Review – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

By Jules Verne

Halcyon Classic Series

eISBN: 2940012152060

3 stars

A classic science fiction tale.  How could I not love this?  Maybe I should rephrase that.  How could I love this?  Because truthfully, I wanted to love it, but didn’t.  I didn’t hate it.  I never stopped reading but I more or less meandered through and even skimmed a few passages.

Ships are reporting strange sightings of a creature in oceans across the globe.  Theories abound about what this strange creature could be and it’s Professor Aronnox, a French marine naturalist, who comes up with the best theory.  He believes it’s a huge narwhale attacking ships.  He takes to sea on the Abraham Lincoln with a crew of skillful men to destroy it.  The crew finds the supposed whale and sets about trying to kill it.  Unfortunately, the ship is attacked and the Professor and his manservant, Conseil, are thrown overboard with the ship’s harpooner, Ned Land.  The three get picked up by the Natulis; the underwater ship that was the means of the crash and is the Professor’s supposed narwhale.  Upon meeting Captain Nemo, they’re told they will not be allowed to leave, and with few options left to them, reluctantly, settle in for the ride.  The Professor and Conseil take better to their confinement than Ned, finding the trip an amazing study in nature almost willingly enjoying the sightings and underwater expeditions.  Ned, however, wants his freedom and will stop at nothing to once more set foot on dry land.

There were times I felt bombarded.  There are lists and lists of fish with their classifications.  There are lists of grasses with their classifications.  There are long paragraphs about ocean depths and temperatures.  There are long paragraphs about pressurization.  There are long paragraphs where nothing much happens.  It was these times when I felt myself drifting off.  There are redeeming parts to this story — the underwater expeditions hunting sharks and exploration of an underwater volcano — where I found myself fascinated but those parts didn’t last long.  Also, Captain Nemo, while a mysterious figure, is in parts slightly too mysterious for me.  I know we only see him from one point of view and he’s supposed to be this mythical person but why, even if you’re a marine naturalist fascinated by the things you’re seeing, would you want to stay onboard the ship of a man obviously so depressed and manic?

Another problem I had was the extreme use of the exclamation point.  They! Were! Everywhere!  I was annoyed but then mostly it made me laugh.  I stopped heeding them somewhere around chapter seven but toward the last few pages, they popped back up making me happy to see the end in sight.

I thought I read this book but what I remember about this story actually came from an old movie I watched years ago. My memories of the story were movie based and I had certain expectations that weren’t fulfilled.  But that’s all right.  While the story wasn’t what I was expecting, it was a decent read and I’m glad I stuck it out to the very end.  Exclamation points be damned!

As a note, the cover isn’t the one from my book.  I couldn’t find that cover and this one is much more interesting.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

Today’s teaser comes from The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

“Hock Seng shelters in an alley as tanks and trucks rumble down Thanon Phosri.  He shudders at the thought of the fuel burning.”  (pg. 323)

Review – To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog

By Connie Willis

A Bantam Spectra Book

ISBN: 978-0-553-57538-5

4.75 stars

I kept seeing this book around but never picked it up.  Then when I was looking for new science fiction with a time travel element, this once again surfaced.  Figuring the universe was trying to tell me something, I added it to the queue list hoping beyond hope the universe’s plan would yield some good reading.

Ned Henry is a time traveler on a mission.  He is on a mission to find the bishop’s bird stump which went missing when the Coventry Cathedral in England was bombed during World War II.  The cathedral which is being rebuilt in Ned’s time frame needs the bird stump, which probably ranks among some of the most hideous art known to man, to be authentic at least according to the woman who has taken charge of the time travel unit and decided that in rebuilding the cathedral, everything must be perfect. Overcome with time lag due to too many missions, Ned is sent back to Victorian England to recover but what he doesn’t know is that as part of his supposed rest, he’s actually helping to fix a time conundrum which was created when a cat was unexpectedly saved by another time traveler named Verity Kindle.

