Murder on the Orient Express (1934)

Murder on the Orient Express Review

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Murder on the Orient Express Review

Murder on the Orient Express is a detective novel by Agatha Christie first published in 1934. It is cited as one of her best works and it truly is phenomenal.

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The impossible could not have happened,

therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances

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Murder on the Orient Express Review

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The story is excellent. This is a plot that only she could have come up with. Expectedly you get a lot of meticulous detail in it which is great, but it mostly works because it features a different kind of murder – organized, multiple-person crime. In that respect it is quite original, unexpected when you read it first and with a perfect finale.

I actually really like that ending. It bends law for sure, but is also moral in a way and that is why I respected it. It is a very interesting, unique situation perfectly explored. To me the highlights in this novel were Poirot’s examinations of each and every passenger. Those featured the best, funniest and most entertaining lines of dialogue and descriptions.

Let’s talk about each of its characters. Hercule Poirot is fantastic per usual. Loved him here and I loved how he solved the crime step by step and how perfectly calm and considerate he stayed throughout the whole examination and yet his exact knowledge of how to provoke a reaction or a confession is the most impressive thing about him.

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Murder on the Orient Express Review

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MacQueen is actually one of the most interesting passengers as he is a secretary to Cassetti and thus probably the closest to him out of all these people. Martha Hubbard is excellent and very memorable and of course Countess Andrenyi is very interesting. Mary Debenham and Princess Dragomiroff are some of the other standouts but Greta Ohlsson has to be the most interesting character here, at least in my opinion. That’s because she is the most moral and thus it was very interesting seeing her suffer and have her dilemmas about the crime.

Murder on the Orient Express has its issues as it is far from perfect. I do think that the ending would have worked better had it been entirely presented as a twist. That’s just my opinion anyway. Another problem is the novel’s very racist and xenophobic overtones. Not only do we witness apparent trashing of Yugoslavia from the characters, but we also witness Italians being considered temperamental and Americans being considered as dreamers etc. It is very much a product of its time in that regard.

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Murder on the Orient Express Review

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But other than that, it truly is a superb story populated with really well developed and fascinating characters and the interactions and relationships between them. The attention to detail is overwhelming, I loved the train setting and how wonderfully utilized it was and the dialogue is naturally fantastic. I wanted more of the descriptions from Christie, but at least the dialogue is great as is the humor which is quite consistent and amusing. It also flies by thanks to its engaging storyline and superb pacing.

Murder on the Orient Express is a classic work of detective fiction written by masterful Agatha Christie. It has some smaller problems, but it is mostly a very involving and original story populated by well developed, interesting or even fascinating characters, engaging dialogue and fun humor. It truly is a superb mystery.

My Rating – 4.3

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The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath Review

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

The Grapes of Wrath is a 1939 realist novel written by John Steinbeck. It is regarded as one of the best books ever written and I thoroughly agree with that statement.

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And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history:

repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

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I loved this book. It is about a family from Oklahoma who are driven from their home and take a long, perilous trip to California and along the way looking for jobs constantly and meeting tragedies. I am interested in this time period very much and I have to say that reading this book felt like taking a cold, hard-hitting punch that I needed to take as Hollywood movies from the thirties make it seem that the era was fun and wonderful. I love those moves, but this is the reality and it is one very harsh, terrible reality.

Some say that John Steinbeck’s prose relied not enough on artistry and surely the descriptive passages are mostly rare here. However, I have an issue with that as they make it seem that it did not deserve its Nobel Prize for Literature when it really did deserve it in spades. What he lacks in said artistry, he more them compensates with a strong craft, a great knack for realism and especially creating extremely well realized, complex and real characters.

Let’s comment on those lovely characters. The Joads are just such a wonderful family. They behaved and felt like a family, not a glorified one, but a realistic and still very strong family. He painted them so well and some of the finest passages came when the entire family was together. I really rooted for them which is again a testament to how strongly he imagined these people.

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

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Tom is an excellent protagonist. I loved the exploration of wrath in his character and how sometimes people are just driven to commit crimes against their will. I have a strong sense of morality and justice and thus I really connected and sympathized with his character. But then again, he is still the responsible one in his family and the conversations between him and his mother were some of the best talks in the book.

Speaking of the devil, I just loved her character. The mother, never named here, is actually the finest character in the book, the one which felt the most alive and the most real. It is odd that Steinbeck portrayed such an especially strong, admirable woman when he did just the opposite in ‘Of Mice and Men’, but I was thankful for that as she is the one who holds the entire family together, fights for the family and literally makes almost all of the decisions for them. She is a fighter, a wonderful mother and ultimately a terrific case for the power of matriarchy.

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

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The father himself lost all hope and thus his wife takes charge. He is not as well developed, but still his story felt heartbreaking. Uncle John always talks about being immoral as he had a troubling history with prostitutes and alcohol. He did not have those great moments the rest did, but still his problems were fairly well explored.

I loved the preacher Casey. His monologues were powerful, his questioning of faith felt very deep and complex and he is a very difficult, complex person. Definitely some of the deepest lines of dialogue came from him and I was devastated that he had to die.

Al is annoying as this womanizer but again those young men exist. Noah is the “weird” one and he definitely reminded me of myself when I was younger so I definitely sympathized with him along with Tom the most. Connie leaves his wife and thus becomes a cliched irresponsible man but again those do exist. There are a lot of characters here and the author paints them well and shows how different all of them are which was great.

Ruthie and Winfield were a lot of fun as these mischievous kids and I liked the humor that was present in the book, rarely but strongly at times. It was needed as it was otherwise extremely dark and terrible in its story.

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

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The grandparents were great and especially the death of the grandfather and how he died because “he never really left home” was just devastating. The strongest passages probably came from the departure from their home. It is a terrible thing to leave your hometown and house and it was so well described in painful detail that I was just hit hard by that chapter.

As for Rose of Sharon, she is reduced to a motherly figure, but there is nothing wrong with that and actually she provided that incredible ending to the book which was at first weird, but thinking about it later, I realized its immense power. The novel ends on such a powerfully humanist, but still ambiguous/pessimistic note that I really loved it and it was perfect for this story to end indefinitely.

So The Grapes of Wrath has a deep, powerful story that is filled with an infinite number of classic, unforgettable plot points that I will just never forget. Its themes of improvised leadership, altruism and above all wrath and inhumanity were powerful and so well explored. The book is definitely a must read as it is not only incredibly emotional, realistic and thematically rich, but also constantly engaging and breathtaking from beginning to end.

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The Grapes of Wrath Review

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I wasn’t crazy about some of the structure choices here such as those shorter passages with the descriptions of the life on the road etc. Some of them were great, but some such as the one with cars was needlessly meticulous in detail and felt like a detour. But other than that, Steinbeck is a great author and this is his magnum opus where he gave us the ultimate Great Depression story that is never going to be topped. The tone is great, some of the imagery was unforgettable, the attention to detail is overwhelming and the dialogue and emotion are particularly vigorous.

The Grapes of Wrath is one of the best novels ever written with unforgettable, gloriously painted characters, a realistic and heartbreaking story set in the Great Depression and many deeply touching, immensely memorable plot points and lines of dialogue. It is engaging and tragic, deep and epic and just a masterpiece from the first to the last page.

My Rating – 4.8

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Of Mice and Men (1937)

Of Mice and Men Review

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Of Mice and Men Review

Of Mice and Men is a 1937 novella by John Steinbeck. It is a famous novella which is touching and tragic to this day.

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Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other

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Of Mice and Men Review

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It is about two migrant ranch workers who move from place to place in California in search for a job during the Great Depression. It is a classic tale of male friendship and loneliness above everything else and it is very engaging and emotionally rewarding for its very brief length of about 100 pages.

This book is very good, but not as great as it could have been owing to a couple of problems in its plot. I liked the majority of it, but some things I honestly disliked such as the character of Curly’s wife. She is basically a catalyst for tragedy to happen and is just there to infuriate men and nothing else. She was a bit humanized during her speech with Lenny, but still she was too weak of a female character who relied too much on her looks and in that respect the book is dated.

