and organic. The repartee with March and his partner (see below) were great and felt like a friendship that was many years old. The SS officers' behaviors made sense within the context of their character and you even feel a bit a sympathy for one towards the end. While I typically get very little out of romantic plot lines, the American reporter that March falls in with was also a great, fully realized character instead of just being a pretty face and love interest.
Finally, the prose in this book was outstanding. Harris really knows how to effectively turn a phrase using the voice of his characters:
"That was how it was with young men of his age. They had come off an assembly line of Pimpf, Hitler Youth, National Service and Strength-through-Joy. They heard the same speeches, read the same slogans, eaten the same one pot meals in aid of Winter Relief. They were the regime's workhorses, had known no authority but the party, and we're as reliable as the Kripo's Volkswagens."
"What do you do if you devote your life to discovering criminals, and it gradually occurs to you that the real criminals are the people you work for?" "I suppose you go crazy." "Or worse. Sane."
"If you think Fuhrertag [Hitler's Birthday] is a security nightmare - forget it. Can you imagine what it'll be like with Kennedy in town as well?" "I think, Max, you are missing the historic dimension of the occasion." "Screw the historic dimension of the occasion. I'm thinking about my sleep..."
"...What did you expect to pick up at the morgue?" "Plenty." "What? Be exact!" Fleas. Lice. A skin rash from his shitty clothes."
Sharp, insightful, witty, all hallmarks of a writing style I greatly enjoy.
All in all this was a great book that I enjoyed reading a lot. Some of that may be due to my love of WWII history (of which this book does delve in to), but I found the setting engrossing, the characters engaging, and the plot both surprising and perfectly reasonable. It kept me guessing what would happen next and followed its internal consistency its natural end. While I doubt he will, I would love it if Harris would write another book or twenty set in this alternate world.
Fatherland is definitely worth checking out for those who enjoy alternative histories, WWII, thrillers, or some combination of the three....more
So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany'So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: I honestly had no idea what this was actually about. The extent of my exposure to this was the image of Audrey Hepburn:
And an incredible racist Asian caricature portrayed by Mickey Rooney:
Thankfully the book did not have a terribly racist caricature (which makes me wonder why the movie had one) and was in fact rather engaging. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, we get caught up in the whirlwind that is Holly Golightly. Characters are sharp, relationships feel, and the plot was surprisingly engaging. Certainly worth checking out, it is a short, quick read that I finished on a plane ride.
House of Flowers: A short little story about a Caribbean prostitute that finds what she thinks is true love with a mountain boy. Great prose but a rather meandering and uninteresting story.
A Diamond Guitar: A somewhat bittersweet take about friendship and betrayal in a southern work prison.
A Christmas Memory: Another bittersweet tale about the love between a young boy and his mental diminished much older aunt. They have a very touching and loving relationship and this story centers around a Christmas tradition of making fruitcakes.
All in all a mixed bag, I enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany's a lot but felt the other stories just didn't resonate with me. Capote is clearly a very talented writer, just not my cup of tea. ...more
Another excellent addition to this fantastic series. I had a great time reading it and while the end left me a little disappointed (view spoiler)[(I rAnother excellent addition to this fantastic series. I had a great time reading it and while the end left me a little disappointed (view spoiler)[(I really wanted to see the Malazan army tangle with the forces of the Apocalypse) (hide spoiler)] it was still a top notch read.
As this been out for more than a decade AND has more than 400 reviews, there is little substantial I can add (for great reviews by fans of the series check out Conor's and David's reviews). We got a raft of new characters and characters that were minor in other books got much bigger roles. There was a nice taste of what will no doubt be revelations of a cosmic scale in later books and we see the fallout from the previous books land among this cast of characters. So, you know, standard Malazan stuff.
I do want to take some time to discuss Karsa Orlong, the badass Thelomen Toblakai warrior who didn't take shit from anyone, even gods. He is a rather complex character that goes through a lot of development in this book. I classify him in the same group as Jaime "I defenestrate children to hide my incestuous love affair" Lannister. You can like a lot of stuff the character ends up doing, but he has committed some major sins that there may not be able atonement for ((view spoiler)[mostly rape of his fellow Treblor and the wanton slaughter of humans to satisfy his need for glory (hide spoiler)]).
