Comments on Classics: The War of the Worlds

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

The War of the Worlds – 1898 – H.G. Wells

In a nutshell:
Martians invade England with plans to take over the world.

I was reading Felix J. Palma’s The Map of the Sky recently and thought it was about time I read H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Mr. Palma seems to be getting me to read a lot of Wells’ work lately, The Invisible Man will be coming up soon in anticipation of The Map of Chaos.

The first two-thirds of the story read like a victorian disaster novel. This part wasn’t as interesting to me since I’ve seen the modern equivalent plenty of times with the usual mass panic, running, and destruction. However, at the time, it must have been riveting.

The last third, however, was the most interesting. I find the psychology of people surviving in a post-apocalyptic world to be fascinating. What do you do? How do you handle it? The narrator’s time trapped in a house with a good view of what the Martian’s were doing, and his conflict with his cumbersome curate companion were the most illuminating. The narrator managed to hold it together while the religious man fell apart. I suppose that might happen when you’re presented with something you can’t fit into your beliefs in a positive way. The proximity to the Martians gave us such wonderful information about their anatomy, how they fed on human blood, and how they might have evolved on their own world. It was very well thought out.

When the Martians dominate the planet, humans are reduced to prey, scurrying for cover like rabbits. The suggestion that the Martians will learn to domesticate humanity, the way we have domesticated cattle and the like, was as frightening as it was practical.

In the end, humanity was useless in stopping the threat, but bacteria, something we think of as so much less worthy than ourselves, managed to wipe out the invading force. We’ve convinced ourselves of our own superiority, but how strong are we really? Supposedly, Wells wrote this story in response to the colonization of the time, turning the tables, and highlighting the horrors of such a fate. Like all good science fiction novels, it makes you think. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1865 – Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass – 1871 – Lewis Carroll

In a nutshell:
A little girl has a remarkable imagination.

Curiouser and curiouser…

Everything is an adaptation of a classic these days, especially Alice. In the recent years there has been a SyFi channel mini-series, Disney movies, and a TV show, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (even if it only lasted one season). There’s an Alice-based video game and Otherland’s Eight Squared. These two children’s stories have been referenced in so many ways and inspired so many new creations that I felt like it was time for me to experience the original. Long story short, I liked it.

Alice is a wildly imaginative, if somewhat bossy, little girl. Her journeys in Wonderland are the subject of two separate stories, one where she travels down the rabbit hole and the other through the looking glass. The Cheshire Cat features in the first while the connection to chess is in the second. I’m sure quite a few things went right over my head since the stories are very historically British, but it was still enjoyable. However, both the Bandersnatch and the Jabberwocky barely show up at all. In fact, they are only mentioned briefly in a poem, which was a little disappointing. Those characters have been featured so prominently in the 2010 Disney version of Alice that I thought they would show up more in the original stories.

With so much strangeness I can see why Alice’s adventures have spawned so many adaptations. There is just so much to expand upon. I can also understand why there are so many suggestions of madness among them.

While I liked both stories, I feel I’ve been a bit spoiled by all these flashy new versions of the story. In comparison, it can seem a little lacking.

But Alice is only the beginning because I also have all the rest of Lewis Carroll’s works in my pretty pink book. Someday I’ll share my thoughts on those too. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: The Great Gatsby

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

The Great Gatsby – 1926 – F. Scott Fitzgerald

In a nutshell:
Gatsby acquires immense wealth to impress a girl.
Things go badly.

I was going to do some research on this book for this post, but then I decided against it. The whole point of my comments on classics section is for me to share my opinions and thoughts on a book, not the thoughts and opinions I’m supposed to have. I’m not one to hunt for symbolism and obscure themes in literature. Either it hits me or it doesn’t. I read for fun, though I have no problem with a little learning rubbing off on me now and again.

So, what did I glean from this classic work? Rich people suck. Ok, perhaps that is a little ungenerous, allow me to rephrase; these rich people suck. Better?

The main characters are all horrible people in their own special ways, with the exception of our narrator, Nick Carraway; there may be some hope for him yet. Gatsby himself is either second best or the worst of them, I can’t seem to decide. He has a pure(ish) heart and was willing to go to such lengths to be financially worthy of the woman he loves. The thing is, if you have to be ridiculously wealthy for the girl to love you, then, she’s probably not worth it in the first place. Not to mention the fact that Gatsby got his money through many a shady business deal, hurting who knows how many people. Doing something for the one you love is a noble thing. Accomplishing it by any means necessary isn’t so noble.

