Print Story Three Juveniles
Diary
By ucblockhead (Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:38:51 PM EST) (all tags)
...and a piece of crap.

Books recently read, partly inspired by lm.



I haven't been reading enough lately.  My reading time used to be the train and lately I've been driving.  Driving saves me a 30-45 minutes a day and with a free parking spot, it isn't particularly more expense.  The downside is that I've exchanged audiobooks for the paper kind, and audiobooks go at about a third of my normal reading rate.  I don't read enough at home.  I get to distracted by the MacBook or the PS3.

I've also been into a bit of a rereading kick, picking out things I remember loving as a teenager and giving them another try thirty years down the line.  It can be both fun and horrifying.  It can be depressing how little I remember of a lot books though interesting how sometimes I remember bits so well.

I really wish I'd kept track of what I read.  I've kept a record of what I read for about the last ten years and mostly remember what I read as an adult, but for my younger years, I just don't know.  Have I read all of Clarke?  All of Heinlein?  I think so, but I'm just not sure.

I've also been curious about The Hunger Games what with all the hype.  So when lm mentioned this, and two other books I read (and liked) as a kid, I took it as an excuse to go spend a weekend reading for a change.

Ender's Game

Very quickly I realized that I'd never read the actual novel before.  A check of the dates made this obvious.  It was published in '85 and I was too busy as a college junior to do much reading then.  It was the '77 novella I'd read.  The vivid memories of it were accurate, and of the core story.  The framing bits that were put around to flesh it out where entirely unknown to me.

This book is good, though has some pretty severe problems.  The core story is very well done, and is a meditation on what makes good leaders.  It's not just that Ender succeeds but that he succeeds through a combination of ruthlessness, will and empathy.

It falls down in logic, though.  The kids are just too young to be believable and it would have been a better story if they'd aged every three years.  The framing bits try to patch things up by implying some sort of specialness about Ender that wasn't in the original novella.  This might improve the logic but it weekends the theme.   Unlike the novella, Ender seems destined to win in the novel.  The other bits, meant, I think, to plug it into a future history cycle, were just extraneous.

Anthem

My Gord this was crap.  I read it, and as far as I can tell loved it when I first read it in college, a time I also thought Rand was the best thing ever.  Now it was a slog to get through, even though this is just a long short story.  It is bad on pretty much all levels.

Thematically, it's pure strawman argument.  Evil collectivists drive us back to the stone age and only one pure of heart selfish bastard can start progress again.  As dystopias go, it's lacking in the most descriptive bits that might make it terrifying.

Otherwise, well, crap too.  Characters are cardboard of course, and plot is barely there.  What is there is full of holes.  It is hard to take this as "where we could be going" if it just doesn't make sense.  In one breath she implies that "elders" remember better times, in another saying the "candle" is a "recent" invention of a 100 years ago, then finally having the hero find a modern house apparently abandoned recently enough to be comfortably habitable.

Which all leads to the obvious: Rand has no clue how technology works.  Her individual, ignorant superman invents a light bulb and houses sit vacant for centuries yet still have comfortable bedding.

The Hunger Games

This is a surprisingly good, yet somewhat by the numbers adventure tale.  It's the only one of these things that is truly a juvenile.   Decent plot, reasonable characters.  The setup isn't entirely believable as it is hard to imagine districts the size described could be supporting a modern technical civilization, but if you take it all as metaphorical, it works.

As social commentary on reality TV, violence and classism, it works, though maybe not as much as similar earlier efforts.  To call relate this to "Anthem" in any way, as Fox apparently did, is idiotic.    For from the anthem for selfishness, much of what "The Hunger Games" seems to be about is helping others.

I think I understand where they got it, though.  Fox is very binary in its thinking.  To the Fox new types, there are "us" and "them", and if you are criticizing what they perceive as "them", you're "us".

In this case, there is definitely a strain of rural "good people" versus urban shallowness.  Nothing in the book gives any indication of the political makeup of Panem other than it is a putative democracy and its people have funny hair.  My guess is that some at Fox said "hey, they have purple hair, liberals have purple hair!  Therefore this is about how liberals suck!"

Anyway, it had characters worth caring about and a decent enough plot to keep me going.  I doubt I'll read the sequels, but I don't regret reading it.

Among Others

Is this a juvenile?  I'm not very sure.  I listened to this as an audiobook, on a whim because it got a Hugo nomination.  Going by the book jacket, it's pure juvenile: 15 year old girl has fled her mother, an apparent witch to live with a father she never new and to attend a boarding school full of students she can't relate to.  But.

I don't think a kid would get much out of it.  It's set in 1979, and this kid is a science fiction fanatic, spending her days reading.  The books she reads are detailed and commented endlessly, often in a way where not knowing the book in question might leave you confused.  For me, who was a 15 year old science fiction fanatic, spending my days reading in 1979, it works quite well.  I know what the hell she is talking about.  For a kid today who have no clue who Brunner, Le Guin and Delany are?  I'm not so sure.

Second, this book isn't plotted like a juvenile.  It's told in diary form, and the protagonist definitely seems like an unreliable narrator.  Baring one instance Wim's claim to be seeing the fairies nothing that is magical is ever seen by others.  A big part of these books is that magic is always invisible to skeptical eyes.  Always something that can be explained away.

There is also none of the closure you'd get from a juvenile.  The book is written like a memoir.  Given the age and heritage of the author, it may well be mostly memoir.  Things happen, but at the end, with the exception of the main book jacket plot, things aren't "resolved".  They are advanced.  On the outs in school, conflicts with her father and aunts still there, romantic possibilities still just possibilities.  It's not a single story but a real life with a magic plot laid on top of it.

The last line encapsulates the book.  After a few paragraphs describing how she'll live her life, it ends with a side comment on how good CJ Cherryh's first novel was.

I

< So we were having this conversation, | a few things >
Three Juveniles | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
FOX News on the Hunger Games by lm (2.00 / 0) #1 Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:35:40 AM EST
'Hunger Games' shoots arrows at big government, big media, hits bullseye

Taken literally, Hunger Games is a black-helicopter-ish portrayal of state power. But taken figuratively, the film is an Anthem (novella) for our time, a well-crafted cry from the heart against top-down injustice and oppression. Nobody has made a rallying-cry of a movie that’s this effective in a long, long time.

I think the reviewer not only missed the key point of Hunger Games but failed to understand Anthem.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Anthem by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:19:29 AM EST
I suspect the reviewer never read it because you'd have to be entirely dense to miss the point of that book.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I like to use the principle of charity by lm (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:45:35 PM EST
But sometimes this brings me to a difficult decision. Is it more charitable to conclude that an author is disingenuously talking out of his or her butt about something he or she has no knowledge of or is it more charitable to presume that the author is as dense as a box of rocks?

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I just started re-reading Enders Game by lm (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:14:03 PM EST
Having finished the novel a bit a go, I'm re-reading it to take notes. Something struck me me very powerfully in the first chapter. Ender and his siblings are most likely bio-engineered with Bugger technology Among other things, this explains why Ender's character can do amazingly unbelievable things at such a young age and why the hive mind of the Buggers could talk to him through the ansible.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Three Juveniles | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback