YAKIMA, WA, United States | Member Since 2009
I had been looking forward to reading this for some time. I am an artist, a craftsperson who works with her hands. I form functional objects out of clay using artisan methods and traditional tools. My husband fixes machines, like motorcycles and cars and airplanes (and whatever else comes his way). I obviously share the author's value for physical work, craftsmanship and process.
I never finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, and at times this book, too, gets too much into motorcycles or cars specifically. I say this, knowing that for some readers this is what they are looking for. I, on the other hand, read the book for the discussion of manual labor and manual "arts" done for their own intrinsic and social value. I guess I would prefer a broader discussion that includes some discussion of my field, since I think it relates. (As I write this I realize that this sounds silly, I got what I ordered, I just want someone to make the connection between what I do and what this author does. Selfish, eh?)
Anyway, the book was interesting. If you think like him, read it and feel supported. If you are a newcomer to shop class, fixing things, making things, etc, read this and see why taking up the challenge of being a maker, a doer, of physically working through a problem or an idea is good for you.
The title space doesn't allow me to write my whole title: Probably the best short story collection I've ever heard. And certainly the one I've enjoyed the most.
I usually dislike short story collections because they seem to be all depressing and incomplete. These short stories feel just like small, complete books. Connie Willis is so talented and so good at crafting interesting, surprising situations and complex, lifelike characters. I can't get enough.
This collection also includes short messages from the author after each story. I loved these, particularly the one that talked about how she became a successful author. Inspirational and fascinating.
One qualm with the audiobook: My tracks were out of order for parts of two stories--the numbers were in order, but the reading jumped from the end of one story to the middle of "The Winds of Marble Arch" and then put in the afterward to the earlier story before jumping back to the start of the "Winds:. I'm still a little confused about "The first (middle) track I heard form Winds, but since everything else made sense, I didn't worry about it.
I've been listening to a bunch of Wheaton/Scalzi books lately. They never seem to disappoint. This one too.
The story is absurd and odd, but somehow everything makes sense and fits together. The author is talented at creating unusual characters, particularly alien characters, who don't operate based on our logic, but somehow their decisions still make sense based on their own motivations in the story universe.
Scalzi manages to give us enough made up backstory and "history" and cultural background to ground his characters in a "real" fictional world without bogging down the story with heavy info dumps.
Also, Will Wheaton is excellent.
If you're considering this one, you've read the other two already. No? Go read The Long Earth--now.
The Long Mars was as enjoyable and interesting as the two books that came before it. I always feel a series of connections to my own life, starting with the setting in Madison (sort of) where I used to live. I love that the authors talk about specific locations and connect their world to mine.
I had a little more trouble than usual following the timeline in this one, but I think I was distracted, maybe. I kept confusing which ship we were following on which trip. However, it didn't seem to matter much and I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Before listening to the book, I thought it sounded an awful lot like the time traveling series by Connie Willis. Willis' books are so good--and I've gone through them all--that I thought I'd try Taylor's. The voicing (as well as, probably the accent) and the odd sorts of things that happen remind me of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. The story reminds me of Willis and, sometimes, Fforde.
Unfortunately, both Fforde and Willis write better books than this one. Taylor's time traveling seems to be a rough copy of Willis' but with less rationality or logic. It may be silly to ask for logic when talking about science fiction, but I felt too many things in this booked happened that way because it allowed the author to easily dispatch a problem she had written in.
A lot happens in this book and it seemed really too much to handle carefully in one book. We are introduced to the main character, her life, her introduction to St. Mary's her first mission, second, etc, on through 5 or so years of her adventures before we even get to what might be the big adventure. But because of our fast paced introduction, we never really get to know most of the supporting characters particularly well. Things happen, then we're suddenly rushed past the results and the unsatisfactory explanation and we're racing on to the next event.
