Book Review: Mockingjay

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51zkheo7x8lCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, outperformed my expectations. The second book, Catching Fire, was somewhat interesting, but it felt like a repeat of the first book. I’m hoping this addition to the trilogy adds something new, but I don’t see how that’s going to happen and be successful. I don’t think Katniss is good enough at pushing the plot forward for her to be active in the last book.

Non-Spoiler Review

I will give this book one thing: it wasn’t a repeat of the first book. I didn’t like how book 2 was basically the same as book 1, so I’m glad Collins didn’t just have another Hunger Game for Katniss to finish.

That being said, I can’t believe how disappointed I was with this book.

I don’t think a civil war/rebellion was a bad direction to take the plot. The problem I had was that Katniss’s ability to influence events at the same time that she always discovered information after everyone else made this book feel a bit unreal. For example, early in the book she’s asked to be the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion. She doesn’t know what to do until Prim (the younger sister) tells her to make demands in return for being the Mockingjay. She didn’t make the decision herself, just like every other event in the book.

I also had major issues with Katniss being ‘the best shot’ as opposed to people who were soldiers for their entire lives. I had issues with Katniss bringing down bombers with a bow and arrow, no matter her skill or specialness of the arrows. I had issues with the supply chain mechanics of District 13’s total war machine, but I understand few people study that kind of war strategy.

Overall, the problem I had with the book was lack of any semblance of believability. I think it almost pulled its rather ambitious premise off and almost seemed hardcore, but then it would defeat itself by doing something far beyond unbelievable.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Ok, I’m going to talk about the very end here.

First off, I agree that President Coin wasn’t that great a person, and she was somewhat power hungry. Her desire to reinstate the Hunger Games one last time was a bloodthirsty move, but Katnis agreed to it. Then she shot President Coin instead of Snow.

WTF?! That was such a letdown. It seemed to me that she made an incredibly destructive decision, and I can’t bring myself to believe the rebellion was able to hold itself together after coin’s death.

Then there was the epilogue. For three books, Katniss was bound and determined never to have kids in the crappy, post-apocalypse world. In the end, she talked about her PTSD-induced marriage to Peeta (which I didn’t really like, after what happened to Peeta) and her children. It just felt so disjointed, sort of like the Mass Effect Blue Ending.

Also also, I found out that the Capitol was probably supposed to be Salt Lake City, which indicates to me the author intended them to be Mormons. I found that a wee bit religionist (is that a word?).

Next week:

It’s March next week – if you were around for last March, you might be able to guess what those books are going to be about!

Book Review: Catching Fire

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51tk519fuhlCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, was perfectly ok. It outperformed my expectations, though I found some of the word choices and style a little stifling. What I’m looking forward to with this book is the relationship with Gail and Peeta. I also don’t have any idea what’s going to happen – after the first book, what can the characters do that will be even half as exciting? Now that the games are over, how can Collins come up with something that will even come close to as heart-pounding?  Since the series was so popular, I have to think there’s a surprise waiting for me!

Non-Spoiler Review

We still have too many instances of the words “blood” and “roast,” but stuff like that isn’t enough to keep me from reading. Collins’s style isn’t my favorite, but she does very cleverly get into Katniss’s head and uses her first person narrator well.

However, this book wasn’t nearly as exciting, sensible, or creative as the first one. A lot of time is spent establishing why Katniss is (spoiler for the first book) now considered a rebel for her act of eating the berries at the end of The Hunger Games. I didn’t think her act all that treasonous, and even more so I thought the Capitol’s response to her actions altogether ridiculous. Similar to the first book, as well, Katniss is often the last person to find out about conspiracies and problems at which she is the center, and it just doesn’t feel reasonable. The first book could get the benefit of the doubt because 1) It’s YA, and some melodrama is excusable 2) Katniss was literally ripped from obscurity and put in the spotlight 3) It was pretty exciting. This book didn’t have 2 and 3 going for it, so the entire problem felt out of place to me.

If I ignore the premise’s unlikelihood and the melodrama of it all, I suppose the book was “Ok.” I wouldn’t tell someone they were wrong for enjoying it, and I’d still say continuing the series after book one isn’t a complete waste of your time. Similarly, I’d also assert that you don’t need to continue if you don’t want to.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Too quickly, I found out what happened between Katniss and Gail after the games: a fairly contrived idea of rebellion forces Katniss toward Peeta, and Gail is just ‘far away’ now. It was a disappointingly quick resolution to what I thought was the only exciting thing remaining unfinished from book 1. There was some more development, but it felt forced and Katniss didn’t really have much say in whether she chose Peeta or Gail.

Next… was this plot basically a dumb repeat of the first plot? Katniss and Peeta are thrown into the arena then defy the capitol by defeating their games. It’s kind of nutty, really. The idea that all the victors are thrown back into the arena for the quarter quell was silly in the first place (as was the explanation that it was all a plan to kill Katniss). The idea that so many competitors were in on a plan that Hamich, the coach, failed to tell Katniss about? Ludicrous.

I would say this was a terrible book, but it still had some elements of tension even if they felt really contrived. I don’t have high hopes for Mockingjay, though.

Next week:

I will finish this series next week as I read Mockingjay. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Book Review: The Hunger Games

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51fpao2bjxlThe Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
2008
Amazon Link

I have never read this series because I’ve always found the premise of televised child murder to be an unlikely future for pretty much any current society, much less the future of America. I guess other people would disagree with me, but that’s the way my dice rolled.

Even so, it’s critically acclaimed, there are movies (which I haven’t seen), and I suppose it’s relevant to a modern audience. Let’s see what’s inside!

Non-Spoiler Review

I will admit that this was a fun read. I’m not sure I liked the juxtaposition of clearly YA-characters beside brutally murdered 12-year-olds, but I can also see myself finding the book edgy and “real” if I were a teen. So it probably fits a YA audience well, but parents might want to think about letting an advanced 9 year old read it without guidance or discussion.  

Anyway, I thought the pacing was excellent. The chapters left me hanging perfectly such that I wanted to keep going and find out what happened. I thought Katniss’s struggles were compelling, even if naggingly contrived.

I even think the touches of romance were well done. While I will say more in the spoilers, just know for now that I am VERY picky about my romance in books.

Lastly, my beefs with the book. I still think the premise is crazy, but if I could put that behind me, it was worth the time I spent reading. Collins also used a lot of weird word choices repeatedly, like ‘roast,’ and I kept getting drawn out of the immersion because of this. Finally, some of the plot points felt contrived, and the final solution felt too easy.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I’m going to shock some of you: I thought the romance subplot in this book was good.

Honestly, I kind of want to know how things go with Katniss and Gale when she gets back home.  Her experience with Peeta was harrowing, and now they share a bond which can’t be simulated otherwise.  Katniss pretended to love Peeta in order to eke gifts from sponsors and viewers, so the entire nation thinks they’re in love, further complicating matters.  However, Gale has much more history with Katniss, and he’s shown a long-term devotion.  I actually liked this subplot, which is very unusual for me.

Lastly, I’d like to complain about the contrivance concerning the ‘rule change.’  During the middle of the games, the announcer declared 2 people could win the Hunger Games if they were from the same district.  Then, right at the end, when Katniss and Peeta had won, they revoked this rule change.  Katniss and Peeta decided to commit suicide simultaneously.

Honestly, what did the game makers expect?  Force the competitors to work together, then suddenly pull the rug out from under them?  I felt like this change right at the end was such fake BS, invented just so Katniss could ‘insult’ the capitol.

Still, overall, I’d say my complaints are weak sauce.  I definitely intend to finish this series, now.

Next week:

I’m reading the second book in this series, Catching Fire.

Reading List – February 2020

I like to read series because it give a feeling of true accomplishment. For my first series this year, I’m reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

You may be surprised I hadn’t read these books already. As they are post-apocalyptic science fiction and some of the most popular books of the last couple decades, they seem to have pretty widespread appeal and cultural influence.

So I thought I should read them, regardless of how good they may or may not be. My friends who’ve read the first book all liked it, but I haven’t found many people who say much of anything about the second book and nothing good about the third book.

So let’s get this started!

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Do you write books and sell them in a non-sketchy fashion, such as through Amazon? If so, shoot me a line – I would love to read your book!  If I choose your book, I will always purchase it since I do not want to be beholden to the author when I leave reviews.

See my old reviews here

Favorite Books of 2019

Lucky for me, there’s 5 Mondays this December, which allows an excellent chance to look back at the pile of books (36! Huzzah for me!) I’ve had the privilege to read in 2019!  Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:

Favorite Book On First Read

650Without a doubt, my favorite book this year was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you are a fantasy or a history buff, you should read this absolutely exquisite work. It’s so good that I don’t even feel jealous of the author, just ever so grateful I was able to read the book. 100%, totally recommend. If I hadn’t already given away my copy in earnest effort to get someone to read it, I’d give you mine.

Pro tip, though: get an e-book version. The binding on the paperback is a little weird and can make your experience slightly less enjoyable.

If you allow re-reads, I would have to say this book is competitive with Ancillary Justice, which I still think is probably on of the best books I’ve ever read, but perhaps less fun that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Favorite Indie Book

This feels like such a dangerous category to even have! First, let me say that so many of my fellow bloggers have written great books. More so than anything, what I’ve found to be important in finding a great Indie Book is to look at how dedicated the author is to the craft. A good blog/website is HIGHLY indicative of a good book to follow.

51om2i6e0kl

That being said, I think my favorite Indie Book this year was Diane Wallace Peach’s The Melding of Aeris. While many books could boast powerful storylines and well-written prose, what continues to stick out about Aeris is the extraordinarily clever world and detailed magic system. The feel is post-apocalyptic, but it doesn’t go into detail as to why the world is such. I had a lot of fun reading it and would recommend to those looking for a way into the indie book scene.

I feel like if I do runners up, I’d just be listing off a bunch of bloggers’ books!

Favorite Series

One of my goals this year was to read more series, and I’ve read several. However, I’ve got to limit my choice to just one!

And, no doubt in my mind, it was the Robert Remini Andrew Jackson trilogy. This trilogy is a fantastic set of biographical works that incorporates both feelings from back in the day when everyone was racist and ideals from a more modern, critical era. Though Jackson was a lunatic, Remini shows you his charisma, wit, and drive in such a way that he becomes more coherent. I’ve always enjoyed studying Jackson, though, so I’m inevitably a bit biased.

Also I’ve read this series in the past, so I feel like I cheated a bit by choosing them here. A good runner up would be the Imperial Radch trilogy, but I think it suffers from having a weak second entry.

Favorite Classic

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t read too many true classics. For that reason, I’m including somewhat recent science fiction and fantasy classics.

dracula1st

Even so, I’d have to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. I didn’t go in expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tension, the depth of character, and creativity with the subject matter. I think it’s a great read for anyone interested in expanding their experience with fantasy and classics. Don’t be afraid of it just because of the Twilight craze!

A Couple I Explicitly Didn’t Like

I don’t want to talk about Indie books I didn’t like. If you want to see me rip Indie books, you’ll have to go to my Reviews Page and find them yourself. Part of this is my belief that Indie Books, if done right, should explore niches traditional publishers are afraid to go down – niches that might not be for every reader.

I was sad that I didn’t like Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I thought the premise looked really cool, and I very much enjoyed some of the short stories she’d published in other places. I thought the book didn’t explain itself well, and I could never root for the main character. It also came off as tone-deaf in a post 2016 world. 100% worst thing I’ve read this year.

Without anything coming close to Trail of Lightning in terms of sheer dislike, I moved on to thinking about disappointments. Though I enjoyed the book by the end, I was disappointed with The Warrior’s Apprentice. After having read two other novels by McMasters-Bujold, I expected more from this book. I also got more from the books following The Warrior’s Apprentice in the series. I think she tried to fit too much in the novel, and it ended up being an overwhelming tapestry of exciting stuff. It was also her first publication, so that inexperience probably didn’t help.

 

 

Book Review: The Alienist

I was flipping through some of the audiobook selections at my library, and I came across a curious book that had a sci-fi sounding title and a –

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD IS THIS A THEODORE ROOSEVELT FANFIC

Renting the shit out of this.

The Book

51jxil0exalThe Aleinist
Author: Caleb Carr
1994
Amazon Link

I hadn’t heard about this book, but I was pretty little when it debuted in ’94 (which means I’m older now, btw).  Regardless, I was looking for sci-fi about aliens and stupid computers thought this was what I meant.  I was disappointed to see it was about the 1800’s.

But then I saw it was supposed to have Theodore Roosevelt as a character.

Y’all know I’m a complete and total sucker for presidents.  I had to read this thing.  I checked that audiobook out, regardless of any regret I may later feel.

