Have You Eaten Grandma? by Gyles Brandreth: A Funny and Accessible Guide to English Usage

Have You Eaten Grandma?

Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English

by Gyles Brandreth

Hardcover, 285 pg.
Atria Books, 2018

Read: September 12, 2019

…you don’t need to understand all the intricacies of English grammar to be able to communicate well. I use a computer, but I have no idea how it works. I have a wife, but I have no idea why she stays. I take statins, and while the doctor did explain that they inhibit the HMG-CoA reductase—that rate-limiting enzyme of the mevalonate pathway—all I need to know is that they should help lower my bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

This book can change your life. For the better. Enjoy.

I’ve tried a few times to post about this, and it’s always come out as a mess. So, as I usually do in these circumstances, I’m just going to start with the official blurb:

For anyone who wants to make fewer (not less) grammar mistakes, a lively, effective, and witty guide to all the ins and outs of the English language, reminiscent of the New York Times bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

That’s just what you get—a funny and accessible guide to grammar, punctuation, and the English language in general (at least in its present form). That’s a distinctively British English, it should be noted, but even those of us who’ve abandoned vestigial “u”s thanks to Noah Webster can profit from it.

A few highlights:
bullet The entire section on the semi-colon is pretty entertaining (and helpful); the entire section covering punctuation makes the entire book worth the purchase price (or library checkout) and the read.
bullet The joke opening his section on the colon is both painful, of questionable taste, and laugh-inducing.
bullet His summary history of the Exclamation Point does in one paragraph, what Shady Characters would do in a page (not saying one approach is better than the other, I enjoyed both books. That paragraph, in particular, made me think of Houston’s book).
bullet Brandreth gives a stirring defense for the correct use of the much-abused apostrophe, culminating with:

Give up on the apostrophe, and you’re giving in to chaos. Without the apostrophe, there’s linguistic anarchy. The apostrophe is the symbol of our cause—the mark we need emblazoned on our banners. If we go weak or wobbly in our defense of the apostrophe, we are on the slippery slope to incomprehensibility and confusion.

bullet Brandreth begins his section on the usage of brackets/parenthesis with:

What the British call “brackets,” the Americans call “parentheses”—when they are round brackets, that is. What the Americans call “brackets” are what the British call “square brackets.” It doesn’t cause as much confusion as the meaning of the word “fanny” on either side of the Atlantic, but it serves to underline the truth of the observation made by Oscar Wilde more than 130 years ago: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”

Which points to one of the great distinctives of this book—Brandreth spends a lot of time explaining/illustrating the differences in the English used on both sides of the Atlantic. He later devotes an entire chapter to British vs. American English (part of which found its way to a Saturday Miscellany post in August). It includes a wonderful table for finding equivalent words/phrases/spellings.

The Brandreth Rule is: when in Rome, do as the Romans do—speak English. And if you’re British, do so with a British accent and spell your English the British way. That isn’t always easy—particularly if you haven’t worked out how to opt out of American English autocorrect when using Microsoft Word.

(there are a handful of Brandreth Rules scattered throughout the book, but this is my favorite)
bullet I appreciated that more than once he got to the point where he had to say (paraphrasing), “I don’t know why this is why it works this way, but it does, just live with it.” Once he said to use the rule or you’ll “look an ignorant oik.” Which might be my favorite phrase of 2019, “oik” is likely my favorite new vocabulary word. I have to work it into more conversation/writing.
bullet The Scrabble help might be the most turned-to part of the book for most readers.
bullet The tips for increasing word power are fantastic.

I actually could keep going, but I’ve gone on longer than I thought I would when I started.

I had a blast while reading this—I honestly don’t expect everyone will, though. If you’re not a language-nerd, aspiring grammar Nazi, or an old-school English teacher, you probably won’t enjoy it as much as me. However, if you enjoy quality humor and could use some help with your writing—you will appreciate it. It’s handy, it’s helpful, it’s entertaining—and how many grammar guides can say that? It’s the kind of thing that my college-bound daughter could use on her dorm bookshelf (and will probably find), and I know more than a few people who find themselves writing reports and the like for work who could use something like that. If you need help, might as well have a good time while you’re at it—and Have You Eaten Grandma is just the thing.


