If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. It will even go wrong if it's improbable. It's like a sorry soap opera. You can skip ahead 15 minutes in the story and have missed nothing, except for possibly another bleak and improbable event. Sometimes the narrator can make a poor story better, but in this case they're well suited.
I'm terrible at literary criticism. I think I read more from my emotional side than analytic side. So having said that...
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was like taking a long, leisurely drive on a windy and scenic road with someone else in the driver's seat. Here and there the scenery transfixes, and you slow down to take a more careful look. Other places the curves are tight and you look over the edge to the abyss, and thankfully have confidence that the driver will keep to the road.
This is my second Haruki Murakami novel, the first being IQ84. I had no idea what I was getting into with the IQ84. With The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I was more prepared. The story is part absolutely mundane and part completely surreal with words that make it all flow together.
I don't know why I like these books, but I do. In a way I enjoyed this more than IQ84. In both there is violence, however surreal and fictional (in both senses of the word). But The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is more of a journey, like a road, that leads you from one place to the next. There is clearly a hero and a villain. Well, clearly in the Haruki Murakami sense of the world.
The story's narrator Toru Okada is also an observer, but he has faith in the outcome and his intentions are clear. He's willing to take whatever path is shown to him, and finds a few of his own making. Those around him share their stories while paving the way, or create diversions that may or may not help him on his way. Sometimes The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, made me feel like Alice in Wonderland, in more ways than just the disappearing cats.
The reader did a wonderful job.
If you can go along for the ride, the journey is quite lovely.
First, I have to say I love the Simon Serrailler series. I've read them all and even make myself wait a while between books so that there is still another left to read. I hope she continues to write them. This review is less a review of a single book than a review up to the point in the series to which I have read (#5).
The actual crime and workings of the police are the primary subject of the stories, but the various characters that Hill introduces play large roles and are not simply peripheral to this or future stories. Simon's family is also a large part each book, and they go about their lives sharing moments and thoughts with you even when they are only on the perimeter of a particular book.
Yet, unlike most novelists, no character is sacred to the story or the series. Characters that one would expect to endure, simply because of their proximity to and importance to the main character, drop like flies leaving pain, anguish and general unhappiness in their wake. In fiction it seems no one is left but the main character, or everyone the main character holds dear is safe with few exceptions. Not so Susan Hill. Don't get too attached to any of the series regular characters, there is no safety. Danger and illness lurk at every corner.
In spite of this lack of security, there is joy and normality in every novel. Evil does not lurk in every nook and cranny. General day to day activities and troubles come up. No one is perfect. No one is unredeemable (excepting possibly the criminal in the case).
The narrator reads perfectly and brings the story to life.
I love these books, even though I love happy endings. I suppose because they are so much like real life in the disappointment of events, yet the continuity of day to day life continues to move on and past the tragedy.
I think if I'd read this story, instead of listening, I probably wouldn't have made it more than half way. The main character is seriously flawed, egocentric, and enjoys her drugs a little too much. Although in this story a little recreational drug use actually helped the story along. Go figure.
Claire's method of deduction is basically if you stumble about enough, and jump to enough conclusions, the truth will appear. Probably in a dream helped along by a lot of really good weed.
It's hard to like Claire, but she is an interesting character, and can speak a witty phrase. She's also got a surprise or two along the way.
I don't know if I'll pick up another by this author, but definitely would enjoy something else read by this narrator.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began The Windup Girl, and it took a while to get into the story. The novel takes place in the future, at a point in time in which the planet has been ravaged by global warming, and bio-engineering and the resultant plagues and famines have made the world a hellish place. The world is torn between those who are simply trying to eke out some sort of existence, those who are pawns of the corporate world trying to squeeze money out of anything that will bleed, and those that are hungry for power. In the middle of all this are the various factions who believe in what they are doing, for better or worse, and of course, the windup girl.
It's hard to like any of the characters in this book. As soon as one seemed to attempt to do something decent, their next move destroyed that idea. The Windup Girl is buffeted about by those around her, but towards the end does begin to determine her own fate.
I don't want to give any more spoilers than I have, which I admit aren't much of a spoiler anyway. The story feels a lot like Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy, but really they are world's apart other than the devastation left over from drastic bio-engineering and few characters to place your hopes upon.
In spite of this lukewarm description I did enjoy the book. There was never going to be a happy ending, but perhaps one that was better than the present state. The story is told from the point of view of many of the characters, so there are few illusions to hold onto. But in spite of it all, there is a glimmer of hope at the end. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
The narration was very well done, although the various accents seem to be misplaced at times.
If you want a cheery happy ending in which all the flowers bloom, the skies clear, and the world is a happy place then this definitely isn't for you. But it's a story well told albeit from the point of view of the underbelly.
I loved the first in this series. The second in the series left a lot to be desired. The third and final, having been raved about and won awards, was highly anticipated. Sadly a disappointment.
The book feels like a number of random remembrances by the central characters. They join up now and then, but basically their lives and stories are independent. The story line, and the characters, seem to lack emotion and substance, ambling from one scene to the next.
I'm following, but it's an apathetic journey.
