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Unwind and Relax: The Benefits of Booking a Beachfront Rental in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning beaches and breathtaking natural beauty. With its pristine shores, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes, it’s no wonder that many travelers are drawn to this Central American paradise. When planning a vacation in Costa Rica, one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the country is by booking a beachfront rental. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of booking a beachfront rental in Costa Rica and why it should be at the top of your travel itinerary.
Spectacular Views and Serene Atmosphere
One of the primary reasons why beachfront rentals in Costa Rica are so popular is the unbeatable views they offer. Imagine waking up to panoramic vistas of turquoise waters and golden sandy beaches right outside your window. A beachfront rental allows you to enjoy these breathtaking views from sunrise to sunset, creating an unforgettable experience.
Moreover, staying at a beachfront rental provides a serene atmosphere that can be hard to find elsewhere. The sound of crashing waves, gentle ocean breeze, and the feeling of sand beneath your feet create an ambiance that promotes relaxation and tranquility. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or simply want some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a beachfront rental in Costa Rica offers an idyllic setting for unwinding.
Easy Access to Water Activities
For those who love water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, surfing, or paddleboarding, booking a beachfront rental in Costa Rica is perfect as it provides easy access to these fun-filled adventures. You can step out of your door and be just steps away from diving into the refreshing ocean waters or riding the waves on your surfboard.
Costa Rica is home to numerous world-class surf breaks suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers alike. With a beachfront rental, you can indulge in your passion for surfing without the hassle of traveling to and from the beach. The convenience of having water activities right at your doorstep allows you to make the most of your vacation time and create lasting memories.
Close Proximity to Nature and Wildlife
Costa Rica is known for its rich biodiversity and abundant wildlife. By booking a beachfront rental, you’ll have the opportunity to experience this natural wonder up close. Many beachfront rentals are nestled within or near nature reserves or national parks, offering easy access to lush rainforests, vibrant wildlife, and stunning hiking trails.
Imagine waking up to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees or spotting colorful toucans and exotic butterflies right outside your window. With a beachfront rental in Costa Rica, you can immerse yourself in nature’s beauty without having to travel far from your accommodation.
Privacy and Comfort
Beachfront rentals in Costa Rica often provide a level of privacy that hotels or resorts cannot match. Instead of sharing common spaces with other guests, you’ll have your own private oasis where you can relax and unwind at your own pace. Whether it’s enjoying a quiet sunset on your balcony or taking a dip in a private pool just steps away from the beach, a beachfront rental offers unparalleled privacy and comfort.
Furthermore, many beachfront rentals come equipped with modern amenities such as fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and luxurious bedrooms. This allows you to enjoy all the comforts of home while being surrounded by the natural beauty of Costa Rica’s beaches.
In conclusion, booking a beachfront rental in Costa Rica offers numerous benefits that enhance your vacation experience. From spectacular views and easy access to water activities to close proximity to nature and wildlife, as well as privacy and comfort, staying at a beachfront rental allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this tropical paradise. So why not make your next vacation in Costa Rica an unforgettable one by booking a beachfront rental?
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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After ‘A Little Life,’ Hanya Yanagihara’s Big New Novel Rewrites History
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By Gish Jen
- Published Jan. 7, 2022 Updated Jan. 12, 2022
TO PARADISE By Hanya Yanagihara
Can an Asian American woman write a great American novel? Ought a great American novel range from New York to Hawaii, skipping the Midwest? Can it cross from realism to dystopia? And — most important of all, perhaps — can it center on gay men?
It is to Hanya Yanagihara’s considerable credit that her new novel raises these questions. At more than 700 pages, with a span of 200 years, “To Paradise” begins in New York in 1893. We are given a patriarch, wealth, children; there is an arranged marriage, an inheritance, a true love, a class divide and a significant twist. Deftly paced and judiciously detailed, the tale makes hay with the conventions of the 19th-century novel. But that’s not all. With breathtaking audacity Yanagihara rewrites America, the Civil War having produced, in this account, not a united country but a conglomeration of territories, including one called the Free States. In this nation-within-the-nation, gay marriage is allowed — although, lending nuance to the picture, arranged marriages are, too.
Yanagihara, who is the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, goes on to rewrite history in other centuries as well, even as she moves the action from New York to Hawaii and back again, negotiates three major and nine minor time shifts and, most strikingly, ushers her characters offstage only to bring them back, in other eras and other guises, multiple times. To give just one of myriad examples, David Bingham, the heir of a mansion in Part I, returns a century later as a paralegal, passionately in love with one Charles Griffith. (We’ve met Charles before too, as the older, stolid suitor who was spurned by the David Bingham of Part I. Now he’s an even older yet dashing and worldly partner in David’s firm; David, moreover, formerly fair-complexioned, is now mixed-race.)
There are dozens of other such reincarnations, and they simultaneously bedazzle and befuddle. If in a Russian novel one struggles to keep track of who is related to whom, here we struggle to keep track of who has turned into whom, especially as Yanagihara masterfully repurposes themes, situations and motifs as well. It isn’t only arranged marriages and class differences that recur. Pandemics, mansions, triangles, illnesses, abandonments, deaths, letters and inheritances also kaleidoscopically reappear, as do grandfathers, lovers, invalids, caretakers, utopians and more.
Each section of the book is helpfully anchored by its own drama. A mansion is bequeathed; a man helps host a farewell dinner for his lover’s dying former lover; a man and his family grapple with his unconscionable professional choices. There is purpose behind the repurposing. At one point one of the Davids wonders, what if things were different — what then? “Would they still know each other? Would they still have fallen in love? Would David still have need for Charles? … Would David still find something to love in him?”
And indeed we see, over the course of the book, that as the characters morph, so do their relationships. At one point one of the Charleses — voicing, it seems, Yanagihara’s preoccupation with “the truth of who we are, our essential selves, the thing that emerges when everything else has been burned away” — writes that the pandemic he is enduring “clarified everything about who we are; it revealed the fictions we’d all constructed about our lives.” Furthermore: “It revealed how brittle the poetry of our lives truly is — it exposed friendship as something flimsy and conditional; partnership as contextual and circumstantial. No law, no arrangement, no amount of love was stronger than our own need to survive.”
