To paraphrase: People don't want the truth; they'd rather have lies or fictions that protect them (temporarily) from reality. So true, sometimes. I reTo paraphrase: People don't want the truth; they'd rather have lies or fictions that protect them (temporarily) from reality. So true, sometimes. I read this in its entirety on the plane ride back from the west coast - it was THAT engrossing. Very good writing; very compelling story within a story within a story. It was somewhat predictable towards the end, but it didn't take away from the experience at all. One of the things I found most disconcerting (which is a good thing) is the total disregard for time, and I think that was done on purpose. I have no idea what era this is supposed to be set in, only because it spans close to eight decades. Part of me was thinking it started in Victorian England, or even later...like the early 20th century but I'm not quite sure. In other books, that would've bothered me, but it really didn't, this time. It was a really great read and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in taking a brief break from the soberness of life. ...more
I'll admit, I read this book only because I watched the movie...and I liked the book a whole lot more. This was my introduction to Crichton, and I'veI'll admit, I read this book only because I watched the movie...and I liked the book a whole lot more. This was my introduction to Crichton, and I've had this love/hate thing with him for decades......more
Well...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse."
The novel itself was a studyWell...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse."
The novel itself was a study in dualities: what it means to be animal and human, what it means to love your own kind vs. an outsider, what it means to cross that line from the inner being to the outer, and most of all, deciding to hold on to the innocence of youth (keeping with an animal nature) and accepting the incongruities of living as a man (becoming aware of what it means to be man and understanding the ego).
I read a lot of reviews about this novel, both good and bad. The salaciousness of a human-chimp love affair notwithstanding, this was a novel about Bruno's love not only for the woman who taught him language and what it meant to be human, but about Bruno's love for humanity itself. He wanted to be human; he didn't want the confines -- the innocence, the lack of language, the baser and more primitive nature -- of his life as a chimp. Bruno relished being able to communicate, to think, to recognize, to emote. That was the best part of this book: his growth from a baby chimp who was barely aware of his surroundings, to a primate who identified with his human captors so much that he didn't really think of himself as a chimp at all. He was human, with human feelings and emotions, who thought like a human and acted like a human, who lived and enjoyed all the perks of modern society. Still, as he says, he is and will remain a chimp of the perverse. Because no matter how much he counted himself as a human, his baser instincts have and will always be, that of his kind: of an animal who can and will act as an animal, especially when he recognizes that humans devolve, in the name of science, into their animalistic natures as well. While much will be said about the romance between Bruno and Lydia, about the consummation of this relationship, about what happens in the course of their time together, the book really wasn't about that. It was about his growth into a human and his love of humanity; it was also about Lydia'a ability to see beyond his apeness and recognize what made him a human. For these, I would give the book a solid 4. These were the parts of the book I enjoyed the most.
But I'll be honest...I didn't enjoy all the philosophical ramblings that Bruno took in the latter half of the novel. The way how Bruno rationalized things, at times, made him so obviously perverse (there it is again) that is was hard to like him, as a character. There were sections of the book where he would go on for pages, rationalizing, deconstructing, pontificating, and not always in a good way. I understand that Hale was trying to make a point: in the move from animal to human, there are many ideals and incontrovertible truths that Bruno will need to cogitate on, and he wanted to show Bruno's thought processes and the various directions it took him. I saw that and from a purely intellectual stance, I appreciated it. But a) this is fiction and b) it's a lot of unnecessary and repeated navel gazing. I want the story; I want to be moved. I'm a greedy reader like that. I don't want to feel as if I'm stuck in my freshman Intro to Philosophy course: I know I have to be there, but I don't need to like it, so I'll listen and I'll know enough to get me through all the tests and papers, but at the end, I won't really take anything in. For this, I gave the book a 2, for an average of 3 stars.
This was a beautifully written book. On a purely technical level, it was near-perfect. The imagery was fantastic, the prose was lyrical, and the charaThis was a beautifully written book. On a purely technical level, it was near-perfect. The imagery was fantastic, the prose was lyrical, and the characters were very well developed (and that includes the biggest character of all, the circus itself).
However, from a reader's emotional point of view, I felt that it took such a long time for things to come together that at times, I couldn't help wondering "Where is this all going and do I want to stick with it?" I like well-written narratives but when the technical beauty gets in the way of the story, I have a tendency to think that it detracts from what drew me to the book in the first place: the promise of being caught up in the story.
One of the things that I found annoying was that Morgenstern kept switching perspectives and person (as in first, second or third person). It was distracting and I felt that it broke the flow of the narrative. I must admit, having the first chapter written in second person was very disconcerting and I wondered if I could handle an entire novel in second person. Thankfully, it wasn't, but she did switch back and forth between first, second and third person. This was also part epistolary (the first person parts) and while I am a huge fan of the epistolary, I am not all that convinced it added a significant benefit to the narrative. I can see why she did it; after all, something critical happens to the character speaking in first person that had wide-ranging effects in the narrative. It was a good literary device -- again, from a technical perspective, it worked, but from an emotional one, not so much (at least for me).
