Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lady Oracle, Margaret Atwood

Lady Oracle
Margaret Atwood

I've been holding off on this review for a while, which is something I tend to do. A bit of distance from the book I am reviewing lets me see how well it holds up, and if it sticks with me or not.

Lady Oracle is an earlier work by Atwood, and one I have struggled to come to an opinion about.

On the plus side, Atwood's writing is generally quite good, and her characters are very alive. Her heroine has history in a way most people can't remember about themselves, and Atwood writes it lovingly.

On the minus side, though, all that history is just about all there is. She spends most of the book on back story, and then suddenly the pace picks up to tell about what is happening in the present. It comes across feeling disjoint as a result of those pacing issues. To me it was like the heroine now and the heroine in the past were two entirely different people.

Finally, the biggest issue for me is that almost nothing happens. Yes, the heroine does fake her own death – don't worry, that's on the back cover, and not a spoiler – but that's about the only actual event that takes place. The rest is all interior monologue and a few conversations.

To be clear, it's not that I only like books in which things are blown up, but I sadly conclude that Lady Oracle goes too far into the realm where nothing ever happens for my taste. Lovers of Atwood or less action based stories might appreciate this one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Wave In The Mind, Ursula K. Le Guin

Title: The Wave In The Mind
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Rating: OK

The Wave In The Mind is a book of essays by Le Guin covering a variety of topics. In reviewing it I know I am going to get into trouble, but so be it.

On the plus side, Le Guin ends with a series of essays about writing. These I found interesting and informative. And some of the other works were interesting in various ways, but not all of them. The problem is that her outlook and my own just don't agree on a couple of things.

I consider myself a feminist of sorts. I hate discrimination in any form, and treating women badly - in any way - stinks. But I draw the line when feminism starts creeping into science, and I'm afraid Le Guin has consumed some of that cool-aid. I find it distressing.

Deep science - like physics - can be objective, and the gender of the people doing the research shouldn't matter in the least to the results of the work. (Who can get funded and published is a different kettle of fish, I know, but physics experiments don't care if it's Adam or Amanda trying to figure things out.) I understand it gets fuzzier in the softer sciences, but it isn't clear that Le Guin makes the distinction. That crawled up my nose a bit while reading some of these pieces.

Nothing in here was life changing, and much of it won't impact anyone's career as a writer, but there are some interesting items. It might be worth checking out from the local library if you're curious.

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Mother Night
Kurt Vonnegut

Meh. Once again Vonnegut fails to appeal.

Mother Night is the supposed tale of an American who worked for Germany during WWII, but had a double life of sorts as a spy. He was an English language broadcaster who was passing information out to the allies as part of his show. But what he did and said on his show was really awful. Supposedly this is supposed to make the reader think.

I found the presentation boring, and the lack of humor - supposedly one of Vonnegut's strengths - a real problem. That said, it wasn't bad, really, but it barely held my attention and didn't stick with me.

A blurb on the back cover says Mother Night is "in the Catch-22 vein." Had I known that in advance I wouldn't have wasted my time. I really didn't like Catch-22. Oh well.

Other than Cat's Cradle, though, it appears I am just not cut out for reading Vonnegut. I have one more on my TBR shelf. Maybe I'll get to it one of these days.