3.5 Stars
2019 Library Love Challenge

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Pub-Day Repost: The Princess Beard by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson: An Adventure on the High (and Joke-Filled) Seas of Pell

The Princess Beard

The Princess Beard

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, #3

eARC, 384 pg.
Dell Rey Books, 2019

Read: September 16-21, 2019

Readers of Kill the Farm Boy (the first installment in the Tales of Pell trilogy) may have been wondering about what happened to Princess Aurora/Snow White-esque figure, Princess Harkovitra*. Well, she wakes up, and finds herself in the position she’s always wanted—a chance to start over. She leaves her name and home behind, hitching a ride with our old acquaintance Morvin on his way to start a new life himself.

*Then again, maybe you’re like me, and figured she was like Worstely and that her only purpose was to kick-start the novel and hadn’t thought of her since.

They’re not the only ones looking for a new start. We also meet a swole centaur prone to over-compensation, seeks to reach a mystic temple that will heal him of (what he considers) his emasculating magical abilities. A pariah elf is looking for the opportunity to do something more meaningful than swindle tourists. And we also pick up with one of the newly liberated dryads from No Country for Old Gnomes, who needs a way to get to her chosen law school, Bogtorts.

All of these new starts require the characters to travel somewhere inaccessible to foot/horse/carriage traffic. Enter the Clean Pirate Luc (a.k.a. Filthy Lucre), who happens to be a one-eyed talking parrot. He needs new crew members and is willing to let these travel to their intended destinations in exchange for labor. Even if the result is something incongruous, like a centaur swabbing the decks (thankfully, that’s a funny image—a great thing for a comedic fantasy). Except for Morvin, who has other plans that involve less of the high seas.

The pirate ship ends up being just the thing to take our characters from quick adventure to quick adventure, creating opportunities for bonding and character growth. It’s different enough from the land-based pilgrimages of the past two novels to keep things feeling fresh, while allowing the same kind of vibe to permeate the book. I’m not the biggest fan of pirate/ship-based adventures, but when they’re done well, they are a lot of fun. And who doesn’t like a good Melville-based joke (or several)?

Not just Melville-based jokes, but there’s more than a couple of The Princess Bride riffs (in case the title didn’t tip you off). Which seems timely, given the resurgence in interest in William Goldman’s classic thanks to some nonsense about remaking the movie. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the jokiest of the three (I’m pretty sure my notes/list of great lines is longer than normal). Not that the others were joke-light, but this seems more focused on them and less focused on the story. Which makes it less successful as a novel in my opinion. But that’s in comparison to two really strong and effective novels, so I’m not saying it’s not a good read—it’s just a not-as-good-as-I-wanted read. If this was the first Pell book I’d read, I’d rush out to get the others (particularly, if a charming and insightful blogger had said the others were better than this one). I started chuckling within a page and didn’t finish until the end. Sometimes I did more than chuckle.

I’m not complaining a bit about the number of jokes, the character names alone are hilarious and make the book worth reading. It just takes away some of the impact of the story and the characters—or it distracted the authors from making them as compelling as they could have been. It’s kind of a chicken vs. egg thing.

Each of these characters gets an opportunity to find themselves, find their inner-strength, true desires, real self—whatever you want to call it. It turns out that some of them were right all along, and others just needed the fresh perspective that extreme circumstances can bring.

I didn’t connect with this one as much as I did the ones before, ditto for any of the characters. But I expect that my experience isn’t typical—The Princess Beard will resonate with some more than the others did. Either way, the reader will enjoy the ride. It’s exciting, it’s affirming, it’s a hoot.

I’m going to miss Pell, and hope the authors decide to dip their collective toes back into the land from time to time in the future. If not, at least we get the beginnings for these beautiful friendships.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this entertaining romp.


