The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


What do a puppeteer, a kzin, and two humans have in common? They are going to Ringworld! You thought I was going to say Disney World, didn’t you? This is the premise of Larry Niven’s epic novel about an artificial ring, one million miles wide, encircling a sun-like star. I haven’t read a space exploratory novel this good since Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. Niven’s book was so good it won the trifecta of the sci-fi world: 1970 Hugo, 1971 Nebula, and Locus Awards. To this reader, Mr. Niven’s salient point is in his ability to use specialized jargon that the reader easily understands, while still inventing new ingenious technology, such as the quantum II hyperdrive spaceship that speeds along at one light year every one and a quarter minutes! And can Niven describe alien life forms? Damn straight! How about a Garfield the cat look alike (known as a kzin) that is eight foot tall and 500 pounds with a nasty disposition? What about a puppeteer that has a tripod body with two heads, more intelligence than man and when frightened, rolls himself into a ball? I also think that Star Trek may have preempted the transporter idea from Niven’s transfer booth. These are a few of the amazing concepts and characters in this recommended novel.

At the galactic core, supernovas cause a blast that will wipe out Earth and known space in 20,000 years. The frightened puppeteers have already left, heading towards the Lesser Clouds of Magellan looking for a new home. Our protagonist, Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday (he looks 20) party on earth. A large kzin, known as Speaker-to-Animals is there; sexy Teela Brown is there; and, who pops out of a transfer booth? Nessus, an insane puppeteer who wants to talk deal with these three party goers. Nessus asks Louis, Speaker, and Teela to join him on an exploratory mission 200 light years away. If they agree, their reward will be the quantum hyperdrive ship and its blueprints. The puppeteer will not tell them where they are going until they are on the way. Louis wants to go because he is bored and ready for adventure; Teela wants to go because she is in love with Louis; and, the Speaker wants to go because he wants to steal the ship for his people so they will have a spaceship advantage over the humans. The kzin have a long history of losing wars against the humans from Earth and were anxious to get out of their submissive morbidity.

As they board spaceship Long Shot, Speaker makes a failed attempt to steal the ship. The puppeteer has a secret weapon called a tasp that induces a current in the pleasure center of the brain. Nessus, the two headed tripod says to the Speaker: "You understand that I will use the tasp every time you force me to. I will use it if you attempt to use violence too often, or if you startle me too much; you will soon become dependent upon the tasp; if you kill me, you will still be ignobly bound by the tasp itself." "Very astute," said Speaker. "Brilliantly unorthodox tactics. I will trouble you no more." Nessus, being a puppeteer, was inherently a coward, and thus needed every mental advantage to keep a vicious animal like Speaker from tearing him apart. After that, off they go to meet the puppeteer fleet in the Clouds of Magellan. There they learn their mission: to explore the mysterious ring to see if it will support life. After getting nebulous mission instructions relayed from the Hindmost, the leader of the puppeteers, the four board the Lying Bastard and head for the baffling ring. This is where Niven’s story gets real astronomical and unnerving. You know what this means, don’t you? Well, I wet your whistle and now you have to grab a copy of this wondrous novel and find out what happens.

I like Niven’s mix of real science with his science and neologisms that seem like logical terms. He does a good job explaining Kemplerer rosette: a gravitational system of heavier and lighter bodies orbiting in a regular repeating pattern around a common barycenter. Got it? Starseeds seemed real, but are not. They are space traveling creatures used by Outsiders to plant life on planets. Flying cycles and floating police stations are purely figments of Mr. Niven’s mind. What’s to come on Ringworld is stated by Nessus to Louis: ”This place is, is unsafe. Strange storms and badly programmed machinery and sunflower fields and unpredictable natives all threaten our lives.” Really? Buckle your seat belts and enjoy.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to Wikipedia: “After the publication of Ringworld many fans identified numerous engineering problems in the Ringworld as described in the novel. One major problem was that the Ringworld, being a rigid structure, was not actually in orbit around the star it encircled and would eventually drift, resulting in the entire structure colliding with its sun and disintegrating. This led MIT students attending the 1971 Worldcon to chant, "The Ringworld is unstable! The Ringworld is unstable!" The phrase made its way into a filk song, "Give Me That Pro, Larry Niven." Niven wrote the 1980 sequel The Ringworld Engineers in part to address these engineering issues.”

