I probably shouldn't start a letter to you with such a strong statement (or sentiment), but I just couldn't help it.
I doDear Locke Lamora,
I love you.
I probably shouldn't start a letter to you with such a strong statement (or sentiment), but I just couldn't help it.
I do; I just do. Not just because of your outwardly cool, debonair demeanor when you're in full-on Confidence Man mode. Not because of your jaw-dropping irreverence or your sharply honed wit or your striking intelligence (you take "thinking outside the box" one step further...maybe thinking outside the box and tossing whatever's inside or outside over a cliff, perhaps?). Not because you've proven that you don't have to be a man's man, all grrr-argh-foooood!-wooomaaaaan!-football-chug-a-lug-a-lug!-urgh-agh and whatnot, to prove that you are all man.
No, I love you because of how much you love others: blindly and loyally and foolishly and completely and utterly and stupidly and...and...and darn it, I've run out of appropriate adjectives, good and bad.
Your relationship with Jean has always been the truest, the deepest, eclipsing any of your other relationships. How I wish I had what you two have. I don't even feel that way towards my BFF, much as I love her, and she's been my BFF for a quarter of a century. I'm glad you have Jean and he has you. You're the yin to his yang, or vice versa, depending on the day. You complete each other.
Your devotion to and respect for long-gone friends---Calo and Galdo and Chains and even Bug---is something one only hopes for, because in the end, most of us only wish to be remembered, and you do that splendidly. (I do miss the twins horribly!)
And Sabetha. I don't even know where to start with your utter devotion and constancy toward Sabetha. I wanted to wring her neck, the way how she treated you. How she keeps treating you. And despite all that...despite all that she's done and continues to do, you not only hold her in the highest esteem, but you listen to her and you know her, you know her heart and her needs and you give her space. You give her a reason to come back. Not many men are worth that.
Oh, Locke Lamora, if only you were real...
Dear Jean Tannen,
I love you.
Now, don't think me inconstant to Locke, because it's not like that. Not at all. I love you for all different reasons. Well...okay, maybe one reason is the same: Locke will always be your true north, your one and only, your soulmate, the lid to your pot, all this, in spite of how many other women come into your lives (or Sabetha, for him).
It's a friendship, just about as solid and real as it can get: rocky, loyal, tempestuous, faithful, cutting, caring. I don't know how many times you've suffered at Locke's hands, how many times you've nursed him back to health when he's given up time and again, how many times you've saved his life, both physically and emotionally (only someone who cares so much would try to knock that much sense back into someone as stubborn as him). I think if one of you dies, the other would be beyond bereft and would have no reason to go on. You'd be like an amputee, feeling ghost pains, hearing ghost voices. It's so sad. And I'm jealous.
But I love you for other reasons, too. For one thing, you are a study in opposites. You're a well-read, highly educated intelligent bruiser. Your brain is as sharp as your axes, and you're as likely to pulverize someone with your brains and your brawn. You are a gentle giant, built like a boulder but all soft and warm and fuzzy on the inside. I like to think of you as a buckyball with a warm custard center that oozes out every so often. Yummy!
Oh, Jean Tannen, if only you were real...
Dear Scott Lynch,
I love you. You are officially one of my favorite authors now. You've created a set of characters so richly drawn, so infinitely layered that with each book, it's like peeling away at an onion: we learn more about each of these people you've created, and sometimes it hurts and it stings, but sometimes it's pleasant and sweet, and always, always surprising.
And your writing. I have nothing to complain about. You were blessed by all thirteen gods, and if I were a betting person, I'd say you'd be an Eldren yourself. Who has that much talent? Why aren't you better known? You need a better publicist.
Now here's the thing. How you ended this book? Killer.
It got me right here (jabbing at my heart) and left me with palpitations, a few tears, and definitely, definitely, some sweaty palms and a feeling of abject dread.
I was not a happy camper. Oh, believe me, I loved the book. Loved it. Loved the play within the story (quite Shakespearean of you), loved the Carl Sandberg snippets, loved the back and forth in time. I have nothing to complain about, as far as all that goes.
But that ending? My God. That ending. Now, all I can think of is that you are going to kill off Locke and Jean in the most miserable, most despicable, most horrific way possible. And I can't wait until the fourth book comes out. (Word to the wise: do not leave us hanging for as long as you did with Republic of Thieves! That was brutal!) I want it to come out and I don't. I'm very torn. But I want it to come out more...because you made me need to know what's going to happen to Locke and Jean.