Suggestively, this Charles relates a story his Hawaiian grandmother once told him, about a hungry lizard who, having eaten everything on earth, finally eats the moon and explodes. The earth recovers, as does the moon; and the lizard comes back as a man who in time also ill-advisedly eats the moon. But the moral is not what we might expect. Rather, it is that “we are the lizard, but we are also the moon. Some of us will die, but others of us will keep doing what we always have, continuing on our own oblivious way, doing what our nature compels us to, silent and unknowable and unstoppable in our rhythms.”
Limited and circumstantial as they may ultimately be, acts of love and goodness do leaven this book, which is finally as much concerned with the vulnerable as the inescapable. What wonder, though, that history is on repeat, social progress ephemeral and freedom a flickering hope.
In its evocation of eternal recurrence and the illusory nature of life, “To Paradise” recalls Buddhist ideas and so large a wisdom that it may seem absurdly worldly to critique the novel as a piece of craft. But 700-page books will sag in places, and this one is no exception. It loses steam in the Hawaii section and only fitfully regains momentum until its gripping end.
As in her second novel, “A Little Life,” Yanagihara evinces a preoccupation with the horrific, and the dystopian future depicted in the final section is horrific indeed. But reading of the societal developments, we may yearn for the fineness of touch with which the novel opened. In place of Yanagihara’s trademark emotional probing, the last section confronts us with chunks of exposition, not only in the letters of a troubled, brilliant scientist but also in the recollections of his mentally compromised granddaughter. She writes, for example, that his labs “sometimes worked with various ministries, especially the Health and Interior Ministries, but the state had no jurisdiction over any of their work. After ’56, though, that changed, and in ’62, when the state was established, it was given oversight of all the country’s research facilities. The following year, the 45 states were divided into 11 prefectures, and in ’72, the year after the zones were established, the state was one of 92 countries that signed a treaty with Beijing.”
In contrast, earlier in the book, one of the Charleses recalls seeing his mother with his doomed brother: “In her left arm, she was cradling the baby. But in her right hand she was holding an odd instrument, a clear glass dome, and she would fit the dome over the baby’s mouth and nose and then squeeze the rubber bulb attached to it. … Every 10 squeezes or so she would stop for a second, and I could hear, barely, the baby’s breath, so quiet. …
“It didn’t work, of course. … But lately, I’ve been thinking about … who will hold that little air pump for me when it’s my turn. Not because they think it’ll revive me, or save me. But because they want to try. …
“They were silent for a long time, and although David was thinking many things, he mostly thought about how good this moment was, lying next to Charles in a warm room, with snow outside. He thought that he should tell Charles that he would hold the air pump for him, but he couldn’t.”
This ambitious novel tackles major American questions and answers them in an original, engrossing way. It has a major feel. But it is finally in such minor moments that Yanagihara shows greatness.
Gish Jen’s forthcoming collection is entitled “Thank You, Mr. Nixon.”
TO PARADISE By Hanya Yanagihara 720 pp. Doubleday. $32.50.
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“Does this look like a dystopia to you?” The answer, implicit in the man’s question, was that a dystopia doesn’t look like anything; indeed, that it can look like anywhere else.
“Each of them wanted the other to exist only as he was currently experiencing him as if they were both too unimaginative to contemplate each other in a different way.”
“And in the same way, nothing has really changed here. America is a country with sin at its heart. You know what I’m talking about. One group of people sent away from their land; another group of people stolen from their land. We replaced you, and yet we never wanted to replace you— we wanted to be left where we were. None of our ancestors, our great-great-great-grandparents, ever woke up one day and thought: Let’s sail halfway around the world, be part of a land grab, pit ourselves against some other native peoples. No way, no how. That is not how normal people, decent people, think— that is how the devil thinks. But that sin, that mark, never goes away, and although we didn’t cause it, we are all infected by it.
So I gave him my short speech about infectious diseases and how I spent my days trying to anticipate the newest ones, playing up the statistics that civilians love hearing, because civilians love to panic: How the 1918 flu killed fifty million people, which led to additional, but less disastrous, pandemics in 1957, 1968, 2009, and 2020. How, since the 1970s, we’ve been living in an era of multiple pandemics, with a new one announcing itself at the rate of every five years. How viruses are never truly eliminated, only controlled. How decades of excessive and reckless prescribing of antibiotics had given rise to a new Family of microbes, one more powerful and durable than any in human history. How habitat destruction and the growth of megacities has led to our living in closer proximity to animals than ever before, and therefore to a flourishing of zoonotic diseases. How we’re absolutely due for another catastrophic pandemic, one that this time will have the potential to eliminate up to a quarter of the global population, putting it on par with the Black Death of more than seven hundred years ago, and how everything in the past century, from the outbreak of 2030 through last year’s episode in Botswana, has been a series of tests that we’ve ultimately failed, because true victory would be treating not just each outbreak individually but developing a comprehensive global plan, and because of that, we’re inevitably doomed.
Over the years, I’ve been astonished at and dismayed by and fearful of how acquiescent the public has proven to be: Fear of disease, the human instinct to stay healthy, has eclipsed almost every other desire and value they once treasured, as well as many of the freedoms they had thought inalienable. That fear was yeast to the state, and now the state generates its own fear when they feel the population’s is flagging.
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Fiction Meets Chaos Theory
Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel tweaks American history and traces the disorienting consequences.
