it's hard to describe the plot of this one as it almost doesn't have one. there is a loose connection between events but it's verging on plotless. there are several characters (with some great fun names as in Star Well) and Villiers and Torv are just 2 of the ensemble. things come together at the end and i started thinking about Confederacy of Dunces by Toole and the way several characters story lines mesh at end, and also oddly enough of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow with some of the odd events and characters that pop up. i would have to say i am enjoying the light style which is still erudite with it's language and references, but to say that the actual plot enthralled me is not really applicable. it's verging also on not even being scifi as much of what happens could occur in any setting. on to Masque World.
I love Nabokov, but I will admit that this is not one that will draw people to him. I think he is a genius, with some of the most beautiful writing and style, and Lolita was a revelation to me: the word play, the love of language, the literary allusions. But with Ada, we have his Ulysses, which makes it a little difficult to follow at times.
It's even hard to describe the "plot" as such; it is a biography of Van & Ada written by Van, with "interruptions" by Ada, & the editor at times, with perhaps some typos by the typist... Basically it is a sprawling chronicle of Van & Ada's lives, and of their love (very sexual at times) for each other.
I want people to read him and listen to his works, but I would start with the more straightforward and accessible novels: King Queen Knave, Laughter in the Dark, Defense, Mary, and Lolita, and get a feel for the poetic style and the way he uses different forms to reflect the content (one of the things i love) and then go on to more experimentally styled work: Invitation to a Beheading (a favorite of mine & which a friend also loved), Bend Sinister (great title, great book) Pale Fire.....
Actually, this novel (& Nabokov) makes me wish America had a more European attitude towards education and other cultures and then anyone could grasp so much more of it.
And listening to it, you miss a lot of the word play. I read it some time ago and liked it and caught some of the play, and I caught other things this time, but there is soooo much of it; literally almost every sentence has some play or allusion.
I think Ada is a bit like Ulysses. You can follow parts of the story, and I don’t think it’s as bad as Ulysses, but it is so densely packed with wordplay, and puns, and funny names, and allusions to myriad things from obscure sex words to other Nabokov novels and characters, to historical and literary characters and Russian, French, British and American literature to the point that almost every line or word has multiple lines of play woven in. In that sense it is like Ulysses.
That said, there are several moments where when you pick up on something it is very funny and I have been laughing out loud a couple times, but still so much got by me.
There is a web site Ada Online striving to annotate the whole novel and if you check it out just look at the first page and you'll see what's behind the scene so to speak.
Lolita is actually very much like Ada in this respect but the narrative “through line” is actually followable if you don’t catch any of the play.
I was thinking today that he may be the most brilliant author I’ve read or heard of. the depth of his knowledge in so many areas is phenomenal, not to mention his discovery and naming of a butterfly and all that scientific lingo. He knows fluently enough to play and pun etc in Russian, French, English, with at least a bit of German, Spanish, Latin, probably Greek and touching on Old English & I think a little Norse in Pale Fire and who knows what else, and sometimes he's punning and playing across 2-3 languages within a single word or line.
It is rather daunting and humbling reading him, especially Ada and Lolita, but he is more fun to me than Joyce because you can follow so much of his stories to some degree. and looking up annotations and stuff for his work is like a school lesson in itself.
Ada is the most densely allusive and punning of all his work I believe. (it’s amazing to me all the scholars who are sifting through his stuff and finding new allusions and connections and word play everyday in multiple languages, how can any one mind connect all this? If you're interested check out Zembla, a site full of VN info and links and criticism)
& he’s always parodying authors and some come in for a rough time, as in this bit from Ada about TS Eliot, a favorite target : “…a banker who at 65 had become an avant-garde author; in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits…”
i like to study him because I learn so much. but there is a point at which with certain works, (and Ada, and Ulysses are examples and we can name others) the only people who can instantly grasp them and love them are scholars.
the thrill i felt first reading Lolita and Defense and other VN was a revelation really, such exuberant love of words and literature, and then I also love the way, more than anyone else i knew of, that he tried to find a form for his novel that reflected the content in some way, Pale Fire being the most obvious example of that. (as is Faulkner's Sound and Fury & I think Melville's Moby Dick and Kosinski's Painted Bird, and I could go on )
i think that with experimentation you still need a character to feel for, and lacking that you can become less engaged emotionally even though you admire the experimentation. I think that is one criticism of VN, especially his work like Ada, where the game is more important, at least it seems, than the characters. Lolita even with the game still enthralled me and I “connected” with Humbert and Lolita, they are great personalities that still dominate the game and don’t get lost in the word play.
finally I have to say I'm not too enamored with this narrator; his voice is a bit too dry, and he doesn't get into the language and voices very well. I think Jeremy Irons did a magnificent reading of Lolita, and I wish they had found someone of that caliber for all of Nabokov. Some of the narrators are very good with Nabokov's work, but some leave me wishing...
This is a very enjoyable quick book. There is so much packed into it that my interest never flagged. In fact, there are numerous ideas that could have generated at least short stories of their own, but they are only a part of this world.
I found myself thinking of many different novels that at least share an idea with this, enough so that I began to wonder how many authors and filmmakers perhaps read this and were influenced. There are moments like Stand on Zanzibar but crossed with Vonnegut. I thought of Inception, the Manual of Detection, Philip K. Dick, Matrix, with some Nabokovian wordplay tossed in.
Funny in places, thought provoking in others. For a novel written in 1971 (and translated In 1974) I thought there was a lot of great satire about the direction society was/is heading and it is surprisingly relevant to current society in many ways, and I think there are many serious cautionary items blended into the fabric of the world of the novel.
Here's one sample: Lubricrat: one who gives bribes. Derived from "greasing" of palms.
Tell me that's not applicable to our entire system of government, summed up in one word.
I'm not going to spoil anything, so have fun with it, I did.
Also, there's a movie coming soon, The Congress, which looks interesting, but from the movie blurb, it does not appear it will follow the novel. It may be they seized upon some element and developed something, we'll see. As I said, there are so many ideas which could easily be developed into some tangential story.
i didn't find this to be all that good actually. I liked Candy and Magic Christian which I read some time ago, and of course his work on Strangelove, but this seemed a little flat.
I kept thinking of Paddy Chayefsky and his dark humor and satire I think due to the Hospital film with GC Scott. The doctor in this is the best part, and even that could have been ramped up a bit. what this book lacks could very easily have been supplied by beefing up the doctor, which sounds odd since the story revolves around him, but something felt missing to me. it starts well and funny.
There is a very good courtroom scene early on where the doctor weasels out of trouble or at least tries to. That is done perfectly and is applicable to current times with all the double speak of corporations and politicians and I wish that line had been the whole novel. the alternating story fell flat for me.
it is short and so not a great expenditure of time if you want to try it.
I like the 1984 crossed with Dragon Tattoo aspect, with a little Gorky Park, and Silence of the Lambs, and Fatherland and episodic structure a bit like Red October with the movement in time and place.
this is a good mystery thriller/detective story and does it's job effectively. I can't rave about it due to fact it does ultimately follow the template of mystery/thriller genre (serial killer, clues, doubters, race against time) and though it doesn't do anything exceptional it does have some good characters, (couple of very good villains who are not the murderer). there are some formulaic aspects, but there are a few surprises along the way.
one thing i liked was that there are very few good guys actually, and a case could be made that there are none. this is partially due to the people being stuck in the repressive society which dictates their actions and controls their thinking.
actually, my favorite thing about this is the depiction of life within a dictatorship and the methods by which those at the top control everyone and information and the daily life struggle just to survive when you can't trust anyone. i think that part of the story was more engaging to me than the mystery part, actually there are a couple things regarding that i found to be a bit forced and too coincidental for my taste. but it is a page turner in many ways.
& it does seem at least to be well researched and author seems to be knowledgeable about Russia and it's political situation at the time. it appears to be the start of what might be a good detective series based in Russia of the 50s and 60s
this novel is like a spinning top that slowly winds down. great fun crazy action, then increasingly slow tedious slide toward a cliche ending coda to try to give it "gravitas". had I turned it off before the codas, i'd still be smiling.
