McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories edited by Michael Chabon (02:04 AM)
McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories edited by Michael Chabon: a collection of literary short stories that is touted as "stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, (and) page-turning" that I ultimately found to be uneven at best.
These stories are supposed to blur the line between genres, but with a few exceptions (most notably "7C" by Jason Roberts), I didn't find that too many of them fit that bill. While several of the stories were very good, others were not of the caliber that I would have suspected given the talent that wrote them.
"7C" by Jason Roberts is a blend of horror and science fiction that I needed to reread again to truly appreciate. Jonathan Lethem's "Vivian Relf" was also interesting and I particularly enjoyed it since I have one of those faces that is always causing people to ask, "Don't I know you?" Other stellar stories were China Mieville's "Reports of Certain Events in London," "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman, Poppy Z. Brite's "The Devil of Delery Street," and "Delmonico" by Daniel Handler. I think I would have liked "The Fabled Light-House of Vina Del Mar" by Joyce Carol Oates more if it would have been tighter.
My favorite in the collection was "Lisey in the Madman" by Stephen King. I am a huge Stephen King fan and despite my disappointment in the last Dark Tower book, I felt that this story was a return to the King that I know and love. I would be delighted if the rumor that this is actually a snippet from a yet unpublished book turns out to be true. I would love to know more about Lisey and Scott Landen's lifes.
An uneven collection in all since I didn't like some of the stories at all (Peter Straub's "Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle" being my least favorite), but still with enough good ones to make picking this book up worthwhile.
: Comments left behind :
Read "The Shipping News" by Annie Proulx.
: Paul December 20, 2004 09:39 AM
Did you hear Michael Chabon wrote a new Sherlock Holmes book?
: Thomas December 23, 2004 03:08 PM
is that Amazon Web Service you have there, that allows you to post images and purchase info on the books you've read? I'm interested
: Khali January 30, 2005 02:46 PM
Excellent Post, you have a nice writing style. Ive been running through blogs all day now, I think I wanna get my own started. Hopefully itll look like this someday. Just got to get off my ass :)
: prosolution March 18, 2005 09:14 PM
Your site is not only pleasing to the eye, but also to the mind. I'll be checking back frequently to see what you're reading and what you think of it!
: jmfausti May 17, 2005 02:40 PM
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (07:27 AM)
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende: a novel about a young woman's search for her lover who has gone to California to seek his fortune during the gold rush of the 1850s.
On March 15, 1832, a baby is discovered on the doorstep of the British Import and Export Company is Valaparaiso, Chile. Rose Sommers, the sister of Jeremy Sommers, one of the main figures at the company, immediately falls in love with the child and adopted into the family.
Eliza, as the baby is named, has a life of privelge and learns of the world from her two very different mothers - Rose, the upper crust, very correct Englishwoman, and Mama Fresia, the Chilean cook. Her life is pretty straightforward until, at the age of sixteen, she meets Joaquin Andieta and falls desperately in love. Shortly after their affair begins, he leaves her to travel to California, hoping to become rich in the gold rush fever sweeping the world.
A few months after he leaves, Eliza, too consumed with her love for him for them to remain apart, decides to leave Chile and find him so they can be reunited. Thus begins a journey of thousands of miles and many years.
I found Daughter of Fortune to be absolutely riveting. Allende manages to bring not only Eliza and Joaquin's story to the front, but also dozens of other characters. I found myself getting lost in several of these other people's stories and almost forgetting that the book was actually about Eliza.
The descriptions of life in other parts of the world - particularly that of China and of California during the 1850s - was fascinating, though the corruption and inhuman treatment of minorities was deplorable and extremely disheartening.
The only problem that I really had with the book was that the ending was too abrupt for my liking. Several revelations were made that I wish would have played out more amongst the characters. I would have liked to have seen a more final conclusion than the one that was presented.
On a side note, this book has the absolute longest paragraphs I have ever come across. In some places, the same paragraph would last for a few pages. I can't recall the last time I've been struck by paragraph length while reading.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Isabel Allende's works in the future.
: Comments left behind :
Unfortunately, i haven't read anything from Allende--although she's my compatriot. So i cannot really give my point.
But i wanted to say something, about the paragraph length: When i read books by US authors (not british) i often find the paragrahs very short. And most of my friends agree with me on that. I guess it's a style resource to emphasize the unit of content in each paragraph individually. But Spanish writers--and i think most Europeans as well--tend to link ideas in bigger units and therefore write longer paragraphs. It's normal they last between half a page and a whole page.
One that struck me was Argentinian Ricardo Piglia's "Respiracion Artificial": a paragraph lasted for 16 pages.
Congratulations on this Biblioblog, it's the first one i ever visit and i think it's a great idea.
