In the scifi community, this is a love-it/hate-it book. I know of one person who has bounced off of this, and one person who read it and just didn't l...moreIn the scifi community, this is a love-it/hate-it book. I know of one person who has bounced off of this, and one person who read it and just didn't like it at all.
Premise of the book from Amazon.com (a better review than Goodreads): In a future Thailand, calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The complex plot and equally complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers. Even the most sympathetic people have darker sides, and it is difficult to determine which character or faction should triumph.
I enjoyed Windup Girl immensely. I thought the setting in Thailand was exemplary and a great backdrop against the Big Seed Company's control of the world wide food source. The idea that there was a world collapse due to blight and insects and the subsequent challenge of companies to create GMO's as a seed source was a refreshing 'end of the world' scenario. Add in political unrest, karma, ghosts, illegal cloned humans and the daily struggle to survive and it becomes a fascinating read.
As a side note, I did notice this is also being advertised/sold under YA which surprised me given the circumstances in which Emiko is living and found. I would not recommend this as a YA. (less)
A selection of the 2009 novella, novelette and short story Hugo nominees and winners.
Novella •“The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s O...moreA selection of the 2009 novella, novelette and short story Hugo nominees and winners.
Novella •“The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008) •“The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
Novelette •“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008) •“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008) •“Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
Short Story •“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008) •“Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
Short stories are hard to review because one's taste is so subjective. I'm actually not that wild about shorts, they don't contain enough substance for me. With that being said, there were a couple in here that really stood out. I particularily liked Kij Johnson's and James Alan Gardner's piece and I'm always a fan of Ian McDonald's work. You will probably laugh at the contradiction, but McDonald's work was about the right length. If you've read his stuff you'll understand.
I had already read Pride and Prometheus in the Nebula Award selection and didn't care for it then. The remainder were just sort of eh. (less)
This book is one of the five novel nominees for a Hugo Award in 2009. Voting is happening now and the winners will be announced at Worldcon in Montrea...moreThis book is one of the five novel nominees for a Hugo Award in 2009. Voting is happening now and the winners will be announced at Worldcon in Montreal, Quebec in August.
The rest of the novels are: Anathem by Neal Stephenson The Graveyard Game by Neil Gaiman Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi Saturn's Children by Charles Stross Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Nobody Owens (Bod for short) was a toddler when his family was murdered by the man Jack. Somehow, this tiny tot survived because he was waddling up the street and into the graveyard when Jack slipped into his room. At the pleading of the tot's now deceased tot's mother's ghost, the denizens of the graveyard agree to protect and raise the boy. However, the tot's mother doesn't give them the boys name - there was no time - so Mr. and Mrs. Owens name the boy Nobody.
With the help of Silas, Nob's guardian, and the rest of the graveyard, they teach Nob his numbers and letters, how to call for help in several languages, how to Fade, Dreamwalk, and project Fear. But Nob is growing up and is beginning to learn of the living world beyond the graveyard, where Jack still waits...
I absolutely LOVE how Gaiman's works just pull a person along. I find his stories unconventional and enjoy them even more because of it. Deftly woven, a great sense of subtle humor and interesting illustrations. I might have enjoyed this more if I hadn't just read two other coming of age novels, but that is in no way a poor reflection on Gaiman's Graveyard Book. (less)
To paraphrase a freind of mine, this was yet *another* "...alcoholic detective sticking their nose where it's likely to get cut off." Two books that I...moreTo paraphrase a freind of mine, this was yet *another* "...alcoholic detective sticking their nose where it's likely to get cut off." Two books that I've read recently come to mind: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith and When Gravity Fails by George Alex Effinger. Same plot, same characters, different setting.
The alternative history is pretty minor to the overall story. I really feel that you could cut and paste the characters and plot and plunk them in NYC and the story wouldn't miss a beat. I think this my main contention. Yeah, it's kinda cool to have a bunch of Jews living in Alaska, but does that make it "award worthy?" Not really, IMO.
The author is really, really flowery in his language. I recall one bit I read over my moring cereal that was something like "the cows were angels scattered on the green heavens of the field". This particular sentence was just kinda stuck in between two other sentences that basically said the cows were out standing in their field. He had a lot of this throughout the book and after a while it was like, Oy vey indeed.
Still, I enjoyed this book. Meyer Landsman wasn't as morose or depressing as Arkady Renko but I think that was due to Meyer's comic sidekick - Barko. In some ways it was kinda like watching the old TV series Northern Exposure, where being off your rocker is the norm. I would read another book by Michael Chabon.(less)
This was a 2005 Hugo Winner in the Novel Category for the Glasgow, Scotland, Worldcon. The other nominees included:
• Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel...moreThis was a 2005 Hugo Winner in the Novel Category for the Glasgow, Scotland, Worldcon. The other nominees included:
• Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke [Bloomsbury, 2004:] • River of Gods by Ian McDonald [Simon & Schuster UK, 2004:] • The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks [Orbit, 2004:] • Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross [Ace, 2004:] • Iron Council by China Miéville [Del Rey, 2004; Macmillan UK, 2004:]
This was the only selection I wasn’t able to read in 2005. I wasn’t paying $30.00 for a hardback book of this size and at the time I didn’t have convenient access to a library (downside of living out in the country). However, in the intervening years, one of my fellow book group members found a copy and sold it to me for a mere pittance – like $5.00 or something.
To greatly summarize, set in the early 1800’s, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell have become England’s last great magicians. Mr. Norrell is very conservative in his use and instruction of magic. Mr. Strange is very outgoing and wishes to share what he knows with whomever he can. As Napoleon threatens English independence, Mr. Strange heads off to the Spanish front to assist where he can in thwarting the enemies war efforts. When Mr. Strange finally returns to England after a three year absence, the two great magicians come to disagree and part ways, each disliking the other more and more. Meanwhile, due to a summoning Mr. Norrell did very early on, we find there is a malignant Fairy who is intent on bringing mischief to our two magicians in the worst possible ways.
I’ve read numerous reviews and talked to others about this book, and this is a Love It or Hate It book. And I can see why. At [900:] pages hardback, the book is a doorstop. It is written in the style of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters – very stylized and formal, full of olde English spellings and mannerisms. Clarke has added significant footnotes that lead the reader off onto other topics for explanation, which can be interesting or annoying at the time. Some of the reviews I’ve read characterized this book as pompous, pretentious and a waste of time.
However, I did find this a fascinating read. I will say first and foremost that Strange/Norrell is NOT a book that can be skimmed. It is a book that requires a bit – no, a lot - of patience to let the story gradually unfold. I think Clark succeeded in doing just that. The plot unfolds subtly, almost silkily, as the reader follows Strange from his discovery of magic, to his instruction under Norrell, to his rise in fame for his assistance with the war effort, and to the precipice that will be his undoing. This was, in my opinion, well worth reading.
If you don’t like long, ‘classically’ written English books, then I will confidently say, don’t bother with this one. However, if you do and you can be patient, you will be rewarded with a really good story. This is good winter reading.(less)