The Sword and Laser discussion

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Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell

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message 1: by Tau-Mu (new)

Tau-Mu | 5 comments Cloud Atlas!!! OMG!!! Please please interview David Mitchell.


message 2: by Colin (new)

Colin | 278 comments ...not the David Mitchell I was hoping for.


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 491 comments Colin wrote: "...not the David Mitchell I was hoping for."

One comedian who can never become a novelist, under his own name at least...


message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments After reading Cloud Atlas I prefer the comedian to the author.


message 5: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments Didn't we already read this book at S&L? I guess then maybe more people will contribute to it in depth. Michael, you can start the lem thread as every book that's been featured at S&L has the honor of having a lem thread.


message 6: by Jeremiah (new)

Jeremiah Mccoy (jeremiahtechnoirmccoy) | 80 comments Am I the only one dreading this book? It really doesn't look appealing to me.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Aloha wrote: "Didn't we already read this book at S&L? I guess then maybe more people will contribute to it in depth. Michael, you can start the lem thread as every book that's been featured at S&L has the hon..."

Nope. It was a renegade read.

Now it'll be an official pick.


message 8: by Lorie (new)

Lorie (loriechristoffel) | 70 comments I listened to the audio book last week. I highly recommend it. It took me a while to get into it but I'm glad I read it.


message 9: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments The book was great. I wouldn't be the person to ask whether it's easy or not. It's easy reading for me since I've been getting into books that people dread to read. I'm ready to hit a 1200 page tome that's full of complex background material that I would have to dig up to understand its meaning, Women and Men. The book now is very hard to find without having to pay exorbitant prices. I'm reading this with a group. We are all foaming at the mouth over it.


message 10: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments Here's a link to the group if anyone wants to take up the challenge. The first challenge is finding a paper copy of the book that's under $150:

http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/7...


message 11: by Otto (new)

Otto (andrewlinke) | 110 comments I dunno... the big plot attracts me, but I worry that it will be pretentious and intentionally difficult. Anyone read it yet and want to comment on that?


message 12: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments I don't get people labeling a book that they don't understand pretentious. There is definitely an artistry and thought with books that try to go a different route than the same ole same ole. These books appeal to me because I like a variety of subjects, and they have unique takes in how to incorporate it into literature.


message 13: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Andrew wrote: "I dunno... the big plot attracts me, but I worry that it will be pretentious and intentionally difficult. Anyone read it yet and want to comment on that?"

Just view it as six short stories where half the story is told in each in the first half of the book and the second half of each story is told in the second half of the book. I didn't find the stories themselves anything special but I did love the language and humour, particularly of the first and last stories. There's a lot of fun in looking out for the connections between the stories in a "Where's Wally" gimmicky kind of way - which I actually liked - but that's because I like "Where's Wally" books. Maybe we could make that an S & L pick.


message 14: by Jeremiah (new)

Jeremiah Mccoy (jeremiahtechnoirmccoy) | 80 comments It may be because I am taking 6 classes this semester, so it feels a bit more of a challenge than it might normally. I may still read it though.


message 15: by Michael (last edited Sep 25, 2012 01:56AM) (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments Aloha wrote: "Didn't we already read this book at S&L? I guess then maybe more people will contribute to it in depth. Michael, you can start the lem thread as every book that's been featured at S&L has the hon..."

I gave it three stars. I have no reason to start a lem thread.
David Mitchell, the comedian, is really funny.
I can recommend 10 O'Clock Live, a British version of The Daily Show and QI with Stephen Fry, on which he sometimes appears as a panellist.

Andrew wrote: "I dunno... the big plot attracts me, but I worry that it will be pretentious and intentionally difficult. Anyone read it yet and want to comment on that?"
From my review:
"David Mitchell gets an A+ for effort, intention and concept, the narrators an A for the excellent narration and the book a B- / C+ for entertainment."


message 16: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4188 comments I didn't find it "intentionally difficult," though I did take a little while to get into the rhythm. The first chapter in particular is tough, since it's written in a 19th century voice. Once I got over that hump, though, I was sucked in. I think I gave it 4 stars but I acknowledge that this isn't a book for everybody. After all, I also loved Infinite Jest.

I expect a lot of people will Lem this one. That's too bad, but I can see that it's not for everybody. For me, the worst part was the story about the detective.


message 17: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments The detective part was my least favorite part, too. When I realized that he was purposefully imitating the check out stand bad detective novels of the 70's, then it takes on a new dimension.


message 18: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments The thing I like about novels like this is that they place demands on the reader. You have to know about literature, history, anthropology and science to get the nuances. It's not for everyone, but it's rewarding for people who are interested in a variety of subject besides literature or just entertainment.


message 19: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments I forgot to mention another topic that is good to have some knowledge about when reading these books is religion/spirituality. That is probably the most common theme in classical literature, anyway.


message 20: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments And philosophy, too.


message 21: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4188 comments Possible spoiler about a comet.... (view spoiler)

If this seems rambling, it probably is. I'm typing on my iPad while my folks are in the room talking to me...


message 22: by Aloha (last edited Sep 25, 2012 05:30AM) (new)

Aloha | 919 comments That's a good way of looking at it, terpkristin. As funny as it may be to say this, with these books you can't take the topic literally. A specific topic may be a clever device to tie up a story, and really has nothing to do with the author's belief or a belief of the story. In art, it's like using found object to create a piece. A bunch of bottle caps in the art piece may not say anything about bottle caps.


message 23: by Michael (last edited Sep 25, 2012 07:32AM) (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments terpkristin wrote: "Possible spoiler about a comet.... [spoilers]"

I agree, it's a lazy way. While reading I was hoping for a big reveal at the end. After finishing I felt that the common theme sufficed to hold the stories together.

Aloha wrote: "A bunch of bottle caps in the art piece may not say anything about bottle caps. "

From my point of view the artist spend too much effort collecting different and exotic bottle caps and while his non bottle cap related message is clearly visible - even without his superfluous comment which somewhat detracts from his theme - the finished piece of art lacked a bit of thrill and captivation for me.


message 24: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2501 comments Is this supposed to be Sword or Laser?


message 25: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 6888 comments Mod
I believe technically October should be a Sword selection since September was a Laser. I haven't read the book but it seems like it might have elements of both from the little I know about it so far.


message 26: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments AndrewP wrote: "Is this supposed to be Sword or Laser?"

There's one dystopian future story and one post apocalyptic future. The four other stories are neither sword or laser.


message 27: by library_jim (new)

library_jim | 212 comments I was reluctant to read this as well. Was worried about the pretentious aspect of the author just wanting to show off his smarts. But on audio, with different narrators for each section, it's great. I think it's even better than reading it since the middle story (on Hawaii) is in this sort of pidgin English that sounds funky but would probably bug me to decode.

The surprising thing to me is just how funny much of it is so far. There is some great satire here and that's what's got me hooked. Hope you fellow reluctant folks give it a good try at least. It might surprise you.

As for Sword or Laser, this is both. There's a definite laser section in a futuristic Korea. There's a post-apocalyptic future as well. As for the Sword aspect, here's a theme of reincarnation and destiny-like coincidence with overlapping elements that kinda reminds me of Lost, but it's not so heavy-handed (though they might play it that way with the casting in the film).

Just call it a more generalized Speculative Fiction I suppose.


message 28: by Dwheelz (new)

Dwheelz | 1 comments Lorie wrote: "I listened to the audio book last week. I highly recommend it. It took me a while to get into it but I'm glad I read it."

How long? Just curious, i am about 25% in and am question whether or not to finish. I guess the story so far just hasn't grabbed me and I am having a hard time slogging through it.


message 29: by Kim (new)

Kim | 477 comments I listed it under almost every genre except fantasy.


message 30: by Lorie (new)

Lorie (loriechristoffel) | 70 comments Well, by the time I got to the middle I had to know how the stories ended. I was glad when the Zach'ry story was over because it was hard to listen to/translate to English. I thought it was quite funny in places, too. I am looking forward to the movie and especially The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.


message 31: by Ian (new)

Ian Roberts | 143 comments I am surprised we picked its since I don't believe it is really sci fi and its definitely not fantasy. I would classify it as contemporary fiction with a few sci fi elements.

Having said that its definitely an excellent book thats worth a read but is much more 'literary' than most of the books we read in the group, so depends on your tolerance for books that book critics like.....