In Connie Willis' books, she gives us all the information we need to understand why things are happening in this future world and why they can't happen another way. We understand character motivation and the movement of the narrative is towards some significant events. Reading Willis I felt satisfaction in the resolution of conflicts or crises. Reading Taylor I just felt vaguely annoyed and vaguely entertained throughout. I also felt like several things that maybe were supposed to be surprises were telegraphed far ahead of time--or I'd read them before from another author. Or maybe they were just cliches.
Oddly, though I guessed a few secrets/surprises early on, while I listened there were several times when I missed the actual revelation of the secrets. The character had a mysterious something (no spoilers), then the event finished and later the character talked about how surprised she was by the revelation of the mysterious something. But when did anyone actually reveal the mysterious something? I didn't hear it--and I was listening with full attention. It happened at least twice.
As to the Fforde comparison, the zaniness and non-stop action seem similar (and there is a mention of bringing back the dodo). Fforde's writing is a zany, enjoyable ride. This book left me feeling uncomfortable throughout, asking three sorts of questions: How did that happen? When did they tell us that key bit of info? and Did Taylor actually steal these ideas from other authors?
The narrator was fine, but some differentiation between character's voices would have helped me keep track of dialogue in one or two spots where, even afterwards, I couldn't tell who was speaking.
I couldn't finish this book. I tried to get into it--a couple times--but failed. I imagine that the things that happen in the story could, in and of themselves, be interesting, but the whole tone of the book is depressing and sorta pointlessly so. I assume the author is foreshadowing awful things, in fact she mentions awful, depressing things that will happen in the characters' future, but don't really care to find out what they are.
To be fair, I really never have been much good at enjoying self-centered characters and depressing events in fiction. (I don't particularly mind them in non-fiction).
I didn't want to stop listening, so I guess it wasn't that bad but I get the impression other people liked it. I found the protagonist annoying and I didn't really care what he did, which meant I didn't really care what happened in the book. If I were reading this as a physical book and I lost it, I wouldn't try to find it.
As an audio file, however, I finished it. The writing is decent, no problems, so if you like sappy stories and immature slightly annoying by basically harmless characters, go for it.
The book was interesting enough in particulars, but I guess I wasn't expecting so many of the cases to be ones with which we're all fairly familiar. It was interesting to hear some of the stuff that went on behind the scenes or after the verdict, and I suppose this information flushes out our understanding of Roe V Wade, The Scopes Monkey Trial and the Mike Tyson trial, but I didn't find the impact of most of the cases mentioned to be particularly compelling. As for the interesting cases (Roe v Wade and Scopes), the author didn't reveal much I couldn't have guessed about the impact or repercussions of these cases.
Maybe I was expecting more of a history of the supreme court or then evolution of jurisprudence in the US.
I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't amazing. The focus on the nameless masses of history was interesting, though there was little that was really amazing or surprising.
If you like Great Courses, like I do, this one is not bad. Decent. Worth it if you find the topic intriguing and want something to listen to for a while during otherwise boring tasks.
I generally like specific histories like this but this one fell flat. Two major problems: first, Shakespeare is hardly a focus of the book, he's barely mentioned; second, I haven't been to London in more than a decade, so I don't really know where he's talking about most of the time.
The story would have worked better for me if he had connected the information to more familiar books, plays or histories that someone one this side of the pond would know. Or I'm an unlettered fool who doesn't know her Dickens well enough to care about the references Brown makes to his books. I would have been more comfortable with more connection to Shakespeare, Chaucer and Austen.
I really enjoyed the book. All of the technology references are laughably dated, but the biology, writing and explanations seem to hold up just fine.
The only question I have comes up late in the book. I would like to know Dawkins' thoughts on newer research that seems to support a variation of Lamarkism. Dawkins' vehemently objects to the idea and his evidence seems clear except that I've read about inheritance of acquired traits in recent periodicals and would like to know if any new information has caused Dawkins to adjust his opinions (or if they are still as strong and he finds the new research flawed).
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