|My Reviews - Page 1 of 3|
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-20 04:30:01 for The Mother Tongue English & How It Got That Way.
This is my second Bryson book for the year (the first being A Short History of Nearly Everything), but this is probably the fourth time I've read this book. I'm an English teacher, so my desire to know more about the language I'm teaching is, well, pretty high. One does not necessarily lead to the other, of course - I've met plenty of English teachers who couldn't care less about the history of the language, just how to teach it. Not that there's anything wrong with that....Bryson excels in many things, and one of his best talents is taking something horribly complex, like the rise of English as a dominant world language, and making it not only understandable, but entertaining. He takes us through, of course, where languages come from and how they've evolved over the last umpteen thousand years. With special emphasis on the evolution of English, of course, from a commoners' tongue composed of a mishmash of Anglo-Saxon and Norman, with regular infusions from the Romance languages and Scandinavia to the language of an Empire, spanning the globe and finding niches in the most unexpected of places. He talks about the origins of words pronunciation and how it's changed, and the multiplicity of English dialects. He covers the split of American and British English, and how half the time when the Brits get all snobby about an "Americanism," it's actually a word that was coined in Britain but fell out of favor. He covers the attempts to catalog English and standardize it, to simplify it and study it.He even has a whole chapter on profanity.So yeah, if you've every wondered where the language you're speaking comes from, check it out. It's rather unashamedly pro-English in terms of its comparison with other languages, as you might expect, but Bryson does his best to point out the occasions where other languages accomplish things that English cannot. You can't help but notice, however, that Bryson is an English speaker who loves the English language, so expect a bit of bias to seep in there.Nonetheless, it's very entertaining and informative. Enjoy.
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 08:07:32 for Otherland.
Let me just start by saying this: the first time I finished this series, I immediately went back and started reading it again. I can't think of any other series that I've done that with.This is one of Tad Williams' "economy-sized manuscripts," similar to his fantasy classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Similar in size and scope, anyway - four giant tomes chock full of all things awesome. It's a series of grand scope, amazing scale and great imagination, well worthy of your time. Seriously, top-shelf stuff here, people.It begins with the children in a near-future world. Renie Sulaweyo, a teacher in South Africa, has a brother in the hospital. He, like many other children around the world, has gone into an inexplicable coma, the causes of which defy medical science. The only clue she has is that the outbreaks of these comas coincide with the availability of access to the Net - a virtual reality internet that is what Second Life dreams of becoming. Here, depending on your equipment, you can live in a virtual world that is more vibrant and exciting than anything the real world can offer. And you can do it in full sense-surround 3D.Renie's brother, Stephen, engaged in the usual mischief that any kid with access to his own virtual universe might do, and finally got caught. Something shut him down, and Renie was determined to find out. With the assistance of her student, a Bushman named !Xabbu, Renie uncovers an amazing virtual world, something that puts the best virtual reality to shame. It is the Otherland, a playground for the obscenely wealthy. And it may hold the secret to what has afflicted her brother.That's the short version. There's a ton of other storylines going on in there as well. There's young Orlando Gardiner, who compensates for a crippling illness by being the baddest barbarian on the net. There's little Christabel Sorenson, upon whose earnest desire to help the funny-looking Mister Sellars the entire future of the Otherland rests. There's the aptly-named Dread, an assassin extraordinare whose strange "twist" gives him an edge in all things electronic. And, of course, there is Paul Jonas, a man trapped in an imaginary world, whose escape threatens the greatest dreams of the richest men the world has ever known.All of this, as the series title suggests, centers on the Otherland project, a virtual reality of monumental proportions. It's a world that is more real than the real world is, a world of digitally-created, but very deadly, dangers. The slightest misstep could spell disaster.And just FYI, Otherland predates The Matrix by three years and, kung-fu aside, is a much better story.The really fun part is re-discovering things in this series. There are some things I remember very clearly, but other little details that pop up and make me think, "Oh yeah, I forgot all about that." There's just so much stuff crammed into this series that even after two back-to-back readings, I still let details slip away.So, make a sandwich and find a comfortable place to sit. This'll take a while, but I guarantee - it'll be worth it.
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 08:06:36 for River of Blue Fire.
When last we left Our Heroes, they were caught in the Otherland - an immense virtual reality program built by people with more money than God - with no idea where to go and no idea what to do. They were lost, confused and had no way out.Oh yes - back before Neo got his clock punched by Smith, Renie, !Xabbu, Orlando, Fredericks and all the other Otherland explorers discover that they are in more danger than they realize - if they die on the network, then they'll die in real life. And, almost right out of the gate, people start dying. Whether they're tiny biologists living among the ants or a lifetime gamer warring against the different factions of a twisted Oz, they die in unpleasant and, ultimately real ways. And it's up to our heroes to not only avoid death themselves, but also to figure out what the hell they're supposed to be doing in there.One of the things I like about this series is that Tad Williams openly admits to stealing - er, paying homage to the great writers of the past. At the end of book one, when all the main characters have been gathered together and are being told about the great dangers they will face, and how they are part of a plan to defeat the Grail Brotherhood and their Nefarious Scheme, most of the people there want nothing to do with it. It's up to Orlando Gardiner, our young barbarian warrior-slash-progeriac teenager to say, "Hey, this the the Council of Elrond! We have a mission here!"Unfortunately, the Fellowship of the Ring gets a clear mission before leaving Rivendell. The Otherland explorers are scattered before they know what to do, and their main goal is to run for their lives. As this book progresses, they start to learn more about the vast Otherland network, what its nature is and why it was made. They also learn that it is unstable, and possibly a living thing in its own right.I can imagine that Tad Williams had a great deal of fun working out these novels, mainly because he created a concept that allowed for incredible freedom in world-building. After all, on a super-powerful VR platform, any conceivable simulation can be created. So whether it is the mythical land of Xanadu, a cartoon kitchen where the groceries come to life at night, a world where people fly like birds, or the legendary land of Ithaca, the settings in these books are only limited to what Williams can think up and work with.So, as the book comes to a close, we have some new threads to follow. The Otherland explorers begin to find their purpose and learn about their situation. Offline, real-world investigations into the mysterious comas that afflict children begin to bear fruit, the police in Sydney find themselves working on a five year-old murder case that will eventually lead them to the malicious assassin/hacker Dread, and the lords of Otherland struggle to see who will ultimately control it.
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 08:05:17 for Otherland 03 Mountain Of Black Glass.