Another problem is the ending which I found overly tragic. It was still unforgettable and heartbreaking, but a bit too heartbreaking and dramatic. I guess I felt too sorry for the guy and thus it felt overly tragic to me which I guess is also a good thing.

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Of Mice and Men Review

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Everything else is excellent in this story. I loved the beginning which was actually very intriguing and I was instantly hooked with its mix of interesting characters, their dynamic and natural imagery. The book works so well as a three-act story as he wanted and did eventually make a theatrical version of it. All three acts are very good and each has a lot to offer while feeling distinct in tone and style.

I found the role of a dog very interesting here and the death of that old dog was certainly a tragic part. Of the characters, Slim is forgettable and as I said above, the woman is notoriously offensive in her portrayal. Curley serves his purpose as well as Candy and of course Crooks is a very interesting black character and admirably inoffensive for its time. His troubles rang true.

But Of Mice and Men is all about George and Lennie naturally. George is great and realistic whereas Lennie is sweet and tragic. Their interactions were wonderful and their relationship gives us one of the best male friendships in literature without a doubt. So strong.

So male friendship is well explored and idealized here whereas loneliness is a very important theme as everybody here is so lonely that they will go out of their way to acquaint and talk with strangers. The foolishness, but tragic foolishness of the American dream is definitely evident here and realistically portrayed for this period in particular. The book is brutally honest while still being poetic and that is a great mix.

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Of Mice and Men Review

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Of course you’ve got the portrayal of human beings as predatory creatures who when they sense their weakness are capable of hurting others so that they can hide their own unhappiness and insecurities. That is an inherent quality of each and every one of us and is honestly described here. And of course that dream about the farm provided us with the most tragic of the passages in the book and the use of animals, especially mice and rabbits, is also superb in exploration of Lennie’s character. Steinbeck wrote this book so well and although sometimes the actions were rushed in explanations, most of the descriptions were good and the dialogue is especially effective and realistic.

Of Mice and Men has its flaws, but it is such a deeply touching, so well written novella which is filled with greatly explored themes of loneliness, the American dream and male friendship while giving us such a memorable main duo, brutal emotion and realism and many memorable images and passages.

My Rating – 4.2

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3001: The Final Odyssey (1997)

3001: The Final Odyssey Review

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3001: The Final Odyssey Review

3001: The Final Odyssey is a 1997 science fiction novel by Arthur Clarke. It is the final installment in this series and it closed it really well.

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My field of interest is the psychopathology known as Religion.

Psycopathology? That’s a harsh judgement.

Amply justified by history. Imagine that you’re an intelligent extraterrestrial,

concerned only with verifiable truths. You discover a species which has divided itself

into thousands – no by now millions – of tribal groups holding an incredible variety of beliefs

about the origin of the universe and the way to behave in it.

Although many of them have ideas in common, even when there’s a ninety-nine percent overlap,

the remaining one per cent is enough to set them killing and torturing each other,

over trivial points of doctrine, utterly meaningless to outsiders

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3001: The Final Odyssey Review

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Now it is the weakest entry in my opinion, but not by much as ‘2061’ is only slightly better. I will later talk about the problems of it, but let’s first complement on its plot. Some may dislike its more straightforward approach compared to ‘2001’, but I honestly really liked it and in terms of the story alone, it is possibly even better than the previous two entries.

That is because I really enjoyed this jump in time. How Poole survived for a thousand years in space was ridiculous to me, but it did provide a good premise where he suddenly is in 3001 and has to adapt to the new millennium as everything changed so drastically. As stories about future go, this is a surprisingly well crafted and even restrained take on it.

I really loved this world. The four world towers were so well conceived and very intriguing, that provided some beautiful imagery in my head. The braincap is an interesting idea and overall what they accomplished in terms of space travel was not as far-fetched and that I admired. But they beat out all major illnesses and that I also bought as it made perfect sense.

