Review: Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

15798792Punk Rock Jesus — Sean Murphy
Released: April 9th, 2013 by Vertigo
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon, Book Depository

A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future in PUNK ROCK JESUS, a new graphic novel written and drawn by Sean Murphy, the acclaimed illustrator of JOE THE BARBARIAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE.

J2 causes both outrage and adulation. Religious zealots either love or hate the show, angry politicians worry about its influence on the nation, and members of the scientific community fear the implications of cloning a human being at all, let alone the Son of God.

Thomas McKael is the clones’s bodyguard and former IRA operative, who despite his turbulent past is hired to protect the new Jesus—a baby who captivates the world, but grows up to become an angry teenager.

When falling ratings force the network to cut Jesus’s mother from the series the young star runs away, renounces his religious heritage and forms a punk rock band. And what starts off as babysitting for Thomas becomes an epic battle, as Jesus goes to war against the corporate media complex that created him.

I want to start off this review with a couple of disclaimers.  The most important of which probably being that if you do not like reading graphic novels or other mediums that depict religiously controversial content, then this is not for you.  I’m sure you may have realized that from the title and synopsis above, but I figured it might be good to mention such a thing.  Additionally, I will admit to being sympathetic towards a lot of the views perpetuated on the side opposite of religion in this graphic novel; however, as you may be able to extrapolate from my rating, this does not make me automatically start raving about the amazingness of this comic.  So I’m a little less biased than you might think. ;D  Finally, while the art is absolutely fan-flipping-tastic, I am mostly critiquing this on the writing and story content as I feel that I’m not quite qualified to be an art critic.

So this graphic novel essentially has two halves: exposition/buildup and the actual punk rock portion that we are anticipating from the beginning.  And yes, while the buildup does make the latter portion all the more satisfying and understandable, I felt like more time was spent building up the scenario than the actual execution.  When we finally get to see Chris, the clone of Jesus, rocking it up, it feels so much more rushed than the rest of the comic that it is ultimately disappointing, with the ending feeling like it was quickly slapped on.  Which is quite sad, too, when the premise held a lot of potential to be ungodly fun.  That isn’t to say it completely fails in this regard though.  I mean, I can’t help but love that Sean Murphy drew a badass looking picture of Carl Sagan, among various gunfights and other action-packed scenes.  Also, I think I have a new love for genetically engineered polar bears to cuddle with.

The plot does give a somewhat heavy-handed examination of the role of religion within our society versus scientific advancement, with some unfortunately stereotypical fundamentalists being a consistent backdrop throughout.  In fact, a good chunk of the characters I felt did not get time to be filled out well enough to where I had trouble emotionally connecting.  I did like, though, that we get quite a spectrum of belief within the cast of characters, from the militantly atheist to the staunch Catholic seeking redemption, with skeptical scientists and others filling things out.  While not kind in its treatment of religion, the graphic novel manages to at least give multiple points of view, with the Catholic Thomas McKael easily being the best written character.  McKael’s backstory is heartbreaking, so be prepared with perhaps a tissue or two.  Just warning you.

We also touch on some other issues that were for me personally hard to read.  Gwen, Chris’s mother, deals with a lot of predictable issues for being locked up on an island taking care of a child while constantly in front of cameras on live television.  Post-partum depression being among those.  Murphy handles these issues well, I think, especially on the psychological front; I felt like he did do his research before writing and it shows on multiple fronts.  I mean, he showed the psychological effects of isolation quite well and I have no complaints.  Of course, reality television gets a heavy-handed treatment with this story, but that’s not all that entirely surprising.

Overall, I felt like this comic does succeed at making one think critically about their beliefs, even if I felt that the storytelling was flawed.  Read this one with an open mind, especially if you hold strong religious beliefs.

Review: Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic

18216396Damselfly — Jennie Bates Bozic
Released: November 11th, 2013 (self-pub)
Series: Damselfly #1
Source: eARC via Netgalley
Rating: ★★★½
Links: Amazon, Smashwords

In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six ‘Toms’ were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible.

She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

When I originally read the premise of this book, I was a bit nervous.  While it intrigued me, I wasn’t sure whether this Thumbelina retelling with a Bachelorette component would actually work.  Unique, but maybe almost too much crazy for one book.  Somehow, though, I was proven wrong — it was crazy enough that it actually turned out quite well.  The book was definitely better than I originally expected, and it was a fun, albeit a bit short, ride.

