I rarely give a book five stars. This one is worth it. I can't categorise it into a genre. But if I tell you that Neil Gaiman also writes graphic nove...moreI rarely give a book five stars. This one is worth it. I can't categorise it into a genre. But if I tell you that Neil Gaiman also writes graphic novels, you may understand why. Social commentary cum fantasy is probably the best description.
You've got to read it to appreciate it.
If there is one niggle, it is that it is 'American' with an 'American' ending. But that is just right for this work.
It is about ideology - belief in general - the way that it shapes the world and us as individuals. If I say anything more, I am in spoiler territory.
This is my introduction to a very imaginative British sci-fi fantasy author. Recommendation of a friend who is into sci-fi and transhumanism, this is...moreThis is my introduction to a very imaginative British sci-fi fantasy author. Recommendation of a friend who is into sci-fi and transhumanism, this is a space saga that will have you gripped in not one but several worlds. Divided into several parts with 'intermissions' in between, the book explores time travel, 'Traditionalist' polygamy vs liberal options, virtual reality, immortality and the transference of consciousness, social versus personal realities and other issues each of which might be sufficient to occupy one work of fiction. The fact that Jones tackles them all in one work is arguably its weakness. There is so much detail to absorb that this reader felt the need to either makes notes, or for there to be a helpful page index and/or glossary. But then this is a standalone spin-off of the award-winning three-book Aleutian Trilogy, so this hardly comes as a surprise.
The different parts of the book ranged from space opera to romance to crime caper. So there's a lot on offer.
But Jones won't cater to every taste. Rather like Ursula le Guin, with whom she has often been compared, the intricate fantasy worlds she creates for the reader will not be to everyone's liking. But I, for one, will be doing the sensible thing and reading Book 1 of The Aleutian Trilogy next. New readers to Gwyneth Jones may wish to do the same.(less)
The idea of an exorcist whose main beef is the human establishment and a renegade sect of self-appointed Vatican knights, and only reluctantly taking...moreThe idea of an exorcist whose main beef is the human establishment and a renegade sect of self-appointed Vatican knights, and only reluctantly taking on the occasional demon or ghost because he has a soft spot for ghosts and demons is pretty comical in itself. But in the hands of the witty Mike Carey you will laugh outright at the pickles of his improbable hero, Felix Castor.
But like his previous three Castor books, this is a horror thriller, and Carey's success lies in the way he balances the comic and serious side. There is social commentary and a travelogue hidden in Thicker Than Water as well.
The cast of supporting characters - an inexplicably sympathetic and supportive police detective, a succubus who has made an existential choice to love a human woman, a priest/brother, a possessed best friend, a long-suffering landlady who is also the girlfriend of the possessed best friend Nick the zombie - complete the cast of improbable characters that all, somehow, make an indispensable contribution to a light read that is intelligently entertaining.
One health warning: you will not enjoy this book if you can't get irony. In an earlier book Carey has Felix Castor making a foray into the Us of A. I don't know whether this attempt to encompass American cousins into Felix Castor's world worked in terms of book sales. But I do know that the content and style of his writing is totally 'London Metropolitan'. Readers from Arkansas, Georgia (the one near Russia) or Beijing just might not get any of it!(less)
This is an excellent adult book from the author of the teen Twilight series (recently turned into film). The horror teen genre gives way to a more int...moreThis is an excellent adult book from the author of the teen Twilight series (recently turned into film). The horror teen genre gives way to a more intellectually interesting sci-fi story whose themes are identity, self, consciousness, multiple loves (the author is Mormon!) and what it is to be human.
The protagonist is a young woman, Wanderer. She is she is a cross between Ripley from the movie Alien and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are well-drawn male characters too, although unsurprisingly they narrative does favour the female perspective. This might disappoint some readers who would go for a Vim-Diesel slant in their escapist fantasy sci-fi. But on the whole this doesn't interfere with the plot or the narrative, which has its fair share of cliff hangers, biffs and bangs.
This is not a literary masterpiece, but it deserves a place in the annals of respectable science fiction and an exalted place as an intelligent page-turner. (less)
This isn't bad book, despite the two stars I have given it. But it is a 'worthy' book that misses because it is neither emotionally engaging nor a pag...moreThis isn't bad book, despite the two stars I have given it. But it is a 'worthy' book that misses because it is neither emotionally engaging nor a page-turner. The inward-looking character development is set against descriptions of a 19th-century Oxford university town that almost belongs in a work in the fantasy genre. But the expectation of the action of fantasy novel are not met.