: el_EdGaR December 12, 2004 11:39 AM
I really liked your book. It took me 3 weeks to finish this book. I hate reading, but a book report was due. But like every one says, "education first." I had to do because my mom and i made a deal. If i read the book and did the book report, she would buy me a really cool thing named the sony psp. I did the book report and every thing but my mom broke the promise. i felt really sad when she said that she was not going to buy me the psp. all that hard work for nothing. well, i wish you good luck in everything you do. God bless you/ que diosito te bendiga isabel allende i hope to see you some day
: alexis gonzales April 5, 2005 08:34 PM
I'm sure you're aware of this, but there is a sequel to Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia. It ties up a lot of the semi-loose ends in Daughter. :) I absolutely adore Isabelle Allende. I'm always so happy to find other people who've loved her, too. :)
: Éireann June 3, 2005 04:28 PM
i really enjoyed this book but did agree with you on the fact that it ended and i still had questions. so thanx to Eireann i can read Portrait in Sepia.
: sara s February 22, 2006 08:28 PM
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (08:22 AM)
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks: the story of a English village that decides to quarantine themselves due to the bubonic plague in 1666.
As the story begins, we meet Anna Frith. She is the housemaid for the rectory in a small Derbyshire village. The year before, in the Spring of 1665, a tailor inadvertently brought the plague to the town on an infected bolt of cloth. People begin to sicken and die, causing Michael Mompellion, the rector, to propose a plan to the townspeople.
His plan is that the town seals itself off from the rest of the world (aided in part by a local earl who is willing to give them with supplies) so that they don't spread the disease. However, this means that those that are healthy now run the risk of possibly getting sick in the future.
Despite the fact that the most prominent family in town decide to flee, everyone else stays. As more and more of the townspeople get sick, a friendship between Anna and the rector's wife Elinor grows as they try and battle the disease. This complicates the feelings that, after the plague has just about run its course, are starting to develop between Anna and Michael, leading to an ending that I never expected.
The novel is actually historical fiction, inspired by the English town of Eyam, making it easy to feel like you've been transported in time and are experiencing what life for those townspeople must have been like.
I truly loved this book. I found the story to be many things: sad (Anna's longing for her children and the time she could have spent with George Viccars was heartbreaking), courageous (the towns willingness to sacrifice themselves to help stop an outbreak), inspiring, and just downright interesting.
My only problem is with the abruptness of the novel's conclusion. Most of it was told as a flashback to the time of the plague's outbreak, so when we get back to present time, there's very little of the book left. Considering what we find out about certain things, I would have appreciated Brooks taking more time to deal with these revelations.
All in all, though, I found it to be an engrossing read with characters that I really cared about, making me want to find out what would happen to them as the plague decimated the town. I also enjoyed seeing a woman gain indepence and self-reliance in a time when it was rare for so many. Definitely well worth reading.
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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (07:23 PM)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire: The Wizard of Oz, told from a different viewpoint from what we're used to, that of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba.
When our story starts off, we're treated to the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, swooping down on her broom to spy on Dororthy Gale and her group as they discuss her origin. The majority of the book is then told as a flashback, beginning with Elphaba's mother getting ready to shortly give birth to her.
Honestly, I don't feel like recapping the entire story, so I'm not. I liked about the first half of the book, but once Elphaba left for the Vinkus, I really felt like the story bogged down. Up until then, it had been interesting with political discourse, love affairs, and interesting characters. After that point, however, it seemed to just drag on and on with no real purpose.
Once the final events leading to Elphaba's death start to get put in motion, I felt like they were very haphazad and didn't relate well and were just rushed to finish the book up. The whole part about a possible conspiracy drawing the lives of the three witches together also never set very well with me.
I'm torn whether I would recommend this book or not. Ultimately I found it disappointing, but so many people really love it that it might be worth your time to read.
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**READER BE FOREWARNED THIS RANT WILL SPOIL THE BOOK FOR YOU IF YOU HAVE NOT, BUT PLAN TO, READ WICKED. ***
Wicked was a fun book, especially the first portion (I’d say up until Fiyero’s death.) Nevertheless, it loses some steam after that. . .
First of all, I sensed that something was brewing between Boq and Elphie during their college days, but that was never fully resolved. Perhaps the author was attempting to stir the reader by not doing the expected love/hate to friendship then, finally, romance thing. But I wanted more from that, at least an acknowledgment of the tension or possibility of a romance from ANY of the characters.
When the Witch and Boq finally do meet up in adulthood it is just strange, messy, and confusing. She reacts to him rather violently and, um, wickedly but she never really shows that type of behavior anywhere else in the novel. Its just odd. Her motivation is explained quite clumsily there, it brings to mind a teenage boy fumbling to unhook a bra for the first time–not a fluid affair.
Also, I am not quite sure why Elphaba behaved in the fashion she did once her lover died. It made sense that she was sad and reclusive for a while, but. . . .what the??? Why did she stay with the nun-type-people for so long? From everything we know about her personality up until that point, it seems that Elphie would be angered by the murder of her lover, and inevitably, seek revenge. Not hide and lick her wounds for several years.
