LeGuin is perhaps a writer's writer. in many ways, her worlds and her thoughts, and most especially the words she builds them with, take precedence ovLeGuin is perhaps a writer's writer. in many ways, her worlds and her thoughts, and most especially the words she builds them with, take precedence over character and plot. though the setting is bleak and utilitarian, this is an utterly beautiful book.
physicist Shevek hails from an anarchist communist world that split off from the infighting class structure of the nearby sister planet a couple hundred years ago. alone among his comrades, he journeys back to the homeworld (the why of that journey moves most of the novel), and experiences just how different the other side lives. clearly a tale written during the cold war, the home planet is neatly recognized as a possible substitute for decadent western culture, but the anarchists aren't exactly familiar reds. LeGuin's other strong point is her ability to genuinely convey the sense of otherness that an alien civilization would be. "alien" here doesn't end at a green guy with a ray gun, but is indeed a truly different way of existing. communication is problematic not because you don't speak the language, but because you can't comprehend the thought....more
somewhen in the future, north america has become a collection of districts ruled over absolutely by the central capitol. as permanent penance for thesomewhen in the future, north america has become a collection of districts ruled over absolutely by the central capitol. as permanent penance for the long-ago lost revolution, each district must send an annual tribute of 2 teenagers to fight to the death in the capitol's arena. when hunter Katniss' sister is chosen as tribute, she takes the younger one's place and is shipped off to be brusquely prepped to kill her peers in the annual hunger games.
though it's tempting to dissect this down to it's constituent ideas (decadent mother Rome harvesting gladiators from everywhere in her scattered empire; the princess stepping up to take everyone's place in 'dragonslayer's lottery, the brutality of 'battle royale'), this is so much more than the sum of these parts. Collins skillfully creates a tale where the emotional stress and moral ambiguity of killing to survive feels horribly real. characters are vividly unique and utterly memorable, each with their own motivations and responses to the pressures to do whatever is necessary to survive. somewhat flawed by an overlong post-climax and soft ending, but more than enough to make you want to immediately snap up the sequel....more
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-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-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....more
'never let me go' is slow and soft and quiet and utterly heartbreaking. in anyone else's hands, this would have been a tale of extraordinary people ra'never let me go' is slow and soft and quiet and utterly heartbreaking. in anyone else's hands, this would have been a tale of extraordinary people railing against their fates, fighting to change the world to a more just place. in other words, it'd be more like a michael bay movie, with plenty of explosions. it's not. instead, we have very ordinary people living what to them is an ordinary life, not even so much as noticing it as a situation in desperate need of change, and that is the tragedy of the tale. what's actually going on unfolds slowly, and when it does, absolutely nothing changes. while the reader might be horrified, it's just an ordinary day to the narrator.
a much quicker read than you usually expect from "high literature" type stuff. highly recommended for a melancholy rainy afternoon. ...more