the first book in what I will assume to be several volumes is all about the set-up: these are the winged and antlered people this story is about, thes...morethe first book in what I will assume to be several volumes is all about the set-up: these are the winged and antlered people this story is about, these are the accidental or intentional circumstances of that story, this is their universe far far away, and this is how cracked-out crazy it's all going to be. for being mostly an intro, it's compelling enough that I stayed up late to read it in one go, but the biggest attraction is the art. the character design in here is constantly inventive and impressive, from a stubborn father's ram horns to a cat's saddle blanket to what's under an asssassin's dress. (less)
Miéville has an impossible-to-not-notice style to his writing: supply lines aren't simply cut, oh no, instead, the colons that shat goods into the cit...moreMiéville has an impossible-to-not-notice style to his writing: supply lines aren't simply cut, oh no, instead, the colons that shat goods into the city rupture. there's always little eruditely grotesque flourishes of his word choice and the images these words paint; some inanimate object will be breathing wetly in a corner, neologisms will abound, weird sex probably comes up somewhere. and occasionally, those flourishes get away from him and become the whole of the experience: it's not so much you're reading a story in a Miéville novel, it's that you're inhabiting a dark and organic dream world for some-hundred pages.
this one holds it all together very well. as in other Miéville dreamscapes, the ideas are more important than either characters or plot, but much less so than in previous books of his i've read, and wow, such ideas! the aliens here aren't 50s style BEMs with rayguns, they are actually, incomprehensibly alien. it's a whole story revolving around the idea of attempting to communicate with that which does not recognize you as doing so on a fundamental level. the problem itself is a grandiose idea, and the solutions worked out for it are even grander.
just a few short years after typical western TV was introduced to Fiji, a rather significant percentage of the women (especially the young ones) picke...morejust a few short years after typical western TV was introduced to Fiji, a rather significant percentage of the women (especially the young ones) picked up typical western body image depression and eating disorders:
this story lays a future tech veneer over the ideas of western cultural dominance, but ultimately, didn't say a whole lot beyond what the current state of things is here and now. it's a solid, but not amazing story.
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)
"this is the book it is, which means it may not be the book you expect it to be. CRK"
she warned me about this right up front. even the blurb telling yo...more"this is the book it is, which means it may not be the book you expect it to be. CRK"
she warned me about this right up front. even the blurb telling you that this is the memoir of crazy India Phelps, that she may be seeing things and has trouble distinguishing which version of reality is factual, wasn't quite enough to get me in the right headspace for this. i'm not entirely sure you can be in the right headspace, unless your head is in the same space as Imp's, which is to say, crazy (her word, not mine).
the similarities between this and Kiernan's earlier The Red Tree are thick enough that i was convinced i was reading a riff on the same book for about half of this one's length. both are the first-person narratives of lesbian new-englander painters-who-sometimes-write that become haunted/obsessed with an eerie past event that's deeply steeped in local folklore. Kiernan's prose is amazing in both - the murky world of mental illness is rarely drawn so clear, and each narrative is peppered with Truths that didn't occur to me until they'd been said just that way. where 'the red tree' left me befuddled by the end, though, 'the drowning girl' had a transcendent section 3/4 of the way through that snapped things into sharp focus, and a far more relatable narrator.
it's a very difficult book, but the praise being heaped upon it is richly deserved. give yourself a quiet space and a nice long spell to sink into it.(less)
this may be the ultimate of all wish-fulfillment fantasy books. yeah, fiction offers the opportunity to be picked for hogwarts, or travel through a wa...morethis may be the ultimate of all wish-fulfillment fantasy books. yeah, fiction offers the opportunity to be picked for hogwarts, or travel through a wardrobe to narnia, OR have a super best friend bond with your highly intelligent talking (literate!) flying dragon. there's a clear winner there.
the back of book blurb tells you everything you need to know: the napoleonic wars are being fought adragonback as much as asea, and a naval captain has to abruptly switch from the latter to the former. i can't come up with much genuinely unique plot elements here, and that should drive me bonkers - it certainly did with the somewhat similar but much more juvenile Eragon - but it's so delightfully put together that it feels like it's borrowing the best of inspiration from good things, rather than wantonly pirating from common ones. there's an old-fashioned "boy's own adventure" flavor to this Horatio-Hornblower-with-wings that ensures a snappy pace and likable characters (plus, i sobbed like a baby at the sad bits), without it being actually only about boys.
way fun, and most definitely worth the praise heaped on it.(less)
16 year old ethan can't wait to get out of his one-horse south carolina backwater town, and he's counting the days until graduation...morea solid 3.5 stars.
16 year old ethan can't wait to get out of his one-horse south carolina backwater town, and he's counting the days until graduation will set him free. nothing ever changes here (even the prom queen is the same girl several years running) until mysterious lena moves into her crazy uncle's ramshackle plantation house, and sets everyone's tongues wagging.
given a small-town setting with a hidden something supernatural going on with these high school kids, comparisons to 'twilight' are inevitable. thankfully, the similarities end there, and if anything, the story is reversed: ethan is much more the bella of this relationship. Garcia & Stohl hit all the high notes of both southern gothic (shutters are painted "haint blue" to keep the ghosts out, gators splash into distant swamps, everyone speaks in dialect, and biscuits are made by hand) and YA UF. there is a romance in here, and while it's plenty angsty, it feels real to the teen experience and blissfully doesn't rely on standard tropes of mis- or non-communication for dramatic tension. it's a very fun story, marred only by the ending falling apart (but thankfully not being a cliffhanger).
bonus: with the recent movie adaptation, check out a poster or promo shot of the cast so you can deliciously imagine jeremy irons at his most unctuously serpentine as macon ravenwood. (less)
not every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the wh...morenot every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the whole of a reader's interest in a short story, without the longer narrative's space to spin out exposition, and Johnson absolutely has that trick. each of the tales here takes a unique "what if?" and spins it out into uncharted territory, with the human response to the what-if being infinitely more important than any gee-whiz factor. there are themes here (love of animals, especially dogs, self-reliance, perseverance of the individual's dream through adversity), but no repeats.
"26 monkeys, also, the abyss' and the title story are masterworks. highly recommended. (less)