AUDITEUR

Blythe

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Racism, patchy writing, and trigger warning: rape

Au global
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
2 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

I would probably have liked this book a lot more if I'd read it as an early teen. By the time I was over about 16, I think the extremely dubious biology errors would have put me off somewhat. And as a full adult I can also see a lot of innate racism embedded in the book, intended or not, and find it harder to overlook the author's very patchy writing style too.

First of all, it's the story of a blonde, blue-eyed homo sapiens child who loses her family and clan in an earthquake and is rescued and raised by the eponymous clan of homo neanderthalis. She is described as stronger, taller, smarter, and (to the reader) clearly prettier also than all the poor primitive neanderthals, and through the book manages to invent or deduce a highly improbable number of inventions/discoveries from better hunting techniques to genetic theory. The author's choice to specifically make her a blonde, blue eyed Aryan ideal and repeatedly call this out in contrast to the neanderthals consistently described as short, dark, and primitive is unpleasant, whatever the conscious intentions were.

The biology ranges between questionable and ludicrous. I could manage to suspend disbelief at the highly dubious and unlikely claims that neanderthals have some kind of inherited genetic tribal memory so they're all born with the memories of their ancestors, but at one point the author states that neanderthals have reached a point where they stopped learning new things because it would make the race's heads even bigger if they kept learning more, and therefore babies would be harder to give birth to. THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS.

And then the author's writing style overall is very annoying. She alternates between stream-of-consciousness type writing from the characters' point of view, which sounds like patronizing baby talk, and weird forced exposition interjections where she dumps technical details she's clearly gleaned from the research papers and books she read. Stuff about occipital lobe developments and geological data and species differentiation, etc. Yeah, it's great you did all that background research before writing the book, but it didn't need to be decanted into the novel in quite such detail and at such random times.

I hear there's hot caveman sex in the sequel (also our amazing blonde protagonist continues to invent everything short of the automobile) but I'm not sure I can bring myself to read any more of the trilogy. There was no hot caveman sex in this book, but trigger warning for rape scenes.

2 les gens ont trouvé cela utile

Thought-provoking YA fantasy

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
5 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

This is a Young Adult book, and usually when I say that, it also means I'll give the book a little more leeway for being a bit shorter, or simpler of plot, or lighter of concept, than books intended for Adults. In this case however, that's definitely not needed. Yes, it's a shorter length and a quick read; but the topics the book deals with are definitely not light or easy, and the structure of the book also is many layered and it will take you a while to figure out exactly what's going on, if indeed you ever fully do.

On the surface, it's about Conor, a kid whose mother is undergoing harsh cancer treatments. His father moved away to America and remarried so it's Conor helping his mother through the difficult treatments and illness, with some help from his grandmother. Ever since his mother's diagnosis, Conor's been having a nightmare about trying to save her from something monstrous and failing, so when a monster shows up outside his window one night he's actually very surprised it isn't the monster from his dream. Instead it's the yew tree that grows by the church nearby, which they can see from their house and which his mother often comments on. The yew tree comes alive at night and visits Conor just past midnight; it tells him it's the embodiment of an ancient power, and it will tell him three stories, and then on the fourth time he must tell a story to the tree.

Through the book we alternate between Conor's problems at school with bullies, and with classmates treating him as invisible now because they don't know how to talk to someone whose mother is potentially dying; Conor's life at home helping his mother and trying not to resent his grandmother's intrusion; and the magical monstrous yew tree and the stories it tells.

How these three reconcile themselves, what story Conor tells, and how the yew tree helps Conor are all tied together but in ways that don't fully get explained until quite late in the book. It's sweet, and touching, and very sad in places, and it may be a Young Adult novel but it's definitely appropriate for anyone of any age to read, especially anyone who's lost a loved one or seen one suffering the way Conor's mother is. This was a beautiful, slightly mystical, thought-provoking story that reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman in books like The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (in its slightly unreal setting and many layers, and references to mythology).

