The story of a student who went to extraordinary lengths - including living in a van on a campus parking lot - to complete his education without sacrificing his financial future. In a frank and self-deprecating voice, memoirist Ken Ilgunas writes about the existential terror of graduating from college with $32,000 in student debt. Inspired by Thoreau, Ilgunas set himself a mission: get out of debt as soon as humanly possible. To that end, he undertook an extraordinary three-year transcontinental journey.
This is not a perfect book. Did you expect it to be? This is a book written by a young voice; sometimes a voice that seems immature to me, a man of 50. And frankly, I wanted a story about a guy who lived in a van and the titular wheels don't really make an appearance until, literally, 2/3 the way through the book (outside of a short introduction).
And yet, it's a pretty great book. I am thinking of all kinds of people to whom I want to hand this book. It captures a time; the age of student debt. It captures a spirit; the spirit of volition - of setting one's will to a thing and achieving it and making little of the costs. It captures your heart, at times, for a fellow human being who is both only, and more than just "a van-dweller."
So as I flip over this volume and give it a little pat. Saying out loud, "Good book" like it is a dog that just fetched my slippers. I will highly recommend it not because it will be the "best thing you ever read" but because it speaks truth. And because it speaks those truths not with a practiced and polished eloquence. but rather sometimes awkwardly and maybe even too honestly, from the heart of a lovable goof.
The second Dune installment explores new developments on the planet Arrakis, with its intricate social order and strange, threatening environment. Dune Messiah picks up the story of the man known as Muad'Dib, heir to a power unimaginable, bringing to fruition an ambition of unparalleled scale: the centuries-old scheme to create a superbeing who reigns not in the heavens but among men. But the question is: DO all paths of glory lead to the grave?
This book is very, very good. Perhaps better than Dune. But you have to understand that the action is psychological. So, in terms of physical action, not much happens until the last third of the book.
The jihad has happened in the 12 years since Dune. Paul is responsible for billions of deaths. He is surrounded by sycophants that would deify him and courtiers that would see him knocked off his pedestal. Among them is Irulan, who has been denied his affection and his offspring and is conspiring with off-worlders. (All of this is revealed in the first couple of chapters, BTW, so not really spoilers.) Paul is trapped in his prescience; an unwilling tyrant filled with self-loathing.
As you get into this story, you need to realize you are reading about a Paul who is caught in a trap and is desperately looking for the way out. The book is about hard choices; what is he willing to sacrifice to find some kind of acceptable future?
I say that, because I sort of hated it in the beginning. It's a bit of a grind, but really worth it! There are so many good moments of dialogue, so much psychological and political tension. I also like that it is a story of redemption (overcoming one's self rather than overcoming an enemy). I don't really feel like your reading of Dune is complete without reading this book as well.
Dragonsong is the spellbinding tale of Menolly of Half Circle Hold, a brave young girl who flees her seaside village and discovers the legendary fire lizards of Pern. All her life, Menolly has longed to learn the ancient secrets of the Harpers, the master musicians of Harper Hall. When her stern father denies her the chance to make her dream come true, Menolly runs away from home. Hiding in a cave by the sea, she finds nine magical fire lizards who join her on a breathtaking journey to Harper Hall.
This book really holds up. I read it first as a 10 year old. I had already read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Narnia (series), Earthsea (trilogy) and other fantasies. This was my first Dragonriders of Pern book. (First of many.) It's a coming-of-age story about a young woman in a largely male-dominated society. She is a free spirit and musician, but her father wants her to keep her place and give up her "tuning." Fire lizards, tiny dragonlike creatures play a role in the story, as you might guess from the cover. Like most Pern books this one has themes suited to animal lovers, romantics, and dreamers. It still hits me in the feels. :)
The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.
A lot of silliness amounting to not much of a point. At times I really enjoyed this book, but at other times I was bored or annoyed with the meandering narrative. It could use some editing for clarity and, frankly, for humor. It felt like every joke Pratchett and Gaiman came up with got thrown in. Not a bad book, but it doesn't compare to Wodehouse or even Adams for enjoyable humorous blathering. That's my opinion, take it for what it's worth.