I think I am going to enjoy seeing his character grow over the series but I am concerned that he is overpowered. It doesn't seem like much of anything can do significant damage to him now, sorcery has little bite on him, he has a badass sword, and is generally a beast when it comes to fighting. He is like a hot chainsaw in a world made of butter. That doesn't make for a terribly interesting character in my mind, but I have faith that Erikson can finesse the character just right.
So, as I am want to do when reviewing this series that has been reviewed by far more and better people than me, I present to you, fair reader, some quotes and interactions I thought were just the bee's knees:
Nature has but one enemy. And that is imbalance.
This was a major theme with this installment, along with SO MANY MENTIONS of chains. But I think this one is a more enduring theme that plays out over the entire series.
Karsa: Not exactly Attila the Hun: To the shores of Silver Lake, where farms quatted like rotted mushrooms and children [humans] scurried like mice. Back then, there had been two farms, a half-dozen outbuildings. Now, Karsa believed, there would be more. Three, even four farms."
Not quite dreaming big, is he?
I'm Steve Erikson and I actually think out the cultures of my intelligent races based on their psychologies and not just what sounds cool (though my stuff usually sounds cool too): When failure was honorable, their [T'lan Imass] sentient remnants would be placed open to the sky, to vistas, to the outside world, so that they might find peace watching the passing eons. But, for these seven, failure had not been honorable. Thus, the darkness of a tomb had been their sentence.
I have immense respect for Erikson's ability to come up with rational culture practices for the diverse populations he has created the flow naturally from their circumstances.
Torvald and Karsa need a radio talk show that never goes off air:
Tovald: We should go hunting Karsa: Leave that to me Tovald: You? You can barely stand- Karsa: Even so, I will kill it. Tovald: Well, can't I watch? Karsa: If you insist.
Tovald: You needn't worry about the oarsmen Karsa: Are they slaves? When we shall free them. Tovald: Slaves? I don't think so. They wear no chains, Karsa. Mind you, they have no heads, either. As I said, I don't think we have to concern ourselves with them.
Tovald: I've been thinking friend. Karsa: You should do more of that, instead of talking, Torvald Nom. Torvald: It's a family curse. My father was even worse. Oddly enough, some lines of the Nom House are precisely opposite - you couldn't get a word out of them even under torture. I have a cousin, an assassin- Karsa: I thought you had been thinking. Torvald: Oh, right. So I was...
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word: Hatred is a most pernicious weed, finding root in any kind of soil. It feeds on itself.
Steven Erikson writes pretty: Pikes wavered and flashed blinding glares through the dusty air of the parade ground like startled birds of steel. The sun was a raging fire overhead.
Abbot and Costello have nothing on Steven Eriskson: "And have you a name, soldier?" "Maybe." "Well, what is it?" "I just told you. Maybe. Do you need me to spell it out or something?" "Can you?" "No. I was just wondering if you was stupid, that's all."
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word, Part II: My loyalty was misplaced. I served only glory. Words, my friends. And words can wear a false nobility. Disguising brutal truths."
Badass quote: You delivered pain. Unacceptable. I am not one to feel pain. I only deliver it.
Just call him Karsa Marx: The rewards [of settle agricultural work] seemed to be exclusive to the high born landowners, whilst the labourers themselves had only a minimal existence, prematurely aged and worn down by ceaseless toils. And the distinction between high and low status was born from farming itself - or so it appeared to Karsa.
Your reminder of how much fun Iskaral Pust is: No time? Of course you have, lad! There's much to be done, and much time in which to do it! Doesn't that make for a change? Rush about? No, we can dawdle! Isn't it wonderful?
Introducing Greyfrog, the demon that could give Pust and Kruppe a run for their money: Confident. They are too preoccupied. Disappointed. I have eaten but two guards, the wards sleep, our path of retreat is clear. Things are coming. Suitably ominous. Frankly. I admit to fear, and advise we... hide.
A fell night, this one. Ghosts, assassins, warrens, silent battles. Does no-one in this world ever sleep?
There is no term for "I was wrong" in the Tiste Liosan language: [After having been introduced to explosives and barely escaping with their lives]Brother Enias: Were those truly th ones who rode that ship through our realm? Jorrude: They were. And I have been thinking. I suspect they were ignorant of Liosan laws when they traveled through our realm. True, ignorance is an insufficient defence. But consider the notion of innocent momentum. Malachar: Innocent momentum? Jorrude: Indeed. Were not these trespassers but pulled along - beyond their will - in the wake of the draconian t'lan Imass bonecaster? If an enemy we must hunt, then should it not be that dragon? Malachar: Wise words. Jorrude: A brief stay in our realm to resupply and requisition new horses, along with repairs and such, seems to reasonably obtain in this instance. Malachar: Truly judged, brother.
