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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-01-20 22:26
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien

"But," said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, "I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done."

"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."

- Frodo and Sam

Book Six, Chapter IX: Grey Havens

pp. 1346-7



Warning: This review will be of the entire novel (meaning volumes I-III, or The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), so there will be a large quantity of spoilers. If you have not read the books but have seen the films, I think you'll be okay. If you haven't done either, you've been warned so proceed at your own risk -- though these books have been out since the mid-1950s, so you've had plenty of time to be acquainted with their content.



The Lord of the Rings follows the story of a little hobbit named Frodo Baggins, who is entrusted with the care of the One Ring -- a ring that will let the enemy rise again with full strength and power. Frodo must go on a quest to Mordor and destroy the Ring by casting it into the cracks of Mount Doom from which it was forged in order to fully get rid of the evil of Sauron.


Tolkien's novel is one of my favourites of all time. There's something so beautiful about friendships and loyalty grown through adversity and hardships that makes me all teary when I even think about it. The novel really makes you feel the care the fellowship have for each other as comrades and as friends. Yeah, maybe it's a little homoerotic in that eight dudes on a long trek east will have a tenderness that modern bros will think is a bit too feminine for their liking, but whatever friendships are amazing things and those bros are just too insecure in their masculinity. These people become the best of friends in their quest, basically brothers, so don't be asking when are Frodo and Sam going to kiss 'cause that's not cool. (Of course, it would've been cool to have either a woman or one of them gay for diversity reasons, but y'know the '50s and all.)


The novel is separated into six books (with two packaged into each volume), with appendices and an index at the end. Book One follows from Bilbo's 111th birthday/Frodo's 33rd birthday to when the four hobbits and Strider make it to Rivendell. Book Two begins with the Council of Elrond to discuss what is to be done with the Ring and ends with Frodo and Sam leaving the fellowship. Book Three starts with Boromir's death and the capture of Pippin and Merry, and then ends with the Ents taking down Isengard and Pippin being whisked away to Minas Tirith by Gandalf. Book Four follows only Frodo and Sam as they meet up with Gollum and make their way to Mordor, running into Faramir and ending with Frodo being taken by Orcs after being poisoned by Shelob (the giant spider). Book Five refocuses on everyone else and covers the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, including bringing Faramir, Éowyn and Merry to the Houses of Healing, and then everyone setting off for the Black Gates. Book Six covers Frodo and Sam's journey to Mount Doom and the completion of their quest, then their journey back home. Why, yes, a lot of stuff does happen.


While Frodo and Sam's journey is very important in actually ending Sauron, I find the books that focus on Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin and Merry to be an infinite amount more interesting. I think it's because they encounter more trouble and get to fight battles. It's not until Frodo and Sam make it into Mordor that their journey starts to pick up. Most of the time, the pair of them are just walking past rivers, over hills, hiding under rocks, etc. Tolkien's prose is beautiful, but my god it's hard to make that fun. Before they split from the rest of the Company, Book One is a bit of a drag, but only because I think three chapters involving Tom Bombadil is at least two chapters too many. I mean, nothing even goes on when they're there! It sets up Tom Bombadil as a mysterious character, but it's ultimately pointless.


A lot of people when they read the novel now think that Tolkien is a very passive writer and that he was a poor writer despite how great his imagination and world-building was. I think that's an opinion that doesn't reflect what I've read of Tolkien's work. It's true that Tolkien wrote a lot of description about the landscapes and the buildings, but that's kind of what world-building is all about; that doesn't make him a poor writer. Not only that, but each chapter in The Lord of the Rings has a clear event that occurs so it's not like there are any chapters where something big or important doesn't happen. Tolkien's prose is also very prosodic, which is of course more pronounced when you read it aloud. I personally think the main reason people find Tolkien boring now is because of the way he structures his sentences: nobody really writes the way he does anymore. Tolkien was all about moving phrases or words to the front of the sentence for stress or to draw attention to it, something that Latin was really fond of. Really, I think it's unjust to judge Tolkien's prose as bad when he was doing something with it that we're no longer used to. This is all a matter of taste, of course.


Besides the story itself, a large reason I love this novel is because of the linguistic thought Tolkien put into it. He made up languages, but not just that: he made up language families. As someone studying linguistics, I cannot tell you how inspiring and amazing that is. That's like making up a branch of Indo-European languages, which means it's like making up all the Germanic languages or the Italic languages. The most I could say is that there is only one man-made language that has truly caught on enough that there have become native speakers of it, and that's Esperanto. And now people actually learn to speak and write the languages in Tolkien's world, and not only that but it's a fully-formed language. As a linguistics nerd, I'm dying over here!


Yes, there are issues with Tolkien's novel, like the lack of female characters, the pacing can be slow, the overarching theme of racism since each and every Orc ever has always been a creature worth exterminating, but these faults aren't enough for the novel to be dismissed. It has its issues like every other novel, and coming from the 1950s it's not actually that bad. The Lord of the Rings really isn't for everyone, but I think everyone should at least give it a try. After all, Tolkien has contributed so much to Western culture that it would be rude not to take a little peek.

