logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 24-women-writers-from-my-tbr-pile
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-06-25 14:39
"Illuminae - The Illuminae Files #1" by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - highly recommended
Illuminae - Jay Kristoff,Amie Kaufman

"Illuminae" is an engaging, exciting, and fundamentally original Science Fiction Must-Read novel. Alternatively, it's a Must-Listen-To full-cast audiobook, which changes the novel into an engrossing radio play. 

 

"Illuminae" is the story of an attack by a corporation on a rival's illegal mining colony the is interrupted by a navy warship and the aftermath, when thousands of survivors, crammed onto two civilian ships and the, now crippled, navy warship, make a month's long run for safety, pursued a Corporate Dreadnaught that is determined to eliminate all witnesses to the attack.

 

The story is presented as a series of reports, recording conversations and analysis security video footage with no prose binding them together. This may sound tedious but it's done with such skill and with such a clever structure that I believe the authors have produced a novel form that is fundamentally disruptive.  It's like the leap from "Tristram Shandy" to "Pride and Prejudice" in terms of form. This is the bloom of an almost post-literate generation that has freed itself from linear text and the straight-jacket of grammar that keeps writing on the ground and has taken to swinging through the trees with the confidence of those who've grown up comfortable with Kanji/Emoli/Gif ideography.

 

"Illuminae" is categorised as a Young Adult novel, perhaps because two of the main characters are teenagers, but this makes it no more of soft, easy read than "Hunger Games". The action is graphic and sometimes deeply disturbing. The emotional impact is high but not immature. The portrayal of the damaged-but-trying AI is first-rate. There are strong edge-of-your-seat thriller aspects to this book. It kept me caring and guessing right to the end.

 

I was so engaged with "Illuminae" that I posted my reactions on booklikes.com as I went along (something goodreads.com doesn't give me the space to do. In the spirit of the novel form used in "Illuminas", I've included the unedited posts below to give you a flavour of my reading experience.

 

After those posts, you'll find an extract from the audiobook so you can hear for yourself what the performance is like.

 

"Illuminae" is the first book of a trilogy, so, if you like this, there's plenty more to come.

 

Source: Unedited Posts from Mike Finn's Booklikes account from the evening of 16th to early morning of 21st June 2018

 

Time: 6:15 pm 16 June 2018

Subject: Reading progress update: I've read 11%. and I'm worried about how sustainable this narrative approach is

 

This series received a lot of positive reviews in the press and social media so I picked it up even though I've never read either author

 

I'm now a little over an hour in.

 

The good news is that I'm listening to the audiobook which is an all cast production. The actors are good. The action and point of view shifts are plentiful. The unknown but suspected falls across the plot like an early morning shadow.

 

The conceit of the book is that the story is told through a series of files, reports and emails compiled by a covert agency and delivered to an as-yet-unnamed client.

In this regard, it reminds me of "Sleeping Giants"

 

My worry is that I ran out of patience for the radio-play with stage instructions read out loud narrative technique of "Sleeping Giants" after about four hours. The book was six hours long.

 

"Illuminae" is more than eleven hours long and is book one of a trilogy.

 

I'm hoping for something clever and engaging that fills the gap left by all the stuff in a novel that isn't dialogue.

 

Date: 11:10 am 18 June 2018

Subject: Reading progress update: I've read 37%. - OK - so the format works if I take it an hour or so at a time

 

I'm more than four hours into this eleven-hour novel, which, in the audiobook version, is a full cast production.

 

When "Sleeping Giants" was presented in the same way, I'd lost patience with it by the four-hour mark.

 

This time, I'm enjoying myself.

 

I put the difference down to the quality of the writing - the characterisation and the emotion in the dialogue / first-person reports are excellent - I found the report on a Marine SNAFU assault quite moving for example.

 

There is also a nice balance between a more personal relationship between the two teen protagonists and the more role-driven interactions between the captains of the military and civilian scientific ship.

 

I find it difficult to listen for more than an hour at a time, but I think that has more to do with the quiet desperation of the story than to the format.

 

Date 6:45 pm 19 June 2018

Subject: Reading progress update: I've read 54%.just met the AI and...

 

WOW

 

No other word for it.

 

Six hours into something good and suddenly a switch is flipped and I'm six hours into something great.

 

Date 10:52 am 20 June 2018

Reading progress update: I've read 74%. - I've been here before except I REALLY haven't

I'm rationing this book now as I have real life things that I need to do today. So much for, "I' can only take one hour at a time".

 

Right now I'm at a part that ought to be making me yawn. I've seen all the "Resident Evil" movies (now there's a confession). I know all about having a kick-ass heroine shoot her way through rabid used-to-be-people killers in a confined space with alarms sounding in the background, red warning lights flashing and severed high-voltage powerlines arcing.

