Very compelling story that holds up after more than a century. Unique for its time in that it has a HEA ending. Sometimes the narrative is a little haVery compelling story that holds up after more than a century. Unique for its time in that it has a HEA ending. Sometimes the narrative is a little hard to follow, as we skip around quite a bit inside each character's head. Definitely a good read and worth the time - plus it's free on Amazon Prime :-) ...more
Great classic sci-fi at its near-best. Kloos brings well-developed characters to life in this tale of a distant future in a different galaxy. What makGreat classic sci-fi at its near-best. Kloos brings well-developed characters to life in this tale of a distant future in a different galaxy. What makes great sci-fi, for me, is that the story is about the characters, and the technology and setting are secondary to that, but still very interesting (Herbert's Dune and Asimov's Foundation are great examples). Kloos nails this; I was hooked on the stories of Aden, Solvieg, Idina and Dunstan, each telling a piece of the broader narrative as the plot unfolded. The author drops hints and clues to the worlds these characters live in as the story progresses - I never felt lost because of the future tech.
The one drawback is that the story moves slowly at times and the ending... I know this is book one in a series. But Kloos disappoints with an ending with no real crescendo. I guess it worked though - I'm already into the next book in the series and I'll probably read the upcoming third book as well. ...more
The City and the Stars was a great piece of mid-century sci-fi, combining political thought of the day and an interesting story that ends with a satisThe City and the Stars was a great piece of mid-century sci-fi, combining political thought of the day and an interesting story that ends with a satisfying conclusion. The characters are a little two dimensional, as they take second seat to the plot and the focus on nonconformity, self discovery and overcoming obstacles. Some have called this work Clarke's masterpiece. For me it lacks the depth and finesse of something like Stranger in a Strange Land or Asimov's Foundation series. But it's fun to read, interesting and deftly shines a light on many of the political/social issues of the 20th century - enough so that I could see this being required reading in a lit class. ...more
Tóibín is a master of language. The writing in this fictionalized bio kept me glued to the page for the most part. It's an up close and personal view Tóibín is a master of language. The writing in this fictionalized bio kept me glued to the page for the most part. It's an up close and personal view of one of the most famous American authors of the 19th century. However, I found the story to be occasionally slow and thought it wandered a bit towards the end. But Tóibín gives the reader a good perspective on who Henry James was and how he struggled with family issues, money and guilt throughout his career and life. ...more
This was an interesting read with some great issues to mentally chew on... but it was repetitive at times and could probably have had the same impact This was an interesting read with some great issues to mentally chew on... but it was repetitive at times and could probably have had the same impact in half the number pages. Definitely worth reading but it has put me off of nonfiction for a while... I need a good romance story after this book....more
In Sketchtasy, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore attempts to take a page from Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk, with a fierce, glittery, fast paced romp through 1990s Boston. While not as well executed as Glamorama or Invisible Monsters, the book tries to create the dreamlike quality and thrilling pace of those novels. The story follows Alexa, a twenty-something “queen” living in Boston on her own terms, through a swirl of drug-addled days and nights that all seem to blend into one another. While the book celebrates the independence of its main character, there is a profound sense of loss and emptiness that pervades the story from start to finish. This book, while not always an easy read, touches on some social issues – from AIDS to queer bashing – that are as important today as when the book took place. The power of the book, is that it forces the reader to take notice of these issues that are sometimes uncomfortable to look at.
The novel is at times confusing and disorienting, as the first-person narrative moves quickly, almost jerking the reader from scene to scene. The descriptions of 1990s Boston are charming in their authenticity. For anyone who spent time in Boston as a young person during this period, Sycamore will bring you back to clubbing on Lansdown Street, cocktails at Luxor in Bay Village, a night of dancing at Chaps, or just watching the chic bartenders at Club Cafe.
But the charm of the novel ends with its nostalgia. The jerky pace of the narrative attempts to convey the drug-addled mindset of Alexa, as she goes from one high to the next, with the hangovers and let-downs of regular life in between, but it’s not an enjoyable read. The result is a book that is hard to follow, with characters that are difficult to form a connection with. The author often loses the reader, and unlike Ellis, who uses a similar narrative technique in Glamorama, there isn’t enough substance to keep the reader hooked.
But, and here is the important difference, where Ellis creates a series of intricate and deft scenes in Glamorama, linked with the fashion and clubbing scene in New York during the 1990s, Sycamore creates a disjointed, lonely and sad story of gender-fluid youth with daddy issues, living in a rundown neighborhood on the outskirts of Boston. Ellis created a fantasy that glamorized vapidity and emptiness, whereas Sycamore seems to be forcing the reader to look at social injustices in a way that makes us realize the world is unfair.
The book does remind us of the importance of people who stand up for themselves and who are brave enough to live on the periphery of acceptance. In one passage early in the book, Alexa is on the subway when she is asked by a young boy if she was gay. “Honey, I said, I’m a faggot. And he scrunched up his face and said ew, that’s GROSS. And then can you believe some old woman sitting there looked at me like I was the one creating a scene.”
