On first reading, this has been a book that fell between swoops of genius and swathes of disjointedness. I read that for a number of people it really...moreOn first reading, this has been a book that fell between swoops of genius and swathes of disjointedness. I read that for a number of people it really fits together nicely on the second or third time. I can see what the fuss is about, and yet I'm a little underwhelmed - this is usually my kind of book, after all. A lot of the descriptions towards the end I found difficult, and I also wonder whether my enjoyment suffers from having already seen many of the concepts second hand, it can be like that with influential books. But I'll be back for a second time sometime soon.(less)
**spoiler alert** I found this one really preachy and arbitrary as hell. For whatever reason Ender has developed the ability to make weird guess-asser...more**spoiler alert** I found this one really preachy and arbitrary as hell. For whatever reason Ender has developed the ability to make weird guess-assertions and empathise to the point of pretty much telepathy, really all the story needed was for him to turn up and make assertions about what's going on here, and then things are fixed. Heh, remember when he waltzed into the lady's family and instantly connected with all her kids and then just sat around grinning at her? I felt there might be at least a counterpoint to this astonishing domineering heroism, but no.
There's a bunch of sermonizing and the whole thing is based off this repulsive "speaker for the dead" idea, where someone no longer exists so you look over the facts of their life and tell their story definitively in front of the people that knew them - this seems to work best if you're a total stranger.
There's this weird implication here that the truth is that easily accessible and a neutral, definitive, sympathetic yet critical version of what happened is so easily obtained - untainted by, say, prejudice, politics, cultural understanding... in other words that someone with expertise just divines how it all was and this is a neutral thing. It's like some kind of moral post-mortem Poirot. I can see how this would appeal to someone like Card whose politics are messed up to begin with. I don't recall any particularly critical note being sounded about this.
Then there's the continued categorization of alien life into thinking, non-thinking, killable, non-killable. This is creepy as fuck too. Remember, Ender never had to take responsibility for any of the BS he got up to in the past.
Basically, this is all kinds of tendency, both silly and nasty, being left unfettered.(less)
There's a lot of wish-fulfilment, whitewashing and blanket assertion in this one. Ender is just this super smart kid who never does anything wrong and...moreThere's a lot of wish-fulfilment, whitewashing and blanket assertion in this one. Ender is just this super smart kid who never does anything wrong and eventually he wins but everything is hunky-dory, morally speaking, because of the last few pages. I found a number of the driving points a bit creepy, and not in the way intended.
I find this easy to read, I find Harry Potter easy to read, and sometimes I mistake that for enjoyment, but when I spend a while looking at the sentences I'm reading, and I match the narrative's assertions to the information I'm taking in, it doesn't fit. So.(less)
Let me chicken out of this review. I like Ishiguro, I like his pacing and his style, although I find getting started with these first person narration...moreLet me chicken out of this review. I like Ishiguro, I like his pacing and his style, although I find getting started with these first person narrations difficult. I loved The Unconsoled because it was this unlimited present-day daydream with a free hand to surrealise.
This dystopic tale was a bit more of a bum note. There is a promised covenant, that this world will be revealed to us and there'll be hints but you have to stick it to the end - it'll be worth it! I'm not sure it was and I'm not sure there was enough. The world seemed constructed well enough up to the point where the characters explored it, but it didn't feel like there was much beyond, so I was left with this feeling that I'd read the story of a dystopia without the world itself existing.
But still there's a lot I liked here and it fitted well with the overall project I think I associate with Ishiguro. There's a sense of disappointment and limitations, and helplessness in the face of fate. Characters seem to evaluate their lives and achievements and whether they have been complete, and they come to the conclusion that there's some good, some bad, a lot worth standing up for or even celebrating but more left undone. I don't hate this story, and I love the idea of this mystery coming to a head in places like Littlehampton and Dover with frail headmistress types at its heart. Maybe that strength is revealing because these strong passages involve actually existing places in southern England, and this basically-present-day is rendered well, there is only a sense that the wider political/technological/cultural world outside it hangs together only by a few threads.(less)
I love Philip K Dick and what this lacks in terms of any sort of comprehensible premise whatsoever it happily makes up in terms of abundance of the Di...moreI love Philip K Dick and what this lacks in terms of any sort of comprehensible premise whatsoever it happily makes up in terms of abundance of the Dick Aesthetic. So there.(less)
Usually I find such an explicit exploration of language and style a bit gimmicky, and my major concern while reading was condescension, on which I sti...moreUsually I find such an explicit exploration of language and style a bit gimmicky, and my major concern while reading was condescension, on which I still don't know how to judge. And 'intelligence', well, that's still fraught terrain. But ultimately I found the first person exploration of expanding and contracting horizons quite affecting. So there.(less)
**spoiler alert** For me, this novel was a bit superfluous, as I'd already seen and hugely enjoyed the BBC TV versions. Their atmosphere was a little...more**spoiler alert** For me, this novel was a bit superfluous, as I'd already seen and hugely enjoyed the BBC TV versions. Their atmosphere was a little lacking here.
The female characters here are a bit of a poor effort, which really goes for everyone besides Fleming and Reinhart.
It's not a particularly great read either, really rather slow, but it does offer a lot more of a political setting and greater context, so I guess it's got that going for it.
**SPOILERS BELOW** There are actually some amazing ideas here though! The first "Cyclops" creature as a first attempt (and the whole idea of iteration on the part of the malevolent computer), and then particularly Christine being "scanned" while she's killed off and then a copy being grown! How F-d up is that? I definitely felt the arch-creepiness of that sequence was underplayed.
