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review 2017-08-28 16:01
Review: 4 3 2 1
4 3 2 1 - Paul Auster

Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1 is the Goliath nominee of this year's Man Booker Prize. At nearly 900 pages, it is not only long, it is unnecessarily long. Though Auster has quite a lustrous career behind him, he takes this opportunity to write a novel that sounds like an undergraduate's wet dream project: a “what if” in the life of a young man; four tellings of the same protagonist in the same setting, but with four different outcomes. It's an ambitious project and though its premise sounds a bit juvenile, I think it could've been done well if done differently. Surely, Auster's skill with weaving words has lifted 4 3 2 1 far above being a mere adolescent traipse through history. Sadly, though written with love and precision, it doesn't rise far above this status.

Contrary to what one might expect, there are no catalysts for the detours in young Archie Ferguson's lives. In the opening passages, I was looking for one and was sort of disappointed to miss it. The fact is, the world is simply different for Archie. In one world he lives with his mother and father, in another he's with his mother and step-father. These differences are not presented as being the outcome of choices a young Ferguson made, they just are. And so, one might assume, there are differences in each of the worlds surrounding the four Fergusons, but no the only difference is Ferguson and those he touches. It's as though the world revolves around Ferguson. That's a lot of pressure on a young man. And so, the 1950s and, to a larger extent, the 1960s roll by one time, two times, three times, and four, all without hitch or pause. Though Archie's life has changed drastically, nothing else has: Korea, Kennedy, Vietnam, Nixon, King. Ironically, despite the four different paths that vary, Ferguson ends up okay in each one. I mean, you'd expect one of the Archie's to be a raging racist or something, but no, Ferguson always has the foresight to be a proponent of civil rights and that makes him swell. If you can't tell, I guess I'm not that big of a fan of Ferguson. I mean, I spent 900 pages with Archie-Alpha, -Beta, -Gamma, and -Delta—you'd think I'd like the guy a bit more. But Ferguson didn't challenge me or evoke any feeling from me. He was sort of a whiny, privileged kid (even when he wasn't so privileged).

The writing was fine. Before I started to feel bitter about the novel, I felt pulled in to the presentation. I could see myself enjoying a shorter, more focused Auster novel. But at some point, I began to realize this was more of a meandering mess than I cared to wrap myself in. There's so much detail about the lives of the four Fergusons. One begins to wonder if it isn't a bit much, especially when Auster goes on a twelve-page summary of fourteen-year-old Ferguson's short story about talking shoes called "Sole Mates." Was the story important to 4 3 2 1? Yes. Did we need a full summary of the story? Absolutely not. A standard sized paragraph would've been more than was needed. But twelve long pages? Later, Ferguson ponders British actors that starred in Hollywood films. He makes a list in his notebook. And we're blessed with the complete list, all seventy names. These are the sort of things that make this book 900 pages and there was absolutely no need for it.

It may sound like I hated this book and wish to destroy its happiness. I didn't hate it. 4 3 2 1 is a competent epic and it surely has an audience. Personally, I tend to love large books because of the complete stories they often tell. But 4 3 2 1doesn't tell a complete story. Most of the novel covers the lives of the Fergusons in the sixties. And when you divide this by four storylines, you're really only getting four average sized novels rehashing the same decade. And really, what was the point of it all? You expect there to be a catalyst or some revelation in the end that ties the four lines together. But no. JFK is still shot. Students are still murdered on college campuses. But Archie Ferguson gets to decide if he wants to climb a tree or not.

Sadly, the longer this novel went on, the less I liked it. I just didn't buy Ferguson's lack of freewill. It's obvious that his social and political stances are being shaped by the author. Despite leading four very different lives, young Ferguson can choose who he wants to fall in love with, but doesn't get to choose which side of politics to be on.

Recently, Auster admitted that he struggles with ideas these days: “I used to have a backlog of stories, but a few years ago I found the drawers were empty. I guess I’m getting to the point where I tell myself if I can’t write another book it’s not a tragedy.” I think he was grasping for an idea with this one. And though it obviously caught the attention of the Man Booker judges, I was not impressed. That said, my interest in Auster has been piqued and I definitely would love to read some of his earlier, shorter works. Just think, perhaps in another life I thought this was the greatest book ever written.


