"The Martian" was one of those books I would have gladly finished in a single sitting, because it manages to keep you constantly worried about what ha...more"The Martian" was one of those books I would have gladly finished in a single sitting, because it manages to keep you constantly worried about what happens next to its titular marooned astronaut. My main complaint is that some of the passages where Mark Watley is working out the math of his survival are a bit too much of the author showing his work. They read like Randall Munro's XKCD "What If?" columns were strung together with plot.(less)
Just a few observations on why I couldn't give "The Circle" a better review: the main character was vacuous and motivated solely by wanting to be like...moreJust a few observations on why I couldn't give "The Circle" a better review: the main character was vacuous and motivated solely by wanting to be liked, to a point where when a few hundred of her tens of thousands of social-media peers didn't like her in a poll, it took her less than two pages to go from worrying about why they didn't think she was awesome to thinking they wanted her dead. OK, maybe some people are indeed this pathological, but you get no idea of why she was this way; why she so easily gets brainwashed.
The public, the vast horde of internet users, was depicted as some united mob gleefully surrendering their privacy and shaming those who don't... Even if you go into an actual forum where everyone is of remarkably similar persuasion-- say, they all have the same politics-- you'll never have such complete consensus. The folks who don't submit get one representative for most of the book, and he's depicted as such a loner in his dissent as to be unrealistic... There will always be people who switch off, even just occasionally.
And Jesus, did Eggers have to be so freaking transparent with his authorial mouthpieces, or things like the aquarium metaphor? He seemingly even invented some new kind of all-consuming shark that poops ash so he could make it that much more obvious what it represents. There were so many places in this book I felt like he was beating us over the head with his message and yelling, "do ya get it?!" that it ceased being a dystopian sci-fi or even a satire and just turned into a screed against some straw-man version of modern technology and our attitudes toward it.(less)
Mieville exalts in creating strange new universes in his books, with their own vocabularies and customs and ways of thinking, so it's no surprise when...moreMieville exalts in creating strange new universes in his books, with their own vocabularies and customs and ways of thinking, so it's no surprise when Embassytown starts off seeming pretty alien right away. In some of his other books I've read, like The City and The City, or Kraken, it's easier to "learn" the rules of those settings because they are that much closer to "reality," rather than the more out-there sci-fi elements that you have to pick up early on in Embassytown, like the way his starships travel through the "Immer" instead of more technobabble-y descriptions of something like "subspace." The alien Hosts, their Language and their society of biologically-grown technology also takes a while to reveal itself, with the narrator's references to flying "corvids," the "miab" supply ships from outer space and breathing "aeoli" providing oxygen all dropped into the story with a minimum of context, description or explanation, leaving me at the end still wondering what some of those things actually were, looked like or how they operated.
This inventiveness and the way that no one really acts as a reader proxy to help explain or describe things adds to the realism of the book, I guess... After all, if we were writing a contemporary novel, none of us would need to describe how a cell phone looks and works, or have to drop in a lot of contextual clues to explain, say, the war on terrorism.
But it makes Embassytown (and other Mieville novels, I have gathered) a lot more daunting; more of an effort to unravel the author's cleverness than to really focus in on the plot or the writing. That could be to his advantage, since now that I look back I'm not sure how much I liked some of the flashback/flash forward structure of the early chapters that gets dropped later in the novel, or some of the characters like Avice's husband, Scile, who becomes instrumental to the plot but whose motives I don't think I ever quite understood. Perhaps I missed some of the characterization, or some of the symbolism and deeper meanings to the humans' relationships with the Hosts and their Language, because I was too focused on unpacking the setting, and if the inventive concepts of a book are a hindrance rather than an addition to my enjoyment, I can't give it a better review.(less)
While it was well-written enough to evoke the sights and smells of the bygone London buried beneath the streets, my main complaint was that the slim v...moreWhile it was well-written enough to evoke the sights and smells of the bygone London buried beneath the streets, my main complaint was that the slim volume meant Wilson took for granted that the reader already knew quite a bit of British history, name-dropping regents and events left and right with very little context. I was like an undergraduate coming into the book; Wilson was teaching at a PhD level.(less)