This was another book club selection that I would not have picked up on my own; mostly because I am not much of a graphic novel type. However, in this...moreThis was another book club selection that I would not have picked up on my own; mostly because I am not much of a graphic novel type. However, in this case, I was actually surprised that I liked it at all. The book is actually 12 comic books mashed together with some filler text that provided some back-story. The general concept was that what we would commonly refer to as super heroes actually became a fashion for awhile ... and they were seen as what they really were ... masked vigilantes. The premise opens up a very interesting debate on how government should work and what should happen when it fails to protect the governed. The American West (and to some extent, the South) has a significant history in vigilantism, so it was pretty easy to see this world as possible ...
And it was an extremely dark and unpleasant world. I didn't much care for the apparent fascination with blood in the frequent depictations of violence within the story, but I could accept them given the dark tenor of the plot. A few heroes even had intriguing character flaws, but the format didn't really allow us to explore them very deeply. There was a touch on predestination using Dr. Manhattan as the foil that was actually very well done; however, the scene on Mars was almost entirely superfluous IMHO and should have been dumped. Others may argue that is was a component of illustrated Dr. Manhattan's inhumanness (or at the very least, his isolation from humanity), but I thought that had already been accomplished when he left Earth.
Finally there was the story within a story provided by a character whose sole purpose was to read another comic book within THIS comic book and presented a storyline that was apparently supposed to shadow (or foreshadow) how this story would end ... and I must say that the two stories were tenuously linked at best and the ended of the main plot was singularly unsatisfying while the ending of the black freighter story was relatively predictable. All in all it didn't add as much to the story as it should have.(less)
I really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various character...moreNarrated by Jonathan Davis
I really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various characters within the story.
This was a fun read for the most part ... although the heavy exploitation of various stereo-types might be offensive to some, it really is the key to most of the humor in the story; at least Mr. Stephenson is an equal opportunity satirist in creating his dystopian society. The story pokes fun at corporate franchises, Christians (Orthodox Russians, Catholics and evangelists), the feds, the mafia, Columbian drug cartels, pizza delivery drivers, skateboard couriers, gated communities (burbclaves), apartheid, Alaskan red-necks, and a host of others. The characters themselves are very shallow and underdeveloped, though most are still memorable none the less.
This central plot merges ancient Sumerian mythology as alternate history with computer technology to construct an idea that humans have a basic or innate language ability that was 'hard coded' into our brain. This direct neural wiring left humans vulnerable to a memetic or 'meta virus' that basically turns humans into automatons. Stephenson uses a series of interactions (info-dumps) with a database AI (The Librarian) to introduce reader to the concepts needed to fully appreciate the plot climax. Unfortunately this is where Stephenson starts to lose his way (and a star) while the satire becomes less skillful and the story displays more violence (needlessly so in some cases). The strange introduction of teenage sex with a much older and very violent male antagonist toward the end of the book really detracted from the story as a whole. Finally, the conclusion seemed confused and somewhat aimless and unsatisfying by the end (Where was Raven's kaboom!).(less)
I am a big fan of the House of Mouse, so the title really intrigued me; what's not to like about the Magic Kingdom? In truth , the story centered arou...moreI am a big fan of the House of Mouse, so the title really intrigued me; what's not to like about the Magic Kingdom? In truth , the story centered around 2 attractions (Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion) with a brief mention of a 3rd (Pirates of the Caribbean ... My favorite) as the back drop to a story of power and greed that should have no place in a [post scarcity] society where all of our needs are taken care of and old fashioned money doesn't define power anymore. True wealth (power) is now defined by reputation ... Where public respect for what you are doing gives you "Whuffie" (street creed or political capital) that helps you accomplish things in the future. This is a lot like how bloggers work; readers vote on how much they liked or respected a particular article, which then helps increase its visibility and subsequently a bloggers audience giving the blogger greater power to influence society; not surprisingly, Cory Doctorow got his start as a blogger. Doctorow was not the first person to talk about a reputation economy, but his was the first pure portrayal of such that got me thinking about how it would truly work ... Or not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The second major theme of the story was more post [or trans] humanism. The new 'Bitchin Society (aka BS) is based upon the surreal assumption that we can effectively eliminate the supply constraint (curve) on our economy and thereby get whatever we need in any quality needed ... Including artificial extensions on life itself. Doctorow does this with a combination of information technology (or personal backups) and cloning technology (to provide a custom platform into which your backup can be restored). This concept is taken to an extreme where clones are destroyed and backups restored to a new clone simply as a common way to avoid the inconvenience of a boredom while traveling long distances or the effects of the common cold. Now comes the question ... What exactly is a human? Can our essential self be so defined that a backup is even possible? What happens if the previous clone is not destroyed and you now have two persons with the same starting consciousness that now have two different experiences? Are they now two different people? Doctorow doesn't really answer these questions well, but you can see his characters struggling with the answers enough to start thinking on your own.(less)
This is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ... only for Fantasy. The two main, hapless characters lurch from scene to scene (or storyline to storyli...moreThis is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ... only for Fantasy. The two main, hapless characters lurch from scene to scene (or storyline to storyline) in what might be considered a classic epic ... If the scenes actually had anything in common other then the main characters. Along the way, Prachett humorously substitutes magic for science, frequently with the intent to play with our perceptions and fantasy stereotypes, while we explore the Disk World in his first novel of the series. It was high entertainment, despite the rough transitions between what could arguably be 4 smaller stories within the book ... And it boasts a cliff-hanger ending that was rather annoying for somebody who likes each book to stand on their own as much as possible (at least have some closure to the plot). About the only thing I took away from the book was a rather interesting treatment of dragons ... Otherwise it seemed to be primarily a spoof on existing fantasy conventions, albeit done very well with obvious talent ... Along the lines of the Myth Series by Robert Asprin, although he started better and lost his way where Prachett is rumored to have gotten much better with his later books. (less)
I read the book, then watched the BBC series and I must say that I liked the series a little better. It seems that this story really does better with...moreI read the book, then watched the BBC series and I must say that I liked the series a little better. It seems that this story really does better with the visuals then the bare text.
The basic plot has an Alice in Wonderland quality with typical, understated British humor. The main character, Richard Mayhew, begins the story as a listless man who, despite having the 'good-life' finds something lacking in his existence. A chance encounter with one of the denizens of 'London Below' (Lady Door) pulls him into a shadowy and magical world that coexists with, and is invisible to, our real "London Above.' What follows is a typical journey of self-discovery ... Only Richard doesn't really stop being a putz until the end.
London Below appears to be the stomping ground for our dreams and nightmares where everything is surreal ... It also brings to mind the homeless within our cities in that when were aren't ignoring them (ie. not invisible), it is not uncommon to see them displaying symptoms of mental illness (talking to other invisible persons, rats, etc.). Add this up with a touch of word play and you get a very humorous trip into what seems to be a mental breakdown, trapping Richard within his unconscious or primitive mind where he can discover and become the hero that was denied him in the real world. Gaiman never really exploits the potential questions which arise from his brief foray into insanity, but then I don't think this was intended to be that serious a story either ... It was supposed to be fun and I did enjoy it much like I enjoyed Monty Python's Holy Grail.(less)