1st the Good: let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the opening 1/3-half of the novel, the actual novel, not the Codas. I would even go so far as to say that I liked the whole thing up to about the 5:30 mark, which is, give or take, the end of the actual novel. The premise is very funny: the redshirt extra characters of a Star Trek-ian show who get killed willy-nilly as part of the away team, figure out that they are just that, expendable characters and thus try to survive long enough to figure out how to stay alive. The spoofing of Trek cliché’s is well done and funny and has been noted by every fan of the show. Then we get into some alternate reality stuff that still works fine towards explaining and resolving the issue.
2nd the Bad: I’m sorry but all of the Codas are a waste. Not only do they detract from the actual humorous enjoyment of the Redshirt story, but they are by turns irritating, not as funny as Scalzi thinks they are, boring, and predictable. He thinks that this meta-fictional addendum/continuation raises the literary level of the novel into higher planes. Sorry. Not only has it been done before in various guises, some of which he mentions, some he doesn’t (Hubbard’s Typewriter in the Sky, the only good thing he ever did; John Candy’s Delirious; and many others) but for a professional job try the master, Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation and/or Bend Sinister and others.
3rd the Poor: I’m sorry but writing 101 should stipulate “do not give major characters names that are so similar they confuse the reader as to who is who”, which itself is compounded by Will Wheaton’s uniform narration which differentiates no voices, not even female/male and thus Dahl & Duvall are easily mixed up, except for when…
4th The Ugly: incessant use of the attribution of dialogue in the “he said, she said, he said, she said"…ad infinitum…ad nauseum. This is plain and simple, UGLY writing . This smacks of laziness; of a lack of talent; of a poor editor; of a lack of respect for the reader.
So, all in all, I’d say that the first 5 & ½ hours are fun for Trek fans and the satire and for the premise itself, and then shut it off. 2 friends hit the kill switch at that point, one because the story was over, and the other who tried a little of the 1st coda and called it quits. I, unfortunately, kept going and it spoiled my enjoyment of the actual novel.
So I'd give the actual Redshirt novel 4 stars for being fun, I give the Codas 1 star though I'm sure Scalzi thinks they're precious, and I give Wheaton 2 stars as he lacks any type of vocal alterations for characters. I know some out there are going to say I'm being harsh, but there are excellent narrators out there, (Jim Dale who did Harry Potter has an amazing array of voices, Frank Muller's Moby is great, John Lee is very good, and recently the Bergmann Stand on Zanzibar was excellent) and Wheaton is at least at this point, not one of them.
Long ago I read a bunch of the early Uris and liked them very much and this was a favorite. While it is still good, and apparently based upon an actual libel suit against Uris concerning Exodus, it could do with some polishing.
It is well researched, as all Uris were supposed to be, and detailed and sets up the opposing sides well with perhaps too lengthy biographical stories. But I'm not a fan of the Cady character, partially due to his being a rather overblown masculine chest thumper type, but also and unfairly because the voice for him by Lee reminds me too much of Matthew McConaughey and his slow southern drawl which I do not care for. Do not misunderstand me, I think Lee is an excellent narrator 99% of the time, it's just that this voice got on my nerves.
Aside from that I don't have a problem with characters who are flawed or are unlikeable, but too many times i felt like Uris needed some more subtlety and less of Cady's speechifying which really went overboard. (Perhaps this was Uris way of spilling his feelings over his trial and while it is understandable, it is unfortunate that it gets in the way so often.) His blatant womanizing and near mysogyny was a bit much also.
The story has enough power in it's own right without beating us over the head with moralizing. & with a couple of trims a little more suspense could have been easily obtained, but there were some predictable elements.
I would be curious to revisit some other Uris for the historical drama and to see if they hold up. I kept thinking of Frederick Forsyth for some reason and how he might have done this, for there is an element to the style or content that's somehow similar, but early Forsyth was rather stripped down prose and I think this would have benefitted from that tightening up.
Still very good and the courtroom stuff is excellent, but there is a little too much at the end, a tacked on feeling to the last chapter, and it dilutes what could have been a powerful ending.
