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review 2017-08-25 02:18
Review: The Sirens of Titan
The Sirens Of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

I was one of those high school kids with zero direction in life. I picked classes based on factors such as likability of teacher, likelihood of cute girls in the class, and the way the class name sounded in my ear. This is how I ended up in a Contemporary Literature class my senior year. I was not yet a passionate reader—that would come years later—but I liked the teacher and figured it would be an easy A. (I don't recall, however, if there were any cute girls in the class.)

Contemporary Lit was where I first was introduced to Vonnegut. (We also read Kerouac, KosiƄski, maybe some others.) I wasn't impressed with any of them: I thought they were all a bunch of irrelevant weirdos who were anything but contemporary. The Vonnegut was of course Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel I was surprised to find had nothing to do with mass slayings by a deranged faceless killer. Instead there was a meandering plot and aliens described as looking like toilet plungers. I guffawed at the stupidity. For years, I'd tell people who hadn't read the book about the Tralfamadorians. But here's the thing about Slaughterhouse-Five: it stuck with me. I remember more about that novel than I do some novels I read three weeks ago. And so it goes.

Eventually I became a all-caps, italicized READER; I finally read that one work that convinced me the world of stories was a world I wanted to live in. And once I entered that world, the name of Vonnegut would pop up often: writer's workshops and Internet searches; book recommendations and some of my favorite hip-hop songs. Over and over, I found like-minded people loved Vonnegut, so I thought maybe I should too.

It has now been more than twenty years since I was first introduced to Vonnegut. Despite my intentions to explore the author in the last decade, I have failed until now. Every time I picked up any Vonnegut novel, I would find myself distracted with something shinier or more promising. I finally decided I'd read The Sirens of Titan because I have a fascination with Saturn's moon and because Vonnegut himself liked the novel (when grading his works years later, Vonnegut offered an 'A' to his sophomore novel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Su... ). Even then, it was some years before I finally read the damn book. But here I am, finally, at my destination.

Malachi Constant is also a man without direction. In a novel which promises to send the rich astronaut to Titan, he first makes prolonged stops to Mars, Mercury, and back to Earth. Along the way he loses his memory, loses his hope, and loses himself. I feel I can relate in some ways with Malachi Constant.

As with all classic novels of spaceflight, The Sirens of Titan is a horribly dated book. Unfortunately, it is more out of touch with its misogynist and prejudiced treatment of its characters than with the technology involved. The main female character—now that I think about it, she may have been the only female character—is reduced to serve as chattel, nameless for for too long. It doesn't feel so out-of-place in a science-fiction novel published in the 1950s, but it does sixty years later.

Let's just sidestep that issue and look at the book as a whole, shall we? Vonnegut doesn't give justice to any of his characters really. They're all rather shrewd and built on stereotypes, but it matters little as they're devoid of dimensions. Though this is only my second Vonnegut, I'm already beginning to see that characters and language take a back seat to plot, but that even plot is secondary to ingenuity. Vonnegut was a clever author. Vonnegut strikes me as a more modern and less showy Mark Twain: of course Twain largely wrote about history and his own world; whereas Vonnegut wrote about future and worlds other than his own. Vonnegut weaved wit with seemingly little effort and I think this is was makes his stories so likable. Though there are clever remarks and situations throughout The Sirens of Titan, the author did not jump in after every passage to say, “Did you see what I did there?” He trusted the reader to figure it out, or perhaps he figured if the reader didn't catch his humor, it wasn't worth his effort to explain it.

I walk away from The Sirens of Titan with similar, but more mature feelings as I did with Slaughterhouse-Five twenty years ago. I really wasn't that impressed. As a reader whose first love is characters and their development, I found The Sirens of Titan to be greatly lacking. While reading the novel, I was conscious of the fact that I found the story to be ridiculous if not outright cheesy. Yet, I continued to read with great interest. And, once again, here I am weeks later, remembering details of Constant's journey that I would've struggled to recall from parallel journeys written by other authors. So, I'm still not sure what I think about Vonnegut. I sort of liked this adventure. I sort of wondered what the hype was about. But I would give him another try. It could easily be another twenty years, but what is time in the world of Vonnegut?

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review 2017-03-21 13:20
The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

I really like Vonnegut's humor in this book. While this book has the trappings of science fiction, do not expect the type of hard sci fi as you might read from Asimov or Clarke. Currently my favorite Vonnegut book.

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review 2017-02-11 16:01
Fast and furious but lacking soul....
Sirens - Joseph B. Knox

Joseph Knox is one of a new breed of crime writers creating gritty stories based around the northern industrial gang ridden Manchester belt. What he does he does extremely well exposing vice and corruption in the underbelly of inner city life. Aidan Waits is a detective living on the edge quite happy to accept the odd little gift, enjoy a crafty snifter, or test the strength of his septum by sniffing copious amounts of cocaine. When his boss Superintendant Parrs confronts Waits, outlining his numerous misdemeanours, he suggests a solution that will benefit both parties. Aidan must agree to infiltrate and feedback intelligence on the activities of gang supremo Zain Carver and the only way to achieve this is to go deep undercover......

