The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower book coverI have been meaning to read Octavia Butler for some time. She is an author who I have heard about from several sources and I finally got around to reading one of her books. I started with The Parable of the Sower. I had no idea what it was really about, and I’m sure if I had known, I would probably not have read it at this time. Though I really did enjoy the book despite my reasons for saying I would have put it off a bit longer.

The Parable of the Sower is basically a pre-apocalyptic novel. The events of the story show a fairly realistic degradation of society into the fairly popular apocalyptic scenarios we see today with such shows as The Walking Dead or Mad Max (they did make a new one) or what have you. I honestly envisioned the events of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road taking place a decade or two after this story. But this book isn’t all doom and gloom. It definitely doesn’t shy away from darker material, but uses it only in a realistic way. It doesn’t contain anything simply for shock value and it is overall a compelling read that is excellently written. I kept picking it up despite the need to decompress at times.

This book is part one of a duology titled The Books of Earthseed. Though we see the world slide into chaos through young Lauren’s eyes, we see a resilient character build a community around her beliefs that may shape the future of humanity. The story begins in 2024 and spans about 4 years. This book was published in 1993 when 2024 seemed a long way off. Now, here at the start of 2021, we are close enough that the events of the book seem near impossible (but not entirely, unfortunately). Though the dates within the book began as a solemn foretelling of a potential future, it will soon become a (hopefully) alternate timeline story of what may have been. A future I hope we all avoid. Except, of course, for the part where we have settlements on the moon and Mars.

The second book is titled The Parable of the Talents. I will not be reading the sequel right away for two reasons. The first is that this first book wraps up well and can be read as a standalone novel. The second is that I hope to read something a bit more uplifting before returning to this story. Again, I really did enjoy this book despite the subject matter. I don’t often read end-of-the-world type books though I have read a few and enjoyed them. This one was no exception. If anything, it has encouraged me to read more by Octavia Butler. Her novel Kindred is more well-known and I may try it some time this year.

If you are a fan of these types of books, such as Wanderers by Chuck Wendig or Stephen King’s The Stand, then you will likely enjoy this book as well. If you have never read Octavia Butler, like I had not until now, I suggest trying her books even if you don’t choose to start with this one. I look forward to reading more by her myself.

Happy Reading.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book coverThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is V.E. Schwab’s latest novel. I dare say it may well be her masterpiece, though of course I hope, as I do for all artists, that the best is still to come. Perhaps this will be only one of her masterpieces. It is beautifully written and intriguing through the final page.

Addie LaRue makes a deal with a god. The result is that she will seemingly live forever. The cost being that no one remembers her, while she remembers everything. They don’t simply forget her as time goes by, they forget her shortly after she is out of sight. Thus her journey, the parts we get to see, spans over 300 years. We get a plethora of events through parallel stories. One semi-recent, the other spanning Addie’s three centuries to bring her to the end of this story.

One of the aspects that drew me to this book was that of time. I love stories that manipulate time or change it in some way. This one doesn’t manipulate time, but it does amazing things with it. We see Addie’s tragedies and triumphs as she defiantly refuses to give in to her twisted consequence of her deal. No one may remember her, but she lives and explores and watches the years go by reveling in what tomorrow may bring. She has an unending fascination that repels the evils of the world.

Another aspect I found incredible was how time is used to examine the way we build relationships. Also, how memories fade or change, or simply disappear. How memory can impact our relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones. Living forever may mean losing everyone you know eventually, but living forever without being able to build any real relationships is something else entirely. Another reason her ability to enjoy every moment is admirable. We see Addie’s life and wonder what will happen within the confines of her curse, and we see the many relationships and encounters only she can remember.

I love stories that stay with you, and I believe this one does. The conceptual circumstances of Addie alone were compelling for me and I’m sure they will fascinate many. Though the story may mean something different for each reader. We bring our own histories with us when we read a story. We view the pages through a lens unique to only us. But I dare to call this story timeless (pun intended). There is a foundation within it where anyone can find ground to bring parts of their own lives along. To build alongside and weave throughout the pages. When there is room for growth or reflection within characters such as Addie, it is nearly impossible to forget her.

Happy Reading.

New Year, Same Me

I think most of us are glad that 2020 is now officially in the past and we are all hopeful for what a new year may bring. Of course, things don’t magically get better with the start of a new year or a new day, but the hope that it will bring good things is the important thing and it is exactly what we need to hold on to, because that hope and our will to bring good things into the world is really all that is needed to make it so.

I’m hit or miss with new year resolutions and, though I have goals I want to achieve, I am not really making a resolution this year. I am not going to pretend that I am going to reinvent myself simply because I am happy with who I am and I only need to focus on little changes. Little, continuous improvements. Little victories is a little more optimistic way to put it. I know for certain that at least one big event will be happening this year and I am beyond excited about it. I will be sharing this news in a few months (sorry for the tease).

Another, slightly big event is that I will be completing my second graduate degree some time later this year. My classes will consume a fair amount of time I would otherwise spend reading or playing video games (both help me procrastinate with my writing but they are beneficial in many ways). Though I have renewed my goal to read at least 50 books this year. I ended last year with 53.