W hile reading To Paradise , Hanya Yanagihara’s gigantic new novel, I felt the impulse a few times to put down the book and make a chart—the kind of thing you see TV detectives assemble on their living-room walls when they have a web of evidence but no clear theory of the case. To Paradise , which is in fact three linked novels bound in a single volume, is constructed something like a soma cube, with plots that interlock but whose unifying logic and mechanisms are designed to baffle. The first book, “Washington Square,” takes place in the early 1890s in a New York City that the reader quickly realizes is off-kilter. There the prominent Bingham family runs the primary bank of the Free States, one of a patchwork of nations (including the southern Colonies, the Union, the West, and the North) sustaining an uneasy coexistence after the War of Rebellion. In the Free States, homosexuality and gay marriage are perfectly ordinary, but Black people are not welcomed as citizens—the Free States are white, and committed only to giving Black people safe passage to the North and the West. David, the sickly grandson of the Bingham clan, falls in love with a poor musician named Edward, though his grandfather is attempting to arrange his marriage to a steady older man named Charles.
Book 2,“Lipo-Wao-Nahele,” also follows a David Bingham, this time a young Hawaiian man living with his older lover, Charles, in the same house on Washington Square owned by the Binghams in the previous book. David is a descendant of the last monarch of Hawaii, whose legacy is defended by a Hawaiian-independence movement. It is the 1990s, and AIDS is ravaging David and Charles’s world in New York, an erasure of a generation that is counterposed to David’s ambivalent denial of his homeland, his lineage, and his father—who narrates half the book.
Book 3, which, at nearly 350 pages, constitutes almost half of the entire novel, tells the story of a United States that slides into a totalitarian dictatorship in response to recurrent pandemics and climate disasters. “Zone Eight,” as it’s titled, unfolds from 2043 to 2094, again in Greenwich Village (now Zone Eight), and is narrated, alternately, by Charles, a Hawaiian-born virologist and influential adviser to the government, and Charlie, the daughter of Charles’s son, David. Charlie survived one pandemic as a child but lives with lasting neurological effects. These are, I promise, the barest possible bones of the trilogy.
Read: A Little Life : The great gay novel might be here
To Paradise , though its plots are too various and intricate to even begin to capture in summary, moves smoothly and quickly. Yanagihara’s previous novel, A Little Life , also a bulky page-turner, amassed critical praise and a near-frantic fandom on the strength of her gift for mapping deeply felt lives on an epic scale, and for dramatizing the way that people are driven, and failed, by their love for one another. To Paradise shares these qualities. Yet Yanagihara avoids the gratuitous violence and abjection that set the tone of A Little Life , a dark saga of four college friends who make their tormented way into middle age. To Paradise is a softer book, with a classic, almost old-fashioned set of plot arcs (a wealthy, fragile man is taken in by an opportunistic lover; a father longs for the son he alienated; utopian dreams produce a dystopia). It is executed with enough deftness and lush detail that you just about fall through it, like a knife through layer cake.
But what is Yanagihara doing with all these Davids and Charleses?
A few notes from my TV-detective chart: Characters called David, Charles, Peter, and Edward appear in all three books of the novel. Surnames repeat as well—though sometimes those who share surnames across centuries seem to be related, and sometimes not. Two of the books prominently feature Hawaii; all have butlers named Adams. All three are anchored by the same townhouse on Washington Square. Though the first and third books take place in a version of America that is notably speculative, it is not clear whether these alternative Americas are meant to be continuous, shared across the novel. Each book could just as plausibly be playing out its own version of history.
Two have powerful grandfathers who fail in their efforts to protect their legacy and their vulnerable grandchildren (often from themselves). All center gay men. All dramatize the horrors of illness, horrors that reverberate through generations. Two follow men whose frailty leads them to throw their life into the hands of untrustworthy men; a different two books are set amid plagues. Every book ends with the same phrase and the same image: a character reaching out to someone else through time and space, willing or imagining their way “to paradise.” None seems to imagine paradise in quite the same way.
The further I read, the more I suspected that the challenge Yanagihara sets for the reader isn’t so much to decode a puzzle as to survive a plunge into chaos theory . The warped harmonies of the three plotlines seem engineered to reveal how ensnared humans are in inscrutable coincidences and consequences, how oblivious we are to the long arcs of causation. To Paradise evokes the dizzying way that minor events and personal choices might create countless alternative histories and futures, both for individuals and for society. Reading the novel delivers the thrilling, uncanny feeling of standing before an infinity mirror, numberless selves and rooms turning uncertainly before you, just out of reach.
The butterfly effect—an underlying principle of chaos theory—holds that tiny, apparently inconsequential changes can produce enormous, globally felt repercussions. The butterfly effect was formalized by the meteorologist Edward Lorenz , who noticed, while running data through his weather models, that even the seemingly insignificant rounding up or down of initial inputs would create a big difference in outcomes: A flap of a wing, as he once put it, would be “enough to alter the course of the weather forever.”
Yanagihara plays with shifts on different scales in the altered Americas that populate the novel. What if, after the Civil War, race and class had still been fulcrums of injustice and oppression in society, but sexuality had not? What if Hawaii declared independence, a jolt of a less systemic degree? What if, in the face of devastating pandemics, the American government prioritized virus containment and maximizing lives saved, forcibly isolating the ill and ignoring concerns about civil liberties and human rights? How much would have to change for the world to be different? What seemingly momentous changes would leave the world fundamentally the same?
In Book 2, David is struck, looking at his lover, Charles, by how partially they know each other, and how circumstantial their relationship is. He finds himself reflecting that “each of them wanted the other to exist only as he was currently experiencing him—as if they were both too unimaginative to contemplate each other in a different context.” His thoughts begin to spiral outward.
But suppose they were forced to? Suppose the earth were to shift in space, only an inch or two but enough to redraw their world, their country, their city, themselves, entirely? What if Manhattan was a flooded island of rivers and canals … Or what if they lived in a glittering, treeless metropolis rendered entirely in frost … ? Or what if New York looked just as it did, but no one he knew was dying, no one was dead, and tonight’s party had been just another gathering of friends.
