Archive | January, 2014

Inferno by Dan Brown

15 Jan

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dan Brown cheats.

I recently finished the draft of a novel I am writing that used multiple points of view like Brown does. I realized I was going to have to throw out a bunch of material I wrote from one character’s point of view just because he KNEW TOO MUCH. Being in his head would have given the mystery away. Better to have him not be a point of view character in the book and remain enigmatic, then to let the reader into his point of view and have him somehow just not think things that would give the game away.

Because people? Don’t control their thoughts. We think what we think.

This is how Dan Brown cheats. In both this book, and The Lost Symbol, he wants to have a big twist at the end where a character or characters are revealed to be more than we thought they were. And he does this by taking us into their heads and just not showing them thinking of things that are no doubt on their minds, like, “How am I going to pull blah-blah-blah off without giving myself away?” That would really be foremost in their minds, I would think.

Sometimes, he has characters think of events in their lives that are later revealed to never to have happened. Were they rehearsing their fake backstories to help pull off the con?

In retrospect, you can see the clues Brown scatters for you throughout the book that reveal the twist, which a twisty story should do, but you also see the cheating attempts at misdirection.

Still, I read Dan Brown because his books are fun. They’re scavenger hunts where the treasures are a copious quantity of well-research archeology and history. But great literature, this is not.

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The golden age of Science Fiction

13 Jan

Depending on who you ask, the “Golden Age of Science Fiction,” is either “undisputedly,” or just “widely recognized” as the 1940’s (and possibly 50’s). Of course, one person’s Golden Age is another person’s capital-E Establishment, but historically, the 40’s and 50’s are the era when a younger generation of very talented writers weaned on the pulps and unafraid of speculative-fiction-that-incorporated-science took up pen or typewriter. Among them: Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Tom Godwin, and Isaac Asimov.

It is interesting that of the three biggies I review here (Clarke, Bradbury, and Asimov), Asimov was always my favorite, but (perhaps due to story choices?) this time around, I was much more impressed with Bradbury.

All of these writers are masters of creating fully-realized portraits of everyday life in the future, or on space stations, or the Moon, in very few words. Continue reading

The Science of Skinny

7 Jan

The Science of Skinny: Start Understanding Your Body's Chemistry--and Stop Dieting ForeverThe Science of Skinny: Start Understanding Your Body’s Chemistry–and Stop Dieting Forever by Dee Mccaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like science. Books that explain things to me using basic science (and which cite sources) get my attention. This book is written by a chemist. She may swing a little bit to the “nature is perfect” side (it isn’t), but nature is certainly better than anything the money-driven applied-science food industry has to offer.

So this book makes a very sad kind of sense. Applying the lifestyle changes it suggests will take, well, a lifetime, especially for someone like me who has a severe mental block when I am required to mix more than two ingredients together, and thinks it’s inefficient to spend more time preparing a meal than you spend eating it.

So.

But yeah, not a gimmicky nutrition book.

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Review of Hidden Cities: My Journey into the Secret World of Urban Exploration

2 Jan

Whenever I read a really good memoir, I always have a moment I pause and think, “Wow, this person [did this thing], AND they are a great writer!” And then I realize chances are they probably got help with the writing part. Nevertheless, this is a really good memoir. Well-written, light-hearted, and fascinating. Definitely a GUY book written by a “guy’s guy” with a GUY point of view, but we are each entitled to our voice.