If you like Ringworld, you can gorge on its three sequels and four prequels. As much as I enjoyed the novel, I don’t think I can spend that much time on the same subject. I might read the second novel, only to see how Niven resolved the engineering issues.

What does Larry Niven say about Ringworld? goodreads quotes Niven as follows: “I myself have dreamed up a structure intermediate between Dyson spheres and planets. Build a ring 93 million miles in radius - one Earth orbit - around the sun. If we have the mass of Jupiter to work with, and if we make it a thousand miles wide, we get a thickness of about a thousand feet for the base.
And it has advantages. The Ringworld will be much sturdier than a Dyson sphere. We can spin it on its axis for gravity. A rotation speed of 770 m/s will give us a gravity of one Earth normal. We wouldn't even need to roof it over. Place walls one thousand miles high at each edge, facing the sun. Very little air will leak over the edges. Lord knows the thing is roomy enough. With three million times the surface area of the Earth, it will be some time before anyone complains of the crowding.”  

Finally, Niven explains why Speaker tried to steal the puppeteer’s spaceship: “For two hundred and fifty years the kzinti had not attacked human space. They had nothing to attack with. For two hundred and fifty years men had not attacked the kzinti worlds; and no kzin could understand it. Men confused them terribly.”   

Time and Again

This is a guest review from my eldest son, Deron:

Time and Again is the classic time travel story by Jack Finney set in New York City in 1970 and 1882. Our time traveller is Simon Morely, Si for short, an artist for an advertising agency. One day while at work, Si is visited unannounced by Major Ruben Prien. Over lunch, Major Prien tells Si that he has been selected, based on tests he had taken while still in the Army, for a secret government project, and he asks Si if he’d like to participate. Si eventually accepts; and when further tests confirm that Si is qualified, Major Prien reveals the nature of the project: time travel.

The project is in its infancy and is testing a conjecture that through self-hypnosis one can travel back in time. Essentially, if you believe that you’ve gone back in time, you will. Si decides on a time to travel to after a conversation with his girlfriend Kate.

Kate’s grandfather was Andrew Carmody, a financier and political figure in NYC during the late 1800s. She inherited a mysterious letter, partly charred, that Carmody wrote which reads, "If a discussion of Court House Carrara should prove of interest to you, please appear in City Hall Park at half past twelve on Thursday next.” Also on that letter, apparently added later, is scrawled: "That the sending of this should cause the Destruction by Fire of the entire World (a word seemed to be missing here at the end of the top line where the paper was burned) seems well nigh incredible. Yet it is so, and the Fault and Guilt (another word missing in the burned area) mine, and can never be denied or escaped...I now end the life which should have ended then." Si suggests to Major Prien that he travel back to 1882 and resolve the mystery of this cryptic letter. The board members of the project, seeing no harm and possible benefits to Si’s request, agree.

I enjoyed this book. At just short of 400 pages and with straightforward writing, it was a quick read. The book is illustrated with Si’s sketches and photos that help immerse one in late 19th century NYC. Additionally, there is exhaustive description of the people, their clothing, customs, streets, and buildings of that time. Sometimes these descriptions reminded me of Moby Dick in the sense that there are many chapters in Moby Dick that describe the whaling business in detail that are not germane to the plot. I felt the same for this book to the point where the narrative bogs down. However, would Moby Dick be the same book if those chapters were removed? No. Likewise, I ultimately think the same for this book.

The story picks up momentum in the second half as the mystery of the letter is slowly unravelled. There is also a subplot related to the changing motives of the government officials responsible for the project that adds an additional twist to the book’s satisfying conclusion.

The characters were uncomplicated as were their motives for the most part and with little depth. The good guys were good; the bad guys were bad. Conflicts are neatly resolved. However, I find this kind of character development to be very common with authors like Clarke and Asimov. Their books are often event, not character, driven. It is the same here. As long as you read this book in the right frame of mind, you'll enjoy the story.

