Ongoing Reading

20th Century Boys, Band 13 (20th Century Boys, #13)20th Century Boys, Band 13 by Naoki Urasawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Apparently, I'm not allowed to review this volume because my revelation was way too powerful for the server to handle.

I KNOW WHO FRIEND IS. Muahahahaha.

Of course, this was the entire impetus of the entire first twelve volumes of this manga, after so many twisty twisty twisty-turnies over a span of fifty story years, but who's keeping track? We've still got a global conspiracy to overturn, billions of lives to save from a Stand-like massacre, and a small group of losers to accomplish it all.

First and foremost, this is a mystery. The science fiction elements are merely a backdrop of intense tension. The story lives and dies by its reveals, and my goodness, I can hear my heart pounding... or is it this story that I hear?

So what should I expect for the next half of the series? Can I rightly expect anything for sure? I mean, yes, I could predict a spunky teenage girl who can bend a spoon will lead a rag-tag army of gangsters and the homeless to overthrow the cultish government before it releases biotoxins across the world, but I fear I might be as wrong as any GRRM fanboy.

I am often WRONG about where the plot is going in this story, and my oh my I'm enjoying the challenge.



View all my reviews 20th Century Boys, Band 14 (20th Century Boys, #14)20th Century Boys, Band 14 by Naoki Urasawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boy, I really hit it on the nail. The first rule of reading this manga is, don't expect what you think you're supposed to expect. All conversation is psychological warfare, and apparently, Mr. Naoki Urasawa's manga is, too.

So, hello, Stand!

You know all that, "We must prepare for the worst," stuff I was spouting about? Well, the shit just hit the fan.

At least you can always rely on a good writer to kill the darlings.

View all my reviews Sleeping Late on Judgement Day (Bobby Dollar, #3)Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of this novel, but not for the usual reasons. Its flaws suddenly became its strengths, its air of hopelessness became a song, and the utter enormity of his drowning in the deep end was also his salvation. Not that there was that much salvation going on, of course, but the epilogue made me cry. If I can tell everyone to hold fast to the troubles this guy has gone through to the very end, I'd be telling everyone to keep hope alive in the good fight. The rewards aren't exactly spectacular, but there's enough to make me want to revisit this world over and over and over again forever. That being said, this better not be a normal trilogy despite the perfect setup of rises and falls. I want more. More More More. This was, among so many other things, a long distance love story, and it was sweet as hell.

View all my reviews Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and OthersMyths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others by Stephanie Dalley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a middle of the road text, better than most, but far from complete. I'm not just talking about the missing fragments, either, although that's understandable. We've got ranges of over a thousand years of text printed in this volume, ignoring some older texts, like Inanna's descent being ignored in favor of Ishtar's more elaborate, but nonetheless curtailed, descriptions. The tale of Gilgamesh is almost always a required reading, of course, and the genesis story is very interesting, but we're still missing whole texts of Dumuzi or Tammuz which were nonetheless much more important to the people of the times than was even brought up here in this text. At best, I can say that this work is merely a short sampling of three whole civilization's written legends. I suppose I'm going to have to keep looking for a single source that collects and breaks down the altered generations of tales, perhaps even dovetailing their metamorphosis into early Greek and Zoroastrian. It would be much too much to ask to see how Inanna became Aphrodite and Isis, or how they became Mary mother of Jesus. I despair to see how Dumuzi the shepherd became the heart of rebirth and how his idea became Jesus. It's just too much of a concept to touch upon this early in our day and age. Quite a shame.

Then again, such concepts were probably too volatile for a mainstream edition and an editor thought it would be best to leave such works undisturbed for fear of shocking the plebs. Of course, nowadays, such a fearless edition would probably be heralded as innovative and bright, but I'm still looking. Perhaps I'd write one if I actually knew how to read the original text. Alas. I'm stuck here.

View all my reviews The Last of the WinnebagosThe Last of the Winnebagos by Connie Willis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Only Connie Willis could provide such a depth of detail to what should have been the death of dogs and not only made it work, but make it work wonderfully. She started with the weird concept of the Animal Humane Society becoming a black bag operation after all dogs have been wiped out, turning the novella into one of espionage and a murder mystery and an ethical showpiece of who one ought to turn in to save one's own skin. Deceptively simple, but fantastically complex in execution, Ms. Willis has always amazed me. The writing is fantastic, turning what ought to have been a slightly humdrum if pathos-inducing event into something both exciting and horrible.

