Listened to the unabridged version once and read the book once. I guarantee I'll enjoy repeated readings/listenings in the future. It's just history tListened to the unabridged version once and read the book once. I guarantee I'll enjoy repeated readings/listenings in the future. It's just history thoroughly well done....more
Fantasy and/or sci-fi is not my genre. At all. Never has been. Still, you can only be told so many times by so many people for so much of your life toFantasy and/or sci-fi is not my genre. At all. Never has been. Still, you can only be told so many times by so many people for so much of your life to read a book before finally deciding to see what all the fuss is about. I listened to it on one of my seemingly endless number of long car trips and, yes. It's pretty remarkable to think that such a vivid world and story could extract itself from a single man in the form of Frank Herbert. It was as good as everyone said, which is to say that it was really REALLY good....more
After about ~200 pages, I'm kicking myself for waiting as long as I had to start this. I may have been intimidated by its heft, given that the book teAfter about ~200 pages, I'm kicking myself for waiting as long as I had to start this. I may have been intimidated by its heft, given that the book technically qualifies as a weapon. In any case, the writing style and story are just wonderful and I genuinely appreciate the David Foster Wallace-ian levels of footnotery.
The fact that I felt the same after ~800 pages as I had after ~200 is a testament to the author's ability to keep the story fresh and flowing long after some other novels of similar heft drive a reader to their knees yearning for the sweet relief of either death or the last page, whichever comes first. This book was a supremely enjoyable read that made me look forward to picking it up every night and then angry when I'd actually start to doze off while reading it.
And of all worthy writerly characteristics I can attach to this novel, that of a clever and subtle wit infused throughout is the one for which I'm most grateful. It's difficult to do well and, when accomplished, can transform mediocrity into something slightly better than adequate and others from greatness into the realm of amazing. I felt this was a great and imaginative story made amazing by having the writer's tongue planted firmly in her cheek from beginning to end. It also takes the edge off of the dire parts and adds more levity to the lighter ones ('dire' being a serious stretch given that it's a fictional book about early 19th-century British magicians).
It was a fun read and constitutes one of the few books/doorstops that I'd happily pick up and zip through again....more
When I consider the amount of time that the author had to have spent working with autistic people to enable him to narrate a book in the voice of suchWhen I consider the amount of time that the author had to have spent working with autistic people to enable him to narrate a book in the voice of such a person, it makes me want to sit in the corner of a dark room, hugging my knees and rocking back and forth. I may have deep untapped reservoirs of patience, but the superficial amounts that keep me from 'raising the black flag and slitting throats' just doesn't seem adequate for the feed and care of people so afflicted.
Which isn't to say they don't have their charm. I genuinely appreciated the narrator's ability to get to the point, to describe the what, where, and why without Dan Brown levels of hyperbole or melodrama (in this regard, the world might benefit from the presence of a few editors and radio/TV producers with a smattering of autism). There was a straightforwardness to the book that I really enjoyed and the descriptions of the perils involved in getting from point A to point B were really well done. And with the exception of the actual dog homicide, I could also empathize to a certain degree with all of the main characters.
As for the science/math aspects of the story, it really struck me as being spot on. How many such people, given the opportunity to exceed others' absurd expectations, would excel in a similar way? I can say from personal experience that the world of science is packed with folks that might have some degree of autism (or are perhaps just socially awkward to the extreme). And were you to extract the 'quirky' types from college math departments the world over, you'd be left with a lot of very undermanned classrooms with students striving toward mediocrity.
All this to say that the best part of the book (IMHO) is the main character's belief in himself and his unwillingness to let his ambitions be squelched by the small-mindedness of those around him. ...more
Writing that is submitted to and accepted for publication by peer-reviewed science journals is generally not enjoyable to read. Or rather, such writinWriting that is submitted to and accepted for publication by peer-reviewed science journals is generally not enjoyable to read. Or rather, such writing is only 'enjoyed' by other scientists. 'Tolerated' might be a better word. The process by which one attains proficiency as a science writer often involves ridding oneself of a tendency to write in ways that might happily engage or entertain a reader or tell a story in a way that makes a normal person not want to set fire to the manuscript or themselves. It's a sacrifice.
It's also an understatement to say that people capable of writing effectively in both scientific and non-scientific styles are rare. This book would be worthy of five stars if it were written by anyone else, but the fact that it was written by a hardcore neuroscientist with an intimidating track record of scientific publications adds an extra twinkle to each of the stars.
The book houses short, imaginative essays detailing various potential afterlives. They're all so well written, so clever, and such a pleasure to read that there's an excellent chance you'll dog-ear bunches of pages so that you can pick the book up in the future and re-read passages again just for the satisfaction of going, 'HA!', and meaning it. Seriously. So good....more