Instead what unravels is a story about thwarted personalities and expectations, in the context of a brutal class-riven society, ignorance and (yes) a learning difficulty. By the end of the book I felt it was a piece of social commentary masquerading as a take on 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' with in a Dickensian (Oliver Twist to be exact) setting.
It was readable, but I can't say I enjoyed it.(less)
This is billed as the book SDB wrote when one of Sartre's lovers (Olga Kosakievics) entered their lives and threatened to disrupt the famous partnersh...moreThis is billed as the book SDB wrote when one of Sartre's lovers (Olga Kosakievics) entered their lives and threatened to disrupt the famous partnership about which so much has been speculated. This description doesn't do the book justice.
It does, nevertheless, need to be admitted from the start that Beauvoir is not remembered best for her novels and this one illustrates why: this is no literary classic. It is not a page turner, not a tour de force - at times I had to make myself pick it up to get on reading it.
She Came To Staty is interesting because it is an illustrative non-philosophical tract that (as Fullbrook & Fullbrook write in Sex and Philosophy, see my review) pre-dates some of Sartre's formal arguments. It is most easily enjoyable as a historical document of the way things were in France in the pre-War period, when SDB wrote the book. It is most compelling as an insight into SDB herself - in do doubt one of the most intriguing published minds of the 20th century and a formidable intellect.
Was she a feminist? Yes - if that means someone who, having been born at a time when women were supposed to get married and settle down, simply didn't, and did the attention-getting things she did. But she was more a woman of her time than this description would suggest. Francoise (the SDB character in the book) was always secondary to Pierre (the Sartre character). Francoise's attempts at independent 'being' were always relative to Pierre and his status.
He, on the other hand, was self-centred, rather arrogant, unempathetic, unsensuous - albeit devoted to Francoise. For many 21st century women, he might also come across as being a little too cerebral. The Francoise-Pierre relationship is almost platonic to the point that it wouldn't surprise modern readers that both parties looked for sensual pleasures elsewhere!
In fact, that was one of the unexpected aspects of the novel: the Francoise-Pierre partnership most resembles a 21st-century conception of an open marriage, in which both partners are committed to each other but allow extra-marital adventures. On the part of Pierre, they are mostly transitory and venal. That's why the entry of the Xaviere (Olga) character is so disruptive - it is not venal because she is Francoise's (SDB's) friend/protegee, and Xaviere plays on this. By contrast, Francoise's extra-partnership liaison is with Gerbert, a colleague of hers and friend of Pierre's, who is adamant he did not want a relationship that mirrored Pierre's 'affaires' but something more meaningful - as long as it it wasn't a commitment that tied him down, of course.
Was SDB in effect saying that women have higher standards than men, and capable of a higher degree of faithfulness? That certainly seems to be one of the novel's messages, as perceived by this woman reader anyway. Was she saying that women could be catty bitches? Yes - that's what Xaviere was. Was she saying women could be high minded? Yes ... but given a post-feminist reading of the novel, that's debatable because Francoise, in the end, was the most successful vengeful female of them all, partly because she chose to operate under the mantle of maturity and intellectual high-mindedness ... and, it has to be said, under the unacknowledge 'protection' of a man - Pierre. If anything, this is more a post-feminist than a feminist novel.
But it is more than that. Reading between the lines with the benefit of anachronistic feminist and sociological background, She Came to Stay has something to say about same-sex love and affection, motherhood, maturity, commitment and the French intellectual middle class mentality and morality. There are characters and scenes that are evocative of Guernica, Picasso, Lawrence Durrel and Zorba the Greek (the book, not so much the film) and, of course, La Rive Gauche.
But, in the end, I'm not actually sure what SBD wants to say about how people (existentially?) relate to one another. One of the reasons it isn't 'a good read' is that it really is too introspective, and in this respect it favours (naturally) Francoise. But while she is integral and coherent and consistent within herself, the other characters are either developed too late in the story or simply uni-dimensional - Xaviere is just too adolescent and hippie-like to be real.
