Thursday, January 10, 2008

Books! Pt. 1.

As a parting shot before I return to Radio Silence, I figured I would post some quick reviews of stuff I've been reading over break. I set out to catch up on my reading, and while I am not caught up and probably never will be, apart from that I think I succeeded spectacularly. Highlights to follow.

First, I would like to note that it seems to have become even more difficult for a book to satisfy me. I have read too many, perhaps, and so unless a certain book is in one way or another (prose, plot, setting, ideas) though preferably in several ways really good, I have trouble staying interested. Further, there are so many books to get through, that I feel no compunction to waste time on a book unless it is 1. Necessary or Valuable To Have Read (ie, classics--I will slog through various "classics" because they are greatly helpful to be familiar with if one wants to be well-read; similar with various fairly bad sci-fi books, if they're part of the founding-stones of the genre), and/or 2. Enormously Entertaining (this is pretty self-explanatory). (How's that for a sentence, Nat? ;)) So, perhaps appropriately, we will start off with a couple books I didn't completely read.

Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge. This book, as its subtitle suggests, is about "discovering the secret to a man's soul." Eldredge is searching for the "mystery of masculinity," from a Biblical perspective. Now, I'm not going to pretend to give a fair review here, seeing as I got through no more than Chapter 1. The author gets points for being well-read, and he is right about a lot of things (the feminization of both society and the church, etc). But he is incredibly, annoyingly melodramatic, and he makes sweeping generalizations that often don't quite work, and I just don't trust him. I don't particularly like this sort of psychological "soul-searching," so to continue reading this sort of thing the author has to be someone I wouldn't mind being strongly influenced by (probably part of the reason the only book in this vein I ever really liked was The Four Loves, by CS Lewis). I agree with Eldredge that masculinity is a great mystery; I'm just not really interested in his solution.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler. I believe Butler was the first black female sci-fi writer to be published, or at least to make it big in the genre. She gets kudos for that, as well as for having a cool name. Additionally, she is a good writer. That is where my praise ends. I read the first fifty pages of this book, before putting it aside. I wasn't fed up, but was getting there. The main character has all the metaphysical answers to life the universe and everything all worked out, at fifteen years of age. Her theological ramblings are not only pastiche and idiotic, they are internally illogical. The semi-post-apocalyptic setting is interesting, but it too is pastiche, save for a certain unnecessary grittiness. Just, really annoying.

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald. I know, I know, I know. MacDonald is one of the founding-stones of fantasy, he's a classic, all sorts of people love this book, and on anon ad nauseam. After fifty pages, though, I couldn't get past the condescending style (or seemingly so) and the general loopiness of the prose. Ah well; I'll read MacDonald's Lillith yet. It was more influential anyway; hopefully it will go better. (And no, this isn't a contradiction of my statement three paragraphs ago. This particular book wasn't all that influential; anyway, I will probably return to it when I have a bit more time.)

<_< This post seems almost to have gotten out of hand. Very well. It will be its own, negative, with the balancing post containing books I actually finished to follow.

3 comments:

Nat said...

It was a fine sentence! And Octavia is an awesome name. Although the last time I encountered it was when I read some StarCraft fiction I think.

I had to look up what pastiche meant and found out incidentally that you used it incorrectly - it's a noun.

After typing in the squiggly word verification thing, I have the chilling thought that if they ever come up with a "I'm-not-correcting-the-original-post's-grammar" verification, I'll be screwed.

NOT Freddy Jones said...

He wrote another book after the Princess and the Goblin.. the title had something to do with Curdie, I believe.
I liked those books a lot when I was younger.. hmm, I wonder if I still do?

Octavia. That was Caesar Augustus's sister, wasn't it?

Ethan said...

Nat: screw it, it's whatever I want to make it. :P lol, if they came up with a verificator like that I'd not have you to back me up, and then I'd be lost.

UnFreddy: The Princess and Curdie. If I had read all the books whose titles I can recall instantly, I'd be in spectacular shape. :P Further, I think I missed out on the time to read those books, which was, in fact, at a young age. Also, my cynical old man-ish ramblings on the subject should probably be ignored. ;)