The word "freedom" echoes throughout this book as it particularly follows the course of life of Patty and Walter Berglund. Do human beings want freedo...moreThe word "freedom" echoes throughout this book as it particularly follows the course of life of Patty and Walter Berglund. Do human beings want freedom? Can they deal with it? Or do they want and need rules to reign in their behaviors? At what point do the rules they live by become a trap?
Franzen does a masterful job of building the characters of this novel as each seeks the freedom of their individuality but finds it pitted at various times against their own ideals, actions, and desires and those whom they love and admire. In particular, each person finds that their ability to act wholly alone--in total freedom--is constantly reigned in by the people around them, particularly by those they admire.
**spoiler alert** Adventure! Planets travel through space with their own hyperdrives! Mathematically minded overlords solve difficult math and physics...more**spoiler alert** Adventure! Planets travel through space with their own hyperdrives! Mathematically minded overlords solve difficult math and physics problems too late to enjoy time on a nice beach! Sneaky AI gets itself knocked up a notch technologically in politcal hullabaloo--gives birth to itself as it dies! Ragnaroc, baby! And a teeny tiny bit of Ringworld. Clap your hands, say yeah!
What I liked, a list, rather than a review: 1) The description of the making of Harlequin's Moon -- terraforming 2) The glimpse into backstory of why t...moreWhat I liked, a list, rather than a review: 1) The description of the making of Harlequin's Moon -- terraforming 2) The glimpse into backstory of why the ship fled earth 3) The fragmented life and relationships that the technology of cryogenics creates and how this raises the question of whether people who can do this are still human in the same way as those who live their lives in a single solid line 4) The problem of what we want, what we are willing to give up, and what "rules" we give ourselves and allow ourselves to break. (less)
What? No magic? No, no magic. But there are orphans. Well, adopted orphans, if that helps.
In this book, Rowling shows two of her strongest talents--sh...moreWhat? No magic? No, no magic. But there are orphans. Well, adopted orphans, if that helps.
In this book, Rowling shows two of her strongest talents--she really knows how to tie a plot together and she has excellent skills at interweaving events together, making a strongly unified composition. If this novel were a basket made of reeds, one could imagine her taking the framework of a small community--Pagford--and weaving the separate reeds for each character into it. The weave starts loosely around the death of Barry Fairbrother and then tightens in a spiral at the base of the basket where it closes, almost inflexibly. Does every reed touch another? Overlap? Bind? I suspect so--and that shows some of the deft skill of Rowling--we can look at the weave. It is well-made.
Did I like this book? Yes. I found it well-written and interesting. It has one little window after another into the lives of specific individuals. We get to see them quite well. We get things that tell us bit by bit why they behave the way they do. At the same time, I cannot say that I particularly liked any of the characters or Pagford either.
Although I would not call the story contrived, it lacks freedom--we are tied tightly to a small place and to very specific people within that place. The tightness of the weave is such that there is an inescapable precision and a growing claustrophobia with the events--that drives us toward an ending that doesn't seem like it had any other possible outcome. In a sense, the story is written like a mystery--by a kind of character mathematics--add character A and character B, and the outcome cannot be anything but this specific value.
Although this book has some excellent lines and does an intricate dance between history and fiction-...moreUmberto Eco will make your vocabulary seem small.
Although this book has some excellent lines and does an intricate dance between history and fiction--commenting in a sidewise fashion on the fiction that history is--as a story, I didn't fully connect or engage with the characters. It is, nonetheless, an engaging tale for its sweep of a historical time, real people and events, that came to impact and form much of the 20th century.
As in "Foucault's Pendulum", the underlying theme of reality feeding off of our fictions and in this case the social prejudices of those in power--is brought into brilliant light. The idea that a forger of documents is correcting what history failed to provide is an interesting kind of idealism. At its base, the whole conspiracy theory of history is based on idealism--a theory that progress is guided, whether for good or evil, by a secret controlling group, that there is progress being made toward a future goal of world domination.
Although the timeline of this book is set on the cusp of the rise of the 20th century--there is a sense in which it is strongly commenting on the rise of the internet on the cusp of the 21st century. The internet, like the forgers and those engaged in espionage, spews documents and statements that take on a reality of their own. The conspiracy theory of history feeds on itself--creating what it needs to prove itself at least to the extent that one can agree that there are definitely those that conspire to show that there are those who conspire. What it more plainly shows is that there will always be those who will try and build an enemy out of the prejudices of the masses--an enemy that constantly needs to be recreated with a new name and a new mask, although in the end, it always turns out to be ourselves.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is an interesting novel with a wonderful heroine, some excellent writing in parts, and an unusual world caught between land and...more**spoiler alert** This is an interesting novel with a wonderful heroine, some excellent writing in parts, and an unusual world caught between land and sea. Perhaps, what leads us astray as readers is that we want the story to be humorous and upbeat, to have a resolution that makes us feel good about the human spirit--and that the initial quirkiness and the odd setting lead us astray. Instead of a simple story, we end up with an impossible to fully disentangle set of real and imagined events, unresolved metaphors and themes and some kind of strange amalgam that sinks us into the ooze and though we rise up, we don't ever get rid of the taste of the water or the mud that stains us all.
The novel weaves two basic forms together: the Bildungsroman--a coming of age of Ava (in particular, but also of her brother Kiwi), and a kind of gothic epic journey or odyssey (again, for both Ava and also for Kiwi) into the underworld.
Here are some of the juxtapositions:
* Swamplandia! <==> World of Darkness <==> Casino/club: All are constructs or amusement parks built on the theme of wrestling or gambling with death. The World of Darkness is the most unreal of the three. All are kinds of underworlds--as is the swamp itself. * Things that are dying: Swamplandia, Hilola Bigtree, the ability to manage the swamp/the dredge, the girl in the pool. * The real swamp has a back history of trying to be normalized--drained--made into farm land. Like the alligators, it contains--it remains prehistoric and untamed--both beautiful in parts, and deadly. The children, having been home-schooled, also have failed to be normalized to the rest of the world. Like ghosts--they are trapped between two worlds.
As a glimpse into the psychology and alternate reality of a closed but very real world that co-exists within what a large part of the population calls...moreAs a glimpse into the psychology and alternate reality of a closed but very real world that co-exists within what a large part of the population calls normal, this book definitely shines a light. We cannot help but be moved by the story. Although the story stands, in the end, as an expanded explanation and justification for the actions taken--breaking free of/being expelled from the community, bringing Warren Jeffs to trial--it walks a wavering line between what is good and bad about the community and does not reach any solidity in conclusion about what needs to be addressed in a closed society of this sort.
What the book lacks, finally, is an ability to critically assess its own story.
We are left with a strong feeling of not only Elissa's, but the whole societies innocent naivete--a sense in which this society could be a utopia or function safely and happily if a few bad eggs like Warren Jeffs and the misguided Allen could be replaced with sensible, kinder people who properly follow the key principles and intentions of the society. I think the problems are much, much deeper than that.
* Us and them mentality structurally built into the society * Deep-set racism and ethnic divide--otherness is not just bad, it connotes evil * Education restricted and undervalued, especially for girls * Structural hierarchy of power and control -- non-democratic, non-egalitarian * Patriarchal and gender biased -- in particular women are not capable of saving themselves and are at root, little more than appliances for pro-creation and minding the kids * A condemnation of thinking for one's self