Books you've read in 2012

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Ockeghem, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. Hugh Jackes

    Hugh Jackes Supporting Actor

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    Just finished 11-22-63, and I have to say that this is Stephen King's most grown-up book. Yes, ostensibly, it is about a man who goes back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, but that is really just a McGuffin that sets a story about love, living, and choices.
    Jake Epping, a school teacher, gets a call from a casual acquaintance who asks him to come to the diner he owns. Al, from the day before, when Jake ate at the diner, to the day of the call, has lost 30-40 pounds, gone completely white, and aged significantly. He shows Jake a “rabbit hole,” a bubble in time, that allows one to travel back to a September day in 1958, and return to the present (2011). You can stay as long as you like, can change the flow of time (though, as we learn, the past resists change), and when you return to the present, exactly 2 minutes have passed. If you go again, everything that you did the time before resets and you come back 2 minutes later.
    Al, dying of lung cancer, tells Jake that on his last trip he had been trying to stop Oswald. If Kennedy survived his trip to Dallas, the years afterwards would obviously be completely different; Al theorizes that 50,000+ Americans and who knows how many Vietnamese would not have died, no Nixon., etc. But, Al got cancer in early 1963 and had to abandon his mission. Al explains that you can change things, but the past resists (it’s obdurate). The bigger the change, the more the resistance, hence Al’s cancer. The past also harmonizes.
    Jake, who is childless, divorced, and whose parents have died, has nothing tying him to the present, and agrees to take on Al’s mission, but only if he can convince himself that the past can be changed (a side trip to prevent a heinous crime) and that Oswald acted alone (his morals won’t allow him to kill a “patsy”, as Oswald described himself after the assassination).
    That is the setup, but as I said, it exists primarily to tell the story of Jake (who calls himself George in the 50’s and 60’s) coming to grips with living in that era, observing the wonderful (a glass of root beer) and the wretched (a gas station in the south with a men’s room, a ladies’ room, and a sign pointing to a plank across a stream for “coloreds”), and making a life for himself in an alien world (besides the time travel aspect, Jake, being a King character, is from Maine and has to settle in Texas). The rabbit hole dumps him in September, 1958; he has to live in the past for over 5 years before Kennedy’s Dallas trip. Jake makes a life for himself in the past, makes good friends, works as a teacher, and falls in love. Jodie, Texas, where Jake lives, looks very much to me like the town of Anarene from “The Last Picture Show” a movie a King character obsessed over in “Lisey’s Story.” Jake’s fictional friends, neighbors, co-workers, and loved one all have great depth and substance. I cared about them a great deal. Somewhere in the middle of the book, Jake (as George) directs a high school play of “Of Mice and Men” and King’s description of the high school kids acting out George (because the past harmonizes) and Lennie’s tragic final scene, followed by the death of one of Jake’s beloved friends (even though expected) were a one-two punch that left me with very moist eyes and a catch in my throat.
    To tell this story, given Jake’s reluctance to take on Oswald if he wasn’t acting alone, King has to come down on one side or another of the Warren Commission’s final verdict. Jake, when not living his life, occasionally stalks Oswald trying to find the smoking gun (pun sort of intended) that he acted alone. IMO, these scenes are the only parts of the book that drag slightly. But, honestly, the direct tale of Oswald and the assassination are probably less than 20% of the story. The past is obdurate and it harmonizes, and the roadblocks and harmonics that Jake observes are the larger story.
    Some complain that 11-22-63, at 800+ pages, is too long, a common complaint with King’s books. Those who live for his stuff love his writing (he has said the he writes like fat ladies diet) and hang on his every word. I was so disappointed when I finished it, saddened that I had to leave these characters behind.
    Last comment: With King, frequently it is the side details that flesh out the story and make it whole. In “Danse Macabre,” King categorizes the trail of bread crumbs in “Hansel and Gretel” as this kind of side detail. In 11-22-63, my favorite detail was about Al, the dinner owner who introduced Jake to the rabbit hole. Early in his exposition, he explains how he manages to both sell the cheapest but tastiest burgers in town (some townspeople wonder about the neighborhood cats and dogs, his prices are so cheap), and yet still lead a comfortable UMC life. As, Al explains it, he has taken himself out of the current economy. He regularly goes to 1958 and buys 10 pounds of ground chuck for $0.59 per pound and brings it to 2011 to make his burgers. Because of the reset every time he goes through the rabbit hole, he has been selling the exact same meat week after week.
     
  2. Stan

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    Received 11-22-63 from Amazon yesterday. Will probably bump "The Stand" out of my reading list for now. Also bought 2012 and Deep Impact. Not high art but I've always enjoyed them and will be fun to watch the extras, interviews, alternate endings, etc. Things I've never seen before.
    Hugh, I stopped reading your post after the first paragraph. Really enjoy most of Stephen King's stories so didn't want to spoil anything. Will let you know my opinion in a few months. It will probably take me that long because as usual he is certainly wordy, 849 pages this time. I think The Stand is almost 1200 pages, but this is definitely not one of his short stories.
    Unlike most people, my doctor has advised me to get a tan and enjoy the sunshine, so this will fit in nicely as I lounge in my backyard.
     
  3. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    I've been a longtime King fan but even I have to admit I almost dread a new book announcement. The guy seems to release an 800 pg novel every six months and too often they seem to involve a haunted painting so something. I've become bored with his books.

    But 11-22-63 is his best book in years. I could not put it down and I, too, hated to have it end. Right now I'm trying to get my wife to read it. For some reason she flat out refuses to read any book I suggest to her (she prefers chick-lit). I keep telling her the book, at it's core, is a love story but she's not buying it.
     
  4. Stan

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    King has put out a few duds. I remember Rose Red from a few years back and couldn't stand it. This one comes with enough positive reviews from people who enjoy reading books that I thought it was worth it.
    I rarely read articles from professional "reviewers" who are paid for their opinion. Cash can buy a lot of things, including a nice writeup of a terrible book. I go with sites like this and Amazon which have real reviews from real readers so you tend to get a more truthful opinion about a book, movie, etc. Lots of positive words about 11-22-63 so I decided to get it.
     
  5. DaveF

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    "Black" by Ted Dekkar on Audible
    http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B002V8MDEA

    I read Dekkar's Green, last year. It was a random choice, one of the limited selection of MP3 audiobooks from my library, and it had a strong rating. It turned out to be a particularly well performed audiobook, a surprising story with overt biblical allegories, and enjoyable all around. But it felt like I was coming into the middle of something, with huge chunks of story assumed and missing.

    Turns out that was the fourth book in a trilogy.

    I got to Black this month. Different narrator, and was pretty much a crap performance the first third. Felt like it churned out of a reading mill, just reading as fast and breathlessly as possible to crank out the audiobooks. A far cry from Green. The reading started to come together in the middle and was what I'd consider baseline acceptable by the end.

    But the story was fun. It's a dual-reality story, the main character some schmoe that gets pulled into great events, shifting between present earth and some alternate, possibly future, reality of earth. Present day is pretty standard try-to-prevent-evil-plans story. Alternate reality is fantastical, and clear biblical allegory. Which you might think would be tedious or like being bludgeoned by a dull sermon. But it's not. It's quite well done, though Dekkar is no C. S. Lewis.

    The books are good enough that I'll finish the quadrilogy. The second in the series, Red, is on sale at Audible, so I pre-buy for future listening.
     
  6. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Just finished Sacre Bleu. It's a very different work from Christopher Moore's normal titles, but it is a blazing mystery.. fantastically well done.
     
  7. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Star Wars I wish that had become the sequels, reading back through "Heir to the Empire"
     
  8. Wee Mad Arthur

    Wee Mad Arthur Auditioning

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    I have read all 3 hunger games books, and all 11 or twelve sword of truth books. Faith of the Fallen is the best in the series
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Finished "White" and now working on "Red", to complete the Dekkar series.
    "Bossypants", by Tina Fey (audio). Recommended if you like Tina Fey and the raunchy second half of SNL shows. It's make-you-cry funny in places. It spends the beginning on women-parts, which was unexpected but embarrassingly hilarious. The middle slumps. And I'm now watching 30 Rock as a result. I recommend specifically the audiobook, since fey reads it, and does an excellent job. Her chapter on her father is worth the price of purchase.
    I'm a wuarter through " the name of the wind" and half through "in the plex"
     