So, rating's-wise, I gave this a 4 for how well-written it was, but a 3 for the story itself. ...more
There is a reason I hate stream-of-consciousness novels. I can't follow it. I like my novels to travel down a path - it may veer off every now and theThere is a reason I hate stream-of-consciousness novels. I can't follow it. I like my novels to travel down a path - it may veer off every now and then, and that's okay because those little detours may prove to be wonderful, terrifying, heart-stopping, mysterious or whatnot, but they are almost always revelatory. Sometimes immediately, sometimes long after the fact that you need to really remember and say "Oh yeah, I remember when that happened! Huh! That's what that meant." Either way, it doesn't matter. Because the detours had meaning, they had purpose, and you can trust that a good (read: conscientious) writer will have a reason for taking you down that path. And in the end, it will be okay. You've traveled from Point A to Point B and took a dozen turns here and there, but you got there, and there was a point to it all. And in the journey, you were entertained, bewildered, thrilled, sickened, fell in love, hated someone passionately. In other words, you were cajoled out of the quotidian confines of your life temporarily, living vicariously through some fictional character's (mis)adventures.
My problem with stream-of-consciousness works comes down to this: I get lost way too easily if I can't see how anything is connected, and when I start getting lost, I get distracted and don't care to pay attention anymore, and the work just becomes tedious because all I can think of is "Where is this going? What just happened? Crud, I have to get the clothes out of the dryer. Wait, don't I have to go to the grocery store? Phooey, I'm out of kale. Is that the phone? I need to send that bill out. Oh, sigh, the dog needs to go out again. For a walk. In the rain. And she wants to roll around in the mud. After all the worms have come out. Great!"
And before you know it, 40 pages have gone by (and yet you have the distinct feeling that nothing has happened, but the character's thought processes have brought me from Point A to Point M to Eastern Jabib and the next thing I know, I'm in the slums of Qatar and I still have no idea what's happening because of all the navel gazing going on). The worst part is, not only do I not know what happened in the last 40 pages, but I don't care. And that bothers me, because when I read, I I want to care.
And while I stick to it and hope that at some point, it will all come together and make some sense (I am not that deluded to think it will all make sense), and there will be some big reveal that will tie everything together, there is a sinking feeling within me knowing that I am too far gone and the last two days have been a loss, and I get caught up thinking of what I will say in my review.
That was how I felt reading Zone One. Exposition galore. Ruminations about everyone and everything, past and present, tediousness and ennui all rolled into one. In the middle of a zombie attack, I want to feel that my hero is in peril (and by extension, that I myself am in mortal danger). I want to know how the next few minutes will play out...within the next few minutes. I do not want to be in the middle of a zombie attack with four very hungry zombies who want to eat me, and think about how people are holed up in Chinese restaurants where no one is allowed to have fun anymore, what my high school GPA was and how average I was back then, questioning the purpose of insurance forms years ago when people weren't zombies yet, what the crazy old coot from my old neighborhood was doing, running down an empty street, talking into a headset when all communications were down. Nope. I want to know if a zombie will pierce through my armor and will get to my wonderful meaty and bloody skin and whether the zombie will get a chance to eat me and turn me into one of them.
But no, I need to slog through pages upon pages of meandering, aimless, spaghetti exposition (beautifully written spaghetti exposition...I'll give Colson Whitehead that much, albeit begrudgingly). And for what? For what? Another 20 pages of blathering on and on about things that are totally unrelated to the attack that was supposed to last five minutes. It was the longest five minutes of my life. More like two hours.
For a great review of this book, see Mark Monday's review on goodreads. It was fantastic! I wish I'd read his review before I bought the book, but I didn't. Oh well. Weekend gone. Much like our intrepid zombie hunter....more
Well, not bad for a free book on Amazon. The writing was not great (far from it), but the story was entertaining enough and kept me hooked. While theWell, not bad for a free book on Amazon. The writing was not great (far from it), but the story was entertaining enough and kept me hooked. While the themes were more mature, this was definitely geared towards a younger audience. And...while I didn't think Jools Sinclair was a very good writer, she was significantly better than Stephenie Meyer! Larger vocabulary, better pacing, less cringe-inducing dialogue...if the characters were more developed and the mystery not so obvious, I probably would've given this 3 stars....more
I think I understand why this book is so popular. It's written very casually, like you're listening to someone--a close friend, maybe--tell you a storI think I understand why this book is so popular. It's written very casually, like you're listening to someone--a close friend, maybe--tell you a story instead of reading it. Sinclair's prose isn't lyrical or even close to literary - instead, it's very mainstream, very much of the now: like her heroine, Abby, she lives in Bend, OR; she drops locale names and places left and right; she name drops and infuses her narrative with pop culture (Adele, Josh Ritter, Florence and the Machine, Kate Spade, iPad, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid...these are all very real props in Abby's world, just like they are for many readers) so that the reader has a point of reference. They are comfortable with Abby because they are comfortable in her world, with the things in her world, in spite of the unnatural things that are occurring within that world. Just as Abby enjoys having coffee at her favorite cafe, casually shooting the breeze with her sister or friends, the reader is drawn into Sinclair's world just as cozily as they "listen" to Abby tell her story, maybe with a cup of coffee or tea, as they sit curled up on the couch with a blanket tucked around their legs.
