Lifelong passionate reader. Mysteries, Fantasy, and Non-Fiction of various sorts. Currently reading a fair amount focused on WWI and the interwar years. (I have no idea why.)
Sometimes you read a "great" or critically acclaimed book and all you can think is "What?!?! WHY?" This is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and I have no idea why. I will admit I was skeptical from the first. This is not my first post-apocalyptic book, movie or video game. And my response to the promos for the movie, was "Not again." But it is always unfair to judge a book by its movie, and there was that Pulitzer, so I thought I'd give it a go.
OK, the writing is excellent. The actual sentences, quite lovely. Think Faulkner or Hemmingway. It was that and the shortness of the book that kept me going. I may consider reading something else McCarthy has written.
But the story he puts together with those sentences is bleak, unoriginal and often just silly.
The world has ended in some unspecified all encompassing cataclysm 5-8 years before the events of the book. This is not the end of civilization or life as we know it, this is the end of life on earth. There are no living plants or animals. Not just on land, the oceans are dead as well. Not even the fungi seem to have survived. This is an all but complete sterilization of the planet. Except for people. People survived in great numbers, at least for a little while. No roaches or rats, but human beings made it. This is patently ridiculous.
How are people surviving? Scavenging. There are a few, mainly solitary, good guys and bands of evil, viscious, raiding cannibals. Wait? Have you heard this one before?
The good guys in this book are a man and his son. They are walking to the ocean for no reason whatsoever. They had to leave where they were, because they couldn't survive there any longer. OK, I can buy that, but why the ocean? Good a place as any, maybe, but they have to cross mountains in winter to do it. If the guy is that stupid, how did he survive this long? They have to scavenge food along the way and find mainly pork and beans, and canned peaches and pears. What is it with pork and beans and the apocalypse? Five to eight years after the end of the world peaches, pears and pork and beans are going to be long gone. Maybe you'd find sardines, artichoke hearts and a fair amount of salad dressing. The shoes are all gone, but not the canned pears. Please.
Even if your post-apocalyptica only goes back as far as Road Warrior, (instead of say, On the Beach) you seen this all before. And if you've thought about it at all, you know how hopeless the future is if people are only surviving on the scavenged remnants. A future requires production of food and other basic necessities.
The man is an idiot. He walks away from a well stocked and reasonably well hidden bunker to continue on his pointless quest to get to the ocean, when he could have at least waited out the winter. He talks about being one of the good guys and keeping the fire alive, but he avoids other people if he can help it at all, and leaves those he can't avoid worse off than he found them. The kid wants to be with other people and help them. The innocent child who retains his humanity. If the kid is supposed to be the moral center, it would have been nice to get beyond the cliche.
McCarthy has created a world of utter futility and hopelessness. No plants=no life. The world is pushed well past the breaking point, but that never really gets faced. The boy's mother, in what seems to be a perfectly rational answer, kills herself before the story begins. The man survives for his son. Until he can't. The boy gets to live a little while longer with people who might actually be nice. Bleak, bleak, bleak, tagged on happy ending.
In summary, all the usual, and often silly, tropes of the genre wrapped in well written prose. No character really faces death, or much of life, nor is the world redeemed.
If you are a Dan Brown fan, have at it! It's a page turner. Lots of twists and turns. You probably won't want to read any further in this review.
I can't believe I let myself get suckered in twice. I first read Dan Brown before The Da Vinci Code was released. I was working as a bookseller at the time and read one of the many Advanced Reader copies sent by the publisher. I thought it was a fast, light read; rather like reading a movie. But there was nothing to get me to read the rest of his work. (Although, I did enjoy the movies.) And his idiosyncratic writing style makes me a little crazy.
The writing is not improved in Inferno. Mr. Brown has an annoying habit of . . . abusing ellispes to . . . create tension and . . . suspense. When I see this I start hearing William Shatner read the book in my head. My high school English teacher would not be amused, and neither am I. Cheap manipulation.
