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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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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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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-13 00:18
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 8 - Las Posadas: A Christmas House Party, the Murderous Way
Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan,Geoffrey Beevers
Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan

Book themes for Las Posadas: Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends.

 

Christmas house parties were definitely "a thing" with the Golden Age mystery writers -- small wonder since they are, in essence, nothing but a seasonal subspecies of the subgenre that, perhaps, has come to be more synonymous with Golden Age detective fiction than any other subgenre: the country house mystery.  So it's no surprise that Francis Duncan, who published some 20 mystery novels between the 1930s and the early 1950s, but who was quickly and thoroughly forgotten after his books had fallen from favor,* turned to the subject as well, sending his amateur detective (and retired tobacconist) Mordecai Tremaine to the English countryside to attend the Christmas party of wealthy Benedict Grame.  But what begins like a true-blue Dickensian Christmas extravaganza, with Grame doing his level best to mime the likes of Samuel Pickwick and Mr. Fezziwig (Father Christmas / Santa Claus suit, presents on the Christmas tree, and all), in due course inevitably turns into a ghastly crime scene.  The victim is Grame's closest associate; a man whom some, but by far not all of those present seem to have a reason to dislike, but who to Tremaine seemed decidedly more "on the level" than some of the other guests, who had exhibited an unexplicable tension even before, and whose nerves now seem to resemble bow strings a fraction of a second before breaking point.

 

Few of the party's guests actually struck me as likeable -- but while I would have been quite happy to live with this in and of itself (which is, after all, par for the course of the average country house mystery), the solution 

makes clear that Duncan's real purpose here seems to have been to turn Christmas (particularly the Dickensian Christmas clichés) on its (or their) head, and the final reveal in the book's last pages contains a brutal about-face,which

(spoiler show)

considerably marred my enjoyment of the story, even if I had seen parts of it coming and my early suspicion as to the murderer's identity (though not their motive) turned out to be correct.

 

I own a print edition of this book, which I did pull for reference purposes on occasion, but I primarily listened to the deligihtful unabridged audio recording narrated by Geoffrey Beevers, who finds just the right tone for each situation and character.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

* As the Guardian reports, even his publisher no longer knew anything about him when Murder for Christmas was undusted and became a surprise revival hit -- it took for the author's children to see the book at their local Waterstone's to become aware of the publisher's appeal for information and get in touch with them.

 

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