Rosemary's Baby 33 years on. Look elsewhere for a plot summary. There is one key thing I'd like to say: the book isn't as bad as many reviews would leRosemary's Baby 33 years on. Look elsewhere for a plot summary. There is one key thing I'd like to say: the book isn't as bad as many reviews would lead you to believe.
Still, there are problems, and I think their number is five. Five. Five:
1> Going into it expecting horror, then discovering that 99% of the book has no horror element. Adjust your expectations. There is more shopping, hairdressing and neck kissing than horror; the novel is darkly comic in tone. Not bad, but disappointing if it is not what you expect.
2> Some of the writing is great. Some is sloppy:
"Actually, I was going to call you in a few minutes," he said, sitting down in a side chair with a mug of his own. "Before Rene," he said, nodding toward the desk, "I was talking with Diane."
Too many unnecessary "saids" in this book. I've always said that.
3> The ending throws people. It's quite clever though. Many people see it as a cop out. I argued with someone that they misread it, and it is not what they think - it is really hell. I pointed to some key clues to back up my case. They pointed to a different meaning to those clues. We were both right, so there is no definitive answer, evidence can go both ways, and the reader can choose. That's obviously the intention on the author's part. The fact that most readers choose the lamest interpretation perhaps says more about the reader. I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Levin wanted it this way, dangling the obvious banana to see who snatches at it, but with a different gift for those who think more before reacting.
4> A key plot item about candles that seemed obvious from the first mention. This is a difficulty with handling genre expectations, and the experiences of people who grew up surrounded by plots and stories and stereotypes. What does an author do? Play along and you are accused of being predictable. Reverse expectations (as with most of this book; Thomas Harris' "Hannibal" ending is tonally similar) and you get disappointed uproar.
5> Character soup. Many minor characters (the GC crew) differentiated just by their name, it feels. I kept being confused by which was which. In some ways they're meant to be faceless (that's what floppy Satanic cowls are for, right?), but it seems strange that there's more character in a nurse who appears once in the opening chapter than in more major players later. At least one of them is in a wheelchair, that helps.
So, the book is flawed. Mary, Mary, quite contrary. And yet ... I read it twice. Which suggests that in spite of the things I raised above, there is still something compelling here, in the writing or story. If that can be achieved even with those five story issues then there's some spark here that many writers would do well to discover, especially if it can then be presented differently. A book that's as conflicted as saying "Gee, Mom, you give me the horn," but also wryly aware of its issues and revelling in them anyway. If you're the Son of Satan, maybe you can get away with that kind of literary somersault....more
I had heard about this novel's nasty teenage protagonist, Jorg, and bought the book because (as a writer myself) I was specifically interested in howI had heard about this novel's nasty teenage protagonist, Jorg, and bought the book because (as a writer myself) I was specifically interested in how a novelist could create any sympathy for an unpleasant protagonist; or, rather, whether they could succeed in this.
Well, the nastiest references to acts are near the start, when we casually discover that the protagonist raped, then burnt women alive. I almost put the book down at that point, but I wanted to know how, if at all, the writer would try and redeem Jorg. Well, he doesn't really. You can't. What happens is that so much occurs quickly that later events just swamp out the first few pages. Also, later explanations imply diminished responsibility for Jorg. None of that convinced me though. After finishing the novel I think it would have been better without those extra nasty references at the start. My dislike of the protagonist for that was never overcome, and the acts were beyond what was required to establish the antihero. I know that the author was partly inspired by A Clockwork Orange, but that doesn't mean that the worst parts needed to be emulated.
The rest of the book, if we ignore the unpleasant core character, is well written, well paced, always on the move, full of action and intrigue and duels of words. My biggest problem was not caring about the main characters. When you don't care if they live or die, and you're not given anyone good enough to root for, their causal deaths are just names dropping off a page. Attempts to redeem them later are paper thin. So Makin is a protective knight who risks his life to fulfil his role, and misses his wife and daughters? Square that with his actions at the start, slaughtering peasants and joking about the rape and murder of women. There's no consistency; it is not convincing; they're two separate characters with the same name. It's a shame because so much of the novel is excellent. I think the overt attempt to shock at the start (or to downplay the cruelty, which would be even more worrying) actually damages many of the later workings of the book.