3.5 Stars

Pub Day Repost: A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine: A Captivating MG Mix of Science and Magic

A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity

A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity

by Nicole Valentine

eARC, 352 pg.
Carolrhoda Books, 2019

Read: August 27, 2019


Finn Firth is on the verge of turning 13, and is convinced his father will forget his birthday. Which is troubling to him, but really, it’s the least of his troubles. When they were three, his twin sister drowned (and he’s always felt this absence, and is sure everyone around him does, too). He’s not that close with his father, and his mother left home a few months ago, with no warning and no one has heard from her since. Also, his best (only?) friend, Gabi, has been spending less time with him and more time with new friends—the kind that would bully him. He’s also a huge science nerd, the kind of twelve-year-old who reads (and re-reads) Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan for entertainment. The fact that he’s an outsider, that he’s not like the other kids at school is what drives him (like so many) to science, to something he can make sense of and put himself/his trouble in perspective.

So imagine his surprise when his grandmother informs him that she’s a time traveler, actually, all the women in his family have been and are. It’s not just his family, there are people throughout the world capable of this. Some in his family are more powerful than others, most can only travel to the past—one could only travel to the past but during her lifetime—his grandmother and mother are among the few that can travel forward in time. His mother, he’s told, didn’t leave his father and him. Finn’s dad has been reassuring him that “she just needs some time,” and well, that seems to be the case after all. She’s stuck somewhere, unable to come back—but she’s created a way for Finn to come and get her (despite being a boy).

Time travel is impossible, Finn knows—and even if it weren’t, the kind of travel his grandmother describes sounds more magical than scientific. He tells his grandmother this, in fact. But—I won’t get into how, it should be read in context—he’s given some pretty convincing proof.

Now there are those who don’t think Finn should be doing anything regarding time travel, and that no one should be tracking down his mother. And they’re seemingly willing to take some extreme measures to stop him. He and Gabi set out on an adventure to evade these others and get to his mother’s portal. Finn’s ill-prepared for what lies ahead, but he doesn’t care. Between brains and sheer determination (and largely it’s the latter), he’s going to find his mom.

What he never stops to ask is: what else will he find?

This is a fun little read—Finn and Gabi are well-developed characters, his various family members are interestingly and distinctively drawn, the writing is crisp and brisk—once things get going, they stay going, and it’s easy to get swept up in it The best is the mix of science and . . . however you end up describing the time travel. For a book directed toward the 9-14 set, the science (time travel, chaos theory, multi-world theory, etc.) is presented plainly and without condescension. That last point, in particular, resonated with me.

The heart of this book is found in two concepts—the power of individual choice, and the importance of kindness in spite of everything. Lessons good to be absorbed by the target audience, as well as the rest of us.

I really enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it. One thing, though, kept running through my mind as I read it. As much as I enjoyed A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity, when I was 8-13, I would’ve loved it (probably when I was 14 and 15, too—I just wouldn’t admit to liking a book written for younger people at that time). It’s the kind of book that I would’ve been checking out of the library every two or three months. Get this for yourself and enjoy it, get this for your kid for them to obsess over.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Carolrhoda Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this opportunity.


3.5 Stars

The Princess Beard by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson: An Adventure on the High (and Joke-Filled) Seas of Pell

The Princess Beard

The Princess Beard

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, #3

eARC, 384 pg.
Dell Rey Books, 2019

Read: September 16-21, 2019

Readers of Kill the Farm Boy (the first installment in the Tales of Pell trilogy) may have been wondering about what happened to Princess Aurora/Snow White-esque figure, Princess Harkovitra*. Well, she wakes up, and finds herself in the position she’s always wanted—a chance to start over. She leaves her name and home behind, hitching a ride with our old acquaintance Morvin on his way to start a new life himself.

*Then again, maybe you’re like me, and figured she was like Worstely and that her only purpose was to kick-start the novel and hadn’t thought of her since.

They’re not the only ones looking for a new start. We also meet a swole centaur prone to over-compensation, seeks to reach a mystic temple that will heal him of (what he considers) his emasculating magical abilities. A pariah elf is looking for the opportunity to do something more meaningful than swindle tourists. And we also pick up with one of the newly liberated dryads from No Country for Old Gnomes, who needs a way to get to her chosen law school, Bogtorts.