I am also rather befuddled about how and why our Witch became a witch at all. The text was SO unclear. Was it because she just kept falling into magic and slowly but surely took up as a witch, or was it because the Wizard (or other powerful Ozians) was/were after her and she needed a disguise? Did she have some innate ability, or not? What the hell is the story with this??
When she is involved with Fiyero and the underground Animal rights stuff, she discusses taking correspondence courses in magic so she can appear and disappear with a “puff of smoke,” or some such. But, that is never acknowledged again, ANYWHERE. Later on when her witchy side is developing while living with the Winkies, she says over and over how she knows nothing of magic. How is that so if she took course work in magic? Further, I feel that the author was setting the stage to explain how the Witch learns to appear and disappear with the puff of smoke ala her behavior in The Wizard of Oz, but that is never realized. She never exhibits this talent in Wicked, nor is her desire to do this ever acknowledged again. Its as if the author forgot this tidbit completely.
In college, when Madam Morrible calls Elphie, Glinda (by the way, why did she change her name? I would have liked to know more than what was given in the text–lots of sad things happen to people all the time but they keep their names. Why was her name change appropriate? Was it a cultural thing?), and Nessa into her office she tells Elphaba that she doesn’t have any innate witching ability, however during her infancy Elphie can see the future in a crystal ball that Turtle Heart makes her which seems quite witchlike. Later on in Winkie country she, through will alone, causes people to die (the son of her lover and the cook during her journey). She also seems to possess the ability to talk to animals, as suggested through her interaction with her bees, crows, and her monkey. I don’t know. Her title as a Witch seems one that was built with hard work,through her Sally Struthers correspondence courses, and natural prowess. Yet, both Elphaba and the text as a whole acts as if she is only deemed a witch through circumstance: her dress and her accoutrements
Overall, my main problem with the book was that for the Wicked Witch of the West she was not very wicked at all. The author set up a perfect history with which one could turn evil: a promiscuous, inattentive, distant mother; a homosexual, God obsessed, verbally abusive (i.e., he tells her, and everyone who will stand still long enough, that she was born simply to punish him), mostly absent father; an early childhood filled with peer rejection; a best friend who spends majority of their friendship being embarrassed of the association to her; a grave and sudden loss at the hands of her enemies; and sexual identity issues. Elphaba’s early childhood and parental relationships alone have turned real men and women to serial murder. Surely the author could have whipped up a plot that had the Wicked Witch really turn evil, all the ingredients are there!
Please don’t misunderstand, I enjoy that the author was toying around with the nature of evil and societies conception there of, but the book needed to acknowledge that she was indeed evil in the original tale. I would have enjoyed it more if, through this tale, the reader was exposed to the complexity of what is socially viewed as evil. For example, Jeffery Dahmer was thought of as evil, as was Ted Bundy, but they didn’t simply appear on earth that way. Circumstances developed them to be evil through mental illness, parental neglect and abuse, poor peer relations, few social skills as a result of parental and peer relations, sexuality issues and so on. After close inspection of peoples lives who are thought of as evil by society (such as Dahmer and Bundy, or even Hitler) they seem more tragic, than evil. The author could have beautifully conveyed that message using the Wicked Witch. The novel could have served as more than simply a fantasy novel, it could have housed a social message, which I believe the character of Elphaba would have endorsed.
: Josette March 20, 2005 11:38 PM
Nevertheless, regardless of all my gripes, I did enjoy this book. I thought it was gripping and often I had trouble putting it down to eat and sleep. It had a wonderful element of fun, and yet it was also quite tragic. Given the opportunity to do over, I’d definitely read this book again. In fact, I am thinking about checking out the authors other works.
I was disappointed in this book also - especially because the premise was so interesting. It just didn't come together for me.
: erica April 12, 2005 10:25 AM
Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen (09:03 PM)
Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen: a collection of short stories by the creator of such movies as Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Raising Arizona, and, one of my personal favorite movies of all time, The Big Lebowski.
Being a big fan of the all of the movie that the Coen brothers have done, I was very excited to see that Ethan Coen had written a book of short stories (anthologies have always been one of my favorite things to read). I figured that the strikingly strange characters that populate their movies would have no problem coming to life on the pages of a book.
Unfortunately, I could never get interested in either the people or their situations, with the exception of a few of the stories. These stories just never came to life for me the way that they have on the big screen.
The stories that I did enjoy were A Fever in the Blood (a private detective goes deaf after having his ear biten off by a by a deranged thug), I Killed Phil Shapario (a Jewish son kills his father, though I'm really not sure why), and Gates of Eden (a weights and measures man is seduced by a beautiful Japanese lady for nefarious reasons).
All in all, I was greatly disappointed iwith this anthology. The book did get good reviews over at Amazon.com however, so you might like it even if I didn't.
: Comments left behind :
Just FYI, there's a new Coen Brothers movie coming out, Hail Caesar.