I said the writing is good, though it is prone to cliche sometimes - I got tired of characters spitting on the ground to punctuate their sentences (it felt like it had to happen once per chapter).
Another mixed blessing is that the writer plays with setting in an interesting way; unfortunately I don't think it is fully successful, particularly in the twists of "ancient" language and the culture that survived. There are references to ancient authors; these tell us we are on Earth; an early paraphrase of The Wizard of Oz is a tip-off that we may not be in the past. Once we find out more it becomes doubtful that ancient authors and their comparably few works (almost lost to time now) would somehow survive where the absolute tsunami of modern culture in every format is completely lost. The reason this is so is for author expedience (so Lawrence can play the trick up his sleeve) for a twist that is then over quickly; it would have been better for the world-building if a more convincing survival had taken place.
I haven't read, seen, or played Game of Thrones, but it existed long before this book was written, and from the little I know of George Martin's work I imagine it was an influence on Lawrence. Even the phrase "game of thrones" is used twice in the novel. So if you like Martin's work, you may like this book (and its two sequels).
I enjoyed the adventure, and the way it was written: it passed the time. The bitter taste of the start was slightly milder by the end, though it didn't leave me wanting to read further books in the series. My reticence is furthered by the fact that each one is more expensive than the last - a publisher tactic that smacks of drug pushers who want to get you hooked and invested so they can charge more later. I got what I came for and am happy to say bye to the Prince of Thorns world and move on....more
I'm quite surprised. I thought I would love this and it would be right up my alley. I got to page 50 and was bored. "It must get better" I thought. ItI'm quite surprised. I thought I would love this and it would be right up my alley. I got to page 50 and was bored. "It must get better" I thought. It didn't. Disclaimer: I gave up around page 100. It's pretty rare that I don't finish a book. But there was nothing about it that gave me any satisfaction. The writing was bland; worse, it was repetitive (I counted about ten cases in the pages I read where characters would restate the same points, sometimes within a page of the last time - repetition has its uses but here it just felt like bad editing). The plot went nowhere - all the areas where something exciting or intriguing could happen became missed opportunities. The characters struck me as unimaginatively bland. I asked someone if it got better and was told what happened in the rest of the novel - just more of the same. I couldn't face another evening with it. It was quite a contrast to my last book, Ira Levin's "This Perfect Day" where I cared about what happened, was intrigued, wanted to see where the story went, was pleased by twists and surprises - it entertained without losing its social message.
I gave this book an extra star for its message, an important one. But as a novel it just left me cold. I'm still surprised that I disliked the actual writing so much.
I can understand that some people love it - we all have different tastes, and that is good. But I hope I explained why I couldn't proceed (writing, plot, characters - you need to be enjoying at least one of those to make a book worthwhile)....more
Every time the dust settles there is a reversal or twist to take it up a notch. There is no 100% good or bad, black or white, and it requires thought oEvery time the dust settles there is a reversal or twist to take it up a notch. There is no 100% good or bad, black or white, and it requires thought on the part of the reader. These are good things in a book. You won't want to stop reading....more
For some time I have wanted a style guide that matches my own preferences. A single book to rule them all, and to replace my own rapidly-growing styleFor some time I have wanted a style guide that matches my own preferences. A single book to rule them all, and to replace my own rapidly-growing style document. Every time I pick a style guide up and flick through it I'll find an entry recommending something that looks inelegant or counter-intuitive or inconsistent. The point of a style guide is to standardise things; by standardizing a style, you promote a standard for language.
After flicking through Guardian Style I thought my search was over. At first glance it seemed sensible and comprehensive. And it is the guide for a Manchester newspaper, which earns bonus marks. So I bought it. Today I finished reading it from cover to cover, as is my wont. Sadly, although often interesting, it turns out that my search must continue for a style guide that I can accept.
What made me unhappy with Guardian Style?