Still, this is worth reading because I am certain that different readers will take a wide range of different impressions and conclusions from this single work of not-exactly-brilliant literature. (less)
This is about as accessible as a book on existentialism and Continental philosophy can be, without being trite or overly simplistic. It is equally a u...moreThis is about as accessible as a book on existentialism and Continental philosophy can be, without being trite or overly simplistic. It is equally a useful introduction to philosophy as whole for those not engaged in it as an academic discpline.
It escapes being a closely argued tract typical of philosophy books due to the clever way the authors have themselves taken on board the Beauvoir methodology they examine in the book - that of using literary form (as distinct from the philosophical essay) as a means of explicating existential philosophy. Specifically, by interrogating the narrative of the Beauvoir's life - especially her relationship with Sartre - and her output, they weave a compelling story about an important branch of philosophy that is not well addressed in the philosophy departments in the English-speaking world, where Analytical Philosophy holds sway.
With the narrative approach to the Sartre-Beauvoir life-long 'open' relationship as its starting point, the authors (husband and wife British academics, althoug the wife sadly died five years before the book's publication) succeed in holding the attention of a general reader who is neither particularly academic or well-versed in philosophy and its particular style of writing. Nevertheless, as the chapters progress, some very lucid and well structured tracts of philosophical argument unfold, backed up by excellent annotation and references.
The book gives an overview of the various schools that divide the discpline of philosophy, a taxonomy of Continental and Analytical Philosophy and a useful reading list. It can even be taken by philosophy students as a good primer on how to write a good essay! Each chapters starts with a description of what the writers set out to do, followed by a rundown of the arguments that will be deployed in the ensuing pages, and conclude with reference to the objectives identified at the start.
Neither will feminists be disappointed. Although the book wears Beauvoir's position as feminist icon lightly, the issue of her stature as a 'real' philosopher is, almost inevitably, bound up in the fact that she is a woman - but in ways that is far from 'feminist' alone.
A coffee table sized book, this is a fun and informative read.
It deals with sex and sexual practices across most of the world's cultures and throughou...moreA coffee table sized book, this is a fun and informative read.
It deals with sex and sexual practices across most of the world's cultures and throughout history, and gives a picture of the breadth and depth of the human experience of sex in all its forms and expressions. It puts sex into religious and social perspective. It is a good corrective to any kind of sexual narrow mindedness, and an enyoyable un-heavy overview of what sex can be to different people.
There are lots of illustrations and it is written in short snippets. A nice book to have around that you can dip in and out of. It's not a new publication and doesn't deal with the latest neurological findings - although it includes a section on Freud and Jung and the psychoanalytical take on sex.(less)
A lot of reviewers have compared this series with Rowling's Harry Potter, and Meyer with Rowling. Apart from the two authors being women and the two n...moreA lot of reviewers have compared this series with Rowling's Harry Potter, and Meyer with Rowling. Apart from the two authors being women and the two narratives being set in an imaginary universe inhabited by magical super-natural beings (as well as humans), the comparison must end there.
While Rowling is a good story-teller more than literary giant, her creation has more imaginative and descriptive depth and her characters more real.
About this book, the fourth in the series:
After a slow start that looked as the book was going off on a teen-romance tangent that a Mills & Boon novel might just as easily serve up, a key twist (which I won't specify - no spoilers here) is introduced. From then on, it's a page turner (not compellingly so, but a page turner).
The saccharine moments that characterised previous books (except the first, which was ok in this respect because you knew that the protagonist is a teenager in luurv, for Gawd's sake) got a little much for me so I skipped a lot of those.
Another unsatisfying point was that the characters, never truly compelling except in snatches in previous books, seemed more two-dimensional in this latest, despite the narrative being divided into three 'books' and written from different characters' perspective.
Development of secondary characters was patchy and truncated - and I wonder why some were developed at all. If it was the purpose of the next book in the series, this could have been left to be developed in that separate work not in this one.
The use of characters is probably the most telling comparison to Rowling. In her Potter books (even before she got to the last) she managed to develop each character, including some memorable walk-ons, with a multi-dimensional life behind the role they they play in progressing the narrative. Each and every character contributes to bringing to life her imaginary world. Decriptions were used as a backdrop to action, but characters actions not only move on the plot, they make up the world of Harry Potter - the characters are the world inhabited by the main character.
Meyer's style, by contrast, offers a lot of description but does not use characters to underpin the atmosphere or the reality of her imaginary world. It is story 'telling' not weaving of the imagination which is the best of storytelling is all about. If I wanted a large-scale illustration of the Strunk & White (see Elements of Style) warning about adjectives and description, this would be it!