Sirius is Thomas Trelone's great experiment - a huge, handsome dog with the brain and intelligence of a human being. Raised and educated in Trelone's own family alongside Plaxy, his youngest daughter, Sirius is a truly remarkable and gifted creature. His relationship with the Trelones, particularly with Plaxy, is deep and close, and his inquiring mind ranges across the spectrum of human knowledge and experience. But Sirius isn't human and the conflicts and inner turmoil that torture him cannot be resolved.
This book is going to stick with me for a while. I literally just finished it about 30 seconds ago and I don't think I'm ready to talk about it intelligently, but here are some bullet points to flesh out later. Maybe I'll just leave them here as reader questions for others. My gut reaction says that this is a damn, fine book and I would recommend it to anyone.
• It makes obvious references to Adam and his Creator in the same way Frankenstein does, which invites the comparison. How are the two books alike/different?
• Sirius talks a lot about the Spirit and search both scientific and mystical sources for truth. Eventually he forms some kind of in-between truth (much like he is an in-between creature) of the Spirit. What did I make of that as a reader? How does it relate to wordless song/singing, as featured in key moments of the story?
• This book wasn't always gripping as a story. It never felt unfocused, to me, but the style of it seemed less concerned with events and more concerned with a kind of seeking for truth. Will I agree with this assessment later? Does this focus/structure somehow make it harder to read?
• War looms over this tale. It seems crucial to me in some way, but I can't quite put a finger on it other than to say that it forces the characters to separate at times. But how does war affect the story's themes? What other big abstracts come into play (e.g. Religion, Love, the Wild) as forces that drive us?
• There is both sadness and strangeness in this story. Where and how did it break my heart? Where and how did it make me feel uncomfortable?
The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is among the company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two company men are dispatched to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies. When the men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge.
This bit of historical fiction is fine, as far as it goes, but I found it mostly a lackluster read because it's not enough of any one thing. Let me explain.
As a historical novel, it begins with some colorful characters from the fur trade era, but then plays with the facts and fills in gaps so that the story absolutely becomes fiction. In other words, you can't read it as a history novel. (It helps that in the afterword the author tells you where he changed and filled in the story.)
It also tries to tell a cool survival story, but the passages devoted to frontier life provide too little detail to be satisfying and too much detail to stop short. (Why bother giving half the detail if you aren't going to write that kind of novel?) The protagonist's triumphs often seemed too easy or unbelievable. And when something intricate was being described, like building a boat from buffalo hide, I couldn't quite picture it from the description given. The author just supplied a string of sentences in service of describing a process without really giving you a clear picture of it.
Finally, it makes an effort to tell a cool "story of revenge" and yet fails to tell a compelling one at either end. From the beginning I didn't really hate the two characters that the protagonist wants to get his revenge on. Yet he remains committed to revenge. I fully expected a version of what happened, and I won't spoil it, but I'll say it wasn't satisfying. It could go one of two ways, right? He either gets his revenge or forgives one or both. And I really didn't care which it was going to be (which tells you something). At the moment he realizes his revenge/non-revenge on each (again, avoiding spoilers) I just kind of shrugged. It didn't feel meaningful or complete to me.
Is the movie better? I haven't seen it. I suspect it is. This performance was again "fine" as far as it goes. I felt like Holter Graham's voices were a bit too forced. They characters often sounded a bit cartoonish to me. It also seemed like he had a few voices he used in rotation and some of the characters ran together.
This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft, the master of twentieth-century horror, including some of his most fantastic tales.
Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft
My favorites are marked with an exclamation point after the track number. This collection leans toward broad inclusiveness in deciding which stories belong to Lovecraft’s dream cycle. If you want a shorter, more focused experience, I suggest the following tracks (only): 5-13, 16, 17, 19-24, 52-59. This gives you the Randolph Carter cycle, the stories it references, and a few extras that are too good to miss.
1: [Fragment] Azathoth read by Robertson Dean.
2: [Fragment] The Descendant, Simon Vance.
3: [Fragment] The Thing in the Moonlight, Sean Rennet.