 

Although this is a well written story and there are many and varied characters on show in a city overflowing with illegal late night activity, it was not a novel I particularly enjoyed. I realize that this is probably the first in a new series, by a writer who some may well view as a new Lee Child or Simon Kernick, but for me as a standalone work it failed to inspire. I need my crime to be riddled with characters who appear to be strong on the surface but are consumed by doubt and indecision. I want to explore their weaknesses and to be shown how this impacts on their daily existence not only for them but for the immediate family and loved ones. I read this story in two sittings and found the content more akin to a script for a well made tv series, enough to keep me entertained but little to entice me to return. Many thanks to the publishers who in return for an honest review supplied me with a gratis copy, and that is what I have written.

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review 2017-01-04 11:40
Review: Fear the Drowning Deep
Fear the Drowning Deep - Sarah Marsh

I received a copy from Edelweiss

 

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this one, it was a bit of coverlust more than anything about it that caught my attention and I snagged it as soon as I saw it on Edelweiss as a read it now. I’d forgotten what it was about by the time I finally got around to read it. Pleasantly surprised to find how unique this novel was and how much I enjoyed and how unexpected the plot was. It’s a turn of the century historical set in the Isle of Man.

 

The main character lives in small island village steeped mythology regarding the sea and the creatures within and the strange fairy folk (think more traditional type fairies, Little Folk, mysterious and hardly ever seen but a somewhat worrying presence).

 

Bridey, the main character, just wants to escape from the island and go experience London and the mainland. She has a close tightknit family of a number of siblings, a couple of best friends, though her male friend Lugh’s attention seem to be changing slightly towards her. The town even has a creepy old lady who lives, Morag, alone with a mysterious past known as the local witch.

 

Bridey is haunted by the mysterious death of her grandfather. She was there when it happened, the official cause is drowning, but she knows there’s more to it. Problem is no one believes her. Not helped when Bridey is looking for work and her mother sends her to go apprentice to Morag. Then girls start disappearing and turning up dead.

 

Along with the arrival of a strange boy washed up on the beach. The boy has horrible wounds and no memory of who he is. Bridey takes him home to help nurse him back to health, as he has no name, she names him Fynn.

 

Beautifully written, almost lyrical, and completely captivating, the mythology of the sea beasts and magic of the isle is woven in and it’s absolutely fascinating. The cast of characters is pretty incredible, from the stubborn townsfolk who can be at once giving and incredibly small minded, and of course there’s much more to local witch Morag than anyone thought to look at.

 

And the slow build of trust and friendship between Bridey and Fynn is very well done and believable. It’s not insta-love, it takes time and work. Coupled with the mystery of the disappearing girls it all mixes together and works incredibly well. It’s not just focused on Bridey and Fynn, I really liked the inclusion of Bridey’s family and her friends and how they all cope differently with the events in the novel as they unfold.

 

The plot has a few surprising twists and turns and it’s impossible to guess, and the end really threw me and was completely unexpected. Some of the ending was a little hard to follow, I had to go back and read some of the scenes twice to make sure I was following the plot correctly, but the initial twist at the end was still a big surprise.

 

All in all a fantastic read and definitely an author I look forward to reading more of.

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review 2016-12-20 16:10
UPDRIFT BY: ERRIN STEVENS
Updrift - Errin Stevens

 

Updrift wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was still an enjoyable read. I guess I was expecting a little more action and fantasy in this book, and while it did ultimately deliver on both of these, it did take quite some time to really do so. BUT where these elements were lacking in the first half or so of the story, there was really strong character and relationship development. In my opinion this was probably the strongest element in this story. So while it wasn't quite what I was expecting, I still enjoyed the journey to get to the parts I was anticipating. I think there was a lot of exploration into coming of age, falling in love, being a friend, a daughter, a mother, an aunt, basically the whole family dynamic in general. Stevens develops and nurtures each relationship with a lot of time and care, and I appreciate that.

 

 

family

 

 

Once we got more into the fantasy elements of the story, I found it quite interesting. I really liked that the men (Sirens) were the feature here. I feel like so often with "mermaids" we are getting the female take on them, so it was nice to see Stevens' version with the Sirens taking the lead.

 

 

merman

 

 

I liked the idea of them as a generally peaceful and devoted race. The fact that they mate for life was a sweet touch. I really enjoyed seeing a little of their home in the sea and their customs. Although I feel like there is a lot that could still be done with that aspect of the story. I had really high hopes for the world building here, but I feel as if there could have been more there. I would really love to see this world be expanded upon in the next book. I think that would take these books to a whole new level. All in all I enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to seeing what the next book, Breakwater holds in store!

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