Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Buy the book here.
Buy the movie version. 


Plot: On the surface, it's about a couple kids getting into trouble because of their recluse neighbor, and their father getting into trouble because he's the lawyer defending a black man in Depression-era Alabama.

Well, since most people are required to read this book in school, including myself, I really don't think there's much I can say about it that hasn't been over-analyzed time and again in classrooms across the nation. I certainly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, but I don't think I could ever count it as one of my favorite books of all time simply because I did originally read it in school, and it was over-analyzed in class. As a matter of fact, this book is the reason I failed 10th grade English. We had this packet of questions we were supposed to answer, with 5 questions or so for each chapter. They were stupid questions. I didn't answer them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


by Connie Willis

Buy the book here.


Plot: A woman is researching near-death experiences.

I didn't put much in the plot because, despite my "no guarantee concerning spoilers" policy, I really don't want to give anything away with this one. Here, I'll just quote what the back of the book says:

"Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can. A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna's first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined - so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar. But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid. Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she's in for the biggest surprise of all - a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page."

"Feverishly reading" is right. This book is 780 pages long, and I finished it in 9 days. It's addictive. Even when I did walk away from it, my mind never did. To a certain extent, even almost a week after finishing it, I'm still just as much engrossed. I want to read it again, to spot clues I missed the first time through. While it holds many stylistic similarities to the other Connie Willis book I've read, To Say Nothing of the Dog, the subject matter is completely different and the ending is much less satisfying. At the end of this book, you're left hanging. Many questions remain unanswered, impossible to answer. It's the nature of the subject matter, really. Willis could have gone on to explain the afterlife or lack thereof in great detail, à la What Dreams May Come or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but that wouldn't have been appropriate. The whole concept of Passage is not knowing. It's all about unanswered questions and how we cope with knowing that we can't know.

I recommend this book to everyone who plans on dying. If you don't plan on dying, you're in some serious denial and I recommend this book to you even more urgently.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Buy the book here.


Plot: A family with five daughters trained in mortal combat live in Regency England, which has been over-run with zombies. When the girls aren't sending the damned souls back to the fires of Hell, they're trying to find husbands.

Let me start off by saying that before reading this book I had never read Pride and Prejudice or anything else written by Jane Austen, nor do I plan to without it having been improved by the addition of zombies or sea monsters or whatnot. From what I gather, all her stories are about silly girls chasing after guys in Regency England. In other words: pointless and boring. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is equally pointless, but at least it's not boring.

I didn't really start caring about the characters until about the middle of the book, when Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth (and she beats the shit out of him.) The only reason I continued reading past page 50 or so was for the zombie scenes. I'm glad I did, though. The ending is superb, and I say that as a person who hates happy endings. There are no happy endings in life; everyone dies eventually.

Aside from Austen's basic flawed plot concept, the only thing I can really complain about is how the revisions were added. I found myself continually looking for the seams in the story - trying to separate the original story from the zombie mayhem. On a superficial level, it was easy (probably too easy, sometimes it felt like Seth Grahame-Smith was trying too hard to stick in a zombie reference), but in some areas I puzzled over what had been omitted, and was distracted from the novel as it stands. Hopefully, it's just me having not read the original and being a little too nerdy for my own good, rather than a fundamental flaw in the writing style. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to answer that for you; you'll have to read the book to find out for yourself.