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Review: “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro (4 ½ Stars)

A touching wail uttered into the emotional void that dwells between those frayed wires which hold together the complex relationship between the individual, community, and society.

The story is told by the protagonist (Kathy) in reflection of her past experiences and relationships, primarily those surrounding her two friends Tommy and Ruth. The setting of this tale lies somewhere between bleak and dystopian and idyllic and romanticized. This is due, in part, to the shifting perspectives as Kathy moves the narrative through her childhood experiences at a special boarding school and then on into adulthood and the greater world at large.

The book does not easily fit into any genres (as critics have noted). There are elements of science fiction, abject horror, and a more main stream coming of age tale. However, one theme that is woven into all the prose is a subtle, but insistent pace bolstered by continual promises of things to be revealed. Quite literally, in fact, as the protagonist-narrator will pretty much explicitly state that there is this thing coming up that she will tell you about next after she tells you something else first. Then, as promised, the new information is provided in the next chapter. At which point a new carrot is deftly waggled before the reader’s eyes toward the next prize. Yet, all the while we are aware that something is not quite right and that our worst fears will be realized before the end. Still, we go on. Working toward that uncomfortable satisfaction.

This is both frustrating and masterful. Especially with the light touch in which it is done. The parts that maddened me were in the voice of the character. The first-person style utilized by the author did well to establish a compelling tone and believability for the character. It suited the coming-of-age aspect of the book. We get a real feel of who these characters are (especially the main three), their motivations, their traits. All of it is very fleshed out and plants you right into the heart of the story which is a push-me-pull-you relationship entangled with love and friendship. It’s very nuanced and lacking in the usual melodrama that might be found in this type of book. On the flipside I felt that the character’s voice somewhat laborious at times when she would tell me about what was going on, tell me how she was going to tell me how she felt about it, say how she felt about it, and then sort of echo her thoughts on the subject. It wasn’t quite like that, but there was something repetitive in the way the character’s voice was used where she kept explaining how she was going to explain things. Just tell me! Stop telling me that you’re going to tell me all about it—I’m reading this thing, aren’t I? Perhaps, though, the dialog between the different characters could have been distinguished a little more to alleviate this concern? Now, I will freely admit some of my frustration was only due to the fact that I was fully engaged with the story and urgently looking to read more and know more. So, in that sense it all worked.

Science Fiction plays a role in this story as does horror. Again, the relationship the narrative has with these genres is subtle and perhaps tenuous. However, I feel it is there. They both permeate the background and behind-the-scenes elements that are propping up this world. And “propping” up the world is probably a good description of this. This is a book this is decidedly not deep in genre values. The world created by the author is essentially our world (somewhat in the vague future). Very little is painted to bolster up the science fiction aspects and create a cohesive world that stands on its own. To his credit the author does just enough to keep within the subtle tone which runs its course throughout the entire book. In that way, the book succeeds quite well. The sci-fi and horror aspects are splashed in for coloring and to highlight the primary story element which is the three-way relationship of these characters and how they care about each other in a world that has trouble caring about them.

It’s difficult to go into specifics for this book without spoiling the reveals. However, I will say that these do not really hit you over the head like a clever twist ending might. There is a building morose sort of tone that floats the plot toward its conclusion. Likewise, the horror is not overwrought. The horror lies more in what is not said, rather than what is said. Yet, there is a strength in all this un-saying that the author accomplishes—a universal strength which is demonstrative of what makes up good writing. In the same way that say, George Orwell painted a curious and time-tested novel with “1984.”

By using the familiar story of three young friends who grow up trying to navigate the complexities of love and caring and life and death without any kind of manual to guide their decisions, the author gets us focused on how we as people, as communities within communities, within a society, treat each other. The difficulty of marrying competing values. Balancing individual needs against societal needs. How we all may look out for each other or instead ourselves. What is important and what is not. And, of course, the futility of it all as life gets on. These are deep questions which are delicately woven into the fabric of this tale.