The audiobook is read by actor Jason Isaacs who does a brilliant job, and is followed up by an interview between the author and Isaacs that's also worth a listen.

Surreal and dreamy fantasy

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

I'm really torn between giving this 4 and 5 stars, but eventually decided on 4 stars because I really don't think it's a book for everyone. But, the people who DO like this style will ADORE it. Like her first book, the settings are magical, and imaginative, and dreamily surreal a lot of the time. This novel drifts around a lot more than the Night Circus however, shifting between people and stories and even times and places, and it's quite difficult to figure out what's going on and how they all relate until you get significantly into the book. If that's a problem for you, this book probably is not for you. If you can enjoy dreamy descriptions of gorgeous fantastical settings and be patient to see how they tie together, then yes, grab this book today!

It reminded me strongly of The High House by James Stoddard, and also a bit of Caraval by Stephanie Garber (both of which I'd also recommend if you enjoyed this book). It's hard to even describe the plot without either getting too complicated or giving too much away, but suffice it to say that boy finds a mysterious book with a chapter in it that exactly describes something that happened to him as a child, and becomes obsessed with learning more, which leads him to a masked ball, a mysterious underground (literally) society of story lovers and librarian types, a world where it's hard to tell where the lines between a story and reality blur together, and ultimately of course our protagonist may be the only one who can save the world (or at least fate and time) but only if he can outwit the forces out to oppose this who want the world to never change and always stay the same.

1 personne a trouvé cela utile

Interesting but depressing and a bit confusing

Au global
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
3 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

China Miéville is a fantastic writer (literally, as well as figuratively) and I loved The City And The City in particular. This book however felt as if it was trying to do too much at once, and the result is a bit confusing. Miéville also clearly does not believe in happy endings; almost all the books I've read include a character (or more than one) coming to a sad ending that could, if the author have wanted, been written much more happily. This book's no exception and the end of some of the characters is fairly depressing. So... torn between four stars, for the amazing writing and imaginative setting, and three stars because it was just not an enjoyable or happy book in many ways.

New Crobuzon is a strange, mixed, alien city with many things left unexplained. A mix of "normal" humans and other races all live here together in the shadow of the ribs of some enormous dead creature that is never fully explained. The acceptable punishment for crimes appears to be to turn offenders over to be "remade", literally have their form changed to punish them. So convicted criminals may have limbs removed (or added), new body parts grafted on, unspeakable disfigurations, and often apparently just for the sadistic fun of those doing it. There's great poverty, massive corruption, and a strange magic system never entirely explained.

The book centers mainly around Isaac, a "scientist" studying chaos magic who is hired by a Garuda outlaw to try and restore the wings that were removed as a punishment for a past crime, and Lin, his non-human girlfriend who cannot speak (like all her insect race) and who is hired to create a statue of one of the most powerful drug lords in New Crobuzon. As Lin and Isaac get more deeply involved in their separate commissions they're initially pulled apart more, but then together again as the separate worlds they've been working in start to cross. Add in a somewhat confusing awakening of sapient robots and vicious mass-murdering slake moths that hypnotize their prey with mesmerizing wing patterns, and the whole plot gets quite complicated and probably longer than really necessary until it reaches a conclusive but deeply depressing end.

Different from the movie (and better)

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
5 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

I saw the movie years ago and to be honest don't remember much about it, but enough that I am sure the book was quite a bit different from the movie. The book (short story or novella at best really) is told by the narrator, an author, who is looking back and reminiscing about his start as a dirt poor writer trying to get a break, and fascinated with the also-dirt-poor neighbour Holly Golightly who has moved into the same building as him. Apparently they changed a lot when making the movie, and I think I actually like the book better.

Weird all around

Au global
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Histoire
3 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

Sooo... I picked up this audiobook because I remembered seeing the trailer for the movie by the same name, and assumed it was a comedy. To my surprise, the original book is neither a comedy nor fiction - it's a completely serious and slightly horrifying true story of an English journalist very persistently attempting to uncover the history of the US military trying to create "psychic warriors" who can use mind powers to fight.