And your little prophecy? Aaaggghhh...why, Scott Lynch, why? You didn't have to be such a cruel man. Actually, you don't. You can still turn it around.
Now, I'm not saying you can't kill Locke or Jean or give either of them a worthy death (cf. -Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns: fantastic ending to the series, my only other 5-star book this year), if you are so inclined to kill him or Jean off. I get it; some characters need to die and die in such a glorious, jaw-dropping way (Good old Ned Stark comes to mind) to send a message. I was heartbroken when Jorg died because...well, because the lout grew on me. Couldn't stand the kid in the first half of Prince of Thorns but as the story progressed, I got to know him better and I understood why he was the way he was. And I respected the fact that he was so unapologetic about how and why he did things. (view spoiler)[And Mark Lawrence was unapologetic about killing Jorg too, but he did it for the right reasons. It made sense, it saved the world. (hide spoiler)]
If you decide to off with Jean's or Locke's head(s), I will understand. I just ask that you make it worthy. That you don't cheapen it and kill either (or both) off just for the heck of it (take that, Veronica Roth, for your silly ending to Allegiant). That if they have to suffer, let them suffer but also offer them succor, offer them something worthy and worthwhile (I know, I know, you can't bring Ezri back for Jean...but how about a Sabetha and Locke reunion...a bittersweet reunion?) so that the rest of us can breathe easier, maybe feel a bit better about the inevitable.
And please, can you pull back a bit on your crazed and maimed fiend? Man, I have never met such an antagonist that gave me the willies as much as this monstrosity you've created. I re-read your Epilogue thrice, not for pleasure certainly, but to convince myself that you've created a thoroughly bone-chillingly Evil, with a capital 'e'. Consider me convinced. And scared.
I so fear for Locke and Jean's future, and for that, I hate you Scott Lynch. Just a smidgeon. An infinitesimal smidgeon. You can barely even feel it, really, but I just wanted to let you know.
Oh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. NOh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. Not because it was unreadable, not well-written or hard to muddle through. On the contrary, it was a well-written book, evenly paced. The child-speak didn't bother me (I know it bothered some readers). I really couldn't find anything wrong with the book, technically.
No, I found it difficult because I was feeling too much and I didn't want to get too entangled in the story, in the characters.
After all, this was a story that was meant to be disturbing. It is not a subject matter many people are comfortable with. And yet...
And yet I felt so attuned to Jack, from the very beginning, that it hurt to go on. I didn't want him to hurt or be scared. I didn't want him to worry, didn't want him cold or hungry. I didn't want him sleeping in a wardrobe. Didn't want him obsessively counting each time Old Nick came by.
The problem was that Jack had become real, for me. And his fears, his life, his needs made me uncomfortable. That's why it was difficult.
For certain books, as a reader, it is inevitable that at some point, you will insinuate yourself into the story. You recognize part of yourself in a character (or three). You identify with one or two or a few, see things from their perspective, feel things even though it's not your story, not your journey.
And when you can lose yourself in a story like that, lose yourself in a character, that's when a book and its narrative truly succeeds. But it's not always easy.
I don't want to give too much away because I don't want to take away from other readers' experience. I will say this, however: as I kept reading, I realized I had created two distinct time frames for the events in the story. Before The Plan (BP) and After The Plan (AP).
I found things more heartbreaking BP. And while the heartbreak is still there AP, it was more heartwarming also.
Five things that hit me, BP: - the wonder in seeing and hearing everything from a five year old's perspective - the joys of empty cans, tissue paper rolls, five crayons and a child's limitless imagination - the strength a mother achieves to keep her child whole and alive - the strength of a child who only wants to please his mother - this is a twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful, complex world we live in
Five things that hit me, AP: - how terrifying real reality can be - yes, it is possible to go through childhood without Legos! - Steppa and crocs - how resilient children are, when adults around them are falling, failing, flailing - how twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful and complex people are
I wasn't a huge fan of Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin, but after Room, I'm certainly a fan now....more
Oh, this was such an utterly beautiful and lyrical little tale. This is Gaiman at one of his most whimsical, and yet the darkness, the strangeness, thOh, this was such an utterly beautiful and lyrical little tale. This is Gaiman at one of his most whimsical, and yet the darkness, the strangeness, the otherworldness is still there, lurking right around the corner.
Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one in the whole world.
