For young adults, I guess, and not overly deep, but compelling, complex characters, told with passion and a rich tapestry of vivid, imaginative, traumFor young adults, I guess, and not overly deep, but compelling, complex characters, told with passion and a rich tapestry of vivid, imaginative, traumatic events. It's been a very long time since I read it, but possibly the only compelling stories I'll ever read drenched in sports but not fundamentally about them. In other words, the athletics bring out the human beings.
Glad to have remembered who this author is....more
Upsetting, flawed, unkind, and desperate. Some of the antagonists cross the threshold of disbelief; they're convincingly written but too crude and extUpsetting, flawed, unkind, and desperate. Some of the antagonists cross the threshold of disbelief; they're convincingly written but too crude and extreme. But, again, the minimalism and the moral recognition without pity is interesting and compelling. The main character is ugly, damned, and unforgivably cruel, but a compelling anti-hero. The psychotic break experience is captured with profound realism. Some of what's going on with the character interactions is profound at the edges of my consciousness. However, in the end, this is a nihilistic story. Which is fine, but leads you to write everyone in it off and detach....more
The complete work, all seven books and 5000 pages, has real flaws. Many flaws. Thousands of flaws. While it's one of my favorite fantasy series ever wThe complete work, all seven books and 5000 pages, has real flaws. Many flaws. Thousands of flaws. While it's one of my favorite fantasy series ever written, I don't know if I would give it the five.
For what is fundamentally an action series, it does too much meandering. And the main characters become a little too classically heroic in books four through, oh, six, and the straightforward dangers aren't threatening enough, and the slowly building weirdnesses, the larger fantastic superstructure, well, there isn't enough of it. Most of all, it loses the desperate edge and becomes.. a little too sentimental. A little too in love with itself, a little too easily impressed with camp and minor bravura. A little too Disney. And the rewrite of this book retroactively paints a little too much of that back in. King revises real plot events in the 'update' of this book, tying it back to the main themes but also, frankly, making more excuses for Roland in a way that makes him easier to accept; but in doing so sacrifices the book's perfection and weighing it down with foreshadowing and a clunky superstructure.
But I'm supposed to be reviewing the book, not the series. The original version of this book, well, for a flat and not truly remarkable dystopic fantasy, something about it just gripped me by the gut and has never let me go, even decades later. And it's all about the main character. I guess it's hard to create a character so profoundly alone; so threatening and yet so convincingly meaningless, barely observable in the shadow of forces much larger than him; so sparing in emotion and yet such a profound evoker of it. His clinical ruthlessness somehow admits the meaning the people it destroys in its somber straightforwardness. In the guilelessness of his betrayals, he is like an animal; in his suffering and suppressed empathy he is a human being; and the compression of the two so violently, there is his relentless sense of purpose. Roland is a raised fist to the death at the taunting deity that broke his world, nicely captured by his maddening, omnipotent antagonist in black.
And it all hangs on King's deeply austere prose, which makes every sentence radiate the deeply austere reserve that is the main character's essence. The whole thing is an interlocking series of ruthless minimalisms confronting the fantastic and grotesque, the profound and the empty, repulsion and attraction, and passing through all; enduring all.
There's an echo of it in Batman, I guess - the grim exhaustion, the moral degradation of power and the acceptance of it, the lack of pity and the obsession - but batman fights a series of cartoon, one-dimensional villains with many advantages and predictable challenges. In this book, we can't begin to understand Roland's adversary, his quest, or any real hope of redemption, although there's a profound importance to the task that implies hope.
Anyway, it probably doesn't deserve it, for me it's a compelling story of sacrifice and desperation at the extremities, presented with such dispassion that it convinces me of its righteousness, because it makes no effort to do so. Maybe the first 'beyond good and evil' scenario that ever felt convincing to me before. My universal reaction to flawed characters doing bad things for a supposed greater good is skepticism and rejection. But for me, the main character's story plausibly supercedes, or maybe bypasses the moral universe in a way that leaves him a hero and a terrible person in the same breath.
Anyway, I love the book with a childish fascination, or I used to.
My rating system is screwed up, reflecting an era of inflation. I've given three stars to books I didn't really like. More gradients needed.
This is aMy rating system is screwed up, reflecting an era of inflation. I've given three stars to books I didn't really like. More gradients needed.
This is a flawed book in its own way. It goes on a little-long and it's a little heavy-handed in places. It's written the way Gone With The Wind was filmed - very few jump cuts, no post-modernism, long internal monologues and classical language. And the main character's self-internalization as a man of physical and emotional weakness sometimes clashes with his alter ego as a star athlete.