I remember Presumed Innocent and Anatomy of a Murder being exceptional courtroom dramas and at one time I thought QBVII was of their caliber, but perhaps not. Then again, it is hard to revisit any mystery or courtroom drama when you already know the surprise witness or testimony and the verdict and not feel a little let down. So I guess I'd say give it a try for the story despite some flaws.
As much as I liked Appointment in Samarra, I was let down by this. Overall I tired of the pointless drunken existence of these people.
On the other hand, I do think that it gives a sense of the times; the "lost generation"; the rote daily existence; those who don't take responsibility for their actions, or at least seek easy solutions; the constant alcoholism; double standards; aimlessness.
I guess I felt it was rather directionless compared to other "classics" of the period, even his own Samarra. The style is very Hemingway-esque for the most part.
Elements made me think of, and wish for the audio of, P.J. Wolfson's Three of a Kind (a great noir of the Cain Postman variety) but particularly for Is My Flesh of Brass?, (1934) a great novel concerning unscrupulous doctors and abortion that predates by a year Butterfield (1935).
novel: I very much like this one. It has some odd SF/horror elements that made me think of Well's Time Machine, not the time element, but the Morlocks and the Eloi. And then there is a little bit of the Man Who Fell to Earth identity confusion/struggle on the alien's behalf.
I don't want to give too much away, but there is a "huntress" looking for men. I thought there'd be a little more of the Piers Anthony Firefly idea but it's not really that at all. I do think a couple of the hunt episodes maybe run long, but not horribly. There is a rather horrific scene involving the men but in general I think the ideas are more horrible than any particular scenes. And in an odd way you come to identify with the girl. Much can be said about the ideas of body image and sexual attraction/predation.
film: If you are interested and want to see a very cool interpretation of this check out the film that just got released on disc/itunes. Artsy, impressionistic, very Kubrick-ian use of image, music, cinematography, and no easy answers and explanations. It is not a strict filming of the novel though but I thought it was fascinating.
in general i like Silverberg but i think this one fizzles at the end. a friend listened at same time and he felt basically the same as i do on all these points.
part one is the best section and contains the most interesting characters and aspects. it is the original short story/novella that won a hugo award and that is it's strength: it is an open-ended yet at least unified piece. there in lies the trouble, as he decided to continue or expand the story into a novel.
part 2 suffers from a slow down of the narrative and moves from the Rome(Roum) of part 1 into a journey to Paris(Perris) and while it has some interesting things, it really suffers from the absence of Avluela the Nightwing of the title, one of the more interesting characters.
Part 3 heads to Jerusalem(Jorslem) and picks up again with the help of the reappearance of Avluela but the novel ends with some interesting ideas that go undeveloped. The regeneration back to youth is good but I would have liked for that bit to come sooner and get worked with.
I like a lot of the stuff within the story, the guild structure of the society, the apocalyptic setting, the alien threat, the characters (especially in the first 1/3).
in fact there is a lot I like about this and if it had a re-worked middle, and a few things developed more at the end, it would have been very good. the main character Tomis, goes through some good development.
it reminded me of Canticle for Liebowitz, mainly for the setting that i at least envisioned, though it is very different and not of that caliber.
troublesome middle hinders this one i think.
in all honesty i am not a Keillor "fan" as his drawling voice gets on my nerves and so I never got into the show.
however, I tried this on a friends recommendation who is a fan of the book and GK in general and my trepidation over his voice didn't come into play. I thought he read this very well and the story itself was very funny at times. as I said, i do not listen to the show, so there may be characters and such that will be familiar to fans, i do not know, but it didn't matter to the story for me.
I enjoyed the odd small town characters and situations, though I think he missed a couple of opportunities for some real wacky incidents in the parade that would have been totally in keeping with the story. but i had fun with it, it did what it was supposed to and i may try another of the Wobegon stories.
GK does have a great funny short baseball story in the funny shorts collection that he also narrates, so maybe he's better, at least for me, in this format as opposed to the slow paced radio show. though i think his readings of poetry with billy collins is hit and miss.
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