We’ve got Lina, our pocket-sized protagonist, who has spent her entire life inside the Lilliput Project’s compound with only one person there that is even close to a companion, George in charge of the aviary.  The rest of the employees, and especially Dr. Christiansen, the program’s director, see her as little more than a scientific novelty and experiment.  Being isolated like this, it’s not all that surprising she develops a rebellious streak.  Unbeknownst to the director (and this part still confuses me — wouldn’t they notice her suspiciously being gone for hours at a time?) she has obtained a computer and has found an online boyfriend.  It was nice seeing how virtual reality technology was implemented here.  We get segments of the book detailing the dates she goes on with Jack and how their relationship develops, and even though logistically the relationship seems impossible, I was still rooting for this pairing the entire time.  Even when the reality show is forced upon Lina and she has six choices that are a logical choice size-wise.

But there’s no stopping love, is there?  Once that attachment is formed, it’s hard to forget.  Especially when Jack is one of the only people that has ever expressed true worry and care for Lina.  I definitely sympathized with her fierce loyalty to that love throughout much of the show she’s forced to take part of.  How can you blame her?

Still, the Toms are interesting characters in their own right.  While a few of them I didn’t get to see as much of as I would have liked to — Shrike and especially Blue come to mind — Row, Tom #2, was a well-developed character and stood out for his cheerfulness even in such a hopeless situation.  Though I found myself liking him as the book progressed, as Lina found trouble letting go of her feelings for Jack, I had trouble wanting her and one of the Toms to get together.  The forced situation was too troubling to me.

Yet, throughout the show, they begin uncovering secrets behind the project and why they’re being broadcasted to the entire world instead of keeping the entire thing behind closed doors.  There’s quite a number of interesting revelations I didn’t see coming, and Bozic threw in twists that actually had me stunned.  As in, screaming at my kindle “WHAAAAT” stunned.

My main issues with the book, though, were the sparse world-building and the reasoning behind creating Lilliputian-sized people.  It’s hinted at that the world’s been in upheaval and multiple wars and civil wars have taken place, but as to why it’s never told.  I won’t excuse Lina being stuck in the compound her entire life as the reason for the lack of information as she had access to the internet and could have researched this on her own.  This and the proliferation of virtual reality is about all we learn of the state of the Earth well over half a century from now.  Additionally, why would you create people six inches tall to solve world hunger and energy issues instead of more viable solutions like creating off-world colonies or researching alternative sources of fuel?  With small people comes huge problems, such as how humans would drop down the food chain tremendously and would have to worry about a huge host of predators and survival instead of reviving civilization to its height.  It just doesn’t come off as a logical solution.

Regardless of these particular problems, the plot and my enjoyment of the characters and romance still had me glued to Damselfly throughout its entirety.  If you’re looking for something different and don’t mind crazy reality show antics, then you should definitely pick this one up.  It’s a whole lot of fun!

Short Story Friday: “Poison Dance” by Livia Blackburne

18369168“Poison Dance”Livia Blackburne
Published: September 12, 2013 by Lion’s Quill Press
Series: Midnight Thief 0.5
Source: From Author for Review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Link: Amazon

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison.

…I know it’s not Friday.  For some of you it’s even Sunday!  Just pretend you’re a Time Lord and the discrepancy shouldn’t bother you, right?  Right??

First of all, I would like to thank Livia Blackburne for giving me a chance to read this novella and get a taste of the excitement to come in Midnight Thief next summer.  If your interest has been perked by reading that book’s synopsis, I definitely recommend diving into the prequel “Poison Dance” so you can get a taste of the world she has created.

An interesting world it is too, for certain.  We’ve got traveling caravans, illegal substances being smuggled into the city due to a corrupt economic system, a city guard to fear called the Red Shields, and most notably nobles so fittingly called “wallhuggers” as they live close to the Palace wall.  The Assassin’s Guild is shown to be a shadow of its former glory, with funds tight, infighting rampant, and respect (or perhaps fear) from the general public dwindling.  Enough to keep the story from falling too deeply into the folds of stereotypical medieval type setting used in stories like this, I think.  Though we get such a limited time with this world, the scaffolding for city politics and workings is already strong, which probably caught my attention the most.    I’m a sucker for well-written politics and social problems.

James is to be one of the more central characters to the plot of Midnight Thief, our badass assassin who agrees to teach Thalia the best way to kill a certain nobleman.  He’s cool and edgy without being annoyingly so, a badass I can get behind.  Hell, in general our two main leads here are strong and well developed, with a connection that slowly grows over time in a realistic fashion.  It was nice to see the beginnings of romance blossom without having to suspend disbelief due to shoddily written insta-love.

