Posted tagged ‘novel’

Review: The Stars My Destination

February 12, 2009

I think The Stars My Destination may have just become my favorite s.f. novel ever.  The economy of the novel is stunning.  Bester packs as much into the a little paperback as Neal Stephenson does into one of his phonebooks passing for novels.

The background of the story is that the human race learns how to teleport, and almost instantly society collapses.  Transportation dies, then the economy goes, then an interplanetary war breaks out.  That has almost nothing to do with the plot by the way.

The plot focuses on the life of Gully Foyle, a “common man” driven to madness after a rescue ship passes him by while stranded in space.  Through sheer force of will he manages to survive and reinvent himself three time over in his quest for revenge against the ship that left him to die.  Fairly straight forward until he encounters feral scientists, irradiated psychologists, and the perils of high society.

But where Bester really shines is his use of language.  Foyle seemlessly shifts between various high and low dialects throughout his quest, all of which conveys as much about the culture in the novel as any info dump could.  Then there’s the bit where Foyle comes down with synesthesia and Bester just cuts loose with a burst of typographic wizardy that no other author has ever been able to successfuly copy.

The end result is one of the most enjoyable, action packed, and modern novels I’ve ever encountered.  Oh and did I mention it was written in 1956?

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Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

November 30, 2008

Another vacation, another audiobook (as well as another housing disaster).  This time it’s Jack Finney’s horror classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Now after my slight disapointment with other novel turned iconic film last week I went into this with a small sense of worry.

Fortunately that proved to be entirely uncalled for as the book proved to be far superior to what I had envisioned.  Beforehand I was imagining a book filled with Red Scare/Joe McCarthy inflected paranoia that I felt had become synonymous with this work.  None of that is actually here, instead what’s present is one of the purest examples of the horror genre.  

The essence of horror is about discovering that the world around does not actually conform to your view of it.  Most of the time this is simply manifested by some peril faced by the protagonists, showing that the world is simply more frightening or dangerous.  But here the central premise is that the world contains things that entirely defy explaination.  

This is flat out one of the best horror novels I have ever read, and all the adaptations of it that exist are only pale immitations.

Review: The Maltese Falcon

November 23, 2008

Me reading the Maltese Falcon is something long overdue.  The movie is one of those in competition to be my favorite film, and probably every third book I read has been influenced by it in some way.  But coming to it from that perspective made for a slightly odd reading experience.

I like to think I’m pretty good at being able to judge different manifestations of a single story on their own merits, but this time I just couldn’t do it.  Dashiell Hammett’s whole shtick as an author was to use as few words as possible to tell a story.  The Falcon is a fairly short novel, considering that it’s possibly the cleverest crime novel ever written with its allegiances that shift seemlessly between pages and the amazing word play between the characters of Sam Spade and Casper Gutman.  But I totally failed to not hear Bogart and Greenstreet in my head while reading the book, and as for the condensed narrative, after the movie the lengthy descriptions in the novel feel out of place.

So I’m sorry but I don’t think I can really review this book objectively.  Suffice to say it is a classic of the form, probably the classic, and deservedly so.  But if given the option, read the book first for best results.

Review: The Graveyard Book

October 9, 2008

The Graveyard Book is Neil Gaiman’s welcome return to the realm of YA fiction.  The last time he tread these waters (not counting Interworld, which he plotted) he came up with Coraline a book that to paraphrase the author, children would love but which would give their parents nightmares.  It was pretty good too, winning a Hugo, a Nebula, a Bram Stoker award, and picking up a nomination for the Carnegie Medal.  Gaiman is an incredibly gifted writer, being the most natural storyteller working today next to perhaps Jane Yolen.

So my expectations were pretty high for this book, and it doesn’t quite match them, but it does come pretty damn close.  The story has the annoyingly high concept of the Jungle Book in a cemetery.  I think the premise bothers me more than anything else really, it’s just one too many gothic fables and I think the fad is begining to pass at last.  

But besides that the book is written masterfully.  The story is structured as a series of shorts, that can be read equally well as individual pieces or as a whole.  Gaiman also shows an incredible level of respect for his target audience.  I think this story is aimed at the tween crowd, but there is plenty here that will appeal to adults as well.  Given the material, there are some horror elements in the story, with quite a few frightening scenes and some violence early on.  But I think it still manages to stay age appropriate at all times.

This book is definitly a must for Halloween this year.  And if your kids like it then maybe they’ll be ready to try Kippling next.