To me, this story brought back wonderful memories of my own childhood, both good and bad. Those wondrous never-ending days during school breaks, of just losing myself in book after book after book, of reading late into the night and getting caught up in my imaginings (and sometimes, letting my imagination run away with me into deep, dark, magical places, sometimes scaring myself half-to-death by conjuring up things that terrified me yet made me feel...I don't know...so alive). Of being terrified of the dark, of wanting to keep the door of my bedroom open, of having just a wee bit more light. Of loving the sound of the rain and the wind.
Gaiman evoked that feeling I used to have as a child, where, if I closed my eyes real tight, held my breath, counted to ten, and wished really, really hard, then opened my eyes, I would find myself in a different world, some place I could escape to, a safe place, where my usual problems didn't follow me around. That was when I used to believe in magic...
I found myself imagining a valley filled with dinosaurs, millions of years ago, who had died in battle, or of disease: imagining first the carcasses of the rotting thunder-lizards, bigger than buses, and then the vultures of that aeon: gray-black, naked, winged but featherless; faces from nightmares---beak-like snouts filled with needle-sharp teeth, made for rending and tearing and devouring, and hungry red eyes. These creatures would have descended on the corpses of the great thunder-lizards and left nothing but bones. Huge, they were, and sleek, and ancient, and it hurt my eyes to look at them.
Gaiman dealt with the feelings of loneliness and alienation and not quite fitting in so well that a number of us go through, in childhood. There are those of us who know what it's like, not having anyone come to your birthday party, of not having any friends, of having a sibling who was more personable than you, of learning how to become invisible because it was easier. Of connecting better with animals than people because...well, they knew what it was like not to be understood by those around you.
I have a theory why Gaiman didn't name his narrator -- in doing so, this story easily became any child's story, provided that child was a loner, a misfit, someone who just didn't quite fit in with others. It's the kind of thing many of us bring into adulthood, and while we may learn how to become more social, more adept at joining the rest of the world, that part of us remains, to a certain degree, and that shyness and trepidation lurks in the background, peeking out every so often.
Ursula Monkton smiled and the lightnings wreathed and writhed about here. She was power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty. She winked at me.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, to me, was a love story. A love story between a child and his books, of his love for books, of the way how books became an escape, how books saved him, how books gave him something that no one else did or could --- for books, in this world, offered him refuge and solace and protection, something none of the regular adults could do.
My favorite characters in the book: the Hempstock women. I'd have loved to meet and spend time with them (and I'd probably have begged them to adopt me!). At times, they reminded me of the Fates -- Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos -- not only in their actions and words, but in their powers. Then at others, they just brought back memories of the myriad Enid Blyton books I devoured as a child. The world that the Hempstocks lived in, both here and not here, brought back so many memories of days spent reading and losing myself in The Magic Faraway Treeand with The Secret Seven, for the boy in this book lived for both adventure and fantasy.
My one major gripe about this story, and really, it's not even a big one in retrospect, is Gaiman infused some real-worldliness in what could have been a true flight of fantasy. His Ursula Monkton, the evil baddie, was too much of the "money makes the world go round" sort. I understand that this was probably Gaiman's way of saying "Hey, capitalism isn't good!" but that part of the story seemed forced. There was enough evil in Ursula that I felt he didn't need to keep shoving the "money will make them happy" and "I'm giving them what they want!" diatribes down my throat.
Despite all that, I think this one is definitely one of my faves of the year. I'd read this again if I wanted a nice little escape....more
Narrative: 5-stars. Highly intelligent, compelling, wonderful world-building. It's a novel of grand ideas yet so First off, my breakdown of the basics:
Narrative: 5-stars. Highly intelligent, compelling, wonderful world-building. It's a novel of grand ideas yet somehow, it maintained a certain sense of intimacy. While this is, at heart, sci-fi, it deals with many things including science, religion, faith, love, loss (including loss of hope, loss of self, loss of faith), the deterioration of humanity and humanity's intrinsic need for survival, sometimes at all costs.
Writing: 5 stars. Utterly beautiful prose, very intelligent, unbelievable imagery (both sensory and emotionally). Robert Charles Wilson took the time to tell his story his way, even if it meandered here and there every now and again, and most importantly, he didn't pander to the lowest common denominator.
Characters: 4 stars. Wonderfully rich character development, realistic journeys and character arcs, sympathetic characters that the reader can easily relate to; very nuanced protagonists and antagonists, including antiheroes. Even the characters I didn't necessarily like were not truly unlikable - what drove them to be who they were was as much a part of them that you could understand why they were drawn that way.