When last we left Our Heroes, they were still trapped in Otherland, a massive virtual reality built by a cabal of the world's richest men and women in an attempt to foil Death itself. Unfortunately, in order to make their immortality machine work, they have had to put thousands of children into comas, and now... well, things aren't going quite as well as they'd planned.The operating system is unstable, very nearly alive. The small group of adventurers called together by the mysterious Mister Sellars has been split up and re-formed again and again. They find themselves inhabiting stranger and stranger simulations, and pursued by the vicious killer, Dread, who is the only one able to move in and out of the Otherland at will.The good news is that they now have, after a lot of wandering and trying not to get killed, a goal. All the major players among the Good Guys, from Renie and !Xabbu to Orlando and Fredericks, to the mysterious Paul Jonas, have been ordered to meet at Priam's Walls. The mysterious woman who appears everywhere, in different and sometimes conflicting aspects, has led them to believe that it is in ancient Troy that they will find out where they need to go. Unfortunately, ancient Troy is under attack by ancient Greeks, and the Otherland explorers find themselves on opposite sides of the most epic war in human history.Suffice it to say we hit a major climax by the end of this book. I say "A" climax because, well, there's still another book to go, but this one definitely ends on an emotional high note. People are in danger, secrets are revealed, battles are fought... and one of our brave heroes makes the Ultimate Sacrifice.The last time I read this book, I felt compelled to read The Iliad afterwards, and I may do so again this time. But first I have to get through the next one...
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 08:04:26 for Otherland 04 Sea Of Silver Light.
At last we have come to the end of our journey, when all will be explained and all will be resolved.As the book opens, the Other - the operating system for the Grail Brotherhood's mysterious plan for immortality - has been defeated, overcome and overpowered by the truly evil assassin Dread. With his mutant ability to manipulate electronics, Dread has taught the Other how to feel true pain, and now has nearly complete control over the Otherland network. With a nearly limitless number of worlds to choose from, Dread allows his sadistic madness to run wild. But no matter how many worlds he rapes and plunders, there are still those he truly wants to destroy - the Otherland explorers sent by the mysterious half-human Sellars.But those explorers themselves face greater dangers than Dread. Half of them have been thrust back into the twisted realms of Otherland, where the horrors and dangers that had been built into it have mutated into unrecognizable terrors. The other half... they ended up in the heart of the Other's secret dreams. There they must face the eventual death of the network and survive it, if they can.Offline, Sellars has brought all of his players into position. Lawyers, children and old women are his army, and together they will uncover the horrible and heartbreaking truth about the nature of the Other and the evil that has been done to it.I still love this series. As it moves towards its ending, which does involve a lot more explaining than most other books do, it's easy to get swept up in the sheer scale of the narrative. There's a lot to take in by the end of the series, a lot of loose ends to tie up, but it all wraps up rather nicely. More or less. There is a rather major revelation that comes near the end that just kind of... gets written off. I have a sneaking suspicion that Williams might have been able to stretch this series into a fifth book, but it probably would have suffered from Rowling Syndrome - a lot of unnecessary padding in between the important bits.Still and all, if you like science fiction, virtual reality super-simulations and giant ensemble casts, check out this series. It's damn good fun....
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 08:00:12 for Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.
When I left the US for Japan, I came with three books: The Neverending Story, Good Omens and this one. I had this book because it was a departure gift from Chris Soule who, with his folks, had come out to Logan airport to see me off at the gate. It was a more innocent time.... We had both hiked up Mount Washington and along some of the more beginner-friendly trails (for my benefit, not his) and had, in retrospect, enjoyed it immensely. I do believe that, during the actual hiking, I was in favor of flattening the entire range and enclosing the trail in a nice climate-controlled pathway.I knew that the Presidentials were dangerous. While we were in college, Chris kept a map of them on his wall, and would add newspaper clippings every time someone died. A tad morbid, but you do get a certain satisfaction knowing that you went up there and, by dint of good preparation, sense and luck, made it down in one piece.It's tempting to say something at this point like, "And we were the lucky ones." But in fact, thousands of people visit the Presidentials every year. They either hike or drive or take the Cog Railway (the last two types are, by the way, pussies) and the vast majority of them don't die. And the reason they don't die is, in some small part, because 135 people already have. And it is by their examples that hikers learn never, never to underestimate these mountains.Nicholas Howe is a son of the mountains. His family and all their friends have intimate ties to the White Mountains and the Presidentials in particular, and he's grown up on their slopes. If anyone knows the mountains, their promises and threats, Howe does, and in this book he tells of a small sampling of lives that the mountains have claimed. Some of them were just bad luck, like 15 year-old Sewall Faunce, who had the misfortune to be standing beneath the Tuckerman Ravine ice arch when it collapsed. Others were done in by their own overconfidence, like Frederick Strickland who was the first to die on their slopes (and who, to be fair, had NO idea what he was getting himself into). Still others died trying to save their friends (Monroe Cooper and Erik Lattey) or died while their friends saved their own skins (Derek Tinkham). They died in water and ice, of cold and injury. Experts and amateurs, the mountain didn't discriminate.The counterpoint to all this senseless death is a history of hiking on the mountains and its occupation by the AMC, the Appalachian Mountain Club. From the earliest days of New England mountaineering, the AMC has kept and maintained the trails and done everything in its power to make sure that hikers in the mountains are safe. Barring that, they do everything they can to make sure that they can be rescued. They do not always succeed, but they work by the motto, "Not dead until warm and dead." Howe has a great deal of love for the volunteers and state workers who risk their lives at the drop of a hat for hikers in danger, and as you read you can't help but share his enthusiasm. Without this dedicated corps of people, the deaths on the mountains would be of a staggering number instead of a simply unfortunate one.This is a very enjoyable book, and a good history of the White Mountains for the last 150 years or so. Howe treats a delicate subject with compassion, but also is more than willing to point out when a death could have been prevented. Check it out.
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 07:58:37 for Un Lun Dun.
A young girl in London is visited by strange people who seem to know her. They call her the Schwazzy and mysterious graffiti seems to imply that young Zannah is a mysterious savior-in-waiting. There's a mysterious world, unknown to most people, and only she can save them!This is pretty much how the book begins. At this point, I found myself thinking, "How long will it be before people can read something like this without thinking of Harry Potter?" I mean, the whole displaced child-messiah thing is fun, but Potter was a really big example of it and it'll take a long time before authors are able to overcome that. So, it was at this point that I settled in and got ready to read a nice boilerplate novel.Mister MiÃ©ville, if you're reading this: I'm very, very sorry for not trusting you. It won't happen again.MiÃ©ville has taken the child savior idea and pulled the rug out from under it in this book. While Zannah is the Chosen One of UnLondon, the one foretold about in the greatest prophecies of that abcity. It was said that she, with her friends, would defeat UnLondon's most horrible foe.... And if MiÃ©ville had stuck with that, he still would have had a very entertaining book. With UnLondon, a kind of funhouse-mirror version of London, he's created a rich and vibrant city that can support tales of great complexity. That great city wants Zannah to save it.But right around a hundred pages in, MiÃ©ville goes and switches protagonists on us. Just because a girl is the Chosen One doesn't mean that she has to end up being the one to save it. A good thwack on the head can make it so that the Funny Sidekick - Zannah's friend Deeba - is now the one who has to save UnLondon from The Smog.While MiÃ©ville owes a great debt to Neil Gaiman for his writing of Neverwhere - which he acknowledges in the end of the book - he's taken the concept of the Other London (to say nothing of other abcities such as Lost Angeles or Baghdidn't) and extended it. He's created a potentially vast other world, a network of cities that reflect our world in weird and wonderful ways. Deeba and her companions - embodied slang, a half-ghost boy and an animate milk carton named Curdle, to name just a few - embark on a quest to save a world from itself. It's a great story, full of adventure and twists which takes the expected standards of the genre and stands them on their head. For that alone, he should be praised. That, and for writing an awesome book....