These kinds of “what if”s haunt all three plot arcs. Story after story within each book focuses on missed gestures of care and thwarted intimacy: If the grandfather in Book 1 had shared his doubts about Edward earlier, would that have rescued or stifled David? What if the David in Book 2 had been honest about his family background when he moved in with Charles? What if the Charles in Book 3 had been gentler when David got in trouble at school? Would their relationship have retained the possibility of repair? What if Charlie had told her Edward, the husband she acquired in an arranged marriage, that she loved him? Again and again, the question arises: What if this or that interchange had gone just a little differently ? What swerve might have followed? What could have been saved?
The book that grapples most directly with this torturous uncertainty is “Zone Eight.” It is written, in part, as letters from the scientist Charles Griffith to a friend and colleague named Peter over nearly five decades, updating Peter on his life—an account interwoven with his granddaughter, Charlie’s, narration of a year of her adult life, after Charles’s death. We meet Charles first as a young husband and father who has accepted a position at a prestigious lab in New York. His husband resents the move, but Charles feels he can do good at this new lab, which is engaged in the crucial work of anticipating and preventing pandemics. As his son grows up, as Charles and his husband grow apart, as global pandemics grow more dire, the reader begins to see in Charles’s letters the incremental nature of disaster.
His decisions—to collaborate with the government, to avoid confronting his son in an argument, to behave poorly at a dinner—are barely noticeable in the course of the weeks and months that his letters relate. But slowly, they accumulate into something all wrong. Many years into the correspondence, when the United States has become a totalitarian regime that Charles—trying to save lives—helped build, and when the islands around Manhattan serve as brutal internment camps for the ill, he confesses to his friend: “I have always wondered how people knew it was time to leave a place, whether that place was Phnom Penh or Saigon or Vienna.” He knows he has missed his window to escape the state he played a part in creating.
I had always imagined that that awareness happened slowly, slowly but steadily, so the changes, though each terrifying on its own, became inoculated by their frequency, as if the warnings were normalized by how many there were. And then, suddenly, it’s too late. All the while, as you were sleeping, as you were working, as you were eating dinner or reading to your children or talking with your friends, the gates were being locked, the roads were being barricaded, the train tracks were being dismantled, the ships were being moored, the planes were being rerouted.
At every step, Charles writes, he was trying to do the right thing. But “I made the wrong decisions, and then I made more and more of them.” That some of those missteps led to the devastation of his family, the transformation of Roosevelt Island into a crematorium, the supplanting of neighborhoods by militarized zones—and ultimately to a generation of children who can remember neither the internet nor civil liberties—is harder to contemplate, because this man is a normal enough man, a concerned scientist. As he made his decisions, none of them seemed to hold the potential for fatal error.
Small choices leading to unforeseen consequences are a conventional feature of fiction, but Yanagihara’s execution of this trope feels compelling and chilling because Charles’s world is so plausibly near to our own possible future. We, too, live in a world rocked by pandemics and storms , well aware that more are coming. We, too, live in a country that is vulnerable to authoritarianism. Charles arrives in New York in the early 2040s, and the setting looks reasonably like the New York of today. What apparently insignificant choices are we making, or not making, that will determine the disasters—or disasters averted—of our future? What vital relationships are in the balance at school pickup? Yanagihara taps into the anxieties of a moment crowded with warnings about apocalypses that might be narrowly avoided if we (who?) take action (what action?) now. One has the feeling, as an American in 2021, of being both the butterfly and the storm.
Yanagihara’s feat in To Paradise is capturing the way that the inevitable chaos of the present unrolls into the future: It happens on both global and intimate levels, always. The potential and kinetic energies that drive massive political shifts are also at work within the private push and pull of a marriage, between generations. The nature of energy is not to appear and disappear; it simply transfers. That invocation of continuity and possibility can sound hopeful, but here it is also daunting, entrapping. No matter what century, no matter which shifting variables—no matter how compellingly we spin stories out of uncertainties—chaos (the chaos of love, of crisis, of injustice, of alienation) is inescapable, uncontrollable. In the novel, as in life, humans are both the architects and the refugees of that chaos, determined to pursue meaning and connection no matter how impossible we have made that pursuit.
“For just as it was the lizard’s nature to eat, it was the moon’s nature to rise, and no matter how tightly the lizard clamped its mouth, the moon rose still,” goes a fable that Charles relays in Book 3, one he learned from his grandmother, who learned it from her grandmother. The voracious lizard in the tale consumes everything on Earth until there is nothing left, and then he eats the moon. But the moon rises inexorably and the lizard, unable to contain it any longer, explodes. “The moon burst forth from the earth and continued its path.”
“We are the lizard, but we are also the moon,” Charles writes. “Some of us will die, but others of us will keep doing what we always have, continuing on our own oblivious way, doing what our nature compels us to, silent and unknowable and unstoppable in our rhythms.”
This article appears in the January/February 2022 print edition with the headline “Hanya Yanagihara’s Haunted America.”
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A book blog for speculative fiction, graphic novels… and more, book review: paradise-1 by david wellington.
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Series: Book 1 of Red Space
Publisher: Orbit Books (April 4, 2023)
Length: 688 pages
Author Information: Website | Twitter
I’m of two minds about Paradise-1 by David Wellington. On the one hand, I liked it better than his last book I read, The Last Astronaut . The premise was definitely more to my liking, but the book also suffered from some of the same issues as well as uneven pacing.
Despite the urgency implied by the publisher description, the story also does not in fact begin under such harrowing circumstances. Protagonist Lt. Alexandra Petrova of the Firewatch is first introduced when the story opens on Ganymede, where we find her in pursuit of a dangerous serial killer. When the mission ends in disaster, she is unceremoniously exiled to Paradise-1, a nascent colony on a distant planet. On the day of her departure, she discovers that the vessel transporting her only has two other human passengers—Dr. Zhang Lei, a socially awkward researcher who is haunted by his past, and Sam Parker, the ship’s pilot and a former lover of Alexandra’s. Joining them is also an artificial intelligence in a fabricated body named Rapscallion who will be overseeing ship functions and life support while the humans are placed in cryosleep for the long journey.
