Han King’s The Vegetarian has been awarded the Man Booker Prize and while I can see the appeal, it left me wanting, not in a good way.
The story revolves around a family in which the daughter becomes a vegetarian after a nightmare. She’s compulsive about it, not eating anything that came from animals and getting to the point where instead of avoiding touching meat, she avoids touching people as well. The smell of sweat bothers her.
The story is short, with three different perspectives: the woman’s husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law.
To be honest, it’s pretty manic pixie dream girl. There’s some hand waving at magical realism, but it doesn’t follow through and the story’s structure feels stunted. The characters are mysoginists and flat. The pacing is meandering, and I didn’t find the story compelling. If it had followed through on some of its more magical and dream-related elements I would have found it more interesting.
Overall, it wasn’t for me. Maybe my tastes just aren’t literary enough.
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Forest of Memory is a new Tor.com novella that (according to my .pdf reader) is about 50 pages. It also happens to be great to read while you soak your feet (which may or may not be how I read it). It chronicles the mysterious and unconfirmed week of a young woman who had gone missing.
The story is told from a first person perspective. The narrator, Katya, is a young woman who deals in antiquities, artifacts from previous years that show their wear. She goes up to look at a fairly rare find, a manual typewriter and dictionary, and is waylaid on her way home by a stranger who appears to be shooting—poaching? meddling with?— deer in the forest. She almost runs into the deer, but when the stranger notices her, he kidnaps her.
The story is fun for a number of reasons. The narrator is unreliable; it’s filled with intrigue; and you find yourself just wanting to know what in the world is going on.
It’s set in a future where people are constantly in touch with one another. People live stream everything. The narrator is particularly well known for this, because the authenticity and story that goes along with the items is as valuable, if not more, than the item itself. The very idea that someone could go missing and show up on the other side of the country without anyone knowing is basically unfathomable.
This brings into question a lot of different topics, like whether you can count on an individual’s memory, how interconnected we are, whether you can really have something be valid and authentic without “proof.” Kowal takes an, at times, round about way of talking about these issues, but the overall impact is no less effective.
The story is suspenseful and entertaining. There are moments where it can be slow, but this is often a good change of pace from the more tense moments of the book. The narrator is likeable, if unbelievable.
This was a pretty perfect evening-in book. Kowal managed to make an interesting world with a captivating plot that leaves you just wanting more. Better yet, she did it all in a story you can read in a sitting.
A big thanks to Tor.com for providing me with a copy of Forest of Memories in exchange for an honest review.
I received Thief’s Magic for review about a month ago and hadn’t picked it up. When I did, it seemed like the kind of story I’d like, but it had some unfortunate aspects that didn’t appeal to me. The first part, a story about a boy training in archaeology who uncovers a magical book, was interesting, with a lot of details about the character and the world that I liked. But all of a sudden it shifted. It was as though I’d picked up a totally different book. The parts switched to a story about a girl who falls in love practically overnight. She’s convinced that the use of magic destroys one’s soul, but then goes ahead and almost unthinkingly uses it. The lack of appeal post-shift and the romance wasn’t for me and it was dragging. I put it down. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later, but for now, I’m classifying it as a DNF.
* I received a copy of The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for free in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley.
Honesty moment, while I love DC Comics, and am a big fan of their imprints like Vertigo, I’m not always up to date on all of the newest superhero plot lines. They often times just don’t do it for me and the thought of delving into the superhero universes that are already long-established, like Marvel or DC, is overwhelming to say the least.
I wanted to read The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for a couple of reasons. (1) It seemed like a reasonable jumping-on point for the storyline; (2) The concept of the Suicide Squad is intriguing; and (3) There’s a new movie coming out for the Suicide Squad and I wanted to know a bit more about the story before jumping into the theater (a typical thing for me).
The Suicide Squad is one of the more inadvisable ideas to ever plague Gotham’s leadership. After arresting or otherwise detaining a number of Gotham’s big bad villains, chips are implanted into the villains’ necks which will explode if the villains do not comply with commands given them. Under the supervision of Agent Waller and the U.S. government, the villains are forced to team up and take on existential threats to the U.S.
The chaos and misadventures of the Suicide Squad is pretty expected. In the New Suicide Squad, vol. 1, there are a number of notable villains, including Deadshot, Manta, Harley Quinn, and The Joker’s Daughter. The trade paperback includes two plot arcs, one involving Russia, the other China.
I had a mixed reaction to the bind up.
The story is fun. It’s action-packed with some fast-paced battles and interesting conflicts. The entire concept is interesting.
The art is a dramatic stylized style with odd angles and proportions. The pallet is dark, understandably so. Everything seems swathed in shadow. Granted, there were a lot of panels where a punch seems to land on someone’s crotch, even though it seems more likely that the target was the stomach. I don’t know, maybe crotch punching is all the rage.
I was, however, left a bit underwhelmed by the character dynamics, which seemed forced, and by the lack of cohesion in the plots. While Manta serves as a kind of binding agent, consistent throughout the story, the other characters are overly-volatile, inconsistent, and oddly positioned. There isn’t a lot of backstory built into the book. This is not the volume to pick up if you want to know how and why the Suicide Squad exists.
It was a fine comic, just not quite smooth enough storytelling for my tastes.
An advanced virus, Iran nuclear weapons, and espionage, Countdown to Zero Day has a lot of story going on. It’s one of the more interesting modern day hacking tales. The real-life creation of the Stuxnet virus and its infiltration and discovery in Iran, along with the heightened suspicions of the Iranian nuclear weapons program are interesting subject matter.
I only wish that the story didn’t read like a technical report.
My background is, by and large, in social science and academia. I love everything about international relations and Middle East politics. So, I was intrigued by the story offered in Zetter’s book. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t read as a compelling narrative. Instead, it’s got the slow drag that tends to haunt academic reports.
That being said, the story is extremely well researched with helpful footnotes and clearly the intended audience is supposed to be well-informed, but not experts. It’s not overly technical, but just technical enough to make the reading drag.