A Reader posted a review at 2008-04-12 07:57:22 for The Ghost Brigades.
Back in aught-Six I read Scalzi's breakout book Old Man's War and loved it. It had everything - high-end science fiction, philosophy, cool battle scenes and a protagonist whose sense of humor reminded me a lot of . The book's premise was very simple - why do we use young people to fight in wars? Because they have the bodies that work best for the task. If that were not an issue, then who would we want? Why, old people, of course. They have the life experience, the patience and the perspective to be better soldiers.In theory, of course. I don't think there's any sci-fi in the world that'd make Dick Cheney into a good soldier.So, it's The Future. Mankind has spread out among the stars, and the Colonial Union is the political organization that keeps them together. Any government needs a military, so the Colonial forces make sure they have the best recruits, all brought from Earth. With some pretty high-tech jiggery-pokery, the senior citizens from Earth's richer nations are made into lean, green fighting machines, capable of performing in ways that make the Marines of our day look like palsey victims. Their minds are transferred from their old, decrepit bodies and put into new ones, grown from their own DNA, but altered to make them better soldiers. It's all very exciting and cool, but at some point, I suppose Scalzi asked himself a question: what happens when someone signs up at age 65, but doesn't make it to age 75 when they're supposed to start their service?Well, we have all this DNA just sitting there, can't let it go to waste, can we?That brings us to the Ghost Brigades, the rather morbid nickname for the Colonial Union's Special Forces. Their bodies are grown from DNA whose previous owners have expired, and modded in more extreme ways than the regular defense force soldiers. Then, when the body is ready, they're woken up. An amazing piece of biotechnology called, rather whimsically, a BrainPal prepares their brains for consciousness, acting as a kind of bootstrap for the emergent personality. It tells them what they're supposed to know, so they don't have to go through the tedious process of learning it all. And, of course, much more. They Special Forces do what the regular Defense Forces can't, and act in ways that their more "ordinary" soldiers couldn't understand. In Old Man's War the Special Forces only came in at the end. In this book, as you might have guessed, they play a much more central role.Charles Boutin is a traitor to humanity. For reasons known only to him, he has sold out the Colonial Union to its enemies, a troika of alien species that would be more than willing to wipe us off the map. The Defense Forces would love to find him, of course, but he's hidden himself among the enemy. So they got the next best thing: a copy of his mind that Boutin had made while researching the BrainPal.In theory, it should work: put this mental backup copy into a "clean slate," a body that has no mind of its own. A Special Forces body.And so, Jared Dirac was born. Decanted. Whatever. It was hoped that when he opened his eyes, he would be Charles Boutin in a new body, and could promptly be interrogated. But it isn't that easy. All Jared Dirac is is a normal Special Forces soldier, a blank slate who is ready to do the job he was, literally, born to do: keep humanity safe.He's sent off to training, with the expectation that he would be just another Special Forces soldier. But he is, of course, much more than that, and the memories that begin to emerge could lead the Defense Forces to their goal, or to destruction....It's a great book. Tons of fun, although the exposition is a bit heavy-handed in the beginning. There's a whole lot of reminding about what you learned in Old Man's War, and I didn't really need it. That's the thing about recap, though: if you avoid it altogether, you can confuse people who haven't picked up the previous book in a while. Slather it on and you bore the people who have good enough memories. It's a tiny thing, though, well balanced by the awesomeness and imagination of the book. I look forward to finding and reading the next book in the series, The Last Colony.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-09-27 08:38:43 for Lost for Words.
For an English teacher, this is our bread and butter.
One of the hardest things about teaching students English as a foreign language is the fact that the language is ever-changing. I try to tell my students that what is nailed down in the textbook is not "real" English. It's a useful variant of English that will help them get by until they can figure out what the real thing is, or at least which version of the real thing they want to end up speaking. What surprises them the most is when I tell them that even though I want them to pay attention to the rules of grammar, syntax, vocabulary and the like, they're going to run into native speakers who flaunt their ignorance of such things.
That's where people like John Humphrys and I converge. He has been working for the BBC for many years now, and has been watching English all that time. While not quite the rule-loving pedant that so many people imagine, he is worried about some of the ways that English has not only naturally degraded over the years (he notes the emerging acceptance of "could of" and "would of" in this) but also the deliberate use of language to obfuscate and confuse.
Language changes. Often it's simple evolution from generation to generation, and that can't be helped. But the more insidious change is deliberate. It's saying that people are not hungry, but have "low food security." It's hospitals referring to the people they treat as "clients" instead of "patience," and the spouting of empty, meaningless phrases in place of real thought. It is this kind of evolution that needs watching, and it is this kind of English that should prompt furious letters to the editor. Rather than sound off because the newspaper used a meaningless tautology like "future progress," it would be better to press our leaders to talk to us, rather than at us, to debate their points, rather than sell them. As though peace were a late-model Chevrolet that they were trying to get off the lot.
If you love your language, you'll enjoy this book...
A Reader posted a review at 2007-09-22 06:25:29 for Wintersmith (Discworld).
I walked into my local bookstore, saw this on the shelf and snapped it right up. I think Terry is now the only author I'll do that for. As much as I love Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Robert Jordan, they're not automatic buys. Pratchett is.
Anyway, this is the third of the Tiffany Aching books, stories about the young witch of the chalk. She's the granddaughter of a great witch, Granny Aching, and studies under some of the most powerful witches of Lancre. In addition, she has the undivided devotion of the Nac Mac Feagle, the Wee Free Men, who are determined to help her. Even if she doesn't want them to. The Nac Mac Feagle? Imagine.... Imagine the Smurfs crossed with mad Scottish Picts. They're a blast.
