i managed to get to the end without skimming too much, so the fair part of me wants to give it two, but the only reason i didn't t...morewow, one star, huh?
i managed to get to the end without skimming too much, so the fair part of me wants to give it two, but the only reason i didn't throw this across the room at several different places is because i love my ipad very much. if you're not deeply interested in:
repetitive day/dream sequences rape hitting people upside the head with ballpein hammers casual racism casual brutality to women not covered under the heading of "rape" brutal racism stream-of-consciousness internal monologue verbal diarrhea repetitive day/dream sequences hitting people upside the head with "blunt object"
then i suggest you avoid this particular book, being as how there's the above in full measure, repeatedly. i'm completely ok with an author dragging my mind through the muck, as long as there's a payoff at the end...and here, there are no quiet moments of beauty, no insinuations of human kindness to leaven this bleak, bloody, intestine-draped shabby hotel room. if it was possible to bleach my brain, i'd do so, as there are a few choice scenes that i really hope won't linger in my subconscious like i think they will.
the narrative switches perspective between a police detective and a journalist each investigating the yorkshire ripper murders that took place in 1977; both the cop and the newspaperman have their own shady dealings that muddy up the situation and make the ripper murders merely a background to their own messy lives. unusually, this one was the only book of peace's 4-volume set describing these crimes to be included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and it most definitely does not stand on its own without familiarity with the first one.
it helps to remember that the 1001 books list was compiled mostly to cover the development of the english-language novel, not necessarily the best books ever written. so sometimes in reading through these, you end up with some unusual or experimental writing, either the first or the best example of some literary technique. if this is the shiniest diamond of stream-of-consciousness depressingly gritty crime fiction, i'm soundly disinterested in pursuing other examples.(less)
it took me a month to get through this book. amazing, considering my usual speed with the written word, but quite true. this behemoth refused to be de...moreit took me a month to get through this book. amazing, considering my usual speed with the written word, but quite true. this behemoth refused to be devoured in my usual hours-at-a-time fashion, nope. more like very high quality cheesecake, in that it's so rich you can only take a few bites before you need to assimilate.
part of the story is about a WWII GI, who happens to be so gung-ho and talented at both completing difficult missions successfully and staying alive at their completion that he gets the dubious honor of being assigned to a squad so top-secret he has no idea what he's doing there. part of the story is about a brilliant but oblivious mathematician (clearly an asperger's syndrome kind of guy) who becomes a codebreaker during the same war. and part of the story is about the computer-programmer grandson of the latter and his infatuation with the tough-as-nails granddaughter of the former. part of it is about codes (both for war messages and for computer programs) and part of it is about war (both physical and digital). all of which makes it sound very dry when it's anything but.
Stephenson's typical doses of randomly-applied hilarity are out in full force here. he does an incredible job of painting the world through the individual voices of his characters...and quite often, those guys are thinking very odd things about very odd situations. the hefty book could have been trimmed by, say, 30% if it left out these random observations, sometimes comical, other times simply beautiful examples of what letters can do in the hands of a gifted wordsmith, but then we'd miss out on things like:
"a red dragonfly hovers above the backwater of the stream, its wings moving so fast that the eye sees not wings in movement but a probability distribution of where the wings might be, like electron orbitals: a quantum-mechanical effect that maybe explains why the insect can apparently teleport from one place to another, disappearing from one point and reappearing a couple of meters away, without seeming to pass through the space in between. there sure is a lot of bright stuff in the jungle. randy figures that, in the natural world, anything that is colored so brightly must be some kind of serious evolutionary badass."
no, i'm not recommending it to everybody. it's long and meandering and insanely technical in many places. but yes, i am gushing about it. it's lovely.(less)
if the plot had been half as interesting as the characters were, or the world they inhabit is, this book would have been fantastic. as it is, only so-...moreif the plot had been half as interesting as the characters were, or the world they inhabit is, this book would have been fantastic. as it is, only so-so.