 

I've so been there,

 

But never like this.

 

Never with a smart brave heroine who cannot bring herself to kill.

 

Never with rabid used-to-be people that I feel deeply sorry for.

 

Never with an understanding that, when this isn't a first-person shooter game but an atrocity in which everyone is the victim, that winning isn't possible because surviving can cost too much.

 

Never with so much damned intensity and not a single line of prose.

In my work life, there's a lot of focus on disruption as something that changes the rules in commerce, opening up new opportunities and challenging established ways of working.

 

The structure of this novel is fundamentally disruptive. It's like the leap from "Tristram Shandy" to "Pride and Prejudice" in terms of form. This is the bloom of an almost post-literate generation that has freed itself from linear text and the straight-jacket of grammar that keeps writing on the ground and has taken to swinging through the trees with the confidence of those who've grown up comfortable with Kanji/Emoli/Gif ideography. To an old guy like me, it's astonishing and wonderful.

 

Date: 12:51 am 21 June 2018 

Subject: Reading progress 100% - wonderful to the very last page

So much for rationing myself. I got my real-world tasks done and then sat on my balcony in the growing dark, listening until nearly midnight.

 

What a ride. So much emotion. Such a cleverly constructed plot that never felt contrived but continued to surprise and delight.

 

I'll write a review when the book has had time to settle.

 

Right now, I'm clear on three things: the audiobook format for this book is a great choice, I have two new authors to follow. I'm so glad the next book has already been published.

 

Extract from Audiobook version of "Illuminae" 

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/263791539" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-06-23 18:33
"Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

 

I knew, on finishing "Little Fires Everywhere" that I had enjoyed the book and that it was a first-rate piece of writing, excellently narrated. Yet I wasn't clear enough about what I thought of the book to write a review. So, I've let a few weeks pass, let the ideas and the images settle and gotten a little space from the characters and now I'm starting to see some shapes.

 

I think my inability to see the whole book at once is a consequence of how the book is designed. The authorial voice is used throughout, guiding us through the thoughts and emotions of the characters as they react to the little fires of passion, most of them to related to motherhood, that challenge and or define them. Yet, although I hear the author's voice all the time, by the end of the novel, the author had not given me any unequivocal answers as to whose side she is on. I think this is one of the key strengths of the book. It refuses to be didactic or polarising. It puts forward the views of both sides and asks you to think, to access your emotions. Perhaps to start a little fire of your own.mo

 

The book brings together two families, Mia and her daughter, who live a nomadic life, with Mia working on her art as a photographer while raising her daughter, and the Richardsons, mother, father and four children, raised in the idyllic, safe, solidly upper-middle-class Shaker Heights. Mia rents an apartment from Mrs Richardson. Their children, all in their teens, start to spend time together, Mia starts to work part-time cooking and cleaning for the Richardsons so that she can observe the family her, previously independent and possibly lonely, daughter has fallen under the spell of.

 

This "compare and contrast lifestyles" set-up is used to examine choices on motherhood, different types of mother-daughter relationships, the rights and wrongs of adoption (especially of a Chinese baby by a childless white couple) of abortion, and of surrogacy. It looks at whether families are born or made or both. It contrasts choosing to follow rules with choosing to follow your passion and asks if either choice makes sense.

 

It does all this without turning into an ethics essay. It stays focused on the people, the choices that have made them who they are and the potential that they have for changing and or for becoming even more deeply that people that they have already become.

 

The issues the characters deal with are controversial, have a high potential for conflict and speak deeply to core beliefs. So how do I get to the end of a novel told in the authorial voice and not know what the author's answer is?

 

Well, I needed to step back. I think Celeste Ng didn't set out to take sides on the issues. She wants us to understand that there are no simple answers. If there were, these little passion-fed fires wouldn't break out everywhere. 

 

The message I took from the book was that little fires are both inevitable and necessary. If we're lucky, they give us the passage to find an answer that is right for us. Yet the fires are dangerous, They can get out of control. So we are all faced with a choice on what to do with the fires? Do we damp them down, avoiding risk by starving them of oxygen? Do we spread the flame to others? Do we limit the damage? our passions, cutting off their oxygen to avoid risks?

 

Good questions. In "Little Fires Everywhere" Celeste Ng shows us all of those choices but leaves us to decide which to take for ourselves. Along the way, she builds up some memorable characters that start to feel like family.

 

To give you a flavour of the prose and the use of metaphor, I've quoted a section from the middle of the book, where the author shares Mrs Richardson's thoughts on passion and rules. 