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word, Part III: The glory of battle... dwells only in the bard's voice, in the teller's woven words. Glory belongs to ghosts and poets. What you hear and dream isn't the same as what you live.
Tons of other great passages and unforgettable characters. Lots of great action, intrigue, and mysteries unveiled. A worthy addition to the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Legal disclaimer: I have never listened to an audio book before. I have never read a John Grisham book before. I have never read a courtroom/legal booLegal disclaimer: I have never listened to an audio book before. I have never read a John Grisham book before. I have never read a courtroom/legal book before. I am not a lawyer. I do have some good lawyer jokes though.
With all that out of the way let me say I enjoyed the heck out of this audio book and it served me well on long car trips.
Right off the bat Dennis Boutsikaris does a very nice job with the audio portion of this audio book. He has a nice cadence, great inflections, and does a wonderful job giving each character their own voice. I could tell who was speaking in a long conversation just by the speech patterns he was using. I think his Chicago accent would occasionally stray into a Bostonian accent but it wasn't very distracting. Boutsikaris was a great voice for this and I was pleased by the quality of his contribution.
As for the book portion of the audio book, Grisham presents the reader/listener with a very colorful cast. From the grumpy Oscar Finley, to the hustling Wallace "Wally" Figg, to the earnest David Zinc, to all the many supporting characters we come across there is more than enough personality to go around. Grisham does a great job having the characters play off against each other and giving relationships a deep sense of history. I really liked how Grisham crafted the characters and relationships, making them all feel very natural and real.
The story was also a lot of fun. Instead of just focusing on the courtroom drama of a major litigation, the vast majority of the book detailed all the out of court maneuvering by the mass tort bar, the tiny firm of Finley and Figg, and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the questionable drug. It was fascinating to see how these sorts of things play out, how opportunistic the lawyers in question were, and strategy the corporation used to defend themselves.
But beyond the legal drama, this was a book about people. We learned and sympathized with Oscar's marital troubles, we got to know Wally and his challenge to stay sober, and we got to root for David as he cast off the golden shackles of a giant legal firm for the uncertainty of street law. More importantly, we got to see some of the other law they practiced and what drove them as people. I greatly enjoyed how the characters and story lines interwove themselves and was left with a very satisfied feeling as all the loose ends were (logically and reasonably) tied up by the end.
All in all this was a great first audiobook for me. I was constantly engaged, laughed out loud many times, and found the story lots of fun. The audio was great, the book was great, it was all great!...more
Texts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg doesTexts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg does a lovely and loving job magnifying the flaws of great literary characters through this medium. Here are some of my favorites:
Medea: anyhow so to SHOW YOU how soft my feelings are I got you guys a wedding present!!!... Glauce [Jason's new bride]: oh! you must mean the box that came on Thursday Medea: yessssss I TOTALLY MEAN THAT Glauce: it's a dress Medea: It's a wedding dress Glauce: thank you I mean, I already have a wedding dress picked out but this is very sweet Medea: do you know what you should do though you should put it on you should put it on your skin and wear it for just a minute (be sure to put it on your skin) :-):-):-)
Medea: I sent you guys something Glauce: I don't think we have anything Medea: look outside Glauce: it's another box Medea: THE BOX IS FROM ME (are you surprised) Glauce: a little bit how did you know where we live Medea: i mean how does anyone know anything right you should open the box right now Glauce: it's a cake Medea: for your wedding! so just go ahead and eat some right now to make sure that it's normal and good for the wedding and tell me if you like it!! Glauce: Medea Medea: are you eating it how does it taste Glauce: Medea I'm not eating this cake Medea: oh sorry can you not eat processed flour i should have asked do you have allergies Glauce: Medea I'm not going to try on the dress of eat this cake Medea: why not??? Glauce: you know why they're both full of poison Medea: whaaaat Glauce: the cake is black and the icing ate through the box Medea: how would poison even get in there Glauce: the dress caught on fire that's how much poison was on it Medea: well i'm going to i'm going to have a very stern talk with that seamstress ill get you another present to make up for it Glauce: please don't
Rudyard Kipling: I'm bored Let's shoot something Friend: okay What Rudyard Kipling: i don't care a tiger or a Boer Friend: what was that last one? Rudyard Kipling: I mean a bear Friend: oh OK Rudyard Kipling: haha must have been a weird typo it's illegal to hunt men but exhilarating Friend: what? Rudyard Kipling:I said it was illegal and also execrable execrable was the second word I said