In this story, Tiffany has come to the attention of Wintersmith, the spirit of winter, by interrupting the Black Morris Dance. By doing so, she finds herself the obsessive target of an elemental force of nature. The frost on the window spells her name, and the flakes that fall from the sky have her shape. Over-attentive boyfriends have never been quite this bad, and this one is threatening to plunge the world into eternal ice.
In addition, Tiffany is learning the darkest arts of witchery, its hidden secrets and greatest power. Her teacher, the 113-year old Miss Treason is one of the most feared witches in the mountains, but not long for this world. It will be Tiffany's responsibility to see to it that the great power of witchcraft remains strong.
As always, it's a fun book. It's Pratchett. And I understand he has a new one out now, too. Man, anyone who can write as many books as he does and be consistently good is my hero....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-09-22 06:21:40 for Thermopylae The Battle That Changed the World.
If you're a nut for ancient history, or if you were wondering about how close Frank Miller got with 300, this is the book for you. But it's not for the casual reader, so be warned. There's a lot of information that comes are you quickly, all leading you towards understanding more about the famous battle of Thermopylae and why it's still significant 2500 years later.
For those of you who don't know - Thermopylae is a narrow pass that runs north-south into Greece and any invader who feels like making headway pretty much has to pass through it. These days it's pretty broad, but in the time of the Spartans, it was only about 14 meters wide. And it was here that 300 Spartans and nearly 5,000 warriors from other Greek provinces held off the much larger forces of the invading King Xerxes. While the Greeks did eventually lose the battle, their bravery and self-sacrifice has resonated through history.
But how did this happen? Cartledge does a quick round-up of all the forces in play at the time, giving brief descriptions of Spartan society, the rise of the Persian Empire, and ever-fluctuating Greek politics. He paints a much more complex picture of the events than you get from films, mainly because Cartledge is an historian and Frank Miller is a storyteller. Two very different responsibilities. He then goes on to look at how the battle has been remembered, both in ancient and modern times.
It's a really neat book, and offers a lot more layers to a story that most people don't actually know much about. The Spartans were lovers of freedom, for example, but only their own. They weren't so concerned about the Helot slaves who made their warrior lifestyle possible. And Xerxes was not a totalitarian monster who held himself as a God among men. The Persian Empire was a heterogeneous one, and while not exactly the Land of the Free, it wasn't as horrible a place as it is presented to be.
History is a tricky beast, especially once Hollywood gets its hands on it. Enjoy.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-09-08 08:17:19 for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale.
Is Buffy a good role model? How about a feminist figure? Perhaps she's a proto-fascist icon? And how about Faith - does she prove or disprove the nihilist philosophy of Nietzsche? Why is Spike a better human being than Xander? And what does the tragedy of Willow Rosenberg tell us about the irrationality of the human mind? Or is all of this just so much spitting in the wind, reading too much into what just amounts to a hijacking of base Freudian impulses?
It's a fascinating book, especially for Buffy and Angel fans, and it really says a lot about the series that so many thinkers and philosophers can find enough themes and theories to fill an entire book. The writers explore numerous facets of the series, asking questions about the show's morality and metaphors, the meaning of Good and Evil, and the merits of Buffy's method of extra-normal law enforcement.
Most of the essays are reader-friendly, though a few do indulge in a little more philosophical mumbo-jumbo than I usually like. Enjoy!
A Reader posted a review at 2007-08-30 09:54:06 for Imajica: The Fifth Dominion I.
The world is not quite what we always thought it was. But this is a Clive Barker book, so that goes without saying.
The Imajica is the whole of creation, the true world, four-fifths of which we've never seen. Earth, the Fifth Dominion, has long been separate from the other four. How it got split away, held back from the other Reconciled Domnions by the horrible netherworld of the In Ovo, no one knows. But throughout history there have been Maestros, men of great and terrible power, who have tried to unite the Fifth with the other Dominions, finally making the Imajica whole. The last of these was the Maestro Sartori, a raconteur and man of power in 18th century London. With his acolytes and his apostles he tried to Reconcile the dominions, and his efforts ended in disaster.
Two hundred years later, the time has come again to try the great work of bringing the Imajica together. But there are no more Maestros - the Tabula Rasa, descendants of the former Maestro's surviving followers, have done their best to wipe Britain clean of all things magical.
Some things, however, are too great to be stopped. The Imajica longs to be whole, and its long road to reconciliation begins again....
Between this and Weaveworld, Barker has proven himself to be the master of what can be called, for lack of a better term, the multiple climax. Characters and events are drawn to a head with all the tension and excitement that you would expect from the climactic finale. People live, people die, others barely escape with their lives. But the story isn't over, oh no....
This is a hell of a read, too. Barker's playing with some heavy themes - men versus women, parents versus children, acceptance of the numinous versus the reflexive rejection of that which we don't understand.... There's something for everyone, in other words.
This is a big 'un. Some paperback editions split the book into two volumes, which was probably a good idea. The single volume paperback that I have is damn near falling apart. I don't know what the practical page limit is on paperbacks, but I think 1,136 is stretching it. Still, it's an enjoyable 1,136 pages, so I recommend it....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-08-30 09:53:21 for The Long Goodbye.
I want to be Philip Marlowe when I grow up.
Seriously, he's one of my favorite literary characters. Tough, dogged, unafraid to get his hands dirty and completely ethical. He's always got a good line at the right time, and he knows well enough not to get involved with crazy ladies.
This is one of his later books, published in 1954, and it presents Marlowe as we know him best - just about to get involved in a mess he never wanted. It all started with a drunk, as so many things do. The drunk was a man named Terry Lennox, the off-again on-again husband of a rich heiress, Sylvia. Philip and Terry hit it off well, and it's obvious right from the start that Terry's hiding a big secret. But Marlowe doesn't press because it's not his business. He figures it Terry wants to tell, then he will.
Or he would have, except that Sylvia ended up dead, with Terry taking the blame. Marlowe helped him get to Mexico, but all he knew after that was that Terry killed himself in a dusty Mexican town. And that should have been the end of the story, but for Marlowe's new case - Roger Wade.
Wade was a big-time writer, the kind of guy who made millions selling swashbuckling romance to lonely housewives. But he was plagued by demons, and only drink would make them go away. His wife hired Marlowe to bring her husband back to her, which he did, and then tried to hire him as a full-time minder, which Marlowe refused to do. Nonetheless, he found himself part of the Wades' drama, one that was inextricably linked to the fates of Sylvia and Terry Lennox.
It's hard to believe that Chandler's work was derided as "pulp" back when he was writing. He was one of the pioneers of the "hard-boiled" mysteries - the best of them, in my opinion - but like so many visionaries, he was unappreciated in his own time. If I still smoked, I would light one in his honor. As it is, a stiff cup of bad coffee will have to do.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-08-30 09:52:13 for Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One.