"All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks lept like flees and spread as rapidly. A breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic Torch. Or perhaps to tend it carefully like like an Eternal Flame A reminder of light and goodness that would never, could never, set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled, Domesticated. Happy in captivity.  The key she thought was to avoid conflagration."

 

"Rules existed for a reason. If you followed them, you would succeed. If you didn't, you might burn the world to the ground."

If this appeals to you, I recommend the audiobook version. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of Jennifer Lim's narration.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/349277108" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-26 19:27
"The Trick To Time" by Kit De Waal -Highly Recommended
The Trick To Time - Kit de Waal

I chose"The Trick To Time" by Kit De Waal as one of the six books I wanted to read from the sixteen books on the 2018 Women's Fiction Prize Longlist and I'm delighted that I did as it is one of the best books I've read so far this year. I recommend the audiobook version of "The Trick To Time" as Fiona Shaw's narration is perfect. Hearing the voices of the two Irish Aunts nicknames Pestilence and Famine, I was transported back to listening to my grandmother and her sister who spoke in exactly the same way.

 

I went into the book without reading the publisher's summary and I'm glad I did as it reads like the summary of a different book entirely, suggesting either magical realism or a historical romance.

 

For me, the strength of "The Trick To Time" is that exists purely to tell the story of how the main character, Mona, came to be Mona. The story is told in two parallel timelines: Mona as she reaches her sixtieth birthday, living alone in a seaside town in England, making dolls and providing some mysterious service to some of the women who visit her shop and Mona as a little girl, growing up in Ireland and then moving, in her late teens, to Birmingham to make a new life for herself.

 

The thing that most engaged me about the book was understanding how the little girl playing on the beach, and the young woman going nervously to her first dance in Birmingham, became the calm, strong but sad woman who makes wooden dolls. The parallel timeline structure of the book kept this at the centre of my attention and kept surprising me, not through the use of tricks or crazy plot twists but by how real and honest the changes in Mona seemed. I'm the same age as Mona and when I look back, I also wonder how the boy I was became the man I am. I was there and I yet I understand Mona's journey better than my own.

 

I was delighted to see that the sixty-year-old Mona isn't presented either as an old-woman far along the crone road or a woman still pretending to be twenty. Mona knows herself, she knows what's happened to her, she recognises the compromises and limitations in how she lives now and she has still a strong desire to find a way to live her life.

 

There is a real sense of time passing and perceptions changing while the people themselves remain who they have always truly been as if time simply wears away the bits of themselves that they'd only dressed up in in their youth.

 

This is a deeply empathic book about the nature of grief, the enduring impact of loss and the effect of time on emotions, memory and our own sense of identity.

 

I won't put spoilers in this review so I won't talk about the central trauma of Mona's life, except to say that it made me angry and it made me cry and it filled me with deep admiration for the service that Mona provided to others in later life.

 

Mona is a working-class Irish woman, living as an immigrant in Birmingham at the time of the IRA bombing that unleashed so much pain and hate.  Her ambition is simple: to make a family with the man she loves. By today's standards, they have nothing but they have enough to live independently and dream of a life filled with children who are loved and cared for with: "A roof on the house, food on the table and a coat on the hook".. I recognise those kinds of circumstances and that simple ambition but I rarely see it in books that are nominated for literary prizes. I also recognise the situation of being an immigrant and just trying to make your way. I like the matter-of-fact way this was dealt with: no polemics, no dog-whistle posturing, just an honest personal narrative.

 

The writing is beautiful without being flowery. From the beginning, I understood that there was more going on than I yet knew about and that understanding filled me with pleasant anticipation of a real story worth waiting for. It was a story that caught me by surprise time and again, up to the final chapter, but each surprise made more sense of Mona's life and actions rather than feeling like a magic trick.

 

Although this is Mona's story, the other people in it are more than cyphers. They are people with histories and emotions and opinions of their own and they rarely take the path that convention or cliché would channel them to.

 

For example, Mona's father is a complex and compassionate man. When his still-young wife is dying and Mona, his daughter, is playing on the beach to avoid her mother's illness, he finds her and persuades her to spend time with her mother. He says:
 
"One day, you will want these hours back, my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want to get them back. There's a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer." 

The gentle, sad truth of this sets the tone for the whole novel.

 

I'll be reading Kit de Waal's back-catalogue and anything else she publishes. I think she's an extraordinary talent.

 

4480If you'd like to know more about her and how she wrote "The Trick To Time", take a look at this Interview with Kit de Waal in "The Guardian" covering:

"The novelist on her Irish heritage, the passing of time and why she’s glad she didn’t start young"

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?