Took me a while to finish. Takes not the best of human impulses and instead of getting angry about them, brings an awareness and affirmation that onlyTook me a while to finish. Takes not the best of human impulses and instead of getting angry about them, brings an awareness and affirmation that only great art can provide. The titular stories and "On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand" were probably my favorites of the collection. ...more
It was alright. I thought the preachiness was bit unnecessary towards the end because it was otherwise working out great as an empathetic exploration It was alright. I thought the preachiness was bit unnecessary towards the end because it was otherwise working out great as an empathetic exploration of Rashomon like PoV mismatch of messy individuals in a relationship.
My favorite of the collection was "Windfalls". But the stories were quite refreshing, braiding elements from Nigerian history and culture into the conMy favorite of the collection was "Windfalls". But the stories were quite refreshing, braiding elements from Nigerian history and culture into the contemporary world....more
Although my brain can spool off connections to pretty much everything I've ever liked, there's this haecceity to this book that I cannot explain withoAlthough my brain can spool off connections to pretty much everything I've ever liked, there's this haecceity to this book that I cannot explain without getting too personal or TMI....more
I was ready to give it full five stars about halfway through. Not only had the prose made me squee:
The apartment was on the fifth floor of a
I was ready to give it full five stars about halfway through. Not only had the prose made me squee:
The apartment was on the fifth floor of a tree-ringed, green-built, post-FUS building, with windows overlooking the retinal-rape neon of a takeout Szechuan hole-in-the-wall.
“At this point he may want to start dismembering you. Most likely this will begin with your fingers and toes and move on up the extremities. You are expected to react with appropriate terror and beg for your life.” Stella. “I can do that.” Henrietta. “Then he will likely decapitate you. Please, at this point, if you could, feign death.”
but the way it was juggling the absurdity of describing a lucid dreamscape with the giant themes about humanity's long-term future (a la Arthur C. Clarke) - little connections to string you along - I was cackling with joy and was completely enraptured. I could spool off comparisons to pretty much every book I've liked - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Bleeding Edge and Snow Crash to name a few. And despite cranking up the absurdity level, the invention and use of Bionet tech felt more believable than similar tech in the Nexus or Altered Carbon series. (Otherwise as science-fiction goes, it's as implausible as it gets).
However, and the reason for docking that one star, I felt let down by the second half of the book. After constantly wondering how this paranoid web of newspaper clippings will be eventually connected, I was a little unhappy with the author's choice of taking the Pynchon route of creating an atmosphere - what's it to be like a pawn of forces much more powerful and intelligent than you are - rather than giving some sort of a closure. But then, I already am used to Neal Stephenson bungling up the ending, so can't dock Boudinot much for failing at that.
So, in short even though it's a mess, I loved the book and recommend reading it!...more
You completely forget that the narrator Mary Katherine - or Merricat, as Constance calls her - is eighWow! Brilliant creepy! This is horror well done.
You completely forget that the narrator Mary Katherine - or Merricat, as Constance calls her - is eighteen years old rather than a ten year old at best. As a character, she's just perfect with Jackson masterfully describing character through dialog. Without spoiling too much, it's a story of two sisters secluding themselves into a creepy world of their own but you are reading it for the atmosphere that it builds not for the plot....more
This was fun! But the satire became biting from the quaintness it projects compared to the real world - the protagonist gets lot of money from CaliforThis was fun! But the satire became biting from the quaintness it projects compared to the real world - the protagonist gets lot of money from California for his father's death-by-cop, isn't shot, gets the girl etc.
A few highlights:
If there is a heaven worth the effort that people make to get there, then I hope for my father’s sake there’s a celestial psychology journal. One that publishes the results of failed experiments, because acknowledging unsubstantiated theories and negative results is just as important as publishing studies proving red wine is the cure-all we’d always pretended it was.
I’ve always liked rote. The formulaic repetitiveness of filing and stuffing envelopes appeals to me in some fundamental life-affirming way. I would’ve made a good factory worker, supply-room clerk, or Hollywood scriptwriter.
But if you really think about it, the only thing you absolutely never see in car commercials isn’t Jewish people, homosexuals, or urban Negroes, it’s traffic.
He was unpaid-electricity-bill dark
You’d rather be here than in Africa. The trump card all narrow-minded nativists play. If you put a cupcake to my head, of course, I’d rather be here than any place in Africa, though I hear Johannesburg ain’t that bad and the surf on the Cape Verdean beaches is incredible. However, I’m not so selfish as to believe that my relative happiness, including, but not limited to, twenty-four-hour access to chili burgers, Blu-ray, and Aeron office chairs is worth generations of suffering. I seriously doubt that some slave ship ancestor, in those idle moments between being raped and beaten, was standing knee-deep in their own feces rationalizing that, in the end, the generations of murder, unbearable pain and suffering, mental anguish, and rampant disease will all be worth it because someday my great-great-great-great-grandson will have Wi-Fi, no matter how slow and intermittent the signal is.
Really hard to give a rating for this book since it's a superposition between all. Some parts are very clever and funny. Still want to telUmm. Arghhh.
Really hard to give a rating for this book since it's a superposition between all. Some parts are very clever and funny. Still want to tell everyone I mention this book to about its United single-party State "governed" by the party called the "Bipartisan Party".