Enjolras: where are you? Marius: I am so there this barricade is going to be an absolute HAPPENING you guys don't start without me I am on my way in like five minutes Enjolras: Marius I'm concerned that you don't really understand the reason for our movement MArius: oh my god what do you mean Enjolras: I sometimes question your commitment to the cause Marius: how could you possibly even question that Enjolras: I don't know Marius maybe it's because you have missed every one of our clashes with the police because you were still studying for the bar Marius: to bring down the system from within! Enjolras: Marius your father is a baron He's an actual baron Marius: well only a Napoleonic baron Enjolras: That's still a baron Marius: well when you say it like that
Jake: Brett Brett did you get that picture I sent you Brett: I did, yeah Jake: the picture of my penis I mean Brett: yes Jake: Brett guess how much of my penis I still have left you know after my accident after my penis accident Brett: I don't really want to play this game, Jake Jake: come on, guess Brett: I don't have unlimited texting these messages are kind of expensive for me Jake: I'll give you a hint it's definitely SOME
Holmes: this is quite a puzzle, Watson Watson: damned right, Holmes hell of a puzzle what I want to know is how did the vicar know the archbishop's Pekingese had developed an immunity to snake bites? Holmes: there's only one thing we're missing only one thing we need that will help us solve this case Watson: we need to question Lady Emily again Holmes: no, Watson Watson: oh it's not ... Holmes: COCAINE, WATSON Watson: ah Holmes: we're going to need loads of cocaine SCADS of it
As you can see no cow is sacred and there is more than a little truth in these portrayals (especially Marius, man do I loathe that guy).
I will say that, even though I am somewhat well read, there were many references that went right over my head. Overall though, this was a brisk and entertaining read. I would certainly checkout a sequel if one was written and if you are familiar with the classics you will also enjoy the heck out of this book....more
There is so much I want to say about this book. It is so jammed packed with interesting ideas and characters that there are a million places to start.There is so much I want to say about this book. It is so jammed packed with interesting ideas and characters that there are a million places to start. Perhaps I’ll just get the crude and vulgar out of the way first.
The world of Jennifer Government reads like an Ayn Rand wet dream. Corporations have free reign in what is called the United States of America but actually comprises North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the British isles (of, for you George Orwell fans out there, Oceania). The government makes Nozick’s Night-watchman state look like Soviet Russia and even most basic services are provided by companies.
The teacher jotted something in his folder. McDonald's sponsored schools were cheap like that: at Pepsi schools, everyone had notebook computers. Also their uniforms were much better.
But all is not happy go lucky in this Capitalist Paradise. Where the government does not have a monopoly on violence, those that deal in violence are attracted to the highest bidder. A corporate Cold War is on the verge of heating up, and in this case the customer isn't always right.
The battle lines have been drawn. Every Team Alliance company is in competition with every Team Advantage company. Every customer who flies T.A. airline will buy a computer from Compaq instead of IBM. Boeing is with us because otherwise United Airlines won't buy from it.
With this as the backdrop we are introduce to a wide cast of characters whose threads eventually get entangled with each other and much bigger events.
John Nike (because in this world you are your job, or at least your last name is your company) is what John Galt would be if Ayn Rand had a halfway decent editor. He condenses Jon Galt’s (in)famous ninety page radio speech into two paragraphs that absolutely represent the spirit of the age:
Look, I am not designing next year's ad campaign here. I'm getting rid of the Government, the greatest impediment to business in history. You don't do that without a downside. Yes, some people will die. But look at the gain! Run a cost-benefit analysis! Maybe some of you have forgotten what companies really do. So let me remind you: they make as much money as possible. If they don't investors go elsewhere. It's that simple. We're all cogs in wealth-creation machines. that's all.
I've given you a world without Government interference. There is now no advertising campaign, no intercompany deal, no promotion, no action you can't take. You want to pay kids to get the swoosh tattooed on their foreheads? Who's going to stop you? You want to make computers that need repair after three months? Who's going to stop you? You want to reward consumers who complain about your competitors in the media? You want to pay them for recruiting their little brothers and sisters to your brand of cigarettes? You want the NRA to help you eliminate your competition? Then do it. Just do it.