I would recommend sticking with it because its challenging but rewarding at the same time


message 32: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments It's postmodernism and worth reading. Postmodernist books are self-aware. Basically, it's saying "Hey, I'm a story within a book!" Kind of like a literary Godel's theorem.


message 33: by Aloha (last edited Sep 28, 2012 08:59AM) (new)

Aloha | 919 comments I'm almost done with Skippy Dies, which I highly recommend as a group read. It's a hybrid that has a lot of Physics in it, but it's more of a metaphor for a really heart felt story. Why I'm mentioning it here is that there's a passage at the end that sums up why I'm becoming addicted to postmodernism. The way postmodernism is written can drive readers nuts, but I love it. Passage in Skippy Dies:

"Maybe instead of strings it's stories things are made of, an infinite number of tiny vibrating stories; once upon a time they all were part of one big giant superstore, except it got broken up into a jillion different pieces, that's why no story on its own makes any sense, and so what you have to do in a life is try and weave it back together, my story into your story, our stories into all the other people's we know, until you've got something that to God or whoever might look like a letter or even a word..."


I think it's good to keep this in mind when you're reading Cloud Atlas. The above statement is the best way of expressing the concept, I think.


message 34: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Which is why I tend to hate postmodernism :)

All the built-in assumptions to even the above simple quote I tend to disagree with and just friggin drive me crazy.


message 35: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments The built in assumptions are not anymore than any other traditional format novel with its built in assumptions. I like postmodernism because I find it less predictable than other genres.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments Jim wrote: "I was reluctant to read this as well. Was worried about the pretentious aspect of the author just wanting to show off his smarts. But on audio, with different narrators for each section, it's great. I think it's even better than reading it since the middle story (on Hawaii) is in this sort of pidgin English that sounds funky but would probably bug me to decode...."
This is my second time reading, and count it among my favorite books. (I like other Mitchell books too, but I'd say none are at this masterpiece level.) This time around I listened to the audio, and it really was a great experience.

Whether or not you listen or read, stick with it into the 2nd chapter. The tone and voice change considerably, deliberately, and it gets better.


message 37: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Aloha wrote: "The built in assumptions are not anymore than any other traditional format novel with its built in assumptions. I like postmodernism because I find it less predictable than other genres."

Agreed - the problem is more that I just disagree with them. It's a personal opinion thing. One of the reasons I find it real hard motivating my self to read this novel.


message 38: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments With all these book selections, there's no need to force yourself to read what you're not into. I've left many forums with friends because I'm not into reading that particular genre anymore. I only have so much time to post at GR, so I post where there are books of interest.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments Keith wrote: "The vague description of this book not only doesn't sell me, it actually makes me want to avoid it."
It isn't our job to sell it..... Oh TOM someone wants to know why you picked this book!


message 40: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2501 comments Keith wrote: "The vague description of this book not only doesn't sell me, it actually makes me want to avoid it."

Same here. It also one where the paperback is $3 less than the kindle edition so as a matter of principal (and being a cheapskate) Random House and Mr Mitchell can take a hike.


message 41: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments I used to not like these types of books, but now I'm addicted to them. Once you've developed a taste for them, an obsession follows. I followed a list of the top postmodernist novels and am collecting hardbacks of all of them. This leads me to wanting to read and collect all the notoriously obscure and hard novels. I'm on a mission to read books that people find difficult to read. Luckily, I've found a community on GR who are on the same mission. It's been a blast.

BTW, I did not find Cloud Atlas hard to read at all. But I do appreciate his effort to go for something different.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments Aloha wrote: "I used to not like these types of books, but now I'm addicted to them. Once you've developed a taste for them, an obsession follows. I followed a list of the top postmodernist novels and am colle..."
I would love to see that list! I think I read Gravity's Rainbow prior to Cloud Atlas, plus most of Nicholson Baker. Surely that puts it into a different context!

AndrewP wrote: "Same here. It also one where the paperback is $3 less than the kindle edition so as a matter of principal (and being a cheapskate) Random House and Mr Mitchell can take a hike. ."
Probably more a reflection of current sales. Last I checked, authors had no control of price points set by distributors.


message 43: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments Hi Jenny. Brant in my Women and Men reading group posted a part of this essay that added a term I didn't know when describing a novel, "encyclopedic." I gathered all but one of those books in hardback, You Bright and Risen Angels. It is easily available but in paperback, so I thought I'd wait until I'm ready to read it.

