This was disappointing for me, especially after reading the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84. In those everything hinted at second meanings, compelling me forward through a fascinating and surprising new worlds. This -- it's no more than quotidian ordinariness with creepy, schoolboy sexual boilerplate. No story, unnatural characters, a tired potboiler.
A few months ago I started to watch Shakespeare's Lear again but had to give up. It is just too tragic, too depressing, where everything good goes bad, gets worse, and compounds and enlarges in all manner of hurtful, unjust and painful ways. After Lear banishes Cordelia, and Goneril and Regan kick him out I gave up, knowing what misery would befall them all.
Christopher Moore has done his research, as he details in his epilog, and thankfully has provided us with a fuller, fairer and more rounded account of Lear's court and kingdom. Shakespeare was going for the drama and chose to ignore the bigger picture. Even though his dialog is compelling -- classic you might say -- it is biased and presents Lear himself as well as two of his daughters in a very unlikable way. The Bard went for the family drama. Similar to the venality and disgusting character of the K*rd*shian family of today, but with more killing.
The Fool in "Fool" is of course Pocket, Lear's fool. We see what really went on through his eyes. It turns out that Lear was really a narcissistic, psychopathic serial murderer as well as being the King, and a bit of a fool himself if I may be so bold as to note.
In reality all three of his daughters were acting as you would expect having grown up in such a dysfunctional household. (Lear had one or two of their mothers murdered!) Regan and Goneril were acting out in trampy sexual ways that is actually hot given today's standards. They weren't the cold-hearted *itches that the Bard portrays them as. Speaking of witches, Moore's scholarly effort has included the three of them as they were important influences in the course of kingly events. I think they were the same gals that led Macbeth in the wrong direction.
At almost 9 hours, versus a stingy 2 hours for the old ignorant version, Moore has given us a whole Upstairs Downstairs of characters with their shenanigans for our entertainment and historical enlightenment. Moore gives us more: more truth, more fairness, and more enjoyment. "Lear" was not a tragedy. On the contrary, he and his family is much like a lot of important families in today's news.
If you really want to know about England's True History you can do no better than to listen to "The Fool." You will also have the pleasure to roll on the floor many times over in laughter and delight.
I didn't do a good job of reading the summary and reviews here, so I didn't know (spoiler) this is a science fiction story.
I loved the Hollywood producer, agent back and forth. But boy was I surprised when the alien showed up! And what a wild and crazy guy he (he?) is.
Scalzi reminds me of a 50s wise-guy detective story writer, but one that whacks you on the floor -- laughing. The dialog is quick and snappy and moves the crazy wonderful story forward into the next insane reality busstop.
I can not think of a single way to improve Agent to the Stars. Not even one tiny single way.
Except .... I can.
Hire Wil Wheaton to read it. Actually I cannot imagine just reading the book. Wheaton's characterizations make it twice more better than already 100% perfect.
What a combo.
In the late 1950s I read every science fiction book and pulp magazine I could get my hands on including all of Asimov's marvelous stories and novels. But I seem to have missed this absolute gem.
Time travel stories typically exploit the paradox of killing your grandfather when he was a boy, changing history in a way that prevents you in the future from ever having a chance to make the trip backward, the perils of time-out-of-joint confusion, and action-movie dilemmas that demands lots of frantic action to put back right. This turns into repeated and familiar car chase motion, in 4 dimensions this time, but still not much more than shaky-cam car chases and gun shots. A different time gets treated simply as a different place. The unique dramatic aspects of time travel are submerged in a noisy drama of action and conflict. So, if you have a time machine, why are you in such a maniacal hurry all the time, dear writers? You can certainly adjust the dial a bit and arrive at your leisure.
Asimov has all of the compelling and unhurried aspects of time travel and does the plotting better than anyone else. Though I haven't seen it yet, even from the excellent reviews I believe that "The End of Eternity" is better and smarter than "Looper." You will certainly have more to chew on later.
Asimov's story is rich, complex, unexpected and wise. The story is absolutely the opposite of a linear plot where you can probably guess what's gonna happen next. You can't. The venue enlarges exponentially in scope and goes in directions you cannot anticipate, nor have ever seen anywhere else. And the 1955 vintage American English is a delight to read.
Wow! I loved it.
There's way too much tedious technical and operational minutiae early on. I ordinarily like this kind of nerdy si-fi infrastructure and gadgetry, but not this time. When the writer is so very specific and detailed about his own invented technology it raises issues of -- Is it consistent? Does it seem real? It begs to be analyzed and judged past the degree of becoming an annoying distraction from the story.
There's also the issue of the two main protagonists: two female characters who are in an unending spiteful, hateful spat that is just too silly for soap opera. It goes on for -- as we learn -- (spoiler), yes, millions of years! That's another thing, the millions of years that elapse back on earth (as the ship enjoys the time dilation of special relativity) is an unnecessary plot device. Millions of years hence? When all humans not on the ship have ceased to exist? Who cares about this motley crew and what becomes of them -- I dint.
The plot becomes correspondingly more and more convoluted as new races of aliens appear, with their randomly goofy values and behavior. After 19 hours (audible time) it ends with an epilog that was incomprehensible to me, even more so than the the previous last half of the story.
It was too long and the psychology of the main characters was Not Ready For the Comics. That and too much invented "science" that is just fiction.
These are from the early days of SF magazines -- from the fifties I think. Some of the stories are not much more than a setup for a punch line. "But I Can," is the predictable last line of one that otherwise lacks drama or interesting characters.
A point of my interest was in how the "future," the 1970s, 1990s, 2000, were envisioned a half-century ago. It gave me a sense of being in the past -- when the stories were written -- and experiencing what the aspirations and fears of that time were.
The stories themselves weren't very compelling, kind of below average. The many readers are a mixed group, most of them just reading the words and sentences without any sense of character or story.
I really would have liked to give more stars for these almost classics, if only out of affection for their pioneering and imaginative nature.
I loved "Mort."
Terry Pratchett is at least as inventive as JK Rowlings, more witty (IMHO!) than Douglas Adams, and created a marvelous universe of characters that Nigel Planer brings to charming and vivid life. And how indeed he does make them come alive -- including Death himself. I believed it.
I'm definitely glad I got the Audible version, as I probably wouldn't made it through the book. It's as if Pratchett had Nigel's voice in mind while he was writing his delicious menagerie of weirdos -- when decades hence the world of Mort would be performed by Nigel Planer.
Of course, Pratchett is not unfamiliar with the practical utility of time travel. It's likely put a bit of it to practical use for us lucky listeners!
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