Friday, March 29, 1996

The Fabulous Riverboat

by Philip José Farmer

This one is a little better written than the first.  Mark Twain and a prehistoric giant find a meteorite and built a vast metal boat, the only one on Riverworld.  Still no women characters, and in my opinion, too many invented characters when he has the entirety of history to play with.  The dialogue in this book is more realistic.  Still, I think Farmer is one of those writers who is incapable of having characters speak in any way and with any mindset other than his, Farmer's, own.  Thus there is little real ideological conflict, which is a gaping absence in a place like Riverworld.

three stars

Monday, March 25, 1996

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

by Philip José Farmer

A brilliant idea, a momentous brainstorm – everyone who ever lived is resurrected on a new world by mysterious and powerful beings – but some dull, flat writing.  No women characters to speak of, and some of the dialogue is completely misplaced, as if Farmer has no real interest in how people actually speak and act in given situations.  Too much analysis in the wrong places.  Maybe he was just in a hurry to get his idea out.  A good cast of characters, though: Richard Burton, Goering, an alien, a science fiction writer.

three stars

Thursday, March 21, 1996

The Hunted

by Madra Rakshasa

This Hindi novel describes the steadily burgeoning tensions between untouchables and landowners in a tiny Indian village.  The focus of the book is not so much the actual conflict, which is brief and not at all significant, but the history and development of the characters.  It's not a simple novel at all, despite taking a stand, of course, against the greed and oppression of the landowners - some of the peasants are unsympathetic, and some of the landowners are decent people.  It's a real psychological novel with political significance as well.  I liked it a lot.

four stars

Wednesday, March 13, 1996

Into India

by John Keay

The anti-Naipaul, sort of.  This Britisher is a real India-lover and has a lot of fascinating things to say about the land, its history and above all its people.  It was interesting to go back to Naipaul's book and compare their interpretations of similar experiences or events.  I identified with a lot of the things Keay described.  The end, when he left India, was especially demonstrative of his love for the place – he speaks disparagingly of the insincerity, "gracelessness" and "sameness" of the West.  A different take, certainly!

four stars