Non-Spoiler Review

I really enjoyed this book, though at times it got a bit graphic for my rather tender tastes.  I think what kept me engaged was their interesting techniques, not all of which worked (and some of which I found absolutely ludicrous from a technology perspective).  The main character, John Malone, was really a good perspective to write the book from.

One thing that I found very satisfying was the representation of characters that weren’t white men.  While it was apparent that white men were the power brokers in the world, the agency of boys, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals was not overlooked.  The character of Sarah, especially, was done so very well.  I think Carr did great with characters from a wide swath of backgrounds, and I think people should read this book for that reason if nothing else.

Also, the historical elements were fantastic.  Sometimes it felt like Carr put things in just to include historical references (for example, the characters ate at Delmonico’s and described the restaurant in detail like 5 times).  They met people like Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and Jake Rhiis. It felt a bit forced at times, but still it added to the overall effect of the book.

Overall, I would recommend, but there are some rough places that aren’t really for the faint of heart (and probably surpassed my own abilities).

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The story was really good.  The main characters used psychology – at least what was available in 1896, with a little help from having an author in 1994, to determine the characteristics of a murderer, find him, and stop him from continuing his spree.  It was deeply complex, intriguing, and full of action.  The emotional twists and turns were astounding.

The only low point in the book was, if you ask me, a bit at the climax. Kreizler, the titular alienist, quit the investigation when his girlfriend was killed by a mob boss.  He then came back at the end, almost deus ex machina, and solved the case.  As well, the mob boss was following him and ended up being important in the final showdown. To me, that final coincidence felt a bit too large, and it ignored a lot of the contributions of Sarah and the Isaacsons.  It wasn’t a bad way to do the climax, but it didn’t quite feel satisfying to me.

Supposedly there are follow up books, and I’m intrigued enough by this one to think they might be worth reading.

Next week:

This is a 5-Monday month, and what timing!  Next week, the 30th, I’ll be making a post describing my reading journey.  And what a journey!  I’m excited to share what may be my most successful reading year in a LONG time.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 is one of those “Classic” books I’ve never read. Most classes in my high school read it, but since I was in the honors’ section, my teacher said, “You all have probably read 451 because you’re smart, so we’re going to do Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Well, guess I showed her! (Though I must admit that teacher is/was brilliant).

The Book

51vsfbzlu2blFahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
1953
Amazon Link

I’ve never really been interested in this book. I know it’s about censorship, and I know the premise is that the book is about a man who burns seditious material for a living. Something about it has just made me never care to read it before.

Also, just as a note, I got a copy from the library and the cover looked terrible. I liked the HBO-film inspired cover they have on Amazon, so that’s what I put here.

Non-Spoiler Review

At least now I understand why this book is so popular among English classes. With an English professor as part of the hero team and with literary and appreciation of artistic talent a major portion of the message, this novel is a fantastic, ego-stroking, self-serving kind of book for anyone who wants to feel good about being an artist.

And that made me mad at most high-school teachers but very proud of mine.

First, I found the premise entirely untenable. A society in which education is limited will not advance, and societies that don’t advance in this day and age will fall behind and be obliterated either by revolution or outside intervention. Even North Korea, which lags behind because of terrible abuses of power, can boast of inventions and efforts to modernize in some (crazy and terrifying) aspects. The society in 451 seems so ridiculous to me.

As well, the female characters were vapid, useless objects. I tell myself, “Oh, that was a product of the times,” but then I look at my review of Twain’s works and realize that he was more reasonable in the 1800’s than Bradbury was in 1953. I also thought Montag’s weird attraction to 16-year old Clarisse a bit… disconcerting.

When I think about the theme of censorship, I find this book a reasonable example of an anti-censorship book. That being said, it was ad absurdum, and I usually don’t like that sort of thing.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The story as a whole was rather plain. It was about a guy who did something illegal, then ran away and found company with others who were like him. There wasn’t much to it, really. I’d never read the book, but I still could predict every single plotline and didn’t care when the next chapter was revealed.

This book should be read almost exclusively for its themes and metaphors. That is where this book shines. That being said, I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m glad I don’t have to read it again.

Oh, another thing: mine had an afterword from Bradbury where he complained about efforts to censor Fahrenheit 451. It was incredibly insensitive and made me question the value of the intent behind 451. I suggest not reading it.

Next week:

I’m very hype to get to The Alienist. I’d never heard of it before this month, and I can’t imagine something with that premise could suck. Tally ho!

Book Review: The Robots of Dawn

Because everything written after this book gets the Robot series involved with Asimov’s weird, canon crossover with the Foundation series (which I love and also do not wish to destroy), this is the last of the Robots books I will be reading and reviewing for at least some time. Strap in for this classic review!

The Book

51p4stbegul._sx301_bo1204203200_The Robots of Dawn
Author: Isaac Asimov
1983
Amazon Link

This book, as well as many of the sequels that I don’t plan on reading, was at my library, so I snagged a copy.  I’ve genuinely enjoyed, at least to some extent, all of the series’ previous installations.

Just so you have a short version of the review, I’ll tell you now that this 4th book in the series was a massive disappointment, but still far from the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Non-Spoiler Review

I was only disappointed in this book because the previous two installations were quite enjoyable.  I would say this one wasn’t awful, but some of the parts fell pretty flat for me.

First, let me admit that I don’t like romance or even romantic subplots.  This is probably one of the reasons I like Asimov’s earlier work – he knew he sucked at romance and avoided it.  Well, when he got older, he also got bolder, and I get the distinct feeling he still sucked at writing romance anyway.  Associated with the romance, as well, were clear and open references to what may be my least favorite book of all time, Stranger in a Strange Land.  Complete with sexual awakening and a hint at ‘teach them real sex and make a sex cult.’

Beyond that, Asimov still does a marvelous job with consistency in his worldbuilding.  The world in which Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun took place was still vivid, vibrant, and present in this installation.  Baley’s agoraphobia (fear of outside, so you don’t have to look it up) was still ever-present.  I relish reading about the Baley character, and I enjoyed learning about the new planet of Aurora.

Still… the final solution to the murder mystery, as well, made me groan.  I’ll talk about that more in the spoilers review, but it was bad.  It made me groan to the point that I almost put the book down with only 6 pages to go.  After I ate supper, however, I was able to come back and gag myself through to the end.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The mystery of the book wasn’t done very well, at least in comparison to the earlier works.  Thanks to things like the romantic subplot got in the way, and the lengthened status of the book made the singular offending sentence – the one which Baley’s entire theory hinged on – easy to forget after another 100 pages of reading.  It wasn’t pointed out at the time of the offending interview, either, which made it feel less impressive a stunt.

Still, the part that got me was the very ending, where Baley actually solved the crime, not the one where he satisfied political needs.  In it, he reveals that the murder was committed by a psychic robot.  Wat.  WAT.  This was 7 pages from the end of the 500 page book and you’re going to bring in PSYCHIC ROBOTS now?!  Horse hockey.

Yes, he called back to that one episode in i, Robot wherein there was a legendary, psychic robot, and made it happen.  Simultaneously, he revealed all sorts of what I found to be BS motives, crossovers with his Foundation series and Empire series, and just altogether destroyed the entire book.  I had suspected that particular robot of the crime due to some of the facts, but the way Asimov had Baley solve the problem was so dissatisfying.

Next week:

I’ll be re-reading one of my favorites, The Remains of the Day.  You should stay tuned, and READ THE DAMN BOOK too!

Reading List – December 2019

This year has just flown by!  And, what’s more and just as exciting, I’ve done a great job with my reading schedule!

As a reward, I’m reading ‘Whatever the hell I please’ this month.  So here’s a hodge-podge of stuff, fresh from what I want to do.  🙂

The Robots of Dawn – Isaac Asimov

51p4stbegul._sx301_bo1204203200_If you’ve followed me for long, you know I’ve read all the previous books in Asimov’s Robot series.  You also know that I’ve liked them all, and you know that I’m aware Asimov’s later works kind of go off the rails and start doing crossover-fanfic level of stuff.  Well, I think this entry is where that starts, but I felt like trying anyway.  Screw it.  Let’s see if this one’s as bad as the Foundation series where the crossover fanfic type stuff starts happening.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

51vsfbzlu2blI’ve never read this sucker before because my high school was weird and we had waivers to avoid reading anything our teachers didn’t want us to read. I think we read The Chocolate War instead, or perhaps Something Wicked This Way Comes. Either way, this book is supposed to have a lot of messages about censorship, writing, and thought. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I think I need to read this in order to be up to par compared to my well-read cohorts.