He is a ruthless, amoral, sanctimonious, asshole and thrives in the world corporations have constructed.
It's my job to increase sales. Is it my fault that [killing kids to create buzz] was the best way to do it? If Government had the muscle to enforce the law, it wouldn't have made economic sense, but they don't and it did. this is the world we live in. If you don't take advantage of the rules, you're a sucker.
If it doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it, isn’t connected to a board of directors, or wear a short skit, he isn’t interested. He is pure id in the empire of id.
Jennifer Government, the book’s namesake, is a bit rougher around the edges, hemmed in by Government limitations that prevent her from seeing justice done. In order to pursue a murder investigation she has to convince the victims' families to pony up money for a budget.
"The Government's budget only extends to preventing crime, not punishing it. For retributive investigation, we can only proceed if we can obtain funding."
She is a but rough around the edges and nicely fits into the loose cannon cop trope while still delivering both a softer side with her daughter, and a more interesting backstory than most who populate the trope.
In a way, Jennifer felt bad, busting into such a nice place in full riot gear and scaring the crap out of everybody. But in another, more accurate way, she enjoyed it a lot.
The world itself is quite dystopian. All the places in the USA are homogenized (be they LA, Australia, or England). The overwhelming cultural impulse is to do anything to get ahead, to get yours and to hell with other people. People have internalized this to the point where that commit immoral actions (child abduction, murder, assassinations, etc) or suffer psychological breakdowns when they finally burn out. It is a culture driven by consumerism and consumption at the cost of overseas workers, the environment, and our shared humanity.
Thankfully things like this:
The cheap roads were clogged, even at six-thirty, but he was only four blocks from a premium Bechtel freeway and that was eight lanes, two dollars a mile, and no speed limit.
Well, at least emergency services will never devolve into this:
"Sir, I need to know if the victim is part of our register. If she's one of our clients, we'll be there within a few minutes. Otherwise I'm happy to recommend-" "I need an ambulance. I'll pay for it, I don't care, just come!" "Do you have a credit card, sir?" "Yes! Send someone now!" "As soon as I confirm your ability to pay, sir. This will only take a few seconds."
(Goddamnit world, this book was not supposed to be a how to guide!)
Anyway, doomsday prophesying aside, this was a very fast read. Chapters were just a few pages long and the action jumps among a wide cast of characters. The writing is sharp (see below for some of my favorite quotes) and Barry does a great job bringing this Calitalizm nightmare to life. I did think the ending was a bit lacking, much like Lexicon (link to review), but I greatly enjoyed this book in spite of this. If you like economic dystopias or just think the setting sounds fun then by all means check this out.
Also, if you are feeling ambitious, start and run your own nation at Nationstates, a site affiliated with this book.
Now, without further ado, fun/horrifying quotes:
Companies were getting a lot tougher on labor contracts these days; Hack had heard stories. At Adidas, if you quit your job and your replacement wasn't as competent, they sued you for lost profits.
"I want to commandeer your vehicle for Government business. We pay three hundred dollars per hour of use, plus any necessary repairs. Also, you have the satisfaction of knowing you've helped prevent crimes in your community." "Three hundred up front?"
Companies claimed to be highly responsive, but you only had to chase a screaming man through their offices to realize that wasn't true.
There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. there was no place in marketing for that, either.
There are lots of other brilliant and funny lines as well, you should read it and see them for yourself! ...more
When I saw the the amazon ad link for this book on io9 I felt it was like a little slice of Christmas come early. I am a self admitted Sanderson addicWhen I saw the the amazon ad link for this book on io9 I felt it was like a little slice of Christmas come early. I am a self admitted Sanderson addict and had no idea this was even on the horizon (OK, so I am poorly informed addict, but one nonetheless).
Simply put this is an awesome novella and has all the hallmarks Sanderson's other amazing works:
-Kickass female character: The protaganist of this story is a pretty badass Trapper name Sixth of Dusk (for a pretty profound reason you learn later). The island he works is the largest and most dangerous with exotic menaces everywhere. He ends up falling in with a homeisler, a female named, Vathi. While not as capable a trapper as Dusk (which is a tough bar for men as well) she is very competent and handles herself exceedingly well in the dangerous environment earning his grudging respect.