All of these new starts require the characters to travel somewhere inaccessible to foot/horse/carriage traffic. Enter the Clean Pirate Luc (a.k.a. Filthy Lucre), who happens to be a one-eyed talking parrot. He needs new crew members and is willing to let these travel to their intended destinations in exchange for labor. Even if the result is something incongruous, like a centaur swabbing the decks (thankfully, that’s a funny image—a great thing for a comedic fantasy). Except for Morvin, who has other plans that involve less of the high seas.

The pirate ship ends up being just the thing to take our characters from quick adventure to quick adventure, creating opportunities for bonding and character growth. It’s different enough from the land-based pilgrimages of the past two novels to keep things feeling fresh, while allowing the same kind of vibe to permeate the book. I’m not the biggest fan of pirate/ship-based adventures, but when they’re done well, they are a lot of fun. And who doesn’t like a good Melville-based joke (or several)?

Not just Melville-based jokes, but there’s more than a couple of The Princess Bride riffs (in case the title didn’t tip you off). Which seems timely, given the resurgence in interest in William Goldman’s classic thanks to some nonsense about remaking the movie. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the jokiest of the three (I’m pretty sure my notes/list of great lines is longer than normal). Not that the others were joke-light, but this seems more focused on them and less focused on the story. Which makes it less successful as a novel in my opinion. But that’s in comparison to two really strong and effective novels, so I’m not saying it’s not a good read—it’s just a not-as-good-as-I-wanted read. If this was the first Pell book I’d read, I’d rush out to get the others (particularly, if a charming and insightful blogger had said the others were better than this one). I started chuckling within a page and didn’t finish until the end. Sometimes I did more than chuckle.

I’m not complaining a bit about the number of jokes, the character names alone are hilarious and make the book worth reading. It just takes away some of the impact of the story and the characters—or it distracted the authors from making them as compelling as they could have been. It’s kind of a chicken vs. egg thing.

Each of these characters gets an opportunity to find themselves, find their inner-strength, true desires, real self—whatever you want to call it. It turns out that some of them were right all along, and others just needed the fresh perspective that extreme circumstances can bring.

I didn’t connect with this one as much as I did the ones before, ditto for any of the characters. But I expect that my experience isn’t typical—The Princess Beard will resonate with some more than the others did. Either way, the reader will enjoy the ride. It’s exciting, it’s affirming, it’s a hoot.

I’m going to miss Pell, and hope the authors decide to dip their collective toes back into the land from time to time in the future. If not, at least we get the beginnings for these beautiful friendships.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this entertaining romp.


3.5 Stars

Hire Idiots by Professor I.M. Nemo: A Sharp Satire Wrapped in a Murder Mystery

Hire Idiots

Hire Idiots

by Professor I.M. Nemo

Kindle Edition, 233 pg.
Fox Spirit Book, 2019

Read: September 23-24, 2019

‘…Kakistocracies seem to be taking over everywhere.’ …

‘They’ve turned schools into factories. Fill out the form, mark the dot, memorize the same things. At the rate real learning is being undercut, soon we’ll be an idiocracy.’

‘Can we blame the internet?’

This was a very clever book. The more I think about it, the quicker I come back to that point. There’s a lot more to think about and write about when it comes to Hire Idiots, but the core of it all has to be the cleverness of it.

The novel begins with the murder of an aged college professor—there are not exactly a lot of suspects. He’s largely estranged from his family; not particularly liked by his colleagues (but no one really rises to active dislike or enmity); he holds an endowed chair—in English—at a small, obscure Liberal Arts college, so it’s not as if his death is going to benefit anyone, or be noticed by anyone outside his department, really.

Before the police can really get the investigation underway, the entire college (including those who did notice his death) are distracted by a shakeup at the top of the administration. The president is removed following a financial scandal. The Board doesn’t name an interim and begin a search for a new successor, rather they appoint a figure-head chancellor and a Chief Operations Officer. The COO brings in a Chief Academic Officer, a host of Vice Presidents, and a consulting group to help them (assuming the latter can ever figure out the name of the college). These people couch their ideas in a lot of positive spin and corporate-speak, but what it all boils down to is that programs, departments, and staff are going to be cut—except, of course, in the Business and Criminal Justice areas.