  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I know there are a few "Ender's Game" fans here, so I thought I'd dredge up this thread and recommend the newest book in the series, Earth Unaware. It's written by Orson Scott Card with his comics partner Aaron Johnston. Usually when you have a big name author with their name in huge letters and a relatively unknown co-author, you know the big name is collecting the bulk of the residuals while the little name did the bulk of the work. I don't know what the division of labor was on this book, but after reading it I'm sure that it wasn't a matter Card just slapping his name on the thing. The prose style is his, through and through. If Johnston wrote most of the drafts, Card definitely did the final pass. Also, as the Afterword makes clear, a lot of the content of this book goes back 30 years to when Card was fleshing out his novelette into the full novel that has become a classic of English language literature. I've read most of the books in the Ender's Game universe, and this one comes closest to capturing the texture of the original novel. The Ender sequels delved way out into very ambitious, philosophical arenas. The Shadow series told a very fast-paced, geopolitical thriller. They were well written but pulpy. This book takes its science and world building very seriously. A lot of it is devoted to conveying the complexities of life for mining vessels in the Kuiper Belt. A great deal of attention is devoted to the mechanics of how the science works; there's a certain sterility to the depiction of the world like we got in 2001 and The Andromeda Strain. The emphasis is not on showing something cool but rather presenting something with maximum plausibility within the constraints of what we already know about this world. Ender's Game and the Ender sequels are achingly personal stories. We see Ender's journey through his eyes, and while the sequels have scenes from other points of view, the story is always Ender's personal story. The Shadow sequels similarly tell Bean's personal story, even though a large portion of each is devoted to Peter's story. Earth Unaware is not a personal story. The novel hops between several points of view, none of which are dominant. It's written like a non-fiction novel, dramatizing true events that in this case haven't actually happened. The overall effect is to present a tapestry: this is how humans and the Buggers first made contact. There are no impressive battle scenes, no shocking revelations about existing characters. Only one character exists in any of the previous novels; they take the opposite approach of the Star Wars prequels; instead of weaving everything in toward itself, they expand the scope and cast of characters outward. As far as I know, none of the protagonists of this story have anything to do with the protagonists of future stories. They're not grandparents of existing characters in the future present of the original book. The each have their part to play, and many of them die fulfilling their duties.
    My criticism of Card's recent books falls into two categories: 1) The novels where his politics intrude smugly into the storytelling and impose conclusions upon the reader that the reader probably won't agree with. The Empire books were ruined by that, and some of the Earth-set scenes in this came close to that line before subverting my expectations in satisfying ways; 2) The only other novel he's written solo since his stroke, Shadows in Flight was way too short and ended way too prematurely. It was barely novel length and didn't tell a complete story. I worried that that was a consequence of his stroke, that either his typing ability had become too impaired by the stroke or he'd rearranged his priorities after a glimpse at his own mortality. I'm not a fan who expects writers to make their own health and personal lives subordinate to their writing output. I don't think Card "owes" me anything, and I wouldn't have blamed him if his output suffered. But this book gave me some confidence that that was just a blip. Because this story takes place on the margins of space, a lot of the artifice and politics that give the other books such complexity are stripped away. Not in a bad way, but it in a "There's hardly anything between these people and the finality of death" kind of way. Other humans and space itself are threats at least as terrifying as the aliens. When you're that remote, it doesn't take very much at all to kill you. The novel's literally a prologue to the whole series; by the last page, (MINOR SPOILER) humanity at large still isn't aware of the coming threat of the Buggers (MINOR SPOILER), but while it definitely feels like volume one of a larger story, the place it ends feels like an ending. There's a sense of completion that wasn't there with his previous book. If a co-author is what it took to make that happen, I'm fine with it.
     
  11. Stan

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    Four months ago I bought 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Just finally started to read it and have avoided detailed reviews like Hugh's from earlier, but am definitely looking forward to finishing it in the next month or so. Naturally as I start to read it, our temperatures started approaching 100 degrees, so what was going to be my summer "tanning" book, is on hold for a week or two. but it's first on the list when the weather cools a bit.
    Did recently finish Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars". Very easy, light and humorous writing style. Goes into a lot of behind the scenes stuff at NASA that I'm quite sure was very hushed up at the time. Nothing top secret or anything like that, but just things like quite funny astronaut selection and testing, bodily functions in space, vomit comet stories, etc., but really a great read.
     
  12. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

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    This sounds like my experience with "THE PLAGUE DOGS". I liked the movie a lot more than the book. The movie was quite well done and watchable. The book was a torturous, boring read. I managed to finish it, but have never had the desire to re-visit it. I haven't read Richard Adams's sequel to "WATERSHIP DOWN" yet, so, AFAIAC, the only good book he has ever written IS "WATERSHIP DOWN".
     
