C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: audible

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon was a book I first read in sixth or seventh grade.

That was back in the 90's. I looked something like this:

No, more like this:

180px-Doug_Funnie.jpg

The book takes place in the in a pre-Rudy Giuliani New York City. Though it's aged well.

Flowers for Algernon is the story about Charlie Gordon, an intellectually disabled adult with an IQ below 70. He's chosen to be part of a surgical experiment that turns him into a genius. The book is written in the first person in a series of Progress Reports, beginning before the experiment. His pre-surgery reports are spelled phonetically and without punctuation. Sentences are short and simple. Post-surgery the reader literally sees Charlie learn how to spell, use punctuation both improperly--then correctly, and his thoughts and experiences become more and more complex.

This time around I listened to the audio version. I was curious to see, or rather, hear the difference. The reader did a great job, changing his voice from childlike to something more adult as Charlie's intelligence increased. However I did feel that a certain depth to the story was lost by not physically seeing his progression in spelling and sentence structure. I recommend that people read the book first, then listen to the audio version.

Flowers for Algernon, Brave New World, and 1984 are part of the holy trinity of classic science fiction that have had a lasting influence on me. I can remember very clearly where I was when I was reading these books. Flowers for Algernon--English class in 6th or 7th grade. 1984--Summertime, sometime before 9th Grade, on my screened-in porch. Brave New World--Freshmen English--I sat in the back of the classroom like all the 'cool kids'.

I've since re-read Brave New World and Flowers for Algernon and have discovered things that I'd either forgotten or missed the first time around, during those heady and awkward years that don't contrast as sharply as I'd care to admit to this thing called adulthood.

I'll probably read 1984 soon and finish up the trifecta. 

Wool: A Story about a Sheep Herder in Nuclear Winter

Reading:

Wool by Hugh Howey is -in a word- awesome. In fact, stop reading this right now, go to your closest book store, or Audible and buy like 10 copies of the book. Don't worry, I'll wait.

wonka

I did a report about the reinvention of the publishing industry in a digital age, the emergence of indie authors and new exciting business models like Kindle Direct Publishing, and the stuff Scott Sigler was doing on his podcast. I don't remember a whole hell of a lot from the report, but I do remember talking about Hugh Howey. This was a ballsy move on my part, seeing how at the time I hadn't read Wool, and was basically going by what I had heard from others. Still, I did get an A on the report. Well, I don't know much more about Hugh Howey than I did before, but I'll tell you this:

He self published his story on Amazon Kindle Direct, people loved it, and he became a successful author. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

There's a reason why people love Wool. And that reason is: It's a freaking awesome story! It's 5 parts. Part 1 really sets the tone for the story and it only builds from there.

What stuck out for me was how Howey subtly created sympathy for the antagonist, without doing a complete 180. You don't stop hating the 'bad guy', but you understand his motives.

A few books from now I'll be writing about the sequel, Shiftfollowed by Dust.

Writing:

I've started writing a series of vignettes, each centering around one of my 3 main characters. It takes place very late in the story so I guess now I have a goal to write up to. The 3rd part of the book was very rough in the 1st Draft, so I have a feeling there will be several iterations before I get it right.

In other news:

I started watching Gotham and I've been pleasantly surprised. I was a skeptic but the first episode really brought me around. I suggest you give it a shot, even if you're not a Batman fan.

The Gerard Way concert is a week from Sunday and I'll be getting my tickets tomorrow. One truly hasn't lived until they find themselves excited for Brit-Pop 10+ years after the fact. 

And tomorrow is the wife's birthday and this big lug has a dinner to plan. 

Look alive, Sunshine.

The editing and revision process of the "Dream" story is going very well. Considering the sheer amount of work that is need to turn the 1st Draft into something ready for prime time, my awesome beta readers are more like alpha readers with what they've had to deal with.

They've been kicking my ass though and that's a good thing. When this is all over I think I'm going to have to 'make [them] a cake or something'. Perhaps subscribe them all to Omaha Steaks.

Since I discover while I write the 1st Draft, I basically told myself the story. The  plot comes out in an out-of-order way, characters are either really well thought out or cardboard cutouts, and settings are either over or under developed. But by the end I have a better idea of the story then I did before this all began.

I kinda feel that the revision process is where the most grueling work begins. Writing a story is easy, presenting it in a way that doesn't sound like the ramblings of a lunatic is hard.

To give you an idea of how it's going. In the 1st Draft, Chapter 1 was 2,803 words. In the revision it is just under 4000 words. That was the result of listening to my beta readers and establishing plot points right at the beginning that weren't fully realized until much later in the writing of the 1st Draft.

I always knew this story would be a series. By this point I know that it will probably end up being 3 books. Together the series will resemble a 3 Act play...or the original Star Wars movies. 

Finally, I resubscribed to Audible. I've never been a fast reader but I greatly enjoy books. Might as well listen to them. With my 1st two credits I got "Ready Player One" and "Snow Crash".

RP1 got good about halfway through, after the author stopped 'telling' me what his story is about, instead of showing me scenes and character interactions.

And maybe casting Wil Wheaton as the voice of the novel was ultimately not the best choice. I'd like to think he'd be a pretty cool guy to hang out with, but he's typecast as somewhat of a conceited prick. Again, he's probably cool in real life, but seriously, he 'sounds' like a high and mighty douche-bag. So when he, as the voice of the narrator-protagonist bestows upon me the virtues of the nihilistic mindset of Internet subcultures, popular in the comment section of Gawker, and splattered across the walls of Reddit, it comes across as sounding preachy. And, staying true to form, any opposing viewpoint is instantly dismissed by the hive-mind by labeling it: Bullshit.

To me this flaw in the book relates back to 'show' vs 'tell'. I, the reader was being told how it is. Period. Were I shown the culture of this polluted dystopian society on the edge of annihilation, where a 3D graphically intensive virtual reality version of the Internet is somehow able to run on solar energy, maybe just maybe I wouldn't have felt as though the author had an agenda. (On a side note, I wonder how much electricity is required to run just one of Google's data-centers, and could it run consistently on solar power?).

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Again, it wasn't a lousy book. The story, once it got going was good. By the end I really felt for the characters. Setting the scene needed work. And I feel that I can say this because it's what needs the most work in my owe story.

Snow Crash, on the other hand was awesome for 99% of the book. I felt the ending was too sudden. Where the ending worked was that it was very open-ended. I, the reader had the responsibility to determine what happened next, who lived and who died. This was fine. I don't know how I'd have ended it. But it felt incomplete to me, from the final line of the story to the sound of a different narrator informing me that, "This has been an Audible Production of, Snow Crash, but Neil Stephenson..." I was like, "That's it!" and then after a moment I thought, "well, OK, it works."

And today I began 1Q84 which is over 40 hours long! You would do well to expect another book review from me, 40+ hours from now, staggered between commutes to and from work.