“After Many A Summer Dies The Swan” was written in 1939 by Aldous Huxley, known for his dystopian novel “Brave New World.” This is basically what would happen if Aldous Huxley wrote the script to Citizen Kane.
There’s this eccentric multimillionaire who lives in a castle-like mansion and has a young mistress. Only in this case, he wants to live forever and he wants Jeremy, the protagonist, to scour the records of an English aristocrat who was said to have had his youthful vitality at a very old age.
I liked the beginning which has Jeremy Pordage, a British scholar, coming to America and taking the ride to Stoyte’s mansion. It really sets the tone when Stoyte himself isn’t immediately shown, rather the evidence of his wealth and power are shown. That’s what I like when it creates that aura of superiority that Stoyte seems to have over everyone.
The last four chapters I thought were pretty well-escalated and suspenseful. It was an ending I barely expected and it caught me off my guard. Everything in between, however, I felt was tedious. It tends to get stymied when Mr. Propter walks in and starts getting into a debate with Pete, Dr. Obispo, Jeremy, or Stoyte. But as far as the conflict goes, Virginia is the center of attention and it gets messy.
One of the types of characters that Aldous Huxley writes about, in his works such as “Brave New World” and “Time Must Have A Stop,” is the wise man, which is basically Huxley himself being inserted into the story and basically preaches his own philosophical musings to the other characters. It happens here with Mr. Propter, but I felt like it slowed the story. I wanted to know about the state of the other characters.
As an Aldous Huxley novel, there are science fiction elements involved. The major one is how exactly Earl Hauberk was able to live so long and why is Stoyte intent on rediscovering it. It involved a species of two carp fish that the Earl kept in his well. These fish had intestinal bacteria that completely de-toxified their organs and allowed them to live so long.
This takes place in the post-WWII era. It’s not a coincidence that it takes place in California because, to this day, it’s still viewed as a place of wealth, fame, glamour, and Hollywood. Stoyte is the representation of that image.
Jeremy Pordage: his role in the story made it a little slow. I think what mattered was his research most of all.
Jo Stoyte: as Jeremy mentioned in a letter to his mother about Jo Stoyte, he expresses his superiority over culture, talent, and education by buying them rather than destroying them. I think that summarizes how Stoyte does business. He owns hospitals, oil companies, banks, and an art school.
Virginia Maunciple: Stoyte’s mistress. She’s very plucky. I did think that she had her own thoughts that fitted her and she wasn’t just this empty-headed mistress.
Dr. Sigmund Obispo: He is Stoyte’s personal doctor. he likes pushing the buttons of the characters. Especially Stoyte, who he knows relies on him not just with his research but for his day-to-day heart problems.
Pete: Fought against the Fascists in Spain, works for Dr. Obispo. Because he lost his comrades in their struggle, he is left questioning his faith, and that’s when he debates with Mr. Propter. He doesn’t have any importance to the story other than that.
Mr. Propter: He is a professor who often congregates among the Okies that work for Stoyte. I felt like his only purpose was to provide historical context. There was a part when he talked about a solar-powered machine that could throw Stoyte off his monopoly, that part intrigued me, but then it doesn’t go anywhere.
Earl Charles Hauberk: the only information that is known about him is through the records that describe his capital, political activity, and misadventures. However, when the experimenting with the carp becomes more important, his entries become merely entertainment for Jeremy.
There’s a lot of intricate detail to Stoyte’s mansion in the descriptions. I felt like this really helped put the reader where exactly he is.
There’s a lot of unique writing styles for each characters’ perspective. It made me understand who’s perspective was who’s. There’s a lot of chemical and anatomical names mentioned whenever the perspective comes to Dr. Obispo, especially in his explanation as to how the carp lived so long. There’s a lot of life in Jeremy’s dialogue, because as a scholar he studied literature movements and artistic movements. So his speech is very reflective of his studies. He also tends to use French words, as though to sound more sophisticated. It should be noted that a thousand years ago the Normans, who spoke French, conquered Britain. So as such, the language of the ruling elite was French while the rest of the population spoke what is today English.
Virginia is a Roman Catholic, and as such, she’s constantly thinking about heaven and hell and sin and all those theological concepts.
There isn’t anything unique in Pete’s or Propter’s perspective. Pete mainly takes the side of the non-believer while Mr. Propter takes the side of the believer in their debate of religion and philosophy.
I can imagine this being made in a movie. Obviously it would take place in America. Especially in this political environment, it would be a very opportune moment when this book hits production immediately. It’s the quintessential Hollywood story with a science fiction twist, but I can also envision a lot being cut out.
