Monday, November 30, 2015

My Antonia

By Willa Cather
After his parents died, young Jim Burden was sent from his home in Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm near Black Hawk, Nebraska. Traveling on the same train to that same area was Antonia, a young teen girl, and her family. From Bohemia, none of them spoke much English and were looking to start a new life in America.
Antonia and her family were neighbors to Jim's grandparents and over the years, Jim and Antonia became good friends, even though she was a few years older than he was. They explored the countryside together and Jim helped her improve her English.
Back in Europe, Antonia's father had been a professional musician but, in the wilds of Nebraska, he languished. After only a few months in America, he became so depressed that he killed himself. After that, Antonia had to assume part of the burden of caring for the farm, along with her older brother and her mother. There was less time for Jim and their friendship.
Jim and his grandparents eventually moved from the farm and into the small town of Black Hawk. Jim had decided he wanted to go to college and devoted a lot of his time to his studies. That is until Antonia moved into town.
She got a job with the next-door neighbors as a housekeeper. Her salary was sent home to the farm. A lot of other country girls were coming to town to work too, also to send money back home to the farm. These girls liked to socialize together and Jim became part of their group. They had a lot of fun together and created a bit of scandal because of it.
Time passes and Jim heads off to Lincoln to attended university. He is there for a few years and goes back East to attend Harvard and becomes a lawyer. The girls he used to socialize with all go on to have good lives, better than the townsfolk predicted for them. Even the ones who were most disapproved of. Except for Antonia. Jim learns that she was deceived and conceived a child out of wedlock and is back on the family farm, working the fields like she did as a teenager.
Jim always means to catch up with her but the years speed by and he never gets back until decades later. He is pleased to find out that life hasn't been as bad for Antonia as he feared. She married and had a heap of children and has a kind and understanding husband and their farm and family are all doing well.
Jim always carried a torch for her, but to Antonia, he was always just a boy. He probably would have married her if she had given him a little encouragement. But the one time he made his move, she made it clear that he was like a brother to her and not a suitor.

This was an okay read. Jim was certainly more taken with Antonia than I was. I think I enjoyed reading about life in those times more than I did about Antonia. I guess I never understood what his fascination with her was beyond her basic good looks. She was attractive, and healthy, and a hard worker. But so were a lot of other girls in the area. I guess what made her special to him was that she was his first, if unrequited, love. Beyond that, she really didn't seem that special to me. Towards the end of the book, I was getting very bored with the story and just want it to be over.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


By Ernest Cline

Zack Lightman is just your typical high schooler. He lives with his mom who works as a nurse. His dad died in an industrial accident when Zack was just a baby.
Zack has an after-school job at a video game arcade. It is not a demanding job and his boss is really laid back. They both love video and computer games and Zack is one of the highest scoring players of the video game, Armada, ranking at about sixth place in the world.
One strange day, Zack is staring out the window in class when he sees an flying vehicle in the sky that looks exactly like one from the video game Armada. He is quite startled by the sight and it makes him doubt his own eyes. But soon after he sees the craft he is taken away by a mysterious group and told the truth about Armada.
It turns out that Armada and other games like it have been designed by the government and the military to train and prepare people for an upcoming battle with an implacable alien foe who is based on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. This foe has declared its intention to destroy humanity.
But as Zack faces the aliens in battle, it all seems like just another video game. He begins to doubt everything he has been told and, with the help of family and friends, he discovers what is really going on.

This was an okay story. I have to admit I just skimmed a lot of it because battle sequences just don't interest me. I also found the premise lacking, the idea of video games and movies being used to prepare people to fight a war. Seems like a silly idea. There is more to being a soldier than manipulating a controller and pushing a few buttons. It requires more training and discipline than can be learned from a game.
Zack doesn't get close to the truth until nearly the end of the story, Until then, the story never really engaged me.
For another review, see: