Townhouse Books

Thursday, June 30, 2005

To the point of breaking, the rope was stretched.

Guardian Unlimited Books | Special Reports | To the point of breaking, the rope was stretched.: "To the point of breaking, the rope was stretched. At the end of which hung a twitching, whey-faced Arthur, and his pig, Marmite."

From the winner of Dave Eggers' short story contest: To the Point

400 word short short story.

I don't care for animal violence. Even if the pig was not slaughtered I'm not sure if I can handle this story. It is robust though and worth taking a glance over.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell

I liked this book very much

I would compare it to Ghostwritten, Of course the difference being that Ghostwritten, is Cloud Atlas is There are common elements However, the book itself reads like each story was published as a pamphlet, and then opened in the middle and stapled one on top of each other. that tie the stories together.harder to describe.like a collection of short stories where an element is common to all. because of the manner in which it weaves narratives.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be distracting at first. Please read it.

-Jason

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Mao II: Don Delillo

I finished this a few weeks ago and should have posted then, as now I've forgotten much of this book. Which says something about it too.

Impressions: depressing, sometimes exhausting to read, sad people floating about barely impacting each other's lives. Fascinating description of a Moonies' mass wedding. Some neat though mostly unbelievable characters, Karen "Are you here to deprogram me" being the most interesting.

The plot centers around Bill Gray, an reclusive Thomas Pynchon sort of novelist, and the mental and physical route he takes to eventually try to help a writer being held hostage in Beirut. He is taken care of by his almost stalking assistant and their former-Moonie mutual lover. Bill agrees to meet with a photographer who is creating a collection of pictures of writers, and his consent to the photo indicates that his metamorphosis is already in progress.

The only other Delillo I've read is "White Noise." I was going to read "Libra" next, but I think I'll take a break from him. Although there were images and situations I enjoyed in the book, not a single line of dialog rang true or even possible. Imagine "Gilmore Girls" on speed. In the book, the subjects the characters address are far bigger and smarter than the snarky mother and daughter's, but it's still as annoying.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Push Patterns : Jay Campbell

Here's an interesting science fiction short story I found on BoingBoing a while ago. It's short enough that I'm not really going to publish a review other than to say that it's pretty good and it's your typical end-of-history story, about which I'll write something soon.


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Friday, June 24, 2005

State of Fear: Michael Chrichton

I just finished up listening to this book, and it did keep me entertained. Don't think of it as a book, but instead a mediocre lecture with murders, near death experiences and journeys to exciting locations.

Conspiracy Level: 9/10
Enjoyment reading: 3/5
Recommended: 3/5


Jason

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About: Mil Millington

I actually finished Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington (no lie) a while ago, but only recently got around to posting it. It was recommended by Christopher (by way of Amanda?).

First, the cover is a little weak, although the Japanese cover is a little scary. And that is pretty much everything bad I have to say about it. Other than that, it's nothing short of delightful and laugh-out-loud hilarious.

I'd tell you what it's about, but the title pretty much captures it. Oh, the main character, Pel works in a library and to that end I tried to imagine it as the place all of our librarian friends work. Impossibly, this makes it even funnier. Oh and I think I fell in love with Ursula. The ending kinda bugged me at first, but when I finally digested the novel as a whole it just fit (that or I got over it).

Favorite Lines:
"He's a sensitive child."
"Death spurned my open, beseeching arms."

By the by, he's making it into a screenplay. I like to imagine Ewan McGregor as Pel and Britney Spears as Ursula (hey! you can imagine it how you want, I'll imagine it how I want). I suspect he'll have to write a different ending for the movie. Oh, and it's based on his website.

I'd give it 4.5 out of 5 stars (I wouldn't want to crush Mil's hopes of ever writing anything better). It totally rocked.


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Strangest Books We've Read

Justin: Signal to Noise: Eric S. Nylund - The title was cool and it started kinda like I thought, you know -- all cyberpunk, and then it just...totally...flips...out... I have the strangest desire to re-read it.