View all my reviews The Lady Astronaut of MarsThe Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sci-fi tale had great human tensions. Nothing was too fantastic in terms of space opera or hard sci-fi. It was about the pull between loyalty and love for her husband against the visceral need to be on a mission. It was love and guilt versus a spectacular career, and this is where the story really shined. A colony on mars is merely setting. Colonizing the stars is merely a long term goal.
The reader's heart is torn, and the MC had heroic actions open to her.
The true hero is in her husband. It's a classic turnaround of the old tales of astronaut's wives, except this might have a little more pathos.
So far, I understand perfectly why this one got the Hugo. The love was both timeless and solid.

View all my reviews The Complete Short Stories: Volume 2The Complete Short Stories: Volume 2 by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? The second half of J. G. Ballard's complete short story collection was more interesting and polished than the first half.

Of course, that could mean that I'm biased toward modern literature, I'm getting into his style of writing, or the massive weight of recurring themes served as a firm anchor for me, the reader. Who knows for certain?

I didn't love his words, but I didn't hate them either. I'll be honest. It was a long haul.

On the other hand, I'll always remember how 4 out of 5 stories had either flight or astronauts featured, often including a great time malaise. I think I enjoyed those the best out everything.

There were a few very short stories that did tickle me, though, and both happened to be about Ronald Reagan. The short world war III was very funny.

His characters, for the most part, were average. The only ones that stood out strong were the psychopaths, and I'll be honest, they were pretty neat. I think I'll always enjoy the film critic and the guy who decided to stay at home.

Reading this, I've decided, has become a bragging point. Not entirely a labor of love, but still rewarding. I think I can trace a whole slew of repurposed ideas that made it into practically all of Steven Spielburg's films. I finally understand why he took Ballard's book to make Empire of the Sun. He was obviously a huge fan, and it didn't start or end with a single novel.

I don't doubt that Ballard has been a huge influence on many writers, and while it might be a monumental effort to trace back who came up with what first, I think I'll leave things as it is. Someone else can go about that task. I'll just enjoy the experience.

I want to leave everyone with just one impression, at least: The Earth is a balloon, people. Don't pop it and let all the undiluted time flow in. Okay? Okay.



View all my reviews All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since both the manga and the novel came out at almost the same time, and they're practically identical in every detail, I have to assume that it was only a publishing decision to release the manga (in Japan) several months before the prose. Not surprising, really, since most major fiction in Japan is manga.

Being an obsessive anglophile and a fan of the tale in all its incarnations, I wanted to nitpick any plot differences between the movie, manga, and novel. I didn't mind in the slightest that I was rereading the manga. In some ways, the novel was better if only because my mind is allowed to fly free with additional sensory input that doesn't quite exist in the novel. You know. Imagination.

It's a great military novel and the ending is great. I kinda wish that we could have skipped the hollywood ending in the movie, but damn.. you know, it's hollywood.

I'm going to recommend both this and the manga equally. There's no practical difference except in the amount of drawing.

It's one of the best nightmare versions of a daydream I've come across.

View all my reviews The Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I didn't know any better, Mr. Rothfuss has true and deep humility. He tells us all that this book has little to do with anything like a traditional novel and that we'll probably not like it. I find this kind of humility fantastically funny. I even think he believes it.

On the other hand, I loved this book, and I won't be surprised if everyone else who picks this up will like it, too. I might even say that it works quite well as a standalone novel that is unrelated to the rest of the series. It was so rich in language and magical realism and heart that it reminded me of some of the best of Pratchett and Gaiman condensed into the adventures of one wisp of a girl with her little intimate possessions trying to keep the whole world in perfect order.

Does anyone else see an OCD Clotho?

I cannot believe how charming the whole novel was.

It was so damn modest. Even if I wasn't another huge fan of Mr. Rothfuss, this little interlude would have stood on its own and would have made an indelible impression on me.

Can't always say that about anything touted as a 2.5 in book order.