This is a weird book for anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of Japan.
The author is a great fan of Japan, its culture and its history. That's obvious just by looking at her name, Lian Hearn, which is a pseudonym. According to Wikipedia, it's a contraction of "heron," an important bird in the Tales of the Otori series, but it's also the surname of one of the most famous Western experts on Japan, Lafcadio Hearn. She's gone to great lengths to instill Japanese culture into every part of this book, from the names of people and places to social and political customs, even clothing and holidays. For all intents and purposes, this is a story about feudal Japan.
Except it isn't.
The Tales of the Otori takes place in a kind of alternate-universe Japan, a place where everything is the same except where it isn't. Once you get past that, the book becomes a lot of fun to read. And if you don't know much about the history and culture of Japan, that all shouldn't be a problem.
It's the story of a boy from an isolated town, one of the Hidden - a small religious sect that faces political and religious ostracism (see Christians in the Edo Period) from an isolationist and power-hungry warlord (see Tokugawa Ieyasu). Young Tomasu is the only survivor of a raid by that warlord - his family, his friend and his people were burned to the ground and he only lived thanks to the appearance of the Lord of the Otori, Shigeru.
Wracked with guilt over the death of his brother, Shigeru took Tomasu in as his son, renaming him Takeo. The boy found himself in a new land, with a new home... but that wasn't quite all. He soon discovered that he had a secret birthright, passed down through his father. Takeo was a member of The Tribe, a mysterious clan of spies and assassins who possessed near-mystical powers. They could move silently across nearly any floor, they could become invisible, or appear to be in two places at once. They were masters of the shadow and deliverers of death.
It's a neat story, and the beginning of a series of books which are the author's first major foray into adult-ish fiction. It probably qualifies as Young Adult fiction, so if you're into that (as I know some of you are), it'll be a good read.
Thanks to Mom for sending me this....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-08-30 09:51:24 for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Christopher Boone is a troubled young man. He has Asperger's Syndrome, which means he has no idea how to interact naturally with other people. He can't understand the intricacies of human behavior, even though he can count cubes in his head and has a perfect memory for any form of information. Christopher is obsessed with color and food, and has set rigid patterns for his life that are understandable only to himself. He lives with his father, who is just about able to handle the task of raising a developmentally disabled son, and attends a special school to try and learn to live in a world that scares and confuses him.
And now he has a mystery to solve. His neighbor's dog has been murdered - stabbed with a pitchfork - and he's determined to find out who did it. He plans to use his reason and his logic to uncover the murderer. Unfortunately, by investigating the death of the dog, he uncovers darker, more disturbing mysteries emerge. Unraveling them will push him beyond the boundaries of his world....
It's a fascinating book, written from his perspective. All the chapters are numbered as primes, and he goes on interesting tangents on cosmology, number theory and population control, all the while narrating his attempts to make sense of what's happening around him. It's a quick, fun read - have fun.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-21 03:53:52 for Harry Potter and the deathly hallows (ill., engl.ed).
Wow. What a [REDACTED] book. I mean really, I thought it was going to be [REDACTED], but it was [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]!
I mean, the part where [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] [REDACTED] kind of [REDACTED] [REDACTED], but when [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] in [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]! [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and then [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], well that was just [REDACTED]! In Ron's pajamas, no less!
I was rather [REDACTED] about the [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] [REDACTED], and I was pleasantly [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] Snape. [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] - [REDACTED] [REDACTED]... [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] - [REDACTED] [REDACTED] Draco and [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] maybe four or five times!
[REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] ten, I think, but [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]....
Man. Poor [REDACTED].[REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] - [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]!
There were some [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] that I thought would be [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] unless [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], but that's the author's prerogative, right? I mean I wouldn't have [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] naked, not without a little [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED], but hey, I'm not a billionaire author, so what do I know?
So anyway, I guess that's it. End of series. Wow. feel kind of [REDACTED]. I'm going to let this stew for a little while, I think, while I think about the [REDACTED] [REDACTED].
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-19 06:37:25 for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of days, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as a power ballad.
(Intro: Piano and strings)
You were always by my side
You will always be my guide
But the road I'm on
Goes on and on
And I've left you beHIIIIIND!
(Big crunchy electric guitar)
I will never forget the strength you showed!
I will never forget the debt you're owed!
And when I face the final hour
I will call on all your power!
There's no way back again
But if I can find a friend
To see me though
And remember you
I'll make it to the EEEENNNND!
When I finally catch that snake in the grass
You will be able to rest at last!
You know he never will escape
I'm comin' for you SNAAAAAAAAPE!!!!
(Guitar solo with children's choir singing "Run, Snape, Run!")
(Guitar solo with fireworks)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I know, it's horrible. I'm not proud....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-18 04:35:23 for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of days, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as an unnamed member of the Bush administration.
So, how long until we can get this Rowling woman into Gitmo?
I mean really, have you read this book? It's an 800-page diatribe encouraging children to not only question authority, but to actively disobey it! I mean look at what we have here - there's a magical government that is responsible for to oversight and management of magical folk in Britain. Now I'm not entirely sure how this organization works, but I do know this - where there is a government, there is authority, and that authority must be there for a reason. No matter how much you may disagree with it, you have to understand that everything those in authority are doing is for your benefit.
It pained me to see how the character of Dolores Umbridge was treated in this book. She single-handedly tried to bring order to Hogwarts and steer it from the liberal-free-thinking path to destruction paved by that long-haired hippie Dumbledore. And what did Umbridge get for her hard work? The Medal of Freedom? No! She got carried off by a pack of wild centaurs. How is that right? Moreover, what kind of example is that setting for American children?
Now I don't care if Rowling wants to cripple a generation of readers in Britain. Go ahead, it's not like we need them anyway. But with these books becoming so popular in the United States, there is a very great danger that her insidious brand of rebellion and individualism will infect our children as well, and where will that lead us? Into howling chaos, that's where! Our children will see their favorite characters being disobedient and rebellious with no consequence, and it won't be long until they're thinking they can follow their example. If we let them, our children will become just as uncontrollable as the little monsters in this book.
I urge you, if you have children, not to let them read this book. It will do nothing but damage that will take years to undo. All you parents need to do is remind them is that there are people in authority - like yourselves - who know what is right for them. They just have to listen, not question, and obey, not understand.
I just hope that this trend doesn't continue in the next couple of books. Personally, I'd like to see all those kids locked up and that Muggle-hugger Dumbledore thrown off a parapet or something. The sooner Hogwarts comes back under Ministry control, the better everything will be.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-12 08:23:04 for Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire: Book 4.
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of weeks, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as play-by-play color commentary.