With all the other time this year, I plan to focus on my health, home projects, and maybe even a little writing. Last year, I set a fairly lofty goal with my writing and I accomplished a little less than half of it. This year, I am taking a different approach and simply going to see what happens.

At the end of 2019, I made a post about some things I would like to do in 2020. I started last year pretty spot on until everything shut down in March and I stayed isolated as much as possible due to the pandemic (that is still ongoing). Like most plans, mine went awry fairly quickly due to these extenuating circumstances and the unexpected need to sustain positive vibes in an altogether difficult year.

So, this year I am not making any specific plans. I am just going to do my best with what I can. Hopefully find more energy to accomplish most of what I want to do and definitely spend less energy worrying about things outside of my control. I am sending you good vibes and I wish you a happy new year. I hope you accomplish great things (or at least what will be great for you). I will be trying to do the same.

Ready Player Two

Ready Player Two Book COver

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how there could be a sequel to Ready Player One, but Ernest Cline wrote one and I read it. Ready Player Two was released a few months ago and the story picks up the week or so after the ending of the first book. I went into this book with little expectations because unfortunately I saw several comments stating this sequel wasn’t too great, but of course I wanted to form my own opinion, which I am posting here (spoiler free). I have mixed feelings about this story but I did enjoy it and I read it quickly.

First, the beginning was a bit slow. Starting with what I consider two prologues explaining a little of the aftermath of book one and then going into the setup for what becomes the main storyline of this book, I felt it took a while for the action to get going. I also felt like this longer setup really altered one of the main characters and made them less likeable, or perhaps made me re-evaluate this character because I don’t remember them acting or being this way in the first book. I may need to revisit the first book to see if this is the case, which may alter my enjoyment of the first novel which I really thought was great (hence my uncertainty about a sequel).

Once the story gets going though, it reads like the first book with exciting events happening at a quick pace. This book is, not surprisingly, chock full of more 1980s pop culture references. I admit there were a few areas where my interest in the particular pop culture wasn’t too high and it made the events of those scenes less enjoyable, but it was still engaging and I’m sure those who are fans would get a kick out of it just like I enjoyed other scenes encased in pop-culture worlds inside the OASIS I would love to visit. The downside of these references is the blatant absence of any pop culture outside of the 1980s. I understand the main creators of the OASIS were obsessed with their own era, but this book is supposed to take place in the 2050s or 2060s. There are a few references to more modern pop culture in this book which may be why the lack of any other non-1980 references is so apparent. Also, the few, modern pop culture references are kind of jabs at a specific storyline that basically is the plot structure of this very book, which is either ironic or slightly disappointing.

A few characters that are introduced kind of become sideline characters when I was hoping they would become more prominent, but this story centers around those of the previous book. Again, the overall story I enjoyed and I liked a few places Cline went with the story because they were unexpected and daring considering the content and the modern times we live in, but some of the topics he chose to focus on are the reason I have mixed feelings.

One reason I am recommending the book despite the mixed feelings is that the story keeps you interested and wanting to know what happens next. There is very little I would call predictable and there are a few things I could discuss in more detail but would bring in a few spoiler-related content, so I will refrain and have these conversations individually. After seeing the less-exciting comments about the book, I was afraid that this sequel was riding on the success of the first book and movie of that book. I am happy to say that it does stand on its own. I understand why some fans would not like this sequel though I think many will like it. There are merits for all arguments for both sides. It is impossible to please everyone.

I think if you liked Ready Player One, then you are probably going to read Ready Player Two regardless of what I or anyone else says, which is a great thing in itself and I encourage that. Perhaps you are reading this recommendation after having read this book to avoid potential spoilers much like I refrained from reading any reviews for the same reason. I hope you enjoy or enjoyed the book, or at least felt like you got something out of it that you weren’t expecting.

Happy Reading.

The Best of Gene Wolfe

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverI began The Best of Gene Wolfe a few months ago thinking a book of short stories was the perfect way to keep reading habits while attending a graduate program. I enjoy short story collections and it was a great way to fit in some reading between coursework. This was also a great way to experience more of Wolfe’s work.

I first read Gene Wolfe at the beginning of the year when I read his series The Book of the New Sun, which may be his best known work. His writing is oddly compelling and you get the sense of an entire universe just beyond the words on the page. His writing is unique though I have compared it to writers such as Philip K Dick insofar as his stories leave you with things to think about. His writing, though science/speculative fiction, is incomparable from any I have read (unless I discover a new author whose work can be considered near Wolfe’s).

There are 31 stories in this collection taking up roughly 480 pages. A few run longer at around 40 pages, but most are about 10-15 pages. I enjoyed most of these stories. Some I absolutely loved while others I found a bit underwhelming. My favorite by far is “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” which was reminiscent of the New Sun series.

Each story contains an afterword, just a paragraph, where Gene discusses the story you just read and something about it like how he came up with the idea or how the story influenced his career. One I remember was simply him discussing a view alongside a road and that was one of the main prompts for the story. These afterwords are fun because they are little commentaries by the author that often add a little bit to the story itself even if it ends up being unrelated to the subject matter.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and I actually read through it a little quicker than I typically do for short story collections of this length. Since this gave me more insight into Wolfe’s work, I feel I can say with more certainty that I am a fan and will continue to read more. If you have yet to discover Wolfe, this may be a great way to determine if you like his style.

Happy Reading.