"While reading William Gass’s The Tunnel last year at this time, I feared I was witnessing the last of a dying breed, the encyclopedic American novel that began with Gaddis’s Recognitions in 1955, hit its stride in the sixties and seventies (Giles Goat-Boy, Gravity’s Rainbow, Gaddis again with J R, The Public Burning, LETTERS), went baroque in the eighties (Darconville’s Cat, Take Five, Women and Men, You Bright and Risen Angels), then raged against the dying of the light in the nineties with Powers’s Gold-Bug Variations and Gass’s massive masterpiece. Who was left to write such novels, or to read them at a time when some scorn such books as elitist, testosterone-fueled acts of male imperialism? For those of us who regard these works as our cultural milestones, not as tombstones in patriarchy’s graveyard, David Foster Wallace demonstrates that the encyclopedic novel is still alive and kickin’ it."

There's also a blog called, "Writers No One Reads" which I'm following for more book ideas.

http://writersnoonereads.tumblr.com

I'm so glad to find a group of people who enjoy those type of books without an attitude of having a broom up the arse. My introductory foray into those groups with people with broom up the arse left me with an allergic reaction. I think I was kicked out of one for talking off topic. Maybe it was an accident of GR, but I just checked and I'm not a member anymore. Of course, I haven't showed up in months.

I'll send you a private PM about Women and Men, a notoriously difficult about 1200 pages tome that the Women and Men group is reading. I just snagged a $25 hardback that is worth about $150. It's in the mail and I should get it next week. Yay!!!


message 44: by Daran (new)

Daran | 599 comments I have to admit I'm intrigued. Last night I saw the poster for the film version at the cinema. Not something you would associate with a postmodernist novel.

As a rule, I dislike postmodernism. Everything after Tristam Shandy really. I don't want my entertainment to be challenging, I want it to be entertaining.

My first impression from the "book flap" is that it reminds me of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt at least in the overall idea.

I'm starting it this afternoon, and I hope it's worth the time I'll be putting in.


message 45: by Michael (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments Keith wrote: "There's a MOVIE??"
IIRC that's why Tom picked the book.


message 46: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2501 comments Jenny wrote: "Probably more a reflection of current sales. Last I checked, authors had no control of price points set by distributors. ..."

Oh absolutely. It's just a principal issue with me. With this pricing strategy they will not be getting my business. To rub salt in the wound, there is at least one review on Amazon saying that the Kindle edition has formatting errors and typos.
My library system has more copies on order, so one might show up eventually:)

@keith: Yeah I saw that last week. It's what you get when you award art and design degrees to people with zero artistic talent.


message 47: by Joyce (new)

Joyce (eternity21) | 177 comments terpkristin wrote: "I didn't find it "intentionally difficult," though I did take a little while to get into the rhythm. The first chapter in particular is tough, since it's written in a 19th century voice. Once I got..."

I agree with the first few chapters. I persevered and now I am enjoying it. Still reading the first story but about halfway now and the language doesn't bother me anymore. All of a sudden I realized I was chugging through the difficult speech patterns.


message 48: by Michael (last edited Sep 30, 2012 02:11AM) (new)

Michael (the_smoking_gnu) | 178 comments The Incomparable discussed "Cloud Atlas" in it's latest podcast: http://5by5.tv/incomparable/109 Spoilers!

Good, nuanced discussion with great flippant remarks like "wankery is in the distance".


message 49: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Aloha wrote: "Hi Jenny. Brant in my Women and Men reading group posted a part of this essay that added a term I didn't know when describing a novel, "encyclopedic." I gathered all but one of those books in har..."

Thanks for the "Writers No One Reads" link. I'll be following this one!


message 50: by Chante (new)

Chante | 2 comments I put this book on hold at the library as soon as I saw the movie trailer. Might seem like a backward way in, but I was intrigued by the trailer and did some research.

I nearly skipped the middle chapter "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" because the language was exhausting to decipher (brought me back to my school days of trudging through Russel Hoban's "Riddley Walker"); but I didn't want to miss any essential details in the story. So I pushed through and overall, it's a collection of well-told stories. I did not feel that the characters were connected on more than a superficial level (could be the way the chapters are divided), but I have a feeling the new movie adaptation might push that interconnectedness to a whole new level. Fingers crossed!


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