Tag Archives: reading

Book 20 – Tower of Glass

I read Tower of Glass with my Beloved, and it took a long time, as the baby seldom lets us read for very long at a time any more. Borrowing heavily from themes in Brave New World, this book tells of a story where all the menial labor is done by androids, of the egotistical man who invented them, and of the religion that they form around him.

Fascinating, and very thought provoking, particularly if you accept the notion that we could one day create cloned humans.

This was recommended by @stevestoneky, one morning at the bus stop.

Book 19 – A Prayer for Owen Meany

It’s actually been a few weeks since I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany. It was loaned to us almost a year ago, and it took me a while to get around to it. I had previously attempted to read Cider House Rules, and it didn’t really catch my attention. But Owen Meany had me hooked almost from the start.

Set in the Vietnam war era, and in the years just before and after, it tells the story of two young friends as they grow up together in a small town.

I found the heavy-handed use of foreshadowing and leaping back and forth in time to be a little much, but it turned out to be the hook everything hung on, so it’s worth putting up with. The story is great, and the characters are enjoyable and believable.

Apparently there’s been a movie loosely based on the book, but from what I can tell (I haven’t see it) it leaves out the parts of the story that I found the most interesting.

Book 18: The Kite Runner

Looking back over my reading list for this year, either this book, – The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, or The Wednesday Wars, is the best book so far this year.

Although terribly sad, as any book about Afghanistan is bound to be, this book was all about redemption, and taking responsibility for our actions. The book is brilliantly written, and I was very surprised to find out that it wasn’t based on actual events. However, the author is in fact from Kabul, and grew up there, and many of the characters are based on actual people he knew.

Apparently the movie is really good, too, and I’m looking forward to seeing that once my Beloved has read the book.

Book 17: The Book Thief

A few days ago I finished reading The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I kept wanting to like this book, all the way to the end, but mostly found it annoying. The story is narrated by Death, which really doesn’t work, as he’s not there for most of the story, and so has to make up a variety of reasons why he knows the story. I found the narrator very distracting. The story itself was interesting, but the narration style came close to ruining it most of the way through.

I’ve read several other books about Nazi Germany recently, including The Boy Who Dared, and I’m always struck by the willingness of people to go along with the scapegoating and persecution of their friends and neighbors. I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise me, given how we treat minorities in the USA. It terrifies me to think how little it would take to turn us into those people. We say it could never happen again, but of course it has happened repeatedly since 1945, all over the world.

Anyways, back to the book. I’m glad I read it, but I really can’t give it the glowing review that I’ve seen other places. The jumping around in time is disorienting, and the narrator’s constant interruptions, announcing that he’s the narrator, is very distracting. I prefer for a narrator to be invisible.

Having said that, it’s worth noting that everyone I have mentioned the book to, who has read it, says that they loved it. So perhaps you should go read someone else’s review.

Book 16: The Remains of the Day

I just finished reading The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I saw the movie years ago, and this is one of those rare cases where the movie almost lives up to the promise of the book. This is mostly because Sir Anthony is such a brilliant actor.

The story of a butler trying to maintain the dignity of his position among the great events of the pre-war years is heart-breaking and ennobling. Highly recommended. Worth reading again. I LOVED this book.

Book 15: Brave New World

Just finished reading Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. This is another on my long list of “I should have read that a long time ago”. It’s easy to see that many of the other sci fi books I have read in recent years have borrowed heavily from this book. The ideas of eugenics and pleasure-controlled society are disturbing. I suppose, like 1984, one sees the things from the book happening in today’s society, which is, of course, what these books are about – a warning about what we could become.

Book 14: Snow Crash

Book 14 was Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. It’s been on my list for several years. As a whole, the story was great, and the descriptions both of cyberspace (“The Metaverse”) and programming were some of the best I’ve seen in sci fi. He explains programming in ways that any layperson would be able to comprehend it. Well, any layperson who reads sci fi, anyways. 🙂

I found the lengthy conversations with the computer – lectures, really – to be tedious and somewhat preachy. It would, of course, give away much of the story to tell what I found most irritating about these lectures, so I won’t. However, I find the general sci fi bias against faith to be unnecessary and something of a cheap shot.

While I don’t think that hacking/programming/being online will ever be quite what is described here, the interaction between Reality and The Metaverse is fascinating and well played out. His description of Google Earth, 20 years before it was invented, was awesome. I imagine that, at the time, it must have seemed absolutely magical, but now it’s sort of The Way We Do Things.

As always in well-written sci fi, I’m fascinated by what predictions are still magical, and which ones are just every-day occurrences now.

I’m now reading The Tempest, and might get back to Cider House Rules at some point.

Book 13: The Wednesday Wars

Book 13 of 2011 was The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt.

When it started with the “I am a 7th grader” voice, I thought this would be a book to endure. It very quickly became something that I’d call one of my favorites so far this year. It made me want to read Shakespeare. It made me cry. It made me laugh. The was an amazingly well written book, telling a wonderful story, and managing to really be *about* something.

It was about the Vietnam war, and about finding out who you are, and about learning that not all literature – even Shakespeare – is drudgery and boredom.

Recommended to you, and to your 7th grader.

Book 12: Mona Lisa Overdrive

And last night I finished Mona Lisa Overdrive (by William Gibson). It’s not as good as the first two of the series, but it’s still a great story, and answers some of the questions left by the other two books. I think of the three, Count Zero is my favorite. Strangely, every single review of the series that I’ve seen says Count Zero doesn’t measure up to the others, and that Mona Lisa Overdrive is the best, so I suppose it’s all about preference and which characters you most relate to.

Now I’m reading Master and Man, by Tolstoy.

Book 11: Count Zero

In college I took a overview of Science Fiction with Richard Sherry. We read, among other things, Neuromancer by William Gibson.

It made no sense to me at all.

I read it again, years later, after working with the Internet for a few years, and it made much more sense.

A few weeks ago I started reading Mona Lisa Overdrive, and realized about half way into it that it was the same people as in Neuromancer, and that Count Zero came between them.

I finished Count Zero yesterday, and am now picking up where I left off in Mona Lisa Overdrive.

Overdrive is one of those science fiction stories that folks tell you you’re supposed to read, along with Foundation, and Snow Crash, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, but for whatever reason I never did, even though I started the trilogy 20 years ago.

I don’t know how anybody could understand the story, however, without having read Neuromancer, but many of the people I’ve talked to who have read Overdrive, haven’t read the first two. I think I might go back and read Neuromancer again, to clarify a few points.

What I enjoy the most about Gibson – and, indeed, much of the science fiction written around the same time – is seeing what he got right and what he got wrong about technology, and what he predicts is still to come as we run out of resources, but continue to push the envelope with technology.