It had been so long since I'd read this early King novel that I'd forgotten how terrific it is. The efficiency of the writing (something lacking in muIt had been so long since I'd read this early King novel that I'd forgotten how terrific it is. The efficiency of the writing (something lacking in much of his later novels) packs a powerful punch. Part genre thriller, part social commentary, King is at the top of his storytelling prowess. What really struck me in this reading is how contemporary the political landscape King paints sounds. I don't know if that's prescient writing or just a sad commentary of how little the political climate in this country has changed since it's publication in 1979. Years ago, when I read many of King's novels for the first time, I remember considering The Dead Zone a rather minor effort, especially when compared with The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, and It. After a second reading, I come away very impressed with this fantastic thriller and have no problem placing it on the level amongst his very best works....more
From the minute I added Fifty Shades of Greyto my "currently reading" list, I received messages from goodreads and Facebook friends with attitudes thaFrom the minute I added Fifty Shades of Greyto my "currently reading" list, I received messages from goodreads and Facebook friends with attitudes that ranged from bemusement to "I knew you'd read it!" to, in one unfortunate instance, a tone of sincere disgust. Well, I read the book and found it to be a below-average page-turner that manages a couple of excellent scenes of real depth surrounded by otherwise pedestrian writing. Why this book seems to bother people like it does I suppose I'll never know. It's not the worst book I've ever read and I can easily assign it the "escapist summer yarn" that it is and not look back. I am bothered much more when writers of tangible talent (Lev Grossman, I'm talking to you) publish lazy, incoherent messes than I am when an E.L. James publishes a book that serves one purpose: to titillate. Because to my mind, that's what this book is about. It's not about great writing because– apart from two wonderful scenes that almost belong in a different book– there is none. It's not about carefully constructed characterization because the main characters in this novel are maddening in their selfishness, poor decision-making, and unlike-ability. It's about titillation. And as my rating indicates, it was below-average at that. Nonetheless, I've read it and can spout an opinion about it based on my reading and not on hearsay. So for those of you who are angry at the book and its success, get over yourselves. It's not worth your anger....more
Eugenides' novel is often excellent. For reasons unrelated to the quality of the book, it took me over a month to finish The Marriage Plot. However, eEugenides' novel is often excellent. For reasons unrelated to the quality of the book, it took me over a month to finish The Marriage Plot. However, even after extended absences, I was instantly transported back to mid-80's east coast academia, grad student world travels, and domestic dramas that riff from Jane Austen. The three main characters, Madeline, Mitchell, and Leonard are expertly realized. The last 100 pages or so lift the novel to near-great heights....more
Bradbury's chronicles of the Elliott family, who may or may not be vampires, is a fast, entertaining read. It is not classic Bradbury; it doesn't comeBradbury's chronicles of the Elliott family, who may or may not be vampires, is a fast, entertaining read. It is not classic Bradbury; it doesn't come close to Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, or The October Country. The novel consists of short stories, one of which dates back to the mid-forties, bridged with newer material for unifying purposes. The results are mixed, but some of the original stories, written at the height of Bradbury's lyrical powers, remind me of why I've always enjoyed this man's work. Bradbury seems to fall into the love-him/hate-him binary-- there doesn't seem to be a middle ground for readers when it comes to him. I fall into the love-him category as I tend to find his blending of the fantastic and nostalgic very intoxicating. That said, From the Dust Returned is not a book I'd employ to convince someone unfamiliar with Bradbury to read first. The three titles I mentioned above would serve as far greater examples of Bradbury's talent. Still, as a fan, I found much to enjoy in this novel's pages....more
While he is certainly a giant among writers, Marquez is also a master story-teller. This gift roars to the forefront of the enjoyments found in his noWhile he is certainly a giant among writers, Marquez is also a master story-teller. This gift roars to the forefront of the enjoyments found in his novella, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The story itself is simply described: a man is killed by two brothers acting in defense of their sister's honor, while an entire village does nothing to stop the murder. Told in a rather journalistic voice, Marquez's narrative hops back and forth in time as it captures the memories and thoughts of the populace and key players. Despite the tone, the story never bores, never meanders, never loses the momentum established in its first sentence: "On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on" (1).