Jason: Illuminati: RAW (Robert Anton Wilson) - I can't imagine anything stranger than this book really, and I don't count it as an ultimate waste of time. (I wouldn't say it was the best book I ever read either) Zombie Nazi's are always a nice touch but that rock band (the AMA (yes, the American Medical Association)) kind of hurt the plot I think. (*looking back at it now, I can't remember the actual title of this book) Do not mistake this for Larry Burkett's book "The Illuminati" (UTTER TRASH--not the good kind)


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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame - edited by Robert Silverberg

When I was 12 I was given a copy of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. I had read lots of science fiction before that but these stories were different and just better. I read "Arena" and was hooked. I ended up reading it through several times until I lost track of it a when I was 15 or so.

I went on to read lots of classic science fiction from writers like Niven and Heinlein but these classic stories always stayed with me. So when a question came up on AxMe I immediately recognized it and within two days I had my very own copy.

If you don't own a copy of this book, go out and buy it. Today.

But then again, I'm biased. If you'd like a taste try the first story: A Martian Odyssey.


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Monday, June 20, 2005

Sunshine: Robin McKinley

I'm torn on how to feel about this book. McKinley's The Hero and the Crown was one of the defining books of my childhood. I still re-read it when I need some comfort. She's a subtle, wry, baroque writer. Occasionally slips into florid, in a good way. But her characters are complex, and sarcastic, and The Hero and the Crown is some of the best high fantasy -- best literature -- I've ever read.

That said...she's historically written high fantasy. Even Deerskin, a re-telling of a fable about abuse, manages to weave an atmosphere of helplessness despair without using extremely frank language. And I mean that in a good way.

This new one, Sunshine, is totally different. Several of the blurbs describe it as a good read for Buffy fans, and I'd agree, which is partially why I'm posting it here. It's engrossing and funny and told in the voice of a smart, dry-witted 19-year-old. But in a lot of ways, even though it's the most "adult" of her books in terms of language and sex, it doesn't quite seem as dense and layered as some of her "juvenile" literature.

I'd still call it heads and shoulders above your average fantasy read. But I'd also daresay that The Hero and the Crown, Deerskin, or The Door in the Hedge are better literature.

ETA: What a snotty way to end a review! I should say, "literature" as defined by my own personal tastes. Also read her retellings of Beauty and the Beast. And don't mistake this for a recommendation against reading Sunshine. It's just different than the books that first introduced me to her work. And how dare authors change, how dare they!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Saturday:Ian Mcewan

4.5 out of 5 stars

Thought provoking day in the life of a British Neurosurgeon. The main character spends a Saturday preoccupied by a lot of different things. He is 10% Jackass, 5% pretentious, 50% Loving Family man, 35% existential philosopher.

I enjoyed the way that he dissected every stuation as if he was in the operating room. His family is interesting, and offers a nice contrast to his otherwise sterile personality.

Well worth the read.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

SF - I'm ready to delve again

I almost hesitate to post this here, knowing the response could be enormous, but I know there also is no better place.

After going to a Science Fiction writers and readers reception at this library conference I'm currently attending in Toronto, I am ready to get back into SF. I spent much of my undergrad reading a lot of fantasy and SF, but then moved away from it for whatever reason. After listening to the writers, however, I can't wait to hit the library and check a few out.

So. Science fiction recommendations? Space, not swords please. Thanks. I do, however, intend to reread and finish Wheel of Time someday after he dies. Newer books and classics too. I've missed a lot.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

Kay is a modern master of story telling and one of my favorite authors (props to Todd for originally recommending him). I was delighted to discover that he had written a new novel recently (school generally keeps me away from the bookstore).

I hold Kay to a high standard; this historical fantasy falls short.

Last Light takes place roughly when the balance of power begins to shift toward the Anglcyn (English) from the Erlings (Vikings). Characterization is strong and there are at least three stories which become intertwined, making it difficult to summarize succintly. I will not try.

Unfortunately, women play only a minor part. Kay's novels often have a certain sense of romantic fate which is either executed poorly or missing from Last Light. Also, magic in Kay's world has an alien, incomprehensible mystique (think LeGuin or Tolkein, not Jordan). The character's in Last Light struggle directly with this "half-world". For another reader, this might be compelling while I found it to lessen the sense of the extraordinary.

If you never read anything by Kay, then you're missing out. Of course, if you only read Last Light, you're still missing out. I suggest The Lions of Al-Rassan (which avoids magic altogether) or Tigana (Todd's favorite).

Oh, uh. Let's say 3 out of 5 stars (but this was mainly because I felt let down).

Ciao,
-jch


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