Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)

A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks them in the bonds of love.

The interesting thing about this story was that I had heard about it a long time ago, and all I knew was that time-traveling was involved. I'm a huge fan of time-traveling stories, and my impression was that this was a sci-fi, so my boyfriend picked up this book for me. We both discovered that it was a romance, and he gave up on it, haha, but I continued reading. No regrets.

  • For me, the beginning started out intriguing but confusing. There are a lot of elements about time-traveling that they don't quite explain in the book at first, but things get cleared up along the way if you keep reading. However, this makes it a little inconvenient if you're the type to pick a book back up after several days of not reading it.
  • I loved how the author wrote the chapters; they weren't necessarily in chronological order (which sometimes doesn't even make sense anyway, due to the whole time-traveling aspect) but in an order that was able to build up suspense. The pacing of the chapters also helped in creating the suspense. Some chapters were longer than others, but none were unbearably boring or unhelpful, and I liked the details.
  • For some reason, I thought Henry's character started off uncharming. There didn't seem to be anything extraordinary about him, aside from the obvious genetic mishap. But he begins to grow on you as he matures.
  • No matter what you think of Clare, it's hard not to respect this woman for her never-ending supply of patience and strength reflected in her faithfulness. Just... wow. Sometimes though, when her writing style changed to appropriately match her agitation (think long run-on sentences with many "and"'s on end), I got annoyed because it just seems like a very "edgy" thing some authors do when they want minimal effort while appearing super melodramatic. I feel like you can get your point across without dramatically changing the character's narration flow.
  • Also speaking of which, this book is very dramatic. Which is lovely in its own way, but can also come across as hopelessly romantic and a little surreal. The main characters' love story and a few of the side characters (Kimy especially) were the only things that felt real - the rest were a little bit over-the-top, like something you'd see in Hollywood. For instance, Gomez obsessing over Clare for so many years while Charisse was popping out his kids seemed ridiculous. And Ingrid killing herself because of Henry. Even Henry's dad is a little crazy because of love. Everybody acts very Shakespeare-esque because of love, and it's hard to connect that with the other little parts of life. Work (like seriously, academia or actual ambitions) are hardly mentioned. Even friendship isn't as touched upon.
  • Then again, all the characters are artists of some sort. This may be why they seem to play and love all day.
  • The barely-there sci-fi component was probably the most annoying part of the book, in my honest opinion. I liked that the author reached out to be original and explain how the time-traveling gene works, but the genetics explanation also seemed very dumbed-down. Obviously, it wasn't a big part of the novel, but I felt like they just gave us a very basic understanding of how genes work and not really anything substantial about the actual mutation itself, like how it could have occurred (gene/environment interaction?) or the potential damage/success scientists could take from studying such a mutation.
  • The twists along the way were well-implemented - good job, Mrs. Niffenegger, I was not expecting any of those that you threw our way. The quotes about time in the beginning of each part were poignant and particularly relevant, and just made the audience feel more strongly about this love that surpassed even the obstacle of time. In the end, all that suspense built really created something beautiful and powerful. Maybe I'm just emotional, but I did start crying at the end, and that was what told me that this was a really good book.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (1985)

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut - young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Back on Earth, Peter and Valentine forge an intellectual alliance and attempt to change the course of history.

This futuristic tale involves aliens, political discourse on the Internet, sophisticated computer games, and an orbiting battle station. Yet the reason it rings true for so many is that it is first and foremost a tale of humanity; a tale of a boy struggling to grow up into someone he can respect while living in an environment stripped of choices. Ender's Game is a must-read book for science fiction lovers, and a key conversion read for their friends who "don't read science fiction."

  • First of all, I don't consider myself a sci-fi lover. I like some sci-fi novels, but growing up with a dad who was a mostly exclusively sci-fi avid reader, I wouldn't consider myself a "science fiction lover". That being said, I thought this was a fantastic book and I would absolutely recommend it to anybody, sci-fi lover or not. 
  • You get a lot of interesting comparisons between personalities in the book: Peter vs. Valentine, Ender vs. Peter, Ender vs. Valentine, Locke vs. Desmothemes, etc. Leadership styles clash, political turmoil occurs, and the environment is confined and restrained, even down on Earth or in the Internet world. It makes you really think.
  • Ender's struggles throughout the novel really makes the entire books. The sci-fi aspects are just a bonus, for those who love the space setting. What makes this book really interesting is watching a child genius struggle under the weight of pressure and psychological manipulations. In the end, he is molded into this whole other Ender, but all of these obstacles have allowed him to prevail in "saving" humanity, even with these fed lies.
  • I really liked how this book was very intelligently-written. There's a lot of politics in this alternate universe, some history and physics lessons, military tactics, and some interesting psychology/sociology amidst Ender's interactions with the other kids and with the teachers.
  • The ending was great. The plot twists were great. The explanations behind the aliens were great. The important parts in the book were all well-implemented, without seeming cliche or forced.
  • I do wish they developed Peter a little more. He seems like a very promising character with a greater role to play. However, all I really got out of him was that he was Ender's greatest enemy until Battle Station, he was a ruthless genius behind two Internet figures who became immensely popular, and that Ender continued fearing him (or being just like him) even after many years. In the end, he's referenced again as the reason why Ender can't go back to Earth, and some other things happen, but I was a bit disappointed with how that ended.
  • The ending part with the queen bugger really confused me. I won't say more, for fear of spoiling it, but - what in the world was all that with the giant mountain and all those familiar icons from the games Ender played at Battle Station? I still don't understand how that ended up there, even though it was supposedly a "message." But I suppose the buggers have always been the mysterious backdrop throughout the novel. Nobody understands how they communicate with each other (though there are theories), or why they attacked us, etc.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!