The Alienist – Caleb Carr

51jxil0exalI thought this one looked pretty legit when I came across it on accident at the library.  And what’s more?  IT HAS THEODORE ROOSEVELT.  One of the few ways you can convince me to read a book faster would be to include Andrew Jackson.  Anyway, this is about solving a series of gruesome murders during the time Roosevelt was police chief of New York.  It seems like it’s pretty diverse, and I’m a bit excited to see where this weird book goes!  I hope it’s like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in some of its qualities!

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read next year, and those slots will be opening before you know it!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

Book Review: The Lost World

After finishing Dracula on audiobook from my library, I immediately sought out another audiobook to listen to.  Why not, after all?

Since my library’s audiobook selections tend to have enormous waiting lists, I found that my best option was to continue through another classic.  Thus, I went for some very classic sci-fi, The Lost World.  

The Book

51k2nege9hlThe Lost World
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1912
Amazon Link (Free edition for Kindle!  It’s public domain!)

Sometimes I’ll enjoy a good classic, and other times I won’t.  This may be the first classic I’ve read in a long time that I’ve felt extremely ‘meh’ about.  It had a nice, wonderfully romping plot wherein the characters went on a marvelous adventure.  At the same time, it was moderately childish, had little unexpected development, was poor scientifically (Twain supplied better approximations of evolution in Connecticut Yankee), and next to the film Endless Summer was one of the most casually racist things I’ve ever experienced.  That being said, it had an enjoyable tone, and wasn’t altogether terrible, but it certainly wasn’t good.

Non-Spoiler Review

The best part of the book was how it was written as a nearly real-time journal.  It made the whole thing seem even more adventurous, even more a part of the time it was written.  I enjoyed the English-ness of the thing, and it hearkened to some of the aspects of English society that I find so odd.  The society of professors, as well, reminded me of today’s professors, their jealousies, and their eccentricities, and I found that an interesting part of the book.

Another part of the book I liked was Conan Doyle’s style.  It was understandable, and he used understatement with perfect aplomb.  I thought the characters voices fantastically distinct.  All this came together to make a rich book full of exciting adventure with dinosaurs and ape-men that really was fun (even if his ideas on evolution were garbage, even for his time frame).

But then, every once in a while, they’d remorselessly kill an Indian (native South American, for those of us who now know better) or speculate on the closeness to monkeys of the various actual races of people.  Sometimes this would catch me off guard and I would laugh because, from a modern perspective, it was so insipid.  Because of the day and culture in which it was written, I’m willing to forgive Conan Doyle for some of the awful racism, but it still drew away from my experience.

Worse, it drew away from the majority of the book’s characters.  From Zambo to the half-breeds to the Indians to the ‘ape-men,’ all of them were stupid and either hateful or completely innocent.  Of those that were hateful, it was only the half-breeds, which reminded me of stuff I read during my most recent Andrew Jackson phase.  Remember, Andrew Jackson was something on the order of 100 years before this book.  Anyway, it felt like Conan Doyle took the easy route out and made some flat-as-a-pancake non-white characters, and that REALLY sucked for the book.

Because the racism and flat characters constantly irked me, I could not suggest this book to anyone even despite the good sentence structures and interesting white characters. It’s pretty much straight-up offensive and doesn’t really have enough going for it to save it.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Most of this book is spoiled by its summary, but there are a couple things I’m going to just wreck for you.

First, the reason the narrator – Malone – goes on the adventure is to win his dearly beloved Gladys.  While he is gone to South America, however, Gladys marries a clerk and moves on.  From the tone, Gladys is blamed, and Malone gets upset.  I found this ridiculous; it felt like such a forced romantic tension in the first place.  I just laughed when Malone found out he’d been defeated.

At the very end of the book, Malone asks Roxton, the hardass adventurer who loved guns and saved their butts a few times in the book, to take him on another adventure.  I thought this was a great ending, and it prodded me to look for sequels.  There were sequels.

About the intolerable Professor Challenger.

Challenger, who had made the initial discovery, was always a character I rather loathed.  Bullish, hateful, violent, and yet deemed inexhaustibly intelligent by author and narrator, he was everything I hate in a character.  I thought I was supposed to hate him, but apparently he was the entire point of the book!  I was shocked and appalled, and I will not read another book in the Professor Challenger series!

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