Grunts is a parody, mixing the Lord of the Rings from the orc perspective with Bakshi's Wizards. It's fun and clever, but drags on way too long. The story is broken down into three major story sections. If it had stopped with the first section, it would have been a brilliant parody. If it had stopped after the second, it still would have been good. But I really had to push through the third section. All the cleverness of the parody had long been played out. (With the exception of a bit of fun at chapter 11.)
It's one of those books people seem to love or hate. As usual, I fall somewhere in between, liking it, but finding it way too long for the concept. Descriptions get repetitious as well. Main characters are described, over and over, in the same terms. Maybe that's on purpose, as part of the parody? If so, that was a poor choice.
After my delight at Doubt: A History, I has high hopes for The End of the Soul, another scholarly work by the same author. Frankly, I just couldn't get through it. Its thesis is to examine how intellectuals in France substituted their own secular beliefs and rituals for the religious ones they had left behind. Instead, the book seems more a showcase for all the research done, laden with gossip, with little regard for actually supporting the thesis. It just dragged on and on, about people I was never given much reason about which to care. While I only got about a third of the way through it, even then it just didn't seem to have enough on-topic points to justify the pages. I just couldn't face the rest of the book and abandoned it.
Maybe if I were already familiar with the time and place, this would have worked for me.
Hey! What's that on the back cover? A blurb from my review? Excellent!
The cover really brings the steampunk goodness home, too.
As before, pick it up if you want some steampunky erotica that's really some
F****ing weird-ass s***, man!
So, here's the first book conforming to my 2015 resolution, Flat Earth by Christine Garwood. It examines fairly recent beliefs in an actual flat Earth. It's an amusing read, in places, but drags most of the time.
It starts out with a couple chapters explaining why we as a culture thought folks back in Columbus' time even thought that the world was flat. (Actually, I didn't think they thought that, nor I suspect do many people today.) Turns out it was evil secularists, trying to drive a wedge between religion and science! No, really, that's what the first couple chapters are about. It's awkward, as if she has an axe to grind, but just a wee axe, not deserving of a longer treatment.
Then we get into some fairly modern-day believers and their activities. The characters are, at times, colorful. Often, they're just misguided fools, spewing the same bad arguments over and over. They're often lauded at the time for their debate skills, despite their lack of good arguments. Obviously, there are parallels with creationists today. These parallels are mentioned but not really analyzed in any way.
Eventually, the book works its way through several people. It ends with a summary that criticizes secularists a bit more, while somewhat lauding the Flat Earth people for no apparent reason. There's a mention of the parallels to creationism again, but no analysis, again.
And therein lies the problem with the book. It just doesn't know what it wants to be. Reconciling science and religion is a juicy topic, but isn't treated in depth here, nor even-handedly. Parallels with creationism are ripe with possibilities, but the text never examines these other than to merely mention them. They're no evolution of Flat Earth theories, just the same ones offered over and over.
All that leaves is a book about wacky people who believe wacky things. Frankly, that could be enough, given sufficient wackiness. These folks lack that level of wackiness. They're not boring, mind you. (Well, some are simply boring people.) They're just not interesting enough to carry the book by themselves.
Overall, it's not a bad read, but nor is it really a good read. It was good enough that I read it all the way through, yet I would be lying if I claimed I wasn't looking forward to the end just a bit.
Okay, it's late February, but I do have a New Year's resolution I've been keeping up on. It's a simple one. For 2015, I'm not recreationally reading any books by white men. It's not my own idea, of course. Being a white man, I'd maybe think of one like
read more stuff by women and folks of color. Alas, that's a really fluffy kind of resolution, the sort that's easy on which to slide a bit. A better one? No white men.
Now, truth be told, I did start one book by a white guy in 2015, namely
I meant to mention this resolution earlier, but I'm lazy. Then, today, I saw a similar post and was reminded to mention the resolution here.
I'm on my third book in the resolution period right now. I'll post reviews of the first two soon. Well, soonish.
For some reason I no longer remember, I decided to read Edward Bulwer-Lytton's
Later, I learned of Samuel Butler's
Erewhon, published the very next year. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protagonist describes the people and society, falls in love with a woman, and attempts to escape when the society endangers him.
So, let's say there's some similarity here. Butler, in a later version's forward, assures the reader that his book was written without any knowledge of the other.
So, let's review them!
If you've ever heard the phrase
It was a dark and stormy night then you've heard of Bulwer-Lytton. So, he's known as a bad writer. Despite that reputation, he was a successful writer. This is the only book of his I've read, so my opinion of his writing is based solely on this one example. My opinion? Well, he wasn't very good.
I'll be honest; I didn't finish the book. It just became too tiresome. Bulwer-Lytton drones on and on, describing aspects of the found society. It's a weird twist on society, matriarchal in odd ways, and I suppose it could be a gripping subject. Alas, the descriptions are florid, yet bone-dry. The society is technologically evolved, but in a magical fantastical sort of way that just isn't that interesting. There's no real plot of which to speak, just a long series of essays on aspects of a fictional society. I just couldn't get through it. Others may like it as an early example of this type of fiction, but I wanted something better. If only there was such an example...
It's difficult to believe that this book was written at the same time as
The Coming Race. Although there really isn't much plot here either, the delivery feels fresh, the language almost modern. I actually cared about the protagonist.
The society itself is a reversal of real-world society, for the purposes of satire. It's not really meant to represent a real alternative society. (The reversal goes to the extent of forming proper names by near-reversals of normal words and names.
Erewhon is nearly
nowhere in reverse.) As with the other example, the middle consists of essays. However, instead of being dry, they're lively and chuckle-worthy. Some of the targets of the satire flew by me. Either I'm not smart enough or the targets themselves are strictly of another time. (Most likely the former.) There's a wonderful trio of chapters detailing the dangers of technology. It's not far off from some of the concerns you hear today regarding artificial intelligence. The section on children is simply hilarious.
The plot aspects are wrapped up quickly at the end, mostly just as a means of getting the protagonist into a position to be able to hand over the narrative to the reader. Neither of these books are novels. They're essays wrapped in just enough plot to justify themselves.
I've always loved Ballard, but this is really a bit too much. Read one after the other, the stories reveal Ballard's weakness for always writing the same story too obviously to ignore. Take one male protagonist, representing Ballard, add in a bromance with a second charismatic character, add an optional female love interest. Shake in a dystopia until the two men have a falling out. Done!
That said, if you're a big fan, there's some tasty stuff in here, just don't try and read it straight through. Dip in here and there, jumping back out when it gets to be too much. If you're a casual fan, you can get the highlights in other collections.
This is the sequel to
All that said, it's well written and contains more in the way of big ideas than the first book.
As a nice short guide to manly stuff at Disney World, this was surprisingly good. I learned some new things while also learning to look at some old favorites in a different light.
The pandering to manly men gets a little old, but I'm not a manly man, so I'm not precisely the target market.
I can't say enough good things about this book. It's long. It's detailed. I loved every minute of it.
The subtitle explains it well: "The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson." That's exactly what it does, looking at various philosophers and philosophies, tracing the ideas through the ages, watching how they change. It's fascinating.
One thing I loved about it was that it isn't an atheist polemic. It covers some atheists, sure, but also believers with their own forms and levels of doubt. Sure, some religions look pretty bad during some eras. That's because they were pretty bad during those eras.
Another thing I loved is that it provides enough background on various religious movements for me to understand the changes in doubt that react to those movements, while not boring me if I happen to already know the details of a particular religion.
The only weakness is the last chapter, which spends a little too much time listing current doubters based on fame rather than ideas.