DID YOU HEAR THAT GUYS?  NO INSTA-LOVE.  ACTUALLY REALISTIC THINGS.  Is nice, you know.

Unfortunately getting deeper into the plot than that would give too many spoilers, so I apologize.  Though I found several points kind of predictable, it was still definitely entertaining.  And the way the ending is written, while maybe not as satisfying for some people, befit the atmosphere of an assassin story.

By the way, favorite quote of the whole novella:

Risk is everywhere.  Only the nobles have the luxury of a long easy life.  Justice, vengeance, the ability to carve out your own fate instead of being herded like an animal.  Sometimes it’s worth dying for.”

Can Midnight Thief be released yet?  I’m going to be incredibly impatient for about half a year.  Forgive any whining as I try and wait.

Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

375802Ender’s GameOrson Scott Card
Released: 1985 by Tor Science Fiction
Source: Bought Used Paperback
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon, Book Depository

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.

Nebula and Hugo Award winner. Massive amount of praise from the science fiction community. And now, a feature film almost thirty years after the novel itself was published. Of course, I had to finally find out the hype that’s been around for years and years. Somehow this book never came across my path over the course of my childhood, and I do regret that now. For the kind of child I was, the intelligent kid in the room that was picked on relentlessly, this book would have had magical effects on my brain. Regardless, I still felt like I appreciated the book for what it is, even if there are a few things that do bug me about it.

The intelligent boy, a social outcast, becomes the military leader the world needs in order to fight a force that has threatened humanity for a century. In a sense, a fulfilment of fantasies that many of us have had at some point or another. “You’ll see, one day I’ll be more powerful than all the popular kids.” And as far as I know, some people discount the novel for this very reason. But it is so much more than that. The politics and methods of war. Leadership. Prophetic visions of how video games will become (I give Card a lot of credit here for this particular point in general). It delved much deeper into such themes than I ever expected. Surprised me, even. And best of all, there was no forced romance throughout the novel. Well, not maybe the best, but a welcomed relief. We instead get the love between Valentine and Ender, the unconditional love of family. Bonds that can never be cut.

We also see the bonds between soldiers and their commander. Almost familial, with great respect, but not quite the friendship Ender so desires throughout the novel. Isolated they want him and truly isolated he is, even with the others around him. We get a lot of what is going on with Ender psychologically due to this and other reasons, especially through the Fairyland game.

And of games we get many. The Battle Room is the most exciting and action-packed venue of the story. Zero-gravity laser tag that freezes the suits you wear, with the objective to get your players to the enemy’s gate. Game after game we get, with different armies, different tactics, and eventually different rules. The concept was amazing and fun to follow, though sometimes a bit difficult to reorient to what it would be like in such an environment. Though, Ender and Bean do help us with this. Always remember that the enemy’s gate is down.

My absolute favorite part of the novel has to be the big twist at the end, which I unfortunately feel like I shouldn’t discuss here. Let’s just say that I will never think of playing video games in the same way again.

The one thing in the novel that unfortunately suffers from age is the Locke and Demosthenes scenario. While highly important to the novel, the concept of using what is essentially blogging to try and gain political power does not hold up in today’s world. Where most of the book does not suffer from longevity issues, this is where a reader today would have trouble suspending disbelief.

Overall, the strangest aspect of this book to me was attempting to reconcile it as a bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) when the characters were practically like small adults. Ender Wiggin is expected to save the human race as a rather young child, and as so I expected a great amount of character growth to occur. In many aspects, though, he remained rather static. He always is afraid of becoming a ruthless sociopath like his brother Peter. This point is again and again pushed at us through multiple different incidents that occur throughout the novel. Hurting others makes him feel like he will become as his brother is. Though I do feel that Ender does reconcile this, at least somewhat, in his mind with the events at the end of the novel. I figure I’ll have to read Speaker for the Dead to see if this pans out?

One thing is for certain. I will at least pick up a copy of Speaker for the Dead at some point. Ender’s Game was one hell of a ride.

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

7082Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Philip K. Dick
Released: 1968 by Doubleday
Source: Bought Paperback
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon, Book Depository

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

It’s hard to find the right words to truly show my appreciation for this book. I read Ubik back in February as my introduction to Philip K. Dick, and now I’ve delved into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. In two words? Absolutely stunning.

What makes us human? What is the clear dividing line between man and machine?

