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Books I've read

Published 2020-09-13

The One Man by Andrew Gross

Finished 2020-10-30 Did Not Finish

Set during WWII, the Allies sneak a young Jewish man who came to the U.S. after escaping Poland into Auschwitz to extract a physics professor crucial to the war effort. The first sentance of the book is a grammatical mess: “The private room is on the fourth floor of the Geriatric wing at the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital outside Chicago, bent, old men shuffling down the hall in hospital gowns with nurses guiding them and portable IVs on their arms.” There are similar oopsies throughout the book, and much of the dialog feels contrived. However, the breaking point for me was, when, the day before the hero is sent into Auschwitz, his overseer makes him kill a cat to “prove that he can kill if needed.”

Come on.

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger

Finished 2020-10-25

A decent thriller. Engaging and fast-paced. It’s set locally to where I live lived, in an area that’s not often written about in mainstream novels, which makes it interesting to me. It also takes place on a reservation and depicts the Native American characters in a clear-eyed and sensitive way. However, the characters are flat and predictable, and often perform actions that don’t make sense and are clearly designed only to move the plot along, a device which drives me crazy, since it makes it feel like the characters aren’t freewilled people.

Worth reading once.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Finished 2020-10-20

Great story with memorable and vivid characters. A weird amount of talk of how attractive and sexually appealing the narrator’s mother is, and by page 300 or so it starts to feel like the book is going in circles.

Worth reading once, probably won’t be compelled to read it again.

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Finished 2020-09-12

Historical fiction about the doomed Franklin expedition to find the northwest passage, this 770-page book spends most of its length chronicaling the tribulations of the men trapped on the ice, facing hypothermia, starvation, scurvy, madness—while also being stalked and picked off by an unknown monster on the ice. The first 600+ pages can, at times, feel like it’s not going anywhere—more starvation, more men dying, hopelessness continues—but still manages to remain engaging. The writing at times feels sloppy, with contradictions only a couple of sentances apart.

In the last one hundred pages it becomes an almost entirely different novel, in a rather jarring but good way. Without spoiling it, the legends of the native Esquimaux people come to the forefront of the story.

Definitely a very male-centric story, which I guess would be expected considering the expedition that the story is about consisted of exclusively men. Although there is a strong female protagonist, she is literally unable to speak, and although she is portrayed as being very strong and self-sufficient, her role of subservience to the men around her is clear. As with any story like this, it’s hard (for me, at least) to determine how much of this is just a portrayal of the sexism of the times that the story is set in, and how much of it is perpetuation of the stereotypes.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Worth reading once.