: Anne - Hail Caesar May 10, 2006 07:58 AM
Affinity by Sarah Waters (09:45 PM)
Affinity by Sarah Waters: a gothic story that's part supernatural tale and part romance, but always interesting.
In late September of 1874, Margaret Prior becomes a Lady Visitor - a woman who visits the inmates giving them friendship and guidance in hope that when they are released they will better their lives and turn away from crime - to Millbank Prison in London.
The prison is, of course, a dark, sad place with two hundred and seventy women incarcerated (there are also men, but they don't figure into the story). On her first visit she is captivated by the sight of a young woman holding a violet that she puts to her lips and breathes upon.
She becomes enthralled by this woman, a medium with the beautiful name of Selina Dawes and a face like that of an angel by the painter Crivelli, and an unlikely friendship which soon becomes fraught with much more.
I don't want to say much more about the plot of the novel since half of its intrigue was in determining what had happened, not only to Selina but also to Miss Prior. Why is she watched so closely by her mother? What is the illness that she speaks of?
I enjoyed reading the book and trying to figure out where the story would go next. It was delightfully entertaining despite the somber tones of the novel. Highly recommended for those that like their stories enigmatic and a bit dark.
: Comments left behind :
I first heard of Sarah Waters from the BBC film adaption of her book, "Fingersmith". Now I'm in the middle of this book and enjoy reading it.
: Bottle June 9, 2005 08:55 PM
I'm thinking to get "Affinity" since our library doesn't carry it. The user opinions in Amazon.uk seem quite different. Is it really good? Or, is ita good-reading one but bot like "Fingersmith"?
Magician by Raymond E. Feist (05:05 AM)
Magician by Raymond E. Feist: this is a Viking Classic compiliation of two novels, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master, both with slight changes, presented as an "Author's Preferred Edition."
At the beginning of this saga (this compiliation was almost seven hundred pages), we meet Pug, a thirteen-year-old orphan who lives at the castle Crydee in the peaceful Kingdom of the Isles. He is best friends with Tomas and the two enjoy their boyhood not knowing the destinies that await them.
Soon, Pug is apprenticed to Kulgan, the castle's magician, and Tomas is choosen to be a soldier. However, strange happenings are soon to occur that plunges not only their world, but also another, into an epic fight spanning decades with repercussions that they never could have dreamed of.
This is another one of my purposely vague reviews because I want this book to be as much a surprise for you as it was for me. I was about half way through when I happened upon a reivew that contained a spolier that would have ruined much of the novel for me if I hadn't almost reached that part already.
This was definitely one of the better books I've read all year and I read most of it in one sitting despite its length. I was constantly amazed at how well he was able to create what amounted to dozens of main characters, all of whom I felt connected to and very interested in seeing how their lives would play out.
If you are a fan of adventures, swords and sorcery, or just love a good yarn, then you cannot go wrong with these books. I have ordered the next book in the Riftwar Saga, Silverthorn, and am anxiously awaiting the time I can return to the world of Pug, Tomas, and so many others.
: Comments left behind :
I have this book and it's awsome!
: Ara Lee March 20, 2005 10:03 PM
It's very exciting and it has many things I enjoy reading.
I am about three quaters through, but it doesn't seem like it's getting anywhere near the ending.
But it's still great!
This is a great book, I am currently writing a review on it myself!
: Banno March 29, 2005 01:59 AM
I read this book about 6 years ago and was completely drawn into Feist's world of magic and adventure. This is one of my favourite fantasy/sci-fi novels and I recommend it to anyone who loves a good read.
: James June 1, 2005 05:43 AM
when I got the book I sat down on my back porch and read the book and just fell love with the characters, the setting and the whole plot. It was just a wonderful book that I couldn't put down. Then when I was finshed I lent it to a friend and I let them enjoy the adenture to. My book has been pasted around to almost all my friends and I haven't gotten it back since last summer. So it was a great book and I can't wait to read the new ones.
: jessica welch July 2, 2005 12:41 PM
I first read the Magician series in the late 1980s and 20 years later I can still re-read the books. It's a GREAT series - especially "Magician".
: Daniel July 17, 2005 10:04 AM
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn (10:45 PM)
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn: the true life tale of a of Red-Tail Hawks living in Central Park in New York City.
Unbeknownst to most people, Central Park in New York City is a habitat to hundreds of birds, butterflies, plants, and small mammals. There are many dedicated people that watch and meticulously record where these animals can be found, how they live, and what they do. Marie Winn fell in love with the Bird Registry (the book that records this information) and became a dedicated bird watcher herself.
In the spring of 1992, a pair of red-tailed hawks began trying to raise a family amongst the skyscapers in this urban jungle. The Regulars, the dedicated nature lovers in charge of the Registry, breathlessly watched and recorded the struggles of this family.
I've only been to New York City once and didn't get to see Central Park, so I had no idea that so much life was contained in its boundries. The book definitely makes me want to visit Central Park next time I go to New York City. However, I could never get into the story.
I found the struggle of the hawks very interesting, but most of the book seemed to revolve around other, smaller dramas that couldn't quite capture my attention whole-heartedly. I'm a nature lover myself, so I'm not sure what I felt was lacking to really make this book a page turner for me, though some of it had to do with the fact that I never felt that I truly knew The Regulars and had a hard time keeping each ones specialty (be it butterfly knowledge, plant knowledge, or whatnot) straight. This tended to distract me from the story.
As much as I wanted this to become a gripping story, it fell flat for me and I really couldn't recommend it except to the most ardent nature lover.
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The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose (07:41 PM)
The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose: the story of a sex therapist and her desperate attempt to find one of her patients when she goes missing.
Morgan Snow is one of New York's top sex therapists. One of her clients, Cleo Thane, is an extremely well-paid, very discreet, prostitute dealing with some of the most influential men in the world. Cleo, however, has decided to write a tell-all memoir and even though she disguises the men in her book, it's still pretty easy to figure out who they are.
Then one week, Cleo misses her regular appointment, something she's never done. Morgan is concerned and eventually reaches both Cleo's boyfriend and her business partner. Her concern escalates since a serial killer, dubbed the Magdalene Murderer, has begun to kill prostitutes in a highly ritualized manner and Morgan fears that Cleo has fallen victim to this madman.
She meets Detective Noah Jordan, the policeman assigned to the case, and despite his warnings, attempts to solve this mystery herself. A spark between the two also develops, complicating matters.
For the most part, I liked this book but never found it to be a mesmerizing read or get too involved with the characters. I'm not sure what it is that I felt it lacked, but it really never ranked above a slightly better than average read. This is the first in a new series, however, so the subsequent books may be worth checking out to see if they improve.
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The Dark Tower by Stephen King (08:27 PM)
The Dark Tower by Stephen King: the final chapter in King's magnus opus, The Dark Tower series. Warning: This will contain spoilers, so if you haven't read the book, you may want to stop now.
I honestly don't know what to say here. I've been reading the Dark Tower series since I read The Gunslinger for the first time in the late 80s. There was something about the book that hooked me and I was desperate for the next novels in the series. The Drawing of the Three drew me even further into Roland's universe and with the additions of Eddie and Susannah, made me wonder what was going to happen and fear for these characters that I was beginning to love. The Waste Lands, with Jake coming back into Roland's life, and the new band of gunslingers left in Blaine the Mono's insane grasp only underlined this fear. And then the waiting began.
For almost six years Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy sat in Blaine and I waited to see how their dreadful rhyming contest would end. When Wizard & Glass was finally published, putting an end to Blaine and giving us all the information we needed to see why Roland became the man that he became, I was estactic. Surely, this would be the greatest series ever written. Surely, a series with four incredible novels like these could only be destined to be the best epic ever told.
Alas, it was not to be. While Wolves of the Calla was still pretty much classic Dark Tower, you could tell by Song of Susannah that the path to the Tower had been lost. This is not to say that they aren't fine books - they are; I particularly enjoyed Wolves of the Calla. But looking at the Dark Tower series as a whole, they don't hold up to the previous books. I believe the difference in the change of tone of the series is King's insertion of himself into the story line as a character, and one that is more important than even Roland himself.
Which brings us to final book in the series, The Dark Tower. For the first four hundred pages or so, despite my misgivings over King becoming a character in his own novels, I still felt that the book was fairly true to the Path of the Beam, if you will. However, after the battle at Algul Siento, where Eddie is shot and killed, breaking the band of gunslingers ka-tet irrevocably, that was no longer true for me.
This is not to say that I didn't expect any of the gunslingers to die; I did, though honestly I thought it would be Roland that did not make it to the Tower's top. What I disliked and thought was untrue to the series was the way that the group disintegrated with that death. At that, the novel quit being about the people that I have loved and worried about became characters in a story.
To me, ever since The Drawing of the Three, this series has been about the people - Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy. By destroying the bonds between them so that I barely recognized who they were anymore. The scene between Susannah and Roland where she elects to leave him and try her luck in the alternate New York is an example. In that scene Oy barely remembers Jake, his best friend, and I just don't buy it. Despite the emotion between Susannah and Roland and the despair that was felt, it all just fell flat for me. Never should their ka-tet have been broken so easily. Logically, I understand that this breaking apart had to happen so that the ending could play out as it did. In my heart, however, I just can't accept it. Thoughout these novels, one of the underlying themes was the way that Roland was able to feel again and learn redemption, especially with Jake. The changes in him have been profound and I don't believe he would let his ka-tet fall apart like that, even if he had to fight Gan himself.
Circling back to King's own role in the story, I did not like it. When the idea of King as a part of the story was introduced at the end of Wolves I remember being apprehensive and thinking that this would either be a brilliant or a horrible move for the book. It's hard for me to really put it into words, but the whole thing came off as a cheat, a way to get out of having to come up with any real story. I'm sure that lots of you will disagree, but that was all that was going through my head the more that I read of The Dark Tower.