When reading fiction, I need to be able to maintain my willing suspension of disbelief. If it's fantasy or science fiction, I can stretch my imagination a long way, as long as the world building is consistent. But if the book is set on this world, and in the present time, then the world should be consistent with the world I know, and people should act like human beings. And this is my main objection to Inferno. If I'm going to trust an author enough to go along for this wild conspiracy ride, then I need all the mundane details to be solid. And Inferno is filled with absolute howlers.
It all started for me with the IV. I won't go into details, but I don't think Mr. Brown has ever has an IV in his arm. "What? WHAT? Oh, please." Then there was this: " . . . Functioning without his memory felt like attempting to land a plane in the dark with no radar." Attempting to land a plane in the dark with no radar would be like trying to navigate in a car with no satellite radio. Lights, Dan. You need runway and landing lights to land a plane in the dark. He has a character ride a BMW motorcycle, which he describes as having a smooth running four cycle engine. Every road going motorcycle built for at least the last 3 or 4 decades has a four cycle engine. He has this same motorcycle fishtail to a stop leaving rubber on the road. BMW motorcycles have anti-lock brakes, have had for a long time.
While this can seem like nit-picking, his plots and codes are built on details: the details of a painting, verses of a book or the structure of a building. And he wants you to believe that his secret organizations actually exist in the real world, he's just changed their names. He wants you to believe that he has done meticulous research. He somehow has access to these mysterious organizations, but he can't talk to a nurse, a pilot or a motorcycle rider.
As a whole, yes, it's a rip roaring yarn, and will probably make a good movie. But to enjoy this as a book, you'll need to be far more forgiving and flexible in your willingness to believe than I am.
I don't normally read memoirs, but this title caught my eye. Not life altering, but an enjoyable read. I laughed out loud, I cried, I laughed while crying. This is a book written by a comedian, afterall. If you are not a liberal, you will probably not enjoy this book. But if you get your news from The Daily Show, read on.
I really enjoyed the first in this series, The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q Series #1) - Jussi Adler-Olsen, and this one was a bit of a let down. There was a snarky sense of humor in the first book that was absent here. Also, there was very little mystery to the mystery. This is one of those stories that spends a great deal of time with the bad guys, so you know what they did, and why, (if there really can be said to be a motive) all along. This has never really been my cup of tea. I would much rather fumble along and discover the who and why with my flawed detective heroes. We don't get to see Inspector Morck until Chapter 3.
But while I found this book a bit disappointing, it wasn't without enjoyments. Department Q is growing, and causing more problems to the higher ups. Assad, with a diminished role here, continues to be interesting and, perhaps, even more mysterious. There are hints that we will eventually get to explore the mystery of what happened to Morck and his partners. Rose, the department's newest member, is sadly under-developed, but promising. And the relationships in Morck's life continue to humanize him. I just wish the book had stayed with these folks and spent less time with the villains. For one, I don't really need, or want to see the crime as it happens, and two, time spent with them means less development of the characters I do care about and have become invested with.
I will keep on with at least the next book in the series.
There is never enough time to read all the books I want to read and it's always a challenge to pick the next book. Should I read just for fun or should I challenge myself a little more? Genre? Non-fiction? Something new or a classic? I took the easy way out recently and decided to re-read a fun book, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. I read this when it first came out and remembered enjoying it. But a short way into it this time it occurred to me that I would probably enjoy it all the more if I'd actually read Jane Eyre. So I took a long intermission, and finally did it.
And it wasn't all that painful. I've studiously avoided chick-lit my entire life. When classmate were reading Laura Ingals Wilder, I was reading Jack London. Jane is a pretty plucky heroine through most of the book. It does end with her finding her ultimate fulfillment in marrying her man, which works as a romance, but feels like a bit of a sell out. Yeah, Rochester is the better lover, but St. John wasn't entirely wrong is his assessment of her character.
When I got back to Thursday Next, it was much more enjoyable. And much less like watching Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead without knowing Hamlet. Having a reason to read Jane Eyre, other than "I should" kept me at it and paying closer attention that it would likely have done otherwise. I didn't know which bits I might need to remember. So, kinda like a school assignment, but much more frivolous and fun.