Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Summary (from Goodreads): In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

I recently finished reading "Ender's Shadow", which is a novel told in the same time-line as "Ender's Game", but from the point of view of the character Bean, following his journey into battle school instead of Ender's. I really enjoyed it, just as much as I enjoyed Ender’s Game, and now want everyone to at least read this first book.

Ender's Game was one of those sci-fi classics that I'd heard of, but didn't know much about. No movie yet (main characters are both very young and time-line spans a few too many years for casting to be easy). Then, one Christmas, I bought and started readed it, brought it home with me and told my dad about it. I didn’t see that book again until my dad was through reading it himself. He’d even read Ender’s Shadow by the time I left. (moral of the story: tell people about books you love only after you're done reading them yourself ;))

In Ender’s Game, you’ll find mock battles in zero g, kids playing at war, humanity scrambling to defend itself against an alien race that has twice invaded Earth. The heavy weight of an all-out war of worlds is put on these child geniuses. It’s games now, but ever-present is the knowledge that there is a real war going on out there. The buggers (the nickname for the alien race) might come back at any time. These kids are being trained to command armies in the war to come. Humanity is depending on them. No, humanity might just be depending on Ender alone, the boy who seems to take war strategy and leadership to a level no one else can compete with.

Okay, so maybe this book isn’t for everyone. It’s all war games and soldiers in training, and not a drop of romance and not much comedy, but the story and characters are great and the books are hard to put down. If you’re at all intrigued by this book, read it! Read it now.

Lit Snit Verdict: A+

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WoW - Christy

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Pub Date: Nov 8, 2011

Summary (from Goodreads): On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed.

If you had the chance to change history, would you?
Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

First, how awesome is the cover? JFK's assassination is a big what-if, and I know it's been discussed before, so I'm interested to see how King handles this. The book sounds like it has potential to be really cool, if done right.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution By Michelle Moran

Summary (from Goodreads): In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.

I've never read anything by Michelle Moran, but you can tell right away she really does her research on a time period (I see she has also has several other books that take place in ancient Egypt).

In Madame Tussaud, we see the French Revolution from the perspective of someone who is right in the middle of it all. Marie runs the Salon de Cire, and in order to fill her salon with wax figures of popular and interesting people (and thereby keep her income steady in these hard times of food shortages), Marie listens to the gossip, takes every opportunity to meet with prominent figures in society, even if she has to visit the local prison to do it.

When an opportunity arises to be the tutor to King Louis’s sister, pious and mild mannered Madame Elisabeth, Marie must take it (what an opportunity to find more faces for her wax museum!). But the public is hungry and unhappy with the lavish spending of the French royalty (though Marie could see Queen Marie Antoinette would be blamed no matter what she did). In Marie's salon, people like Robespierre and Marat meet and lash out against the monarchy.

This book was interesting because it straddles both sides of the argument. Marie and her family don’t really want to take sides, but in this political climate, and especially given their prominent role in the spreading of information (through wax figures, posters, and newsletters posted throughout their salon), not choosing sides is hardly an option. Refusing to wear the revolutionary’s cockade (symbol of loyalty to the cause) is not really an option, not when men will stop you on the street and demand to know why you are not supporting the revolution.

To stand against the king is treason, to stand against the revolution is just dangerous … but which side will win? What will that mean for Marie’s new friend in Madame Elisabeth? How long can Marie last?

The guillotine doesn’t even show up until most of the way through this book, and I see now how much more there is to the French Revolution, so many subtleties and shifts in thinking. I only knew the basics before, that aristocracy were rich and arrogant. That common people were poor and starving. Heads were lost. The fictional Scarlet Pimpernel gallantly saved aristocrats from the guillotine when the revolution turned bloody.

I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved that, at the very end, there is a section with some bits of the author's research that didn't fit in the novel (mostly because it took place after the story was over). There was a picture of the very first person to ever be photographed—a random guy on the street who happened to stand still long enough to be caught by the extra-long expose time.

Lit Snit Verdict: A-