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Book Review – Annihilation

annihilationI had my wife read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and report back to me if it was worth reading before the movie is released. She loved the book and suggested I pick it up, as it would be a quick read. This was a fortunate turn of events, because had I read the book first, I would have told her that she wouldn’t enjoy it and to just wait for the movie.

The book tells the story of the twelfth expedition into Area X, a weird part of the country that’s been abandoned by civilization and taken over by plant life and bizarre new species of animals. The narrator, referred to only as the Biologist or Ghost Bird, records her findings and past experiences into her journal, which makes up the book.

Before the Biologist began her journey, her husband had been part of the previous expedition and he may or may not have returned. The Biologist is travelling, not just for scientific understanding of Area X, but to also discover the fate of her husband.

For a short read, this book took me a long time to finish after I started it. It was dense with descriptions of the bizarre Area X, in an almost Lovecraftian level of detail. There wasn’t much of a narrative push to keep me reading, as the story is moved along by one strange finding after the other. However, the odd environment is never explained, nor are many of the findings put into context, which means much of this book is the narrator saying, “Isn’t this weird” and me just nodding my head.

The book is written in a dreamy sort of way and none of the characters act like people. Everyone seems out to kill everyone, right from the beginning and we’re never allowed to grow attached to anyone. The dialog doesn’t read like real human speech but aggressive robots. The narrator freely admits to being aloof and preferring to be alone. However, in the context of the other members of the expedition, this doesn’t pack any punch as all the characters are eerie non-humans.

I think this is why I preferred the flashback scenes between the narrator and her husband. There was no science fiction in these chapters, but against an actual human, the narrator becomes more interesting. Her husband is more outgoing and a people-person and this shines a light on the narrator. She’s frustrating but not a cold monster, she’s solitary but has heart for nature. Watching her marriage strain against the clashing personalities, alongside the husband’s departure to Area X, makes for an interesting read that the science fiction parts of the book fail to replicate.

I think, when it comes to science fiction, I either need believable science or interesting characters. Annihilation had neither. VanderMeer’s writing is too abstract while also being too detail oriented, with descriptions down to the measurements but with zero context. The characters are like ghosts of people and maybe there’s artistic merit to that style that I’m missing. I’m sure I’ve read books with characters like this before that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t the case with Annihilation. I’m still excited for the movie, but that’s more to do with Alex Garland directing it, as Ex Machina was great. My wife will continue this trilogy of novels and, maybe, she might convince me to keep reading as well. But, unless such prompting happens, I personally have no interest left.

All the Books Show: Episode 127 – Edgar Awards 2018

Second catch up post! It’s about mysteries!

Speaking of mysteries, someone on Twitter refered to me as a clever clogs. Apparenly, it’s an “UK informal disapproving someone who shows that they are clever, in a way that annoys other people.” What that has to do with mysteries, or the Edgar Awards, which are given to mysteries, I don’t know. Why’d you bring it up?

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All the Books Show: Episode 126 – Page to Screen 2018

Catch up post!

I like books. I like movies. I want to read some of these books. I want to see some of these movies. I really only want to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. That kind of fits into this category. I’m gonna say it does.

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All the Books Show: Episode 125 – Book Clubbing

Second quick update as I try to get current with the episodes on the blog.

We talk about book clubs, the benefits and such. What books the library has on the schedule and what have been favorite reads in past clubs. Mine, personally, is Station Eleven. I was worried I wasn’t going to want to talk about that book, because I loved it and I didn’t want to hear any critiques. Luckily, the club was a great discussion and I think I like the book even more having done it. Join a book club!

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See you next week, podcats!

All the Books Show: Episode 124 – Last of the Year

Quick catch up post!

In which we really talk about the end of the year and books we read in 2017. Goodreads helps us see the longest books we tackled, the books we most enjoyed, disliked and if we’re ready to get reading in 2018!

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See you next week, podcats!

Book Review – Blood of Elves

blood-of-elves-coverI skipped reviewing Sword of Destiny for a few reasons. First, it’s similar to The Last Wish and everything I said about that book still stands for the sequel. It’s still a collection of short stories that are a bit more structured than the first book, in that each short story revolves around Yennifer in some way or another. The second reason I didn’t give that book a full review is because I went straight into the Blood of Elves. It was late and I finished Sword of Destiny and, without sleeping or taking a break, I opened the first chapter of the next book.

Besides the fact that the previous books were great reads, I was also curious as to how Andrzej Sapkowski would do writing The Witcher books in novel form. The character of Geralt works well in short form, with his different adventures and meeting new people around Sapkowski’s well-thought out world.

What I found is that Sapkowski didn’t change format entirely. Blood of Elves is a novel, yes, but the chapters are written akin to his short stories, with time gaps between them and not much thematically shared. Doing so allows for longer, more intimate looks into the world and Geralt, but it doesn’t create a strong continuing narrative or sense of plot. In fact, having read it all, I’m still not entirely sure where it was all going other than some people are after Geralt’s adopted daughter, Ciri.

In some ways, tries to be both a collection and a novel and both formats suffer for it. Without the connective tissue between chapters, it comes across as if the reader has missed key information between them. Without the varying adventures, the single plot thread shows it’s weakness. While I was hooked at the opening chapter with Dandelion and the training of Ciri, the book lost me quickly after that.

The previous books were interesting because of their world building, yes, but it was also how Sapkowski took classic fairy tales and myths and played around with them. The world is interesting and well-realized, but switching gears to focus on the political side of things doesn’t make for the most entertaining read.

The time we spend with Ciri and her training is great, but that’s because it’s focused and dabbles in that monster hunter lore. I wanted to see more of Geralt and Ciri together, training and going on adventures. That’s not what I got and I wasn’t convinced that what I was reading was necessarily better than that, either. I’m glad I read the previous books, because Blood of Elves relies heavily on the character connections that were introduced and explored beforehand. Alone, I don’t know if I would have liked the book much at all.

I will be reading the rest of these books, but the steam I had has been lost for the moment.

All the Books Show: Episode 123 – Best of 2017

Again, quick posting because I got behind with these postings.

We talk the end of year! 2017 is done! It’s over! Let’s hold hands and just get through 2018! But, first, a look back! We look at the best selling books of 2017! Did you read any of them? I’m never up-to-date on the current books, my reading list is too long!

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See you next week, podcats!

All the Books Show: Episode 122 – Christmas in the Air

Quick posting because I’m behind on posting!

We talk Christmas movies, shows, books, ect. We look at Bookbub’s Christmas book picks of 2017, and have fun being mean to the Twilight Before Christmas by Christine Feehan. We joke because we’re glad people are reading!

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All the Books Show: Episode 121 – Holiday Haze

Nic’s friend, Beau Hutchings, stops by after performing the Nutcracker at the David A. Howe Public Library!

We inevitably end up talking about Christmas movies, as we are wont to do this time of year. I don’t love many Christmas films, though I’ll watch them. Give me A Christmas Story for the twenty-four hours of Christmas Eve and I’m good. Or, Batman Returns.

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See you next week, podcats!

 

All the Books Show: Episode 120 – Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

We talk about the Goodreads Choice Awards of 2017! The winners, the runner ups, everything! It’s, dare I say it, a Goodlisten!

I use Goodreads all the time. It’s a huge, visual timeline of my life. An obituary in the making. It shows what I’m interested in, when and why. You can see when I was in college, on summer break and when I moved to Florida and read hundreds of Batman comics.

I’m never up-to-date with the newest books so the Awards become a “add to to-read list” fest. It’s good for my future, but frustrating for my present.

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!