Science: 4 stars. The science was actually quite sound. Mind you, this is still science fiction, so there is a lot of it that is speculative in nature. Having said that, what I liked about it was that it was accessible and true enough. There are a lot of novels out there that have grand ideas but fall short on the science (e.g., The Age of Miracles, which was overall well-written and a good story, but the science wasn't rigorous enough -- there were times when I felt slightly cheated because the author either skirted around the science or posited theories that were just unbelievable to me). I'm not going to say I bought 100% of what Robert Charles Wilson wrote for his explanation of why or how the Spin Barrier was erected (and there are still some parts where I'm a bit fuzzy), but I did appreciate all the thought and research he did. The science in Spin was fairly solid, and that's really all I'm asking for in sci-fi.
Overall: 4.5 stars, which, in Goodreads parlance equals 5 stars.
My thoughts in general:
Framework narratives can be tricky. There are some authors who frame a story and touch on the framework or secondary narrative only at the beginning and end of the story. What I liked about Spin was that the main (Tyler's story from childhood through the present) and secondary (the far future, which is 4x10^9 AD) narratives are equally important, and Wilson spends as much time exploring the past as the present/future. They're inextricably linked, and time, both from Tyler's perspective and as a result of the Spin barrier, flows very much like a mobius strip, clockwise and counterclockwise within a Euclidean space.
While this is a sci-fi novel, I would hazard a guess that this is probably closer to 40% sci-fi and 60% a character study, with the focus being on the relationship and interrelations among Tyler, Jason and Diane. This isn't like most sci-fi novels where the focus is mostly on us vs. aliens, or us vs. tech-gone-bad, or us vs. us-gone-bad-due-to-technological-advancements. Spin is more like one of those sprawling literary novels with a smattering of fantastical sci-fi peppered in every so often, just so that we don't forget that it's actually sci-fi. The speculative parts definitely color the decisions and life trajectories of the various characters, and while you can't ignore it when Wilson's focusing on it, it always fades to the background the rest of the time. What's focused on is a very human drama, dealing with unrequited love, friendships, loneliness, family and everything in between.
The main characters (Tyler Dupree, Jason and Diane Lawton) all stood for something: Jason was uncompromisingly a man of science: a child genius, he was created and molded by his father to be the man he eventually became. Jason knew how to play the game politically in order to fuel his single-minded obsession: funneling government and scientific resources into understanding the Spin, at any cost. Diane, Jason's twin sister, was equally as gifted and as intelligent, but unlike Jason, she was the ignored child. In a way, her parents' lack of concern for her propelled her into the tailspin she entered as a teen. Shunning science, she absorbed everything that was anathema to Jason and her father: new age beliefs, twisted fundamentalist Christianity, a new reading on biblical apocalyptic prophecies. As much as Jason loved the Spin, Diane hated it and was almost uncompromising in her beliefs to refute the meaning of the Spin. What's interesting is that while she wholeheartedly took on a cowl of religious fervor, there was always a part of her that instinctively knew religion wasn't the answer but that she was willing to hold on to it because it was the only thing that made sense to her after the Spin.
And then there's Tyler. Tyler was the twins' best friend from childhood, and the one constant in both Jason's and Diane's lives. Tyler stood for everything the twins never had: love, faith, loyalty, constancy. He was the poor kid looking in on the Big House (Tyler was the son of the twins' father's partner and friend; when his dad passed away, Tyler and his mother ended up living in a little cottage on the Lawtons' property. His mom became the Lawtons' housekeeper). He was the one who fell in love with Diane at age ten and who was enamored by Jason's intelligence. Growing up, the twins included Tyler in everything and he soaked up all that they offered -- lessons, toys, endless summer days, friendship, secrets. But in the same token, Tyler was the one who wanted and needed to get away from the Lawtons and the Big House. But in leaving the Lawtons behind, he became a shell, moving through life as if something were missing. Sure, he was successful; he became a doctor, had relationships, had a life. His later lovers inevitably always pointed out that Tyler was just coasting, was largely indifferent, that everything always came back to the Lawtons and that he couldn't give them up because he didn't want to.