And man, does Shteyngart have a way with words. The damn specificity:
But by the end of said night I remembered very little. Let’s just say that I drank. Drank out of fear (she was so cruel). Drank out of happiness (she was so beautiful). Drank until my whole mouth and teeth had turned a dark ruby red and the pungency of my breath and perspiration betrayed my passing years.
The floor beneath my feet was clean, immigrant clean, clean enough so that you understood that somebody had done their best.
Eunice exhaled in such a sad, hurt, elongated, final way, it made me wonder if she would ever be capable of replacing that breath.
I closed my eyes and let the lining of my mouth turn into pure heat.
Yet the bad parts are embarrassing to read. Although the 39 year old protagonist Lenny, almost surely an author insert, has descriptions that always exude smugness (happens to be the only person left in this future-America who reads "books"; everyone else complains how the books "smell") and creepiness (his love interest Eunice is described in the stock objectifying language; everything about her is "little" and "Korean"), he still manages to come out as a person you can empathize with.
Another annoying part is the inconsistency with which point of views other than Lenny are handled. Eunice mostly writes in futurized stereotypical Valley Girl lingo initially, but later parts somehow lose most of that "future-slang". Moreover her long emails feel very incongruent with the fact that people don't read anymore in this world and communicate via "Images" (extrapolate Snapchat I guess). His friends, on the other hand, talk like characters in a sit-com.
And yet, the book somehow deftly pressed all the right emotional buttons and made me feel uncomfortable. I guess that's the point of good literature?...more
Neal Stephenson of Cryptonomicon, minus tech babble but everything else plus plus. In a sense the book is empty calories and a standard adventure storNeal Stephenson of Cryptonomicon, minus tech babble but everything else plus plus. In a sense the book is empty calories and a standard adventure story in terms of the plot. But man does Harkaway know how to write. There are subtle things threaded in the details, but largely it's about the absurdity of war and the depravity of dehumanization with some Shyamalan twists somehow magically pulled together with panache and charm....more
This was surprisingly fun. It's a weird mixture of science fiction, horror and thriller that somehow devolves into an endearingly warm family drama. IThis was surprisingly fun. It's a weird mixture of science fiction, horror and thriller that somehow devolves into an endearingly warm family drama. I know it sounds corny when I say that, and yeah, it won't count as "great" literature, whatever that means, but if an overcomplicated plot garnished with creepy aliens, heroin dealing, gruesome deaths and whatnot, sounds fun to you, then it gets a strong recommendation from me!...more
This book is hard to summarize. It pushes a lot of buttons that make me happy as a reader. And every major character is so damn adorable and fascinatiThis book is hard to summarize. It pushes a lot of buttons that make me happy as a reader. And every major character is so damn adorable and fascinating. So much detail that I can’t slot many of them into any archetype that I’m familiar with, and yet they all manage to seem true to life - basically believable. And the writing is so damn clever. A non-high-context example:
Certain kinds of men like Ron Desormie. What a name. What a pervy name. What a perfect name for a perv like him. It could even be verbed like pasteurize. I thought: It could be? No. It will be. I thought: From now on, desormiate = perv the world, and rondesormiate will, for a while, be an acceptable, however overly formal, variant in the vein of irregardless, then become archaic, whereas sorm and desorm, the slang of tomorrow, will eventually dominate, rendering desormiate itself the over-formal variant.
The book is framed as a scripture, attributed to Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee - potential messiah, age 10 (also the protagonist); deals with just four[!] days in over a thousand pages and still be an epic in all senses of that word (Only the third quarter had some dull moments!). And all this is done unironically in complete honesty.
I know the book has too many negatives going for it: really really long (although much shorter than Worm), cutesy precocious kid narrator, even sometimes meta and pretentious. But the book is relatively easy to read, has an involving plot and fun characters and humor and does not feel at all like the dreary PoMo tome I was expecting from the marketing. Hopefully, just like Worm, I'll be able to convince a few people to read this gem of a book.
Still hard to believe this was the author's first novel!
Also don't read the awful NYT review of this book. Too much spoilers and misses the point anyway....more
There were parts that were interesting but mostly couldn't connect with the narrator's excessively self-aware voice (which is kinda surprising becauseThere were parts that were interesting but mostly couldn't connect with the narrator's excessively self-aware voice (which is kinda surprising because I like self-aware characters). Every single character comes out to be narcissistic and pretentious which is fine but leaves little for a reader to care about. The ambivalent ending did make sense to me but was too bored to care anyway....more
My first Pynchon. Very hard to review. For now I'll just say that if you like Neal Stephenson with his tangential info dumps and anti climatic endingsMy first Pynchon. Very hard to review. For now I'll just say that if you like Neal Stephenson with his tangential info dumps and anti climatic endings, you should give this book a try as well. Stephenson seems to borrow quite a bit of his style from Pynchon.
Hardest thing to believe is that the author was 75 years old when he wrote this book. Most cyberpunk hasn't aged well, but this seemed about right. I'm sure Pynchon is the only author who can cram both a made up song lyrics and a discussion about css vs tables in the same chapter.
Not recommended for people who like a narrative with some resolution. There are layers and layers of intrigue that just go nowhere....more
I think connecting different short stories to make a single book is good idea. it worked well in Accelerando and it cleverly works here. However, if yI think connecting different short stories to make a single book is good idea. it worked well in Accelerando and it cleverly works here. However, if you are looking for some overarching plot, then look elsewhere. The book contains so much inherent goodness, that it's easy to forget how dystopian an outlook it takes towards human future....more