The characters are unbelievably selfish. Daisy’s husband cheats on her regularly, driving her into Gatsby’s arms, only to completely abandon Gatsby’s memory in the end, because it was inconvenient. Nick was the only one with any sense of loyalty, and if anything, he felt sorry for Gatsby, as did I.

The moral of the story? Money won’t buy you love or happiness, it’ll just get you killed. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: The Chronic Argonauts

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

The Chronic Argonauts – 1888 – H.G. Wells – Short Story

In a nutshell:
A mad scientist builds a time machine in a rural Welsh village.

Before he wrote The Time Machine, H.G. Wells penned The Chronic Argonauts, another time-traveling tale. I only became aware of this story because it was briefly mentioned in Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time. Naturally, I looked it up to see if it was real. It’s actually a pretty good story, but sadly there is very little time travel in it. The story mostly focuses on the build up of the strange Doctor Nebogipfel (great name by the way) and his occupation of a house with a violent history. Within this house, he performs strange experiments that involve odd lights and noises which frighten the locals and ultimately cause them to turn on him.

The reader doesn’t get to see much of his experimentation or the construction of the time machine and I wish there was a lot more there. I’d love to follow Nebogipfel’s struggle, being a man ahead of his time, unlocking the secrets of time travel.

The actual time travel in the story is brief and related by a secondary character after the fact, and there is very little detail there either. It seems the most interesting parts of the story were glossed over rather quickly. I want to know more about what happened in the years 4003, 17, 901 and 2. Mention of the abduction of a ward and assaults on public officials is hardly enough information in my opinion. Although, then it wouldn’t be a short story anymore. I feel like there is an opportunity here for an experienced author to fill in the blanks of this lesser-known story. If done well, it could be really awesome.

The final thing that struck me, as I was re-reading a bit before writing this post, was how much, by the end, Dr. Nebogipfel reminded me of Doctor Who. He seemed lonely and even suggested the reverend be his companion on his travels. Something about that had that lonely Doctor vibe to me.

If you have an interest in H.G. Wells, an interest in Victorian science fiction, or you are simply curious about this story, you can read it here for free. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo

Comments on Classics

The Count of Monte Cristo – 1844 – Alexandre Dumas – 1243 pages

In a nutshell:

A wrongfully imprisoned man seeks revenge.

Lets tackle the obvious first. This book is long, which is largely why I’m doing a post on it here. To put it simply, I want credit for finishing it in all of its unabridged glory. Which brings me to my first point, abridged or unabridged? Personally if I’m going to read something I’d rather read the whole thing. It would make me feel like I might be missing something important if I read an abridged version, or that I’m not really reading it at all, if that makes any sense. Also, the abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo is half the length of the original, which makes me wonder just how much of the story you really get with the abridged version. But I can see why a fair amount of it was cut. There are quite a few stretches of 100 pages or so that aren’t really vital to the story’s progression. They provide extra information that I suppose the reader could live without.

The story was originally published in a magazine in installments which easily allowed it to get as long as it did. In fact, bite size increments might have been the best way to present it. I’ll be honest, it’s been years since I read it and at the time I wasn’t big on long books, but I took it as a personal challenge. In order to give myself the best chance of success I read it in 200-300 page increments over the course of a year or two, but I’m glad I stuck with the whole thing. When it comes down to it I would always suggest someone read the full version, but if it was a matter of reading the abridged version or reading nothing at all, then by all means read the shorter version.

Just like with Dracula, my first foray into classical fiction, I didn’t expect much from this book either, but a story about revenge seemed like it might hold my attention long enough. Curiosity can carry me a long way. I loved the pure-hearted Edmond Dantes, who loved his father and his friends so dearly. Being so innocent and trusting made his transition into the count that much more dramatic. The way he slowly sets up his enemies for their destruction, all the while socializing with them, shows the subtle darkness of his character. After all he had been through a little darkness was to be expected. The count is just a really cool guy. He’s mysterious and powerful and I really enjoyed reading about him.

As I mentioned before, there are occasional periods in the story that seem to focus more on back-story and side plots. I wasn’t as fond of those parts, but I don’t think they’re entirely wasted either. Perhaps there might have been a more concise way to present that information to the reader though.

