Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Connection conniptions

So! Over the course of the last few days, I moved into a house in another undisclosed location. This house is creepy and the internet sucks. Until I can solve the connection issues and get the books back on the shelf where they belong, I'm goin' on break. It won't be too much longer...I should actually see you guys next week, and if I manage to get the internet up before then, then I'll put something up to tide everyone over. But in two days, I've had a lot of pages crash on me, I can't load Google or imagesearch, and downloading anything is completely out of the question. Blogger seems to have minor problems, too. 

So see you then! Shouldn't be long.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Consider Phlebas

     So the rundown is as follows: This is an amazing book with great setpieces and tight writing, and cements the tone of the Culture series rather well. Iain M. Banks is a writer whom you all should have read by now, and if not, then here isn't a bad place to start. Consider Phlebas is a semi-affectionate satire of "space adventure" stories with a tone that ranges somewhere around pitch black comedy. The pace is breakneck, the heroes are interesting, if not the usual "good guys" one would expect from the genre, and the overall tone allows for moments that are both horrifyingly violent, and yet still humorous. This is a book that is well worth the price of admission, and one that should be read at any cost.

            The downside comes in that while this is a good science fiction novel, it is perhaps not the best entry into the Culture series...anyone who reads any of the other books first will have the eventual outcome of Consider Phlebas spoiled for them, dropping a lot of the tension the book creates. While this is not entirely important, it is something that should be addressed for budding readers of the series. Also, there are several sequences that feel like padding, though they do illustrate the nature of the books they are trying to satirize-- the author will try to pack as many interesting set pieces between the protagonist and the end of their journey so that at the end, it feels like they've accomplished much. Which Banks then cruelly stabs in the gut.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Fifty Year Sword

     The rundown is as follows: While The Fifty Year Sword is a great book and a good example of Mark Z. Danielewski's unique way of telling a story while turning it inside out, the gimmick of five separate narrators overlapping with different-colored quotation marks actually takes away from the story. By cluttering the relatively-short book with an unneeded visual gimmick, Danielewski does himself a disservice and creates a minor turn-off for people who would normally be into this kind of book. In its favor is the fact that it's essentially a children's book for adults, and hiding under the simplistic language is a genuinely creepy story that even when you guess the eventual ending manages to hold its tone and deliver something chilling. Despite the gimmick, the childlike language coupled with the eerie imagery creates a horror story that is at once instantly engaging and easy to understand. 

           The bad bit of course is the gimmick, which obscures a really cool book by having five people talk in nested quotation marks to tell a story. Please, once and future authors who read this blog, don't ever do this. Don't ever have your narrators narrate nested like this. More, as always, below.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


    So the rundown is as follows: Lunatics is a funny if profane and sometimes excessively juvenile book. The dialogue and characters shine through, and when the book hits its comic rhythm, the beats come faster than anything I've read. It's hilarious in the right places, and even when the notes don't hit, it keeps up the pace fast enough that it doesn't really matter that the joke flopped. The book's already on to the next one. While Dave Barry has always been weaker in his fiction as opposed to his nonfiction, Alan Zweibel manages to shore him up just enough to carry the day. 

                The drawbacks are that the book occasionally moves too fast, which left me mulling over previous details before I had time to process the next ones, and a lack of enough sympathetic characters to go around. Where both characters attempt being unsympathetic, only one of them actually pulls it off, leaving one feeling a little lopsided, since Philip Horkman (one of the two point-of-view protagonists) is actually kind of a nice person having a successive series of bad days, while Jeffrey Peckerman (the other protagonist) openly uses racist and offensive language the way I use commas and footnotes. Still, in the end, the alternating points of view provide an interesting look at the story of two men continually in over their head. More, as always, below.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Translation Issue

I find myself in an odd humor this week. I hope you'll humor me as I go on this exploration of what about the book I was supposed to read disappointed me. Regular reviews will come back next week. Diatribe below.