Okay, let's come right out and say that there were a few parts where I had to mentally separate the author as the author from the author as my sister,Okay, let's come right out and say that there were a few parts where I had to mentally separate the author as the author from the author as my sister, to sort of ignore that this is my childhood she's alluding to here, my hometown, me. But those parts were mercifully small. (I will go back and process those parts later, though I'm not sure Jessa would want me to.)
Anyway, biased or not, I thought it was marvelous. Especially the Berlin chapter, which (despite there being an actual introduction) introduces the theme, the concept, the purpose of the rest of the book. At a loss in Berlin, Jessa turns to her old friend William James, who also fled to Berlin for a good part of his life, also at a time when he was struggling to find a purpose, a calling, a standard for success. James, like all the dead ladies in this book, fled his home country, choosing a new land and new culture to call his own (to varying degrees of permanence). As Jessa travels from place to place, she communes with someone who has gone before her, someone who has also shucked off the standards, the expectations, the bindings of home, and built a new life of their own choosing some place new.
As she does so, she draws lines, both obvious and unexpected, between her own struggles for meaning, the personal struggles of her dead ladies, and more universal struggles, like the artist vs. the censor, adult children struggling with the expectations of their parents, women choosing whether to exploit, struggle with, or subvert the roles made available to them in a patriarchal society.
A marvelous book that should be more widely read. ...more
This book introduces us to Zal, an Iranian albino child born to a superstitious mother, who interprets his odd coloration as demonic. Not interested iThis book introduces us to Zal, an Iranian albino child born to a superstitious mother, who interprets his odd coloration as demonic. Not interested in more children anyway, she wants to spend her time now with her birds, so she decides to raise Zal as a bird, installing him in a cage on her veranda, her aviary. It is years before Zal is discovered and rescued, receiving some international attention as the latest in a tragic series of feral children -- children raised by animals -- with no native human language. Zal is adopted by an American psychologist who specializes in feral children, one whose deceased wife was also Iranian, and who used to read to him from a book of legends, including the story of Zal's namesake, also an albino, also raised by an (enormous) bird, who eventually becomes a great warrior. Got it? There is a lot going on in this book. And that was all the first chapter.
Once we're all in New York, it isn't long before the long shadow of September 11 hangs over us. The main action of the book happens in 1999-2001, and it quickly becomes clear that September 11 will be the conclusion of the book. Will it be the version of 9/11 that we know, or some fictional version? If it is the version we know, how will the characters be involved in the actions of that day? I suspect for most American readers of this novel, your brain will spend as much time engaged with these questions as the actual text. And given your personal level of investment in that day, you may not be able to see this text at all.
Which would be a shame, because Khakpour has done some good work here. I really adored Zal, even as his actions sometimes baffled me. His well-meaning father and therapist, his odd, doomsday-foreseeing girlfriend and her dysfunctional family, the drama-loving illusionist, all were intriguing characters.
But for an American audience, what most opinions and reviews come down to is, did Khakpour pull off the ending? I'm not going to spoil the ending here, but for me, the answer was: mostly. Or maybe a better answer would be: enough. It worked well enough, given my level of engagement with the characters, to not leave a bad taste in my mouth.
September 11 is such a large event in American consciousness. I think we are ready, on average, for September 11 to appear in fiction. But I think fewer of us are ready for it to be a metaphor. Khakpour was very ambitious with this novel....more
So, one of the item's in the CADL's adult reading challenge this year was to read a book recommended by Book Sleuth. Well, as much as I love challengiSo, one of the item's in the CADL's adult reading challenge this year was to read a book recommended by Book Sleuth. Well, as much as I love challenging the folks who operate Book Sleuth Live, I knew I was never going to get this done if I had to rely on remembering to go post my request during the appointed weekly time. So I cruised the staff recommendations at the website. And really, this book had me at the title. Add that Nick Hornby is the author, and that it's a book about reading. The only question was, how fast could I get my hands on a copy?
Reading this book caused by to-read list to swell considerably. In fact, I feel that by now goodreads should have an algorithm that adds a set of books to your recommendations as soon as this one is on your "currently reading" shelf.
