Vintage HOBBIT

Dug up this old copy of THE HOBBIT while cleaning. Bilbo is still kickin’ after all these years.

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Book Review: “ARTEMIS” by Andy Weir

image of book cover artemis by andy weir

Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN was a breakout hit. The originally self-published book went on to sell millions of copies and become a popular motion picture. His follow up ARTEMIS, while having sold well, really doesn’t live up to the quality of its predecessor

Artemis holds the unsavory distinction of the first DNF (Did Not Finish) book on my 2018 reading list.

An action-packed science fiction tale of smuggler “Jazz” Bashara who lives in a space station on the moon, it is much more deeply rooted in fantastical science fiction than The Martian was.

I enjoyed The Martian, with all it’s clever Macguyver-on-Mars moments, and the tension it built around primarily one character.

Artemis, on the other hand, fell flat. Getting to the point, it’s just not a well written book. It’s a successful book, but not a well written one. The dialogue is stilted, the pacing is inconsistent, and while the protagonist is enjoyable enough, Weir cannot help himself from inserting pseudo-science (or non-pseudo-science) lectures into the narrative roughly every three minutes. Even during action scenes. It just feels completely unnatural that someone in high-tension, life or death situations would stop to deliver a lesson on altered gravity. It worked well in the context of The Martian, but not here.

The other issue that stuck out to me (and this one is debatable) is the books “diversity”. It had a diverse cast which is great, but Weir’s references and description to physical appearance, clothing, and culture are extremely shallow and don’t really serve to enhance any of the characters or their stories beyond face-value. It felt pandering and that Weir didn’t particularly care outside of completing a checklist that included “don’t make your MC another white dude in space”. I’m not an expert in genre novel diversity, and while I applaud the attempt, something about the execution felt off.

I listened to this one on audio book, and made it about halfway through. That’s why the review ends here.

What I Liked:

  • The main character “Jazz” was snarky and fun.
  • Rosario Dawson did an excellent job reading on the audio book edition.
  • The first two chapters worth of scientific description.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Uncontrolled outbursts of scientific lecturing.
  • Cringe-worthy dialogue, including overuse of profanity.
  • Mediocre writing (description, pacing, character development)

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Just finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This is a fantastic resource for any author who is struggling with editing their own work or looking for some new knowledge. Written by two professional editors who have been through many a slush pile, it contains excellent advice about the craft using examples that are clear and easy to follow.

The examples are the strongest asset, as they are in context of actual works, not just one-off sentences like many editing and grammar books use.

Highly suggested if you or someone you know is deep in revising that manuscript.

Book of the Year 2017

 

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The year is coming to a close, and I wanted to reflect back on some of the best books I read in 2017. Plus, I figured I’d start an annual “Book of The Year” award. I mean, this is a blog after all, and blogs gotta have awards and lists.

Keep in mind, this lofty accolade is MY 2017 book, meaning it didn’t have to be published this year. I just had to have read it in the past 365 days.

Some highlights from this year included Birdbox by Josh Malerman, War of the Worlds plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies by HG Wells and Eric S. Brown, and Good as Gone by Amy Gentry.

One book eclipsed all of these however, and managed to land the prestigious award.

The winner is…

Continue reading

Book Review: “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness has been considered for most of this century as a literary classic, and also as a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism. It reflects the savage repressions carried out in the Congo by the Belgians in one of the largest acts of genocide committed up to that time. Conrad’s narrator encounters at the end of the story a man named Kurtz, dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities.

Oh Joseph Conrad, could you ever have imagined you’d get such conflicting reviews about your work on social media over a century after you wrote it?

Of course not, but at least his book has staying power.

I picked Heart of Darkness back up for the first time since high school, after watching “Apocalypse Now” on basic cable, and thought to myself “Let’s see if this little book is as dense as I remember it being.”

Yup.

This isn’t an easy read, nor is it particularly cheery or fun. It’s not the type of book you crack open to feel good about on a short flight or relaxing at the beach, but it’s not without merit.image of book cover of heart of darkness

The novella is a condemnation of imperialism, specifically Belgian atrocities in the Congo, and a bizarre misadventure heralded by an unreliable narrator. The subject matter is intense, and it speaks to capacity for evil that men are capable of.

I enjoyed Heart of Darkness for what it is, and it’ll definitely challenge readers more than the standard YA vampire novels that are churned out these days. I’m just glad that this time around I didn’t have to write a 4-page essay about the deeper meaning behind Kurtz’s last words.

If you’d like to grab a copy of this classic, you can use the affiliate link below and help support this blog.

Heart of Darkness (AmazonClassics Edition)

What I Liked:

  • The main character isn’t the narrator. This is kind of easy to miss, but Marlow is telling a story, and the narrator is an unnamed person sitting on a boat listening to him.
  • It’s one of the best examples of the “stream of consciousness” style in classic literature
  • The story is evocative. Its themes still resonate today.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • This story defines “purple prose”. Conrad was great at description, and loved his unnecessary words. That, along with the “stream of conscious” style can make things difficult to follow at times.
  • This book is a denouncement of European colonialism, and as such, features a LOT of racism. There are all sorts of metaphors and even some allegory in Heart of Darkness, but not when it comes to the racism. That’s just right in your face. If you’re sensitive to reading about things like that, it may turn you off.
  • The language is dense. At times I found myself re-reading passages just to assure I really understood them. It took way longer to read than a 100 page book has any right to.