View all my reviews The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one almost as much as I enjoyed the previous two, but for different reasons.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed it for none of the reasons that I was expecting. Firstly, I enjoy not just symbolism but the symbols themselves. They weren't just blazoning on the page, after all, they were blazoning in my mind. None of it was particularly complicated or ominous, just relevant to the tale in both the obvious ways and the not so obvious ways. I tried looking at the books from the point of view of the symbols, and the tales become as crisp as Christmas Morning. It is really quite nice to have new fiction that can turn alchemy into alchemy.

Secondly, I enjoy themes that speak to the heart of the world and why we're living in it without becoming some broken down biological soup or a bunch of creatures standing around holding hands and singing "we are the world". Sure, a little bit of both happens in the novel, but I noticed something. Life goes on. Life always goes on. The goddess Diana or Artemis always knew this. It's not about hunting or justice, after all. It's also about Apollo who's notoriously absent from all three novels except from the pages of of the alchemy. Life goes on. There's no conflict between the gods. There's no tension, and indeed, there never was. Brother and Sister were twins, after all.

Sister night was one of the main characters across the trilogy, from within Diana and her being a chimera, to the entrance of the goddess herself, to the overwhelming overabundance of female witches except for her father and Peter, to the title of the second book, to the arrow at the end. Nothing was as simple as a direct one-to-one correlation, here. It was the deeper themes that really sparked my imagination.

That, and the novel also happened to be a fun urban fantasy romp. The issues at hand were on a deeper level than the action, and although there was a little action and a little romance thrown in, they were all in service to a greater power and not gratuitous.

All said, I am very impressed. Thank you!

View all my reviews Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The inner English Lit fanboy in me went squee many times as I read this one. I was teased and thrilled and thoroughly amused by being plopped into Elisabeth's England and Austria and France, meeting all of the fascinating characters of the time. Shakespeare was always an inconsequential flop in the background and Kit was suddenly thrust into the limelight like I thought he always ought to have been.

The novel took a sharp turn from urban fantasy into historical fantasy, rich and detailed and a pure delight to behold. And yet, we all know language is always going to be a problem so I didn't really mind that late middle English was seamlessly translated into the modern English. It allows us the joy without any of the hardships. Indeed, the whole novel was some of the easiest complicated tales I've ever had the pleasure of staying up all night to read. I loved the first novel, but this one tickled a lot of fancy bones for me.

The plot in this or the previous novel is relatively inconsequential. The people are much more important, and the care and detail put into them is pure magic. Of course, magic is fun while the stormclouds slowly encroach upon the sunny day, but we can feel the raindrops forming and the time for preparation is slipping away.

I'm a big fan of this novel. Magic isn't much of a crutch, but the developments are enough to push the reader through a few of the snags. That being said, I had a great time reading it and have no regrets for the directions it has taken. I'm thoroughly invested.

View all my reviews A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a surprising find. Sure, I expected a decent urban fantasy, but I hadn't expected a tome redolent of history, alchemy, and even Templar conspiracies. In retrospect, I wish that all urban fantasy novels had more history and alchemy and Templar conspiracies. The past is rich and full of just as much intrigue as anything we've got today, after all, and denying the fact won't make so many modern novels better.

It's true that I expected a novel with a scholarly feel, and it's equally true that I expected a witch with equal parts frailty and overpowered magic, but unlike a number of completely unfair reviews, I didn't have a problem with characters that displayed actual human complexities. The overpowered magic was nothing of the sort. I saw a novel-long setup and decent foreshadowing.

The time in the novel is ripe for a big change, and I love the story's fearlessness. I'm fully invested in each and every character that has shown up and feel how alive they are. The novel deserves high praise much thought. At this point, I'm pretty sure we're seeing the (re)birth of a goddess, and the ride is as important as the destination. The writing is so finely honed that I have no problems at all with the introduction of new power and new twists, because even at the very beginning there were finely woven threads that reenforced all revelations.

I can't wait to read the next two.


View all my reviews The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction WritersThe Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this might not have been my absolute favorite book on writing, it ranks up there with some of the best. I especially appreciated the passion he espoused for simply writing a damn good book above and beyond any other consideration. Sounds simple, no? Well the advice is taken across a wide board of problem areas, be it agents, editors, publishing platforms, and best of all, every writer's worst enemy: themselves. Never get complacent. Don't aim for status. Aim for great storytelling and the rest will follow suit.

