Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dune Review

Hello lovely people! Yes, here is my review for Dune, by Frank Herbert I know, I know. It took a while. This week was kind of an off one for me, hard to make a post when I'm swamped with other things.

But, here it is.


Buy it here at Barnes and Noble

Plot: The story follows the life of Paul Atreides, the son of Dule Atreides and his consort, Jessica. The story begins with the Atreides family moving to Arrakis-- a desert planet valuable only for what is called "the spice", a substance known as Melange, which gives the user a longer lifespan, greater vitality, and, in some people, prescience. (It is, however, a drug that is highly addictive and fatal for those who try to quit their habit) The Atreides' ancient enemies, the Harkonnens, have allied with the Paddishah Emperor Shaddam IV to bring down the Atreides family. Jessica's Mother Superior, the head of the Bene Gesserit order (a quasi-religious sect), predicts that Paul will revolutionize not only Arrakis, but the entire empire. Treachery leads Paul and Jessica to the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, after the death of the Duke. While living with the Fremen, Paul becomes Maud'Dib, which is the Fremen words for the evolved kangaroo-mouse which lives on the desert world. Maud'Dib, in Arabic, also means "educator," or "he who teaches civilization," which makes Paul's role as world-changer on Arrakis even more dramatic. With the Fremen, Paul leads a revolution against Harkonnen and Imperial tyranny, leading to the downfall of the old system.

 This story is absolutely amazing. The sheer breath and depth of the characters and cultures portrayed in Dune is startling and awe-inspiring. With every passing page, I kept hoping that I would develop the magical power to jump into stories so that I could see this beautifully stark and dangerous world that Herbert created first-hand. Herbert is able to create cultures that are similar enough to those that exist today, but has made them alien enough to us to imply that 21,000 years has indeed gone by and is showing us the next stage of human culture.
Dune is so spectacular because it carries such powerful imagery (his detailed descriptions of people and environments is comparable to Tolkien's), and because of its equally powerful messages. Dune is first and foremost an ecological book. It was actually inspired by an article that Herbert never finished while studying a US Department of Agriculture experiment to stabilize the Oregon Dunes using "poverty plants." The dunes could "swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, [and] highways." Herbert thus wrote Dune as a way of subtly encouraging people to be more mindful of their environment, as well as to respect the earth that we live on as a living thing.
Final thoughts? I loved reading this book. I would absolutely 100% recommend it to anyone who was looking for a thoughtful, intelligent science-fiction book. I only have two problems with it: first, is the fact that I think the book doesn't handle the "time jumps" in it well. I found it rather confusing to first see 14 year old Paul, and then see 18+ year old Maud'Dib with little-to-no warning that this would happen. The other problem is that I wish Herbert had done more time "world building"-- that is, I wish he had explained the evolution of human-kind, to see how people got to Arrakis, where the Bene Gesserit came from, the evolution of Mentat's, etc. I'm a historian by nature, an I like knowing what's going on before I dive into a situation.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Workout News:

I am still working out and eating healthy-ish. I admit, this week has been not as great with the eating healthy, because there was a family birthday (an exception to the no junk-food rule), and a "mandatory" family trip to get ice cream last night. It happens. But, I still feel really good about exercising and eating healthy foods, which makes me happy.

Other News:
Costuming! I'm slowly working on making myself a Renaissance costume for a Ren Faire that my family and I will be attending before I go away to school. I also might attend Boston Comic Con, which means I'm pulling out my old Poison Ivy costume that I started two years ago and never got around to finishing... I want to finish it by the time of the con. Much to do! So little time!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Finishing School Series

Hello, dear readers. As promised, here is the book review for Gail Carriger's YA series. As you know, I absolutely love Gail Carriger, and am a big fan of her fashion blog, Retro Rack. And with no further ado... onto the review!


Plot Summary:
 The Finishing School Series takes place in the same universe as Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series... but 20 years earlier, in the 1850s. The series follows Sophronia (which, I might add, was an extremely popular name in the 1850s!) Temmenick, a young woman who has absolutely no interest in becoming a proper lady, much to her mother's dismay. She is covertly recruited to the well-known Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However, Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not just the kind of finishing school where young ladies learn to curtsy properly. They learn to finish...everything and anything that needs finishing. Sophronia quickly gets caught between the dastardly Picklemen (the very conservative, anti-supernatural group) and various vampire contingents. Sophronia must use every lesson that she learns at Mademoiselle Geraldine's in order to not only survive, but win at the game of "intelligencing."

As you all know, my dear readers, I loved the Parasol Protectorate. And I love this series just as much. It's even more ridiculous, in some ways, than Parasol, but that makes it even better. Carriger has managed to paint a very detailed and wonderful cast of characters, including some whom we got to know in Parasol, such as a much younger Genevieve Lefoux, and her aunt Beatrice, and my all-time favorite Lord Akeldama even makes a cameo!
Carriger does a wonderful job at portraying the importance of manners in this society, like in Parasol, and the lessons that the girls learn at the finishing school are to die for (oh la! Aren't I droll?)
There are also some VERY interesting differences between the Victorian world in 1850 and 1870 (the time frames of the two series). The Victorian world that Sophronia lives in is far more mechanized than the one that Alexia lives in. Sophronia has an adorable (and illegal) "mechanimal" dog named Bumbersnoot. All of the servants at the Academy are robots of a sort that run on tracks and coal. Mechanical equipment is highly praised and relied upon in Finishing School, while in Parasol, there seems to be almost no mechanical influence at all (hmm... perhaps reflecting the vampires' distaste for mechanicals?). It's interesting to see the evolution of this world that Carriger has created (albeit in a somewhat backwards manner... going from 1870 to 1850), and I can't wait to read book the third, Waistcoats and Weaponry, which comes out this November!

Rating: 5/5 stars.

Other Thoughts unrelated to the book: 
I will hopefully have my review for Dune up in a couple of days, and maybe some more fashion-related posts after that. I'm thinking about doing a mini-series inspired by APairandASpare: "Four Ways to Wear..." I'll take interesting bits and bobs from my wardrobe (hats, blouses, jackets, etc) and show you 4 ways to wear them! It's also a good exercise for me, because I need to start cleaning up my wardrobe. Things I showcase are things that I need to find four ways to wear, otherwise it goes. Oh boy. This should be interesting.

Well, that's all I've got for now, readers. Farewell!