Then an active shooter arrives on campus and ends up taking over an entire building. Instead of letting the police apprehend him, the new corporate leadership removes them from campus and lets their security team deal with the situation, resulting in (for starters) a media blackout. Can’t have current and prospective students thinking this is an unsafe place to study and/or spend tuition/fees/etc. money anywhere else.

Where most mystery novels—no matter how cozy they are—would focus on the murder and/or the takeover of the building, Hire Idiots focuses on the responses from the faculty to the new administration and the impending cuts, with a focus on one of the murdered professor’s closest acquaintances and his response to the administration, his observations of the rest, and his crush on the detective heading up the murder investigation. I’d estimate 85% of the novel is about the shakeup, 6% about the professor’s personal life/response to everything; 5% on the shakeup story and 4% on the takeover.

That’s not a criticism, that’s a description—primarily so you don’t spend a lot of time, like me, wondering “is this actually a Crime Novel or did I mis-remember something?” Yes, it is, but it’s not going about anything the way you’d expect.

The bulk of the novel is a satirical/prophetic look at the state of the American higher education (noting repeatedly that British education is further down this path), taking inspiration from the line from William Blake (the focus of the scholarship of our primary character):

Degrade first the arts, if you’d mankind degrade;
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade.

As such, it is pretty devastating and too close to the truth for comfort.

Like any good satire, there are a couple of scenes that are delightfully and bizarrely absurd. When the Theater Department joined in the Faculty protest and their contribution went awry, I laughed loud enough to draw stares from my family. I won’t spoil it, but when you read that bit, you can just imagine me cracking up.

Some of the characters are better-drawn than you frequently see in satire, which is wonderful. I really grew to like a few of them, and appreciated what Nemo was able to with them (although character and character development really didn’t seem as important to the novel as did everything else).

On top of that—or on the side, anyway—you’ve got a nice little puzzle of a murder that at once is clever, and not meaty enough to sustain an entire novel (hence, the rest) and the strange little business about the building takeover. I’m still not sure really get what Nemo was going for there (although, I’m convinced that it should be obvious to me, and I’ll feel sheepish when it finally occurs to me), but I enjoyed it.

My one complaint is the length—I think we needed a little more of everything. It all felt just a little under-developed. Not enough to make me dislike the book, just enough to keep me from being fully satisfied.

A clever, clever read that will entertain as it makes you worry about the future of formal education. On the surface, Hire Idiots is a fun read, with some very sharp-witted lines. As a bonus, it’ll get you to use “Kakistocracy”, which is just a fun word.


3.5 Stars

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Sea This and Sea That by Jeremy Billups: Plenty of Goodness for the Picture Book Reader to Sea

Sea This and Sea That

Sea This and Sea That

by Jeremy Billups

Hardcover, 44 pg.
2017

Read: September 12, 2019


Off the top of my head, there are essentially three types of Picture Books:

  1. ABCs/123s
  2. Stories told simply (usually with pictures helping the text tell that story)
  3. Odd little collections of interesting/goofy pictures with some text to tie them together.

Myself, I prefer the stories—I’m always on the side of a narrative. But from my observation of my kids, niece, and other children, the third seems to be the most popular. They don’t need a grown-up around to “read” the book on their own, they can just pick it up and flip through the pictures, and the text (usually rhyming) sounds entertaining enough, even if they don’t really get what’s being said. I really know that’s true for my kids, they’d request demand them far more frequently—I can still probably rattle off Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus with only a prompt or two, despite not having picked up the book for 12-13 years.

It’s also the kind of book that Billups provides here—it’s set in a “crowded, hectic and gruff” city under the sea, with one quiet spot—The Sea This and Sea That Below the Seashore. Missus Bluffington gives a couple of kids (and the reader) a through her very unusual place, full of all sorts of sea creatures, sea plants, fish, and an octopus that shows up in some unusual places.

The rhyming text is fun, and I can imagine a good parent/adult/caregiver can get a good rhythm going while reading it to entertain their audience, but the star of the show is Billups’ illustrations. They’re just great—there’s plenty of color, while still feeling like you’re looking through blue-green water. The octopus’ tentacle alone is great to keep an eye out for, and I love Missus Bluffington’s glasses. But there’s plenty for a child’s eyes to take in while listening to the text being read to/at them.

