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W.C. VandenBerg (Chicago, IL USA)

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Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken
Edition: Hardcover
122 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fair and Balanced Review, Sept. 7 2003
I've resolved to use the term "fair and balanced" as often as I can when in public. I'm off to a slow start as I've only done it once so far. Well, twice if you include the "fair and balanced" in the first sentence there. And three times if you include that one. See how easy it is? I encourage everyone to start using it as much as possible. With Fox fighting all these lawsuits, maybe Rupert Murdoch will eventually go broke!
Okay, let's clear up some misconceptions about "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" -- those misconceptions propagated mainly by the one-star reviews written by people who obviously did not read the book. The book is not about proving conclusively a conservative bias in the media as a whole. Here, Franken makes a two-pronged argument. First, that there is a well-funded portion of media that does indeed have a conservative bias and that by their repeating lies over and over again, eventually some of it seeps through to the mainstream media. Franken's second point is that ". . . there are other, far more important, biases in the mainstream media than liberal or conservative ones." Like the ". . . bias toward the Sensational, involving Scandal, and hopefully Sex or Violence. . ." or the Easy-and-Cheap-to-Cover, Get-It-First, Pack Mentality, Negativity, Soft News, Don't-Offend-the-Conglomerate-That-Owns-Us, Hoping-There's-a-War-to-Cover biases. To name a few. The poignant chapter on the Paul Wellstone memorial is a good case study of how the conservative media is able to exploit these ingrained biases in order to propagate their lies.
The point of the book is also not to be an all-encompassing catalog of the lies of the Right. Early on, Franken says he made the observation to a friend that going after Ann Coulter is like shooting fish in a barrel. To which his friend replied, "I've never shot fish in a barrel. But I could imagine that after a while it could get boring." So, Franken's goal is to illuminate with representative examples in order to reveal the bigger pattern. Take, for example, Bill O'Reilly's repeated claim that Inside Edition won two Peabody Awards which turned out to be one Polk Award the show won a year after O'Reilly left Inside Edition. "So he made a mistake! Big deal," you say. Well, aside from the fact that he repeated this misstatement (ironically, about a journalism award) several times in order to give Inside Edition -- and, by extension, O'Reilly himself -- the veneer of respectability, it was his crybaby reaction to being corrected that's so telling. Instead of simply admitting that he made a mistake, he used his own show as a soapbox and said he never made any claims about a Peabody and that, therefore, he was the victim of "attack journalism."
In addition to outright lies, Franken tackles duplicity and hypocricy found in rants from the Right. Take the following two quotes, for example.
1."They haven't prepared for anything in this. And they're running out of weapons to do it. And frankly, I don't think [the President] has the moral authority or ability to fight this war correctly."
2."You don't have to take cheap political partisan shots at the commander in chief and say to the world that he doesn't have the experience to lead when he is leading men and women into harm's way."
That second quote is from Sean Hannity on March 27, 2003, and it sounds kinda like he's refuting that first quote there, doesn't it? Except that the first quote is also Sean Hannity, on May 10, 1999, in reference to the war in Kosovo. You know, when Clinton was leading men and women into harm's way.
Perhaps I've not convinced you yet of the brilliance of Al Franken? Of the fair and balanced nature of the arguments in the book? Well then I'd like to close with one last quote from the book -- some sage words from a man even stalwarts of the Nutty Right (yes, even Ann Coulter) have no grievance with. That's right, I'm talking about Mr. Sneer himself, Dick Cheney: "A commander in chief leads the military built by those who came before him. There is little that he or his defense secretary can do to improve the force they have to deploy. It is all the work of previous administrations. Decisions made today shape the force of tomorrow. . ." Of course, Cheney made the comments in August 2000. He continues on, saying he called up Ronald Reagan to thank him personally for the military that won the first Gulf War. And that's why we've been so inundated with nonstop coverage of Cheney's public declarations of gratitude to Bill Clinton. Especially with this liberal media.