When I wasn't looking books up on goodreads, I was either thinking of taking up book blogging again or feeling fond of Hornby and wondering why it had been so long since I'd read anything by him. ...more
Here we learn that last volume's triumphant showdown with Lilith didn't solve much of anything, and there seems to be a serial killer at work as well.Here we learn that last volume's triumphant showdown with Lilith didn't solve much of anything, and there seems to be a serial killer at work as well. We also learn that Rachel learned some incredibly powerful magic from Lilith, back in the day. Plus, Zoe's darkness grows more delightful. The ending, though, is pretty ambiguous. Where is it going to go from here? Only one thing is really clear. There is a lot more to come. ...more
I got hooked on Wilson with Robopocalypse, and was excited to see Robogenesis on the shelves. At the time it was only in hardback, and I decided to waI got hooked on Wilson with Robopocalypse, and was excited to see Robogenesis on the shelves. At the time it was only in hardback, and I decided to wait for the paperback so my books would match. But in the meantime, I tided myself over with Amped.
Set in a near-future when brain implants are being used to treat a variety of medical needs, the presence of some elective users, especially a handful of military enhancements, causes serious public concern that is incubated into paranoia by a senator who is very shades of Senator Kelly from X-Men. There is a moment where public fear is whipped into such a frenzy that "amped" individuals are stripped of legal rights -- and the fictionalized court and legal documents interspersed in the text were painful to read.
The descriptions of the amps, how they work and how they were rolled out felt plausible and were very interesting. I am tempted to call this hard science fiction, but am not sure if it really qualifies. The characters could have had a little more depth, been a little more unexpected, but that's not ultimately what you pick up a story like this for.
You come t a story like this to see your country, your world, face a dystopic future and then shake it off. To see people confront their fears, and then even if they get lost in them for a while, to ultimately reject being ruled by them. To side with our better nature and affirm the humanity of all people. Even those who scare us. That Wilson delivers.
Amped lacks the Native American influences of Robopocalypse but Amped takes us to Oklahoma trailer parks and construction sites. It's refreshing to have a battle for America's soul that isn't all played out on one of the coasts....more
Frivolous, fluffy, superhero fun. Three giddy story arcs. #1 -- Chewie (Carol's cat) really is a flerkin and finally lays her eggs. #2 -- Carol &Frivolous, fluffy, superhero fun. Three giddy story arcs. #1 -- Chewie (Carol's cat) really is a flerkin and finally lays her eggs. #2 -- Carol & Tic meet a galaxy-crossing teleporting super-pop star who sort of accidentally is betrothed to a prince on some backward sort-of-reverse sexist planet, and #3 -- Carol shows up in NYC just in time for a Christmas-themed showdown with her self-appointed nemesis, Grace, with a side story of Spider-Woman having to confront her fear of vermin.
The verging on excessive lightness of the whole collection plus some super vague and questionable hand-waving in the Santa bit are all forgivable because a) Spider-Woman, b) Chewie bonding with Rocket. So, some weaknesses along the way, but enough fun to compensate. ...more
So, everyone in the world told me I had to read this book. And I knew that I did -- it was on my to-read list, I went out and bought a copy of it andSo, everyone in the world told me I had to read this book. And I knew that I did -- it was on my to-read list, I went out and bought a copy of it and everything. But then we passed my book => movie window. If a book has a movie coming out and I intend to see that movie in the theater and I don't get the book read at least six months before the movie drops, then I have to wait until after I see the movie. Or I will spend the entire movie silently swearing in my head at the director, scriptwriter, producer, all actors in the movie except for Martin Freeman. Of course, I probably would have hated The Hobbit trilogy in any case (except for Martin Freeman), but it established the rule anyway.
So. I saw the movie first and then ran home and devoured the book, and I remain glad that I did it in that order, as there was a lot the movie left out or changed that would have irritated me, but reading it after I could just chalk it up as "the book is always better" and still enjoy both.
Okay. So this is very white-boy hard sci-fi. There is lots of science, lots of dry/dark humor, and a little bit of fantasizing about the green Goddess of Mars. (I may have made up the green part, I don't remember.) The plot is very Science Problem A leads to Science Problem B, without a lot of emotional, relational, or physiological impact. Which is fine, this book knows what it is and does it well. The humor is funny. And as much as it all is the Mark Watney show, it still does a good job of showing what a truly massive operation any NASA mission is, that behind every face you see on TV, there are dozens of technicians, theorists, designers, etc., giving up massively of their "personal lives" to bring the mission to a successful end.
This book makes me glad I never became an astronaut. A little sad, though, that I don't work for NASA. ...more