In a future Earth thrust into what could only be a full out atomic war, the fallout has forced most of the survivors off the planet. Those who are left deal with worries of the effects of the radioactivity, to not become so warped as to be labeled a “special” and ostracized by the rest of society. A new religion, Mercerism, has taken hold. Empathy boxes are used to fuse with Mercer, to feel his pain on his continuous journey up the hill and through the tomb world. Caring for the animals still left becomes a vital part of the postwar culture. And if you can’t afford a real animal, well… There’s always the electric counterpart.

But among the humans left behind lurk androids, almost impossible to tell apart from the living save for testing, the Voigt-Kampff scale of empathy the most reliable test to date. You see, androids do not have the capability to show empathy as humans do. No group survival instinct. Practically predatory. And it’s Rick Deckard’s job to “retire” the rogue androids roaming the San Francisco Bay area. Specifically, six androids of the most advanced model to date, the Nexus-6.

Is empathy the true dividing line? Yet, there are humans that suffer from mental illnesses that cause “flattening of affect”. In layman’s terms, a reduction of the range and intensity of emotion. One of the symptoms of schizophrenia, as an example. Personality disorders can hinder the expression of empathy as well, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And then there are those who ruthlessly kill without regard to anyone but themselves. Are they, then, human or android? Who can possibly tell?

And does wiping the androids out make us just like them?

I at first expected much more action and fighting when it came to retiring the androids. But as in Ubik, we get mind games, trying to discern what is reality and what is fantasy. Especially in the context of Mercer, which I cannot get into more without spoiling parts of the story.

PKD discusses these philosophical questions, among others, throughout the novel. Deckard himself must come to terms with the implications of what the answers may mean. You will not finish this book without seriously mulling over the topics he brings up. Over forty years have passed since the publication of this novel and still it holds up strongly to this day, even with the dated mentions of the Soviet Union. A difficult feat to accomplish in this genre.

With the exception of Rick Deckard, character development did take a back seat to the world building and the aforementioned questions that were posed as food for thought. But this, to me, was not a negative aspect. The plot was well paced and highly interesting. If it weren’t for school work and other activities, I would have read this start to finish in a day.

There was one small detail in the story that astonished me most of all. I came across the most startlingly accurate descriptions of what major depression is like. Words that I’ve always tried to express but could not in such an easily understood, eloquent, and effective way. This quote, in particular, hit me like a sack of bricks. Deckard speaking to his wife Iran:

“Maybe it could be depression, like you get. I can understand now how you suffer when you’re depressed; I always thought you liked it and I thought you could have snapped yourself out any time, if not alone, then by means of the mood organ [device that can change emotions with the dial of a number]. But when you get that depressed you don’t care. Apathy, because you’ve lost a sense of worth. It doesn’t matter whether you feel better, because if you have no worth–“

In conclusion, be prepared to think deeply when it comes to reading this book. Perhaps that is expected with Philip K. Dick’s work. I suppose I’ll have to taste test more off the platter to find out.

Review: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

4907587Let the Right One In — John Ajvide Lindqvist
Released
: October 28th, 20o8 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Purchased Paperback
Rating: ★★★½
Links: Amazon, Book Depository

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

WARNING: If you are sensitive to gore or topics such as pedophilia, this book is not for you.  Various content throughout can at times be very intense and difficult to read.  Please be advised of this fact before considering the book, even if you enjoyed the Swedish film version.  The novel is MUCH DARKER.

With that out of the way, this is one of the few cases where I did see the movie before the book.  I cannot attest to the Hollywood remake, but the novel, as expected, went into a lot more detail about the lives of Oskar, Eli, the drunken Chinese restaurant group, and even other side characters that were thrown out of the script entirely.  I dove into the novel for backstory, and backstory I got.  Learning about Eli, our lovely vampire, was the main highlight of the narrative that I was missing from viewing the film.  Also to note is the situation regarding Oskar’s parents, which added some more reasoning to why Oskar looks to be on the path of becoming a serial killer, or city thug at least.  (I mean, for god’s sake, he keeps a scrapbook of news reports regarding horrific crimes and plays pretend as if he was a murderer himself.  THAT KID HAS PROBLEMS.)

On that note, this book is goddamn creepy.  And not in the “oh there’s vampires stalking the city” way.  In fact, that’s probably one of the tamer sections of the novel.  The very facets of human nature Lindqvist throws at us, especially regarding Hakan’s sexual escapades and the sheer amount of violence that permeates the suburbs and its people, is what got to me more than anything. Darkness lurks everywhere in the town of Blackeberg, many of the characters giving little reason to be sympathetic towards them. Alcoholic deadbeat parents, pedophiles murdering for “love”…  After spending years witnessing some of the darkest corners of the Internet, creeping me out is a difficult task to accomplish.  This author managed it.  For that, I applaud him.