Firstly it was the lack of internal consistency, meaning that they end up needing 50 entries when a single rule applied throughout would have been much more … stylish. And required only one entry, saving a lot of time. Here are some examples of this inconsistency: Acronyms and capitalisation. They use lower case for search engine optimisation, but SEO for the acronym. So you would think that a term which is capitalised would also have capitals for the acronym, but that isn't the case: the Guardian uses Soca (not SOCA) as the acronym for the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Some acronyms are not capitalised at all e.g. sim for subscriber identity module. See also their entries for Wap, Unesco, UNCHR. Sometimes capitalised terms get lower case acronyms, and vice versa. There is no rule as to whether acronyms are fully caps, no caps, or initial caps. No consistency in what types of nouns are capitalised. The guide capitalises seas, oceans, universities and museums; but not rivers, currencies, national parks or hotels. Stock Exchange is capitalised if it is in London, but not for those in other cities/countries. Adjectives derived from places: it seems to be random what the style guide recommends. Parma ham, Worcestershire sauce: but scottish terrier, welsh dresser, yorkshire pudding. Accents: résumé but cafe, soiree. Proper nouns sometimes get capitals, sometimes not e.g. world wide web and web 2.0 (should be caps, since the World Wide Web is a proper noun). The trend to have more and more exceptions to basic rules does not simplify things: instead it means that there are more exceptions to learn, and it just gets more complicated. (Which, I suppose, then justifies the need to buy a style guide...)
For me the question WHY? seemed to leap from the page in neon. I wanted more explanation as to why they chose one option over another. There may be a good reason for some of the cases, but the person buying this book is generally not party to it. And therefore the case for the book as something educative is weakened.
There are omissions too. Many common causes of confusion are not addressed at all, such as differences between US and UK English usage. For example, the completely different definitions of a million; also the different meanings attached to "first floor" in each country.
A repeated ruling of the style guide which I found to be irritatingly fussy was to ignore how description works. For example, saying someone is a homosexual (noun) is the same as saying someone is homosexual (adjective). Homosexual is one of many words that can function in both roles. But Guardian Style repeatedly states that they are not the same, and you must never use the first option when talking about people's preferences or abilities, because the Guardian feels it somehow implies a person is ONLY that thing, and therefore demeans them. This is silly. Saying Byron was a poet, or that I am a librarian, or that Simon is a blue-eyed man, is in no way implying that the noun is the only thing they are. It is just one feature or relevance to whatever is being discussed. To claim otherwise seems to be based on a misunderstanding about what it means to state a fact about a thing: it is certainly not a claim that it is the only fact. The guide comes across as prissy and overcomplicated in cases like this.
Lastly, the guide's editors seem to have an aversion to full stops. The last sentence in every entry is missing this important piece of punctuation. This leads to unintended comedy on page 336 when the writer Ariane Sherine is quoted as saying: "I long to live in a world where omitting full stops from the ends of sentences is deemed a social faux pas akin to walking around with your penis hanging out of your trousers." Except, on the page, the final full stop is omitted as per the style of this style guide....more
I think this is an important book, like a modern reworking of 1984 but with a more positive outcome. The latter is possibly because it is written in aI think this is an important book, like a modern reworking of 1984 but with a more positive outcome. The latter is possibly because it is written in a style accessible to teenagers – great, get them interested in questioning things, empower them to take action rather than bow down to oppressive regimes. People need to be politicised!
It made me laugh out loud in a few places, e.g. “The web browser we used was supplied with the machine. It was a locked-down spyware version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s crashware turd that no one under the age of forty used voluntarily.”
It works as a story; it works as a warning; it works as a believable interpretation of many governments, since we learn more and more about how much they spy on us, how unclear the law is on the matter, and how they silence people who spread the truth with imprisonment and draconian laws. (My favourite recent UK example is http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/20... ).
The other thing about the story – it works at making you angry. Angry at the assumption by those in power that they are not our servants, but rather, that we are theirs. To be secretly spied on. And most countries have systems whereby your only vote options are between parties that will let this continue. Is it any wonder that people feel disenfranchised by the formal political systems? Politics is about how you live your life. Politics is about the right to express yourself free from interference. We don’t have this. Legitimate concerns and dissatisfaction are interpreted as ‘terrorism’ by Governments, showing how out of touch they are with the people. And this book captures that zeitgeist.