2012-10-15

Searching the clouds for paranoia

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061) Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 14
060) Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 13
059) Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 10

I've been aware of the Amulet books and their sterling reputation for some time, but never bothered to pick them up. Perhaps because of my ambiguous feeling's toward the author's other work. But a friend lent us the first three books. Lady Steed read them and was underwhelmed, but the Big O read them and loved them. So when Large S asked me to read it to him, I did.

He and Little Lord Steed were utterly and completely raptured by the first book. I had not intended to read more than a few pages, but we read the entire book in one sitting, the little lord's head often between me and the words as he followed the pictures with an intensity I have not often seen.

We've now read the first three books (books four and five are now out as well) and the kids loved them. Me? I think I liked them more than Lady Steed because I read them with the kids. But no question that any skepticism I had about the fantasy was overcome by how fully I was sucked in by the realistic prologue.

Read them with your kids.
under a week



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058) Feedback by Robison Wells, finished October 9

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD --- PROCEED AT OWN RISK --- [or skip to next book]


The night this novel arrived from Amazon, I pulled my copy of Variant off the shelf to reread the last three pages. Heck, that's not enough. How 'bout the last thirty pages. You know what? Those were great. Let's read the twenty pages before those. Now the twenty pages before those!

I may have read the entire book that night if Lady Steed hadn't said something about it being Monday and back-to-work and and it's-2am and turn-off-the-darn-lights or something. That's how propulsive and exciting and awesome the story of Benson's escape from Mayfield Academy is.

And the cliffhanger at the end of Variant is one of the most wrenching I have ever experienced.

Then we go to Feedback, whose first page is essentially Variant's last page.

But the sequel loses the first's intense and unrelenting sense of paranoia. Why? I'm not entirely sure. It's not like the threats suddenly ended.

I realized at the end of chapter twenty-four, when Benson breaks back in to Maxfield Academy, what Feedback is missing.

A sufficiently threatening setting.

The real antagonist of Variant I realize now, was not the bad kids or the exposed androids or the absent adults, but the building itself. Its claustrophobic, towering, locked-down menace. Because when Maxfield Academy reenters the story, the stress hormones reenter my bloodstream.

But sadly, that's about 270 pages into a 310-page book. And so just as the paranoia---the true star of the first book---finally makes its reentrance, the book comes crashing to a close. And while parts of these last forty pages are as exciting as what we saw in Variant, it all flies by just too darn quickly. And then the reveal of the bad guy and the victory over him and The End of the Book are all just too quick and simple and anticlimactic. Not quite a Mac virus in an alien ship, but close.

The book doesn't really end with the world all better--or even the sense that it will become all better. It ends with evidence of how intractably corrupted the world is. And yet the book attempts to end on a upbeat note. And it does most certainly end---it doesn't leave you with the sense that the a further six books of resolution are to come. And while I lauded Wells's choice to write a two-book series (how fresh!), if he really wanted to end it with the second book, I think this grand revelation at the finale is the wrong size and shape and color and smell. It's not an end. It's a beginning. And that means our sense of resolution is pulled away from us.

A parallel problem that intensifies this uncomfortable result is the resolution of the love triangle. I never had any clear grasp why one girl was better than the other (besides the p-o-v's say-so) and so I'm not left with a sense of rightness or completion when these two teenagers get to be together at novel's end. The world's overrun with alien-programmed robots and I'm supposed to get satisfaction because this kid's figured out which cute girl he'd rather kiss? I don't think so.

So in short, I'm disappointed. I still recommend reading both books just to experience the propulsive explosion of paranoia Variant has to offer, but when you start book two, tell yourself the best parts are already past. Then maybe you won't be as disappointed by Feedback as I was.

post script: all the same, I did spend the entire book arguing with myself how to film it
two days



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057) Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012 by Jared Farmer, finished October 8


See my thoughts on AMV.
a month max



Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the review of 56.
056) The Garden of the World by Lawrence Coates, finished October 5

Read the reviews of 52-55.
055) The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake, finished September 27
054) Lote That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished September 25
053) Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, finished September 24
052) Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse: It Only Hurts When I Pee by Ben Templesmith, finished September 24


Read the reviews of 49-51.
051) The Zabîme Sisters by Aristophane, finished September 20
050) Little Death by Thomas Kriebaum, finished September 16
049) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11


Read the reviews of 44-48.
048) American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, finished September 7
047) Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, finished September 6
046) Simply Science by a number of authors and illustrators for All Aboard Reading, finished September 5
045) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, finished September 3
044) The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore by Nancy Butcher, finished August 27


Read the reviews of 40-43.
043) How to Analyze the Works of Stephenie Meyer by Marcela Kostihova, finished August 13
042) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, finished August 10
041) Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina, finished August 1
040) If You Believe in Mermaids . . . Don't Tell by A.A. Philips, finished July 28


Read the reviews of 37-39.
039) The Smartest Man in Ireland by Mollie Hunter, finished July 27
038) Blockade Billy / Morality by Stephen King, finished July 12
037) Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, finished July 9


Read the reviews of 34-36.
036) Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished July 2
035) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, finished June 27
034) Kampung Boy by Lat, finished June 22


Read the reviews of 29-33.
034) The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple, finished June 20
033) Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, finished June 18
032) Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, "finished" June 18
031) Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, "finished" June 15
030) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, finished June 9
029) Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, finished early June


Read the reviews of 25-28.
028) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, finished May 24
027) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, finished May 16
026) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, finished May 10
025) Dominant Traits by Eric Freeze, finished April 10


Read the reviews of 21-24.
024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2
023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012
022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4
021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3


Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15


Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11


Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23


Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

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