The strength in this story is the interrelationship of the three main characters and the author knows this. He focuses on them and brings in other characters or events as needed to show them go through a life lived. Through happy times, sad times, difficult times and easy times. It all feels familiar, yet what is going on in the background is not. And that, is what serves to highlight the real tragedies and joys of life.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic), this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space.” The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/review-never-let-me-go-kazuo-ishiguro

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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Never Let Me Go” – Kazuo Ishiguro

Review: “Never Let Me Go” – Kazuo Ishiguro

New podcast book review episode !!!!

No Deodorant In Outer Space - podcast

PODCAST:

S4E2B – Never Let Me Go (book)*

SHOW NOTES:

Wherein returning guest Daniel Gonzalez (“The Martian” (S2E10) and NDIOS voice-over announcer Margret O’Reilly join me in a discussion of melancholy and ill-fated love juxtaposed against a subtle horrifying dystopian reality. We discuss the author’s cross-cultural biography, its probable influence on the temporal themes explored in this novel. Dan pointed out how different this novel is for the themes and genres it touches upon when compared to recent coming of age dystopian books like the YA works “Divergent” (S2E3) and “Hunger Games.” This work goes in a different direction of somber reflection and acceptance rather than revolution. As we got into the various character motivations and muted tensions underlying the narrative structure we all came up with a deeper appreciation for the work despite our general agreement that it starts slow and we began reading (for…

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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in News

 

Preview Episode (Never Let Me Go)

New podcast preview episode!

No Deodorant In Outer Space - podcast

PODCAST:

S4E2P – Preview Episode (Never Let Me Go)*

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Never Let Me Go (2005)” by Kazuo Ishiguro (book)

From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Daycomes a devastating novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. 
 
As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, 
Never Let…

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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in News

 

Review: “Altered States” – Ken Russell

Review: “Altered States” – Ken Russell

New podcast movie review!

No Deodorant In Outer Space - podcast

PODCAST:

S4E1M – Altered States (movie)*

SHOW NOTES:

Wilk's Demands - Click to EnlargeWherein Wilk regaled us with his silly demands to his family regarding a vacation they were all to take together. Dustin and Wilk both mentioned how this movie was something they had heard about for many years and were looking forward to finally check out. Although Dustin thought the “volcano wife” was humorous and Ryan laughed at the “hobbit feet” in the film, we were overall impressed with the various special effects and production elements of this film. Infamous incidents of tension and drama between the author (who also wrote the screenplay) and the director (whom never worked in Hollywood again after this) were also discussed by the group. The ending struck us as abrupt, but everyone generally everyone felt the film was a much better adaptation of the underlying story than the book itself and a worthwhile watch over a reading…

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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in News

 

Review: “Altered States” by Paddy Chayefsky (3 Stars)

Review: “Altered States” by Paddy Chayefsky (3 Stars)

Urgent and practical prose bolstered with dialog, that at times, feels weighted with jargon while fully acknowledging the supremacy of story, and at other times—stabs right into the heart of humanity.

The story is driven by mankind’s mad, singular, all-encompassing quest to break through the illusory perceptions of reality and discover what’s behind existence. We follow the main character (Eddie) who serves as both protagonist and antagonist over the years as he explores the boundaries of science. The plot centers around the main character ingesting hallucinogens and seeking the solace of an isolation tank almost as if he is attempting to time travel. He’s actually trying to go back into a sort of collective unconsciousness to search out early man–the archetype of the noble savage. Eddie’s looking not only to go on a “trip” of his mind, but to break through the boundaries and perceptions of reality to the heights of spirituality and the depths of physics. He wants to breach past notions of time and space in a cosmic way. Yet, it is a personal quest.

In many ways the prose reads as a sort of modern Jules Verne type tale with the author shoving layers of scientific theory and research into the story to explain what’s going on. The overall read is smoother than older literature and the occasional dumps of jargon and theory are always countered with genuine passages of character emotion and grounded action. I found myself skipping over a lot of the technical talk (as I have in other such books), but the terminology is appropriate to the subject and may be more appealing to others looking for hard science in their fiction. The point is that the author is a highly skilled storyteller and hits all the right beats he should even with the heavy tech references.

There were definitely science fiction elements and even some horror present in this tale. What I enjoyed most was that everything felt realistic and tension was maintained without going overboard on the action. This reads primarily like a thriller, moving fast and light. It was very visual and the author’s steeped and much lauded background in television and film sort of came through almost as if I was reading a three-act structure screenplay (which he eventually did too—when this was adapted to film).