One thing I don’t normally associate with science fiction is humor.  Yes, science fiction much like any other genre has its funny and amusing moments but personally, I found To Say Nothing of the Dog to be downright funny in places which made me love this book more and more as I approached the last page.  A large portion of this book takes place on a river in a small boat full of luggage — Ned has luggage but being time lagged doesn’t actually know what’s in it but it’s important to know about the luggage.  Also on the boat is a man who is on a mission to find his true love accompanied by his bulldog named Cyril, and a professor who waxes poetic about the grand design of the universe and keeps fish specimens in a kettle.  It’s an odd combination but something about it works so very well.  The entire time this little river jaunt takes place, Ned is so tired nothing seems out of the ordinary at all.  When he ends up in the same place as a woman he momentarily fell in love with when he was back in his own time for a few minutes, he starts to wonder about the grand design the professor keeps going on about and whether or not it might have some merit.

There’s a lot of time jumping here but somehow it never really becomes confusing mostly because the books starts out that way so your expectations for this are set high and it’s a story about time travel so nothing seems odd.  I loved the way Willis worked animals into the story.  I have a soft spot for furry creatures in books and both the dog and the cat are interesting characters in and of themselves.  Ned’s interactions with both (dogs and cats are extinct in his time period) are amusing and slightly heartwarming especially if you’re not a cat person.  The story which is focused on an ugly flower holder (if you read the description you wouldn’t be able to call it a vase either) is rather amusing in the twists and turns it takes to find it in the end mirroring a Victorian mystery novel.  Again, you need to read it to get that reference.  🙂

Willis is now on my list of authors I will be reading again and probably very shortly since I enjoyed this one so much.  If you’re looking for a fun read I recommend this one.

Today’s Book – To Say Nothing of the Dog

It’s been a few years since I’ve read science fiction and I don’t know why that is since it’s something I enjoy.  Historical fiction has become a large part of my reading the last few years and, sadly, it got pushed out.  This year I’m trying to read more of it and if the books are half as good as Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, it’s going to be a good science fiction reading year.  It’s funny, the time travel element has consequences, and the story is just all around entertaining.  Taking place in Victorian England with the main characters running back to the future to make sure their actions haven’t caused any major catastrophes makes for an amusing and silly book that I’m falling for.   I’ve heard good things about Willis, and this book in particular, and I can say it’s living up to those starred reviews.

Teaser Tuesdays – To Say Nothing of the Dog

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

I’m reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and for a science fiction book it’s surprisingly funny.

“Yes,” he said. “I always thought it made a better shopping center than a cathedral.  Mid-Twentieth Century architecture was nearly as bad as Victorian…” (pg. 42)

Review – Time Travelers Never Die

Time Travelers Never Die

By Jack McDevitt

Ace Books

ISBN: 9780441017638

3 stars

Science fiction is a genre I’ve fall out with, not intentionally, it somehow just happened over the years.  Lately I’ve wanted to get reacquainted and this was my first foray back into science fiction.

After Michael Shelbourne, a well-known physicist, goes missing, his son Shel finds out he developed and successfully used a time machine.  Concerned his father may be stuck in another time without means to get home, he convinces his friend Dave Dryden, to help him search for his father.

The story was good enough but it felt sort of, well, it was a lot less complicated than I thought the story would be especially for a time travel story.  His father goes missing and Shel, rightfully distraught, goes to find him and along the way there are several interesting adventures but it felt like there was no urgency to the story.  Shel and Dave do land in a few messes which is expected when time traveling but they all too easily get out of it simply by setting one of the devices to go back and put together a rescue.  Poof, they get out of trouble, no harm done.  There is a time paradox that comes into play but neither Shel nor Dave seemed all that concerned about it so I wasn’t either.  However, I wanted the whole time travel aspect to be more complicated but all of it started to feel a little vacationy to me — the two take trips to party with Voltaire and watch plays in Ancient Greece and while it’s fun, there just doesn’t feel like there’s enough conflict.

