Monday, September 14, 2015

A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm not saying I didn't like it, but what in the hell was that?!

Okay, I kinda am saying I didn't like it, but I didn't HATE it either.

A Princess of Mars is a forerunner in the sci-fi genre and as many of them suffer from ignorant science, so suffers this one. Modes of transportation are silly, alien races are simplistic at best, etc etc...(I know I'm nitpicking).

On the other hand, one has to be impressed with the guesswork a fictional novelist made regarding living conditions on another planet, considering he was writing at a time prior to space exploration. Hell, this was written a mere nine years after the first flight by man.

The real reason this didn't resonate with me had to do with the story's hero, John Carter. He's just too good at everything to be interesting. "Oh yeah, he can do that, too? Ho-hum..." I found myself saying at about the mid-way point...a point at which I was still trying to suss out how he'd actually arrived on Mars.

The writing also suffers from stiff formality. The rigidity of the language Burroughs' used lacked elegance and deflated exciting action scenes. However, there was plenty of action and that alone kept me turning pages.

All the same, the errors mounted. Burroughs made the mistake of giving the game away. Use of the diary style of narration is a technique in fiction that should never have happened. If the hero of the story is writing about his adventures ten, twenty, whatever number of years after it all went down, it completely gives away the fact that he lived to tell the tale and thus takes the wind out of tension's sails. Present tense for action, always present tense!

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A Change Is In The Wind, But All's Well

Much Obliged, JeevesMuch Obliged, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aw, this makes me sad. Much Obliged, Jeeves is one of Wodehouse's last books in the Jeeves & Wooster series and it's just starting to show a some life, after so many books-by-rote.

The usual plot and characters are all in order. Finicky friends and daffy family members all seemingly conspire to thrust Bertie Wooster neck-deep into the soup, then jam him between a rock and a hard place. Hovering about the periphery is the all-knowing, gentleman's gentleman extraordinaire Jeeves, ready to extract his master and set all to rights.

Where this book differs from other Wodehouses is in the little details. Bertie's narration makes it plain that Much Obliged, Jeeves comes later in the Wodehouse oeuvre by referencing past exploits...and I'm not just talking about that scripture prize he won in school or the article he wrote for Milady's Boudoir on "What the well-dressed man is wearing." I'm not even talking about the big reveal that Jeeves actually has a first name. The real difference is in how Jeeves interacts with Wooster. It's not a vast shift to the left, but there is a slight subversion in his tone, a sort of sauciness to his lip service, a kind of sass to his soliloquy. Yes indeed, Jeeves expresses himself here with more than just a raised brow and I found it shocking...SHOCKING I SAY!

Seriously though, it was nice to see an old familiar character being appropriately stretched a bit. After all the patience-straining nonsense Jeeves endures, it seems quite natural for such a clearly superior mind to grow a tad surly over such trying times. I only wish Wodehouse had started this process and expanded upon it years, nay, decades prior.

In summary, Much Obliged, Jeeves is a solid book in the series, but if you're a newcomer, I'd suggest starting somewhere earlier. Perhaps, Right Ho, Jeeves or The Code of the Woosters would be more suitable. These books don't need to be read sequentially, and you'd be fine if you read this one first, but I think the newb would be better severed with a more elementary introduction. Wouldn't want to muddle the grey matter, now would we?

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