-Well thought out and developed cultures: In this case two of them, Trappers and Homeislers. Trappers are a mix of shamans and rangers who train to survive and thrive on a group of holy islands. These islands play into their religious beliefs and customs. Homeislers are more "civilized" and at the stage of development of the late 18th century: early steam technology, adventure science, and big corporations. They tend to view trappers as a necessary part of getting goods from the holy islands, but somewhat uncivilized, in the stereotypical "noble savage" sort of way.
Case in point: At one point Vathi ends up killing the most dangerous menace on island (because Dusk doesn't have a monopoly on badassitude), a nightmaw, using primitive gunpowder technology. Dusk thinks this is great and they should wipe all the nightmaws:
Vathi: I thought trappers were connected to nature. Dusk: We are. That's how I know we would all be better off without any of these things. Vathi: You are disabusing me of many romantic notions about your kind, Dusk.
Sanderson does a nice job introducing and demolishing the noble savage, one with the land stereotype that Dusk could easily fall into.
-Unique and nifty magic system: This one is centered around birds that come from a very dangerous island. Seriously, Sanderson is like the MacGyver of fantasy writers. Give him a paper clip, chewing gum, and used floss and he can fashion and magic system that will both intrigue and impress you. In this case birds of different breeds can bestow 'talents' upon those nearby. These birds are highly valued and Trappers are the only source of them.
-A compact but expansive story with a compelling Protaganist: This story took place over the course of maybe twelve hours, but delved really deeply into both the Trapper tradition, the clash of Trapper culture and Homeislers expansive business and science rationalism, and the machination of the One's Above, a spacefaring civilization that has limited diplomatic ties with the Homeislers. That's right folks, we have SPACEFARERS IN THE COSMERE!!!11!11!!!1!!!!
"From what I have hear them [the One's Above] say, there are many other worlds like ours, with cultures that cannot sail the stars. "
While we see the story from Dusk's point of view, his conversations with Vathi help flesh out the world wonderfully. It was interesting to see the world from the perspective of a character who knows his way of life is fading into history. Often Sanderson will give us characters on the rise or already at the top. Here we get a great no nonsense character who is both at the top of his trapper abilities but also recognizes the world is changing, leaving his people in the historic dust. While being excellent at being a trapper, he is less well equipped with dealing with others. Trapping is a lonely activity, requiring weeks at sea, alone, to get to the holy islands. His interactions with Vathi show this and make his feel like a very interesting and well develop character.
The other interesting about Dusk is that he was quite different from the typical Sandersonian protagonist. Most of Sanderson's main character have some level of snark of sarcasm in their world view or conversational style. Dusk was refreshingly terse in conversations, saying only what needed to be said. I think even a little bit of snark would have seriously diminished his character and Sanderson was wise to restrain his natural conversational snark tendency in this case; I think that shows that Sanderson is getting better and more disciplined as he writes more and not letting his runaway success make him complacent.
I was delighted reading this story but, like Legion, it was too short. I wanted so much more. More of the Trapper culture, more about the Homeislers, a lot more about the One's Above, and more about the awesome magical birds. We discover one talent the birds bestow but no indication about what others do. Like Legion it was a great story that left me wanting more, hence the loss of a star.
So do you hear me Sanderson? I am withholding that one star until we get more. My terms are non-negotiable and I expect you to comply post haste.
I will also accept an advanced copy of the next Stormlight book as suitable payment.
Though in all seriousness this is a fantastic novella. Fans of Sanderson and fantasy will devour this gem of a story....more
There is no doubt that Star Wars is one of the largest and most pervasive cultural phenomenon since the first movie was released in 1977. All around t
There is no doubt that Star Wars is one of the largest and most pervasive cultural phenomenon since the first movie was released in 1977. All around the world people are familiar with light sabers and Darth Vader, Wookies and droids, Jedi and X-Wings. It has gotten to the point of cultural background noise. Everyone knows that Vader is Luke's father to the point that even the most anti-spoiler people nary bat an eyelash at that statement. But we live in a time where Star Wars and its themes are the norm. We can't conceive of a time when there wasn't Star Wars. The story of its genesis and its cultural diffusion is fascinating and revealing.