Great Books Of The 20th Century Gravitys Rainbow
Great Books Of The 20th Century Gravitys Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 14.63

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Toothsome Challenge Turns Out Merely Long in the Tooth, April 15 2003
Maybe it's the wide variety of styles and motifs used in this psychedelic hippy dippy slide show as we jump from vignette to vignette that added - intentionally, I'm sure - to the disorientation and vertigo I felt trying to slog my way through Gravity's Rainbow. But I'm not convinced my rising gorge was caused so much by brilliant exposition as by the sensation of Pynchon casting about like a man going down for the third time, grabbing at any piece of flotsam floating through his consciousness at the moment. This can lead to some creative anecdotes, I grant, but there are just too many ancillary passages that peter out into ". . . . . ." when the steam's run out that I'm quite convinced Pynchon himself lost the thread. It isn't his, ". . . Tree of Life, which must be apprehended all at once, together, in parallel" style, or the way the story bounced around in space and time that caused my eyes to glaze over but these rants of Pynchon's, which add nothing to our understanding of Tyrone Slothrop or the overall mood of the book unless that mood is one of random meaninglessness - completely antithetical to the Grand Conspiracy in which Pynchon is so insistent his characters believe they are immersed. Pynchon spews forth these digressions in an unending torrent (digressions heading off on tangents, defined by ever finer changes in the "Ecks!" and "Why?") as if he expects the reader to share the same paranoid/drug-addled state of mind as his characters ("in the zone," so to speak har-har, where, since anything can happen, it necessarily does!) so that the proper irrational conclusions will be drawn, "Oh, the complete history of Slothrop's zoot suit and Planetoid Katspiel where pinballs come from . . . a-and oh yeah! Byron, the immortal light bulb and a giant, trained octopus that - wait a minute, *immortal* light? Now, I don't want to be an alarmist here, but it's all coming clear . . . sort of . . . at least I sense it coming clear soon." That moment just before the synapses snap to! Sweet anticipation of the Big Revelation when the scales will fall and They will be named. Pynchon is a master at postponing that moment indefinitely and keeping it all lively with his fancy oh-wow-man-I-wish-I-was-high-right-now-so-I-could-appreciate-this footwork.
The humor in the book mainly derives from Pynchon's cranking up the gross-out factor which I'm sure was cutting edge in 1973 and seems to be the reason Gravity's Rainbow has been able to coast so long on it's notoriety. Burlesque denizens of the Zone soft-shoe (or sometimes foxtrot) their way across the story in droves. The effeminate soldier who is not taken in by a diversionary ploy involving buxom showgirls, and who, when confronted at gunpoint ("'. . .this is out of bounds, you big sillies.'"), fairly hikes up skirt and scampers off Stage Left is played for laughs, but such humor strikes me as being more hopelessly dated than universal, the innuendo about as subtle as Eric Idle as that Monty Python character, poking us in the ribs, "Wink wink, nudge nudge. Say no more, say no more. Eh? Eh?!"
However, while I can resent Pynchon for his self-indulgence, I can't hate him because there is some fine writing in Gravity's Rainbow, but pointing out what exactly is appealing is a task akin to pulling hair out of molasses. The problem is he oversells the lie that is supposed to contain the kernel of truth hidden within. The facade is encrusted with too many gargoyles; cherubim and succubi jostle for space, bodies pressed together obscenely; caryatids groan under the weight not only of spires, clock towers, dormers, balconies, balustrades and the crenulated eaves of the roof, but are called upon to support each other. There's graffiti over the gilded, gessoed, plastered, parqueted, mosaicked, painted, carpeted surfaces. It snakes around corners, up and over statuary and seems innocuous enough - a tooth blacked out on Priapus, Aphrodite with Groucho brows -oh look! A marble micromosaic depicting an alchemist holding aloft the Philosopher's Stone, said Stone surrounded by requisite halo of cartoony light-rays (and that's not meant to be *sun* light, if you know what I mean) - or is that a Chess piece he's holding? Made of Imipolex G? Hard to tell: it's been obscured by the words, "Rocketman was here!" But mentally unfold the surfaces: ceiling, wall, floor; lay them flat, smooth the ripples in masonry and certain areas of graffiti spread, break apart while others overlap, creating dark shadows and a form takes shape - like a Mad Magazine Fold-In but in reverse - a pictogram emerges - the back of a giant hand, fingers curled away except the middle one. But no. That's not the message we want to see and now the spell's been broken. Anything we might have seen there dissipates into the Aether, much like Slothrop himself eventually does. In the end, there isn't so much a structure standing there before us as it is an amalgamation of decorations and conceits.
Or is that exactly what They want us to believe?