As their ship makes its final approach on Paradise-1, however, they are ambushed by a mysterious vessel. Lieutenant Petrova, Dr. Zhang, and Parker are literally shaken out of their pods, waking up to almost complete destruction. They also learn that their ship’s AI is corrupted and trying to reboot itself in an endless loop, while communications sent to the colony are going unanswered, leading to a desperate race against time to find out why. What could be affecting the human colonists on Paradise-1 as well as their onboard AI, making both behave in such an erratic, hostile manner? And in the meantime, the crew still has to figure out how to survive the relentless attack from the hostile ship.
First, the good: Character development was superb. From the beginning, Paradise-1 presented a captivating study of Alexandra Petrova, who has spent her life living in the shadow of her mother, a woman both revered and reviled. In essence, their complex relationship is key to everything that happens. Trying to live up to her mother’s expectations is what got Alexandra into Firewatch in the first place, and what eventually led to her downfall were her attempts to quell rumors of nepotism. Later, we find out that her mother had also gone to Paradise-1. As they say, the plot thickens.
My favorite character though, was Dr. Zhang. While many of the reasons are spoilers, what I can say is that he intrigued me the moment he was introduced in that awkward conversation with Petrova, and then grew steadily on me since. One of the highlights was watching him come out of his shell after suffering a traumatic incident at one of his past research labs, discovering the key role he plays in the disaster at Paradise-1, and seeing him come to trust his crewmates.
Paradise-1 was also much more frightening and intense in tone compared to The Last Astronaut . The story blends two of my favorite space horror tropes, killer AI and extraterrestrial viruses. Considering how our world has recently come out of a pandemic and is now debating the ethics and possible dangers of burgeoning AI technology, these topics seem fitting somehow. Wellington takes all the uncertainty surrounding these discussions and uses it to great effect.
As for the not-so-good: Pacing. Pacing, pacing, and pacing, especially when we are also trying to cram the drama of character backstories in between bouts of action. It wreaked havoc with the flow of the plot, resulting in many lulls. Then there was the question of whether this book needed to be 700 pages, arguably much too long considering its repetitive nature. While there were several arcs comprising this story, they all followed a similar pattern of scouting out a derelict ship, encountering the horror of what has become of their hapless occupants, confirming what we already know. This happened no less than three times, and little progression was made after the first. Worse, each time we lost a little more of the mystery and fear as impatience grew. To add insult to injury, the book also ended on a somewhat brutal cliffhanger, a final slap in the face.
What’s frustrating is that, without these problems, Paradise-1 would have been an amazing book. To be fair, the good still outweighed the bad, but although there were plenty of things I loved, I cannot give this on more than a middling rating due to the pacing issues. While I do want to pick up the sequel to find out what happens, if it turns out to be another 700+ page doorstopper…well, I may have to reconsider.
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Category: 3.5 stars , Science Fiction Tags: David Wellington , Orbit , Paradise-1 , Red Space
16 Comments on “Book Review: Paradise-1 by David Wellington”
Wow, I can’t believe you rated this so well. The ending pissed me off so much that I had to rewrite my review twice because I just started swearing about it 😂 Glad you at least enjoyed it somewhat! Let me know how the 2nd is?
I think I’ve become inured to cliffhangers, they piss me off waaaaaaay less than they used to, lol
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I’m glad for you that you enjoyed it more than I did, despite the uneven pacing and the repetitions. I second Will’s request to let us know how the story progresses, since I strongly doubt I will pick up book 2… 😉 Thanks for sharing!
Well, hopefully the second book won’t be such a doorstopper!
Uneven pacing..yeah I could not deal with that now
That’s hard to deal with any day, honestly.
I’ve seen some terrible ratings for this book, and I honestly expected your rating to be lower. But I’m glad you found positive things about it. I’m still trying to fit it into my schedule, but with every less than enthusiastic review, it’s harder to do, lol.
I had tempered my expectations after seeing the reviews, so maybe that saved me, lol. But despite its faults, I really didn’t think it was that bad! It was quite entertaining for most of it, I just wish it wasn’t so long because I think the length hurt it.
Glad this worked out much better than his previous book but the pacing does sound frustrating. Great honest thoughts, Mogsy. 🙂
You’re welcome, and thank you for checking out the review!
I clearly enjoyed The Last Astronaut more than you did – but thanks to your excellent and fair-minded review, I’m not going near this one:). That repeating plot loop dynamic is known to be a newbie’s writing mistake – and shame on his editor for not picking it up and putting a stop to it. Especially as the book sounds far too bloated as a result. What a pity – as there is clearly plenty here to celebrate.
Yeah it was too bad about the repetitive narrative loop. It reminded me of those old video games which required you to go to a bunch of places but essentially do the same quests – I think we’re all past that now!
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Naming the AI Rapscallion does immediately give the impression of impending doom. 🙂 Too bad to hear about the pacing issues, something that can kill such a long book.
Ah, good old Rapscallion! He was definitely a bright spot of humor!
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The remarkable worlds of Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘To Paradise’
Almost seven years have passed since Hanya Yanagihara published “ A Little Life, ” a devastating story about four friends in New York City. The novel earned a large audience and widespread critical acclaim — all deserved — but even readers who loved “A Little Life” may still feel traumatized by the plot’s unrelenting agony.
Yanagihara is back with a daunting new book titled “ To Paradise .” The emotional impact of this novel is less visceral than “A Little Life,” but only because the author’s scope is now so vast and her dexterity so dazzling. Presented as a triptych of related novellas, “To Paradise” demonstrates the inexhaustible ingenuity of an author who keeps shattering expectations.
Calling the three parts of “To Paradise” novellas is stretching the term and calling them related is an act of faith. The last one, at almost 350 pages, could have been published as a stand-alone novel. But the way these disparate stories speak to one another across 200 years through a chorus of echoes makes their subtle coalescence all the more tantalizing. Keep that in mind: This isn’t a novel to be sampled 10 pages at a time before bed. Yanagihara makes strong demands on her readers; those who forsake all else and let this epic consume them will find it most rewarding.
