I didn't finish this book. The reasons I picked it up were that it won the Hugo award for Best Novel in 1969 and that Jo Walton, in her An Informal History of the Hugos, gives it a lot of praise. And based on those factors I stuck with it until about halfway through (of a fairly long page count), but ultimately I couldn't do it anymore. I understand why it impressed people when it came out.
The tone of hip cynicism is very representative of the time it was written, and the slightly psychadelic found-text montage style is unique and again very of it's time. But the point of view and culture it depicts are downright nasty. Every nonwhite character is invariably refered to by their race as defining characteristic whenever they are mentioned. All females are referred to entirely as sex objects. A riot starts in a black nieghborhood simply because the locals are stirred up by a white man walking through. On top of all that, the none of the protagonists have any redeeming qualities and the plot is vague and meandering. I don't have to have my characters and stories easy to swallow, but there has to be something to make me want to keep reading.
I doubt I'll pick up another Brunner novel any time soon.
I've always enjoyed Shakespeare's villains. He paints them with such texture, such depth. You can really revel in Richard III's Machiavelian scheming or feel yourself sinking into Macbeth's guilt-haunted madness. And I enjoy Iago as well, but Othello is the most painful story to witness.
Shakespeare starts the play by showing you an unlikely couple who struggles against difficult odds to be together, only for us to watch Iago destroy them both utterly, without mercy or even much explanation beyond his own slighted ego. And it's all the worse because every other character believes him to be the most trustworthy and honorable of friends.
So perhaps of all the Bard's tragedies, this is the most tragic. It's also among the best paced and best structured. And Act IV Scene III is among the most emotionally gutting things ever written.
What Technology Wants is a book after my own heart. It looks deeply at the nature of not only technology, but of the trajectory of life, the universe, and everything. Much of what Kelly observes and posits runs parallel to my own ideas about how technology fits into the past, present, and future of the world, but he examines the issues with far more detail and nuance than I ever have.
This book is dense with ideas—reading it, I probably highlighted more frequently than in any other book I've read—and many, many of them caused me to drastically reconsider or reframe the way I look at something.
I'm demanding that my book club take this one up as our next read just because I want to see what others have to say about these big concepts.
I'd consider As You Like It to be one of the best of the comedies. It certainly features some of the Bard's most famous turns of phrase and most eloquent speeches. The plot does meander quite a bit, but, with the help of an actual deus ex machina, everything comes together at the end and none of the threads are left dangling.
Among the most interesting aspects of the play is Shakespeare's particularly meta-level play with gender. Toward the end, you have the boy actor who would have played the female Rosalind, masquerading as male Ganymede (a name with homoerotic mythological origins), who is play acting as a female love interest for her own unwitting lover, whilst also becoming the love interest of a female character (again acted by a boy). One can't help but wonder whether Shakespeare was just having fun or there was more behind it. (Given his sonnets, it's not unreasonable to guess that there might be.)
A collection of four novella's is a strange format for this Korean scifi luminary's debut English-language book, but, I have to say, the stories are great. I've said before that my favorite scifi is the kind that has big ideas and wild creativity on display, and this book delivers. My only editorial note might be that the stories could probably stand to be trimmed just a bit, but the depth of exploration and humanity of the writing vastly outweight this quibble.
This one is a very middle-of-the-pack Shakespeare work. There are plenty of dramatic scenes and arresting turns of phrase, but there's really no character central enough to be considered a protagonist, no one to whom the audience ever really feels a sense of attachment. It's as though you can feel the Bard treading ever so gingerly through the messy tale of Queen Elizabeth's parentage, lest he should run afoul of his sovereign's good graces. Indeed, the play's end leans heavily into Elizabethan propaganda.
Not that I blame Shakespeare for that. His shrewdness was certainly a part of his success. But it does mean that this particular play is more interesting as a historical artifact than as a work of drama.
This short book is a great little manifesto detailing the values and methods of a master designer. The central lessons are Vignelli's emphasis on deliberate decision making, care with details, and value for simplicity.
I hadn’t read this since I was maybe twelve years old, and I was really surprised at how much the details and even the specific words resurfaced in my memory as I read. A classic for a reason, I enjoyed this every bit as much as when I was young.
Continuing my journey through Asimov’s Foundation series, this one continues adding complexity and questions onto the original premise. And it’s just so readable, with a plot that twists and turns.
This one was rather disappointing, and I confess that I didn’t make it quite all the way to the end. Too episodic. Too cartoony. Not enough depth.
I don’t know if I wasn’t in the mood or if maybe this kind of comedy plays better on stage than on the page, but this quintessential Shakespearian farce of lookalikes and mistaken identities just didn’t land for me.
Sometimes you read a book that restates a lot of what you already believe and know, but it’s still worthwhile because you needed to have it brought to the forefront of your thoughts afresh.
A minor Shakespeare work for a reason. This one is thought to likely be a collaboration and it shows in its lack of Shakespearean depth of character and interiority. Still, interesting for a completionist like myself.
A Hugo Award winner for a reason, Joe Haldeman’s military sci-fi epic takes one character skipping across the surface of time through a thousand year interstellar war. It’s grim, it’s episodic, and it’s brilliant. The book portrays the futility of war with a sharpness that is just as relevant now as it was in the Viet Nam era during which it was written.
I love Shakespeare’s great villains and Richard III is one of the greatest of them all. Unapologetically evil, it’s a joy to watch him scheme, lie, and murder his way to the top (though his subsequent downfall feels a bit rushed and perfunctory, as if the bard knew he had gotten past the juicy bits and was eager to wrap it up). On this read I really noticed how much House of Cards and even A Song of Ice and Fire draw elements from it.
The second book in Asimov’s famed Foundation series. It’s clear that he’d grown quite a bit as a writer by this one, with a plot more intricate, subtle, and less predictable. A classic for a reason. (In case you’re wondering, I have no interest in Apple’s new TV series based on the books. It’s not the kind of thing that can be done properly on screen.)
My book club chose this one to read and I was relatively interested to see how Dostoyevsky’s work stands up to my high school memories of Crime and Punishment and fragments of The Grand Inquisitor section of this book. The answer is not so good. The book is rambling in the extreme and most of the plot involves around a quasi-incestuous, middle school style game of he-said-she-said romance melodrama. It does explore philosophical themes, but the central question of whether a person can be moral without faith seems to me (as a humanist atheist) to be pretty well answered and not particularly germane to contemporary readers.
Continuing my Shakespeare reading project, this particular play has always been a personal favorite. The titular characters are so fully realized, mercurial and tragic, that I really love them for all their flaws. Reading it this time, I kept picturing it filmed as a space opera with larger than life production design!
A brilliant imagination, full of big ideas!
I think this book would have been mind blowing if I had read it when it was new. But so many of its ideas are now mainstream in the design and development world that it feels very old hat. Something of a victim of its own success as far as the reading experience goes.