Sunday, September 29, 2013

read: 2312 (A Novel) (3 stars)

23122312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An epic tale of a possible human future.

You can't fault the author's imagination here. He obviously spent some time extrapolating science and human nature 300 years into the future and came up with some pretty off-the-wall stuff. The problem for me was mostly the shear overwhelming volume of it all. This future is so wildly imaginative that I could scarcely keep my feeble brain wrapped around all the concepts.

I also had some difficulty identifying with the main characters. One is a 140 year old, hermaphrodite, mostly female, galactic hippy that usually acts about 1/10th her age. The other is a younger and often wiser mostly male who's having a mid-life crisis and follows the woman around the solar system in an infatuated fog.

I almost gave up when the story kept bogging down describing cities that crawl around planets and asteroids (become spaceships containing odd self contained communities) that rocket between planets and avoided describing the very interplanetary conflict that was supposedly driving events. But I powered through for the sake of my book club and wound up appreciating the sweep of the story.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

read: Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman (3 stars)

Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan ShermanOverweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman by Mark Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Allan Sherman, but not so much of this book. While I appreciate the obvious breadth and depth of research, and even the author's often insightful analysis of Sherman's work, the narrative got bogged down in irrelevant details (I don't need everyone's address and the name of every uncle, aunt, and cousin) and repetitiveness.

On the positive side, when the book covers the comedian's work and Business dealings, this reader learned things he wanted to know (I had no idea Sherman was instrumental in Bill Cosby's career). I just longed for more of this sort of thing.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

read: A Once Crowded Sky (3 stars)

A Once Crowded Sky: A NovelA Once Crowded Sky: A Novel by Tom King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I read the cover blurb for this, it sounded like something I would really like--an examination of super heroes, power, failure and redemption along the lines of Watchmen, but in prose. It is all that. But it takes a while to get there. And the reader is required to put in some effort to jump into a story in progress and hold onto the disparate story threads until they are woven into something more coherent.

The writing is good, if at times a little stylized, written in the present tense like a comic book. This keeps things moving. The characters are many and varied and have realistic, for the story world, reactions to things.

What ultimately disappoints is that the story feels like it wants to be epic. The characters and setting demand and imply it. But it's not. It's a little thin and repetitive where it should be dense and action packed.

I think comic book fans will be intrigued enough by the premise to push through and enjoy this book. Fans of literature might also be interested enough to see how this experiment turns out. I doubt that others will find enough here to captivate them through the end.

[Disclosure: I received a free copy for review.]

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