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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > 2010-09 JULIAN COMSTOCK: finished reading *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Here's a topic for people who are finished with Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson.

Careful - may contain spoilers!


message 2: by Duane (new)

Duane Poncy (duane_poncy) | 7 comments I read this several months ago. This was one of my favorite books this year. It has a kind of steampunk feel to it, but it is complex, has great pacing, and great character development.


message 3: by Janny (new)

Janny (jannywurts) | 1003 comments Read it some time back - be there for the discussion.


message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments Same here, I read last winter and have to say I was not that impressed, could be that with all the hype I was expecting more. Could have been I read this sort of book before, Fitzpatrick's War which was similar.
Couple things bugged me, My major problem with the book was Julian's companion. He seemed a bit too naive.


message 5: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (last edited Sep 01, 2010 01:32PM) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
I read it back when it came out (before actually, from an ARC). It was one of the best books I've read in years. I probably won't get the chance to reread it for the discussion, unfortunately. Here's the link to my review:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) My main issue with Julian Comstock is that he is just not the most interesting person in the book! A friend who also read it thought that was the point, that you're supposed to read the story that is between the lines rather than the story Julian elects to tell.

But why should I? A clever idea continued through such a long novel just becomes tedious. I'd much rather have a fleshed out story, maybe Calyx, maybe Sam. They seemed far more interesting.

Also just a matter of personal taste, I hate books that dwell on military strategy or weaponry. Blech.

My biggest disappointment - I love dystopian, post-apocalyptic stories. I love to read about what happens to people in moments of desperation, how they rebuild, what is created, what is lost. The book focuses on the tedium, like a boy's adventure book, and the most interesting parts are merely hinted at. Again, clever maybe, but getting there was more work than the payoff was worth.

I anticipate this will win the Hugo on Sunday since it was my least favorite of the 6 nominees. :)


message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy Pilkington I'm only 50 pages from the end, and so have pretty much formed my thoughts:

I enjoyed the book for the most part, save that I found it dragged a lot near the end of the warfare section and had to fight my way through to the start of the presidency. After that, it quickened back up.

The one thing that does trouble me is that while I find Julian an interesting character, I find Adam kind of dull and so the overwhelming stuff about his life was less interesting. It irked that I was being told all about his finishing his novel and readying for his child, while simply being told that Julian is angering the Dominion and dealing with the war without showing us it. For a guy who professes to be telling us the story of Julian Comstock, he spends an awful lot of time on himself.

Still, I found the world really interesting and don't see it as a totally loss. The results are mixed though.


message 8: by Ken (last edited Sep 03, 2010 03:07PM) (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments I am with you in that Jenny, Julian wasn`t that interesting, or I should say Adam never fleshed him out that much, he was a barely glimpsed cardboard cut out.

I liked the world, history etc. I had wished Adam was a bit more...mature.


message 9: by Anna (new)

Anna Suave (annasuave) I loved this book. I loved everything about it, right down to the octopus on the front cover. In a sense, the book is a coming of age story, and the narrator is deliberately obtuse. I really enjoyed the humour in that. How could Adam not know Julian is gay? How could Adam recite word for word conversations that happened in French - yet not understand the language? How can Adam be so desperately in love with Calyxa and not realize what a ball-busting harpy she is?

Does the reader want the truth? Or just a good story? A good story of course! In this book, a dumb narrator makes for a good story.

Something else I enjoyed was the exploration of the stupidity of war, as shown through Adam's purchase of the dead Dutch soldier's letter. Adam gets his older, cynical comrade to translate it for him. He tells him the letter is full of hatred and how anxious the soldier is to kill Americans. But what Adam doesn't know is the letter is written by a miserable, homesick teenaged boy who misses his home, his sister and the family dog.

Of course Adam has to be dumb -- its so that we all get to experience the character of Julian through him, and we all get to go "Adam, ya poor dumb schmuck! Can't you see the wool's being pulled over your eyes?"

What itches my brain is Calyxa. Does she love Adam, or is she simply convenience for her?


message 10: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments I never thought Adam was dumb, naive but not dumb
Its been a while since I read it but wasn't Adam writing the story after the fact, in exile in France
So he shouldn't have been so naive.

As for Calyxa, I found her to be more a woman of her time. A 60s feminist flashforwarded 200 years in the future, not so much a ball busting harpy as a woman who knows what she is. Also, she lives in a town where she was probably hit on by army guys all the time.


message 11: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 338 comments I loved this book. A lot of what is being complained about is because of the style that is reminiscent of a 19th century novel. I loved how Wilson maintained the artifice of Adam's writing a history of Julian. Adam clearly shows his literary influences in his writing. Anything Wilson wants us to know has to be directed through this.

