This book is difficult to define. (And if I were in a more clever mood, I'd be able to make a witty pun out of that.)
It's a love story told as dictioThis book is difficult to define. (And if I were in a more clever mood, I'd be able to make a witty pun out of that.)
It's a love story told as dictionary entries, and it is absolutely entrancing. The brevity, and predetermined order of the entries, demand the story be told with a spareness very close to poetry, but at some moments (and in some entries) the story blooms into wonderfully detailed anecdotes and vignettes. This is a very quick read, but beautiful in its brevity. ...more
Jake. The Turtle. Creepy tunnels. A town where everything is wrong. Cyclical stories. June 19, 1999. And yet, no Oy.
I really can't decide how many stJake. The Turtle. Creepy tunnels. A town where everything is wrong. Cyclical stories. June 19, 1999. And yet, no Oy.
I really can't decide how many stars to give this book. I go back and forth between one and five. Really, there should just be the crater left by an explosion where the stars used to be. It was well-written, excellently engineering and executed, and extremely unexpected.
Despite what everyone who saw me carrying this book around assumed, this is not a horror story. (Not everything he writes is horror, you guys.) What it is, is fantastic. King tells a time-traveling story that asks the question: If you could go back and change history, would you? Should you? And what would it mean?
He narrates using the voice of high school English teacher Jake Epping who finds himself transported to 1958 and given the charge of stopping the Kennedy assassination. The assumption being that without that one event, race riots, Vietnam, and all sorts of nasty things would have been averted.
So Jake goes back, and lays out a series of tasks for himself, starting with preventing a local murder. But, having five years to wait until his big tasks, he settles into the past. He falls in love, with it and with a woman. And he starts to question everything he came back for.
Then the fateful day comes, and everything changes.
King handles the story as you would expect him too. There are odd harmonies in the story that make you think of Roland. There are the echoes I mentioned above. But it's not the Dark Tower. Apparently, I am going to forever be disappointed by King books that aren't the Dark Tower. Maybe that's my cycle. But this book just didn't quite work for me. It was fiercely intelligent and stunningly well-researched. But every now and then the writing jarred, and I think those were places where King was trying to write like Epping rather than like himself, and the voices slipped. It threw me. The quality wasn't as even as in some of his other works.
That's not to say it wasn't good; it was. And the building of the tension was staggeringly well done. King's a master of making you feel like things aren't quite right even when, in all evidence, they are. He's wonderful at touches of mystery. He's got the creep factor down. But at the end, I was left feeling a little let down. I had hoped for something more. It was a beautiful ending, but not satisfying.
And it wasn't the Dark Tower.
I would recommend the book after all that. It is a little too long, but I do think most people (those not hung up on other books) would really enjoy it. It's a compulsively good read. ...more
I just became aware that Stephenson also sometimes writes (or perhaps wrote) under the pseudonym Stephen Bury, and that he had too books I'd never reaI just became aware that Stephenson also sometimes writes (or perhaps wrote) under the pseudonym Stephen Bury, and that he had too books I'd never read or heard of. It was like Christmas came early.
As someone said below, a mediocre Stephenson novel is better than no Stephenson novel at all, and I'm not even sure I would call this a mediocre Stephenson novel. It's definitely an early one, and it's pure political thriller, not science fiction at all.
You can feel him bursting to get all his cleverness out at once. He's still developing his writing style. What later evolved into a charming style at this point sometimes comes off as pointless details and long, boring narration of everyday tasks. However, the characters are wonderfully Stephensonian. (And from this and Reamde, we learn never to be a weaselly guy who can't handle his alcohol and is ungallant toward women in a Stephenson novel.)
All that being said, I enjoyed this novel enormously. It was wonderful fun to read a novel that takes place in the Midwest, where I grew up, and Washington, DC, where I live now. The characters were well-drawn and interesting. Stephenson played with some interesting writing techniques, such as withholding key plot points but showing how characters reacted to them. If all political thrillers were this smart and funny, I'd read a lot more of them. (Or maybe I'm misremembering Clancy, and he was a real knee-slapper.)
I highly recommend this book for Stephenson fans, and those who might not yet be....more
This is a wonderful political adventure novel, with a thin vein of science fiction running through it. If all political thrillers were this smart, snaThis is a wonderful political adventure novel, with a thin vein of science fiction running through it. If all political thrillers were this smart, snappy, funny, and thought-provoking, I would read a lot more of them. Or perhaps Clancy is a real knee-slapper and I just don't remember. But Interface follows an electoral campaign and along the way manages to ask some very profound, fundamental questions about the ethics of self-improvement and the nature of identity and life itself, all while being an enjoyable romp of a novel. The characters are well-developed and interesting (though from this and Reamde, we now know never to be a weaselly man with a problem with alcoholism who is ungallant toward women in a Stephenson novel), the story is well-paced, the plot is fiendishly clever, and the action is well-done. All this along with prose that occasionally made me chuckle out loud.
Books like these make me wonder why Stephenson's novels have not already been made into sensationally popular blockbuster movies. The bones are all there: charismatic characters, adventure, special effects, and a joyous buoyancy that doesn't worry too much about being overly pedantic. Maybe people have offered and Stephenson is just being picky, which is laudable, but this would make a phenomenal movie, one I'd love to see, and maybe it would get more people reading Stephenson. Which can only be a good thing. I recommend this book to those who already love Stephenson, and to those who don't yet know they could....more
I started to write that I didn't know what was so entrancing and comforting about this book, but then I realized that's incorrect. I know exactly whatI started to write that I didn't know what was so entrancing and comforting about this book, but then I realized that's incorrect. I know exactly what makes these books, largely plot-less, so attractive. Following the lives of these quirky, interesting, and interconnected people is exactly as satisfying as a long phone call with your mom, catching up on the gossip from back home.
This book is largely interesting for the characters in it. Nothing earth-shattering happens (with one exception), but the ins and outs of their lives make fairly compelling, very comforting reading. Though I can easily imagine people who would be bored silly by this book, I quite enjoyed it.
The only exception was one stomach-dropping moment where dog fighting came up as a plot point. I do not think McCall Smith treated it with nearly the gravity such a foul, horrifying, unhuman "sport" it is, and treated it, a bit lightly, as evidence of mild moral decay in one of its characters, not as a serious sin it actually is. ...more
I can't decide if I'm disappointed in this book or just annoyed by the storyline and upset at the ending. I read it in less than 48 hours, and that usI can't decide if I'm disappointed in this book or just annoyed by the storyline and upset at the ending. I read it in less than 48 hours, and that usually only happens for books I'm really enjoying. However, most of the time, I was frustrated with the characters and the plot. For a long time, I was thinking this review would read mainly "How to ignore your own feelings and ruin your life by making all bad decisions." And that's actually pretty accurate. The books' redeeming qualities are its dialog and narration are (for the most part) witty and fun to read. A smaller minority of the dialog and narration came across as self-conscious and overly twee, as if the author were writing for readers clipping quotes for their own hipster montages.
I can't decide whether I recommend this book or not. I really didn't like the story line, and the characters were fairly frustrating. The writing didn't really make up for that completely. So I suppose I don't highly recommend it, but I wouldn't bodily prevent anyone from reading it either. ...more