Still, I'd buy the next book in the series ... if only to find out what happens next. But I wouldn't buy the hardback - it's a commuter or under-the-school-desk read.(less)
This third in the series continues the teen-angst-romance genre, and expands the vampire/werewolf mythology created by the author. It also says a lot...moreThis third in the series continues the teen-angst-romance genre, and expands the vampire/werewolf mythology created by the author. It also says a lot about the difficulties of differences in perspective between generations, three-way relationships, women's indepedence versus traditional values and, of course, parents and teenagers. A good enough read, but not more than this.(less)
It is misleading to say that I have 'read' this book - because I couldn't. It is also misleading to give it as many as much as a single star. I got as...moreIt is misleading to say that I have 'read' this book - because I couldn't. It is also misleading to give it as many as much as a single star. I got as far as the first few chapters and then a bit more and couldn't stomach reading another line of cliched writing and thinking. In literary style, this could have been written by computer. In plot and story line, this could have been written by a committee given the task of producing a Dan-Brown-style commuter read for people with a reading age of 8, a lower than average IQ and with little imagination. The characters have the depth of those you will find in a a Mills and Boon title: since I read those secreted behind a textbook during class when I was about 13, I'm probably being unfair to today's M&Bs! This book is to be avoided by anyone who has any appreciation of good writing. Even if you're not an avid reader or are looking for nothing else but an easy-read page turner, you'll get a better sense of achievement cleaning the kitchen with a soap opera running in the background. There are many Da-Vinci-Code wannabees out there, but other writers (like Same Bourne whose 'The Last Testament' is IMHO better than Dan Brown's controversy-hyped novel) can actually write. I worry that this book has been a bestseller!(less)
Being of the generation that did not experience a well developed 'older child abler reader' or 'young adult' genre, I was impressed at what a good rea...moreBeing of the generation that did not experience a well developed 'older child abler reader' or 'young adult' genre, I was impressed at what a good read the first Harry Potter book was. And while I would never denigrate Rowling, her achievement in that set of books has been to produce page-turners. Northern Lights (I can't bring myself to call it 'Golden Compass' beacuse I love the word alethiometer so much!), which I read ages ago and was my second foray in so-called young people's literature, is definitely different. Darker, more complex and more philosophical. The second book continued in the same vein. What blew it for me was the third book. Having started out treating his young readers without a hint of condescension, Pulman does just the opposite in the last book is so unsubtle about its 'lessons in life'. Still, Mrs Coulter is a fabulously rich character and her relationship with her husband and daughter is so finely honed - that's what kept me going.(less)
I've given this book only four stars because of the ending - which is very subjective, as I know other readers who love it for, among other things, th...moreI've given this book only four stars because of the ending - which is very subjective, as I know other readers who love it for, among other things, the ending! Otherwise it would deserve five stars even from me. It's a brilliantly crafted piece of writing and very clever literarily, as well as being a real page-turner. Anybody who loves books will love this. Can't say more than this with spoiling.(less)
I have come to rely on Sansom's series to produce historically interesting narratives with believable characters set in a rollicking storyline. It wou...moreI have come to rely on Sansom's series to produce historically interesting narratives with believable characters set in a rollicking storyline. It would be too much to ask the latest in a series to have the same freshness as the first - which is why I gave it only four stars - but I suspect that a fan of historical fiction reading this without having read the earlier books in the series would find it as compelling as I found the first book. (less)
I picked this up as the third of a 3-for-2 deal and was pleasantly surprised at how readable it was. It raises issues of relationships that work and d...moreI picked this up as the third of a 3-for-2 deal and was pleasantly surprised at how readable it was. It raises issues of relationships that work and don't work in the context of multiple commitments and affections - and even raises the issues of how a platonic but very strong bond of love, in this case between handler and dragon. I suppose this is no different from the bond between horse and girl that other books have delved into, but there is definitely a more sensuous and danger-laden aspect here that is interesting. This aspect goes largely unexplored in favour of the thrills and spills of the dragonrider adventure genre, which is where it becomes a little less compelling (for me anyway). There are battle scenes, for example, that always leave me a little confused (I am just being a 'girlie' I think). Not sure I would go out of my way to get the next book in the series in a big hurry, but I would get it if stuck for a good read.(less)