And the whole central concept of using a one-shot data transmission to set up a bridgehead invasion force is pretty stunning. ******************
Great ideas here, but I'd probably still recommend the TV series above this book (it's actually a novelisation, I shudder to discover).(less)
Our astonishingly mincing narrator is an actor who is coerced into playing a big-shot politician. There's something fun about the anachronistic future...moreOur astonishingly mincing narrator is an actor who is coerced into playing a big-shot politician. There's something fun about the anachronistic future universe Heinlein's imagining in the 1950s, particularly the bizarre European Earth-Emperor on the moon, and the odd martians with their "life-wands."
The central character is actually pretty neat, although that narrative style would have been painful in a longer book. The other characters are fairly one-dimensional, but whatevs, again it's a short book.
Double Star seemed a bit pedestrian to me, and possibly the past 50 years haven't been all that kind to it. The idea of politicians as mere actors doesn't seem too radical just now, and we've become pretty accustomed to grand Cold War-style conspiracies. Lots of emphasis here on political duty and leaders as well.(less)
A failed re-read, unfortunately. I was much taken with this book when I was about 14 but upon re-inspection with a little more context it seemed a lot...moreA failed re-read, unfortunately. I was much taken with this book when I was about 14 but upon re-inspection with a little more context it seemed a lot more dated.
Would still absolutely recommend people read it that first time though.(less)
**spoiler alert** Really enjoyed the first half, but it all gets a bit fluffy and vague. I feel 2001 was good because it left a degree of ambiguity th...more**spoiler alert** Really enjoyed the first half, but it all gets a bit fluffy and vague. I feel 2001 was good because it left a degree of ambiguity that the reader was allowed to work with, inflating it to mystical proportions and understanding the events of the book as a step forward in human evolution... and so on.
By explaining and fleshing out the forces at work in 2010, Clarke ends up stepping on his own toes, narrowing down our horizons, making the mysticism seem a bit hokey and low-key. Less Zarathustra and more of the Ghostbusters theme. When the star-child Bowman comes into I felt it lost it a bit.
Shame, as the first half is fully absorbing. Clarke is still smart and snappy and knowledgeable, so it's not an unpleasant read, but it's not fully satisfying either.(less)
Fully enjoyed this book, deliciously colourful and trashy. Initially I certainly preferred the Heart of Darkness homage set in the 18th century, but a...moreFully enjoyed this book, deliciously colourful and trashy. Initially I certainly preferred the Heart of Darkness homage set in the 18th century, but as things progressed I enjoyed the other storylines more and that one a little less.
McDonald's got a great style for this kind of book, although where he let the punctuation give way it did make me feel a bit nauseous. Thoroughly modern stuff, internal monologues chopped and sprayed through paragraphs. At any rate, his language remained good fun throughout, and he changed pace nicely between storylines. Loved the heavily researched Brazilian stuff, could have done with a larger glossary.
Storyline is good, not as clever as it first seemed but nicely in keeping with the fun style of the book. Slightly disappointed in the ending, a bit too much psychedelia, a bit too direct a tie-up for my liking.
Noir looks perfect - its cover, title, blurb, french-ness. I thought I might have stumbled across the perfect book for me - a combination of The Zero,...moreNoir looks perfect - its cover, title, blurb, french-ness. I thought I might have stumbled across the perfect book for me - a combination of The Zero, American Gods and 1984. Sadly I was a little let down. The book was enjoyable enough throughout, but failed to capitalise on the good starts it made.
In Noir, a returned victim of a totalitarian state trying to solve a murder he may have committed himself, and what has happened to the world he used to know. The mystery at the root of the tale gives a real fantasy feel to the storytelling, as one's mind frantically fills in gaps. I thought it was a pity, then, that Noir attempted to over-explain itself in its final acts. And this is a double shame when one finds that the plot was not after all built on terribly solid foundations.
It sort of wants things both ways, there are the completely irrational elements of the tale that are not really explained and I felt worked quite well - I was happy to take them on trust! But these are juxtaposed with pretty blunt and unnecessary explanations for other elements of the story that seemed tacked on.
It is possible that I missed something. One reason it reminds me so much of American Gods is that a number of characters that the protagonist encounters have that same feeling of mythical figures transposed into modernity. We find a 'Baron Saturday' and a mysterious gatekeeper. I didn't recognise any overall allusion to other culture's mythologies, but then I'm not too knowledgeable on such things.
More than anything, Noir is inconsistent. There are points in the story that are totally engrossing, where the odd metaphors Pauvert throws up hinge together wonderfully and enchant the whole tale. But these are generally sandwiched between passages that just don't seem fully coherent.
I'm being pretty negative. I enjoyed the book throughout, and I think this author is clearly very gifted. There were very many pages of things here that I wish I had written myself!
I was left wondering whether something of the novel had been 'lost in translation'. I'm loathe to blame a translator and it seems to me that Pauvert's writing style may ordinarily be full of brash statements and novel expressions, but still I found the prose surprisingly clunky. This book really made me think about the difficulties of translation - and I don't think I would go so far as to say this novel should have been 'smoothed out' in translation, but the thought did occur to me.
I'm rating this a slightly stingy 3 rather than an overly-generous 4. Overall, Noir was a book I desperately wanted to like, and did like, but would struggle to recommend. It left me a bit confused and frustrated, and although keen to read some more by this author, worried that I'm not 100% sure what he's getting at.(less)