The story itself is told from several different third-person points of view, though I feel as if some of these could have been left out entirely without much difference being made.  The ones that I felt were unnecessary bogged down the novel for me to an extent, leaving me waiting for other characters to pop up as I trudged through a section or two.  Tommy’s story, for instance, really stuck out to me as being rather unneeded and superfluous.  The unfortunate part was that either some characters I can barely recall defining characteristics of and others I feel like I knew psychologically but had no mental image to pin them to.  Take, for example, Oskar.  About all the physical description I was given for him was that he is somewhat chubby.  This is all that I remember, at least.  I suppose it can be somewhat overlooked because it is Sweden and they have a pretty homogeneous population, but other side characters got more physical description than Oskar even had.  A small point of contention, perhaps, but it was an irritating itch in the side while reading.

The writing itself I feel like I can’t quite comment on fairly.  While I felt it tended towards being inconsistent — it seemed short and choppy at times, while quite descriptive and more what I tend to like in other instances — I am unsure of whether to place the blame on the translator or the author. However, I can say that Lindqvist gave a wonderful addition to the vampire mythos and some medical explanation for it.  You always will know that Eli is not human, not anymore.  And the relationship between Eli and Oskar is one of the most realistic supernatural relationships I’ve read to date.  The author also gets brownie points for actually understanding the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, which I discussed in my last post.  While drawn out more so than I would prefer, Let the Right One In did a great job in giving me much needed October chills and thrills.

I will never see Sweden as that wonderful paradise everyone seems to perpetuate it as ever again.

Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

lolita_nabokov_lolita_lips_cover

Lolita —  Vladimir Nabokov
Released: 1955 (France), 1958 (NYC)
Source: Purchased (Audiobook + eBook)
Rating: ★★★★½
LinksAmazonBook Depository

Awe and exhilaration—along with heartbreak and mordant wit—abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love—love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  My sin, my soul,” Humbert Humbert begins as he relates his memoirs.  Those lines will forever be burned into my memory.  The sickness, the debauchery, and yet… How can I find him even remotely likeable?  Yet I did and do, to some extent.

He’s the classic example of the unreliable narrator in all his repulsive glory.  The character Nabokov has fooled many into sympathizing with for over fifty years.  How fascinating it was to read from his perspective, yet try to piece together what’s truly happening with Lolita and her mental state!  Even ignoring the beauty of Nabokov’s writing, just delving into the mind of our perverse main character, while an utterly sickening experience, is absolutely fascinating from a psychological perspective.  How he legitimizes his behavior, how he characterizes the people and places around him… It gives us so much insight into Humbert Humbert himself.  And while we all do realize that ultimately he is a disgusting pedophile who took advantage of his situation for his physical needs, we are pleaded with to try and understand him.  And so many of us fall for it.

In fact, I can’t seem to completely demonize him, and it makes my skin crawl realizing it.

Maybe it was Nabokov’s absolutely stunning writing that helps.  I highlighted so many passages just to be able to reread them later to truly appreciate his weaving of the English language.  And English isn’t even his native tongue!  It may have been, too, the childhood drawbacks to my own travels across the United States.  But ultimately, it had to be his twinges of remorse that come late in the novel, the realizations of the harm he inflicted.  From that, I can’t see him as a complete sociopath.

I suppose one can understand from my above statements that I felt the novel deserves its status in the TIME Top 100.  There are a few points on which forced me to dock half a star, however.

I realize I can interpret some of the meaning from context clues, but the interspersed French used throughout the novel began to frustrate me as someone who neither understands nor can even pronounce the language.  I wonder if it would have added anything at all to the story for me to be fluent?  Additionally, I felt Nabokov in some places went a little farther than I liked in describing the places they traveled to.  I recall one chapter early in the second part of the novel that lingered for what seemed like forever on many different travel destinations and the trivial events that occurred at each.  Wonderful prose can only sustain me so long in such affairs; I felt as if I had to trudge through a few parts that followed that sort of vein, which did bother me some.

A side note to end this review: I did follow along with an eBook while listening to the audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons.  Irons does an absolutely FANTASTIC job with this narration.  I don’t think reading the book would have been nearly the same experience without his voice guiding the way.  (Nor would have taken me nearly as long, but I digress.)