A curious little book, combining Tolkien's bucolic fantasy and the social commentary of Dickens and Austen with gentle humor and a story that takes it...moreA curious little book, combining Tolkien's bucolic fantasy and the social commentary of Dickens and Austen with gentle humor and a story that takes its time. Still not *quite* sure what happened in the ending, but it wins eternal points from me for possibly the most realistic description of a dream-state I've read. It's a lost fantasy classic (recently reprinted, I hear, but my copy is the rare reprint from the '70s), and worth the read just for its place in history alone.(less)
Andi Watson became one of my favorite graphic novelists when I read his "Love Fights," and I was excited to find this older comic of his. It's a story...moreAndi Watson became one of my favorite graphic novelists when I read his "Love Fights," and I was excited to find this older comic of his. It's a story of two opposites, a young American aspiring writer and a cynical English journalist, who find some common ground working for a tiny English rural paper. I loved Watson's inky, spare art, which looks like something from the 1950s yet conveys a lot of expression along with the charm, and the subtle simplicity of the story.(less)
Noir meets speculative fiction meets Jewish fiction meets Northern Exposure. Chabon creates a fascinating world and plays within the bounds of the gen...moreNoir meets speculative fiction meets Jewish fiction meets Northern Exposure. Chabon creates a fascinating world and plays within the bounds of the genre, but while the complaints I've heard were that he stuck too close to the cliches of plot, I had fewer issues with that and more with some of the thinly-drawn characters. One of his strengths is to flesh out very real people who jump off the page at you, and sadly only a handful of characters do. Of course the main character in this book is Jewish Sitka itself, and this is the kind of story that makes you want about nineteen more books in the same setting, never mind the characters in this one. My other complaint is one that's sadly starting to feel familiar with Chabon, which is that the story seems to run out of gas about 80% of the way through, and the rest is a slow, sad, teetering shuffle to the finish. It worked in Kavalier and Clay, but after the last few books I've read I've started to crave more in the way of an ending. I've always felt he was closest in spirit to John Irving, who writes his books from the conclusion backwards, and I think Chabon could learn a thing or two from him.
Still, highly recommended for the breathtaking scope and detail of the concept, even if it's the kind of thing that makes you want to bang your head against the wall when it gets classified as "alternate history" when it's by a "literary" author, rather than being the sff AU it is.(less)
Slight but interesting. Sherlock Holmes in his declining years, beekeeping on the South Downs, solving a mystery about a parrot and some numbers durin...moreSlight but interesting. Sherlock Holmes in his declining years, beekeeping on the South Downs, solving a mystery about a parrot and some numbers during WWII. The parts about a brilliant man knowing that he's losing his mind to age are arresting and original, and the characters are drawn with Chabon's usual deftness, but it's so short that most of the book is warmup and the conclusion leaps out at you. Would have been better either as an actual novel, I think, or a short story which more closely resembled a Doyle pastiche.(less)
We held out on buying this because it's pretty expensive... but oh my god, the recoloring is fabulous. No longer will I hesitate to recommend the seri...moreWe held out on buying this because it's pretty expensive... but oh my god, the recoloring is fabulous. No longer will I hesitate to recommend the series to people with the caveat that "Um, the first three look terrible, please ignore the art," although I guess it means I will have to loan them this Giant Book (seriously, I think it may be the largest one I own). Sandman on a larger scale is equally fabulous.
I don't think I've reread the first three volumes in a while, since the series really heats up on volume four, but it's actually been a joy to find the seeds of so many later stories -- Lita Hall, Calliope, Orpheus, Lucifer, the Faeries, Nada -- and the beginnings of the characters as well. It's amazing to see how assured Gaiman was, the way the characterizations snap into place almost immediately. He does take Dream a little too seriously at first, but part of the joy is later when other characters take him lightly, so it all balances out.(less)
I loved Gibson's Neuromancer and I liked Stephenson's Snow Crash, and this is basically the same thing for the current generation except it leans a l...moreI loved Gibson's Neuromancer and I liked Stephenson's Snow Crash, and this is basically the same thing for the current generation except it leans a little more towards the techno-thriller side, like Michael Crichton if he were actually a good writer and knew more about his subject than what he'd just dug up via research. Vinge is a mathematician and computer scientist, so his vision of 2025 rings a helluva lot more true than many others.
The major drawbacks to this book are a lopsided plot (the kind that starts off big and then the author seems to realize they've bitten off more than they can chew) and broadly-drawn characters (though he earns back major points for the fact that only two of them are white, and none of the major characters are). Those are literary complaints; from a SF worldbuilding POV it's entirely satisfactory.