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3001: The Final Odyssey Review

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The characterization in 3001 is actually better than usual for the series, though still far from great. That’s because the story needed better developed characters and surely enough Frank Poole is a very relatable, likable protagonist and I liked him quite a bit. I also really liked Indra and the relationship between the two was quite well developed, but all of the other scientists were frankly too forgettable. HAL and Dave Bowman merged into one entity called Halman which was also interesting to witness.

So what are the problems of 3001. Well, the pacing is sometimes off and I honestly thought that the Europs tease was, well, too much of a tease and I am sad that he never really went anywhere with their story. It is only hinted that they will progress as a society and nothing more than that. And the final third with the monoliths suddenly posing threat was overly climactic and action oriented and I do dislike how he changed the concept of the monolith for the sake of this particular book. Really was not a fan of that aspect.

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3001: The Final Odyssey Review

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But the imagery is so good and the first half is particularly great and I also liked the part on Europa, no matter how little of a closure to it we received. But the book is so well written and ultimately serves as a satisfying conclusion to this great qaudrilogy. I liked his descriptions and dialogue in particular and I have to say that sometimes he really surprised me with his political insight and honesty. The passage where he tells us how hypocritical and ultimately awful the USA really is was a revelation to me as I am always happy to see that some people are honest enough to state that fact. The overall political as well as scientific climate in this future is so well established owing to some great writing on the behalf of this very clever man.

3001 has its problems in the final chapters, but I honestly really liked this final entry in the Space Odyssey quadrilogy as it has a very entertaining story with a surprisingly well established future world, better than usual characterization and it overall provides us with good answers to some of the questions established earlier.

My Rating – 4.3

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2061: Odyssey Three (1987)

2061: Odyssey Three Review

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2061: Odyssey Three Review

2061: Odyssey Three is a 1987 science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It is the third entry in the series which was a very satisfactory reading experience.

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He found it both sad and fascinating

that only through an artificial universe of video images

could she establish contact with the real world

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2061: Odyssey Three Review

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What I was promised but did not get in ‘2010’, I finally got here – an exploration of Europa! And of course I loved every bit of it. That is not to say that it is better than its predecessor which it isn’t, but it was probably more fun to read. I absolutely adored those passages about Europa even if I myself do not believe in convergent evolution. I loved the descriptions of the planet and all of its creatures with the highlight being the shark creature part.

The rest of the story is no fluke either. I absolutely loved the ending and can’t wait to read the sequel as this again sets it up really well. Diamond mountain is one great imagery to imagine and surely the novel has a lot of those superb set pieces and adventurous stuff that I do wonder why they have never filmed it when it is so obviously better suited for a film treatment than its too predecessor ever were.

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2061: Odyssey Three Review

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Chris Floyd isn’t a great case for nepotism, but he is not bad either. I loved his relationship with his grandfather and that ghost scene, although directly taken from ‘2010’, is still very heartwarming (by the way, Clarke admitting self-plagiarizing was hilarious to me). Rolf van der Berg is forgettable, but the two share a good dynamic.

Other characters are forgettable and once again the chapters that focus more on humans were the dullest of the bunch as character development was just never Clarke’s best suit. But even though the characters were not great, I liked 2061’s Earth parts and history. Even though unlikely in real life, I liked the formation of the new South African country and the politics surrounding the diamonds was very well established here. He showed us here how people will always be greedy and selfish. His writing and descriptions are strong as usual here.

2061 succeeds as a very solid sequel because it finally utilizes on the satellite of Europa along with other Jupiter’s moons and Lucifer. The exploration of them all was just fascinating to me and the formation of the new Solar System was beautifully envisioned by Clarke.

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2061: Odyssey Three Review

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Convergent evolution is very well explored here and I loved the focus on extraterrestrial animals for once. I actually really liked the choice to not portray Europans but only hint at their present or future appearance. Europa is set for their arrival and maybe ‘3001’ is going to explore that more in-depth. But here I liked that it was low-key and more realistic, yet consistently entertaining and adventurous. 2061 truly is a very adventurous book, the most fun out of all the entries in the series, though far from best. But my fingers are crossed for a potential film adaptation one day as that would be awesome.

