Review: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

March 17, 2016 in General Topics

Cover, <i>Cloud Atlas</i>

Yes, I read the version branded with the film’s poster as the cover.

No one would ever accuse Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, of being a lightweight novel. Weighing in at nearly one hundred and sixty four thousand words, and spanning six distinct genres and storylines, the book asks a lot of its readers. Mitchell’s approach to the stories, which are all connected by a broader plot and theme, ranges from revelation to mere allusion.

All this means Cloud Atlas is an incredible gamble on Mitchell’s part, and a difficult book to recommend to most readers. A rare soul embraces all the genres present, and as such they’re being expected to slog through long tracts of the novel they might find evoke ennui. It’s almost like someone recruited six different authors, gave them some ground rules, then published an anthology of the results. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: The Clockwork Russian and Other Stories by Josh Roseman

January 26, 2016 in General Topics

A solid cover, I have to say

A solid cover, I have to say.

The Clockwork Russian and Other Stories culls from author Josh Roseman’s genre fiction publishing history, delivering everything from first contact with aliens to a boy and his dog switching bodies, and does it all for $2.99. This really is a no-brainer. The best thing I can say about this collection is I found several of the characters and worlds deserving of longer works. Perhaps readers can hammer the author’s inbox until he concedes to making such novels. We’ll see. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Ninteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

May 3, 2015 in General Topics

(As originally posted on Goodreads.comninteeneightfourbook)

Most of my past book reviews have been carefully groomed, edited works, which I go back through and re-edit for clarity purposes. But 1984 is a book that inspires raw emotions in a doublepluspoignant way, so a carefully constructed treatise just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Reading this book, I learned two things: 1) George Orwell is one of the few people I’ve ever encountered who saw the world as I do, even if we don’t agree completely on the solutions to its problems, and 2) he produced what might be the finest book in the English language. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

March 8, 2015 in General Topics

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Cover, Life of Pi

Life of Pi presents a challenge to the reader. Here we have a book whose back matter bills itself as a survival adventure, but whose text doesn’t present the true start to that adventure until its hundredth page (in the edition I read). And almost immediately, someone might worry that the whole premise has been compromised. Pi’s tale is rendered via what amounts to a flashback. We begin his story with an interview of the central character many years after the novel’s centerpiece events.

This kind of setup is ballsy. It’s like if David Copperfield opened his act by showing you the grand finale, then proceeded slowly onward with an exhaustive how-to of the trick involved, betting that he was good enough at his craft and stage show to hold your interest despite his having deflated much of the tension and (forgive the obvious choice of words) magic he was going to employ. Read the rest of this entry →

#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 20, “Shattered Mirror”

January 28, 2015 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Once again we descend into the mirror universe in “Shattered Mirror”, a place where–as my wife puts it–“everyone becomes a worse actor”.

I don’t know if I completely agree with that, though this might be because I always focus my ire on the logical issues inherent in mirror universe episodes. Lest you think I’m being unfair, let me tell you that I believe in an old adage about fiction: “Everybody gets one pass”. The problem with “Shattered Mirror”, and other mirror universe episodes, is that they’ve by definition already been given a pass. Namely, you have to believe there exists a place where nearly every prime universe character has a counterpart, despite the mirror universe’s millennia of radically different factions, wars, and historical events. You have to imagine that, somehow, most people had the same parents, and their parents had the same parents, all the way back to prehistory.

“Shattered Mirror” starts off with a premise so ridiculous I have a hard time writing about it without reverting back to the expletive-throwing days of my youth. Mirror Jennifer Sisko has apparently booked a tourist visa to the prime universe and comes across for a casual visit. Nervous smiles from both Sisko men follow.

This all makes perfect sense! See, you can cross over whenever you want, clearly. Sisko must have hopped over to grab Jennifer, or she beamed over onto the promenade for a visit, and everyone’s completely cool with this, because an organization like Starfleet, which has a freakin’ temporal protocol clearly has nothing to say about interfering with the affairs of another dimension. And hey, since that mirror universe is so great, clearly the prime universe wouldn’t see an influx of refugees, or anything like that, because it’s not like crossing over is so simple that mirror universe characters can do it in the name of having dinner. Read the rest of this entry →