Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is literature. For people who don't like literature, it's a book where nothing happens, where navel-gazing characters interact without changing anything about one another. No challenges are overcome, no lessons are learned, no problems are solved.

For people who like literature, it's a fascinating dissection of loneliness, the futility of human communication, the divisions caused by poverty, race, disability, and non-conformity.

For me, it's a little bit in between. While I was reading, I found the characters' voices interesting. Their philosophy was so different from my own, that it was like a window into an alien mind. When I wasn't reading, I had no reason to pick up the book. There were no dangling plots to tie up, no intrigues to follow, and no underpinning story arch. The ending is extremely anti-climactic, with characters ending up almost exactly where they started. No one's life is improved. While there is tragedy, there is no catharsis.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Dragonbone Chair

The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starts off with a vibe like the Disney cartoon Sword in the Stone, moves to something a bit more Tolkeinish, but has underpinnings of norse mythology menace. The book never leaves behind that feeling of Arthurian legend.

I first read this book a long time ago, probably back in high school. I'm always curious to see how books I read then will hold up now that I'm so much more mature, wise, and world-traveled. This one stand up well.

I found myself liking the chosen teenage boy protagonist a lot more than I thought I would. This is probably due to a tricksy author, who spent a lot of time with him living his castle drudge life, not hating it, but acting pretty much like a normal teenager. He is witness, not actor throughout most of this section, and witnessing the slow decline of a kingdom after its beloved king dies. Accordingly, there is a slowness to the start of the novel. For some readers, it might be too slow, but for others, it's just a little luxury. Tad Williams varies the pace rather well. There are some breakneck paced sections, but this is not a breakneck paced book.

The Dragonbone Chair was originally published in 1985, so if you get annoyed with classic fantasy story elements, you may find yourself rolling your eyes some, but there are genuinely original elements and feel to the book.

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