Tag Archives: Book discussion

These tend to be short-ish reviews of books I’ve read recently. I tend to focus on character development more than the plot of the story, so the interestingness of the story itself is not likely to be ranked too highly in my review.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke

This story, told first person from the perspective of a sex addict (Victor Mancini), tells of Victor’s struggles to gain an identity, to deal with his mother, and to understand his role in the world (or lack of). Victor pays for his sick mother’s $3000-a-month care by working for $6/h at a historical theme park and choking nightly in restaurants, after which his saviors send him money for whatever problems he tells them he has (rent, electricity, etc.).

In the jacket blurb for this book, Victor is called an “anti-hero for our deranging times”; I think that is a perfect description. He’s a med school drop-out, a bum, a sex addict, and a bastard, all of which are conditions that our society propogates in one way or another.

Although it took a little longer for me to get into this book than Fight Club (I found the first chapter a little excessive in its criticism), I was soon just as enamored. The development of Victor and the other characters is superb, and very realistic. The writing style seemed to reflect Victor’s training as a doctor, succinct and full of medical jargon and pessimistic diagnoses. The medical jargon provided either a flinch or a laugh, depending on the situation, but was always entertaining. When you read Palahniuk’s works, it doesn’t seem like you are reading about the viewpoints of some middle-aged satirist; it seems like you are in fact reading an autobiography of the main character, and the views expressed may not be Palahniuk’s at all.

Like Fight Club, this book is jarring and shocking, and not recommended for the faint of heart. Although I love this book, I found the sex a little excessive, but it served its purpose in the story’s development. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoyed Fight Club and to anyone that wants to read something different from all the other “normal” junk being published right now. The squeamish need not apply.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos

This installment of the Vorkosigan Saga features a young doctor from the all-male, generally homosexual planet of Athos who must acquire a new set of ovaries for the continuation of life on Athos. The problem is, he must interact with the morally inferior Galactics, and in particular, women. Ethan joins with Admiral Naismith’s agent Elli Quinn to uncover a plot that threatens the stability and longevity of the Athosians.

This wasn’t a bad book. It wasn’t particularly great either, but it wasn’t bad. Miles is non-existant except as a source of inspiration for Quinn, and no other typical Vorkosigan characters are present. It lacks the energy of the other Vorkosigan novels, however (probably due to the lack of Miles’s hyperactivity). Given how great an average Bujold novel usually is, I rate this one slightly below average. I would recommend this to those who are already fans of the Vorkosigan series. Newcomers should read Cordelia’s Honor or Young Miles. If you are looking for a good sci-fi adventure novel in general, I would say pick up Weber’s On Basilisk Station.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

This novel, now a movie, tells of two young men, one of which starts a destructive club (Fight Club) with the intent to wake up the world and change it, and the other who must deal with his insomnia, his conscience, and a desire to hit bottom.

I fell in love with this book on the second page. It’s that simple. Palahniuk’s writing style and choice of content grabbed me, and to be perfectly truthful, haven’t let go of me yet, although I am done with the book. This book appealed to me in the base way Fight Club appealed to the men in the book. Although I don’t believe in destroying things to make a statement, the reasons that Tyler Durden wished to change the world made some sense to me.

The book is also considerably darker than the movie. I think another part of the appeal of this book to me was the contrast between the Hollywood version and the “real” version. It almost seemed to underscore some the points in the novel, or at least the general theme.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something new and original and funny and shocking to read. This isn’t a fairy tale or a joke, although no fiction book should be taken too seriously. I would not recommend this book to die-hard pacifists or squeamish folks.

Richard Wright’s Black Boy

This is the autobiography of a black man born in 1908 in the South. The story goes through his days as a Communist in the mid-1930s and deals with his changing viewpoints on the events in his life. The story is punctuated with reflective analyses by Wright on his own attitudes, the attitudes of the people around him, and his views on the psychology involved in the events of his life.

I found the first part (literally, Part I) this book extremely fascinating, and the majority of Part II to be fairly dull, but not horrible by any means. Wright’s younger days provide insight into the way of life for a black boy and family of that time, including his dealings with his immediate and extended family, and the people around him. I would definitely recommend this book to others, despite the slow ending.

Catherine Coulter’s Eleventh Hour

This is a mystery novel involving the (apparently) reccurring characters of Dillon and Sherlock Savick. A string of murders unites FBI agent Dane Carver with the local police of San Fransisco and a homeless woman, with whom Carver falls in love, of course. The homeless woman’s hidden past and Carver’s present combined serve to tell the story of several serial killers in California.

This isn’t the type of book I would normally read, by any means. This book was obtained through the Doubleday Book Club, which immediately plants it as a romance novel to me. There was actually quite a bit of mystery, however, and while the relationship between Carver and the homeless woman is an undercurrent, there is very little explicit sex.

I found Coulter’s style of writing to be a little odd, truth be told. The way her characters told jokes just didn’t strike me as being natural speech. I thought the majority of the dialogue to be unnatural, in fact. Coulter uses speech to deliver the action, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it becomes stilted, like the characters are reading from a play. Characters in dire situations say things like, “Wow. Do you see the way he moves? He is just like the guy you described when you told us about the murderer in the church back at the police station two days ago. And look at his gun…” while the “murderer” is standing right in front of them holding a gun. It’s as though it’s assumed the reader can’t keep up with the time flow of the book (which was not odd or particularly cyclical) or the character being spoken to needs to be reminded of just which guy she described in terms of his movement. It just felt somewhat wordy and awkward.

In summary, the storyline of the book was good, the jokes were funny, if not particularly well delivered, and the sex was minimal. I would only recommend this to previous fans of Coulter.