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review 2014-01-08 22:02
Nineteen Seventy-Seven by David Peace
Nineteen Seventy-Seven (Red Riding, #2) - David Peace

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Nineteen Seventy-Seven is about the beginning of the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry and it's told from the perspective of two people involved with the case: Det. Bob Fraser and reporter Jack Whitehead.

Peace continues with the same film noir mood and tone in this book. The writing style is the same as well, in that we still get a load of repetitions for emphasis and mood. Peace is still vague in his descriptions, always asking for you to work hard at solving it first before he reveals it -- and sometimes he doesn't even do that. I appreciate mystery novels that make me work for the ending.

This installment in the series alternates points of view between Jack and Bob every chapter. There's also the usual breakdown of the main characters at the end of the novel, but hasn't gotten boring yet. It's always so interesting the different issues that each character has and the way that they're handling or not handling them. Peace is so good at reminding us that people are people, and that means that they are never fully good or bad; it's always a mix of both, a spectrum that you can always slide on.

One thing that makes this novel different from its predecessor is the introduction of pre-chapter topical events. Before every chapter there is a little excerpt from a (most likely fictionalized) radio show with local Yorkshire and Leeds citizens weighing in on country-wide topics like the Queen's Jubilee and area-centered topics like the Yorkshire Ripper and murders. I really liked reading these, and maybe even a tad more so than the actual chapters themselves.

The ending of Nineteen Seventy-Seven will not be a surprise to anyone who has read Nineteen Seventy-Four, but it's still gut-wrenching because it's a mix of "They don't deserve this," and "Well, that was drastic." However, clearly 1970s Yorkshire was a mixed-up, dark place and maybe the events that I consider drastic were perfectly standard for the time.

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review 2014-01-08 04:41
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey #1) - Arthur C. Clarke


Note: This review was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



I know I shouldn't compare 2001: A Space Odyssey to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but since I recently read both, I can't help it. I'm sorry, but 2001 was just so much better. Especially in terms of story-telling and prose.

Fans of the film (like myself) may be surprised how true to the book the movie is (the end note to this edition is about how Clarke wrote the book concurrently with the movie, which I didn't know but the Wikipedia article states). The book, while expertly descriptive and wonderfully written, doesn't have the same impact on the senses as the visuals in Kubrick's film. Because, let's be honest, that movie is visually stunning, especially during the Jupiter Mission part.

If you like the movie, you'll like this. But if you like the movie for superficial reasons like pretty cinematography, you will like this but not as much. Clarke has fantastic descriptions, but they really don't hold up to Kubrick's cinematography.

Still not down with the space fetus though.

(spoiler show)

I'm interested to see where the rest of the series will go, so I'll be reading the next three books.


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review 2014-01-08 04:29
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick,Robert Zelazny

Note: This review was taken from my Goodreads account.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is about a bounty hunter who "retires" humanoid machines (androids or "andys") and he has to take a case in which he must retire six andys with advanced model brains (Nexus-6), which ultimately make them harder to catch.

First, a warning: Thar be spoilers below. These spoilers are for both the novel and its film adaptation Blade Runner.

I think that Blade Runner is better than this book (even with its terrible '80s music. I mean, who really needs that much synth?). And here's why:

1) There's more action in Blade Runner.

In the book, the action does not feel like action. There's no tension and it's so horribly dull. When there's some shooting going on, it goes like this:

He ran at me. I shot him with my laser tube. The laser hit him in the head and wrecked his face. He didn't move.

Well, just wow. That's about as exciting as painting my nails. Same amount of tension, too.

There's also parts where Deckard just flat-out says, "You're an android" and there are no dangerous repercussions. I mean, what? We know these androids have killed so that they can escape and other people have been sent to hospital with injuries, and yet Deckard doesn't seem to think that telling them that he knows they're not human won't land him in hot water.

2) The romance with Rachael Rosen.

The movie is, I admit, not great on the romance either. Physically restraining her and then she's turned on? Shame on you, Ridley Scott. But, the romance in the book isn't better. We don't see how Deckard's relationship with Rachael escalates to the point of love--in fact, it doesn't really at all. He doesn't think about her much aside from the times when he interacts with her, and then suddenly they're in a hotel room and he's like, "I'm in love with you" and she's like, "Don't retire those andys" and he's like, "I have to" and she's like, "I don't love you, I only slept with you because usually when I sleep with bounty hunters (count: 9) they can't go on to retire their next targets." Hot damn.

Then later we keep hearing that one of the androids is the same make and model as Rachael Rosen, so it will look like her and that means Deckard won't be able to retire her since he's too into Rachael and it'll be too hard for him. Didn't really turn out that way since he zapped her so fast with his laser tube that it seemed like he wasn't torn up about it at all.

3) Are androids "alive"?

