Review: The Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe of HeavenThe Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know what took me so long to read an Ursula Le Guin sci-fi novel, but I’m glad I finally did. The Lathe of Heaven starts off with George Orr, a seemingly ordinary guy with a very extraordinary talent: his dreams can change the universe. This talent of his is as far-fetched as super-powers go, but Le Guin eases readers into the world in baby steps so that you’re not saying to your self, "Oh my god, he just made pink elephants fly! This is too much!" She makes Orr’s talents make sense in the world without being overly technical in explanations. It just works.

Once I quickly came to terms with the world-shifting thing, the next prominent thing on my mind was social responsibility and morality. Haber, the psychiatrist who’s assigned to Orr has a very macro view of morality, while Orr has a conflicting view of it. Naturally, the two are at odds, but throughout the whole novel, I kept rooting for Orr even if it meant being content with a crappy world.

One thing I kept going back and forth on was whether Le Guin’s vision of the future was dated or eerily accurate. Some things she writes reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode of the future, with flying cars and everything, while other things like conflicts between countries and races seemed very on the ball. I guess fighting in the middle east is pretty timeless.

Reading the Lathe of Heaven felt like reading several scifi books at once despite its short length. There was a near-apocalyptic world, a post-apocalyptic world, a dystopian world, aliens, flying cars, you name it. It was like a buy-two-get-one-free deal on scifi settings.

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Kindle 2 — Not Bad for Reading

Late to the party considering Amazon’s Kindle 3 got announced yesterday, but here’s my Kindle 2 review.

I was one of those who scoffed at the device when the Kindle first came out. It looked like some gadget out of the 80s, all angled and clumsy looking. When the Kindle 2 with its rounded corners and better display came out, I still didn’t hop on the ereader bandwagon.  But after moving and packing all my books into box after box and lugging the heavy things from one house to the next, I started to contemplate the perks of having a whole library digitalized.

A few months ago, I finally broke down and bought a Kindle 2. I was worried that it was just another case of gadget lust and I’d grow bored of it after a few weeks, but luckily that’s not the case.  I’ve read several full-length books on it now and I have to say, it’s very convenient.

Things I like about the Kindle 2:

  • Lighter than most paperback books I read.
  • Lays down flat on a table, which makes it super easy to read and eat at the same time.
  • Easy to hold with one hand.
  • I can listen to a book using text-to-voice in the car, making my commute more bearable.
  • Screen works fine in the sun.
  • Decent battery life. I read about an hour a day and one charge can last me two weeks. With wifi turned off of course.
  • If I’m reading some embarrassing paranormal romance, I’m not carrying around some book cover with an oily-chested man on it.

Things that the Kindle 2 does poorly:

  • PDF support is crappy at best. Most native PDF files are so small they’re hardly readable and Kindle’s ‘zooming’ feature makes it practically impossible to read things in a fluid manner.
  • Text to voice is functional, but man does it butcher words.
  • Book organization/navigation is clumsy.
  • Non-changeable screensaver. The default screen-savers are decent, but I’m getting sick of some of them. I wish we could just drag & drop our own into the Kindle.

Overall, as a reading machine, Kindle 2 is probably the best out of all that I’ve tried.  Before getting used to it, I thought the 1/2 second refresh rate was going to be an issue but it’s hardly noticeable now.  The actual act of reading on the Kindle 2 is pleasant, but navigating through a list of books, especially if you tend to have tons of books on the device is clumsy even with the new update that includes the option to create folders.

Navigating it isn’t much of an issue since that only accounts for less than 5% of the time I use the Kindle 2.  Is it going to make me stop buying dead tree books forever? Probably not. There’s still nothing that compares to flipping through the pages of a new book and of course, the new book smell, but for books that I’m only going to read through once, Kindle it is.

Review: Carmilla

CarmillaCarmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Could this be one of the first books in the paranormal romance genre? Maybe. It predates even Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Carmilla is a story about a girl who lives isolated in a large mansion with her father, some madames (house keepers? governesses? who knows) and other servants. One day, a strange set of events occur which results in a charming and beautiful girl staying with them for an indefinite amount of time.Well it turns out the girl is a vampire who falls in love with (or maybe just wants to drain the blood of) the our young narrator.While the story was somewhat engaging and the development of the relationship between Carmilla (the vampire girl) and our narrator is sweet in a very twisted way, none of the characters seemed very real. Maybe it’s because the novel was written so long ago, but I just couldn’t relate to anyone. It was like no one in the book had actual jobs. They just sat around their large houses with their handful of servants and lollygagged the day away.It’s interesting to read a vampire story written so long ago and still see the similarities in the mythos. The two girls’ interactions reminded me of Let the Right One In (another vampire book) but in the end, I was just bored and waiting for the book to end. I know this book is supposed to be horror and maybe it was terrifying to read back when it was originally published, but I barely batted an eye.

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