Fahrenheit 451 – Among the many many gaps in my classic scifi knowledge, this is pretty high. For some reason I didn’t even read it when I did 1984, A Brave New World, and We a few years ago. But it is very very much in the style of those books. It is an old time dystopian. A single man is afloat in a world that is very foreign to us and seems even foreign to him. He struggles as he comes to realize the weight of his world, and eventually flails against it. It’s very different from the modern dystopias, with the band of teenagers fighting against the system. But it’s pretty good, it’s short, and it does it’s job, and it’s good.
Three Body Problem – This is a very well regarded Chinese science fiction book. I was really excited for it. Aliens, video games, mystery, what’s not to love? But it really didn’t come together for me. Style wise, it doesn’t work. It’s either because the translation is bad, or perhaps (I suspect) this is just the style of a Chinese writer. And to American ears, it sounds awkward. The dialogue in particular is so stilted and exclamatory. I’m giving it a lot of credit by assuming it’s a cultural stylistic thing. If it was an american author, I’d say it was actively bad. Besides that, even the story doesn’t work out for me. While the mystery is developing, it’s cool. But the pay off is kind of weak. It’s not revelatory, it just kind of slowly rolls out with a resounding meh. And the attempt to ground it in some sort of physics-based reality is forced and unconvincing. Everyone seems to love this book, so it must just be me, but I actively dislike it.
Foucault’s Pendulum – I picked this up because of the Templar graphic novel I read. In the afterword, the author talked about various things he read about the templars. This is supposedly the “thinking man’s Da Vinci Code.” I, uh, disagree. This, I’m pretty sure, is the first time I’ve ever given up on a book part way through. It took 50 pages before ANYthing happened. It took another 50 before the actual plot started. For another 40, nothing happened, and I gave up. This guy uses 5 words where one would do. It’s so long and rambling and pointless. Maybe he’s a genius and it all wraps together at some point and your mind is blown. But even if that’s true, you can’t drag someone through hours of crap on the hope that the payoff is worth it. The drag at least has to be enjoyable. The book couldn’t be more opposite of 3 body problem. The language is so ornate and over the top. Just because it has big words, doesn’t make it smart. Just because he has a thesaurus and has 5 synonyms for every adjective, and uses them all in one sentence, does not make him smart. I didn’t like 3 body problem, and I did finish it. But that doesn’t make it better than this, this was just so unbearably long I knew I wouldn’t make it.