I had expected a tragic ending but was pleasantly surprised. I would call it “appropriately ever after” since some things just can’t be undone, and characters just aren’t the same anymore. People most definitely get hurt, but I don’t recall anyone being unjustly sacrificed.

Whatever you do, do not watch the movie! (the most recent one)

Well, ok, watch it if you want, but it is a completely different story. I can live with a few edits here and there, but they went so far as to make a particular character biologically related to Edmond, which basically changes everything, not to mention ending the story all “happily ever after.” They should have just stylized it as a different retelling, making it a little more clear that it is not really The Count of Monte Cristo. Although, if I had no knowledge of the real story I probably would have liked it. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: Dracula

Comments on Classics

Dracula – 1897 – Bram Stoker – 418 pages

In a nutshell:

Vampire hires lawyer to help him move to England,
danger ensues.

Welcome to my first ever classics review! I wanted to start with Dracula because it was the very first classical fiction novel I read entirely of my own volition. Why did I start with Dracula? I chose it for the obvious reasons. While it was written in the 19th century, it was about vampires after all, so how bad could it be? Of all the books I could have chosen, this seemed the safest bet as far as holding my interest. It’s been over a decade since then, so my memory of the book is a little sketchy at best, but I wanted to start my classical reviews with my first classical read, so I’ll do my best.

I think I was definitely right in choosing this as my first. While I assume most teenage girls would have chosen something more like Jane Austen, I think this was a better fit for me at the time. I was still really picky and impatient with books that didn’t grab my attention right away, and Dracula was better at keeping me focused. It was a challenge though. Being written over a hundred years ago, there was quite a bit of vocabulary to look up, especially names of things we don’t use anymore, like types of vehicles and objects. I was a complete nerd about it however, and kept a notebook where I wrote them all down and looked them up later. I still have all the words and definitions around here somewhere…I should really throw things out more often.

Now, about the story. The thing you have to take into account with Victorian literature is that what was exciting then, is nothing compared to what is considered exciting now. This doesn’t mean a Victorian novel is inherently dull or boring, but it is usually good to temper one’s expectations accordingly in order to appreciate it. What helped keep my interest in Dracula was that the entire story was written as a series of journal entries and letters, which made it more personal, and helped to break things up a bit. There was plenty of horror, danger, and adventure, more than I would have expected. I liked the characters and was surprised at the ending, which I thought would be horribly tragic.

If you’re looking to start reading some classical literature but you want something with a little more punch, this is a great place to start. With Vampires being so popular these days, it’s nice to read where it all began. For the record, Dracula didn’t sparkle. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Introducing My New Comments on Classics Category!

~Comments on Classics~

For the longest time, to me, classical fiction was the stuff I read in English classes against my will while hating every minute of it. Later on, I discovered that these books were not my enemy. I could read whatever I wanted, at any pace, with no tests to take or papers to write. Heck, I didn’t even have to finish it if I didn’t like it! Literary freedom!

While I don’t read nearly as many works of classical fiction as I do contemporary science fiction and fantasy, I still would like the opportunity to share my thoughts as I do in my other reviews, so I’ve added this new category. I’ve separated them from my regular reviews because it’s tricky to review such works of fiction. Being considered classical, these books have already stood the test of time and are considered to be good, if not great, so how can I accurately review something I’m expected to like. If I don’t like it, then it would seem there is something wrong with me, or perhaps my intelligence. But I prefer to deal with classical fiction the same way I deal with any book I read. Since these aren’t school assignments, I can freely criticize, and dislike them, if I choose. So, I intend to share my opinions of them as I would any other book, whether I love them or hate them, am completely baffled, or find them to be surprisingly wonderful.

In addition to having an outlet for my thoughts on these novels, I’m hoping to demystify classical literature for those who may be intimidated by it. I won’t be over-analyzing symbolism or digging up metaphors that may or may not be there. I will be approaching them in a casual way, with my honest impressions.

What sort of books will I be talking about? Well, I’m using the term classical fiction somewhat loosely. Some of what I review might not technically fall into that category. Basically, anything about 100 years old or older from Stoker to Austen to Shakespeare. I may also include short stories by classical authors and even the occasional fairy tale by Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson.

I think this might be fun, and it will certainly broaden my literary horizons, and one’s literary horizons can never be too broad.