Set in a richly worked-out alternate middle-ages featuring a imperialist power that colonizes, absorbs, modernizes, and 'corrects' weaker powers (forSet in a richly worked-out alternate middle-ages featuring a imperialist power that colonizes, absorbs, modernizes, and 'corrects' weaker powers (for instance, torturing or putting to death those who, like the main character, are drawn to partners of the same sex), this novel asks: how far can someone de-soul them-self in an attempt to pretend to be part of the machine - a collaborator - as a long, long con in order to take revenge upon the conqueror from within?
Dickinson is equally skilled in world-building, moving and chilling character-study, devious courtly intrigue, and gripping flashes of action both personal and military. Sharply written, engrossing, fiercely intelligent, and devastating. ...more
Designed to be a colorful, coffee-table-book experience for atari 2600 and '70s-'80s retrogaming enthusiasts, this book is nicely laid out, with full-Designed to be a colorful, coffee-table-book experience for atari 2600 and '70s-'80s retrogaming enthusiasts, this book is nicely laid out, with full-page screenshots from the games, breezily humorous (though sometimes this humor is stretched) summaries/reviews of each game, accompanied by scans of the cartridge art, full manuals, advertisements, catalog entries and related extras such as the sewable patches Activision rewarded for reaching certain high scores in their games.
The problem is, while the screenshots look great and the main summary text for each game is fine, all the scans of the copious related material are horrible, scanned at such a low resolution in some cases to be unreadable. It is astonishing that Slaton did the work to gather all this great related material, and then included it a format/resolution that's close to unacceptable.
I got the e-book version, I've read elsewhere that the paper used for the print version has some quality issues too - really a shame, as most buyers will likely be too burned to try the projected other three volumes of this project....more
I really wanted to love this. I had high expectations from many rave reviews. Its mix of far-reaching wham-bang sense-of-wonder spaceThree 1/2 stars.
I really wanted to love this. I had high expectations from many rave reviews. Its mix of far-reaching wham-bang sense-of-wonder space opera with more intimate, slice-of-life character development - including the mundane horrors of new parents raising their first child - is right up my alley. The art is gorgeous. It earnestly wants to tackle issues like racism, the difficulty of renouncing violence, and the effects of war with at least some nuance.
But it moves so briskly that I didn't get to spend enough time with the various characters to really grow attached to them - I liked them but didn't love them. This wouldn't matter if the series only wanted to be a fun ride, but it obviously wants you to care about its characters and treat its themes seriously, too.
The narrative brevity might be a factor of how high quality Fiona Staples' full-color art is: it would probably be prohibitive cost-wise to stretch the length of each chapter and maintain that quality of art and printing. But it's a problem, as many characters are just introduced right before major events befall them which would have been much more engaging if I'd grown to know them better. Likewise, the dialogue often strains to be sharp (seeming to aim for that Joss Whedony dash of insightful human humor amidst the pulp action), but doesn't always hit the mark.
And there's a further issue with the world-building. Yes, I get this is not hard sci-fi, especially since magic is a given in this book's galaxy, but I needed some additional *story* behind these two elements:
- The TV-headed mechanical aristocrat society that a main character comes from needed some context. If they're called robots by everyone, why are we treated to scenes of them having sex, sitting on toilets and pregnant with children? If this was a purely surrealist work, sure -- but it just seemed like at attempt to do something different without a lot of thought put into it. It was too jarring to not have a least a suggestion of why these robots are mixed with flesh but apparently not cyborgs. I mean, even in the fully gonzo FLCL anime series characters commented on the strangeness of its own TV-headed robot trying to eat curry. - If the moon and planet at war in this work weren't already system-spanning empires when their conflict began, what exact upper hand did they hold on everyone else that allowed them to force the rest of the galaxy to fight their war for them as proxies? This felt underdeveloped too, given that it's the conflict central to the story...
Maybe that will all get more development in the rest of the series. And I will read more of it, as I'm curious to see where it goes. I just didn't fall in love with as I expected......more
This read was a frustrating see-saw between being captivated by beautiful writing/gems of insight and being frustrated with Durrell's assum3 1/2 stars
This read was a frustrating see-saw between being captivated by beautiful writing/gems of insight and being frustrated with Durrell's assumption that his main characters' often pompous philosophical ramblings and their commonplace sexual betrayal of each other should be treated with cosmic seriousness by default.
The novel is set in Alexandria, Egypt between WWI and WWII and swirls around the intertwining of two couples unraveling under the weight of an infidelity between them (this is no spoiler, it's introduced early), and various other colorful ex-patriate characters in their orbit, all of them, in varying degrees, caught in the force field of ennui and dissipation that Durrell repeatedly suggests emanates from the landscape of Alexandria itself.
We have a first person narrator, one of the points in the central tragic romantic quadrangle -- he's having an affair with Justine of the title of the book, so they're betraying both Melissa whom the narrator lives with and Nessim whom Justine is married to. He tells the tale in a non-linear fashion, jumping back and forth as he sorts through both his memories and various notes he's carried with him to a remote island "to heal" after all the events. All a fine set up, and Durrell has considerable powers as a writer, but, the narrator treats everything as...well, let's quote the narrator himself, who, after mining the writings of a former lover of Justine for clues to how to reach her, critiques the lover's writing approach:
"What is missing in his work -but this is a criticism of all works which do not reach the front rank-is a sense of play. He bears down so hard upon his subject-matter..."
This ironically applies to this book itself: the narrator and Durrell are so committed to imbuing almost all instances with heavy significance, echoes of fate, philosophic profundity, etc - that a lot of those obsessive gestures end up seeming like pretentious window-dressing that ignores the human truths (or even just more grounded social and psychological observations) of the various situations.
This issue is finally resolved in the last fourth of the book, which positively shines because Durrell finally shifts from *telling* us what the narrator thinks and the other characters say to *showing* the impact of the quadrangle unravelling - and it's here that I see the indisputable classic this book could have been if about a third of it had been edited out. This last section was powerful enough that I will at least try one more of Durrell's Alexandrian Quartet, as each book promises to give a different perspective on the situation.
Also, for a book that I found majorly flawed, I did underline quite a few passages that struck me. Here are some:
"In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. Its dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of sea-water licking its own wounds, sulking along the mouths of the delta, boiling upon these deserted beaches-empty, forever empty under the gulls: white scribble on grey, munched by clouds."
"His heart has withered in him and he has been left with the five senses, like pieces of a broken wineglass."
(As an example of when Durrell turns his focus from the quadrangle to a side character, the sailor Scobie:) "Scobie is a sort of protozoic profile in fog and rain, for he carries with him a sort of English weather, and he is never happier then when he can sit over a microscopic wood-fire in winter and talk...Behind him I see the long grey rollers of the Atlantic at work, curling up over his memories, smothering them in spray, blinding him. When he speaks of the past it is in a series of short dim telegrams-as if already communications were poor, the weather inimical to transmission."
"Above, the sky is set in a brilliant comb of stars. Antares guttering up there, buried in spray...To have cheerfully laid down obedient books and friends, lighted rooms, fireplaces built for conversation-the whole parish of the civilized mind-is not something I regret but merely wonder at."...more