I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, and have read a lot of them. I'm not a fan of what seems to be the current state of the genre, in which most of the story is spent detailing the worst of humanity, which seems to triumph and lay waste to what remains. Worlds in which only the selfish, greedy and vicious seem to survive.
Breakdown tells the story of a man who has been scarred by his experience of loss and how he's endured what the world has thrown at him. Most of it things he'd rather forget. He's looking for his family, but takes a detour which offers him a chance to begin to heal.
I loved it. The characters were rich, the world was believable, and the ever present human spirit and general goodness of most people seems to triumph. Maybe I'm unrealistic, but I tend to think this is a more accurate reflection of the world "after" than the gun-toting survivalists that spend their time decimating the population and laying waste. At least I hope so.
The Martian is an unexpected delight. I love science fiction with real science. I'm not particularly scientific, but things have to make sense for me. The Martian fills the bill and has some really likeable characters, great pacing, and instead of evil people providing the challenges, space and the planet Mars have all the diabolical consequences anyone needs for plenty of suspense.
The story begins when a Martian exploration team is caught in a serious dust storm and has to evacuate the planet. Unfortunately, one of the crew is battered by flying debris and, when his space suit shows no sign of life and his body is lost in the storm, the remaining crew has to leave the body behind to evacuate before they are all killed in the storm.
When the lost crewman turns out to be alive, and learns he has been left behind, he decides to find a way to survive until the next exploration team arrives. Unfortunately the time to their arrival exceeds the amount of supplies he has, and there is no way for him to communicate with the departing ship or earth, to let them know he's alive. The Martian is his story, as well as the story of the other crew members and the team on earth, and how they try to bring him back home.
Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut, is witty, inventive and would be a really fun guy to hang out with, which I did for almost 11 hours in the audiobook. Highly recommended for an enjoyable read with minimal whining and a lot of optimism. Plus a lot of invention from creating arable soil for the Thanksgiving potatoes to creating oxygen from hydrogen while not being incinerated.
This book sits alongside one of my all time favorite books about the inventiveness and goodness of mankind, Neville Shute's "Trustee from the Toolroom". The Martian is a modern story with great characters, a lot of suspense, optimism and ingenuity making for an entertaining read.
This book hit most of my hot/dislike buttons. Everything goes wrong for the protagonist, even if it's completely unlikely. People you think are dead reappear, when it's really implausible, the bad guys reappear like the terminator robots. The main characters make one stupid move after another. I could have taken both of those flaws and set them aside if it wasn't for the ending. Once again more bad guys come along and try to do in our heroine. And of course nothing turns out well.
If this was a book written about a period 50 years ago I'd go along with it, but basic forensic evidence would have cleared the woman. There were enough bodies and bullets, along with a main character that was suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. Oh come on.
I would have given it a one overall, but the reader did a good job in spite of the story.
But I still hated it.
I don't know why it is, but it often seems that the YA genre is able to express the poignancy of human experience and emotion in ways that adult fiction rarely seems to grasp. That is definitely true for "The Fault in Our Stars." It doesn't take much to make a story of teens with terminal cancer sad and miserable, but in John Green's book there is joy, happiness, love, friendship and more for the taking.
In the story teens meet at a counseling session at a church that seems to be of much greater benefit to the parents sending them there than for the kids. But relationships form, and they all seem to know the score, and take their losses as well as their illnesses as a part of life.
Adventures happen, relationships are formed, love happens and throughout there is honesty, sincerity and just plain humanity. I've got a few favorite quotes by the characters that are well worth remembering and sharing such as "We are all just barnacles on the container ship of consciousness." Much wisdom from the mouth of teens.
Much to love, laugh and cry for in this story both well written and well read.
I realize that's an odd title for a review, but it pretty much sums up how I feel about the book. This is less a review than a compare and contrast to similar books in the genre, so beware there are some serious spoilers. I found it hard to do otherwise, which is probably one reason I enjoyed this book so much.
I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic novels, from On the Beach to The Stand, to The Postman, War of the Worlds, and many others. There is something about this "sub-genre" that appeals to me, probably the idea that anything can be overcome if a few good people will step up to the challenge.
What strikes me in Earth Abides, is the difference between a novel written in its time, vs the novels written in the present. Today's novels are filled more warring factions and pillagers, murderers and rapists, while the books written in the past are more about the individual's struggle to come to grips with the loss and how to cope. Frankly I would wish for humanity to behave more like the earlier books, and less like the latter. I hope I never have to find out the real answer to the question though.
A common thread in most of these books, take S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series for example, is to rebuild civilization including technology and the societal structure. In Earth Abides, the population is generally content to live among the ruins, and forage from the canned goods and have few worries about tomorrow. Although personally I was frustrated about their choices, on the other hand isn't it possible a better civilization might come of it? The children grew further and further apart from the past as the generations continued. They knew little of the past and saw no reason to emulate the ever acquisitive and technologically advancing society of the past. They evolved more into hunter-gatherers and, if it continued, would have been much more like Native Americans than any other society I can think of.
I suppose, more than anything, my review proves the book is thought provoking and interesting. After pondering the differences, I have to say that it's a kinder, gentler, and perhaps much better society than emerges. But that's just one opinion.
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