Dec 31, 2010

The Sea Runners, by Ivan Doig

Once again, I am blown away by what an amazing writer Doig is. In this novel about four Swedes escaping indentured employment by the Russians on Sitka, Alaska in the mid-19th century, the main character is really the landscape, and it is described with the same love and awe as a man would describe a lover with whom is he infatuated, and not a little afraid. The sea and coastline are palpable and changeable as people are themselves. The four men we are traveling with, as well, are solid and tangible; their personalities are constant and clear. This is my third Ivan Doig book, and I remain duly impressed, and look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Dec 23, 2010

Dune, by Frank Herbert

It's amazing how some people seem to be able to create entire universes out of thin air. Frank Herbert clearly had this ability, and as a huge science fiction reader, Dune does not disappoint. His world is obviously well thought out and planned, and the imagination it probably took to both think of it and then describe it so well is astounding.

What is fascinating about Dune is that it could really be a story from anywhere: oppressed peoples, political infighting, religious fervor; all these things exist on our own planet, in our own time. Good science fiction does not necessarily involve that which is weirdest to us, but instead, often describes a world not so different from ours in all the most important ways.

It is easy to see how Herbert's books have gained such a huge following, and I know that I will join in to see how the world of Dune continues to unfold.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

So of course I managed to pick up an abridged copy, which was unfortunate, but it was also free, so it's hard to complain. Even so, I was able to get a sense of just how epic and complex Dumas' novel is. He had an amazing sense of the intricacies of aristocratic life, as well as the emotional desire for vengeance. The story is brilliantly conceived and incredibly well-told, but I feel like I can't give a true review without having read the original. So I will do so, and write another review on that.

Dec 9, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

I knew I would like this book if only because of its author, Oscar Wilde, and he did not disappoint. In what is truly a commentary on the moral bankruptcy of the aristocracy of the Britain in which Wilde lived, we have a little gem of literature. It is difficult, these days, to find a book in which philosophizing plays as large a role as plot, and in which neither outweighs the other. No one is likable; Basil is sycophantic, Harry is contemptible and corrupting, Dorian is narcissistic in the extreme. There are no heroes here, only fallen angels. Self-love seeps like opium smoke into the nooks and crannies of aristocratic life, covering all with a superficial sheen. Wilde truly was a master of the English language, and it is a joy to read his words.