TYCHO: Good evening and welcome one and all to another great Harry Potter match! I'll be your commentator tonight...
MSHADES: And so will I as we see if the Boy Wizard, the Prince of Prestidigitation, the Bolt from the Blue, your favorite and mine, HARRY POTTER can win out another battle against the Vile, the Vermiform, the Virulently Vindictive Viscount of Villainy, LORD VOLDEMORT!
TYCHO: Careful with that name there, M....
TYCHO: And it's round one - Potter fakes behind Mr. Dursley, dodges Dudley and oh! He's down! He's holding his head!
MSHADES: Looks like his old wound is playing up there! As longtime fans know, he was wounded in his first-ever match against Voldemort, which he won on a technicality, but it's bothered him before. Boy, that looks like it really stings, doesn't it?
TYCHO: You bet, I wonder how - it's the Weasleys! The Weasleys in for the save and Dudley is down! And Potter has managed to make his way out of the Dursley stage of this summer's match-up!
MSHADES: Good thing those Weasleys showed up, too, I was beginning to worry for Harry's safety there....
TYCHO: No need to worry - he's been successful in getting out of the Dursley Formation before, though if you remember last year it took some doing.
MSHADES: You bet it did - a lot of people were predicting the end of his winning streak there. Lucky for him he managed to squeak by. Think he'll have the same luck this time?
TYCHO: That's the thing about this game, M - you never know what's going to happen. But let's get back to the action! Potter gets a quick time out and a little Quidditch action. These lulls in the game are few and far between, so I hope Potter is able to HOLY COW it's a Death Eater! Death Eaters in a shocking play from Lord Voldemort, who has so far managed to keep himself safely out of the offensive lines. This is, this is just shocking.
MSHADES: Absolutely shocking indeed. Voldemort is sticking to his usual strategy - send out the foot soldiers while he stays safe behind heavy defense. I'll tell you, that kind of strategy is great for keeping yourself from being scored on too often, but it's no way to win a game.
TYCHO: You're absolutely right there. Voldemort will have no chance of winning this thing unless he makes a bold move, and this showing by the Death Eaters might just be the beginning. Let's get back to the match - I see we've moved venues back to Harry's old stomping grounds, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - here there is no doubt that he'll have the home field advantage.
MSHADES: That's right, so far in his matches against Voldemort, Potter is two-and-oh while on his home field. He knows Hogwarts like the back of his hand, and he has an excellent team there to back him up.
TYCHO: Speaking of which, let's take a look at the lineup for tonight - we have that usual starters, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, with Dumbledore playing defense and - wait, it looks like there' s been a change in the lineup from last time - Mad-Eye Mooney, a recently signed player has moved into defensive point. He looks a little... unconventional, but with the loss of both Sirius Black and Remus Lupin from last season he'll have his work cut out for him.
MSHADES: Indeed he will, although I have it on good authority that Black still has ties with the franchise and is available to substitute if necessary. We'll see - at this moment, it's anybody's game!
TYCHO: And it's round two! Potter, Granger and Weasely are moving into standard formation, and - wait! Wait! This isn't the standard formation! It looks like... are they doing....?
MSHADES: I think they are! It looks like they're going for the TriWizard play! A risky one, that, one that no one has pulled off in years! This will, of course, require them to bring in extra players. And here they come now, from the French and German leagues! Good luck to them all - I have to admit, Voldemort will have to do some quick thinking to get ahead of this one, won't he?
TYCHO: Indeed he will, but looking over at the Coach's table he doesn't seem to be too bothered. Wait, there's some action down on the field - the referees seem to be arguing about the rules, it looks like we have an extra player - it's Potter! Potter is in the TriWizard formation! That's a clear violation of the rules of the play, isn't it?
MSHADES: It sure is - the rules say that there can be only one player from each league - there'll be hell to pay when we find out who got Potter in there. But it looks like.... yes, the referee is signaling that there can be no changes made at this time. So it looks like it'll be Delacour, Krum, Diggory and Potter!
TYCHO: I'm noticing some action over on the Hogwarts team, here. It looks like Potter and Weasley are - no, no, they're fine. False alarm there. Let's move on to the action! And the first TriWizard play has started - dragons! Some nice moves from the French and German teams... oh, that looked like it hurt! I hope Diggory's luck improves! And now Potter.... Potter swoops down.... and he scores! That's excellent work from the Hogwarts team!
MSHADES: It seems that Team Voldemort is using this time off to do some conferencing. I can't tell who all the players are - Voldemort's contract with the League unfortunately allows his players some measure of anonymity, but unless I'm mistaken there's a silver-haired devil in that group....
TYCHO: If you're accusing Lucius Malfoy of what I think you are, I suggest you refrain from such wild speculation if you know what's good for you - he's a famous player of Hardball and I don't want to be anywhere near you if he comes looking for you after the match.
MSHADES: I wouldn't worry too much about it. He's a stuck-up little gi - OH! Granger and Krum pull off a double play against Potter and Weasley! That kind of team infighting will probably cost them points in the long run. Shame on Miss Granger for such behavior! But then she's always been one of the more unpredictable members of the team.
TYCHO: Yes, she has, but her contributions are overwhelmingly positive in the long run.... Okay, moving on - Potter to Granger, back to Potter to Hagrid - HAGRID FUMBLES! You'd think someone that big would be able to hold on a little better!
MSHADES: Well if the captain of the French team wasn't interfering I'm sure he would.
TYCHO: I'm not sure that's it... the referees are talking and... Rita Skeeter gets a yellow card!
MSHADES: Skeeter? Here? Where's she been hiding, I never even saw her on the field!
TYCHO: Well that's her usual play, isn't it - show up where you least expect it. And now on to the swimming competition.... They're off!
MSHADES: Oh! What on Earth has Krum done to his head?
TYCHO: He appears to have changed it into a shark! Not sure what good that'll do him, but... Delacour is out of the water! She's missed the goal and she's out of the water! This will cost France dearly. And here comes Potter and Diggory - both with overtime penalties. Too bad, but now Potter and Diggory are tied for the lead!
MSHADES: And over on Team Voldemort we seem to have some action - more players are being called off the bench and put into play, at least one of them seems to be lurking over near Hogwarts territory - we're likely to see some interference before too long unless Dumbledore can rally his defenses to... wait, what's going on with Mooney?
TYCHO: I don't know - he's making some strange plays out there, not what you would expect from the defensive team. Dumbledore had better rein him in, but he doesn't even seem to notice!
MSHADES: There's a lot of talk about keeping Dumbledore on defense, actually. He's done fine work in the past, but there's some talk around the office that he might be let go as early as next season, maybe the one after that. Only time will tell on that one, right?