I do think it's entirely possible for Adam to remain naive about Julian's sexuality. We all figure it out pretty early, but Adam doesn't because he lives in a society with a strong taboo against it. It would never occur to him that anyone could ever be anything other than heterosexual. The story may take place 100 years in the future, but that future is such a throwback to the past that it's practically indistinguishable.


message 12: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
My favorite scene from this book was the one where Langers, the soldier who was previously selling "biblical pamphlets" such as "Acts forbidden by Leviticus" was consoling the dying soldiers by quoting the Song of Solomon mixed with Walt Whitman verses. There are so many layers and perspectives to it, and it's one of the moments where Adam shows there's more to him than meets the eye:

"These words were not the standard consolation, but they were pleasant to hear at any time; and in the privacy of my thoughts I forgave Private Langers for uttering them under false pretenses, for the tear that formed in the single whole eye of the dying man was unquestionably a grateful and authentic one."

I was in tears, and still get the chills thinking of that scene.


message 13: by Duane (new)

Duane Poncy (duane_poncy) | 7 comments Ken wrote: "As for Calyxa, I found her to be more a woman of her time. A 60s feminist flashforwarded 200 years in the future, not so much a ball busting harpy as a woman who knows what she is. Also, she lives in a town where she was probably hit on by army guys all the time. "

I agree with you on this, Ken. Calyxa is my kind of woman, and I was happy to see a good feminist portrayal in this book (although expected, as Wilson's past books also show a feminist sensibility).


message 14: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments Sandra posted on another thread about how kinda unbelievable how the world changed in 163 years and while I was ok with the history but the slave part. I could not get my head around it. Slavery? Naw, It just didn't work for me. It made the assumption that the land owners had all the cards.
What about you guys, the Slavery aspect of the story


message 15: by Sandra (new)

Sandra  (sleo) | 1141 comments I thought the whole society was rotten to the core, as an old joke used to say, Ken. Not just the indentured servitude, but the Dominion, the wars, the horrible medical conditions in war, all of it. I've decided it's more believable since I've read farther and understand the nature of the government and how everything else was sublimated so that the 'glory' of war could be top priority. The twisted nature of the whole world was terribly frustrating to me. Adam's observations are quite good, but he doesn't put things together from what he observes to come to the logical conclusions that both Julian and Calyxa reach. And I quite like Calyxa with her thick ankles. Good for her, I say. And yes, I think she loves Adam, naivete, gullibility, and all.


message 16: by Staci (new)

Staci | 47 comments I read this book earlier this year and enjoyed it but was slightly disappointed. I was really excited about this when I heard it was coming out. I had read the short story, Julian Comstock: a Christmas Story, and thought the world was interesting & it would make a great novel. The comments I made after I read this back in April were that I felt the story dragged in places and I didn't feel a connection to the characters, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I think I would enjoy this even more if I reread it in print format rather than audio.


message 17: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments Staci wrote: "comments I made after I read this back in April were that I felt the story dragged in places and I didn't feel a connection to the characters, but overall it was an enjoyable read.."

Exactly. It felt like I was reading a dry history document. Not a fiction novel. I feel its the style Mr. Wilson chose when he wrote the book. We are seeing the story through Adams writing. Not inside his head. I think that took something away from the book.


message 18: by Janny (new)

Janny (jannywurts) | 1003 comments The strangest atmospheric touch that stayed with me long after the book was done - was the feel of a historical literary style and view, superimposed on the future.

The bent sense of being placed into a past, while viewing a postapocalyptic future - the feel of some familiar things being twisted into the strange.

It still has not entirely jelled for me. The moving moments were like stepping stones strung between a lot of figuring out how events became what they were.

I have seldom, if ever, been able to fathom the Hugos, or get the concept of 'literary merit' - what this book was, definitely -- an original take. It did not derive from any 'genre' stream I am aware of, and it's not easily tagged. That is part of what I see when I revisit it - it just doesn't FIT - which may be its lasting merit.


message 19: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
I don't recall if it was the author or a reviewer, but I remember someone saying that the novel is set in the future, written in a fiction style from the past, and deals with issues relevant in the present. I thought that was a clever way of describing it.


message 20: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (last edited Sep 14, 2010 05:28PM) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Here's something I've been meaning to post: the REAL translation of the Dutch letter in the book.

"Dearest Hannie (it began),

I hope you'll receive this letter. I am trying to send it with the mailboat from Goose Bay. I miss you very much. This is a horrible war in an awful country - freezing cold in the winter and disgustingly hot and humid in the summer. The flies eat you alive, and the rulers here are tyrants. I long to hold you in my arms!"

And then the short line "Fikkie mis ik ook!" means "I also miss Fikkie!" (Fikkie being a dog's name, sort of like Fido in the US)

It really changes the meaning of the scene if you know the real content of the letter, as opposed to how it's incorrectly translated in the book.


message 21: by Sandra (new)

Sandra  (sleo) | 1141 comments I was going to ask you if you'd post that, but I figured it was something of the sort. Thanks.


message 22: by Frank (new)

Frank Taranto (xtontox) | 38 comments Just finished it this morning. I found it an enjoyable story and I liked that it was told through Adam's viewpoint; for me that was a big part of the charm of the story.
I didn't have any problem believing the changes in the story, the end of oil will bring many changes to our world.


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