This book was a bit of a disappointment to me. I probably expected too much, because it was a Hugo Award nominee, because Jo Walton gave it high praise, and because an endorsement quote in the front matter called Delaney scifi’s Melville. I expected all that, and what I got was a fairly tepid space opera with a plot in need of tightening.
A short little book that’s filled with some great typographic and linguistic facts, all presented in fun and creative design. I think I’ll pick up a copy in print for my office bookshelf.
There is a lot of really interesting stuff here for language nerds like me. From how dictionary definitions are structured and divided into senses and subsenses, how meanings are divined from piles of reference quotations, and how dictionaries are treated as authoritative arbiters of what is correct and true, there’s plenty to chew on here. It’s a shame, though, that the writing indulges in the quipy style that is so trendy right now.
The Big Sleep is such an ur-example of the hardboiled detective genre that it’s hard to read it without a wash of associations and connections that cloud your reading experience. The dry, wry narration style has been cribbed and riffed on as voiceovers in everything from other detective novels to Veronica Mars to The Animaniacs. And then there’s the iconic film adaptation by Howard Hawks starring Humphrey Bogart.
It’s that last one that sticks in my head the most as I read. I suppose that for me Bogart will always be Philip Marlowe–and that’s not a bad thing! It’s been long enough since I last saw the movie that I only retained a general impression of the plot and scenes, but they come rushing back as I read the same events on the page.
But for all the ways it’s impossible to read this book with truly fresh eyes, it’s still really good. For me, the exploration of civilization’s unseemly underbelly through the actions of a seemingly Machiavellian, but ultimately morally centered hero is a great setup. The characters are complex. The language is sharp. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
Ursula LeGuin’s first novels is in some ways a simple book. But all the subtleties that made her the writer she was were there from the start–the psychological and anthropological depth, the lyrical, starkly evocative prose, and the wabi sabi sense of the sorrow and beauty of impermanence and imperfection.
This is an ambitious book. Kuang set out to examine the nature of language and translation, confront colonialism and empire, and tell an epic tale of complicity, change, and revolution. A book like this wants to make an impact.
I love all the ideas here, but the execution is quite clumsy. Protagonists’ motivations are often unjustified, the plot points seem to lurch forward without feeling earned, and many characters are underdrawn to the point of being complete cyphers. There are moments of poignancy and even occasional brilliance, and I hope that Kuang’s craft will grow to match her ambition, but this one shoots rather wide of the mark.
Bradbury’ science fiction was never about science or technology. He’s a master of nostalgia, of the dual American myths of frontiers and small towns, and of the darkly ironic twist. In The Martian Chronicles, he threads together a series of short stories that explore the taking and taming of a new land, the genocide of a race, and the impulses that drive us to spoil what might have been wonderful. This is very much a book of the early 1950s, but it is also a book that shines a mirror back on the ideals and attitudes that took shape in those years and loom so heavy in the American psyche to this day.
The scope is grand, the humor is gallows, and the prose is remarkable.
This is an epic, sprawling work that spans time and space. The historical settings are written with love and deep knowledge, and you can tell that Anderson has a historian’s appreciation of the tapestry of human affairs and the patterns that emerge. This is the kind of writing that really speaks to my own passions and interests.
Unfortunately, once the plot makes it to the present (or rather Anderson’s present at the time of writing) the story mostly runs out of gas. The lesson seems to be that with all the time and opportunities for wisdom that an immortal life would grant, all you end up caring about is shacking up and deciding where to have babies. Blech.
The first acts are enough to push this novel to a high rating for me, but what a disappointment in the end.
Moody, gothic, filled with creepy children, The Turn of The Screw was a great read for the Halloween season. James’ winding, labyrinthine sentences are a perfect compliment to the paranoid disorientation of the narrator.
Like all of the Tchaikovsky I’ve read so far, the plot carries you along and keeps you engaged all the way through. And also like all of the Tchaikovsky I’ve read so far, the central feat of prestidigitation is to take all the protagonist’s assumptions and flip them on their heads. But, to some degree, the trick doesn’t work quite so well in this novel because the audience sees through the hero’s illusions pretty early on. The novel still works, but you don’t get the sting of wonder when the truth is revealed.
If not for my book club, I wouldn’t read a book with such an inflammatory title, but we’d previously read Haidt’s previous book The Righteous Mind and found it pretty interesting. This one doesn’t at all live up to that precedent.
The basic point is unarguable–by over-protecting children, we make them vulnerable to fragility and likely to have extreme reactions to disagreement–but the authors seem to be more interested in clutching their pearls about kids these days and in cherry-picking scandalous sounding exemplars than in asking deeper questions about why young people feel the way they do or how the situation might be more nuanced than it seems at first glance. It leaves me with a strong urge to dismiss it with a shrug and an “okay, boomer.”
Heinlein’s characters like to sit around and talk about ideas, which I love. In this book, however, there’s a bit of dissonance between the armchair philosophy and the stakes of what the characters are planning; they just don’t seem worried enough as they plan the revolution over glasses of vodka. But the revolution does come, and the danger arrives with it.
Even in the really talky bits, this book is a page turner.
A solid deconstruction of spycraft and the cold war.
There are some really interesting ideas, images, and scenarios in this book, but I never connected with the characters or the plot. And when faced with an expiring library loan, I found that I wasn’t invested enough to check it out again to finish reading it.
TIt may be more telling about me than about the book that I often found myself mentally quibbling with small points of usage or grammar over and over again as I read this.
There’s some good advice in here. I’m definitely giving some of a it a try.
A unique and very readable deconstruction of high fantasy good-versus-evil tropes. Only, I wonder if it might be even stronger without the arch humor that underlies the tone.
A monumental work in scale, prose, psychological depth, and artistic merit. Shakespearean in its use of language. Profoundly serious in its themes and yet very funny. Still groundbreaking in its structure and form more than a century and a half later.
An extremely shallow look at the idea that language is central to the power of cults and cult-like organizations. It feels like most of the author’s research was done on social media, and most of the content focuses on providing very basic descriptions of different types of cultish groups. Disappointing.
Lyrical and whistful, but ultimately not much happens. That might be okay if I connected more with any of the characters, but alas, it isn’t so.
A lovely little perigon of the hard-boiled genre. Witty and fun to read. The only down side is that it may be just a smidge too long.