Archive for May, 2011

The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian – a review

May 22, 2011

Angel – sent from heaven to watch Jemma, to document her existence. Literally connected to her with some sort of metaphysical force that are like chains that bind him to her and hurt pulling him back if he tries to wander too far. He’s not perfect. He doesn’t pay her all of his attention all of the time. He welcomes his human form and being removed from angelic perfection.

Jemma – medical student. Everyone she has loved has died and everyone she will love will die. Some weird karmic black widow. She doesn’t hurry. She won’t run. She has sex with Rob, though she worries she will kill him.

Natalie – smart, no bullshit, 3rd year med student. Doesn’t seem evil, but definitely doesn’t go out of her way to be nice. Very competant.

Dr. Chandra – clumsy, not competant.

Rob Dickens – Jemma’s sex partner. Is called to his duties by Jemma touching her head with her finger and flaunting a thigh – she calls it a retarded ballerina.

Calvin – Jemma’s brother, died at 17, burned and partially dismembered (apparently done to himself), left a book that Jemma knew was “for her especially” but which she threw into the Serne River.

Father – Jemma’s father, surgeon, first signs of cancer in trembling of his hands.  Spirals into death quickly with METS eating away his brain.  Serious, not around the house much. Drank.

Mother – in fights with Father, she often bloodied him with a larger pepper shaker. She doted over him tirelessly as he died, but then declared herself free at last when he finally succumbed. Planned a trip around the world, promised Jemma to bring back her new daddy. Then, day she was supposed to be leaving, having packed and made arrangements, she set fire to the house, sat in the kitchen, and allowed the fire to consume her.

The Hospital – two wings. not yet floating? Regular and children’s. Children’s is prestigous, gets the children of royalty/celebrity and the freak cases that are either singular or so rare as to be singular. Seems fairly prestigious.

Vivian – best friend of Jemma, likable, maneater, common-sense strong. Curious about everything.

Pickie Beecher – only child who can’t be healed by Jemma. Refers to Jemma’s unborn kid as brother. Is perfectly content to not be  “healed.”

John Grampus – architect who designed the hospital with the help of one of the Angels.

Father Jane – de facto preacher of the hospital, has long, somewhat clueless sermons that seem to attract people.

Ishmael – HUGE, Norse-like man, find out he’s an Angel imprisoned in flesh for some reason, huge sex freak, dates Vivian briefly but cheats on her with nearly anything that walks.Also, freakishly gentle and very well liked because he just wanders around and talks with everyone.

Maggie -sorta Jemma’s nemesis, better clogger, doesn’t trust Jemma’s power that healed everyone. First one to turn to black ash.

Dr. Snood – quintessential management. Very smart, but not people savvy. Conventional.

-so far, not much has happened. Her death ability and her sexing it up with Robert have been established, as well as her not so much love but tolerance for her career path. For some reason, a seagull being blown into the window, where she meets its eye for a moment before it is whisked off by the storm, seems important.

-Alright, I’ve finished the story. I meant to update this thing as I went but, well, we saw how well that worked out. Now that this thing is done and over, I am left a bit unsatisfied. Feeling that I missed something (I did), I read some online reviews that finally made sense of the little symbols at the front of every chapter. But, other than that, it was praised as a necessary second novel for a great writer (I’m paraphrasing, and not entirely sure where I read this, so my apologies to anyone and everyone who may think I’m lifting this from them but I’m also most certainly not claiming it as my own). Which seems like a really nice way of calling it mediocre and unfinished, though ambitious.

The problem for me is that after 600-odd pages, I expected something more. I expected a bit more to chew over, a bit more to read into…and I didn’t find it. And in reading other reviews, they didn’t find it, either. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good read, it’s a good story, but when the lead character’s mother dies in a fire and then her power manifests itself as green fire, I expect something from that. But it never pays off. I expect something more from the relationship between the main character and her love/husband. It doesn’t really materialize. I expect something more from Pinkie Beecher (who is, apparently, a holdover from Adrian’s first novel -which I haven’t read – and who makes a helluva lot more sense if we have read said first novel) than to mysteriously disappear, only to reappear later and be “fine” in a way he couldn’t be fine before.

On top of that, the shifting viewpoints denoted by the altering of emblems at the beginning of each chapter is clunky and something I, admittedly, never fully picked up on. Again, it just didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. While I certainly don’t begrudge an author going off on tangents, this seems like a pretty basic part of a story. If you’re going to alter how you tell your story, I can’t get past the feeling that there should be a greater purpose behind it.

So, is it a good read? Yes. Is it 600 pages good, though? I’m not sold.

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Lies, Inc. Blah.

May 5, 2011

I tried to read Lies, Inc. by Phil Dick last weekend. In the past, I’ve had fairly good luck with Phil Dick novels. They aren’t always the best written things, but they’re comprehensible and interesting.  This…isn’t. At least it isn’t comprehensible.

The first third or so is solid. You learn that someone has basically monopolized travel to the only distant Earth like planet with use of a teleporter that only works one way. Their monopolization has forced the protagonist into ruin and he is scrambling to get help so that he can steal his own ship away from creditors (who are essentially controlled by the company/government that owns the teleporter) so that he can spend the next 18 years of his life flying through space to check out this distant planet on his own terms and, if necessary, pick up people who want to come back and let everyone know what the place is really like. Helping him is a rival company called Lies, Incorporated. They come off as a sort of very serious, and moderately powerful future form of The Onion or Daily Show.

Alright, so that’s awesome. We can get behind all of this.

Except then the book goes batshit crazy. And by batshit crazy I mean wholly incomprehensible. From looking around the web, this bit that is incomprehensible is apparently the result of being shot with an LSD dart. Now, who has shot him, why, etc. I have no idea. I have no idea because one moment the protagonist, Rachmael ben Applebaum, is taking over his ship from a pilot of Lies, Inc. and the next moment he is going through one of those teleporters because “they would never suspect that!”

Well, no, but neither was I. Especially with nothing between him taking control of his ship and him stepping through the teleporter. He goes through to the other side, sees some truly bizarre stuff, gets shot, sees SOME MORE truly bizarre stuff, and then finds himself in a room with people who have also (supposedly) went through the teleporter only to come out the other side seeing crazy/frightening/bizarre stuff.

Now, I still have eighty or so pages to go. I started reading this when I was visiting family a couple of weekends ago and just couldn’t make myself plough through the last bit of it. And at least one review I’ve read refers to an AHA! moment at the end, though it’s going to have to be quite the moment.