RATING: 4 our of 5 stars

Comment: Finney wrote a sequel, From Time to Time, that was published just after his death in 1995 and 25 years after the publication of Time and Again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


This uproarious satirical novel by Joseph Heller prompted me to think of Robert Crichton’s The Secret Of Santa Vittoria, another novel blending WWII and comedy. Published in 1961, Catch-22 was the forerunner to Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel, Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors . It’s not about Army Doctor’s in Korea, but about Army Air Force pilots and bombardiers during WWII stationed on the small island of Pianosa, west of Italy. In order to understand the insanity of this story, the reader has to comprehend what Catch-22 is. In chapter five, Doc Daneeka explains to Yossarian and Orr, his roommate, why he can’t ground them due to insanity: “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that catch-22,' he observed. 'It's the best there is, Doc Daneeka agreed.” This catch was why none of the bombing personnel were able to avoid flying mission after mission.

The main character is Captain Yossarian, a bombardier who is convinced he is going to die on a mission. In chapter two, he explains to fellow officer, Clevinger why: "'They're trying to kill me,' Yossarian told him calmly. 'No one's trying to kill you,' Clevinger cried. 'Then why are they shooting at me?' Yossarian asked. 'They're shooting at everyone,' Clevinger answered. 'They're trying to kill everyone.' 'And what difference does that make?'" Yossarian’s fear of dying on a bombing raid was exacerbated by his group commander, Colonel Cathcart. 

The colonel's lack of compassion was buoyed by his desire to be a general and, more importantly, to be featured in The Saturday Evening Post! If the Air Force wanted 40 missions before you could go home, the Colonel wanted 45; and anytime someone came close to the required number of missions, Colonel Cathcart would raise that number. The Colonel is only one of the complex characters in this novel.

I have many favorite characters and situations in this black comedy. The first is Lt. Milo Minderbinder, the mess hall officer. From day one, he wheels and deals like no other war time entrepreneur. He gets away with his shenanigans by telling everyone that they have a share in his enterprises. In chapter 22, he explains his egg business: ”...I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don't make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.” He gets into so many businesses that he even deals with the Germans! In chapter 24, he takes a contract from the Germans to bomb his own base: “This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him...Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made.” Then he says in the same chapter: “I'd like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry." As the Milo character gets deeper into the book, it only gets more humorous.

My second favorite character is Major Major Major Major, the squadron commander, who looked like Henry Fonda! People who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was. In chapter nine, we learn: “With a little ingenuity and vision, he had made it all but impossible for anyone in the squadron to talk to him, which was just fine with everyone, he noticed, since no one wanted to talk to him anyway.” In chapter ten, we find that: “Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office.” But you can see him, if he is not in his office. If you try to barge into his tent, he goes out the window. I know it's confusing, but his first, middle and last name was Major, thus the four 'majors' when he got promoted to, you guessed it, Major. This book is a riot.

My third favorite is Major-------de Coverley, Major Major Major Major’s executive officer. Throughout the novel he has a blank for his first name. His function is uncertain at best. He basically pitches horseshoes all day, kidnaps Italian workers, and rents apartments for his men to use on rest leave. As soon as he hears of a city that the U.S. Army has captured, he’s on his way there, usually at the head of the procession in a Jeep. No one (friend or foe) knows who he is. But the reader knows that he is there just to rent apartments for his men. His picture appears in many publications, as if he is leading the conquering army. I’m telling you this book is a gas.

There are two subplots that are absolutely hysterical. The first involves the Chaplain’s hostile assistant, Cpl. Whitcomb. The corporal comes up with the following generic condolence letter: “Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. And Mrs. Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.” This one was sent to Doc Daneeka’s wife, even though the Doc wasn’t dead. Col. Cathcart feels this letter will prove his concern for his men and finally get him in The Saturday Evening Post. He promotes Whitcomb to sergeant! The second subplot revolves around our hero, Yossarian. After Yossarian tells Lt. Nately’s whore that Nately was killed in action, She tries to kill Yossarian and she relentlessly pursues him chapter, after chapter. Nobody knows why she wants to slay him, but it is funny.

The reader will also meet: Chaplain Tappman, who is intimidated by everyone; Nurses Cramer and Duckett; Hungry Joe and his screaming nightmares; Chief White Halfoat, who knows he is going to die of pneumonia; Aarfy, the navigator; and Huple, the fifteen year old pilot, just to mention a few. How Joseph Heller kept track of all these characters is unbelievable. There is so much going on in this book that I had to take notes to remember who is who, and who did what. This is a great American classic and should be read by book lovers of all genres. The great American author Studs Terkel states in the "other voices" section of this book: “You will meet in this astonishing novel, certainly one of the most original in years, madmen of every rank: Major Major Major, on whose unwilling frame the gold leaf is pinned because of his unfortunate resemblance to Henry Fonda; Doc Daneeka, who is declared dead despite his high temperature; Hungry Joe and his fistfights with Huple’s cat; ex-pfc Wintergreen, who has more power than almost anybody.” Enough said?

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: That Joseph Heller was really a bombardier in WWII and flew 60 missions on the Italian front gave this novel credibility. How did the idea of the book commence? Well, according to Tracy Daugherty’s book, Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller, it began this way: "But the most common account Heller gave of the hatching of Catch-22 varied little from what he said to The Paris Review in 1974: 'I was lying in bed in my four-room apartment on the West Side when suddenly this line came to me: ‘It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, Someone fell madly in love with him.’ I didn’t have the name Yossarian. The chaplain wasn’t necessarily an army chaplain—he could have been a prison chaplain. But as soon as the opening sentence was available, the book began to evolve clearly in my mind—even most of the particulars… the tone, the form, many of the characters, including some I eventually couldn’t use. All of this took place within an hour and a half. It got me so excited that I did what the cliché says you’re supposed to do: I jumped out of bed and paced the floor.'” The book was born in 1953 and finished in 1961.

According to eNotes, our protagonist, Yossarian is a typical character in a Heller novel: “Heller's use of anachronism reflected the disordered nature of contemporary existence. His protagonists are antiheroes who search for meaning in their lives and struggle to avoid being overwhelmed by such institutions as the military, big business, government, and religion.” They go on to say, “Some critics claim that Heller's later work pales in comparison with Catch-22 and Something Happened, but others maintain that his canon viewed as a whole displays his continued evolution as a writer.”

Three of Heller’s works were turned into movies: Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Casino Royale (1967), and Catch-22 (1970). He died at the age 76 in East Hampton, NY in 1999.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Lightning Thief

The following is a guest review of a Rick Riordan book by my most wonderful grandson, Kai Ohlarik:

This book is mainly about Zeus’s lightning bolt being stolen. He was sleeping one night when somebody stole his bolt, and Percy Jackson is on a quest to find it. Percy was forbidden to be born because his powers would be too powerful. His father was Poseidon, and he was born with his father’s power.

Percy, on his quest, finds himself battling many monsters, such as Medusa.  She was disguised as a statue maker. Percy gets into trouble with Ares, the God of War. Percy fights Procrustes, known as Crusty, disguised as a water bed salesman. In reality, all the beds were stretchers.

Annabeth helps Percy on his quest. She is very smart and a quick thinker. She is the daughter of Athena. Grover is a satyr, one-half goat and one-half human. Grover helps on the quest. Satyrs try to hunt down sons and daughters of the Gods all around the world. When they find them, they bring them to a special camp called Camp Half-Blood.

This is a really, really good book. What I liked was the Gods and the battles, and the ironic ending. I would definitely recommend this book to everybody that is looking for an action packed book.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Kai is nine years old and loves to read. If we have a budding author in the family, I would be thrilled! We just came back from Barnes & Noble with more books for Kai to read. Hopefully in the future, he will do more reviews for the 7 to 12 age group. While dashing between me and the T.V., as any normal nine year old would, I typed his review exactly as he verbalized it.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The author sent me a copy of this short story to review:

Not for nothing, this pleasing short story reminded me of Jay and the Americans 1964 song Come a Little Bit Closer. All the elements are there, though the ending is somewhat different. My question to author Ardin Lalui is why did you stop the story at 44 pages? I was really getting into the content when it ended. It’s too bad because it seemed events were about to ignite. If you are not ready to write a full novel, try a novella like Stephen King’s The Mist . Not every author can write a 54 page masterpiece like Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or his 44 page classic Rip Van Winkle . Your story displays pending talent, and I look forward to your first novel. I also found the lack of quotation marks refreshing, while substituting them with dash marks somewhat original.