This isn’t a negative review though.  McDevitt is a fun writer and while this book wasn’t a total score for me, it made me wonder about some of his other books so I think I’ll be giving him another opportunity to impress me.

Today’s Book

Have you ever felt this way — you finish a book you undeniably fell in love with and when the last page is finished, you sigh, reluctantly return it to the shelf, and then wonder what you’re going to read next knowing it isn’t going to live up to the just finished and loved book.  I think Time Travelers Never Die is suffering from this syndrome I will now term book love lag.  I picked this up after reading a book I really enjoyed and sort of felt bad for it in a way.  It was a new genre, which I thought might be helpful, but all it has me doing is wishing it were something different.

It may not sound like it but I am enjoying this book.  It’s good, it’s interesting, and it’s a book I’ve wanted to read.  Right now it’s going very slowly for me.  I know I’ll finish it because it’s fun reading and I like science fiction but I wish I had read it at a different time.  In the grand scheme, it’s not fair to Time Travelers Never Die but I guess it probably would have happened with whatever book I picked up.

Do you ever experience book love lag?

The Sunday Salon – Lazy with Crazy Acquisitions

Hi there.  I’m still around; I was just a lazy blogger last week.  Work always gets extremely busy this time of year — I refer to it as the Vegas Syndrome.  My company has a conference the first week of November in Las Vegas and every year around this time everything explodes and that’s pretty much the state work is in at the moment which is why I was lazy on the blog front.  I plan to remedy that in the next few days since things should calm down and return to some sort of normal before I get on a plane.

While I’ve been lazy with the writing, I haven’t been lazy in the book acquiring department.  I’ve mentioned this before — we have a book buying moratorium on at the moment in our house.  Review books are still allowed, but all other books, with the exception of ebooks since they take up no space, were not.  Somehow the moratorium failed in the month of October.  My husband and I both bought several books and said, “Oh, we’ll find space for them,” which probably means we’ll have to buy a new bookcase but so be it.  We’re planning to do that anyway.

So what did I end up with?

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton — This is a review copy I requested so it’s not falling under the rule but since it came into the house, it’s getting counted.

The Hard Way by Lee Child — A co-worker loaned this one to me (He’s got most of Child’s Reacher series and I keep borrowing them.  He’s like a personal thriller library.) and again not a true rule breaker but it will be spending time here so on the list.

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories — We have this great local bookstore a few blocks away and each time I go there, I visit this book.  The last time I went in, it came home.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein — I’ve been in the mood for some good science fiction and it’s been a while since I’ve read one of Heinlein’s books.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman — More science fiction.  My husband read this one and loved it.  I don’t like to read about war but the science fiction part has me intrigued.

Rudyard Kipling’s Tales of Horror & Fantasy with an introduction by Neil Gaiman edited by Stephen Jones — My husband bought this one for me after a particularly long day.  🙂  It’s short stories and perfect for when you want something quick and creepy.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann — I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time, and when I was playing around with my Nook yesterday, decided that it was time to buy it.  Besides, I need something to read on that long plane ride to Las Vegas. (ebook)

The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett — I read the first book, The Magicians & Mrs. Quent, and while I can’t say I loved it, I liked it enough to get the second one.  (ebook)

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews — I’ve read the three previous books in this series and loved them all.  It’s urban fantasy and everything about these books is fantastic. (ebook)










Now, to close this up, the wrap-up for last week.  I read:

The Burning Times by Jeanne Kalogridis, finished The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (I’m a week ahead of the read along, it’s supposed to end on Halloween, but I’m not good with reading on a schedule.), and started Corrag by Susan Fletcher.  I plan to start Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie today too.  I downloaded a free copy to my Nook weeks ago and have been meaning to read it.  I loved this book as a child and want to see what I think of it as an adult.

That’s all for me today.  Buy any good books in the last few days?

Enjoy your Sunday.