It's horrifying BECAUSE it's true, and so incredibly stupid in so many ways that it's mind-boggling that so much time, money, effort, and belief were spent on some of the things the author described. And in light of that, it's quite the opposite of a comedy, although there are obviously some humorous elements because the entire topic is so absurd. Clearly, the movie by the same name took elements of the story and put a set of fictional characters and a fictional story on top; still haven't seen the movie but no doubt it's more amusing.

The audiobook is actually read by the author himself, Jon Ronson, and while I appreciate him authentically telling his own story, his slightly lisping English accent just seemed a little bit mismatched for a book mainly about the American military, and made it even harder not to take seriously.

Overall not what I was expecting at all, so I guess read it if this kind of history interests you, but if not then probably give this one a miss.

Fascinating way to view the world

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
5 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2020-01-08

A really interesting book applying some of the solutions we have learned from mathematics and computers to decision making for human beings in real life. Not only is it interesting how the one can apply to the other, but just the process of talking about it gives different insights in how to look at these real life problems.

If you've ever wondered things like:
- is having an empty inbox worth the time and effort it takes to organize your email daily?
- is having a tidy desk/house worth more than having the things you often need close to hand?
- how can I decide if I've found the "best" (house/spouse/job/etc) without predicting the future?

All these puzzles and more are discussed in this book through the lens of what mathematics/computer science theory tells us is the "best" solution, along with why this may or may not also apply to real life, and what you can do about it. No detailed mathematics is necessary, this is more about the theory and even philosophy than any direct numbers or formulas.

Not only is the theory itself fascinating (how do programmers deliberately introduce "randomness" or "mistakes" into a system to avoid computers getting stuck in loops) but so is the applicability to real world problems and why what we think we SHOULD do (such as keep an immaculately clean home) may not actually make logical sense (and now when my desk is a mess I can prove it's the most efficient solution!)

If these are topics that sound interesting to you, then I highly recommend picking up this book.

Superb fairy tale reinvention, and great narrator

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
5 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2019-09-14

I love fairy tales, and fairy tale retellings, and this was one of the best I've come across (right up there with Jane Yolen's "Briar Rose"). It has elements of Rumplestiltskin, in that one of the first characters we meet is a young woman (Miryem) whose skill at making money is such that she boasts she can turn silver into gold. Overheard by otherworldly beings (the staryk) who value gold above all else, she is trapped by the staryk king into agreeing to change his purse of silver into gold.

Slowly through the book we're introduced to more characters - Wanda, a peasant girl who comes to work for Miryem, then her parents and brothers; Irina, a duke's daughter to whom Miryem sells some jewelry; and the staryk king and the czar to whom the duke wants to marry Irina, and Irina's nurse. The narrator's perspective starts with Miryem but then slowly changes to some of the others as we meet them. The primary narrators are the three main female characters: Miryem, Wanda, and Irina, but others add in to contribute different perspectives.

Without giving too much plot away, the three women face three similar and inter-related dilemmas of the types women often face - forced marriages, family problems, and powerlessness - and as they find solutions instead of giving up, their plots all tie together.

Overall, loved the writing, enjoyed the constant twists and surprises of the plot, enjoyed the stories about the types of problems that women have historically faced and very much enjoyed that even the "bad" characters aren't just one-dimensional and some of them actually win some sympathy once you learn more about their perspectives. Very much enjoyed this book, even more than Uprooted and the Temeraire series which were also great.

A more satisfying ending to the Gilead story

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
5 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2019-09-14

Growing up in Canada I had to read The Handmaid's Tale in high school, way back when - and it's not an easy read when you're 16 or so. We had an assignment afterwards to write an additional chapter of the book about what happened next. I wish I could remember what I wrote -- but The Testaments is the author's answer to that same assignment.

