20 Dec 2017

A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro

Crude, rough edges. Kids on crack, teen rape. Story? Meh.

BUT--such good characters. Such weird tension/non-tension. Colour and angles.

Best line: Holmes looked like a weapon. Definitely reading the next one.

The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov (x2)

I was surprised at how quaint it was, with women—this is 3000 years in the future remember—relegated to cooking and cleaning for their working husbands. You could think up domed cities and accelerating sidewalks but couldn't imagine women cops?

Ok, but it's well-imagined and a good detective story. Thumbs up.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

Good fun, with dragons and bad kids. Bad kids that learn their lesson!

Only, I'm upset about the obvious Jesus stuff. Didn't really need to hear that. Hope it doesn't show through so much in the next books.

17 Nov 2017

Une rencontre

Une rencontre, Milan Kundera

I always get tricked on third airport books.

I got tricked on Marguerite Yourcenar's third airport book.

I got tricked on Jean-Paul Sartre's third airport book.

And now I got tricked on Milan Kundera's third airport book.

An airport book is a book I buy at the airport, to read on the plane. I read two awesome books by Marguerite Yourcenar before I bought Souvenirs Pieux at the airport, drooling, and then it turned out it was her autobiography.

I never realized I hated autobiography.

Then I read two awesome books by Sartre (really one), before I bought Les mots at the airport,
drooling, before I realized it was his autobiography.

This time, I realized I hated autobiography.

Finally, I read two awesome books by Milan Kundera before I bought Une rencontre at the airport.
It's not an autobiography, but it's kind of an autobiography.

There's something funny about these autobiographies from great writers. They turn out to be—well it should be obvious—narcissistic, like they're welling in their words after a bit. But they start awesome.

Une rencontre's saving grace is that it has lots of munchy book recommendations in it. Only reason I forced myself through it.

8 Oct 2017

Blue Murder

Blue Murder, Emma Jameson

The second in Emma Jameson's intriguing Lord and Lady Hetheridge murder mystery series. In an improbable setup—an English baron works as chief inspector for New Scotland Yard, and falls in love with a brilliant subordinate half his age—murder mysteries get resolved.

Yes. Mysteries get resolved. That's the good thing about murder mysteries: without any effort on your part, other than turning pages, you are presented with a mystery that gnaws at you for a while and then is given a perfect solution. Ending the gnawing.

I am a bit confused about the change books seem to be going through: where these works of very light reading appear in the same positions as books that require thought. When I say "positions," I mean the Kindle Bookstore.

The two types have two different uses. A review of one should not use the same criteria as a review of the other. I have to admit though that until recently I did not believe that books should be categorized into "light" vs. "heavy" reading.

I do now.

This is a light story, similar to Emma's previous instalment, but not as good. There are distracting elements such as the ponderous presence of the "nemesis" character who does not actually do anything: he is clearly introduced to benefit the series, not the story, but takes space nevertheless. And the relationship between the series-titular Lord and Lady continues to be—while attractive—arhythmic. Both too slow and too fast.

Setting up a murder mystery series with cops as the central characters is the perfect feeder for infinite content. But I feel it's a bit sloppily told and I keep getting bumped out of the book and into reality.

Ice Blue

Ice Blue, Emma Jameson

Pretty good, light murder-mystery, cops-in-love read. Better than most cheap books, if slightly awkward.

Don't pay more than two euros.

19 Aug 2017

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

The idea is inspired, but not the execution.

You can tell it's written by a pro, a good writer. The imagination is subtle: you feel it is boundless, due to the little bits of fantasy you get in all domains, from jewelery to politics to language to food.
And yet it is moderate—what's the word for "correct dosage?:" that's how the imagination is used.

Unfortunately, the characters are dull, and the story is dull. Like Dick had this great idea but sat on it too long and forgot how he wanted to go about it, but did it anyway.

Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis

I am disappointed that the children left Narnia.

The possibility has been opened that it's all in their imagination. This weakens the story, I find.

Apart from that, it's lovely.

11 Jul 2017

Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon, James Hilton

I'll be.

There is tight skill in these 1930's wedge-wads.

Like Henry James: a story that neither begins nor ends, but whittles to its core.

6 Jul 2017

La possibilité d'une île

La possibilité d'une île, Michel Houlebec

Playful, decrepit, irresponsible whimsy disguised as careful optimism.


3 Jun 2017

The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His Boy, C. S. Lewis

Good one: emotion, adventure, suspense. And that twist.

5 Mar 2017

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis

Not as good as the first one. Less architectural, although walking through coats until they become a forest is cool.

Ending is kind of disappointing. The victory of the heroes is assured by the sudden machination of "deeper magic." I wish this deeper magic had been mentioned in the beginning.

That's the thing about stories: they work when the element of resolution is something that has made its appearance early, then has been forgotten. When the resolution just comes out of nowhere, like when suddenly the hero can fly or stop time or something, it doesn't feel like a story.

Still like reading it, though.

11 Feb 2017


Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

Such an epic idea and series of ideas, with such realized potential that the structural flaws mostly around its ending only make me admire its epicness.

Let's do away with the flaws: the price, first of all. Twelve euros is steep for an e-book, but hell. And the narrative is too fast at the end. A hundred important things happen but all with very little tension, as if the plan was complete but the publisher rushed the book out the door.

To create tension, you miss twice then bullseye the third time. Let me be clear: the last sixth of Seveneves, after flawless execution of the first five sixths, is a string of bullseyes. All that's missing is the "misses," those teasing narrative events that tell you you're getting close to the big reveal but which make you think everything's gone to hell. It feels like Stephenson had the entire plan written out, but for the very last part the publisher rushed the book out the door. Nevertheless, since the GOOD parts got written, it's still a good read.

We're left with: A catastrophe novel of immense, epic ideas, relentlessly coming one after the other; A funny novel, with funny characters and an unthinkable optimism in the face of the most unthinkably biggest disasters that could ever occur; and bunch of good little stories within a good big story. Don't spend twelve euros, but read it.

Update: for some reason Google Plus is re-publishing this post every time I make a small change, while Google Blogger is reverting my text to old versions and deleting key paragraphs. Hopefully, this will be the last correction.