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
by Carl Zimmer
Edition: Hardcover
49 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Of fish antifreeze and whale feet, Oct. 6 2002
Learning about walking whales is just one reason to buy this book. As Carl Zimmer so concisely points out in Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, no scientific theory can ever be directly proven. But a theory generates hypotheses that make predictions, and these can be tested. Zimmer, delivering the most up-to-date information on the scientific consensus, shows that evolution has amassed over a century's worth of such testable predictions. He explains evolution's global journey, extracting the most important points and illuminating with representative examples along the way.
In one chapter of the book, Zimmer delivers a brilliant knockout punch to Intelligent Design, exposing it as repackaging of the irreducible complexity argument. It used to be thought that the eye was far too complex to have developed in a step-by-step (i.e. evolutionary) process. Take away any part of the eye and, like taking a cog out of a clock, it becomes useless, therefore must have been created whole, right? As it turns out, there are many examples of "partial" eyes in nature. I love how the editors have boldly used this icon of creationism on the cover of the book. Contrary to what a reviewer below claims about the book (which makes me skeptical that the person actually read it), Zimmer does indeed give examples of how complex biochemical reactions evolved - like blood clots, which depend on a cascade of different interactions, any one step of which, if missing, will cause the process to fail. It seems proponents of irreducible complexity must keep reducing the area defined as "too complex."
All in all, this is an excellent book to get an overview of the most current research on evolution. It's a great starting point for further reading into the finer points of evolution theory. Oh, and fish antifreeze? You'll just have to read the book.

Novelty: Four Stories
Novelty: Four Stories
by John Crowley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.00
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Soulful delectations from one of my favorite authors, June 21 2002
This review is from: Novelty: Four Stories (Paperback)
This collection of four stories by John Crowley covers a wide range of themes and styles. Here's the breakdown by story.
The Nightingale Sings at Night is Crowley's version of a Creation and Fall myth that is clever and cute but lacking the depth of meaning and rich textures that I've grown accustomed to in his writing.
Great Work of Time is a strong entry with vivid descriptions that evoke the proper mood for the times and places we're shown. Crowley presents a unique concept for time travel and the "effects" of altering the past. But he falls into the same trap many writers before him have in writing time traveling stories: eventually he over explains his idea in pages of exposition. Crowley is such a talented writer I felt he could easily have written these portions instead as events in the story, subtly building the air of mystery he so successfully achieves in the rest of the narrative. Some of these passages read more like notes to himself than useful story devices and the overall effect is that this tale would be a good candidate for a rewrite in an expanded and more fleshed out form. The all too brief glimpse into the future shows us a wonderfully distorted world inhabited by strange creatures, but we never learn much about them. I really wanted more. Overall, what's present is classic Crowley, but seems somehow unfinished.
With the story In Blue, Crowley departs from sensuous descriptions in favor of a more sparse style to evoke the sterile world in which his characters move (reminding me of a Kubrik film). Every event that happens and thought that Hare has adds to his breakdown in a believable way. But what I still have not reconciled is Crowley's attitude towards this world. At first it all appears a set up for an indictment of the catch-22 logic of this mild mannered dystopia, but what are we to think when Hare eventually finds his place in the Revolution? I'll be mulling this one over for some time to come.
And in Novelty we see possibly the kernel of inspiration for the Aegypt books. There are strong parallels between the writer character in Novelty and Pierce Moffett, both impotently trying to convey mystical deep meanings that seemingly lose their impact once expressed. This one was a little hard to get into at first. For me, writers writing about (not) writing ranks up there with films about filmmaking. Can it be well done? Yes, but it still seems too self-involved. Novelty is rather short, though, and by the end I was engrossed, mainly because the writer character gets around to describing what he wants to write instead of describing how he can't get around to writing. In fact, these passages read more like poetry than prose and coalesce beautifully.
I highly recommend this book for Crowley fans. But for those unfamiliar with him, Otherwise: Three Novels might be a better place to start. Engine Summer alone is worth the price of admission.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
by Edwin A. Abbott
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 4.00
140 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Flat Out Fun Read, June 6 2002
Certainly the saving graces of this little gem are its brevity and Abbot's creativity. Much more of the descriptions of life in Flatland would have bordered on tedium. However, the explanation for the banishment of color in Flatland was very clever and one of the better parts of the story. As it is, it's a humorous, demure satire in the Swiftian vein whereby the protagonist, A. Square, teaches us about his world, has a series of adventures, and learns lessons about life (and mathematics) along the way.
I question its value as a teaching tool, though. I fear the Victorian niceties employed in the exposition will seem stilted and nigh unbearable to today's younger audience, especially if assigned as schoolwork. But, I think those who already grasp the mathematics involved (basic geometry) will enjoy it. Also, A. Square's unabashed enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge are qualities one would happily encourage in students.
My favorite part of the whole book has got to be the visit to the King of Pointland. The way Abbot so succinctly portrays humanity's capacity to ignore evidence that does not conform to preconceived notions, then force the facts to fit long established beliefs is a stroke of genius. In Pointland, ignorance really is bliss.
This little tale definitely provided excellent entertainment for the price I paid here at Amazon. If it sounds interesting to you, I suggest putting it on your wish list, and then adding it to the next purchase you make (your wallet will barely feel it).