4: Polaris, Elijah Alexander.
5!: Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Stephan Rudnicki.
6!: The Doom that Came to Sarnath, Robertson Dean.
7: The Statement of Randolph Carter, Bronson Pinchot.
~ Part of the Randolph Carter cycle. I like Pinchot but I wasn’t a fan of this reading. It was too amped up.
8: The Cats of Ulthar, Elijah Alexander.
9!: Celephais, ready by Simon Prebble.
10!: From Beyond, Tom Winer.
11: Nyarlothotep, Stephan Rudnicki.
12!: The Nameless City, ready by Malcolm Hilgartner.
13: The Other Gods, Stephan Rudnicki.
~ I did not like Rudnicki’s reading. His voice was pitched in a way that I found hard to follow. It sounded like he needed a drink of water.
14: Ex Oblivone, Sean Rennet.
15: The Quest of Iranon, Elijah Alexander.
~ Couldn't finish because of Alexander’s reading.
16!: The Hound, Simon Prebble.
17: Hypnos, ready by Simon Vance.
18: What the Moon Brings, Sean Rennet.
19!: Pickman’s Model, Malcolm Hilgartner.
20-23: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (Carter), ready by Bronson Pinchot.
~ Part of the Randolph Carter cycle. You can’t beat this one for sheer inventiveness. It really maps out Lovecraft’s dreamlands. And yet it isn’t much of a “story.” So just enjoy the ride; don’t expect a great payoff.
24: The Silver Key, Bronson Pinchot.
~ Part of the Randolph Carter cycle.
25: The Strange High House in the Mist, Tom Winer.
26-49: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Robertson Dean.
~ This story is a bit of a slog. Also, the text in this one has at least one error. The beginning of file 30 is incorrect. The internal numbering of chapters in general is off the texts I have (I checked three), but that’s not a big deal. Somehow, though, the beginning of file 30 is actually the text from the beginning of the next section. (Skip to file 31 and you’ll see they open with the same phrase.) The file gets back on track right away, but it should start with “In 1766 came the final change in Joseph Curwen. It was very sudden, and gained wide notice amongst the curious townsfolk…”
50-51: The Dreams in the Witch House, John Lesko.
52: Through the Gates of the Silver Key, Bronson Pinchot.
~ Part of the Randolph Carter cycle.
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Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.
This recording is a fantastic hybrid between audiobook and radio drama. The cast of voices (all excellent) and sound fx make it a real treat to enjoy for the first or fifth time.
I have read and re-read Dune at least half a dozen times since discovering it in my teens in the early 1980s. I missed experiencing it as a 60s hippie who could groove on its ecological themes (I was born in 67) but I can appreciate what that must have been like. For me it was an unparalleled space opera and political science fiction masterpiece.
After a number of re-reads, it still hits all the right notes for me. I suppose it's a bit thinner in spots these days than it was to my wide-eyed teen self, but there are also passages that are just as rich and fresh as they were the first time. My only regret for this book is that it isn't longer! When Herbert takes his time with a scene, such as Paul and Jessica's indoctrination into Fremen society, or Feyd's attempts to put one over on his nasty uncle, you can completely sink into the fiction and live there for a while!
If you have never read or (gasp) heard of this book, here's the pitch.
In the far future, noble houses have divided up the galaxy. At the center of many of their intrigues is the planet Arrakis, the sole source of a life-prolonging drug known as the spice. At the beginning of this novel, the emperor has officially commanded a change of control over Arrakis, instilling our protagonists, the Atreides, in place of the villainous Harkonnens. But the Atreides know they are walking into a trap. Their only hope is to quickly utilize the planet's critical resources, the feisty native Fremen and the spice itself, to escape their political execution.
AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY
When a class war erupts inside a luxurious apartment block, modern elevators become violent battlegrounds, and cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on "enemy" floors. In this visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as once-peaceful residents, driven by primal urges, re-create a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.