"How Star Wars Conquered the Universe" is a fantastic look at the franchise's history, roots, and influences through early 2014 and its purchase by Disney. While Taylor is quite clearly a huge Star Wars fan, he approaches this history with the objectivity of a journalist, not accepting the official company line as Gospel and seeking out all sides to the story. Instead of being a straight forward chronological retelling of the events that led up to the movies and other media, Taylor looks at its root influences. Surprisingly, this goes as far back as the late 19th century, when H.G. Wells and Jules Verne took radically different views of science-fiction. H.G. Wells was all about the story, science be damned while Verne was all about using the limits of science to sculpt to the story. Here was the split between science fantasy (Star Wars) and science fiction (think Star Trek or 2001: Space Odyssey).
More directly, the vision of George Lucas was heavily influenced by the sci-fi serials of the 1920's and 30's; namely Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. Adventures in space with aliens, villainous empires, dashing rescues, and fast paced actions informed a lot of how Lucas would develop the original trilogy. Taylor also tracks the life of a young Lucas as well, one that was just as interested (arguably more interested) in racing fast cars than film making.
Taylor also does a great job telling the story of all the many people who helped bring Star Wars into the world. From the concept artist Ralph McQuerrie who was responsible for bring many of Lucas's ideas to paper and creating some of its most iconic images:
To Alan "Laddie" Ladd who greenlit the first movie and became its champion among executives, to Marcia Lucas, George's wife and a major editor on the original Trilogy, to so many others who helped create the final vision that was Star Wars. Reading this it becomes very clear that there was an enormous team effort to create the Star Wars we all know and love.
But Taylor does more than just chronicle the path of Star Wars, he also examines the culture that has grown up around it. From the 501st Legion, a group of folks who dress as stormtroopers, to lightsaber instructors, to droid builders, to the long history of Star Wars spoofs, to every imaginable type of merchandise you could imagine. Taylor does an excellent job telling the cultural story of Star Wars and how it has spread around the world through fan passion and dedication.
What I found most interesting was the path that lead Lucas to the dark side... I mean to making the prequels. I am on record of really not liking them at all for a wide variety of reasons. This book does a wonderful job giving me the context for what happened and why everything went wrong.
Effectively Lucas was operating under many constraints for the original trilogy: budget, timing, technology, actor selection. All of these selective pressures caused decisions to be made that resulted in the movies we all know and love. Lucas had to compromise, rely on others for polishing up his writing, letting actors push back and adapt dialouge to suit the mood of a scene, and real sets for actors to act against. Lucas admits that the original trilogy was really on 25% of his vision (hence his consistent tinkering with it in special edition releases).
But by the time the prequels rolled around CGI technology was at a point when Lucas could realize his full vision. Star Wars was, by this time, a major cultural phenomenon already. Lucas could do no wrong and no one pushed back against his decisions. Harrison Ford (Han Solo) once said "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!". Sadly there was no Harrison Ford on the set of the prequels. And the dialogue suffered for it. Actors were accumulated for their name (since who doesn't want to be in the Star Wars franchise) instead of their chemistry with each other. Real sets gave way to sprawling green screens, alienating the actors from their surroundings and motivations.
Finally Lucas decided to make the prequels more kids oriented. In fact, some of the early Episode I scripts Taylor outlines actually sounded really good. But these were rewritten to the detriment of the story, characters, and flow. The result was a trilogy with an average Rotten Tomato score of 68% compared the original trilogy's 89%. Not surprisingly Lucas thoughts the prequels most fulfilled his vision of what the Star Wars in his head should be.
My take away was the Lucas had some great ideas (and some terrible ones as some of the early Star Wars scripts reveal), but that if he was allowed to be a kid in a candy store with an unlimited budget his worst qualities would rise to the top. He needed people who were better writers around him and directors with a great eye for cinematography and good rapport with the actors.
While I greatly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Star Wars, there were a few parts that I thought it cam eup short (hence the four star rating):
-The book has a fantastic look at the filming and development of the first movie, but subsequent movies are given a shorter and shorter treatment. I would imagine there were just as many interesting stories form those movies as with the first one. I can understand Taylor not wanting to rehash what many other Star Wars histories have done but the difference between the treatments of the movies was glaring to me. -Similarly, this book didn't touch too much upon the main actors in the movies. There was some high levels discussion of them but not much of a deep dive into how the movies affected them and what they thought of them for the most part. Once again, I can understand Taylor not wanting to rehash what many other Star Wars histories have done, but the actors are an important part of the history of Star Wars and should have been more thoroughly explored. -I noticed a hand full of typos that should have been caught before this book went to print. Nothing major, but they shouldn't be there. -I thought that the conclusion chapter was unnecessary. The material could have been moved to other chapters in the book. Instead of finishing with Lucas riding off into the proverbial sunset having sold Star Wars to the (hopefully) caring hands of Disney, we get another, somewhat generic, chapter.