Zimiamvia: A Trilogy
Zimiamvia: A Trilogy
by E.R. Eddison
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 27.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Mature British Fantasy that Predates The Hobbit, May 31 2002
This review is from: Zimiamvia: A Trilogy (Paperback)
The Zimiamvian trilogy is a philosophy beautifully realized through Eddison's deftly extruding a world based on Beauty, his "fundamental value" of the universe (but how it's accomplished you'll just have to read for yourself). The fact that he starts with a philosophy means that his mindset throughout Zimiamvia is consistent and allows him to progress confidently through plot, prose, and poetry.
He describes environments with sumptuous imagery, but the best of his writing is in how he conveys that which is left unsaid: in the wonderful, bantering conversations, in the way Fiorinda conveys so much in the simple tilt of her head. Indeed, transitory beauty found in the fleeting moment was one of Eddison's obsessions, and important to the books. Simple gestures create changes in mood and atmosphere and it's fascinating to see Eddison impart these sweeping temporal phantasms again and again.
My only criticism is that Eddison's Victorian sentiments towards the roles of men and women can be quaint. But he obviously loved these characters and his commitment to them and to the philosophy behind Zimiamvia makes them utterly convincing, and such anachronisms are easily forgiven. After all, he fully admitted that his idea of utopia might not be everyone's.
This edition of the Zimiamvian books (Mistress of Mistresses - published in 1935, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate all in one volume) also has the benefit of an introduction and wonderful footnotes by Paul Edmund Thomas which helped me since I'm uninitiated in the scholarship of Scandinavian and Viking sagas and a little rusty on some of the classics, to which Eddison makes copious references. I don't know if the individual books have the benefit of such notes, but I would recommend seeking out a copy with them if you're not intimately familiar with those subjects (also with Renaissance Italian political intrigue, European art history, and, in one passage, cricket match terminology). But please don't let this deter you from reading these marvelous books. Thomas' notes are conversational and even funny sometimes, which makes them very accessible. As of the writing of this review, the book is out of print, but I easily found a cheap used copy online and I encourage you to find one, too.

Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.92
40 used & new from CDN$ 6.74

1.0 out of 5 stars Highly Overrated Series, Nov. 13 2001
In the Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe touches on many allusions and themes, thoroughly exploring none. Time and again he raised my hopes by initiating an intriguing line of thought just to wear my patience thin by flitting from thing to thing and never satisfactorily following through. Certain details, like the concept of a torturer's apprentice, are what sold me on trying these books in the first place. Other compelling ideas are buried deep within the book. The alzebo is horrifying and fascinating. It's even touching, in a macabre way, when Severian becomes closer to Thecla through its use. The waiting room that has transformed over time into a de facto prison, where people wait generations for an audience with the Autarch, is darkly humorous. But these fascinating details are not enough to sustain a coherent storyline.
While reading one tale from the book Severian carries around with him, I was trying to figure out if it was a corruption of the Romulus and Remus story, Moses' early life, or some conflation of the two (or more). And I realized I was paying more attention to the artifice Wolfe constructed than to Severian's own story.
The use of literary allusions should aid in fleshing out a story, to say something about a character or his situation. It should not be an end in itself. In New Sun, Wolfe piles allusion upon allusion, overburdening a flimsy story structure, which simply collapses under the weight.
There are other problems that contribute to this state of affairs: a mostly pointless addition of archaic vocabulary, meandering and awkward sentence structure and intentionally vague pronouns. All, apparently, to the purpose of constantly reminding the reader how clever and erudite the author is -- a process devoid of storytelling.
In the end, the plot becomes a slave to this hodgepodge of techniques, jerking Severian through a gauntlet of unbelievable or unexplained twists, making for a disappointing reading experience.
I enjoyed Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three Novellas much more.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three Novellas
The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three Novellas
by Gene Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.72
30 used & new from CDN$ 5.71

4.0 out of 5 stars Now this is more like it!, Nov. 8 2001
I liken another of Gene Wolfe's works, The Book of the New Sun, to the myriad pieces of a mosaic that have been jumbled and have no mortar to hold them together. There are pretty bits and pieces but no overall impression that emerges from it. The stories in The Fifth Head of Cerberus, however, are more like three paintings -- a triptych, as it were. Each brush stroke is thoughtfully applied, revealing only as much as Wolfe wants us to see. The synergism of the three stories -- between the slight overlaps of theme, character and location -- becomes entrancing.
The key to why this works is focus. Each tale has a unique story structure. Each of the three has a different voice and perspective. Symbolism and allusion are used sparingly and well, enmeshed with Wolfe's imagery to add depth to the stories. There is an attention to detail that fleshes out the stories convincingly, giving them a distinct sense of place.
In the title story, Wolfe describes a melancholy world of decaying grandeur where the humans make your skin crawl and the most sympathetic character is a machine.
The second tale is in some ways the strongest entry and in others the weakest. The imagery is lyrical and haunting, told in an intriguing folkloric style. I enjoyed the issues of identity and consciousness Wolfe raises, and the elliptical change in subject to convey these. But, unrelated to this theme, he peppers throughout the story awkward sentence structure and the use of vague pronouns. This seems to be intentional, as if Wolfe enjoys these little mental misdirections. It pulls me out of the experience of the story and so detracts from the work, though not greatly.
In my favorite of the three, Wolfe lets us peer over the shoulder of an officer and read the private journals of one of his prisoners, presenting them to us out of chronological order so that important hints are dropped in the most careful way, culminating in a clever conundrum: is he really what we think he is or merely mad from long confinement? It's rewarding fun to fit these puzzle pieces together.
All in all, Wolfe delivers enough of a payoff to be satisfying, and yet keeps the reader wanting more -- in just the correct proportions to be both entertaining and thought provoking.