I quite enjoyed this book, and especially Hiddleston's reading of it. The tenants of a high-rise re-create the world in their own image in this thoughtful and bizarre descent (ascent?) into madness and savagery. It begins with the power outages and the drowning of someone's dog. Soon things spiral out of control, but the residents don't want outside interference; everyone seems transfixed by the evolutionary forces at work. Atop the tower, Royal, one of the building's architects, holds court among the rich and social elite. At the bottom, the masculine Wilder becomes obsessed with breaking through the strata above him and forcing himself on the upper class/floor residents. (I feel like the symbolism in those character names is pretty obvious.) In the middle is Laing, who resolves to observe and ride out the affair.
Ballard is at his best in this short work, a witness to a slow apocalypse and the psyche of its victims. But anyone approaching Ballard should be warned about two things.
1. He is not a plot and character driven writer. His stories begin and end like a storm and there often isn't any kind of growth arc or likable protagonist. That's just not his style. Instead, he goes for a kind of brutal and dispassionate honesty that will assuredly make just about any reader flinch at times. Speaking of which...
2. Ballard has somewhat squidgy ideas on human sexuality. This book includes rape, casual violence towards women, voyeurism, oedipal sexuality, and a kind of emotionless sex that isn't just casual but more a kind of dead-inside objective view of the sexual act. It was definitely disturbing at times. However, I didn't feel like it devolved into pure wordplay in the same manner I felt Crash did. (I contend that if you rip out the best 20% of Crash, the rest is just randomization of words for car parts and sexual fluids. I'm sure that's intentional and interesting in its own way as commentary, but ... ew!)
Aside from the problematic elements, I was struck by how amazingly relevant High-Rise is to this decade. Ballard writes messy metaphors without easy answers. They speak to universal things, but never point at them directly. This book kept my mind spinning on matters of fascism, social media, the instability of insular systems, and so on. The book is a carrier for lots of ideas, but no single, pervasive, clear-cut message.
To summarize, High-Rise can be a great read, but it's going to turn off a fair number of readers too.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
January 1937. Jack Miller has just about run out of options. His shoes have worn through, he can't afford to heat his rented room in Tooting, and he longs to use his training as an specialist wireless operator instead of working in his dead-end job. When he is given the chance to join an arctic expedition, as communications expert, by a group of elite Oxbridge graduates, he brushes off his apprehensions and convinces himself to join them.
I really enjoyed this book. Scary? I dunno, I don't really get scared by books, but it was very atmospheric and intense in places. I have lots to say about this book as we discussed it for my book club. (It was a good discussion.) But it strikes me that what might be more useful is not another review, but the questions we used, in case you wanted to discuss it with your friends. So here you are:
• Dark Matter is an odd title for this book. The author has said she just liked the sound of it and wanted to use it. On what levels does the title play out literally and metaphorically? Does it "suit" the book?
• In what way is Dark Matter similar to a haunted house story; what tropes do they share? In what way is it unlike a traditional haunted house story?
• The book is literally written by the main character; his viewpoint is related through his journal. How reliable is the narrator? How much can we trust his viewpoint?
• In what ways does the author create dread in the story?
• Dark Matter is also partially a love story. In keeping with the zeitgeist of this decade, it's a queer love story, which raises lots of interesting questions given the setting. Is it likely the narrator's feelings would have been reciprocated? What part did/would class distinction and the time period play in complicating the relationship? Many have complained about the cliche of queer love stories ending in tragedy, how does this fall, or not fall into that trap? Did it feel forced or did it give you all the "feels?"
• The author is a woman, writing about men in a world of men. There's not really any female characters in the story at all. How well did she do? Did the depiction of men ever ring false to you?
• This book was 256 pages. Lots of vintage horror seems to come in the short story and novella lengths. Modern horror (Steven King et al) seems to come in closer to 400 pages or more. Dark Matter falls in between. What changes in horror fiction, if anything, once you escape the boundary line of a novella-length work? Does Dark Matter feel more vintage or modern?
• Dogs (and other animals) are often included in horror stories as a kind of early warning system for the supernatural because they have senses beyond the range of humans. In this story, what other roles do the dogs play? What about other horror stories you have read; what animals did they feature and how were those animals used to enhance or drive the story?