I can’t forget to mention that it also includes some great back cover book blurbs that’ll amuse the parent/reader, as well as a couple of visual jokes.

This is a fun little book that’ll appeal to kids who love the look of Finding Nemo/Dory and aren’t quite ready for that other city under the sea, Bikini Bottom. I had fun with it, and I bet adult readers for those kids will, too.


3.5 Stars

Laser House on the Prairie by David W. Barbee: Hard to Get Further from Walnut Grove, MN

Laser House on the Prairie

Laser House on the Prairie

by David W. Barbee

Kindle Edition, 164 pg.
Excession Press, 2019

Read: July 30, 2019

“I’m not trying to be a hero, man. I’m kinda the opposite, actually. Right now, I just have to do what’s right.”

In a not-so-distant past, Jeph was a solider, then a gunslinger for hire. And then he fell in love, got married and gave it up. Now all he wants is to live a quiet life at home. But, those best-laid plans have met up with an old comrade-in-arms (and crime) who wants to pull off one more heist before he dies of some horrible disease. Jeph’s not interested and tells them so definitively. But he’s cajoled, badgered and threatened into going along with them. We all know this story, having read/seen it more times than we can count. But you’ve never seen it told this way.

Their target? A weapon called The Red Orb. Not only is it unbelievably lethal, but its users become addicted to it—the power and the way it ingratiates itself with the user’s mind. A devastating weapon and users jonesing to wield it. There’s only a billion ways that could go wrong.

A lot of the science/gadgets/weapons in this science-fiction-y novel makes no sense, and that’s okay. It’s not supposed to, it’s just a plot device to get the characters and/or conflict to be where Barbee wants it. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t really understand the conventions (or lack thereof) of Bizarro fiction, but it seems to me that it’s just whatever strange and odd bit of sciency thing the author comes up with at the moment—the stranger the better—while telling his story. Feel free to correct me in the comments. The important thing is that the SF elements are cuckoo-bananas and the reader should just roll with it.

The Red Orb is in a city not that far away called Obscuria. Which is basically what would happen if you took San Diego Comic Con, transported it into a Ready Player One meets Blade Runner future and then turned it into a city. Jeph and the band have to learn how to play by the rules of Obscuria and hopefully to hijack these rules in order to find and secure the Orb. Making the book a thinly disguised critique of Geek/Internet culture but it’s done in such a way that you can tell that Barbee is steeped in the sub-culture he’s examining and commenting on. Jeph’s account may be scathing, but it’s not spiteful. Nor is it dour, and all negative—you typically can’t help but grin as you see what Barbee is commenting on (and, honestly, it’s hard to disagree with most of his commentary).

When I sat down to write, I had a very clear idea how I was going to express “What this book is about.” But the more I think about it, I’m not sure I can unpack it all. There’s a lot about self-determination, about choosing to make your present and future different from your past. About how the wounds of the past and our self-deception aren’t easily overcome to stop our self-destructive tendencies. About our own tendencies to be trapped by our perceptions. It’s about in the Internet/Geek culture how do we determine the worth of someone/an act/a thought? Is it the quality? Is it the rareness? How easily it can be licensed and commodified? Why do anything if it isn’t related to clicks, likes, influences? What about those who’ve rejected and/or not-embraced that kind of life? How can they make their way through a Geek culture? And I think I’m really just scratching the surface.

So, yeah, you’ve got a tried-and-true setup, morphed into a SF-ish reality as an excuse to talk about what’s worth pursuing in our contemporary culture. Told in a strange, generally amusing and sometimes funny way. You won’t get through this book easily (it’s not a difficult read, but sometimes the imagery takes longer than usual to conjure up), but you may come through it better.

While it shared many sensibilities with last year’s Jimbo Yojimbo, it was a bit more restrained and a lot more heartfelt. It’s probably a better book overall—I didn’t enjoy it as much personally, but it’s one of those times I remind myself that ratings are about my overall appreciation, not (necessarily) the merits of the novel. I’ve liked both works by Barbee that I’ve tried so far, I need to find more by him.


3.5 Stars

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