Dangerous Angels
Dangerous Angels
by Francesca Lia Block
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple? In the Same Way Poetry is Simple., Nov. 7 2001
This review is from: Dangerous Angels (Paperback)
Francesca Lia Block achieves in a few pages a depth of characterization some authors can't get across in an entire book. She does so with a stylized way of writing some have criticized as too simple. I couldn't disagree more. Her short, snappy sentence structure I found reminiscent of beat poetry, highlights of the environment that are the small, important details in these characters' lives.
The way she turns the fairytale archetype on its head, too, is great fun. By page 30, all of the characters are living happily ever after. The rest of the book (really a collection of books) explores what it means to live happily ever after. It's decidedly not without its rough patches.
While the stories are very upbeat, optimistic and full of love, Block still effectively conveys those bugaboos of young adult life -- social anxieties of fitting in, popularity, life as a stepchild, falling in love and finding oneself -- with stunning symbolism. I don't think I'll ever forget the creepy coven of the Jane Mansfield Fan Club or Witch Baby's finding the chilling horrors of mannequin figures frozen in attitudes of excruciating emotion.
The 'young adult' category of the book should be thought of more as a recommendation on the minimum maturity level of the reader than an age suggestion. There are indeed some adults in the book facing adult situations, but Block does not let anyone off the hook: there are serious consequences to serious actions.
In short, the power of this book should not be underestimated. One should not confuse a simple writing style for simple ideas. When Block writes that love is a dangerous angel, she allows the reader to figure out what that means without using pages and pages of purple prose. I find it refreshing that she treats the reader intelligently.

Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
by Gene Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.17
45 used & new from CDN$ 8.66

1.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Reading Equals Masterpiece?, Aug. 16 2001
Please note -- Spoiler alert: Two specific plot points are divulged in this review.
Boy, was this series a disappointment. I had high expectations, especially with praise like, "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" from the Washington Post. And so many positive customer reviews, too. Well, I should have looked a little closer.
Beware of reviews that state that anyone who likes complex and hard reading will love this book, thereby implying - or sometimes explicitly stating --that if you don't like the book you must be a Philistine with a junk food diet in literature. These reviewers are too busy patting themselves on the back to give useful advice.
Let me make this clear: I like a challenging vocabulary. However, Wolfe's use of arcane words adds nothing. Few of the words are used in any sort of context, that one might glean their importance to the story. Mostly, they're dropped in at random points in Severian's journey, like specks on the horizon, signifying nothing. One could just as well substitute names of trees for the same effect. Also, the whole conceit behind the use of these words is that the book is being translated from a document and that these are the closest words to the meanings in the document. A translation that requires one to translate yet again is a bad translation. It is a very lazy device for the author to say that these things are so different from what we know today they cannot be described.
For example, here is a quote from the book when Severian describes partygoers in the city of Thrax as, " . . . the autchthons, gymnosophists, ablegates and their acolytes, eremites, eidolons, zoanthrops half beast and half human, and deodands and remotados in picturesque rags, with eyes painted wild." Sounds promising, especially the bit about half beast and half human. I even know a few of the other words without having to look them up in the dictionary. But so what? It's all background noise, never more a part of the story than a laundry list. It's a distracting gimmick that wears thin.
Another distraction for me was the sun's burning down like an unattended campfire. Any astronomers please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the sun has another three or four billion years' worth of fuel before it enters its next stage, red giant, in which it will burn brighter, pretty much turning the Earth into a cinder.
I quickly lost interest in the story soon after Severian left the Citadel. One event is so unlike another in Severian's journey that, after a rapid succession of strange encounters and narrow escapes, I felt more cheated by the capricious will of the author than drawn in to any sort of coherent future society. It got to the point that I could predict when Wolfe was getting tired of a character who would soon be making an abrupt exit. I certainly didn't flinch when Severian Jr. got barbequed. A dozen pages back, Wolfe seemed exasperated with the kid, as if he'd written himself into a corner.
I found the books to be surprisingly humorless, as well. Scenes like the play Severian performs in are supposed to be comic relief, I guess. I just found it grotesque.
And, finally, at the tail end of book four, when a little green man appears with a flying saucer to whisk Severian to safety, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. That one random and too convenient incident embodied my impression of most of the previous 800 pages, coming full circle -- back to the beginning when I thought, early on, why should I care?
I would suggest the following alternatives to The Book of the New Sun:
-Titus Groan and Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. Two books that provide a much more richly imagined and alien medieval setting than New Sun.
-Engine Summer by John Crowley. Truly immersing read. The lyrical telling of a quest/coming of age story set in a distant future with gymnosophists, an eremite, and what could be called one big deodand. Although, Crowley does not use those words.

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