August 15, 2008

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

Good social satire and how-to manual, but I had trouble with the reporter-ex-machina ending.

(Reposted from Goodreads, where I gave it four stars out of five.)

Posted by Shmuel at 9:05 PM

March 28, 2003

Growing Up Weightless, by John M. Ford

This starts out really good. Ford sets up an intriguing situation, with a protagonist completely enmeshed within Lunar society, who doesn't even know how much he takes for granted every aspect and convention of being a Lunar native... who wants more than anything to leave the moon, or so he believes. The big question is how that's going to be resolved, and, alas, the author punts it. The last 35 pages or so, in which the whole thing is hastily wrapped up, pretty much totally suck.

With that said, Ford gets points on style; he does a nice jobs of seamlessly switching between perspectives (there's not a single chapter or section break in the whole book, and there's only one jarring transition in the bunch), and of making those perspectives noticably different from one another.

It's not a bad book. But it could have been so much better, had the ending lived up to the beginning.

Posted by Shmuel at 2:18 PM

February 24, 2003

Weetzie Bat 2: Witch Baby, by Francesca Lia Block


Admittedly, I haven't read the first book in the Weetzie Bat series, and my head was spinning a bit after getting through the accelerated recap at the start. But only the knowledge that I had borrowed this book, and therefore had to take good care of it, kept me from hurling it across the room partway through.

Part of this is due to the oppressively pervasive use of slang-- I am so sick of "slinkster," for starters. Part of this is due to the unbearably cutesy names-- one character is actually named "My Secret Agent Lover Man." But these pale by comparison to the main problem, which is that this book is concerned with the doings of a thoroughly dislikable cast of characters, who are uniformly immature, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and bloody stupid to boot. And I'm especially speaking of the alleged adults here.

To pick one illustration, which probably counts as a spoiler despite the essential facts being given away on the first page, so if want to be certain not to have this book ruined (ha), skip the next two paragraphs... the eponymous character, Witch Baby, is the daughter of My Secret Agent Lover Man, and Vixanne Wigg. She, however, doesn't know that, despite being raised by My Secret Agent Lover Man and Weetzie Bat; her father, in other words, has been lying to her and claiming not to be her father.

Not entirely surprisingly, the central problem for Witch Baby in this book is that she doesn't know where she came from, and doesn't feel as if she belongs anywhere. Eventually, she confronts My Secret Agent Lover Man, and he reluctantly admits that he is her father, and says that he's been lying to her every day and repudiating his relationship with her for all these years because "I was afraid you would be ashamed of me." Are we supposed to take this as a reasonable excuse? Are we supposed to take this as an even remotely sympathetic character? Please.

(Again, this is just one example. Others abound throughout the book.)

Now, if this were intended as a novel in which the central character survives in a world of selfish, clueless grownups, there might be something here. But from all indications, the author expects us to like these characters.

Possibly this is another example of the New York / L.A. divide, but if you ask me, this book sucks.

Posted by Shmuel at 1:47 AM

February 9, 2003

Young Wizards 6: A Wizard Alone, by Diane Duane

The unresolved stuff from Book 5 continues to be unresolved, but this is not a problem, as it seems reasonable to assume that matters will come to a head in Book 7 or beyond. Once again, Duane changes lots of the rules to fit her present purposes... or, to put it in the terms of the book, she alters the kernel of Kit and Nita's universe whenever convenient.

But I'm just nitpicking. It's a good book and I liked it.

Posted by Shmuel at 8:44 AM

January 19, 2003

Space Cadet, by Robert Heinlein

Written in 1948 and clearly targeted at young boys, this book hasn't aged very well, but it has historical interest, akin to the sort one feels when reading a "Dick and Jane" book. How quaint! How charming! How simple and Utopic! And how vaguely creepy...

Posted by Shmuel at 12:59 AM

January 14, 2003

Young Wizards 5: The Wizard's Dilemma, by Diane Duane

I have a few minor quibbles (Duane tends to redefine the rules in every book, which comes across as owing more to expedience than reflecting a more sophisticated outlook), and one major one that might not be a problem at all, if it's addressed in Book 6. (A major plotline from the first half of the book is abruptly dropped, with no payoff of any sort.) But all of that aside, this was a good installment of a good series, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one.

Posted by Shmuel at 12:59 AM