What could have been a cold, numb little story becomes, in the voice of Marquez, a fascinating account of an entire village and its complicity in a senseless murder. There are questions left unanswered; indeed, Santiago's role in the deed that gets him killed is never established. The narrator, who is never named, is more interested in how the murder was allowed to happen than in the murder itself-- although the murder is described in grisly detail. Marquez is more concerned with the "why", as opposed to the "how".
The town itself is composed of characters that, again, through Marquez's talent, come across as more than thumbnail sketches. This is vital as it adds an important sense of gravitas to the matter.
My only prior experience with Marquez was in reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I believe is a great, great novel. I've been told that Chronicle is not a typical Marquez story, but I'm in no position to concur or rebut that notion. What i do know is that this novella is also great. I look forward to reading more of Marquez's work....more
Like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov's golden-age sci-fi is marked by characters who are more sketch than flesh, uttering dialogue that is o3 1/2 stars
Like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov's golden-age sci-fi is marked by characters who are more sketch than flesh, uttering dialogue that is often stilted. Fortunately, like Clarke, Asimov is more interested in ideas than characterization and the ideas are marvelous. Consisting of nine short stories originally published in sci-fi magazines between 1940 and 1950, I, Robot details the early history of mankind's relationship with its robotic creations. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics inform each story and by the end of the loosely-woven novel, it is implied that those laws, established to maintain a human-robot subservient hierarchy, have been subtly and fundamentally subverted. If Asimov's novel feels so familiar to contemporary readers, it is perhaps because its sixty year-old shadow looms large over countless science fiction literary works and films that have followed in its wake. ...more
Baker's novel of a struggling middle-aged poet is often fascinating. Paul Chowder has hit creative and personal road-blocks in his life; he2 1/2 stars
Baker's novel of a struggling middle-aged poet is often fascinating. Paul Chowder has hit creative and personal road-blocks in his life; he uses his love of poetry as a prism through which to better understand who he is and where he is-- and isn't-- going. Told in first-person narrative, many chapters of The Anthologist read like the best lectures of your favorite professor. Others meander and frustrate. There is a scene near the end of the novel that seems intended as its epiphanic moment. It didn't really work for me and came off rather cold and contrived. Ultimately, so did the novel itself. ...more
4.5 stars. Rosemary's Baby succeeds because of its matter-of-fact tone, which reminds me, in a way, of magical realism. In measured, assured steps, Le4.5 stars. Rosemary's Baby succeeds because of its matter-of-fact tone, which reminds me, in a way, of magical realism. In measured, assured steps, Levin tells the story of Rosemary Woodhouse and how she comes to believe that her husband, neighbors, and doctor have conspired to ensure she gives birth to a demonic child. There is a strong "God is dead" undercurrent throughout which reminds the reader that the book was written, and takes place, in late-1960's America. I was reminded of a line from Blatty's The Exorcist (which is certainly indebted to Levin's book) wherein Chris MacNeil decides that while she may not believe in God, she certainly believes in the devil. I know Rosemary's Baby's finale seems a little much for some readers; I find it perfectly in line with the rest of the novel's wicked, petulant humor. This book is not a scarefest by any stretch. But it's certainly an unsettling, very well-written piece of diabolical fiction. There are a couple of passages (the dream/conception sequence; the description of the child) that will stay with me for some time to come....more
Dark, dark, dark. The kind of darkness that brings to mind the words of Charles Barkley: "Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train." ThDark, dark, dark. The kind of darkness that brings to mind the words of Charles Barkley: "Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train." This is one of several lean, efficient novels King published in the aftermath of The Stand. I don't believe Cujo rises to the level of greatness displayed in The Dead Zone, but it certainly packs a powerful punch. The dog, in fact, is the least frightening "monster" in a book that explicitly confronts failing marriages, devastating belief-systems passed down in parent-child relationships, and the familial sacrifices compelled by choosing to chase the American Dream. King cynically reminds us all that monsters are real and that they attack the innocent as well as the guilty. ...more