Man Booker Prize 2017:
I'll be a little surprised if this one makes it to the shortlist. It's not particularly relevant right now. It's not enjoyable to a mainstream audience. It's not all that original or brilliant. It's competent and capable, which is why I think it was fine to be included on the longlist, but it doesn't strike me as an eventual winner. Frankly, it feels a bit too much like the old, east coast white male perspective that has dominated literature for decades. I hope these authors continue to write their stories and that we continue to read and enjoy them, but their time of being celebrated as “the best” has come to a close. It's time to honor fresh ideas, styles, and perspectives.

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review 2017-08-27 00:23
Fun!
Cage! (2016-2017) #3 (of 4) - Genndy Tartakovsky,Genndy Tartakovsky

Very stylized writing and art. I only have issue three of a four-issue mini-series because this was in a grab bag.   

 

I wasn't super confused, I laughed out loud at parts, and found this just adorable.   Cage is, well, caged by a villain who wants him and other heroes to fight his human/animal hybrids.   

 

It gets weird, and funky, and there is cheesy rhyming that just came off as somehow charming.   

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review 2017-08-07 21:03
Chilling
Bounty Hunter 4/3: My Life in Combat from Marine Scout Sniper to MARSOC - Chris Martin,Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado has penned an excellent book about his experiences growing up in the Bronx, becoming Marine, a sniper, his experiences in Iraq as a sniper, and about becoming an sniper instructor afterwards. While he leaves no doubt about his alpha male status, he does not shy away from describing many personal experiences, even the ones where he feels he has failed.
Where the book really shines is in his telling of his tours in Iraq. From his gung-ho, supremely driven first days there, to his awakening to the horrors of the war and his part in it. The battle scenes were extremely vivid, fast moving, and made you almost feel you were there. And afterwards, you could really feel his pain.
While sometimes I felt uneasy with his macho take on the world, and how the Marine Corp really promotes this sense of invincibility, I am aware that it is a world I will never understand, and cannot fault it for it's success in creating "supermen" like Delgado. Other times, I really felt bad for him, when he had to face up to the fact that the rest of the world (his relationships, for one) did not subscribe to the same outlook.
All in all, an excellent book. I just cannot get over the horrors he faced in Iraq, in battles that we here at home never were even told about. And I thank him for his service.

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review 2017-08-01 02:12
Rise of the Empire (The Riyria Revelations #3-4) (Audiobook)
Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4) - Michael J. Sullivan,Tim Gerard Reynolds

Fantasy-lite at its most mediocre. 

 

My lord, that thing was long! Two books in one volume is just too much when the exposition is this dry. On top of that, whoever edited the audiobook decided that splitting chapters up into several smaller, shorter chapters was a good idea. Honestly, I think it just contributed to the feeling of "this is never going to end" that I started getting about halfway through. 

 

I like the characters, and the stars are mostly for them. Hadrian and Royce have good banter, and Arista, Amelia and Modina have some interesting conflicts and personal journeys to go through. Really, the women do have the better part of the story here. The problem I'm having with these is the execution. Characters speak the exposition in the most expositiony way possible. Instead of aiming for subtext and intrigue, the characters continue to spew every thought to their enemies because of course that's the smart thing to do. There are no twists or attempts to subvert tropes. There is an attempt at a cliffhanger at the end of this one, but let's face it - everything will be fine, so I'm not worried.

 

I'm rewatching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer right now and recently got through the season two episode "Lie to Me." At the end, Buffy asks Giles if life ever gets easier and tells Giles to lie to her. He answers:

 

"Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after."

 

Sullivan seems to be writing his stories with this sentiment in mind, only he forgot the part about it being a lie (with one or two minor exceptions). This is very "what you see is what you get" and maybe it's just the wrong series to be trying to read alongside A Song of Ice and Fire and Young Wizards.

 

Since I did like the first of the prequels, I think I'll go back to those and see if that was one-time fluke or if Sullivan just got better with time. I'll have to debate with myself if I want to bother finishing this original series though. It's just not holding my attention - though that's no fault of the narrator, whose doing the best he can with the material he's been giving and he's probably the only reason the story even has some semblance of life to it. 

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review 2017-06-08 17:36
Young Miss Holmes, Casebook 3-4
Young Miss Holmes, Casebook 3-4 - Kaoru Shintani,Shintani

This volume branches out more from the Holmes canon. It develops these particular characters. Nora even gets a whole chapter to herself. I wasn't a huge fan of her backstory. The story itself is quite progressive in many ways even though it's set in Victorian England, so it was odd to me that g***y was used to describe Nora and the people who raised her.

 

There's also a crossover with another manga I've never heard of (and now can't remember). Without any knowledge of those characters and their stories I was still able to understand that part of the casebook just fine. So it seemed kind of strange, but didn't ruin my reading experience.

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