What the author is known for is his dialog in screen plays. This is present in the novel. There are masterful monologues where the characters give grand, yet grounded speeches professing their innermost hopes, fears, and desires. These give real gravity to the material and bolster the more fantastical elements—not that those were flimsy. The crescendo of this novel is as fitting as any such solid movie of its caliber. My only complaint, and perhaps I went into reading this with some bias having researched the author a bit beforehand, was that sometimes the shorter bits of dialog felt a little stilted and redundant (the quick back and forth). Also, the other characters who also tell the story (the wife and colleagues of Eddie), felt a bit two-dimensional at times. Though this was not always the case, and when the author allowed them to fall into monologues of their own, they did come alive.

Another interesting aspect of this book was the way the author made the main character compelling despite his unlikable personality. He’s driven to the point of neglecting those around him. Yet, he’s aware of his faults. Not that his awareness will stop him. He’s simply not a monster (ironically). In many ways the main character is searching for himself in his scientific quest to alter his own consciousness. It’s like he knows there is something wrong with himself and that things might be better if only he could get outside of his own head. He is in continual quest for a primal consciousness. A more primitive self. A simpler more animalistic time. Which is a counterpoint to his own personality that comes across almost robotic.

On the book’s jacket the author noted that he was thinking about the intersection of science, philosophy, and spirituality. This book very much explores that idea. The characters are all scientifically driven, however they get into such heady and technical science that the clear answers drift away and everything becomes just as fuzzy as spirituality might be considered.

In the end, it seems that the author is saying all these elements in life which appear to be in conflict with one another (i.e. spirituality and science), are actually in conversation with one another. That they come together in the final equation.

I don’t necessarily recommend this book for everyone, but it is a curiosity for those looking to explore another aspect of this famous script writer’s body of work or as a further exploration of the film—and, perhaps those looking for lots of science theory in their science fiction.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, Tune-In Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/review-altered-s…-paddy-chayefsky/

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Altered States” – Paddy Chayefsky

Review: “Altered States” – Paddy Chayefsky

New Podcast Book Review !!

No Deodorant In Outer Space - podcast

PODCAST:

S4E1B – Altered States (book)*

SHOW NOTES:

Wherein Wilk compared reading this book to attending an art show by actor Gary Busey, not purchasing a painting by novelist Clive Barker (whom we covered in our episodes on “The Hellbound Heart” and “Hellraiser“), and reading the novel “Tarantula” by musician Bob Dylan. Things were further clarified when Wilk recalled some sagely advice given by his father regarding Herman Melville’s famous novel “Moby Dick” (Bob Wilkinson joined us for our review of “Starship Troopers“). Dustin Decline (from the heavy metal act “I Decline“) expressed and encapsulated the group’s general frustration with this author’s one and only attempt at writing proper prose due to the novel’s overabundance and general saturation of uninteresting technical terminology.

– Ryan

Ryan, Wilk, and Dustin ready to record. Ryan, Wilk, and Dustin ready to record.

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

“Altered States (1978)” by Paddy Chayefsky (book)

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in News

 

Preview Episode (Altered States)

Preview Episode (Altered States)

New podcast preview episode !

No Deodorant In Outer Space - podcast

PODCAST:

S3E1P – Preview Episode (Altered States)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Altered States (1978)” by Paddy Chayefsky (book)

Inspired by the work of John C. Lilly, Chayefsky spent two years in Boston doing research to write his science fiction novel Altered States (HarperCollins, 1978), which he adapted for his last screenplay. In the film Chayefsky is credited under his real first and middle name, Sidney Aaron, because of disputes with director Ken Russell. Some of the events portrayed in this film seem to be based on the studies of the French surrealist author Antonin Artaud; the protagonist visits a tribe of isolated Mexican tribal people & participates in their sacred shamanic ritual involving local hallucinogens for the purpose of investigating the common religious experience. Much of the setting of this part of the film also appears to be based on Artaud’s description of the natural, altho seemingly man-made landscape of the…

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Posted by on January 1, 2019 in News