Saturday, November 28, 2015

Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (Part 5)

And... it's time for another week. I was actually rather unsure if I would submit an essay, because I totally did not enjoy A Princess of Mars. Herland, too, had a rather strong overtone of "THIS IS A MESSAGE. ACCEPT ME", which I'm not too fond of. Even if I agree with the message. But, I found a topic, so I wrote an essay.

The Manly Man in Herland and Princess of Mars

Although Herland is a feminist utopian novel and Princess of Mars is a swashbuckling space western, both of them feature protagonists that can be classified as "manly men". In Herland, this character is Terry, and in a Princess of Mars, the character is John Carter. However, the two books portray the two characters differently.

In Herland, Terry is a character who is a lady-chaser, active and always looking for something "to oppose, to struggle with, to conquer", things Jeff calls "masculine nonsense". In other words, Terry wants "Something Doing", or in other words, an adventure, which explains why "his great aim was exploration". However, in Herland, Terry is the character that cannot adapt, and after attacking his wife, is expelled from the clearly utopian Herland

On the other hand, John Carter in A Princess of Mars is the hero of the story. He has", in his own words, "always outclassed my adversary in agility and generally in strength as well", is made a chieftain although he is a prisoner, and gets the girl. He survives by being the best fighter in a planet that reveres fighting. Although Dejah Thoris can be a strong female character, her principle role is to let John Carter rescue her. This is unlike the women in Herland, who are wise rulers and can think (and stand up) for themselves.

It's clear that the two different types of environments result in the same type of character being seen in two different ways. In a world where peace and maternal wisdom rule, the manly man is unnecessary and the reader is led to see that his actions are destructive for the betterment of society. On the other hand, in a world where fighting is revered and women characters exist to support the male, the manly man is the hero of the story, revered and respected by all.

Grade: 4

Thoughts: There seemed to be a few contradictory evaluations this week, but they're all food for thought. Now to finish reading Bradbury by tomorrow (I loved F451, but I haven't read much of this other works.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Gauge War by S.C. Green

Where should I start with this book? It took me some time to get back into the groove, but once I was back in the world of the Engine Ward, I couldn't put the book down at all.

The Gauge War is the second book in the Engine Ward series, the first being The Sunken (read my review here). In fact, this book picks up where The Sunken left off, so it's probably a good thing to re-read the first book before moving on to this one. I managed to eventually remember enough of the story, but it meant that the first few pages were somewhat confusing to me.

And like I speculated in the first book, the true protagonist of this series appears to be Isambard Brunel, now the Metal Messiah, the only character without a point of view. I mentioned that the book ended with the different view points holding contradictory views, but in this book, they gradually start to converge again.

Why? Because absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's all I'm going to say. But to elaborate just a little bit more on the plot; basically, the Boilers built by Brunel are now everywhere. But the threat to England isn't over yet, and it's not just coming from the outside (France).

Can I just say that Brunel scares me to death? He's really cool and all, but I suspect that he has no heart, judging by the way that he treats his friends. Either that or the things he went in his childhood have really traumatised him. As always, Nicholas and Aaron are two awesome and likeable dudes, while James, the blind physician, was interesting until he fell.

My biggest surprise, though, was Stephenson. He's an antagonist for most of the book, but the more I see of him, the more I realise my first impression of him was wrong. Not gonna say anymore, because that would probably veer into spoiler territory.

A word of warning though - the ending is incredibly dark. But, I just re-read it, and I think S.C. Green is setting it up for a book three in a very clever way. I hope I'm right!

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Today's teaser is from a book that I picked up randomly from the library's online store. It sounded interesting, and I've never read a murder mystery set in Iceland, so here we are. I'm really enjoying it so far - it's an interesting read, although the start was a bit heavy on the information.

My teaser:
"She doubted that Matthew had threatened the lawyer, and thought it more likely he had promised a fee for arranging the interview - which would have been unethical at best. She felt better imagining they would be assisting the defense counsel."

So, what is your teaser this week?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Children's Home by Charles Lambert (ARC)

This book was intensely frustrating. It was an interesting read, that's for sure, but it was also really frustrating. Also, I'm not really seeing the resemblance to Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl. Again, it's not that the book is bad, but I'm not seeing it.

The Children's Home is sort about Morgan, although it might also be about the mysterious children that he picks up. Morgan used to be handsome (his own words), but after a terrible accident that isn't really an accident, he's now disfigured. Living alone, with a housekeeper that he thinks his sister sent, he's secluded from the world. But as the children come, he starts to open up, and lets more people into his life, including his new friend, Dr. Crane. But the children are not normal, and they're looking for something.

One thing about this book that frustrated me was that I never knew what was going on. I'm used to having at least a handle on the plot, so not knowing why things were happening, and who exactly these children were was frustrating. Things are somewhat explained at the end, but not enough to feel satisfying.

By the way, if you're like me and like to jump to the end of the book and spoiler yourself so you can then relax and enjoy the journey, don't bother. You have to read this book from the start to the end if you want to understand what's going on. I guess it's good training for me - must not rush.

I guess the good thing about this book is that it's unsettling. Something is wrong, and that sense of unease is carried out throughout the whole book - is that what they meant by the comparison to Roald Dahl? To his short stories and not his longer works? But I think I understood Roald Dahl a bit more.

All in all, this is a short, strange little book. It's a bit unsettling, and after reading it, I'm still not sure what a lot of the book is about. It's not bad, per se, but it didn't wow me.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.