Robert Gu, genius poet, wakes up from a decade of Alzheimer's to find himself restored to the peak of youth in a world gone completely digital. This allows Vinge to explain a lot of things to us via Robert, but because the story is intercut with a number of POVs he also does my favorite kind of speculative writing, forcing the reader to understand everything in context.
The speculation is really rather brilliant. Most people "wear" -- their computers are literally embedded in their clothing and their monitors are contact lenses. This allows them to both compute through body movements instead of keyboards (though a keyboard interface is available for older people) and to view the world exactly as they want...or as various corporations and public entities want. Cameras are everywhere, both for the benefit of the consumer and the government, and everything from forklifts to buildings depend on the link between physical reality and the wireless network to function.
The tech-spec is perfect, but I'm even fonder of the social ramifications. Robert Gu gets stuck in vocational high school to catch up, but he's not the only "retread"; older people who have simply slowed down have to do the same, even those who were brilliant and successful in their earlier career. Children are the masters of technology, and the adults in the book rely on them. Best of all, "belief circles" are fandom all growed up -- they fight for the right to theme public buildings, engage in massive-scale RPG-style interaction, and even create their own characters and storylines (for fractions of pennies which are automatically sent to the copyright-holders, be still my fair-use-loving heart!)
The plot is, as noted, kind of a mess, and the book whimpers to a close, but getting there was fantastic. This also feels like the kind of SF that's normative, not just predictive, and I'd be curious to hear industry takes on some of the tech.(less)
This is a step away from Coupland's usual; there's the same piercing prose, the same uncanny finger on the heart of modern life, the same engrossing c...moreThis is a step away from Coupland's usual; there's the same piercing prose, the same uncanny finger on the heart of modern life, the same engrossing characters, but the language has been stripped down to essentials. While I've always loved his dense, allusion-filled writing, it's equally enjoyable to see him strive for a cleaner style. The narrator is Liz Dunn, a pragmatic, sharp-tongued, utterly lonely woman who receives a phonecall which, for a little while, changes everything. The beauty in this story is getting into Liz's head, and experiencing it the way she does; there are hints of the mystical, supernatural themes which often appear in Coupland's work, but it's less literal this time around and more aspirational. As usual, his greatest strength is in creating round and engaging characters who both entertain with wit and pull the reader in with their very real sense of isolation. Highly recommended.(less)
Dreadful, yet mildly compelling. Meyer has no idea how real teenagers talk, her characters are an insult to cardboard, and "derivative" doesn't even b...moreDreadful, yet mildly compelling. Meyer has no idea how real teenagers talk, her characters are an insult to cardboard, and "derivative" doesn't even begin to cover it, but she has a knack for describing settings and there's a hint of originality in her vampiric backstory. The instantaneous and "deep" romance between the two pretty, one-dimensional leads is only saved by the fact that teenage girls do kinda fall in love at the drop of a hat, and I get why actual teenage girls are so into this silly series. I just don't understand why they're not digging up Anne Rice novels, which at least have actual sex scenes. (less)
I really like McKillip, but her books can be wildly uneven. This is one of her better ones, especially because the magic is a little more concrete and...moreI really like McKillip, but her books can be wildly uneven. This is one of her better ones, especially because the magic is a little more concrete and there's at least less of the really opaque, symbolic, poetical wanderings in which her stories often get bogged down. There's a mystery that unfolds in an intriguing fashion, neat parallel stories, and characters that keep you interested. As usual, her stories are such delicately lovely things that it's better not to explain too much, but I will say that this is the first one of hers I've read since perhaps The Forgotten Beasts of Eld where I didn't have to stop and reread the first four pages again once I figured out what the hell was going on.(less)
Hmm... I still haven't made up my mind about this one. I read Thief a while ago, and hadn't realized how much of the plot was important to reading thi...moreHmm... I still haven't made up my mind about this one. I read Thief a while ago, and hadn't realized how much of the plot was important to reading this one, so there were parts I knew I wasn't understanding because I'd forgotten the earlier plot. The world, modeled on the ancient Mediterranean empires, is really intriguing, and I'm surprised this series is classified as YA because there's a lot of strategy and adult subtlety that seems like it would go over the heads of most teens. The characters are interesting and layered, and the plot is detailed and engaging, although this definitely feels like a middle book. Sometimes Turner's writing is descriptive in a spare, graceful way, and sometimes it's very blunt and underwritten, especially with regard to action and the passage of time. I had particular difficulties with a major plot point that doesn't seem to have any support whatsoever from the story so far, and since it's the pivotal storyline of the last quarter of the book it really felt like it came out of nowhere. Turner also has a very nasty habit of head-jumping which is incredibly distracting. (Because she's always writing from a tight third-person POV, it's not omniscient; she just changes up whose POV she's writing from mid-scene, with no marked transitions, giving you mental whiplash).