Unfortunately, the message of the novel comes at the price of an enjoyable read. The book, while good hearted, is hard to follow and the narrative is congested. Recommended if you are looking for a night out in 1990s Boston. If not, you might want to take a pass on this one....more
This is a good adventure story. It takes you on a wild ride that is somewhere between Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time. There's also an element of DThis is a good adventure story. It takes you on a wild ride that is somewhere between Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time. There's also an element of Donna Tartt in the way the characters meet and relate to one another. You could be reading an undiscovered chapter in The Secret History at some points. It's also an incredibly inventive story - props to Grossman for creating some fantastic and at the same time believable scenes.
The issue I had with this book was that it was very easy to put down. While there was a lot of action, I didn't love any of the characters enough to invest in their stories. I wouldn't have had this problem with a lesser book - the writing is great here and it makes me expect more out of the characters.
I probably will read the next book in this series, but I'm not in any rush to. ...more
Love, loss and freedom take center stage in Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier. The novel chronicles the life of Lucius, a well-bred Polish-Austrian doctor from Vienna, beginning with his days as a medical student in the twilight of the Austo-Hungarian Empire; through his time as a doctor in a World War I field hospital; and finally to the post-war period as Lucius tries to put his life back together and find the woman he lost during the war.
The novel is laced with themes of freedom and restraint. This is first portrayed in Lucius’ struggle to study medicine against the wishes of his aristocratic-minded family. Even when he gets to school he is not allowed to practice medicine in any meaningful way.
During the war the constraint of movement keeps him from pursuing the love of his life. Restraint and constraint take various forms throughout the book, but the beauty is that they are never insurmountable. The adventure of watching the main character run into, then through or around obstacles, is part of what makes this novel so compelling.
Mason’s talent for detail and his medical background are evident from the very beginning of the story. This comes through in the intricacies of his scenes—from the elaborate military costumes of Lucius’ father to the opulent dinner his mother holds for Lucius in the midst of widespread starvation in 1917, the “tray loaded with dinner: cabbage rolls in tomato sauce and sour cream, a plate of blood sausage, potatoes spiced with marjoram and onion, pork sirloin in mushroom gravy. A row of dumplings, stuffed with duck.”
Mason also captures the nuances of human emotion in incredibly acute and perceptive ways. In a scene in which Lucius and a friend are studying microscope slides of brain tissue, he describes “the two of them pretend[ing] to see in the cells, the snakelike curl of envy, or desire’s glimmering curve.”
But unlike some authors, Mason doesn’t get bogged down with cumbersome passages of description. On the contrary, Mason’s details are so masterfully woven into the action of the text that the reader feels a part of the story, rather than like an outsider observing it. The novel races along on the back of descriptive passages, such as this description of the early days of war. “. . . the celebrations were hard to ignore. It seemed as if the entire city reeked of rotting flowers. In the city parks, errant streamers tangled themselves in the rosebushes, and everywhere, Lucius saw garlanded soldiers walking with beaming girlfriends on their arms.”
Lucius is sent to the front midway through his medical schooling. He is a prodigious student, but he is in no way ready for the horrors of war medicine—horrors that the reader gets to experience along with Lucius.
If there is one major criticism of the book, it’s that a few passages seem grotesque just for the sake of showcasing the author’s knowledge of medicine. Lucius’ first experience on the front is a good example of this, and it’s not for the faint of heart. En route to his post, Lucius meets a Hussar so infected with venereal disease that he hasn’t been able to urinate in several days. Lucius ends up helping the poor soldier out, but the reader may squirm when reading about the process.
Mason’s most compelling character is perhaps his most mysterious, Sister Margarete. Lucius, while fairly well versed in theoretical medicine at the time of his deployment, has never treated a patient. When he arrives in a remote medical station, there are no doctors and only one nurse, Sister Margarete. The Sister quickly realizes that Lucius has no experience, and takes it upon herself to teach and guide him in a way that is kind, effective and often funny. When doing rounds on the night of Lucius’ arrival in the field hospital, Margarete introduces a soldier who had tried to talk to her about the theory of evolution, which she obviously disapproved of. “This is Redlich, a professor in Vienna. He believes a monkey gave birth to a human woman . . . A monkey, Doctor, can you imagine? Anyway, he was shot by Cossacks. In the rear. Next to his tail.” Indeed, it is a significant accomplishment that Mason is able to bring a level of humor out in characters so immersed in the pain and suffering of war.
There is a love story at the center of this novel, but it doesn’t develop until almost the middle of the book. That affair is well placed, as it changes the feeling of the story, and sets the narrative on a path of several unexpected twists and turns.
Almost as soon as Lucius finds himself in love, he is wrenched apart from the one he loves. His redeployment and eventual return to Vienna compound his heartache. He buries himself in his work and eventually struggles through a short but nasty marriage, brokered by his well-meaning mother. But even here, we see Mason’s sense of balance—Lucius’ wife, while far from enchanting, is portrayed as human, and it’s their incompatibility rather than either individual’s faults that end the marriage.
The end is surprisingly satisfying. Without going into enough detail to spoil the story, Mason crafts a beautiful finale in which the reader is forced to evaluate the balance of a love affair that is impossible and the freedom that comes with ultimately letting go of an obsession.