Simplicity itself. So if I've given away everything that makes this book so valuable, then why should anyone else read it? Because it's pretty damn exhaustive on the big points that make any novel a great novel, and enjoins us to partake of some pretty decent workbook exercises that focus more on connections and character development than things like plot. It was quite useful, and the rest was, for the most part, positive and uplifting if you're trying to be an author that doesn't mind staring the hard facts in the face.

Few punches were pulled.

For this, I was greatly amused.

View all my reviews Infinite JestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why does the ending make me so uncontrollably angry? I won't tell you. Read the book.

I was struck by the almost never-ending parade of helplessness and hopelessness riding undercurrent through an endless procession of inutile but heroic strivings. In reading this, I was a hamster running his wheel forever.

Putting aside all of the literary arguments, the thousands of mild references to just about anything that DWF thought might be fun to include in the book, or amazingly deep characterizations, I was, in the end, a man who hit the sidewalk.

I kept expecting the plot to go somewhere, but as we all know, literary fiction eschews plot and spits it out without swallowing. Which is a shame, in this case, because there were some rather interesting threads in threes that came within a micrometer of satisfying me.

Am I repeating myself?

I enjoyed the AA meetings the most, with the sequence of 1.5 million words devoted to tennis trailing last. I wanted to see what sparked 1995 and 1996 as the years of literary treatments of self-help groups. I wanted to know if Chuck Palahniuk and DFW compared notes, since Fight Club came out the same year as IJ. The omnipresent feel and the overwhelming need for absolute acceptance permeated both novels, ignoring plot treatment, of course.

The tennis sequence read like the ultimate dystopian literature, all form and serve signifying nothing, a deep 'orchasm' of constant movement representing the ultimate stalemate, a reversible nihilism. It cumulated in Mario shaking a single hand, which either justified the whole thematic battle being waged, or disproved it.

Madam Psychosis probably got to me the most. I don't even have words to describe how I feel, although I wouldn't bother mentioning how being a PGOAT or an ex-PGOAT is like being a woman blown large and absurd, or how those thousands of subtle nuances in her character made her as beautiful as it made Avril so subtly monstrous.

Even the Mad Stork got my sympathy near the end, and he was a really hard sell, pushing me through 60 hours of a novel before I can get close enough to him to even see him through his technical brilliance.

The novel deserves thinking about. I dare say it deserves thinking about, after the fact, a lot more time than it takes to read the MFer. And I might.

But heaven forbid I ever read this book ever again.

I read Atlas Shrugged. Twice. There was a Simpsons episode that had a character saying, "I read Atlas Shrugged, and I'll never read again."
This became my sentiment right after reading IJ, and I LOVE books.

Of course, I've already started a new novel. And it's going to be light. And fun. And it doesn't have an author who hung himself by the neck till he was dead, dead, dead.





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3 comments:

  1. Hey, this is Ada Palmer (author of Terra Ignota, and also a big fan of 20th Century Boys). I couldn't find your contact e-mail on your blog, but I just wanted to say that I was overjoyed by your enthusiastic and extremely observant reviews of both my novels so far (In fact it was me who urged Tor to send you Seven Surrenders, since I was so eager to see your reaction after your comments on Too Like the Lightning.) Your Seven Surrenders review is the very first I've seen, so it made me very happy to know that it does live up to high expectations! So thanks for being such a wonderful reader, thinking so deeply, and re-reading and seeing how it's designed for re-readers too. (And if you want to drop me an e-mail at adapalmer at uchicago dot edu I'd be happy to trade greetings!) And thanks for spreading excitement for Naoki Urasawa too!

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    1. Jeeze! I apologize for not responding sooner! A friend actually had to point out to me that you made a comment! I'll email you directly. I'm much more active on Goodreads than on this placeholder blog that I keep up to archive just my own reviews. :)

      And yes, indeed, I've been very excited about your books! :) I've been trying to push people to nominate TLtL for Hugo. *crosses fingers* :)

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  2. A Hugo! Yes! Too Like The Lighting deserves it more than so so many I've read with that honour.

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