basic concept summary: china has come out on top of the political/ideological dogpile, so the world is a (mostly) socialist sino-centric place. the good schools, the quality jobs, the big money, and all the envy & prestige are gazing toward china. enter zhang, who's chinese/hispanic - his parents had him gene spliced as a kiddo to look purely asian, and it serves him rather well - a sort of dead-end-job slacker feeling some post-adolescent blahs. the plot is very basic & straightforward, and pretty much serves only to push our quasi-hero through interactions with others. the people are all marvelously realized, and somehow you genuinely care about the characters, all the while being completely unsurprised (perhaps even unimpressed) by the plot itself.
not really standard sci-fi fare (there's a real minimum of space travel, no green-skinned martians, etc), more of the modernist dystopian future sort of speculative fiction. it's an intriguing world with captivating people in it, just wish the story was as engaging to match.(less)
though i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie a...morethough i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie a few months ago, and liked but didn't love it, and assumed that (as is usually the case) the book would be more in-depth, richer, more revealing...just better. nope, same thing entirely.
if you've read the back of the book, or seen the movie trailer, you know the whole plot: low-born guy is obsessed with scents, and kills women in his quest to make the world's ultimate perfume. the translation from the original german into english is very good; there is a wonderful flow and rhythm to the words. within a few pages, i got the idea that this book was most definitely meant to be read out loud, like reading a rather twisted bedtime fairytale to someone. all of a sudden, the heavy narration throughout the duration of the movie made sense: same words, and someone *was* reading the tale to us.
like many of the other reviews here, i'll say that the story dragged a bit too much in a center "finding my true self alone in the wilderness" portion, but was otherwise pretty good. bonus points for originality and lovely language, but so-so on pacing and plot.(less)
this old chestnut of the genre is as unevenly a mixed bag as most multiple-author short story anthologies usually are. though there are plenty of inte...morethis old chestnut of the genre is as unevenly a mixed bag as most multiple-author short story anthologies usually are. though there are plenty of interesting ideas and not a few literary gems stashed in here, time isn't being kind to this collection. stories get rather repetitive if read back-to-back: I don't actually need an explanation of the laws of robotics in each one, and many characters' voices sound very much the same. female characters are few and far between, and when one has a position of authority, she's either a "cold, unattractive spinster," or "just a poor woman" doing a job no man would want. if you think the 50s-ish idiom is quirkily cute, this has to be a fun romp, but for those of us that think it's hokey, well, let's hope Asimov got better with future installations. (less)
the fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather re...morethe fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather refreshing for a much-lauded litfic sort of novel. the next (most of them) chapters run that earthy humor into the ground by becoming relentlessly charming shading on into twee, spiked with the inevitable srs bznss, being as how this is a book about searching for one's family post-Holocaust, after all.
jonathan safran foer (see? kinda twee right there) hires a guide team from a ukranian travel company to take him to the village he believes his grandfather fled from during WWII. parts of the novel are the (hilariously) poorly-translated POV chapters of his guide, part are the author/narrator's grandfather's tale leading up to WWII, and part are from the founding of the village 200 years previous. the timelines are supposed to echo and reflect on each other, on the meaning of love, and on the futility of something or other or all. occasional snippets of shining brilliance are bogged down in a morass of words that often come across like someone trying to be shiningly brilliant. there's a good novel in here, burdened with a bit too much Style to be elegant.(less)
yeah, 2 whole stars. yes, i'm aware that it's ASIMOV, that it was part of the BEST SERIES EVER Hugo award, that it's most definitely a sacred cow of t...moreyeah, 2 whole stars. yes, i'm aware that it's ASIMOV, that it was part of the BEST SERIES EVER Hugo award, that it's most definitely a sacred cow of the SF canon.
problem is, to a modern reader, it's more than occasionally boring, and very very dated. some bonus points because it's a fine example of an intellectual, thinky, non-violent SF (i.e., space ships are useful for more than just blowing stuff up), i just wish it had more of a cohesive plot.
