Tue, 22 Oct 2013
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
As most people are by now aware, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's classic that adds a plague of zombies to the book's setting and plot.
I have to say that while I was looking forward to the book, its execution left me wanting. The zombie storyline feels like a veneer laid over the original storyline in a way that doesn't really add much to that original story. I feel like the zombies are just a gimmick that don't hold up for an entire book. Pretty much the only thing that kept me reading was my love for the original story, which remains mostly unchanged beneath the zombie veneer.
Seth Grahame-Smith has recharacterized several of the people, mostly making them more violent and bloodthirsty--Elizabeth is a Chinese-trained "master of the deadly arts", and Lady Catherine is a noted zombie slayer with an entourage of ninjas--but everyone takes pretty much the same actions and ends up in the same places. At least one character becomes a zombie and is killed, but not until after her presence in the original plot is finished. I think this sameness is what led me not to really engage with Grahame-Smith's additions: the original was a deliciously sarcastic commentary on 19th century people of wealth layered in with a genuinely compelling story of the development of characters' personal relationships1. The zombie additions don't change the story enough to make a statement of their own, but they do serve to obscure some of the themes and characterizations of the original, so their presence is a net negative.
All in all, I probably would have been better off just reading Pride and Prejudice again.
1 One of the great things about Pride and Prejudice is that it's pretty feminist-friendly. Sure, it's a tale of two people who take a long time and a lot of minsunderstandings to finally come together and realize their True Love(tm), but two of the things I've always appreciated about it are: 1) Elizabeth is given agency to choose her own path in life and 2) the reason it's okay that they end up together is that when she tells Darcy what her issues are with him, he listens. How often does that happen in popular love stories?
Mon, 12 Feb 2007
E Pluribus Unicorn
E Pluribus Unicorn is a collection of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon. All of the stories were written between 1947 and 1953, though they don't seem very dated, aside from occasional archaic-sounding language usage.
The stories are mostly fantasy, though some could be considered almost horror; many are certainly unsettling, most notably The Professor's Teddy-Bear, with Bianca's Hands (and perhaps A Way of Thinking) a close second. Die, Maestro, Die! reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe, in structure, if not in style. There's an element of melancholy in several of the stories, including The SIlken-Swift, Scars (which has no elements on fantasy, but is simply a good story), and especially A Saucer of Loneliness.
Overall, I enjoyed the collection; I hadn't read much by Sturgeon before, and I quite like his writing.
Thu, 22 Jun 2006
War of Honor
It's past five in the morning. I've been up reading for almost the last four hours because I wanted to finish the book. It's good. The pace is much slower than I remember previous Honor Harrington books being, but things do move along.
Reading all of the Honor anthologies before this book is highly recommended.
Mon, 07 Mar 2005
There are so many different Discworld novels that it becomes difficult to write separately about each one, due to the similarities among them. I don't mean that in a bad way; the books are certainly distinct from each other, too. It's just that the things that keep me coming back to the series--the characters, the storytelling, the humor--are present in all of the books.
Nevertheless, Jingo tells its own story. In this book, Pratchett has set his satirical sights on war, with the assistance of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch. As usual with a City Watch book, there's a crime to be dealt with (two crimes, if you count the war itself), specifically an assassination attempt. Chasing these crimes leads Vimes and his men out of Ankh-Morpork, past the newly-risen island of Leshp (gotta have something to fight over, after all), and into the wilds of Klatch, which is certainly not based on the Middle East. :)
The Child that Books Built
I occasionally venture beyond my fiction readings into the realm of non-fiction, and I'm pretty sure it counts even if the book is itself about reading. I saw The Child That Books Built mentioned in a post on Neil Gaiman's blog and it sounded interesting enough, so I bought it the next time I was in a bookstore.
I found the book to be a rather mixed bag. There were parts that I, like Gaiman, found eerily similar to my own experiences--the way reading can blot out all that transpires in the surrounding world, the discovery of SF, reading The Hobbit, reading the Narnia books. (Though in my case, the Narnia series were the first "real" books I read with The Hobbit following shortly thereafter.) There were other parts that didn't necessarily resonate with my experiences but which I nevertheless found interesting--the discussion of lingual development in children, for instance. Some things were just there as autobiographical but didn't have echoes in my life--much of Spufford's childhood reading differed from mine, being separated by both distance and time, while there were books that interested him but not me, such as the Little House on the Prairie series. Possibly related to those were the parts where I felt that the book rambled without any clear purpose or result--the discussion of the primeval forest, or the exploration of small-town America.
Overall, I found it interesting but not really compelling. Yet another book tucked into the category of, "Huh? Oh, yeah, I've read that."
Zodiac is one of Neal Stephenson's earlier books, and it shows. A lot of the writing style that went into Snow Crash is there, but it's rougher. It's hard to pick out specific examples, but the whole book didn't feel to me that it flowed as well as it ought to have. On the other hand, the story was a decent one, and had several nice moments of chemistry geekiness that reminded me of the mathematically-geeky side trips in Cryptonomicon.
Surprisingly (at least to me), I liked the ending. I haven't really been happy with the endings of Stephenson's more recent books; I prefer something with a sense of closure. All three of his books that I've read (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon) had endings that felt unfinished. (Note that I don't mind endings that deliberately leave things open-ended, but I do like to feel that the main story has been resolved.) Regardless, Zodiac's ending did have closure, and I was happy with that.
So, it's a decent read, especially if you like Neal Stephenson's writing, but not really something I'd recommend going out of your way for.
The Time of The Dark
The Time of the Dark opens with a woman dreaming of events taking place in another world. By the second page this book, published in 1982, has already described something as "cyclopean". I, having read that description, was busy being depressed about the story, fearing that Hambly was aspiring to some Lovecraft-styled tale. (This would be a problem because most such imitations are bad ones.) Fortunately (so to speak), it's merely a run-of-the-mill fantasy story from the early '80s.
The book does carry a fairly obvious Lovecraft influence, mostly in the descriptions of ancient architecture and of the Dark, a not-terribly-nice race which is encountered early in the book. There was one particular description of some ancient ruins where I was enjoying some nice echoes of Lovecraft's style until she actually used the adjective "Lovecraftian". Oh, well.
So the descriptive writing wasn't too bad. The plot was, unfortunately, pretty standard stuff. People (a man and a woman) are transported from this world into another one where magic is possible and some great danger threatens. These two become instrumental in saving people from the danger. I was somewhat pleased to note that it wasn't completely textbook--the two did not fall in love with each other. On the other hand, the woman, a medieval scholar, discovers an innate talent for sword-based combat, while the man, a sometimes-biker and itinerant artist, finds that he can work magic and falls mutually in love with the widowed queen.
This is the first book in a series. I want enough to know what will happen that I'd read the next books, but if they're similar to this one, I'll probably be sighing at the clichéd fantasy conventions as I come to them.