In a way, I can relate it to the deus ex machina that was used at Dandelo's house. The first time I came across the term (literally meaning machine of the gods, it's an "unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot" - definition from Dictionary.com) was in one of King's books, perhaps Misery, though I'm not entirely sure. In Misery Paul Sheldon was faced with the difficult task of bringing back to life a dead character, but in a way that was fair; in other words, her death just couldn't have been a dream or some other nonsense. Paul Sheldon was able to pull it off without a deus ex machina; Stephen King was not. I think that right there is telling enough of how the series degenerated.
However, the biggest give away that the novel is not up to par, is King's imploration not to read the coda - where the ending is - and the author's note. In the coda we find out that Roland has been completing his quest for the Dark Tower countless times over. Every time he reaches the top of the Tower, only to begin again in the desert where The Gunslinger began. This revelation made me feel cheated.
I've been reading these books for about half of my life. To have no true ending (though one may argue that since Roland picked up the horn of Arthur Eld that maybe the next iteration will be the final one) is disappointing beyond words. The only redeeming quality is that maybe in the future a final Dark Tower book may be written or that at least I can create an ending that I find more fitting in my own imagination.
I've always looked forward to reading the Author's Note that are usually included at the end of King's novels. In these notes I've always felt that King is, while maybe not my friend, friendly and both respects and appreciates me. In the final paragraph, though, when King says that he doesn't want anyone to drop in on him to discuss the ending and that, "(m)y books are my way of knowing you. Let them be your way of knowing me, as well," I almost feel insulted. Never before has he had to warn readers away from him and a note like this isn't going to change some crazy, determined reader from visiting him and the rest of us already know not to. It's almost an admission that he knows he did not end the series rightly, fairly, and this is his way of avoiding taking responsibility.
I'm afraid that this long-winded post has not been able to truly express how I feel and there are other parts that I didn't even get to (For example, why was the battle at Jericho Hill never explained? We found out nothing more about Cuthbert, Alain, and the others past Wizard & Glass. I also believe that Randall Flagg - a truly evil, sly figure - wouldn't have died as easily as he did at Mordred hands). This series has been such a big part of my life (there were years where not a day went by that I did not think of Roland and his ka-tet and what the future held for them) that maybe no ending would have been able to satisfy me, but deep in my heart, I know that to be untrue. I needed this last novel to give me more closure than it has. Maybe in my dreams Roland will reach the Tower and be able to halt his quest and hopefully, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy will be there as well.
: Comments left behind :
I completely agree with your comments. The characters in these books have grown and aged with me over the years. Like you, I know them very well. So the destruction of Roland's ka-tet, and the start of Roland's quest again in the desert was as believeable as an ending in which Roland woke up in Gilead and "it had all been a bad dream!"
After the battle of Algul Siento, the destruction of the ka-tet was so fast, that "ka" literally became a homicidal killing machine. Inconsistent and not believeable.
Granted, it would be very difficult to end this series without breaking the ka-tet but it is possible and would have made for a fascinating story.
Will there be an 8th book? I hope so. Anything that can lighten the burden of suffering in our "keystone world" is welcome.
: April 5, 2005 01:39 AM
God, I hope not. An 8th tomb of shmultz would be too much for anyone to bear. It's simple, KIng had a good story--the best, by far, that he had ever come up with--and he screwed it up. Why? Ego. Him as a character, I want my money back.
: September 5, 2005 08:45 AM
I dont know if i agree. I started with the gunslinger about a yr ago.. and have been hooked since.. I feel as if I know susannah/detta dean, eddie dean, jake, and roland deschain of gilead.. Im not quite done with the darktower, but i have past the part where eddie and jake sadly went into the clearing of the path... Very wierd how sad this made me . But , books end in different ways.. is it plausible that through their journey that all of them would survive? Live happily ever after? If thats how it ended I would surely be surprised. Death has a way of drawing literature to an end. I couldnt have seen it happen any other way in this last addition. Like i asaid , I was VERY sad , geez i felt like I knew them, but then again im a book nerd, and when eddie died? OMg .. not eddie, and then jake.. (go on.. there are other worlds than this ) i was heartbroken.Steven has definitely made himself the true enemy of the ka tet i think.. But his writing has secured a fan 4 life with this one.. no matter how it ends
: happy reader February 3, 2006 03:43 PM
i am so disgusted at how the dark tower series ended. i read all seven books within six months, and feel robbed. i too got attached with the characters and was sad for the series to end, but knew it would sooner or later. yet roland is stuck in some kind of ground hog day loop. that is so cheap. one reader hit it square when they said king knew he was taking a cheesy way out when he said dont come to my door step . are there not more readers who feel totally duped by this lazy half cocked ending. i loved the essence of the story the characters the almost painful detail king put us through, and for what, roland in a cosmic loop de loop never ending quest. i am almost angry for roland himself. is it possible that the readers have more respect for the book than king himself. im not saying i wanted a fairy tale ending but give me a concrete ending.