a mathematician/sociologist comes up with a whole new branch of statistics/psychology/future prediction that he dubs "psychohistory". he uses this system to predict that the allied galactic government will shortly be collapsing into war & decadence, and so he plans out an enclave community designed to keep the intellectual torches burning for when the knowledge is next needed. throughout 'foundation', we get updated as to the project's success via brief glimpses into it's current overseers.
asimov states in his introduction to the version i was reading that he's mystified as to its continuous popularity. "it's just a series of short stories that i made up on short notice, with no cohesion or common character running through them. but apparently people like them." the smug, aw-shucks tone of the intro is mildly off-putting, but it's accurate: there is no commonality of character or narrative that consistently engages the reader throughout the book. if you do find you like a protagonist of any of these moments in history, he's gone at the end of that vignette.
additionally, this future was written before asimov kicked in with his "women's lib" beliefs, so the only woman with a speaking role here is a shrewish wife harping on her husband's shortcomings; all other women are referred to off-camera, as the "wives and families" of these future politicians. though it was 1940/50-something when these stories were written, after all, it can be a little tough to give the implied sexism a pass.
if books play out like movies in your head like they do in mine, this one is in black & white, and it's a bunch of men dressed in 1950s suits sitting around talking and oh-ho-ho chuckling gentlemanly at each other about how clever they all are, and there's a painting of a typical super shiny phallic-shaped 1950s rocket ship pasted to the outside of the window glass. (less)
a dense, introspective look at the human condition, more about racism and classism than about plot...meaning you have to be in the right mood for long...morea dense, introspective look at the human condition, more about racism and classism than about plot...meaning you have to be in the right mood for long side discussions about the nature of truth and beauty and the everyday depressing filth of life for this to truly sing. On reading the very first paragraph when i got this one home, I thought it was going to be lyrically lovely; by the time I'd finished my book-in-progress, I was apparently no longer in the right mood for this, so instead of soaring it plodded on like a book you were forced to slog through in high school.
I can respect the shining moments of genius, but it was just a chore to finish. better luck next time with the high literature.(less)
a solid 3.5 stars - a little slow in places due to random outbursts of long-form poetry, but an engaging tale otherwise.
an infamously "gothic" book (...morea solid 3.5 stars - a little slow in places due to random outbursts of long-form poetry, but an engaging tale otherwise.
an infamously "gothic" book (the GR summary says it was a fave of de Sade's), feel free to use this as a counter example any time someone thinks the classics are all boring and stuffy. at it's heart, it's a morality play in which huge pride goeth before a spectacular fall, but it's also a lurid melodrama involving ghosts and demons and cross-dressing monks and murder weapons. well, except for the parts that are snoozy poetry and innocent romance that Austen would approve of. (less)
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marria...more2.5 stars
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marriage, and proceed to raise their kids in america; despite all their attempts to infuse their kids' lives with bengali heritage, these kids are americans, with a very western approach to life & love. the story meanders through 30 years by skipping through them as snapshots - it's a slim book, with an intimate scope. by spending a good bit of time with each of the principal characters, everyone's desires are touched on. the mother's desire for a sense of community is just as reasonable as the son's wish for the same thing, even though they both mean very different things by the concept. neither rebelling against tradition or embracing it automatically results in happiness for anyone, so that by the end, the story isn't a morality play on whether or not people need to follow their ancestor's lifestyles. instead, it's as untidy as real life, which is both its strength and flaw.
having seen the movie version several years ago probably ruined this book for me. i'd easily give that movie 4 stars, and the book probably deserves the same - the former is a very faithful adaptation of the latter. reading the book after seeing the movie feels like wandering through an extended plot synopsis, and my mental images of the written word are all from that film. the director's vision, sharpened the focus of Lahiri's words and brought out a few emotional highlights by making it clearly a book about the son rather than the family's diverse experience. in this version, his parents' lives are the bookends and foundation to his own. it's a less egalitarian (and possibly less honest) version of this story, but it's definitely more emotionally engaging. (less)