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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-14 07:55
November 2017 — A Wrap-Up!

I know, I know. It has been forever since I last posted. So, I combined my wrap-up post with an infographic to atone for my er blogging sins.

 

 

For all that they are “novellas”, these books have way too much happening in them! I read and loved the first one (Read my ravings here). This one, I found to be okayish. Maybe it was the attitude of Binti’s family towards her that I didn’t like. Or, maybe it was the plot device, “something that happened a long long time ago is disregarded by everyone to such a degree that its origins are completely lost”. I just don’t buy it. For instance, look at the words that have now become obsolete. They might not be used today but that doesn’t mean they have been erased from the record.

 

I didn’t completely hate it though because it was saved by the ending. It was a cliffhanger where an important character is killed off. Don’t you just love that feeling you get when you don’t know what might happen in the next book? I sure do!

 

 

Someone somewhere (I forget who and where now) described this book as Jane Austen in Dragon world. Of course, I just HAD to read it and duh, I ended up liking it.  I mean, I liked the part about:

putting out a gentle claw

I also liked that the dragon stayed true to their natures yet maintained Austen-tatious sensibilities as a son promised his dying father, his still unestablished siblings would:

take the greater shares when we eat you.

I found myself chuckling when a parson made untoward advances to a maiden of quality. It put me in mind of Mr. Collins. She responded in the right manner:

I am sensible of the honor you do me…

And then I shuddered when the full implications of what had just happened hit me. The maiden’s scales colored when the parson crowded her. She didn’t feel anything for him, yet her honor had been compromised: she had been raped!

 

I rooted for my favorite character: Sebeth, a female dragon who had suffered the same fate when she was kidnapped. She didn’t let a thing like that stop her from falling in love, earning a living, becoming a clerk, and secretly following an outlawed branch of religion.

There was the usual gender discrimination, females with a less than useful dowry, proud males who fell for them, manners and sensibilities, scary rich disapproving mothers in law, and females with backbone who gave no inch.

 

No wonder I loved it!

 

 

If I have to come to expect anything from Wilde’s works, it is laugh-out-loud funny prose that bites:

I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy.

This one didn’t disappoint on that account! A ghost who wouldn’t accept its defeat and an American family that refused to be haunted made up the plot:

(said to the ghost) My father will be only too happy to give you a free passage, and though there is a heavy duty on spirots of every kind, there will be no difficulty about the Custom House, as the officers are all Democrats.

It is amazing that Wilde knew exactly the right length of the story and when it should end. If this is what I have to look forward to, I can’t wait to read The Picture of Dorian Gray!

 

Now for the promised infographic: During our trip, we stayed at a hotel for a few days. It was amazing to indulge ourselves in all the hot showers we wanted after we returned to the hotel every night. And, it felt decadent to not have to do anything but sink into the fluffy pillows and let the housekeeping staff take care of the rest. But, we also learned a few things; things that might have helped us save a few bucks had we known about them before.

 

And then, I thought, why not compile them and make them into an infographic? If nothing else, it might help you guys when you go on vacation. So, here goes…

 

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on December 14, 2017.

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review 2017-12-14 02:24
In one human's lifetime
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

Well, that ended on an eerie note. And dovetails nicely into Foundation I guess (I'm always telling myself I have to read it, and balk at the commitment). Also, extra points for... is it irony? I mean, given who (and what) are the ones having this "laying it out and guessing" chat, and who each blame, and which is in favor? O maybe it is "discomfiting" the word I'm wanting.

 

This is an excellent collection that delves into different aspects on the overarching theme of Robot/human interaction, and goes for a variety of moods too. The thread is Susan Calvin on her interview, who, in her own words

 

saw it from the beginning, when the poor robots couldn’t speak, to the end

 

(And boy, do I have feelings about that one! My great-grandma was born in 1920, saw the advent of radio, cars and cinema into sleepy little towns, TV, PC's, cell-phones, and by the time she died in 2010, chatted on Skype with her daughter)

 

I had read many of the stories before, but the arrangement lends them extra weight with it's overarching view. As for each, there is for every taste, from the heartwarming, and the harrowing, often times ridiculous, hilarious (Powell and Donovan kept reminding me of my programmer brother whenever he's at testing stage), to the heartbreaking, disturbing and, like I started, discomfiting.

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text 2017-12-13 18:38
Perfectly suited to be a Shonen Jump Manga
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Manga Classics - Mark Twain

*Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected eARC via NetGalley.

 

I loved this so, so much. Huck Finn was always my favourite Twain book, so this got a boost just for being imho a great story. I really liked the art style; basically Tom & Huck can be read as mischievous, good-hearted but troublemaking Shonen Jump heroes anyways, so it's just a super fun ride.