Offred of the first book is no longer the narrator, no longer even directly present in the story, which is instead told through the writings of Aunt Lydia and the recorded testimony of two teenage girls, one from Gilead and one from Canada. This gives the book a much different feeling from The Handmaid's Tale, in which we have a much more limited, claustrophobic view as we see everything only from Offred's eyes. In The Testaments we have a much broader view of Gilead now mainly seem from the perspective of the Aunts, which is quite different. Through Aunt Lydia's writing we learn how she came to be in her current position, and we get a much broader view of the workings of Gilead leadership because of her visibility into the Commanders' lives and politics.

Therefore, this isn't as creepy and as terrifying a book as The Handmaid's Tale; it also has a clearly resolved ending, unlike Offred's ambiguous close. It wraps up the bigger story of Gilead in a satisfactory manner, but that also means it will not haunt you as long as its predecessor since there aren't really any unanswered questions left to ponder. So if you're looking for another haunting, thought-provoking narrative with a cliffhanger ending, this isn't the book you're looking for.

However, if you're very attached to Offred, either from the original book or from the Hulu TV series, and want to know more about Gilead society and need a Gilead story with a happy ending (or at least as happy as possible, in Gilead) the you'll enjoy this book a lot. If you enjoy Atwood's writing and were amused by the little jokes in The Handmaid's Tale like "nolite te bastardes carborundorum" then you'll enjoy a lot more in The Testaments also - such as the Aunts' official motto, "Per Ardua Cum Estrus" (likely a play on the Air Force motto "per ardua ad astra"), and the Aunts' admonition against reading and writing, "Pen Is Envy". Also a lot of Canada jokes which made me snicker, being Canadian.

Overall I enjoyed it a lot; I could barely pause the book after starting and finished the entire 13+ hours of it within 2 days. With the current political climate down south, I don't think I really felt up to reading another harrowing Handmaid's Tale style novel of despair, and this was a book I enjoyed reading a lot more, while I can acknowledge it doesn't have the individual impact that its predecessor did. It was a satisfactory wrap up and a little bit of hope in a time that really could use a bit more.

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Tech mystery with surprising plot twists and turns

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2019-09-05

Picked up the audiobook in an Audible sale and was pleasantly surprised. Don't think I've read anything by this author before, but I generally like science fiction and I definitely enjoyed the frequent twists and turns of the plot of this one.

Briefly, high school English teacher Mike is finally persuaded to help out his DARPA buddy Reggie by investigating some scientists who are trying to build an instant-travel gate (step in here, step out miles away... or on the other side of the world). And they've actually got it working! But Reggie doesn't know any of the details of why or how, and the scientists aren't talking, just insisting it needs more testing, and Reggie has a hunch something feels weird. So in goes his trusted buddy Mike, with a massively high IQ and an eidetic memory, to try and pinpoint what feels "off" and figure out what - if anything - they're hiding.

Mike is, needless to say, not welcomed warmly by the scientists, but does his best to figure out what's going on and whether there's a problem or whether it's all legit. And the tech really is very puzzling. Clearly it works, but nobody can give him a clear answer why or now ... and then he starts to notice strange things happening also. And, due to his eidetic memory, he actually does notice them, unlike most people who'd just shrug and assume they misremembered. Soon Mike is on the track of a bigger problem and eventually, without going into spoilery details, it seems the fate of the world hangs in his hands...

I really liked the teleportal tech (the "Albuquerque Door"), and the fact that Mike himself is slowly trying to figure out exactly what it is and why, allows the reader to be introduced to concepts at a slower pace without turning into a science exposition dump. I also liked that the plot took several unexpected turns that I didn't see coming, and turned into quite a suspenseful mystery which I wasn't expecting from what I thought was a sci fi tech story. I wasn't quite so keen on the characters themselves; Mike was a bit of a deus ex machina, a flawless hero who can know everything and solve everything due to his magic memory. The other characters were all pretty shallowly drawn. It was nice there were 2 tech-oriented women among the scientists, but everyone was pretty two-dimensional so you didn't really get much acquainted with any of them.

Overall though it definitely kept my attention and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. I particularly liked the implication at the end that multiple sequels could possibly follow... but don't have to, for this book to end satisfactorily.