: March 27, 2006 02:03 PM
I just finished the last of the Dark Tower series, and I too, feel cheated. So much time and effort on Stephen King's part to write this almost-epic...SO much time and effort and MONEY invested by all his readers - and for what? A plot that unravels and leads to a cheesy ending that leaves one with more questions than the ending had answers. Becasue of the way the book ended, I certainly do not care to see this series brought to the silver screen. Let the World move on, and forget this story.
: Ella May 11, 2006 02:01 PM
The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers (01:16 AM)
The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers: a small, lovely collection of quotations by Mister Rogers, everyone's favorite neighbor.
Fred Rogers, known to children and adults throughout the world simply as Mister Rogers, was one of the most well-known and beloved television figures. His message was simple - everyone is precious, love your neighbors, treat people right, and believe in yourself.
The collection was divided into four sections: The Courage to Be Yourself, Understanding Love, The Challenges of Inner Discipline, and We Are All Neighbors. A foreward by his wife Joanne was also included which contained my favorite quote, though it wasn't by Mister Rogers. It was from Mary Lou Kownacki and said, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." What could be a better definition of empathy and tolerance?
I've been going through some rough times lately and I'm not ashamed to admit that reading some of Mister Rogers words made me cry, mostly because they made me feel better about myself than I have in a long time.
Part of a public service announcement that he made for the first anniversary of September 11th, included this, "I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are." Is there anything more comforting to know that Mister Rogers loves you and, more importantly, likes you for who you are? Somehow I don't think so.
: Comments left behind :
Oh, I didn't know you bought a copy of the book for yourself too! :) (Ok, fine. That was me being snarky. I shouldn't be snarky when it comes to Mr. Rogers.)
: Christine November 23, 2004 03:30 AM
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (02:36 AM)
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde: the second novel in the Thursday Next series, picking up where The Eyre Affair left off.
Again, it's 1985, England is the world's biggest superpower and a virtual police state seemingly controlled by the mega-corporation Goliath. Thursday Next, Special Operations Literary Detective, has managed to infuriate Mr. Schitt-Hawse, a Goliath executive, by imprisioning his half-brother Jack Schitt in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Schitt-Hawse proceeds to blackmail Thursday into getting his half-brother back by eradicating any trace of her new husband so that she's the only one who even remembers him.
To make matters worse, a bunch of bizarre coincidences have resulted in accidents that almost take her life and she still has to figure out if the newly discovered Shakespearean play was really penned by the bard and save the world from turing into a ball of pink sludge.
As with The Eyre Affair, one has to have a certain suspension of disbelief, but I completely loved the book. The literary references and jokes were wonderful and trying to figure out how Thursday's going to deal with everything that's going on is both interesting and fun. I really look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Well of Lost Plots
: Comments left behind :
AAAAAAAAGH! I love Jasper Fforde's books! I am now reading "Something Rotten," the latest book in the Thursday Next series. How cool to find another fan!
: Mamacita October 22, 2004 02:27 AM
The World According to Garp by John Irving (03:04 AM)
The World According to Garp by John Irving: a novel about the illegitimate son of nurse and feminist, Jenny Fields, and the people that inhabit his world.
T.S. Garp was born to Jenny Fields, an independent minded woman and young nurse during World War II. Jenny becomes a nurse at the Steering School for boys and raises Garp there. After Garp graduates, he and Jenny move to Vienna where she writes the novel that will make her popular as a feminist leader and Garp begins his writing career.
I don't want to give anything away, so I'm going to keep this review intentionally vague. The book covers Garp's life as a writer and a father, his marriage, and the lives of his family and friends, including Roberta, a former Eagles tackle who is now a woman after having a sex change operation.
The World According to Garp was both funny and sad, reflective and exciting. I found the writing style to be very inviting and I'm not surprised that this book made Random House's Modern Library 100 Best Fiction Books of the 20th Century. I highly recommend it.
: Comments left behind :
Dead Famous by Ben Elton (03:42 AM)
Dead Famous by Ben Elton: a murder takes place in front of approximately 47,000 people, but the police have no idea who committed the crime.
House Arrest is an English reality television show like Big Brother that's in its third year of production. There are ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, and 24/7 coverage. When the book begins, we are on day twenty-nine and Chief Inspector Coleridge is attempting to figure out who committed murder, witnessed by 47,000 people via a live Internet feed, that took place on day twenty-seven.
Coleridge himself is in his fifties and is quite old-fashioned. He cannot understand what would prompt someone to go live in a house, giving up their privacy in a desperate attempt to become famous or why the world would be interested in these people. Nonetheless, he's determined to find the killer.
At first, I had the hardest time getting into Dead Famous. I felt like I'd been dropped into the story midway through and it was difficult for me to keep the characters straight. About fifty pages or so in, though, I found the story really catching my attention, especially since the identity of the murder victim themself isn't revealed for quite some time.