A Game of Thrones was written by George R. R. Martin in 1996. It is a fantasy novel with a very gritty, realist edge. No, I’ve not watched the series. I prefer reading over watching.
It takes place in a fictional world where there are two continents (Westeros and Essos). It is a world where entire seasons last for years. There are entire generations that have been brought up in a long summer and are looking forward to a long winter.
It starts off after Lord Eddard Stark orders an execution, the Stark children come upon a dead direwolf with pups still nursing it. They all decide to adopt one for each child, including Jon Snow, who’s the illegitimate son of Eddard. As the story progresses, the POV characters are taken to different places with different sceneries and face different dangers. Not only that but there are conspiracies that intersect the variety of characters.
There’s a lot of similarities between Westeros and the real world. The rugged, winterly terrain of the North represents England and the region beyond the Wall represents Scotland, since of course Martin based the Wall off Adrian’s Wall. The South represents the Normans, the French, and all of these groups that were in Europe proper in the Middle Ages. They may appear to be on the same continent, but they all have different histories. Even kingdoms within those regions have their differences.
A common theme that is found, not just in this installment, but throughout the ASOIAF series are characters being taken prisoner. I think this hypes up the momentum, because the reader doesn’t know if that character is going to survive or not, obviously in a world where there’s constant war.
There is a great amount of verisimilitude. This is the fantasy novel that changed fantasy as we know it. You might not expect a character to die, but they immediately do so. And you’re left to think “Woah!” There is also the reality of gender differences that affect the story. Such as the female characters being disenfranchised and confined to their roles.
There was one minor part that I thought wasn’t right. Arya remembers her father telling her that sorcerors wore only star-covered hats. I don’t know if Martin is just trolling the reader.
Eddard: He’s a pretty stoic character. He acts as the rationale for King Robert Baratheon. As his wife Cersei said to another character, “Robert loves Eddard like a brother.” This has to do with their time growing up and their part in the rebellion. However, he begins noticing the increasing influence of the Lannister family and tries to get through to the King.
Jon: My favorite character. As a bastard, he’s always constantly trying to outdo himself and prove himself to his father and everyone around him. I thought that that made a good foundation for him.
Sansa: I never thought that the relationship that Joffrey’s personal knight, Sandor, has with Sansa was anything sexual. At least not as much as paternalistic. She’s constantly telling him how “Knights are so chivalrous like the ones in the songs.” and Sandor is there to tell her, “That’s not how knights work. Life is not like the songs.” Other than that, she didn’t really stand out to me.
Arya: she’s exactly opposite of her sister Sansa. I think what represents this difference greatly is physical appearance: Sansa looks like her mother with her red hair while Arya looks like her father with her dark hair. While Sansa is docile and obedient, Arya is rebellious. Her adventurousness was fascinating to me.
Tyrion: He seems to go everywhere and is quite adaptive, despite being a dwarf. He’s a very intelligent character who manages to deal with everything around him and the dangers he faces.
Danaerys: she is one of the last scions of the Targaryen dynasty, along with her obsessive brother, Viserys. She has the most development in this story and you grow to like her.
Martin has a way of zoomorphizing people into the animals that their kingdom represents within the description and dialogue. I thought that was pretty interesting, because it shows how ingrained the characters’ loyalties are and their very way of speaking is reflective of that. For example, a Dothraki warrior says that “Horses can slay sheep,” while Daenerys retorts, “Dragons can slay horses and sheep,” Horses used to represent the nomadic Dothraki, the sheep used to refer to the village Khal Drogo raided, and the dragon representing the Targaryen sigil.
Speaking of that piece of dialogue, there is a lot of wittiness and bawdiness in the dialogue throughout the book. It’s very simplified yet says so much about the cultures and kingdoms that influence it. There are even slogans inserted into it, such as “Winter is coming” and “Fear cuts deeper than swords.” The mundane tasks and the descriptions of the architecture and the food are intricate and creates a sense of immersion into this medieval world.
One problem I did have was pronunciating the names. I originally thought Tyrion was pronounced [TIH-ree-awn]; Tywin as [TEE-win]; Clegane as [KLEE-gun]; Daenerys as [DAY-neh-ris]; Mormont as [mor-MAWNT]; on and on. It would’ve helped to include a pronunciation guide in the appendix in order to make the reading experience a little easier.
Definitely, this is one of the best novels I ever read. We always envision a world we want to live in, not the world we have to live in. This series puts that to the test.