In the end, 2061 is inferior to its predecessors and again the characterization is weak, but its high adventure is great, the exploration of Europan fauna was just so fascinating, I loved its more realistic approach, Clarke’s writing and descriptions are stellar per usual and the novel is a satisfactory look at extraterrestrial animals, convergent evolution and the potential changes in our Solar System.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Amber Spyglass (2000)

The Amber Spyglass Review

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The Amber Spyglass Review

The Amber Spyglass is a 2000 fantasy novel written by Philip Pullman. It is the third and final chapter in the His Dark Materials trilogy.

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I stopped believing there was a power of good

and a power of evil that were outside us.

And I came to believe that good and evil are names

for what people do, not for what they ares

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The Amber Spyglass Review

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I liked this entry in the end. I definitely thought that the series never recaptured the strength of the first book as the second and third one are much weaker, but I found this to be a solid conclusion to a really entertaining story. The Amber Spyglass is definitely overly ambitious as it follows too many subplots, characters and story arcs, but even though it is uneven in many of them, most stories are well crafted and the vastness of space witnessed here is truly extraordinary.
The character development is actually quite good. I still do think that Lyra was just never as great as she had been in ‘Northern Lights’, but here she is certainly better than she was in ‘The Subtle Knife’ as she got a bigger role. The most fascinating chapters were her sexual awakening chapters. Very progressive and ultimately bold. Will is superb and one of my favorite characters in the entire series. I loved him here and he remained a flawed, yet incredibly thoughtful and likable kid throughout.
Lord Asriel is forgettable and he was unfortunately really de-emphasized in this installment. Marisa Coulter, on the other hand, is great and I really liked how she eventually came to love Lyra and changed to the good side because of her.

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The Amber Spyglass Review

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Metatron is underutilized, but Balthamos is memorable as this gay angel, although his presence and importance was never totally clear to me. Mary Malone is very likable and possibly even too likable, but Mulefa as these crazy but sympathetic creatures were quite heartwarming and I loved their relationship.
Of all the storylines, Lyra and Will’s part is certainly the best with the underworld passages being the most fascinating this time around. The Mary Malone and Mulefa storyline was certainly very charming, but it almost felt like a detour at some points. And all of the other parts felt weaker in comparison with the exception of some Coulter’s chapters which were quite well executed.
As I said before, The Amber Spyglass is thoroughly uneven and it takes its time to get there owing to a somewhat abrupt, yet slow and uninvolving start. But the ending truly is fantastic. Will and Lyra’s love story is somewhat clichéd plus some of the dialogue was ridiculous, but still they are very charming together and the last two chapters were immensely emotional, epic in scope and with tragic, bittersweet tone to it. It really ended on a high note and thus lifted this story to greater heights.

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The Amber Spyglass Review

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Philip Pullman’s writing is solid, but I never thought that he could write dialogue particularly well. His descriptions are admittedly very good, but the dialogue not so much. I also thought that the entire series isn’t as thematically rich as the critics have been constantly pointing out. It is sometimes quite sophisticated, but it’s mostly just a good, entertaining story and rarely being more than that. The emotion is there and the characters are very well established, but still there were too many characters here and some never got their moments to shine. The book is overly ambitious and rarely succeeding in its epic scope as it was supposed to do. I thought that it should have been longer as well.
In the end, even though it is a highly uneven conclusion which is overly ambitious, I still really liked The Amber Spyglass mostly because of its immensely emotional and satisfactory ending, a fair share of really entertaining and memorable chapters, very good character development and a vast variety of settings included.

My Rating – 3.9

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Review

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Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland Review

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 classic fantasy novel written by Lewis Carroll. It is such a quintessential family fantasy novel that is a timeless joy to this day.

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It’s no use going back to yesterday,

because I was a different person then

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Review

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It is probably the first work in the nonsense subgenre where the plot is seemingly nonsensical and where everyone is acting crazy. Its story is so well known by now that I don’t need to summarize it. Of its various film adaptations, none of it managed to match its quality, only the Disney version which is to me even better than the novel.

Let’s talk about each and every chapter. Chapter One – Down the Rabbit Hole is such an undisputed perfect opener and I love everything about it. The way it starts off is riveting, Alice is well introduced, The White Rabbit is so much fun and of course those size cakes are great.

Chapter Two – The Pool of Tears is very engaging once again and very atmospheric, but even though I liked the mouse character, I found it to be forgettable compared to the rest and this chapter is quite uneventful.

Chapter Three – The Caucus Race and a Long Tale is so much fun and it is the first chapter that showcases Alice not fitting in this crazy world and others being frightened of her in an amusing way.

Chapter Four – The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill is phenomenal as the titular character is so memorable and Alice’s situation here is unforgettable.

Chapter Five – Advice from Caterpillar features this awesome character who is easily one of the best ones in this book. His riddles are entertaining and he is such a unique, odd creature and the plot point with size here is one of the highlights.

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Review

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Chapter Six – Pig and Pepper has a great introduction to The Cheshire Cat, but I really disliked The Duchess as her character is quite forgettable and pointless.

Chapter Seven – A Mad Tea-Party gives us so many classic parts and characters. The March Hare and The Mad Hatter are amazing and so funny, this sequence is so authentic and brilliant in its craziness and it is probably the best chapter of the entire book.

Chapter Eight – The Queen’s Croquet Ground finds us meeting this crazy queen and she is an awesome villain. The game is great, the suspense is evident and it is such a great point in the book that I wish that it happened later on, just like in the movie.

Chapter Nine – The Mock Turtle’s Story has its moments, but the characters here are very forgettable and the chapter feels like a filler.

The same applies to Chapter Ten – Lobster Quadrille which is basically the continuation of the previous chapter.

Chapter Eleven – Who Stole the Tarts has many great developments and is such a great build-up for the finale and I liked the king character, quite a bit actually.

Chapter Twelve – Alice’s Evidence is awesome! It is such a great action packed final chapter. I loved the various testimonies, I loved the chase where the cards chased her and the ending is so satisfying.

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Review

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The dialogue is the highlight of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland naturally. it is so clever and sophisticated and it is the reason why I deem it to be a book for adults more so than for children. The poems are great, the riddles are memorable and it utilizes the English language in such a great way.

I wish that some parts weren’t filler-like and some characters weren’t forgettable, but most were memorable, the plot here is mostly spectacular and of course unforgettable and it is just such an influential novel that deserves praise centuries after its release. To me it is uneven and far from perfect, but I still really enjoyed it as it is such a memorable, amusing read.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is uneven in terms of the pacing as some parts do feel like filler, but it is mostly such a terrific book filled with a memorable storyline, crazy and amusing characters, great humor, superb dialogue and excellent writing. It deserves its classic reputation.

My Rating – 4

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2010: Odyssey Two (1982)

2010: Odyssey Two Review

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2010: Odyssey Two Review

2010: Odyssey Two is a 1982 science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It is a sequel to ‘2001’ and it is a very good, at times brilliant book which is still not fantastic.

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Whether we are based on carbon or

on silicon makes no fundamental difference;

we should each be treated with appropriate respect

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2010: Odyssey Two Review

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I won’t describe the plot here as it very complicated and needs to be read to be fully understood, but I will say that it is again very well written by Clarke whose writing is always phenomenal and filled with great descriptions as well as scientific approach. I found the entire storyline to be very interesting and actually quite different from its predecessor which is commendable.

The parts about Europa were fascinating. I did not like that the Chinese were so clichéd in their depictions, but at least the Russians were very well depicted. I loved how the Russians and the Americans worked together here, so wonderful to witness. But back to Europa, I was always fascinated by this moon and here those chapters certainly did not disappoint.

David Bowman was interestingly utilized, but I wish HAL was more memorable. The entire last third was stellar with a superb Jupiter disintegration sequence which was amazing to behold. And of course its very intriguing epilogue was simply fascinating, incredibly authentic and a perfect way to end the novel.

So I loved the first third and I adored the last one, but I honestly did not love the middle parts. That is mostly because the pacing was sluggish there, some of the chapters were admittedly quite boring and it relied too heavily on its characters where the characterization here was clunky from the beginning.

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2010: Odyssey Two Review

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It is actually pretty good for sci-fi standards, but not needed in my opinion plus it has way too many characters. Floyd is very good as the protagonist and I liked that he was back for this installment. Dr. Chandra certainly has his moments. And that’s about it as the others, although perfectly fine, are not great plus the romantic entanglements here were thoroughly unnecessary in my opinion.

Comparing it to ‘2001’, 2010 is definitely weaker, but not by large as some parts here are so exhilarating and so incredibly original and satisfactory that they rival its predecessor successfully. To me the book succeeds as a sequel because it is different from the original while still managing to give us some answers about some of the great questions asked before. It achieves that perfect balance between new and old and I liked it although I can definitely see why the fans of ambiguity would not like it themselves.

I can’t wait to read the sequel as this ending here definitely opened a lot of possibilities for a sequel which was great as it felt nuanced and natural instead of forced. Rarely have I read such a powerful epilogue such as this one here.

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2010: Odyssey Two Review

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2010: Odyssey Two is very oddly paced, but it is so well written and so fascinating in its plot and memorable in its imagery that I was enthralled more than a couple of times while reading it. I just wish that it was a bit tighter and it would have been awesome, but this way it ended up being very good and at times even great, but not amazing I’m afraid.

Nuanced and rich in terms of storytelling and fascinating in its imagery and especially the epilogue, 2010: Odyssey Two succeeds as a sequel to one of the best novels ever as it gives us some answers to the questions posed before while still giving us some new things. And although the characters are far from great and the middle parts are somewhat dull, this sci-fi work is still more than satisfactory and capable enough that it succeeds in spades as a great sequel.

My Rating – 4.6

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey Review

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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel written by Arthur Clarke. It is one of his greatest literary achievements.

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The thing’s hollow… it goes on forever and…

oh my God! It’s full of stars!

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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

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Of course the book and Kubrick’s film were made together simultaneously and although I absolutely love the film and it is in my top ten of all time list, I still do prefer the novel a bit more mainly because it is much more clear in its narrative. In fact, I would say it is essential read for everyone who wants to properly understand the film. I only understood the movie after reading the book and I do not agree with some snobbish people who state that the book spells out too much to the readers. Not at all. The book explains a lot, but still leaves many things unanswered. Books should be more on-point and detailed whereas films should rely more on imagination and visuals and that is why these two are so successful at accompyning each other perfectly.

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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

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The story is amazing and one of the best ever written. As in the film, the beginning and ending are the greatest parts. But I loved how in the beginning we got to properly meet the apes and follow them through quite a couple of chapters. Very well written and engaging. The ending is excellent despite that atomic bomb part. That is probably the only part of the book that I did not care for as much as it tells its age too much. Kubrick made the right call to exclude it from his version.
I love all of the other chapters and to me there isn’t one chapter in this book that isn’t great, all of them are fantastic leading to an overall phenomenal literary work that is one of the best that I have ever read. In my opinion the book is hugely underrated as it should have much better status than it received as it was overshadowed by the movie unfortunately.

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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

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2001 is very good in characterization and that is where it trumps its visual accompaniment quite a bit. Heywood Floyd is much better developed and much more memorable here, not to mention that he cared for his mission which in the film he did not unfortunately. HAL 9000 is of course great as this superb, calculated, yet very human villain. All of the chapters with him were amazing. Poole is likable and of course David Bowman is the best realized human character in the novel. He is so much better here than in the film as he is much better developed, much more likable and to me he made a very satisfactory protagonist.
The only slight problem is that the book got rid of Floyd too quickly and I thought that maybe one major character instead of two would have been a better choice. But that is only nitpicking on my part. I loved the imagery in the book, really well imagined and of course written. The dialogue is absolutely fantastic and is one of the strongest aspects of the novel. Clarke has always had a great scientific mind and here he proved it. I loved that 2001: A Space Odyssey is such a hard science fiction work that relies heavily on science in minute detail. We here get to explore and follow every quest on the ship and every single aspect of space travel is so beautifully explained. I loved the descriptions here and Clarke’s writing is top-notch. The book is short, but still never rushed owing to great pacing.