Book Review: ‘A Little Life,’ by Hanya Yanagihara
The first section, “Washington Square,” immediately signals its debt to Henry James’s story about a wealthy young woman whose father doubts the sincerity of her dashing suitor. Yanagihara delivers an uncanny homage to James’s ever-parsing style as she re-creates the refined world of 19th-century New York, but the context has been systematically transformed.
In her version of “Washington Square,” the sheltered heir is a young man named David Bingham with a history of “nervous troubles.” While his successful siblings have moved out, David still lives with his loving grandfather in a domestic situation that’s comforting if slightly humiliating, like being a figurine in a Victorian terrarium. “He felt at times as if his life were something he was only waiting to use up,” Yanagihara writes, “so that, at the end of each day, he would settle into bed with a sigh, knowing he had worked through a small bit more of his existence and had moved another centimeter toward its natural conclusion.”
David’s entombed life is finally rattled when his grandfather gently prods him to consider marriage. Given the rumors about his emotional stability, this is not an easy match to arrange, but David is a single man in possession of a good fortune, and his grandfather thinks he may have found the perfect gentleman for him to marry.
You read that right.
How deftly Yanagihara weaves this radical social innovation into her version of 19th-century New York. But the acceptance of same-sex marriage isn’t the only variant she introduces. Although the romantic drama of David Bingham takes place after the Civil War we know, the history of the United States in these pages has followed a very different path and resulted in a continent now fractured into separate territories with violently different attitudes about the rights of Black people and gay people.
The result is a fascinating alt-history that forces us to consider that the social and political order we consider inevitable is, in fact, the result of innumerable variables that could have evolved entirely differently. And in the foreground of this reconceived land, Yanagihara stays close to the tender, frightened efforts of David Bingham to imagine a kind of freedom beyond his grandfather’s prudent arrangements. “To live a life in color, a life in love,” David thinks, “was that not every person’s dream?” In this exquisitely paced, achingly sympathetic story, that dream could save him — or kill him.
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The second part of “To Paradise,” called “Lipo-wao-nahele,” abandons that plot and picks up in the late 20th century with a story that possesses its own distinctive tone. But the grand house in Washington Square persists along with the characters’ names. A young paralegal — a different David Bingham — is in a pleasant though dependent relationship with a wealthy older man. “He knew he should feel infantilized by how obviously unequal their life together was,” Yanagihara writes, “and yet he didn’t — he liked it, he found it relaxing. It was a relief to be with someone so declarative; it was a relief not to think.” It’s not, though — not really. And that’s the tension Yanagihara keeps drawing tighter throughout “To Paradise.”
This second David is haunted by his peculiar experiences as a child when he lived in Hawaii. Much of the section is presented as a letter from David’s estranged father, a descendant of Hawaiian royalty who once believed that the restoration of the kingdom was imminent. The plot here is sometimes frustratingly oblique, and the letter format can feel artificial for such a lengthy and literary deathbed confession, but it allows Yanagihara to explore in detail the fantastical delusion that David’s father was in thrall to. Once again, she explores the dream of freedom that lures all these characters to risk everything for a paradise they desire but can barely envision.
No matter the setting — past, present or future — the allure of “To Paradise” stems from the hypnotic confluence of Yanagihara’s skills. She speaks softly, confidentially, with the urgency of a whisper. She draws us into the most intimate sympathy with these characters while placing them in crises that feel irresistibly compelling. And those forces reach a fever pitch in the novel’s last book, a medical dystopia called “Zone Eight.”
Plagues have long infected novelists. Daniel Defoe — by some measures the first English novelist — published “A Journal of the Plague Year” 300 years ago this March. And, of course, the canon of modern-day flu-fiction was spreading long before covid-19. Emily St. John Mandel’s “ Station Eleven ” — now a series on HBO Max — appeared in 2014. Last year, while we were still bickering about lockdowns, Gary Shteyngart , Jim Shepard , Louise Erdrich and others published covid-related novels.
More of these unsettling stories are surely developing in febrile imaginations around the world. But none is likely to be as devastating as what Yanagihara presents here. “Zone Eight” depicts the disease-ravaged hellscape that is the United States in the late-21st century. Get ready to feel nostalgic for social distancing.
Yanagihara moves back and forth across several decades to tell the story of a researcher named Charles who serves as a powerful adviser to the government during an era of successive pandemics. In the national petri dish of fear, scientific illiteracy and xenophobia, America becomes something like “1984” but with better-fitting masks.
In response to each new virus, Charles helps impose increasingly stringent regulations until the United States has been transformed into a police state of total surveillance. The infected are sent to “relocation centers”; the dying are subjected to experiments. I’ve endured nothing so unnerving about the slippery slope of moral expediency and social decay since I saw Cecil Philip Taylor’s classic play “Good” about a professor gliding toward Nazism.
This final section is a blistering analysis of what an endless cycle of pandemics can do to a society. With allusions to the AIDS epidemic, Yanagihara illustrates the way, given a surfeit of fear, acceptance of others gradually reverts to deadly prejudice. “Of all the horrors the illnesses wreaked, one of the least-discussed is the brisk brutality with which it sorted us into categories,” Charles writes to a friend. “The disease clarified everything about who we are; it revealed the fictions we’d all constructed about our lives. It revealed that progress, that tolerance, does not necessarily beget more progress or tolerance.”
In some ways, “To Paradise” concludes with an elaborately dramatized vision of the loss of civil rights that today’s conservatives have been predicting throughout the coronavirus pandemic with its capricious lockdowns, vaccination mandates and work restrictions. The government that Yanagihara imagines feeds off the interaction of disease and dread to suck up ever more power unto itself, creating “a comprehensive welfare state.” How ironic that this spectacular queer novel could become the rallying cry of the MAGA crowd. (There is no chance of that happening.)