  13. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Just finished John Scalzi's "RedShirts". Strong beginning, good concept.. I thought the last few chapters weren't up to the level of the rest of the book; it seemed as though he ran out of where the story should/could go
     
  14. DaveF

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    Red Shirts is on my list; I may get it sooner than later. Scalzi is a favorite author. However, I was a bit dismayed to find he's cranking out short stories. I can't keep up with that! :)

    Have you read The God Engines? I found it a fascinating novella, and it was no longer nor shorter than it needed to be.
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. Not a breezy read for me, but I really enjoyed it. It has some great prose. And the story is fascinating: Our taciturn innkeeper is actually a mythical hero, in hiding. And he starts telling his story. It's the story of a telling of story, in which myths are revealed. It's pretty meta in a way. If you like some of Gaiman's world building and deconstruction / reconstruction of myth, "Wind" could be interesting to you.

    "In the Plex" by Steven Levy. Biography of Google, up to about 2010. Good book. Brings together pretty much everything you've heard about Google from the past decade into a single story, and some things you haven't heard.

    Ted Dekkar's 'Colors' trilogy. "Red", "Black", "White". Atrocious reading on Audible, but interesting books. They're "christian fiction", so some will find that off putting. But they're enjoyable allegory.

    "Small Favor", "Turncoat" of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Butcher's Wizard noir keeps getting better. And James Marsters' reading is superb.

    "Solaris" by Stanislaw Lem, on Audible (new translation and performance). I saw the bad Clooney / Soderburg movie and wrote this story off. But I heard it's actually a scifi classic, and Audible's original translation got a lot of advertising on the Podcasts. So...I liked it, but it didn't rewrite my brain the way the best scifi does. It's two stories in one. The first is the psycho-drama of First Contact of the protagonist, Kelvin, with the wholly alien intelligence of Solaris. The second story, within, is a 1960's era scifi examination of alien life, how it might be understood, or really misunderstood, and categorized, and so forth. As with good sci-fi, it stands up well against 2012 views of the the universe. The reader, Alessandro Juliani ("Mr. Gaeta" of BSG) does a very good job.

    "The Sandman, Vols 1, 2, 3", by Neil Gaiman. I've only read a few comics, and this one I was introduced to in grad school. I'm buying and re-reading them. They're fascinating. Sandman is a macabre telling, and partial reinvention, of stories around the god of dreams. The stories range from world-building to small personal tales. And a retelling of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

    Currently, I'm reading "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." I was about 10% into it, then a friend of a friend told me Gutenberg translation was garbage and to get a different from GoodReads.com. So, back to the beginning.

    Audio, listening to "Changes", in The Dresden Files.
     
  16. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    The prologue for "Red Shirts" is one of the laugh out loud funniest things I've ever read. I was completely with the book until the big twist was revealed. It pulled me out of the story, and damaged my investment in a way that it couldn't recover from. I did enjoy the codas, however.
     
  17. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Yeah, that was my problem too. I really disliked the twist and found it didn't make much sense.. and it made the last portion of the book not as good.

    I had honestly thought, until the twist that


    We were going to find out that a deal with struck with some alien superpower or something that we'd offer up people as sacrifices to them.. But the twist got too twisty. Still, the first portion of the book is some of the funniest stuff I've read I was dying at a lot of it.. "Let me go inventory the closet again" ;)
     
  18. Jason_V

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    I've been doing a lot of reading thanks to my Kindle (Fire, to be exact). Now that I know this thread is here I'll be checking in a lot more often, provided the book is appropriate.

    My current read is "The Friend Request." About 2/3s of the way done...and I can't wait to be done with it. The premise is simply implausible-a man creates an elaborate Facebook and real life "life" to exact revenge on someone he knew as a kid. This should be a shorter story than it actually is. The editing is fairly bad and I find myself wanting to slap most of the characters.

    (That's what I get for free books from Amazon, right?)

    My favorite book I've read this year may just be "The Hunger Games." That's more of an indictment on the stuff I've read than how good "THG" actually is. Worst book? Hands down something called "Bambi." I hated every second of it. But I'm one of those people who doesn't give up on something once I start it.
     
  19. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Just finished Logan's Run. I hadn't read the book, had seen teh film of course. I'm not sure what to say about the book.. frankly, having read it in comparison to a lot of SciFi I found it far more "pulpy" then a lot of better works
     
  20. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Just finished "Shadow and Bone", by Leigh Bardugo. You can read my review on Amazon here, but I just wanted to pop on and heartily recommend it. It's got a real Russian tinge to it that sets it apart from the usual medieval Old England stuff I usually find in fantasy. I was hooked from the first sentence: "The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches."
     

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