Book: “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler


Cover of the book. The illustration shows a black woman in vivid pink and orange dress and head dress walking.

(From the back of the book) We are coming apart. We’re a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.
America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to feel the pain of others as her own, records everything she sees of this broken world in her journal.
Then, one terrible night, everything alters beyond recognition, and Lauren must make her voice heard for the sake of those she loves.
Soon, her vision becomes reality and her dreams of a better way to live gain the power to change humanity forever.

I gave this book 3/5 ⭐️ because it’s a dystopian novel about the future, written in the past, where that future is horribly plausible and is already happening. Also because it’s a story about strong people of color, strong women, human rights, climate change, greed of the wealthy who treat people like a commodity, and hope in mutual help and good sense.

It took me over three months to finish the book. I went weeks without reading it. I hope to get a sense of closure and that the series makes sense, by reading “Parable of the talents” which continues the heroine’s story.

I found the climate change dystopian context riveting (the story, written in 1993, takes place in 2024-2027.)

I did not care for the religious or philosophical aspect of the novel which I found unconvincing and I was surprised and disappointed how little resistance the heroine encounters as she assembles a following to create this religious or philosophical community. 

I was disappointed that I found so little character development. That so many things are painstakingly detailed while others are glossed over. It gave me a fuzzy and partial visualization interspersed with very precise events narration. I would have liked more balance.

I think the author made the right choice to write this as a diary. It makes the shortcomings a little less worse. It also allows the young (15-18 year old) protagonist to boast, be a bit smug, and quite manipulative. I still found it hard to believe that however cunning and smart she is, she is met with hardly any resistance from her fellow travelers.

Book: “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Cover of the book showing a painting of a young woman reading next to an elderly woman

Ah, the wit of Jane Austen is sharp in this novel, and enjoyable as always. 

It is laid out a lot like a theatrical play. Many of the scenes could be played in their own stage. Except perhaps the long walks and the beach strolls. 

This novel is her shortest, I think. However, I was stricken by the over-abundance of the word “and”.

I may return to this post with more to add. I only finished it now after starting it yesterday, and I may need to let it sink.

2022-07-27 update: “and” appears 2802 times (*) in a total of 227 pages (24 chapters). That’s 12.3 per page

(*) [After starting to underline them in my book, I found it tedious and unreliable, so I found an HTML version of the book, stripped it of non-novel cruft using emacs and then piped a word count to a grep, embracing the nerddom, but then ran a better grep(**) command which my colleague Bert Bos supplied and explained, because the simpler one would find hand, grand or wander, but not And,]

 (Wed, 27 Jul 2022 01:11:29 CET)-(koalie@gillie:~:)$grep and /Users/koalie/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/Downloads/Persuasion\,\ by\ Jane\ Austen.html | wc -l

(**) (Wed, 27 Jul 2022 07:11:31 CET)-(koalie@gillie:~:)$grep -E -i -o '\band\b' /Users/koalie/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/Downloads/Persuasion\,\ by\ Jane\ Austen.html | wc -l

(where -E = enable regexps, -i = case-insensitive, -o = put every occurrence on a separate line, \b = word edge) [Thanks Bert!]

Book: “Mr Murder” by Dean Koontz

Cover of the book

It’s the second time I read this book. While it took me 2 days only to read it the first time when I was a student in 1997, it took me over a month in 2022.

The book had left me then with a big impression and for years it was the gold standard for “entertainment I thoroughly enjoyed.” Having read it again, I know it isn’t the gold standard anymore. In the 25 years that passed since then, I discovered Jane Austen 🙂

One detail I loved about ‘Mr Murder’:
The creative fictitious names one of the characters makes up as titles for the science fiction books another character keeps reading. Since the former doesn’t approve of that kind of literature, he makes up very funny titles.

One thing I hated:
The sheer amount of guns and firing arms owned by the main protagonists, who are otherwise completely regular everyday people. So much so that their veneration for guns doesn’t ring true. They fit in the plot but there are way too many, particularly as this is obviously not a satire of gun ownership and worship in the USA.

I found it rather well written, but a bit too long while at the same time the end is rushed and superficial.

Book: “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham

★✩✩✩✩ Having read and enjoyed several dozens of John Grisham’s novels, I made myself finish this one, but it took me four or five months.

Book on a blue blanket next to my reading glasses.

Every time I closed the book I would see the testimonials printed on the cover “no one does it better than Grisham”, and “just when you think you know Grisham he surprises you.” Well, the former is true only up to this book, and the latter is true particularly in light of this book.

It takes ploughing through 400 pages (out of 550) for the book to begin to start. But it never really takes off, and seems even rushed at the end. Such a disappointment.

The book was boring, shallow, and while the writing isn’t bad, it is too verbose and very tedious. The plot is weak and stretched ultra thin; in this form it could and should have been a novella.

It is astounding that over the course of so many pages, and despite a rather small group of characters, we readers get to know hardly any of them.

The book is touted as “The sequel to A TIME TO KILL” which was such a fine novel that I hope that anyone who hasn’t read it isn’t put off by this one. Commonalities between the two are the main litigator and his family and a couple people who work with him, and a few irrelevant references to the other story. This novel attempts to shine by association but fails.