In such a hermetic regime as North Korea, it is nearly impossible to give a sense of what its citizens go through every day. In one sense I was just curious as to what things were like in the DPRK, and didn't care for the personal stories as much at first. But it makes the realization that their country is a bankrupt dictatorship by these characters even more powerful at the end. I don't think you would understand the forces keeping the North Koreans under tabs had you not read this story. It's a little bit like seeing a primitive culture discover technology in a first world nation. However, what makes this even more amazing is that these two peoples are from the same nation. The narrator is a good reader, but an annoying tick happens when she breathes in before each new sentence. You will soon forget about this phenomenon, but it's good to at least be aware of it.
Galviin's voice, at once childish and slightly hoarse, is the perfect one to read this story. Woodrell's descriptions are always shaded with violence and desperation, and this tale of abject poverty in the snowy mountains of Appalachia benefits from all of them. Winter's Bone brings the reader into a the kind of world where you start to understand why hundred-year feuds still exist. The protagonist, a young girl named Ree, is already hardened but not invincible. As she navigates through fights with meth addicts and ignorant backwoods you start to believe she's on the most important mission of her life.
The information about how ant colonies develop, thrive, and die is pretty interesting. Nevertheless, the application of character development is never applied (nor, probably, could ever be applied) to these "characters." That's fine. It's interesting as a sort of nature documentary on the page, but it's the real "story" of the novel that is just pretty bizarre.
The story of the protagonist, Raph Sems Cody, is languid for the two thirds of the novel (discussing, basically, his love of the land over and over and over), proceeds to the description of a rather uneventful education, and then culminates in an incredibly random and illogical climax. The main protagonist, for some strange reason, is singled out for being some radical environmentalist, when he is in fact preaching a very mainstream message. The antagonists that Wilson creates probably exist somewhere at some time in the universe, but their miraculous appearance in this novel just ring false. Also, having the characters' dialog read aloud on the audio file just illustrates the ridiculousness of what they're saying, becoming vessels for abstract objections to the preservation of our natural world. At some moments, I actually thought: Wait, is this a joke? The end result of the novel is a slow and disappointingly unsatisfying story. But, you may never look at ants the same way again!
Lewis should be heralded for the way he takes a very complex idea (sub-prime mortgage default swap collateral debt obligations) and breaks it down into easy-to-understand language. If you were at all confused about how the financial system tanked in 2008, you'll be glad you read this book and also pretty disgusted at the kind of magical thinking that went on on Wall Street. But what makes this book readable is his characterization of three oracular entities (Mike Burry, Steve Eisman, and the Cornwall Capital Group) that foresaw the collapse before anyone else ever did. The characters come across as misanthropic, boisterous, and naive respectively and allow the reader to see the tragedy through three very different perspectives. A read you won't want to put down (...or turn off).
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