But what really makes “Zone Eight” so gripping is its focus on Charles’s granddaughter, Charlie. She’s a young woman physically and mentally impaired during one of the plagues that swept across the country. Despite his callous disregard for most people, Charles is wholly devoted to protecting her, even if that means trapping her in a place without love.
In alternate sections, Charlie describes her own life in a voice perfectly calibrated to sound almost simple, almost without affect, odd but not exotic. For an author, this is a delicate, perilous act of creation. One slip and Charlie could have become a fount of touching insight, like the sappy environmental prodigy in Richard Powers’s “ Bewilderment .” But Yanagihara breathes real life into a young woman who, despite all evidence to the contrary, dares to believe that she deserves love and freedom. Her story, equally terrifying and poignant, reverberates through our current crisis with such force that it’s almost unbearable.
Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com .
By Hanya Yanagihara
Doubleday. 708 pp. $32.50
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The Follow-Up to A Little Life Is a Lot of Disappointment
To paradise denies readers the pleasures that made her 2015 novel a hit..
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The first question most readers will have about Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel, To Paradise, is whether it replicates the appeal of her surprise bestseller, 2015’s A Little Life . The answer is no, or not much. A polarizing doorstop that begins as a four-college-friends-in-New-York soap opera and resolves into a saga of the elaborate physical, sexual, and emotional mortifications of a character named Jude St. Francis, A Little Life has a cloistered, obsessive quality reminiscent of fanfiction. It is that rare product of a complex, acutely private fantasy life that successfully communicates the intensity of that life on the page. Reading it, I was often reminded of a fanfiction subgenre known as “hurt/comfort,” in which the sufferings of one character provide a cathartic emotional payoff when that character’s beloved rushes to console him, as Willem does for Jude over and over again in A Little Life.
The fetishistic aspect of this scenario means that it enthralls some readers while putting others off, sometimes to the point of moral indignation. But literature is full of fetishistic charms of one kind or another. That’s one of the things that makes it pleasurable, and we all have our own preferences. With hurt/comfort, the thrill isn’t (typically) sadistic. It’s just that the extremes of the hurt character’s wretchedness are required to pry the utmost concern, tenderness, and care from the comforting character, closing the circle and affirming their love. That’s what makes it a story, because the erotics of hurt/comfort is an erotics of narrative , not pain.
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With To Paradise, Yanagihara toys, dominatrix-style, with her readers’ desire for narrative fulfillment. The novel consists of three “books,” each almost the length of the average novel, the first and third of which set up considerable suspense about what will happen to their central characters and then refuse to resolve it. All three parts are inspired, to varying degrees, by the short Henry James novel Washington Square . This is most obvious in the first part, which is set, like Washington Square, in New York City in the late 1800s. To Paradise ’s alternate version of the city, however, belongs to a political entity called the Free States, where same-sex marriage is commonplace and women pursue the same professions as men. Other parts of the North American continent, which has fractured into different nations, are not so enlightened.
Like Washington Square, To Paradise is essentially about class. For David Bingham, the central character of the 19 th century portion of the novel, his family’s wealth and status are both a fortress and a prison. The Binghams don’t just have money, they have old money, and arranged marriages within their set aren’t remarkable. Unlike his enterprising married siblings, David is adrift and psychologically fragile. David, along with the grandfather who raised him after his parents’ deaths, refers to his “confinements,” which sound like the down swings of bipolar disorder. David is safe in the townhouse on Washington Square where he lives with his grandfather, but he’s sequestered from life’s rewards as well as its risks. Until, that is, he meets Edward, a charming bohemian music teacher, with whom he falls in love. Edward invites David to join him in starting a silk farm in California, but David’s grandfather, who has found evidence that Edward is a fortune hunter, threatens to disinherit David if he accepts. To complicate matters, the two men will have to conceal their relationship on the West Coast, where homosexuality is illegal.
Despite some clumsy and anachronistic language, this is the most engaging of To Paradise ’s three parts, and it’s with a frustrating wrench that the reader submits to the transition to Book II, set in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. Book III is set in the mid- and late-21 st century, when America has been reduced to a totalitarian dystopia after a series of pandemics. Throughout, the Washington Square house serves as a refuge, provided by a loving older figure, that nevertheless divides a younger, protected person from some essential vitality. Characters named David, Edward, and Charles (an adoring older suitor rejected by the David Bingham in Book I) recur in ever-shifting patterns. In Book II, David is a younger native Hawaiian living in New York with his older lover, Charles, mourning his father, also named David, who fell, disastrously, under the spell of a radical Hawaiian nationalist named Edward. Both of these Davids are descendants of the Hawaiian royal family deposed by Western colonists, rich and privileged among their own people, but also trapped in an obsolete identity. In Book III, a Hawaiian epidemiologist named Charles accepts a prestigious job in New York that will eventually destroy him, as he oversees the setting-up of containment camps for the infected.
This kaleidoscope of Davids, Edwards, and Charleses is bookended by two stories of people who must decide between security and uncertainty, whether to stay home or to strike out for the unknown. Yanagihara evidently disdains simplistic imperatives. Maybe the ambitious epidemiologist should have stayed in Hawaii, where he would have died in a pandemic but not ended up with blood on his hands, and maybe the Hawaiian prince should have left the islands where he “knew that what I was would always be more significant than who I was—indeed, what I was was the only thing that made who I was significant at all.” This choice feels most sharply drawn for the novel’s original David, left poised between Washington Square and what sounds like a pretty bad bet in the original Edward, but convinced that, “ This was happiness, this was life,” when in his lover’s arms.
By Hanya Yanagihara. Doubleday.