But I think he wouldn't give them up because they were as integral to him as he was to them. Both Jason and Diane relied on Tyler for various kinds of support. Tyler was Jason's lifeline to the outside world - sure, he shared things with Tyler that would have gotten both of them thrown into prison - but more than that, Tyler was Jason's link to humanity. Jason was too logical, too scientific, out of touch with the world and with people, but with Tyler, Jason was able to go back to a simpler time and just be Jason. Diane held on to Tyler because he provided her with whatever her religion, her husband and her family couldn't give her: namely unconditional, uncompromising love. Tyler almost functioned as the twins' soul. Similarly, both Jason and Diane was Tyler's brain and heart, respectively, and he couldn't function without having them in his life either. Whenever Tyler cut himself off from them, his life was empty, as empty as the Earth seemed once the Spin barrier occluded it from the galaxy and the universe. It was a very weird -- and some would say unhealthy -- symbiotic relationship the three of them shared. And despite their imperfect and utterly trying relationship, Tyler loved both of them.
One of my favorite parts of the book explains their convoluted relationship (in this excerpt, Tyler is being tended to by Ibu Ina, a Minang physician in the future):
Tyler said "Not half as beautifully as Jason did. It was like he was in love with the world, or at least the patterns in it. The music in it."
"And Diane was in love with Jason?"
"In love with being his sister. Proud of him."
"And were you in love with being his friend?"
"I suppose I was."
"And in love with Diane."
"And she with you."
"Maybe. I hoped so."
"Then, if I may ask, what went wrong?"
"What makes you think anything went wrong?"
"You're obviously still in love. The two of you, I mean. But not like a man and a woman who have been together for many years. Something must have kept you apart. Excuse me, this is terribly impertinent."
Yes, something had kept us apart. Many things. Most obviously, I supposed, it was the Spin. She had been especially, particularly frightened by it, for reasons I had never completely understood; as if the Spin were a challenge and a rebuke to everything that made her feel safe. What made feel safe? The orderly progression of life; friends, family, work -- a kind of fundamental sensibility of things, which in E.D. and Carol Lawton's Big House must already have seemed fragile, more wished-for than real.
The Big House had betrayed her, and eventually even Jason had betrayed her: the scientific ideas he presented to her like peculiar gifts, which had once seemed reassuring -- the cozy major chords of Newton and Euclid -- became stranger and more alienating...a universe not only expanding but accelerating towards its own decay.
...The Spin, when it came, must have seemed like a monstrous vindication of Jason's worldview--more so because of his obsession with it.... It was immensely powerful, terrifyingly patient, and blankly indifferent to the terror it had inflicted on the world. Imagining Hypotheticals, one might picture hyperintelligent robots or inscrutable energy beings; but never the touch of a hand, a kiss, a warm bed, or a consoling word.
So she hated the Spin in a deeply personal way, and I think it was that hatred that ultimately led her to Simon Townsend and the NK movement. In NK theology, the Spin became a sacred event but also a subordinate one: large but not as large as the God of Abraham; shocking but less shocking than a crucified Savior, an empty tomb.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that this is only the first book in a trilogy. I already downloaded the second and third books. While the subsequent books won't have the Lawtons and Tyler in it, I'm still looking forward to seeing where Robert Charles Wilson will take me. I definitely think he's become one of my favorite authors now....more
David Levithan's use of an alphabetical narration was, in my mind, seminal and a very novel approach to telling a verySo beautiful, so real, so raw.
David Levithan's use of an alphabetical narration was, in my mind, seminal and a very novel approach to telling a very old, very common story. I'll be honest: I was a tad bit concerned that I wasn't going to like how this narrative---this relationship---played out non-chronologically, but surprisingly, it worked. It worked so well, in fact, because throughout, I had this sense of dread, this sense of not knowing what was going to happen. The suspense was killing me and I had to turn the page, to find the next word, to find out what was happening.
And I think, part of me still doesn't know for sure what happened. I think I know, and I know what I'd like to believe, but I guess that's the truth for most relationships anyway: you never know. You just are. You're in one and each day can bring up a new question, a new word, a new potential future and you may or may not end up alone.
I have been extremely -- and pleasantly -- surprised by this series. I really didn't want to like it when I read the first book, I Am Number Four, butI have been extremely -- and pleasantly -- surprised by this series. I really didn't want to like it when I read the first book, I Am Number Four, but honestly, that book was a breeze and very likable (unlike the movie, which was atrocious on so many levels). I think the narratives have gotten better, with each subsequent book in the series. I now can't wait for the next trilogy and will have to subsist on the novellas (there are currently three) until the next installment comes out next year....more