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
This one's a worthy successor to Rusalka. More that's familiar Cherryh style, including characters worrying over their choices and not knowing which characters to trust.
Times Without Number
Times Without Number is a time travel story set in an alternate-history Earth. (Yes, the implications are pretty obvious. I won't comment on them until after the spoiler barrier.) The book was originally three separate short stories. For this publishing, Brunner reworked the stories to create one narrative from them. Nevertheless, the book breaks easily into three different sections, each following a particular event in the life of "Don Miguel Navarro, Licencate in Ordinary of the Society of Time". (The alternate-history is that the Spanish Armada successfully invaded England and Spain, instead of England, became the colonial empire of the West.)
The setting seems reasonably well-thought-out, if a bit chauvinistic. Women are second-class citizens, though that's generally presented as a bad thing. There are slaves, which exist and are never commented on. Native Americans are all referred to as Mohawks, though some do express indignation at this. Time travel is the sole dominion of the Catholic Church; the creator of the original device didn't think anyone else would behave properly with it. This book is probably not for anyone who would get offended at any of this. (It was written 1969; the original stories are from 1962. All well before political correctness came into vogue.)
Within the story are some reasoned explorations of various aspects of time travel. The Society has strict rules governing the use of the technology; naturally, the stories tend to hinge on the breaking of various of those rules. For me, this is the main reason to read the book. There isn't too much here that hasn't been explored in other time travel stories, but this one probably predates most others. Beyond that, the writing is decent, but not excellent, and it feels a bit dated.
Another element of the teeming horde that comprises Terry Pratchett's Diskworld novels, The Truth would probably be grouped with the subset featuring Ankh-Morpork's City Watch. That's not entirely accurate, because the story really revolves around William de Worde's newspaper, but the Watch is involved to a large degree.
I'm not entirely sure what to think about this book. The whole thing is very Pratchett, with plenty of sections that left me literally laughing out loud (sometimes to the concern of those around me). On the other hand, there were parts that I didn't feel really worked, such as Mr. Tulip's manner of cursing ("Too ---ing right"). I'd say that, on the whole, the book's satirical bent tended to interfere with the storytelling. It was good in pieces, but not necessarily in large chunks. Still, it's quite funny. Go ahead and give it a read.
Endless Nights is another book from Neil Gaiman in the world of The Sandman. It contains seven stories, one for each of the Endless. It is ... impressive.
Each of the stories captures the personality of one of the Endless. Possibly the weakest of them in that respect are Death's and Dream's, but they're also probably the most prominent characters in the Sandman series, so the lapse is forgivable, especially since Dream's gives some very nice backstory for the Endless.
Probably my favorites from the set are Desire's and Destiny's stories. Each is a succinct encapsulation of its respective Endless's personality, combined with some stunning artwork. Death's, Dream's, Delirium's, and Destruction's are all good stories, with excellent artwork of their own. Despair's story is probably the one most different from the others, and while it's very well done, I can't say that I enjoyed it, largely because it isn't really meant to be enjoyed. I'll say simply that it is very well executed, contains superb artwork, and I had to rest for a while after reading it to recover.
If you're a fan of Sandman, buy this book. If you're not familiar with Sandman, a lot of the point of this will be missing. It's probably still worth reading for the artwork alone, but the Endless are what really drive this book.
For my part, I'm very happy to place this book on my shelf beside my other Sandman novels.