Granted these are somewhat nitpicky critiques but I thought they did hold the book back from being a full fledged 5 star. In any event this was a highly enjoyable book and should be required reading for all star Wars fans. It gave me a deeper appreciation of what it took to create the franchise and what influenced its themes. I can honestly say that it gave me a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the whole series and a greater appreciation for what Star Wars has done for the world as a whole....more
Having finished "Never Let Me Go", I am left with this image:
A beautiful frame that contains nothing. I would paraphrase the Bard if this book containHaving finished "Never Let Me Go", I am left with this image:
A beautiful frame that contains nothing. I would paraphrase the Bard if this book contained anything close to sound and fury, but it certainly signifies nothing.
Seriously, little to nothing happens in this book. The central characters, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, are little better than leaves floating along a babbling brook. They passively accept their fate and do nothing to resist the system they find themselves in. Frequently it would seems like something was going to happen and then the conclusion would be so anti-climatic the term conclusion has grounds to sue for misappropriating its title. I felt like a character from Monty Python and the Holy Grail yelling at the characters to
Sadly they rarely complied with my yelling.
I also find the writing style that contained constant references to future events that the narrator (Kathy) would then relate grating after the third or fourth time. Finally I thought there was WAAAAAAAAAAAY too much telling and not enough showing. I understand that the story was effectively just Kathy telling the reader about her memories, but there are ways a good writer can avoid that pitfall.
Spoilers after another gorgeous empty frame.
So I understand what Ishiguro was trying to do here. He wanted a book that reflected upon memory and loss among a trio of friends. He wanted to capture the bittersweet regret of the decisions made and not made, of the roads not taken, the appeal of nostalgia, and the vagueness of the past. And while he is certainly a gifted writer that does a good job building up the relationships between Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy, he is criminally negligent with the rest of his authorial responsibility.
First and foremost (and here is where the spoilers begin) the entire concept of the donor system just made no sense. Or, to be more specific, Ishiguro didn't give the reader any context for it. The world outside of Kathy's narrow view was shrouded in mystery. There are vague references to other aspects in the world, like cars coming the other way in a dense cloud bank. But as soon was we see them they have passed up by and rejoined the fog surrounding these characters. Because of this I simply could not accept the premise and operation of the system of donors. There seemed to be an animus towards the clones but we are only told about it. It is all left frustrating vague.
I also find it extremely unlikely that the clones would not rebel or resist the system in any way. I can understand that the school Kathy et. al. attended sort of socially engineered the children to get information before they were really able to handle it, but after the first or second "donation" I would think the clones would have a much stronger feeling about the whole thing. I simply cannot imagine a situation where a person, especially ones so well educated as Kathy and her classmates, would simply walk into the donation centers like lambs to the slaughter.
Maybe there was something done to the genetic code that makes them more passive but Ishiguro gave no indication that was the case. To an outsider observer, like the reader, the clones would seem like a normal person (Which for all intents and purposes they are). The universal lack of resistance is astounding and completely unbelievable, probably the biggest black mark against this book in my mind.
I wasn't terribly enchanted with the three main characters. Kathy was rather passive and aloof, Tommy was well meaning and sweet, but not terribly interesting, and Ruth was manipulative and attention seeking. Together they were one big mess of relationships (which I suppose is what Ishiguro was going for) that I just didn't give a hoot about. Granted these relationships were told from just the perspective of Kathy so they are bound to be colored by her perspective, but this did little to endear me to them. Just another way Ishiguro failed to engage me with the book.
I think Ishiguro wanted to tell a story about friendship, loss, nostalgia, and memory. Then, for some reason, he decide to throw in clones and donations and an alternative history England. But unlike a good world builder he didn't develop and expand on these ideas. He had them present but in no coherent way that integrated well with or reinforced the plot. The result was a world I had great difficulty believing could be plausible, a writing style that failed to get me motivated about the story, and characters that struck me as very bland and uninteresting. There is no doubting Ishiguro's writing ability, but his inability to create and sustain a cohesive alternative world with interesting characters made this a rather unenjoyable read....more