TYCHO: That's right. Now we're moving into the third round of the TriWizard play - it looks like a fairly complex series of plays going on here, but the winner of this stage of play takes home the cup and the glory! They're all in now, Potter and Diggory have the lead... wait, it looks like Team Voldemort is finally making its move - we have one of their players on the field.... Delacour is out! And now - Krum! Krum is out! This is amazing, have you ever seen play this vicious!
MSHADES: No, no I haven't, and let me tell you I'm thrilled to finally see some new moves on the field! It looks like Team Voldemort has finally decided to join the game as we go into round three with Potter and Diggory tied for first.
TYCHO: And we're in round three of Potter versus Volde - DIGGORY'S DOWN! My god, that was fast!
MSHADES: That was Voldemort showing his classic "No Mercy" play, one he's been holding off on until now. It looks like, after three seasons ol' Voldy is finally ready to start being serious. And Potter is up against some heavy offense here - Team Voldemort has effectively isolated the Boy Wizard from his defensive line and they look ready to just run him over. I'd have to say this game is all sewn up, wouldn't you?
TYCHO: Absolutely. This is classic Voldemort - let the other team wear itself out, separate people from the defense and just knock 'em out. It looks like Potter is going to see the end of his three-zero shutout against.... wait, what is this! It's.... I never thought I would see this kind of play as long as I lived! It's the Wand-on-Wand Power Play!
MSHADES: I had no idea this would happen, none at all. This play gives Potter extra minutes on the clock and some defense off the bench to give him time to escape Team Voldemort's offensive line. And.... POTTER CLEARS IT! Potter weaves around Pettigrew, dodges Voldemort, evades Voldemort's ENTIRE OFFENSIVE LINE and returns to Team Hogwarts territory! That was amazing! This is a play that will go down in history, ladies and gentlemen and you can say you saw it here!
TYCHO: And that's the game! Another amazing match between two formidable captains, Potter and Voldemort.
MSHADES: Indeed it was, a fantastic match that blew away all expectations. The scorekeepers are calling this a draw - there's been points gained and lost on both sides, and now both teams will take a break to strategize. I reckon Potter is going to need to beef up both his offensive and defensive lines if he wants to have a chance next season.
TYCHO: Absolutely. Looking back, I'd say he had a lot of luck in the last few seasons, but this match proved that luck can only take you so far. Now we need some more brains and brawn in equal measure.
MSHADES: If I had to guess, I'd say that the next season will hold even more surprises. Until then, I'm MShades....
TYCHO: And I'm Tycho, and we'll see you next time...
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-11 07:31:46 for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter).
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figurere viewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of weeks, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as Crookshanks fan fiction.
Crookshanks swished his tail back and forth as he crept up the stairs to the boys' bedrooms. He knew the rat wasn't what it was pretending to be, but all of his attempts to alert the humans to this fact had failed. "I don't know why I even bother," he muttered to himself. "I could get along fine without any of them. Let the rat do whatever it is it's trying to do. So long as Girl keeps feeding me and scratching my belly, I'll - hello, what's this?"
He could smell the rat. Its scent was like nothing Crookshanks had ever smelled, and for all his time living in a magical pet shop, he'd smelled a lot. The rat did smell like a rat, yes, but there was also something else. Something... human. It was just like that big black dog he'd met on the grounds the other day. Every instinct in him had screamed to run away, but there was that smell. And even Crookshanks knew what they said about cats and curiosity. The dog had turned out to be more than just a dog, and it had convinced Crookshanks to help it. First order of business: retrieve a certain rat from the bedroom of the Red-Haired Boy.
The Boy wasn't in, but the rat was. Crookshanks circled the bed a few times. This time, maybe, he would be able to get the damn thing. He tensed for a moment and then leapt onto the bed.
By luck or skill, he was nearly on top of the thing when he landed. "A-HA!" he yowled. "Gotcha!" He pinned the rat under his sizable paw. "Where you gonna run to now, ratty?" he asked, sneering as best he could.
The rat writhed in his grip. "Please," it said. "Just let me go. You don't know what will happen if you eat me, it would be a terrible mistake!"
"A mistake, eh?" the cat said. "We'll see about that. I have a great big doggie friend who's just aching to get his jaws around you...."
He barely had time to finish his sentence when the rat went mad. It squealed and bit and slashed with its paws. And then, against all of Crookshanks' previous experience - it grew! It nearly threw the cat off the bed as it became much more massive - its legs lengthened and its arms stretched until it had reached a human size and shape. Crookshanks goggled. Of all the things he'd expected from this rat, this wasn't it. The human grabbed at him, but Crookshanks was too fast. He jumped off the bed and shimmied under the wardrobe, where he could see but not be seen.
The human looked around, breathing heavily. He was pale and thin, and still looked ratty. "Think, Peter, think," he said. "Gotta get out of here, but..." He stopped, glanced at the wardrobe, and grimaced. "You may just have given me my way out, cat," he said. And then he bit the ball of his hand.
Blood dripped out, leaving spreading red blotches on the sheets. "They'll think it was you," he said. "They'll leave me for dead and I'll be free to rejoin my Lord." He looked at the recently repaired curtains on Ron's bed. "It's not safe here anymore." He sucked at the wound to stop the bloodflow and then went to the window. Perched on the windowsill, he looked over at Crookshanks' hiding place. "If I were human," he said, "the fall would kill me. But as a rat...." His body rippled and twisted and shrank, and then there was an old grey rat on the sill. Crookshanks was pretty sure it winked at him before leaping off.
After a minute or two, Crookshanks wriggled out from under the wardrobe, his thoughts dark. The Red-Haired Boy was going to be angry, and so was the Girl. But more importantly, the Dog was going to be furious. It was barely holding on to its sanity as it was. Crookshanks shook his head. This was going to get worse before it would get better....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-07 08:40:01 for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter).
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of weeks, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as someone who's just getting into Freudian theory.
From the very beginning, the true nature of this story is quite obvious - The Chamber of Secrets. There is only one "chamber of secrets" that is of any human concern, and it is no coincidence that the book of such a title was written by a woman.
By sending her young, immature male character, Harry (whose name, along with Tom and Dick, just happens to be one of the "universal" male names) into the mysterious Chamber, Rowling is exploring her memories of early childhood sexuality. The Chamber is filled not only with mystery, but danger and legend - its very existence is debated, which no doubt refers to the elusive female orgasm.
Ms. Rowling, whose sexual impulses have no doubt been unfulfilled over the years, is attempting to fulfill them by way of her own fiction. She has created a perfect sexual explorer in Harry Potter - a young, innocent and noble young man whose powers have not yet matured. Obviously a male that Rowling would feel comfortable with. This is especially interesting given the actual resident of the Chamber of Secrets - a huge, deadly serpent. And there's only one thing that a huge, terrible serpent can represent.