The novel ends with Charlie, the granddaughter of the epidemiologist, similarly mid-adventure. As a child, she survived “the illness” thanks to a drug that changed her physically and mentally, scarring her skin and subduing her emotions and spirit. Even as her grandfather mourns this loss, he wonders if it might actually be a blessing, that perhaps “her affectlessness is a kind of stolidity,” or that she’s “evolved and become the sort of person who’s better-suited for our time and our place.” The future New York of Book III is an unrelentingly grim place, where food and water are rationed and books and TV are prohibited. In this world, no one would want to feel more than a drone does, especially when, Charlie’s grandfather reflects, “If we have lived, it is because we are worse than we ever believed ourselves to be, not better. … We are the left-behind, the dregs, the rats fighting for bits of rotten food, the people who chose to stay on earth, while those better and smarter than we are have left.”
But Charlie is offered an out. Will she make it? It’s only fair to warn potential readers of To Paradise that, as with the original David’s fate, they will never know. Yanagihara will even taunt them about it. Charlie listens to a storyteller recounting a tale “about a man who had lived here, on this very island, on this very Square, 200 years ago, and who had forsaken great riches from his family to follow the person he loved all the way to California, a person who his family was certain would betray him,” but the storyteller is arrested by the authorities, leaving her to wonder for years afterwards what happened. It’s to Yanagihara’s credit that To Paradise kindles such desire in its readers, even if the novel is too rangy and diverse to satisfy the hurt/comfort fans who adored A Little Life. To leave that desire unsatisfied, however, seems imperious and even a bit cruel. Seven hundred and twenty pages makes for a very long tease.
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'to paradise' is an inspired and vivid puzzle that doesn't quite come together.
Hanya Yanagihara's much anticipated 700-page novel is a deliberately difficult work, made of up dazzling moments that tend lose their luster when pressed together.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Our book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review of one of this year's most anticipated books - "To Paradise" by novelist Hanya Yanagihara. Her 2015 novel, "A Little Life," dealt with the challenges of disability and trauma and became a bestseller. Here's Maureen's review of "To Paradise."
MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: Beyond everything else it is, Hanya Yanagihara's new novel, "To Paradise," is a deliberately difficult novel. It weighs in at just over 700 pages and breaks into three distinct books, which read like semi-autonomous novels in their own right. Each book is set in New York City a century apart and invokes an array of literary styles from the novel of manners to alternate history, from the old-fashioned epistolary novel to the explicit social commentary of speculative fiction.
Repetition is Yanagihara's organizing principle here. The same names and situations resurface every 100 years, and other random coincidences abound. Perhaps that's why, when reading "To Paradise," I couldn't help but think of the coincidence that it's being published in the centenary year of another deliberately difficult novel, James Joyce's "Ulysses." "Ulysses" also weighs in at just over 700 pages and is also packed with repetitions, scenes where characters unknowingly repeat incidents from "The Odyssey."
There, the comparisons end. But my own take on "To Paradise" does mirror the reactions of "Ulysses'" first overwhelmed readers. When "Ulysses" came out in 1922, it was hailed by a few critics as brilliant but dismissed by others as baffling and dull. Virginia Woolf confessed she had to force herself to push past the first 200 pages. I have all those responses to Yanagihara's novel. It's inspired and vivid. But there are also long stretches that are so flat and opaque that only a looming deadline made me press forward.
Book I of "To Paradise" is the most reader-friendly and contains some of the novel's most gorgeous language. It's set in 1893 in a New York that belongs to an independent nation called the Free States. The Free States have legalized gay marriage and given full rights to women but keep out Black and Indigenous people. The way communities and nations, even allegedly progressive ones, define themselves by whom they exclude is a theme Yanagihara touches on frequently.
Events here take place largely within a townhouse in Washington Square. That's Henry James territory. And sure enough, this section riffs on James' novel called "Washington Square," the story of a charming cad seeking to marry a shy, plain heiress. The lovelorn heiress of this tale is reimagined as an heir, a young gay man named David Bingham, whose sickliness and awkwardness have made him damaged goods on the marriage market. As David reflects, he was a man living in his grandfather's house, waiting for one season to shade into the next, for his life to announce itself to him at last. What ensues is a melancholy story about seduction, willed self-delusion and the cruelty the world inflicts on the vulnerable.
The second book of "To Paradise" takes place 100 years later in 1993, partly in that same townhouse in Greenwich Village. The David of this story is a cash-strapped, young Hawaiian man living with a debonair, older lover named Charles. The AIDS epidemic imbues this section with a twilit mood. But unfortunately, Book II drifts into a dense ending monologue narrated by David's father, who belongs to the Hawaiian royal family.
The final and longest book of "To Paradise" drags us deep into dystopia. New York, in 2093, has been ravaged by climate change and mutating deadly viruses. That Washington Square townhouse is now chopped into apartments. Among the characters we meet here are two reincarnations of the Charles character - a Charles who's a renowned virologist and his granddaughter, Charlie, who's emotionally and physically compromised. It's her grandfather's effort to save her from the ruthlessness of an authoritarian government that propels this narrative after a sluggish start.
The greatest pleasures of "To Paradise" are technical ones - the seemingly effortless variety of Yanagihara's writing styles, the changes she rings on a fixed group of characters and situations. But unlike other sprawling books that are also explicitly contrived - yes, "Ulysses," or Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" and, most recently, Anthony Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land" - "To Paradise" sacrifices emotional depth to artistic design. With the exception of the fully realized David in Book I, characters seem summoned up simply to serve the novel's pattern. And that pattern of eternal return makes this big novel feel confined. Sometimes a complicated puzzle contains dazzling individual pieces that lose their luster when pressed together.
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan is a professor of literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed "To Paradise" by Hanya Yanagihara. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Brian Cox, one of the stars of the HBO series "Succession." He plays the patriarch of a family that owns a conglomerate which includes a conservative cable news network, a cruise line and theme parks. The series is a political, social, family satire embedded in a drama. Cox has written a new memoir that begins with nearly dying at birth. The drama on and off stage and screen continues from there. I hope you'll join us.
(SOUNDBITE OF HANS-PETER KLIMKOWSKY'S "RELAXING ON A BEAUTIFUL MORNING: RELOADED FOR PIANO SOLO, PT. 1")
GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.
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