Archive - Book Review

Reamde

Reamde

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2011

rating: 5

read at: 2017/05/13

date added: 2017/05/13

shelves: fun, own-it, novels

review:
I have mixed feelings about this book. It gets 5 stars because it's fastest I've ever read 1000 pages of anything, and general craft and technique of the writing is excellent, gripping, and thought-provoking. However, there are certain problems I have with it.

First, the book is sooo long pretty much because it's insanely packed with a variety of ephemera, mostly minute details about certain types of guns, but also all sorts of other trivia on such topics as private jet travel, geology, and more details about firearms. It's a testament to Stephenson's writing skill that somehow wading through all this stuff is still interesting and fast reading.

Second, from a feminist standpoint the story has some problems. It's not as bad as some science fiction predecessors of the author, such as Heinlein, but here's the thing: although there are some very strong and inspiring female characters in the novel, they fail a sort of corollary of the Bechdel Test that I've just invented: are there any major female characters that are still single by the end of the book? No. Every one of them miraculously (along with all the other coincidences/miracles the book is packed with) gets partnered up with a dude, with said partnering getting explicitly set up and targeted toward at least a couple hundred pages prior. But this happy romance trend does not also benefit all main male characters. It's as if Stephenson thinks a woman can't have an intense adventure without shacking up with some guy to complete her.

Which brings me to a third, and more general, problem with many of the characters in the book, or rather, how the omniscient POV of the book handles the inner thoughts of the many characters that the reader gets to "eavesdrop" on. The issue is that every main character is basically the same person. They all basically think the same way, other than a little unique personality frosting slathered over the top, but always in this super over-rational, perfectly aware and calculating way, and yet with a variety of 'involuntary thoughts' that always get caught and questioned and analyzed (e.g. "she was surprised she was thinking of that at a time like now", etc). Does Stephenson really think every human is so gifted with such a meticulous, self-aware, chess-player's brain for all life situations?

Anyway. I guess the book is really just a potboiler, but I have had in my head ever since "Snowcrash" this idea that Stephenson does more than potboilers. Maybe I just notice it more now.


Zodiac

Zodiac

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.69

book published: 1988

rating: 4

read at: 1993/04/22

date added: 2017/04/22

shelves: novels, fun

review:

Interface

Interface

author: Neal Stephenson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.64

book published: 1994

rating: 0

read at: 2000/04/22

date added: 2017/04/22

shelves: novels, fun, politics

review:

Remake

Remake

author: Connie Willis

name: Steev

average rating: 3.35

book published: 1994

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2017/04/14

shelves: art, novels, to-re-read, wishlist

review:

Baffler NO. 33 Virtue Cartel

Baffler NO. 33 Virtue Cartel

author: Chris Lemann

name: Steev

average rating: 4.00

book published:

rating: 5

read at: 2017/04/11

date added: 2017/04/11

shelves: fun, own-it, politics

review:

Every Anxious Wave

Every Anxious Wave

author: Mo Daviau

name: Steev

average rating: 3.55

book published: 2016

rating: 5

read at: 2017/03/22

date added: 2017/03/23

shelves: fun, novels, own-it, after-the-fall, spirit-self

review:
I really enjoyed this book. It was funny, sad, moving, hip, and surprisingly suspenseful for a story in which you pretty quickly know how will end (because the main character travels forward in time). It also had a powerful social message about body image and "fat shame" that was pretty firm and present but didn't hit you over the head. It was also a great satirical but respectful look at super music fans.

I found, for the record, the portrayal of the male narrator to be really realistic. This had me thinking that the female author had quite good insight on the male psyche, especially given that a lot of male writers don't do a very good job of writing from the point of view of their female characters. Maybe it's because, as my wife said "men are a lot more... straightforward."

Anyway, I hope we see more novels from Mo Daviau. Her debut effort is very impressive.

The Sellout

The Sellout

author: Paul Beatty

name: Steev

average rating: 3.84

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2017/02/04

date added: 2017/02/04

shelves: fun, novels, own-it, politics

review:
Brilliant, hilarious, intense satire. Really really good.

The Baffler No. 32

The Baffler No. 32

author: Chris Lehmann

name: Steev

average rating: 4.00

book published:

rating: 5

read at: 2017/01/12

date added: 2017/01/12

shelves: art, fun, own-it, politics

review:

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

author: Ali Almossawi

name: Steev

average rating: 4.05

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2017/01/02

shelves: fun, to-re-read, own-it

review:

How to Sit (Mindfulness Essentials, #1)

How to Sit (Mindfulness Essentials, #1)

author: Thich Nhat Hanh

name: Steev

average rating: 4.27

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2016/12/29

date added: 2016/12/29

shelves: spirit-self, own-it

review: