Thursday, March 25, 2010

White Teeth : Zadie Smith

White Teeth
by Zadie Smith

The narrative was a bit meandering and long and the teeth metaphor, somewhat overdone.  Wasn't a fan of the ending, where a few of the came together a bit too neatly to be satisfying.  That being said, where this excelled was in describing of and in the analysis of personalities, their attachment to religion, beliefs, history and culture and the clashes that occur as a result.  I wish I could find the passage, but I distinctly remember a passage that got the mentality of some immigrants spot-on, without getting into the emo self-indulgent writing that I see too much in say oh Asian-American writing/movies all too often.  Anyways, somewhat worthwhile read, I'd be curious to read Smith's third novel, On Beauty, to see if some of the problems I saw here have been improved.

The Devil in the White City : Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: 
Murder, Magic & Madness at the Fair that Changed America
by Erik Larson

Loved this book.  A non-fiction that details the planning, involved in the Chicago's World Fair of 1893 and a serial killer that was drawn to the accompanying chaos.  It was cool to hear of the influence of the World's Fair, such as the decision to use alternating current electricity, which became the U.S. standard for electricity distribution, or the introduction of Shredded Wheats at the fair or the invention of a famous civil engineering structure just for this fair, which continues to amuse people to this day.

In addition to the details, the narrative for both the planning and execution of the World Fair and that of the serial killer push along quite nicely.  For being a non-fiction book, it is amazing how fun and fast a read this is.  I just wish there were more accompanying pictures, especially during the parts that they describe the architectural wonders that they built just for the world fair.

Anyways, really enjoyed this one.  

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Diplomatic Immunity : Lois McMaster Bujold

Diplomatic Immunity
By Lois McMaster Bujold

A fast read, but somewhat of a popcorn novel.  I may be missing the context of the earlier books (this is the last of a series of books focused on the Miles Vorkosigan protagonist).

This quickly becomes a detective story, set in a sci-fi setting, which makes for an interesting, page-turning stuff.  But occasionally, there just seemed random notes that are  thrown in, as if Bujold had reread a draft, found an inconsistency in her writing and had added phrases to make sure things were consistent.  For example, Miles has a high ranking position, that generally requires other characters to address him as "Lord Auditor Vorkosigan." Later in the story, during an intense scene, a character might say something without addressing his formal title and the text might follow up, saying such and such character, forgetting the formalities in the moment.  Just these random breaks in flow to cover details.

Also, the ending kind of follows a familiar feel-good ending, the protagonist and protagonist's good friend get seriously harmed, but Miles still manages to figure out the mystery and save the world, type of deal.\

Shrug, I'm guessing I'll forget about this one quickly.