I understand this is a young adult novel and would likely appeal to many teenagers (and a number of adults, as well). It's popularity and consistent 4-star rating is a testament to that. However, from my point of view, while many bizarre things are happening to our intrepid heroine, there's never quite any real sense of distress, never really any real quickening of the senses, never any immediacy that she is in imminent danger, right now (or even around the corner). Yes, she sees ghosts. Yes, ghosts want something from her. Ooh, she's potentially being threatened by a ghost. And let's not forget that overarching black cloud from the first book. All of that is there, ever present. All of that is always hanging over Abby. But the whole time I read both books, there was never really any sense of "Abby could be in real danger. Abby could die. Abby has to run. Away. Now." Again, it's all very casual, like Abby is sitting right across from me and is sheepishly telling me this weird story of what happened to her last month, all the while tempering everything that's happening to her so that I don't get too needlessly freaked out and worried.
Also (and again, I'm going to fall back on the whole "this is a young adult novel geared towards young women" thing), at some point, I started thinking, "Gosh, Abby is starting to sound very much like Bella!" But instead of "Where's Edward?" from Stephenie Meyers' New Moon, it's now "Where's Jesse?" Granted, Abby did not turn into a danger-seeking lovelorn girl so that her ghost boyfriend Jesse would appear to her and warn her that her actions were going to get her into trouble. Nope. She turned into an adventure-seeking lovelorn girl because at heart, she's a jock through and through, and that's just who she is, but she did run around Bend looking for Jesse, whispering "Come back to me, Jesse...show yourself to me, Jesse...I miss you, Jesse...I love you, Jesse. I'm nothing without you, Jesse," all the while hoping against hope that he'd be by the swings or at the park, feeding the ducks, or playing basketball, maybe hiding behind a bush or under a rock...you get my drift.
There were other things that bothered me, such as how does a teenager support herself with minimum wage jobs? Where's her health insurance coming from? How will she pay for the mortgage and all that other stuff while trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. There's an easy answer for now, of course, in the form of her older sister Kate, but then what? While I'm very glad that Sinclair chose to have two very strong females be at the center of the story, it just worries me when her main heroine sees a bright future as a river-shoe wearing, white-water-rafting-in-the-summer, barista-in-the-winter, night-soccer-player. I'm glad that she's put it out there that women don't have to settle for a corporate life, that they don't need to stay where they are, and that they should do what makes them happy. But I just kept going back to "what message is she sending out to the teens out there?"
Well, at any rate, as with the first book, this was a really quick read. Entertaining enough. I'm probably going to read the third one when it comes out. I'm not expecting an earth-shattering new chapter in Abby's life. I don't really know how Sinclair will end this whole cycle, but for now, I'm hooked enough to continue on. There are worse books out there, that's for sure. ...more
Kids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewhKids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewhere in our distant future, wherein kids would battle to the death in order to garner their colony and family a year's worth of supplies, supplies which the government withheld in order to control its people.
Flashback, then, to two decades before Hunger Games was even created, and you have Ender's Game, another dystopian world wherein each kid is tested to see if they have what it takes to become xenocidal maniacs. Where kids are tested at age three, and if they're lucky enough to pass muster as a potential soldier, they're taken away from their parents and families and sent to a hopped up military school in space, where they live and breathe The Game. Where they learn tactics and command. Where they learn to kill.
In both books, kids are put through a sort of mental, physical and psychological torture, but because of the resilient nature of children, the adults don't seem to think about the lasting damage these exercises have on the kids. While the kids were expected to kill each other in The Hunger Games, kids killing kids were considered collateral damage and for the good of all, in Ender's Game.
I guess at the center of both narratives, it was Katniss' urge to survive and Ender's struggles to maintain his humanity that made both these books so compelling to millions of readers. This is what struck a chord for most: Katniss' and Ender's sense of isolation, that only they could do what was asked of them and they had no one else really, that they could turn to, and certainly not any adults. It was their feelings of desolation, that they had to do this to save the ones they loved (for Katniss, it was to save her sister Prim, and for Ender, it was to save his sister Valentine). It was the emptiness of loss, as the realities of the price and consequences of their successes weighed on them. Too much blood, all at the hands of kids. Heavy stuff; most adults wouldn't be able to handle dealing with such things. And what about kids? They're resilient. They have the rest of their lives to recover from whatever damage this has done to their psyche.