 

The subject matter and choices in adaptation deserve some comment, though. There's definitely what we'd call in 2017 "problematic" content around slavery and the portrayal of black people in general. Maybe it's just because I haven't re-read this book as an adult, but I really appreciated the way the Manga Classics adaptation helped the satire of the story stand out, making it clear how crazy the white kids' approach to their situation was, how little true empathy they had for the black (slaves') experience when it came down to it, and how illogical and absurd much of the adults' behaviour was as well. I remember reading this and watching movies a couple decades ago and thinking it was mostly a fun, at times emotional, kids adventure story. Reading this adaptation, it's MUCH clearer to me that Twain was commenting on slavery and a transformation in one boy's understanding of his world, justice and ethical behaviour. Huck learns to see Jim, the "runaway" black slave, as a full human and feels empathy for him by the end of the story, a big transformation from where he makes fun of him and treats him like something less-than-human at the beginning.

 

Appreciated the artist & adaptation notes at the end that spelled out some of the decisions that went into making the adaptation and grappling with how to tell the story. I thought this had great pacing (especially compared to some of the other Manga Classics adaptations that are obviously summarizing and racing through large portions of the story), the art was lovely, dynamic or funny and always expressive, depending on what the scene called for. I'd watch an anime based on this.

 

Language use is preserved from Twain's original, which at times is hard to puzzle out, since it's diving into some pretty heavy accents or dialects. Between that, N-word and the content around slavery, I wouldn't recommend this for cautious/beginning readers. But again, I loved it, so if you're up to sounding out the words and playing some guessing games as to content, definitely give this a shot.

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review 2017-12-13 11:01
Er ging Zigarettenholen
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

„Frankenstein“ (Untertitel: „The Modern Prometheus“) von Mary Shelley ist meiner Meinung nach Pflichtlektüre, interessiert man sich für Fantastik- und Science-Fiction-Literatur. 1818 anonym erstveröffentlicht, entwickelte es sich zu Shelleys bekanntestem Werk, das die Pop-Kultur wie kein zweites prägte. Die damals 18-jährige Autorin wurde von einem Albtraum inspiriert, der sie 1816 heimsuchte, während sie in Begleitung ihres Ehemannes Percy Bysshe Shelley und ihrer Stiefschwester Claire Clairmont Lord Byron in Genf besuchte. Bis heute ist umstritten, welche Einflüsse Mary Shelleys Traum auslösten, es scheint jedoch sicher, dass der in der Gruppe diskutierte Galvanismus ein entscheidender Faktor war. Für mich spielt es letztendlich keine Rolle, warum Shelley die Geschichte des Wissenschaftlers Victor Frankenstein niederschrieb – ich freue mich einfach, dass ich sie 200 Jahre später lesen kann.

 

Von Kindesbeinen an wird Victor Frankenstein von seinem unstillbaren Verlangen nach Erkenntnissen getrieben. Sein Wissensdurst ist grenzenlos. Er trachtet danach, die Geheimnisse von Leben und Tod zu entschlüsseln. Als Student in Ingolstadt profitiert er von den jüngsten Ergebnissen der modernen Forschung des 19. Jahrhunderts. Erfüllt von fieberhaftem Ehrgeiz gelingt ihm, wozu nur Gott fähig sein sollte: die Belebung toten Fleisches. Berauscht erschafft Frankenstein die unheilige Kopie eines Menschen. Doch seine Schöpfung entpuppt sich als abstoßend, monströs. Angewidert von der Frucht seiner Arbeit wendet sich Frankenstein ab. Die Ablehnung seines pervertierten Kindes wird ihm zum Verhängnis, denn das Monster weigert sich, seine Zurückweisung zu akzeptieren. Verbunden durch gegenseitigen Hass beginnen Schöpfer und Schöpfung einen tödlichen Tanz, der sie bis ans Ende der Welt führt.

 

