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review 2020-06-01 14:43
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame - Victor Hugo,Walter J. Cobb

by Victor Hugo


This Classic was originally written in French and I've found that the translation does make a difference. I have a paperback copy from Penguin, translated by John Sturrock and my first impression was that the writing was very poetic, but I got the free Kindle version from Gutenberg with a different translator because it's easier for me to read on Kindle and in this one, the first chapters felt overly wordy and dragged a little.


I persisted though. I've seen various film versions of this story and didn't recognise most of the names I was reading until we finally meet Quasimodo in chapter five, followed by Esmerelda, though Gringoire who falls foul of the Paris underworld does make an appearance in the old 1939 black and white Charles Laughton version. From Quasimodo's introduction the story digressed into the history of Notre Dame Cathedral.


This one takes a little patience because there are many digressions. Life in fifteenth century Paris under Louis the XI, individual character histories and other commentaries on the times all come together to form a very thorough picture of the circumstances surrounding the familiar story line, but they do break continuity.


The extent to which Quasimodo's story intertwines with Esmerelda's was never fully expressed in the movies. I found the connections very interesting indeed! And Frollo was given a bit of undeserved bad press, especially by Disney. Movies require a villain and a priest immersed in austerity isn't a sympathetic character, but his reasons for adopting Quasimodo were based in charity, not obligation.


Quasimodo's back story is revealed in reverse, first showing us his experience with the Feast of Fools, then later revealing how he came to be ward of Frollo, and after that his origins and how he came into Frollo's path. Then later we move forward.


While the book would never get commercial publication in today's publishing market due to the extent of the digressions, the story is well told as a whole and the Classic enthusiast is likely to enjoy the fullness of the description and depiction of the time and place and how it shapes the events of the plot. I'm glad to have read it now and will look on film repeats with a more detailed knowledge of the whole of the story.


A worthwhile Classic, for those who have the patience to assimilate a fair bit of history between story events.

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review 2020-05-07 02:09
Dream logic and existentialism
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

This certainly made up for "City of Illusions". I admit that the end lost me, but then again, dreams are not supposed to make sense all the way.


There is a persistent feeling of urgency about this story. Haber's conceit and grandiosity is apparent soon enough, and the more the book advances, the more anxiety how beholden to Haber Orr is it caused me. It almost tips into impatience about how passive Orr is.


And that might be part of how genius the book is. Because for all intents and purposes, Orr is a god. THE god and creator of the world inside those pages. And the story itself shows us what Orr himself puts in words: that an unbalanced god that is not part of his own world and tries to meddle with prejudice ultimately destroys everything.


There is much more. A recursiveness that gets reeeeally tangled and confusing at the end. Either a god that dreams himself and more gods into existence (a little help from my friends), or maybe that other dreamers already existed, and even, maybe, that the dreamer was not the one we thought (specially from halfway in). The way we keep coming back to the importance of human connection (the one thing Haber maybe had right, even if he denied it in his own dealings), the fact that "the end justifies the means" implies that there is and end, as if history, or mankind, or the world wouldn't then march on, and as that is not truth, then there are only means.

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review 2020-05-01 22:53
Hives, colonization, and what makes one rebel
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

This was a ride and a half and I did not expect it to be this good or turn out this serious.


You know everything HAD to have gone to pot for the ship to end in one body, sure. I was ready for an action/adventure sci-fi romp, and in a way, it is that. What surprised me was how hard it goes into the social issues inherent in colonization, how it explores the notion of identity and how it can be more than one thing, going double for entities that work more like a hive. "I'm at war with myself" is a very psychological statement that seems to be a theme for many characters, and ultimately gets very literal in this sci-fi set up.


There is also the constant coming back to the duality system of belief, the idea that fate is as it's tossed, and so you might as well choose your step, one after the other (sounds a lot like Taoist beliefs to me, plus the idea of hitzusen). What I found interesting is how it delves into thoughts and intentions vs actions, and obliquely (or at least, what I took from the whole sample of characters) how in the moment of truth you don't know who will be that will make the selfless choice (because when it comes right down to it, sometimes people don't even realize it was the moment of truth till it passed), but also, that past choices define next ones, but not in the way one would suspect (because sometimes, the feel that you chose wrong might make you very, very set and vigilant to choose differently afterwards)...


Aaaand, yeah, I got right down philosophical. I think it was all that loooong interrupted chat between Toren and Anaander Mianaai. It made me go "oh, shit" in so may directions. Very interesting.

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review 2020-04-15 05:18
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Reid

For a novel that's supposed to be about movie stars in old Hollywood, I came away with little about actually making the movies. We get more about publicity stunts, behind-the-scenes lobbying, and award shows rather than about film-making itself. Even entering the industry seems like only a matter of moving to California and being pretty and hanging around studios; voila, you get cast as an extra. The writing is simpler than I expected and felt very condensed (perhaps due to the story spanning several decades, but I've seen it done better) and there's a lot more telling than showing.


Evelyn is not a faultless character. She uses any means including her body and other people to achieve her goals, and she openly admits she's not a good person. But as an anti-heroine, at least she comes across to me as a sympathetic one. Celia on the other hand sounds like a difficult, if not toxic, person to be with.

(spoiler show)


What I liked was the themes running through the novel, including identity and female sexuality. The connection between Evelyn and her biographer Monique is unexpected and more complicated than I thought it would be.

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review 2020-04-11 13:09
22-11-1963 - Stephen King,Hugo Kuipers

by Stephen King


I really enjoyed reading this book. Stephen King is undeniably a good writer, and even though I didn't like his Dark Tower series, he has redeemed himself with this time travel fantasy.


Those who avoid Horror have nothing to worry about in this one. Even a couple of violent scenes aren't overly graphic. What King has written is an atmospheric snapshot of life in 1958-1963 with some interesting concepts about the Physics of time travel. Can you really change the present by changing something in the past? That is the question that is constantly asked through this story. You'll have to read it to get the answer.


Some of the elements near the end were not completely explained and I'm sceptical about the yellow card man. However, the book kept me gripped and took me on a journey through a time long before I was born so that it felt like being there, which is what I look for in a time travel novel.


I had mixed feelings about the characters, but the plot was superb. Definitely a recommended read.

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