While I wouldn't say that the ending of the story was completely unexpected, it still took me a while to see it coming and, all in all, once the book got past its slow start, I really enjoyed reading it.
: Comments left behind :
Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups by Robert Devereaux (04:56 AM)
Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups by Robert Devereaux: in December of 1970, the Tooth Fairy, naked except for a necklace of blood-flecked teeth, decides upon a plan - a plan to seduce Santa Claus.
You see, before the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and even God are who they are now, they used to be creatures from Greek mythology with completely different aspects and desires. The Tooth Fairy, though, is the only one that retains her persona from that time and she's done with the way things are now. Her seduction of Santa Claus sets in motion events that have huge repercussions not just for these magical creatures, but for several humans as well.
At first, I had great difficulty getting into the book and I suspected that I wasn't going to like it. Yes, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are having wild, kinky sex (occasionally in the bed of a sleeping child, nonetheless). Yes, it's terribly shocking to see figures from our childhood given such base emotions. But is it a good read?
I was inclined to say no and half believing I wasn't even going to finish the novel when, for whatever reason, I found myself becoming more interested in the story and the characters and wondering how it was going to turn out. While it never will never make my favorite book list, Santa Steps Out did manage to hold my attention and I enjoyed the way the book ended.
: Comments left behind :
santa's treason...Santa's Treason? Why Johnny Is A Non-believer!
Oh, how greatly i wanted a sled for my 9th birthday
that last birthday before my father
became an Army Chaplain
and the peace-filled world of Sunnyside
was buried in time
We moved from the little community
and never again would we live
where I might use my sled.
In 1942 my playmate benny was
incarcerated for being "yellow."
Today, evening thoughts and prayers
for my imminent anniversary of 70 solar revolutions
I wonder as i have wandered thru years
decades, and scores
how innocently i have abhorred war
and become a sainted peacelet.
Today i had a letter from a filosopher friend
email is a miracle of modernity
it moves us from ages of struggle for simple survival
to a new epoch, struggle for complex survival.
Yet, ever, still, since, now
as the childness in me wonders and wanders
thru memories long past, present presence, and future fullness
ever to awe and audacity.
In the higher echelons of the government of the usa
the very faith of decency and difference are being challenged
being smeared with fears of full and unmitigated "treason".
A mystical 13 years ago, i was confounded
quickly compromised, conscripted, registered
and to be committed
to endless, profoundly subversive, devious, secret, covert work.
I was identified as that most incredible thief of children's affections
... I was called santa ...
I was burdened with unaccustomed labors
and asked to breach the locked security
of the homes and treasured institutions
of friends, neighbors, relatives and strangers.
I was to labor under the ruse of knowing everyone's name
and to feign knowledge when I was ignorant
I was to bear false witness -- covering up
for naughtiness and badness
and i was to keep secret records.
I was allowed to collect any kind of information i wanted
and expected to keep total biofiles.
Not even my most trusted colleagues
were to be taken into my confidence.
J. Edgar Hoover was a paragon of power in his daze
yet in the daze, weaks, months, years, decades and decadence
scores and scoring of my global travel and work
I was unchecked in power, prestige
and most criminally of all, in the popular culture
I was assigned the task of convincing billions of human beings
that i was a chubby old man who worked rarely
and did not care for people beyond the age of my having them duped.
All in all, that was bad enuf, but worse
parents like the likes of Johnny would deprecate my goodness,
counter treason, i believe
by threatening kidlets with the idea that i was a disciplinarian
"better watch out, better not cry, for i am telling you why ..."
heresy confronts my reason!
So ... even if I light but one candle
fill but one hope or keep faith with only one dying child
I am treasonous
For hundreds and hundreds of years, almost two thousand years
people have known that my magic is not cruel
So, if my dissent from the common current of "fighting terrorism" is treason
please bring me to trial
by a jury of my peers
secretly, like keeping a Santa's list
I doubt that Johnny can find a jury of peers
I appear like a bearded old man
with a bag full of gifts
spreading joy and peace.
Johnny and his peers may sum day learn that
to the question, "Santa, are you real?"
I always reply without any fear of false witness
"Johnny, Virginia, YES, I am real ..."
guilty as charged, overcharged ...
and also, if you can help me get
a gift i have longed for
for millennia ...
a gift for santa?
I want to live in a world where the past tense, the present tense,
and the future tense--all avoid pre-tense.
I want to live in a world where the future protects the past...
and where, without question or doubt, the past protects the future ...
this may be the greatest present we may ask for.
I want all of the best dreams of all ages
to be the 'ourstory' of the future.
I want all the horrors of all our pasts to be forgiven,
miscellaneous errors of ignorance
miserably multiplied by unmitigated arrogance.
I want to live in a world where no child will ever ask
why did you save my life?
I do not want to live in a world where children ask us
the well-fed, the educated, the healthy, the rich, the powerful
'innocent questions' for which i have no innocent answers.
: david inkey October 17, 2004 02:37 PM