„Frankenstein“ von Mary Shelley gilt als der erste Science-Fiction-Roman der Geschichte. Es ist immer schwierig, einen Klassiker, der so großen Einfluss auf Literatur und Kultur hatte, zu rezensieren. Oberflächlich scheint „Frankenstein“ lediglich der Unterhaltung zu dienen; erst in der Tiefe offenbaren sich zahlreiche elementare Themen, die sich um die zentrale Schöpfungsgeschichte des namenlosen Monsters herumranken. Dadurch entsteht eine verblüffende Ambiguität, die eine gradlinige Einteilung in Gut und Böse strikt verweigert. Die psychologisch konsequente, realistische Konstruktion der Protagonisten erlaubt der Geschichte, weit über diese engen Dimensionen hinauszuwachsen. „Frankenstein“ enthüllt sich als Tragödie dunkelster Couleur, die unausweichlich fatal enden muss. Ich war in vielerlei Hinsicht von der Lektüre überrascht. Am meisten erstaunte mich, dass ich Victor Frankenstein seinem Monster vorzog. Ich bin vom Gegenteil ausgegangen. Ein Grund ist sicher die Ich-Perspektive des ehrgeizigen Wissenschaftlers, doch diese Erklärung genügt nicht, um meine Schwierigkeiten mit dem Monster zu determinieren. Obwohl ich den Status der Kreatur als einsame, enttäuschte und verlassene Schöpfung anerkenne und objektiv Mitgefühl empfinde, stieß mich ihre aggressiv-explosive Seite ab. Das Monster ist kein rehäugiger, sanfter Galan, es wird von Zorn und Rachsucht beherrscht. Selbstverständlich sind diese Gefühle gerechtfertigt, aber die Verbissenheit, mit der es eine tödliche Fehde mit Frankenstein provoziert, erschien mir kleingeistig, selbstzerstörerisch und seines intellektuellen Potentials nicht würdig. Anstatt die Zurückweisung seines Schöpfers als Chance zu interpretieren und seine miserable Existenz eigenständig zu verbessern, reagiert es jähzornig und gewalttätig, wenn seine plumpen, ungelenken Versuche, Kontakt mit der Gesellschaft aufzunehmen, scheitern und versteift sich auf die widerwärtig egoistische und gewissenlose Idee, Frankenstein schulde ihm eine Gefährtin. Als dieser ablehnt, gewinnt der obsessive Hass des Monsters auf seinen Schöpfer die Oberhand. Aufgrund dieser Negativentwicklung war ich nicht in der Lage, mich dem Monster emotional zu nähern. Das heißt jedoch nicht, dass ich Victor Frankenstein als Opfer betrachte. Von Arroganz geblendet und frei von Demut schwingt er sich eigennützig zum Schöpfer auf, leugnet seine menschliche Fehlbarkeit, die ihm erst der erschreckende Anblick seiner Schöpfung vor Augen führt. Er bereut, dass er keinen Menschen nach seinem Abbild formen konnte. Er bereut nicht, sich überhaupt an der Schöpfung vergangen zu haben. Er ist sich bis zum Ende keiner Schuld bewusst, spricht sich von jeglicher Verantwortung frei und weigert sich, sein Versagen hinsichtlich seiner bizarren Elternrolle einzugestehen. Mit seiner gleichgültigen Grausamkeit verdammt er das Monster und sich selbst unwiderruflich. Die Sünde, seine Schöpfung im Stich zu lassen, ist unverzeihlich. Victor Frankenstein ist ein Vater, der Zigarettenholen ging und nie zurückkehrte.

 

Mary Shelley war ihrer Zeit weit voraus. Nicht nur literarisch, als Begründerin eines komplett neuen Genres, sondern auch gesellschaftsphilosophisch. „Frankenstein“ ist eine anregende Diskussion des Rechts auf Leben, der Position des Individuums in der Gesellschaft und des Grabens zwischen Schöpfer und Schöpfung. Obwohl Mary Shelley keine überragende Autorin war, kaschierte sie ihre Schwächen elegant und wirkungsvoll, indem sie sich hinter ihrer Geschichte völlig zurücknahm und ihren Figuren bescheiden das Rampenlicht überließ. Für mich war die Lektüre interessant und wertvoll, weil sie mir die ursprüngliche Form der Legende des Victor Frankenstein fernab von verfälschten Verfilmungen näherbrachte, die Erzählung, die der historische Beginn der Science-Fiction war. Ich hoffe, dass Mary Shelley im Jenseits beobachten kann, wie viel sie für die (weibliche) Literatur getan hat und sich daran erfreut, dass ihr Roman, der einst einem Albtraum entsprang, 200 Jahre nach seinem Erscheinen noch immer gelesen wird.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/mary-shelley-frankenstein
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review 2017-12-13 03:04
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

So historians in 2054 have time travel tech and use it to travel back and study the past. In this story a young historian, Kivrin, convinces the history department at her college to let her travel back to 1320, but what they don't know is that she has been infected with a new strain of flu. She is accidentally sent to 1348 when the Black Plague starts in Oxford where she is deathly ill for days and almost dies. In the present the new flu strain causes an epidemic killing many people before a vaccine is developed.

 

This is paralleled by Kivrin watching everyone in the village she is visiting die horrible deaths from the plaque. And Willis's description is pretty graphic. To make matters worse since Kivrin is sent to the wrong year she is almost lost in the past.

 

While this story was a little long winded with some of the descriptions, etc. the story is really good. It jumps back and forth between Kivrin in the past and the people in the present dealing with the flu epidemic and trying to figure out how to get her back. I wonder if Willis was having a crisis of faith while writing this book as she is very detailed in her description of how people in 1348 felt that God had abandoned them, all except Father Roche, the village priest and the last to die. Kivrin even had a recorder embedded in her wrist that was activated when she puts her hands in an attitude of prayer. Kivrin even at times railed against God about not taking someone and the railing against Him about just getting it over and putting someone out of their misery.

 

All in all a great story and highly recommended.

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