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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

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It has a plethora of themes which is why it is essential genre read. Of course technology and its dangers is one of the best utilized themes through HAL. It wonderfully showcases the flaws and strengths of artificial intelligence. As I said, space exploration is so well established and I loved every single detail of it and how tough it is presented as it really is difficult. As I said, I wasn’t a big fan of nuclear war theme as it was too timely, but I loved its touch on evolution. I myself am some sort of agnostic when it comes to these things as I believe in evolution, but I just have big problems with the evolution of humans as that doesn’t seem right to me. But here he gave us such a clever and unforgettable alternative and to me this is some sort of mix between religion and science and I loved it. The book also goes into too fantastical territory in the end whereas it was previously extremely realistic, but still that part is highly unique and memorable and quite epic for sure.

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the best novels ever written. Clarke’s writing is superb, the various themes of evolution, technology and space travel are beautifully utilized, the characters are good and of course the story is epic and one of the most unforgettable and fascinating ever conceived. It truly is an essential science fiction read and one of the greatest literary achievements.

My Rating – 5

 

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Star Maker (1937)

Book Review: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon………………………………………………………

Book Review: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Star Maker is a 1937 science fiction novel written by Olaf Stapledon. It is a pretty admirable, yet frustratingly uninvolving book.

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Either God is the universe,

or he is the flavor of creativity pervading all things

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Book Review: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon………………………………………………………

It describes the history of life in the universe. It tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. So obviously it deals with very fascinating and ambitious themes and it truly is one of the most ambitious and all-encompassing sci-fi novels that I’ve read. The relationships between different alien civilizations and the importance of them is probably the best established and most important theme. But the relationship between the creator and the creation was simply a fascinating read and to me the book serves as a great proponent of agnosticism.

But as I said above, this is a very difficult read. I am not only saying that it is tedious and it truly is like that in most of its second half. Very slow. But I also want to say that it features a pretty problematic approach to its storytelling. So Star Maker is basically a documentary, a non-fiction book in its style of writing. But it isn’t as it isn’t real and it is fictional in its story. And that duality was frustrating and not at all welcome here. I guess he wanted to be even more ambitious, but it wasn’t needed as this was always going to be a hugely ambitious SF work.

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Book Review: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon………………………………………………………

Some of the highlights here include the various alien species and the descriptive passages there are excellent, the ending, the beginning is very intriguing and the entire first half was pretty great to me. But the second half became too documentary-like and thus it went off the rails in my opinion.

Star Maker is a dull read that isn’t too long as this is an epic story, but it should have been written in a more accessible manner for readers. Arthur Clarke also writes hard sci-fi with a lot of science talk in it, but he phrases his sentences in a shorter, easier and more accessible manner so that is why I prefer his writing much more. Olaf Stapledon is a visionary and probably the grandfather of all hard science fiction and I respect him for the plethora of ideas here, but the execution is not as visionary and, much like most of the books from his time, his writing is too difficult, to entangled and with way too long sentences in my opinion.

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Book Review: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon………………………………………………………

He is the best at describing some phenomena and different civilizations, those passages were great. But whenever he got into the politics, he lost me a bit. The characterization is not the greatest, but also not that necessary to begin with which is usual for this genre. So the story is great and the lack of dialogue did not bother me at all, but this particular approach itself is very troublesome and it was a major turnoff to me personally.

In the end, Star Maker is a respectable, truly monumental work of science fiction in its admirable ambitiousness and a variety of interesting themes and ideas explored. But Stapledon’s writing is not the most interesting and his approach is too much like a documentary. It is a book that I respect a lot, but it was quite a difficult read nonetheless.

My Rating – 3.6

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