I'm looking forward to reading the next book, because I'm very curious to see what happens and I'm attached to the characters (her portrayal of the two very different queens of Eddis and Attolia is especially engaging), and I'll reserve judgment until I've read it.(less)
I love Vaughan's work on Y: The Last Man, and this graphic novel aimed at the manga set keeps up his snappy dialogue and high-energy plots. Six kids f...moreI love Vaughan's work on Y: The Last Man, and this graphic novel aimed at the manga set keeps up his snappy dialogue and high-energy plots. Six kids find out their parents aren't doing charity work, they're plotting to take over the world, and snap into action to get to the bottom of their families' secret identities. Despite being aimed at tweens and full of guilty pleasure moments of squee (she can fly! his gloves shoot fire! she has a psychic raptor!), the storyline is actually pretty dark and intense, and the parents don't pull their punches. (They are super-villains, after all.) The art's colorful and fun, and I'm looking forward to the next volume. (less)
The previous book turned a first-person POV into a tight third person which still primarily focused on Eugenides, the protagonist; this removes POV on...moreThe previous book turned a first-person POV into a tight third person which still primarily focused on Eugenides, the protagonist; this removes POV one step further to view Eugenides through the eyes of another character who is actually hostile to him. It's clever, and works for the most part, but also means that some very interesting character development happens entirely off-screen, so to speak.
I like this world, I like these characters, I liked the POV twist, but the book went on a bit too long, and by the end Eugenides's character has changed so much that I felt somewhat distanced from him. I'm impressed that a protagonist has had such a natural, round progression in just three books, but it still left me a little sad.(less)
I was desperate for another look at the world of the Old Kingdom, and the primary novella in the story, "Nick and the Creature in the Case," was great...moreI was desperate for another look at the world of the Old Kingdom, and the primary novella in the story, "Nick and the Creature in the Case," was great... but sadly, only a novella, and it ends just it feels like the story is warming up. The other short stories in the book were enjoyable too, but it's really just a solid fantasy collection.(less)
I keep being amazed at how new characters and storylines are introduced, and yet the current ones still hum along, with older ones occasionally raisin...moreI keep being amazed at how new characters and storylines are introduced, and yet the current ones still hum along, with older ones occasionally raising their heads. Nana is finding new love (maybe), two characters are not what they seem, and there's some Nana - Nana weirdness afoot, and yet Junko and Kyosuke are still important, and even Shoji and Sachiko make a brief appearance. Each volume of this series continues to delight me.(less)
Just lovely. Tan's subtly shaded pencil art reminds me of Chris Van Allsburg's, as does the whimsical feel of discovering the story. It's a picture bo...moreJust lovely. Tan's subtly shaded pencil art reminds me of Chris Van Allsburg's, as does the whimsical feel of discovering the story. It's a picture book for grown-ups, though, as one slowly realizes that Tan is recreating the immigrant experience for all readers, regardless of their language or culture, through his strange, wonderful and utterly alien world. The beautiful, mysterious intricacy of his creation is so engaging I want ten more books on it, except that would destroy the frail magic of the fact that the reader must view it with enchanted uncomprehension. The vital thread in the story is that people are people, and that even a lost immigrant can find something familiar in the great, confusing metropolis. Highly recommended.(less)
I think my favorite thing about the story is how it builds -- we start with a quaintly-illustrated slice of Victorian life, mixed with a bit of tawdri...moreI think my favorite thing about the story is how it builds -- we start with a quaintly-illustrated slice of Victorian life, mixed with a bit of tawdriness, and somewhere along the way it becomes a powerful metaphysical meditation, not without some old-fashioned Victorian horrors sprinkled in for good measure. Quintessential Moore, in other words, assisted by the masterful art of Eddie Campbell, which mimics the penny dreadfuls of the day with a shade more realism and understanding. Make sure you read the appendix, which not only explains many of the characters and references on which Moore drew, but has some great examples of his dry, curmudgeonly wit.(less)