However, it's also a gripping book and a moving book, with layers of psyche moving beneath all the meaningful characters, pushing them in unpredictable ways that make sense. The institution is a mean animal and it breathes over the book. There are sadists, victims, and heroes, and the heroes are also the victims. To get to the point, Pat Conroy has a gift for searing trauma and violent passion. He paints immersive scenes with a stunning vividness that comes from a complete lack of detachment. He feels the scenes he writes, and it bleeds onto the page.
One of my favorite authors. Hard to pick the best book.
Guy has gifts: for concisely building convincingly unique characters with appropriate subtlety; for gripping action; and for building truly complex phGuy has gifts: for concisely building convincingly unique characters with appropriate subtlety; for gripping action; and for building truly complex phenomena of science into narratives in a seamless, explicable manner.
Having said that, this is a long, demanding, occasionally jarring (the slow, grinding kind of jarring) book that does not play to immediate gratification. The first 200 pages are as slow as the first half of Tolkien's Book 1, with much granularity on the mechanics of giant clock towers in a post-technological age and a saturation of complex alternate-universe historical shorthand. And we are kept in the dark about the full picture of the quantum entanglement ideas for a long, long time, so that in the middle of the book the fragments we have to work with seem vague and absurdly over-emphasized relative to their so far underwhelming consequences. However, if you stick with it, the ending is really fantastic.
It can't touch snow crash, and I should probably give it three stars because the middle wanders too much, but few writers have this kind of ambition. I can hardly imagine the work required to convincingly wrap the the theoretical explanations so that it emerges from narrative events (not just explanations) quite so fluently, while keeping a much simpler and more vivid sensory and danger/plot mechanic humming along at top speed.
Along with Dosoyevtsky and Douglas Adams, this book has the most perfect and meaningful encapsulation of the thing most profound I know of about lifeAlong with Dosoyevtsky and Douglas Adams, this book has the most perfect and meaningful encapsulation of the thing most profound I know of about life - the darkness and mundane ruthlessness of the world and our struggle for decency and adaptation against a roiling tide of inexplicable and explicable unkindness and entropy. All the more powerful for the normalcy and totality of the story it tells. It's not a bizarre ellipse of history, a freak accident of perversity, the way one sadist can warp a prison block or a neighborhood, but the unraveling of a nation.
If it was a long polemical essay, it wouldn't be half as profound as what it is - a simple story of people and their attempts to cope. ...more
Five might be too much. But I very much appreciate this book. What comes back to me is the cruelty, and the energy and vividness of the characters thaFive might be too much. But I very much appreciate this book. What comes back to me is the cruelty, and the energy and vividness of the characters that highlight the cruelty and make it as surprising and painful as real life. There's so much personality to the characters, so much life beyond the cruelty; this is a trick that people like Chuck Palanhuk don't understand. Oscar is a particularly good character for the stuttering nature of his attempts to overcome his milidly repulsive cravings and tendencies. The book is excellent at giving these efforts the gauze of dignity and meaning before undoing that and abandoning the protagonist again admist the undertow of inertia and predation.
Diaz does this against a backdrop that mimics the futility of Wao's own helpless struggles with those of a nation and several women's equally helpless struggles. There's an echo and a joint message of the terrible way in which brute force stamps out even the most driven deseperate creativty to triumph. I'm being vague, because I forget.
But all isn't lost. There's a strong female character, Oscar's sister I think, who is tough enough to overcome the casual betrayals of the world, serving as a reminder that not every victim is a loser. And Oscar himself achieves a moment of triumph and self-validation that, if you want to decide is worth the price, than perhaps vindicates the idea that every dog has his day. Sort of. The compromised nature of the vindication leaves you not sure if you're happy or sad, a nihilist or a satisfied romantic. That's high praise.
There aren't many effusive books that win me over. Diaz is so evocative, he doesn't need to be restrained.
I'd like to give this less stars. I did appreciate the successful sense of uncertainty about the prime character's and what he would do, the story's eI'd like to give this less stars. I did appreciate the successful sense of uncertainty about the prime character's and what he would do, the story's essential direction, the appreciable vastness of New York City from the protagonist's perspective. I find books about 9/11 somehow forced and precious unless they are extremely straightforward. This book is fundamentally formulaic, or overly a creature of its time. Cute introspective unrealistic kid working through a preocious, timeless grief misdirection by wandering around in New York City, not well able to communicate with people he loves. The clever writing makes it easy to miss that.
I'd like to go back and re-read, or at least skim, the books I'm reviewing from distant memory....more