I personally think that the movie deals with this better. While in the book Deckard does think about empathy and androids and whether we should regard them as beings, he doesn't do it that much. And when he does, it doesn't seem all that revelatory or important. Most of the time, he doesn't seem that interested. I think that's a fault in Dick's writing, though. There are a couple moments in the book where the androids clearly show their lack of empathy and especially understanding of the humans around them, but overall Dick's agenda is fairly obvious: even if it's mechanical, it can be alive. We see this with the electric animals throughout the novel, as well. I think that Dick just doesn't handle the subject matter as well as the movie does.

Plus sides to the novel are that Dick throws us into his world from page one. It's alien and interesting and I want to know more about this post-apocalyptic Earth where the people with the right IQ can emigrate to Mars and other off-world colonies. We've got mood organs for you to change how you feel, hovercars which just straight-up fly, and humans obsessed with real animals (Deckard has an electric sheep, which I found annoying because it relates to the title in a concrete way--blegh).

Also, the idea that sentient things are still alive, even if they don't grow or their cells don't regenerate or that they lack fundamental human qualities like love or empathy.

Another plus is the title of the novel. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is one of the best titles ever.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2013-12-13 22:08
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.


Warning: Spoilers be down below!



I feel like I should do a PSA for this book before my review, so here it goes:

Warning: This book contains graphic sex and violence. If you have a queasy stomach or don't like non-missionary sex, then this book may not be for you.

There are a lot of things I really enjoyed about this book, and none of them are the gruesome bits, which I'll admit is a bit surprising. The real reason I found this book so enjoyable was Patrick Bateman as a character. He's just so fascinating.

(1) The Nail that Sticks Out

Fitting in is a big part of American Psycho. Bateman is constantly stressing out about what people think of him and he wants to be accepted into his group of fellow yuppies. But at the same time, he doesn't want to be just another dude in a well-tailored suit; that's why he is constantly letting slip to his coworkers and friends about his murderous feelings. Of course, none of them seem to actually hear what he's saying. At one point, a character hears "murders and executions" as "mergers and acquisitions".

Bateman blends in so well with his fellow yuppies that multiple people throughout the novel mistake him for a multitude of different people. One person mistakes him for two different people in the same night! Bateman becomes an interchangeable face of corporate America, which also seems to drive him to commit the acts he does.

(2) Gym, Tan, Laundry

Bateman is obsessed with fashion and high brow restaurants and luxury items. He is constantly going to get a pedicure, a massage, etc. He works out at the gym for two hours every morning before work. He goes to the tanning salon regularly (and regularly gets complimented on his tan) and is jealous of a colleague who buys his own tanning bed. Every time a person is introduced into the scene, Bateman recounts their wardrobes in extreme detail. In fact, it looks like Bateman is the go-to guy for fashion advice. He freaks out multiple times about whether his hair looks good. Besides that, he is so over-invested in material items that he gets envious of another man's business card because it has, what he deems, the perfect font, colour and detail.

All of this attention Bateman pays to his appearance demonstrates his obsession with being attractive and putting on a facade (an interaction with an old friend hints that Bateman comes from a very wealthy background and doesn't actually need to work on Wall Street).

(3) Break It Down Now

Bateman goes through an interesting breakdown throughout the course of the novel. It appears at the beginning that he has his life together, aside from the casual outbursts of murderous intent, but slowly loses control of it. We see this in the way that he builds up to the first kill we see in the novel to the frenzied murder spree that occurs near the end of the novel.

This breakdown throws Bateman's reliability as a narrator into jeopardy. Does he actually tell colleagues that he wants to mutilate these people or is it all in his mind? Are the murders he commits even real? (A homeless man and his dog, both whom we are meant to believe Bateman severely mutilated, make a re-occurrence, but the second time the man says he is a blinded Vietnam veteran--is the truth that Bateman blinded him with a knife or that something happened during the Vietnam War that resulted in the loss of his eyesight?) Everything falls under scrutiny and speculation.

(4) Misogyny at Its Finest

I don't think Ellis himself is a misogynist, but Bateman sure as hell is. He hates women with a vengeance and only seeks to use them for their bodies: sexually or for murder. His favourite scene in a movie is when a woman gets drilled to death, and he jerks off to it. He skull-fucks dead girls, hates his girlfriend and treats women he has affairs with like shit. Women do not fair well when looked upon by Patrick Bateman.

Not only that, but he's a racist and a bigoted homophobe, too. Also, an animal abuser.

(5) A Sociological Approach

This book is full of satire and it shows. Bateman mocks people for not wearing haute couture, designer clothing, but the thing is that no one cares except his yuppie friends and himself. He can't get a table at the hottest restaurant in town, but his stoner brother can. No one is impressed by his platinum American Express card because everyone else has one. His girlfriend overly worries about the salad that she didn't even make at her Christmas party; it was catered. His colleagues call him up to ask what the proper etiquette is for wearing a cummerbund. There's no way Ellis isn't mocking people with this attitude. No wonder Ellis makes Bateman a psychopath; it's hard to stay sane with the people who surround Bateman.

I don't have much else to say about the book because I can't really remember what I fully wanted to say (I admit that I'm watching Hell's Kitchen as I do this, so my attention is kind of divided). It's a very good book and I enjoy Ellis's style, but it can be off-putting. I definitely think it's worth the read though if you can stomach it.

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