Rowling's sexual past is the fertile ground in which this book was grown. It is her cathartic attempt to win over the guilty feelings that she's repressed from her former sexual life, the one she regrets more than anything else, by manufacturing a hero. That hero, in Harry Potter, represents the type of man for whom she would "open" her "chamber - pure of heart and noble of intention and, most importantly, under her control. The vanquishing of the serpent-symbol is her victory, leaving her free to explore other aspects of her life, including the eventual resolution of the Electra complex that appears to have been built up around Professor Dumbledore....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-07-04 07:36:10 for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter).
Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of weeks, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as someone incapable of suspending his disbelief.
This book was terrible! I mean, this author is obviously on drugs or insane or something like that, and why she has been allowed to publish such patent nonsense is beyond me. What is even more horrifying is that so many people, adults and children, are supporting this madwoman. I mean, even some of my friends and family, people I respect have come under her spell!
Her spell. Ha! As though such things as spells and magic really exist. I know she and her hoard of followers believe so, but we, the right-thinking, rational people of the world know better, don't we?
The beginning was okay, and I had high hopes for it. I thought it might be an interesting story about this family, the Dursleys, who seem to be people after my own heart. Sensible, no-nonsense folk, these, who know what's real and what isn't. But within ten pages, I knew something wasn't right. Think about this - some crazy old man in robes shows up with a tiny device that can put out streetlights from a distance? A cat changes into a woman? Outrageous! And then the flying motorcycle, and nonsensical ravings about magicians and dark lords and curses, and that's where it all started to go downhill.
I forced myself to slog through this mess of nonsense, though by the time I got to chapter five, I had pretty much given up. Nothing this book describes could possibly take place in the real world, and it is almost criminal that she should get this kind of fame and attention. She is a font of nonsense and mayhem, poisoning the minds of everyone her work touches. If you haven't read these books, I recommend that you stay away from them. If you have, then I beg you to come to your senses and embrace the real world. Give up this madness and join us over here in the world where truth is truth and Harry Potter is meaningless vapor.
A Reader posted a review at 2007-06-20 08:17:44 for The Chronoliths.
It's the 21st century, and nothing has really changed. Things are going pretty much as we expect - the rich are getting richer, the world is ticking along, and people are busy not thinking about the future. Oh, plenty of people say they think about the future, but when they say that, they usually just mean their future. Not THE future.
Scott Warden doesn't even think about his future. He's an expat beach bum living in Thailand, barely supporting his wife and his young daughter, and pretty well content to stay that way. Until, of course, he is invited to see the first of the Chronoliths.
The Chronolith is a towering monument - ice-cold and ice-blue, it stabs hundreds of feet in the air and is made of no material that science can identify. At the base, there is an inscription, proclaiming a great military victory - 20 years in the future.
An unknown warlord named Kuin will, in about two decades, run roughshod over the world, erecting these time-violating towers in his wake. And, through coincidence or causality, Scott gets pulled into the attempt to stop Kuin before he can even get started.
It's a fun book, and I really like Wilson's style. He kind of sucks you in, and that's something I haven't goten in a long while. what's more, he is an intelligent writer, in more ways than one. He not only manages to explain the theoretical underpinnings behind his plot - some pretty abstract theoretical physics - but he's also careful to show the psychological and social implications of the Chronoliths. How would people react to the sure and certain knowledge that, in twenty years' time, a supremely powerful warlord would start rampaging across the world? How would different social classes and age groups react, and what would be the political and economic results?
Without getting bogged down in technicalities, Wilson does an exellent job at painting a future in decline. Not a dystopia by any means, just one of those periods where things aren't so good - where they could get much worse just as easily as they could get much better.
I enjoyed him so much, I think I'll go right on to the other book of his that I have....
A Reader posted a review at 2007-06-20 08:17:09 for Spin.
I was so impressed by his work on The Chronoliths that I went right ahead and jumped into this book without hesitation. Of course, I was not disappointed. At least not too much, but I'll get to that later.
It is the near future, as these stories so often are, and one night the stars go out. The night sky goes black, with none of the familiar lights that have guided us throughout human history. Within minutes, the entire network of satellites circling the globe plummet to Earth, leaving modern telecommunications in shambles. Many people, naturally, panic, fearing that the night would be endless, but no - the sun comes up in the morning. The bright, yellow, light-giving.... oddly uniform and uneventful sun.
The Earth, as it turns out, has been enveloped in a kind of cocoon, what thinkers of the age would call The Spin. Inside the Spin, life goes on. There's no stars or moon, and the sun is artificial, but other than that, nothing much changes. High-tech balloons help solve the problem solved by the loss of communications satellites, and everyone goes about their lives.
Outside the Spin, the universe is flying by. For every second that passes on Earth, 3.17 years passes outside the black shield. One minute means the passage of 190 years. One hour, 11,412 years. One day, 273,888 years. One year on Earth is 100,037,592 years to the universe at large. Which means that within the next generation, the sun will reach the end of its life, growing to a red giant that would turn the Earth into so much space dust, Spin or no Spin.
The big question, then, is who - or what - did this, and why?
From reading these two books, I have noticed a few things about Wilson's style. Further reading may disprove my theories, but we'll see.
For one, he seems to enjoy dealing with the sociological side to sci-fi. In The Chronoliths, he imagined how the world would react to a tyrant whose coming was announced 20 years before he ever took power - militant cults, youth movements and generational discord, of course. In this book, he does the same - what would the world do if it only had about 50 years to live? The answer, according to Wilson, is splintering messianic fundamentalist religion and violent crime. For the public at large, it seems like there is indeed no hope for the planet, so they naturally turn to the Lord or hedonism - sometimes both at the same time.
For our narrator, however, all is not lost. He is friends with one of the greatest minds of his generation, a man who might not be able to stop the Spin, but who could probably figure out what it's there for - if it doesn't kill him first.
Which brings me to the second thing I've noticed about Wilson's work. So far, he's worked through a first-person narrator, who is admittedly "chronicling" the events of the previous few decades into a book for posterity. I have no real problem with that except that by the time the narrator is writing the book, he is more or less out of any real danger. This is less true for Tyler Dupree in this book than it was for Scott Warden in The Chronoliths, but as you get to the end of the book, you realize that the important part of the story really ended years before. So the actual end is kind of anticlimactic - the narrator may be in a tough spot before he gets to the last page, but you know that he's out of the real story already and is destined to survive. Otherwise how could he have written the book?
Or maybe I shouldn't be reviewing at 12:30 in the morning....
Anyway, it was good. If I see any more of Wilson's work floating around, I'll most definitely pick it up.
|My Reviews - Page 1 of 3|