The story centers around three young men driving a pickup through Texas to the small town of Las Cruces, New Mexico. They all work at the Tobin Ranch as cowhands, but are treated like sons by the Tobins. They are depressed about Mrs.Tobin’s mortal illness and Mr. Tobin’s subsequent hard drinking and are looking for a good time to lift their spirits. In town, the men enter a drab bar named La Luna. On page sixteen, JP, the youngest of the three friends, looks around and says to himself, “ was about the kind of place where nothing good would ever happen to them...” This is where I stop. You will have to read this winsome short story for yourself to find out what happens next.

Mr. Lalui does flash the reader his budding talent, and I would like to see more extensive work from him in the future. Despite being a short story where action often trumps character development, it’s surprising how much empathy this reviewer felt for the characters. There wasn’t much time for the author to give the reader a warm feeling about anything, but somehow he succeeded. Kudos to this promising Irish author, who writes westerns!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: It’s very difficult to rate a short story, such as this one, since it’s only 44 pages and is written by a new author. I gave it five stars because I thought he did a lot with those few pages. I’ve read quite a few new artists lately, and it seems to me that they are having a tough time getting their books published. So many of these nascent authors now rely on self-publishing. Are these large publishing houses afraid to take a chance on a newbie? Personally, I’m tired of reading these commercial writers, such as, James Patterson, Brad Meltzer, John Grisham, David Baldacci, or Nelson Demille. Yet, they are always on The New York Times bestseller list. Go figure! I would much rather read an old classic by a Dickens, or a Twain, or better yet, a new star, such as, Erik Larson, Candice Millard, or Ellen Marie Wiseman. Anyway, for what it is worth, that’s my opinion.

Friday, February 1, 2013


This novel is not a sequel to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass . In fact, it’s not like anything I’ve ever read before. Welcome to the world of ergodic literature. This was my first foray into this genre, and I liked it. This genre requires the reader to make a real effort to read and interpret the text. There are different ergodic levels, such as Charlton Mellick III’s bizarro Cuddly Holocaust or Ayn Rand’s play Night of January 16th, a murder trial where the jury is picked out of the audience, and their verdict decides the outcome of the play. I’m not sure where Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel fits in the world of ergodicity, but I’ll give the next reader an idea of what’s in store for you: hundreds of footnotes (some real, most not), one to four texts on the same page; some pages blank, some with one or two words; some pages upside down, some obliquely angled; and, different narrators on the same page. And why is the word ‘house’ always in blue and ‘minotaur’ in red? I have to say that some of the footnotes are pure genius. The reader does eventually understand what’s going on, because the diverse narrators and variant footnotes are in distinctive fonts! Absolutely brilliant!

The postulation of this book is that it’s the true story of an old man’s dissertation of a documentary film called The Navidson Record. A blind old man named Zampano walks around his apartment complex every day followed by 80 cats. One day Zampano drops dead in his apartment facedown with deep claw marks alongside his body. Since there isn’t any trauma to the body, it is deemed a natural death. One of the sidebar characters, Lude, also lives in the building and calls his friend, Johnny Truant, a tattoo parlor employee, to tell him that there is an apartment available in his building. Johnny comes quickly to see the apartment and discovers a trunk full of notes and documents about a film called The Navidson Report. He takes the trunk home and starts reading, arranging, and editing Zampano’s papers even after he finds out that there is no such film. The story never reveals where the six to seven inch claw marks came from, or why the 80 cats disappeared after the old man’s death. This is a strange story. The reader doesn’t know what is real or fake throughout the 709 pages.

Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green, and their children, Daisy and Chad, move into a house on Ash Tree Lane in the Jamestown area of Virginia. Will is a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, and Karen is an ex-model. They are trying to see if they can save their common-law marriage. Will decides to mount cameras in every room and film the move to see how “everything turns out” in their relationship after getting a Guggenheim Fellowship and a media arts grant for the project. The family goes to Seattle, and when they come back, they discover that the house is slightly bigger on the inside than the outside. Then, a closet between their bedroom and the childrens' suddenly appears, and overnight, a large dark hallway emerges out of nowhere. What is going on? He seeks help from his friend Billy Reston and finally, from famed explorer and hunter Holloway Roberts and his crew. They explore the dark hallway three times without success. Meanwhile, usually on the same page, Johnny Truant is telling the story of Zampano’s notes on the Navidson film and his own life story at the same time.

As Navidson’s life gets byzantine within the arcane house, Johnny’s life becomes one drunken sexual escapade after another as he starts losing his mind over Zampano’s papers. We meet Thumper, the stripper, and many of Zampano’s ex-scribes, with which Johnny has sex. On their fourth exploration of the dark hallway in the house on Ash Tree lane, Holloway Roberts and his crew don’t return! Periodic growls are heard in the walls, sometimes close, sometimes far away. Johnny continues to lose his mind. As he thinks about the missing cats, he says to himself, “Something else has taken their place. Something I am unable to see. Waiting.” In the interim, Will tells his distressed wife, “They’ve been in there almost eight days with water for six. It’s three in the morning...” So Will, his brother Tom, and Billy Reston decide to go into the dark hallway and find Holloway and his crew. Meanwhile, Johnny thinks to himself, “My fear’s gotten worse...My teeth ache. My head aches. My stomach’s a mess.” Back at the house, things are bleak as the house has finally started to attack! If this paragraph seems confusing, well get used to it because that’s the motif of this newfangled but extraordinary novel. I’ve only given you a taste of what’s to come! Prepare to have your blood run cold.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Would I ever read another ergodic novel? I would say no, but that’s what I said about China Mieville’s weird fiction novel Kraken; and since then, I’ve read three more. So, I’ll see what strikes my interest in the future. What does Danielewski think of his 709 page novel? He says, “Make no mistake, those who write long books have nothing to say. Of course those who write short books have even less to say.”
After reading this novel, it crossed my mind that this book should be studied and discussed for its newness and hidden meanings as many less worthy novels are. I found out that there was a Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal done by Scarano and Krause that stated “House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a novel first published in 2000 that has since developed notoriety in literary circles for its arguably unique experimentation with a multi-layered plot, varied visual typography, and multi-media format. Despite being widely read and influential over the past decade, little scholarly analysis has been done on House of Leaves. As House of Leaves could represent an entire new genre of literature, it is important that we understand its themes and the ways in which various writerly techniques function within the novel. In this paper, I analyze House of Leaves through an existential lens, specifically utilizing the ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus to examine the psyche of one of the novel’s main characters, Johnny Truant. In addition to primary sources by Danielewski, Sartre and Camus, I employ a 2002 analysis of House of Leaves by Katherine N. Hayles to aid my research. I conclude that Johnny’s story, and House of Leaves as a whole, breaks down traditional notions of reality, but retains existential hope for individuals who are able to find a purpose in life, even if that “purpose” is necessarily subjective. My analysis presents an original take on House of Leaves, and contains wider implications for future novels that emulate its experimental style. Past analyses have focused on post-modern aspects of House of Leaves, but I analyze it through an existential lens. Beyond adding to the body of work on House of Leaves, my existential take on an otherwise post-modern text may prove influential to analyses of other “post-modern” novels in the future”.

With ergodic literature, there is no limit on how weird the writer can get. The name for this genre was coined by Espen J. Aarseth, author of Cybertext . Besides the novels I mentioned in the first paragraph, see Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta. The novel comes with loose pages in a box! You as the reader decide on what order you want to read them. My last example is Milorad Pavic’s Landscape Painted with Tea . This novel is part modern day Odyssey and a crossword puzzle. Has anybody out there noticed how unusual all the authors' names are?