Neverwhere is what would happen if Douglas Adams attempted to write a serious fantasy novel. Neil Gaiman's uses techniques like describing the differe...moreNeverwhere is what would happen if Douglas Adams attempted to write a serious fantasy novel. Neil Gaiman's uses techniques like describing the differences of appearance between two villains and then saying they look nothing alike, and noting a character saying "Would you like some water?" sounding like it was rehearsed 40 times reminds me a lot of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy phrases like "hung in the air like bricks don't".
Richard Mayhew is an ordinary man in London who sees a bloodied girl in the street during a date with his girlfriend Jessica. He is about to call the emergency number, but the girl insists that her enemies will find her if she goes to a hospital. Richard takes her home to apply first aid over the objections of Jessica, who just comes off as jealous and someone who always drags Richard to places he doesn't like. The girl reveals that her name is Door, and that her family has been murdered. Another strange person calling himself the Marquis de Carabas gives Richard strange instructions, and eventually Richard ends up in the hidden world of the London Underground, or the "Underside".
Door did not want Richard to come because of the danger, but he had little choice. Richard tried to move on with his life, but everyone in London Above ignores him as if a Somebody Else's Problem field was in place. Gaiman captures the feeling of helplessness and despair well here, and you just may get the feeling that Richard is going crazy. Richard had "fallen through the cracks", and he is stuck in the Underside for now.
The rest of the book follows Door, Richard, the Marquis and a bodyguard named Hunter as they have strange magical adventures while investigating the murder of Door's family. Door is a member of the House of Arch, which has the magical power of. . .opening doors. However, this is not just the Alohomora spell from Harry Potter. Opening doors can mean turning things inside out and creating portals where none existed before. The fallen Angel Islington and his demonic henchmen Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are attempting to capture Door to launch an invasion of Heaven (while Croup and Vandemar just want to be paid and to torture their victims). Croup and Vandemar were also responsible for the Black Death and the murder of countless dignitaries, and Islington seems to be responsible for the sinking of Atlantis. Islington fools Door and Richard at first, because even a demon can put on an angelic act.
Many other strange incidents occur throughout the journey. One bridge, when crossed, may send travelers into the darkness, but most people are unfazed. The Floating Market happens even though it is uncertain as to who chooses the location. Then there are the Black Friars' trials for the Key, which are mundane until Richard's test, which hints that he has been insane and homeless rather than in London Below. Croup enjoys collecting Tang dynasty pottery. . .so he can eat it. Even the sarcastic Marquis ends up dead for a while after an encounter with Croup and Vandemar, and describes it as "dark and cold".
Richard is more talented than you might expect from the "Arthur Dent" mold of character. He slays the boar-like Beast which took down even Hunter, who lives for slaying underground monsters, and passes the test of sanity which has driven many people over centuries to suicide. He also seems to be competent with first aid, as he is able to save Door at the beginning. It is interesting to see his growth as a character, as everyone treats him like an idiot at the beginning.
Neil Gaiman knows much about London's history, and it is interesting to learn about events such as the deadly smog of 1952, or when sewers were finally built after the "Great Stink" of the Victorian era. This is relevant to the plot as bygone times often get stuck in London Below, since the surface cannot use it up. This sounds like it makes no sense, but Neverwhere works on dream logic to begin with. Those who know much about fairy tales may guess the true nature of the Marquis de Carabas. . .
After Door opens a portal to what appears to be a black hole in space, Richard wishes to go back to London Above. He is warned that he can never truly go back, and that he is welcome in London Below as the Warrior who killed the Beast. Richard starts to readjust, but notices that he is looking at London Below on the subway, and that he wants to return. People think he was imagining things, and even Richard thinks that he might have been going mad until he creates a portal with Hunter's knife. Richard fell through the cracks, and he feels more at home in the Underside.
Anyone who's interested in an adult version of the "person from the real world falls into fantasy" genre should love this.
Cassandra Clare's City of Bones (not to be confused with the other books called City of Bones) has some interesti...moreMore Of A Car Crash Than A Trainwreck
Cassandra Clare's City of Bones (not to be confused with the other books called City of Bones) has some interesting ideas, but unsympathetic characters and plot stupidity make it good snark material.
The Mortal Instruments series is set in a world filled with supernatural beings and events concealed from the "mundies", or regular humans with "glamour" charms, much like in Harry Potter. The main character Clary Fray starts to learn the truth when she witnesses what appears to be a murder in a New York nightclub. It turns out that no one else saw what happened, and the killers were in fact Shadowhunters, who are partially angelic humans who slay demons. Clary can see them because she is a Shadowhunter herself, though she does not know it thanks to a memory-blocking spell. The Shadowhunters are wondering why a "stupid mundie" can see through their glamours, something that has not happened in centuries. Clary cannot go back to her normal life after demons attack her apartment and kidnap her mom, so she has no choice but to join the Shadowhunters to investigate.
The problem is that many of the characters are too unpleasant to sympathize with. Clary is passive for most of the book, though she slays a demon by shoving a Sensor into its gullet (a cell-phone like device that tracks demons) and figures the location of the Mortal Cup. She may just stand around for most of the book, but at least she is more useful than Bella Swan from Twilight. She's still pretty dumb at times. She goes back to her apartment when her mom told her that there was extreme danger there and that it was too late to help. Keep in mind she has no combat training at that point, and for most of the novel. Clary seems to hate fellow Shadowhunter Isabelle just for existing: "She looked like a moon goddess. Clary hated her." I can understand being envious of someone you think is more attractive, but hate? Clary is not romantically interested in her "mundie" friend Simon, but is instantly jealous when he dares to show any interest in another girl. She does get to have a few decent lines, like when she tells Jace that it was time for him to rip his shirt off to bandage her, or when she says that the Shadowhunters should consider dental records because they are terrible at knowing who is alive or dead. Clary has more interests than the hollow and wooden Bella Swan, since she reads books that are not required reading in school and watches anime. She still fits the "short, clumsy, and supposedly plain" stereotype.
Simon starts off sympathetic, since he is often bullied for being a "mundie", and he does seem to have interests outside of the plot, such as X-Men and Trigun. However, he is stupid enough to drink random liquids at Magnus Bane's party (which hosts vampires and fairies), and is turned into a rat. This leads to Clary and Jace having to risk their lives to save him from a hostile coven of vampires. He also toys with Isabelle's emotions to make Clary feel jealous, and sometimes tells tasteless jokes about Jewish vampires being afraid of an 18 dollar check (Please don't have your characters tell "greedy Jew" jokes if you want them to be sympathetic, unless it's supposed to be offensive). He's still more useful than Clary when he defeats the demon Abaddon (sp), even though he has no Shadowhunter blood. Why do we need Shadowhunters if the "stupid mundies" can just shoot a window and fry even the strongest demons with sunlight? He goes back to the mundane world for the most part, since he's had enough of the Shadowhunters, and who could blame him?
Jace always acts like a sarcastic jerk, but then again he's supposed to be the sexy bad boy. He does seem to care about Simon a little bit, and tries to keep him from getting his heart broken by Isabelle. The sympathy goes out the window when he shows his racist side. He always treats Downworlders (werewolves, vampires, fairies, and witches/warlocks who are part demons yet are not demonic themselves) and "mundies" as inferior, even though the whole point of the Shadowhunters is to protect them. The vampire affair with Simon begins when Jace destroys their motorcycles out of spite.
Isabelle shows some typical Shadowhunter racism, though she is not as bad a person as the other characters seem to think she is. She genuinely cares about Simon and is a decent demon slayer.
I like Magnus Bane, though. He doesn't put up with Shadowhunter arrogance, and often tells Jace to shut up. He is very flamboyant and attempts to keep the peace at his parties, and seems to be more intelligent than the other characters.
Voldemort. . .er. . .VALENTINE is the villain of the book, and is the true father of Jace and Clary. Yes, there will probably be incest subtext in the later books (as if Blue Bloods wasn't enough). Valentine wants to kill all the demons and Downworlders because he thinks the world should be for pure-blooded humans and Shadowhunters. He plans to do it by converting children into Shadowhunters using the Mortal Cup. Only a few survive the process, but Valentine doesn't care. That would make an effective villain if we actually saw him doing anything. He's mostly offscreen until near the end of the book, and one of those segments is a flashback from Luke (Clary's werewolf friend) about his attack on the Shadowhunter capital. When he does show up, he talks. And talks. And talks. He mainly discusses family issues, which is kind of annoying during a final battle. Given the traditional Shadowhunter racism, it's really not that far a leap to Valentine's views. Of course, the Clave sends many of his former followers to run the Institute in New York, because nothing can go wrong with a school full of potential spies. Valentine wins the fight at the end of the first book when he escapes with the Mortal Cup.
The worldbuilding also has some severe issues. Don't you all remember the massive demon invasion throughout the world that Ethelred was unready for 1000 years ago? Anyone? I didn't think so. The eleventh century has better historical records than Clare seems to think, and you would think Song China or the Abbasid Caliphate or somewhere would have mentioned the demons in their writings. The first Shadowhunters came during the invasion when the angel Raziel gave humans some of his blood, and they are called the Nephilim because of that. The problem is that the Nephilim story is in Genesis, which was written thousands of years earlier. Why would Nephilim stories develop earlier if there weren't any Nephilim until 1000 AD or so? Jace is also agnostic, even though HE IS PART ANGEL! Presumably the existence of angels and Nephilim would indicate some form Judaism or Christianity is true (if I remember correctly, Islam does not have Nephilim stories, as angels don't have free will in that religion). That doesn't stop other religions' rituals from somehow working, because "all the stories are true". Please pick something and stick to it! This is beginning to remind me of the confusing cosmology of comic books, like when Thor is running around America, but nobody converts to Norse paganism. The Shadowhunters have no reason to hide either, considering that Satan has a very low approval rating, but they use glamours too! Why do they keep the mundies in the dark when they can be useful for taking out demons too? Even the demons seem very apathetic towards mundies, and only bother to attack Shadowhunters and Downworlders.
The magic system is pretty confusing too. The Shadowhunters use tattoo-like "runes" to give them protection and magical power and mystical devices like the Sensor or the wand-like "stele", though they insist that they do not cast magic, because only demons, witches, and warlocks tamper with the dark arts. At the same time, they are perfectly willing to use the warlock Magnus Bane to cast spells. What exactly is your position on magic, Shadowhunters?
Even with all of this, the novel still has some good lines and interesting moments, and is nowhere near as bad as Twilight or Sword of Truth. Unfortunately, this means it isn't as funny to snark. Hopefully the movie can salvage something decent.
EDIT: I forgot to mention earlier that all the Shadowhunters seem to be technophobes. Why are there no enchanted guns? Why do all the weapons seem to be medieval? Why do none of the Shadowhunters have a computer-in 2008 New York? Harry Potter gave the reason that electronics don't work in high magic environments, but this book doesn't seem to give an explanation.
Cable and Deadpool: If Looks Could Kill is highly recommended for all fans of Deadpool, and is a good introduction to Cable.
Deadpool begins the story...moreCable and Deadpool: If Looks Could Kill is highly recommended for all fans of Deadpool, and is a good introduction to Cable.
Deadpool begins the story by accepting a contract from the One World Church, even though he is normally suspicious of religion (and thinks the U.S. is at war with France). He finds out that all the members are blue-skinned, because they believe that racism can be eliminated if everyone looks the same. To accomplish this goal on a global scale, Deadpool needs to steal the Facade virus from a German corporation. He notes the unusually high level of security for a pharmaceutical company, though his healing factor and combat skills render the security guards useless. Meanwhile, Cable is breaking into the facility at the same time using his telekinetic and mind-reading powers. Cable wants to destroy the virus, so he and Deadpool fight as soon as they encounter each other. What happens instead is that anarchist wannabes steal it and inject it into themselves to cause chaos.
Instead of turning people blue, Cable finds out that the Facade virus causes them to melt. Cable uses his powers to kill the infected people and absorb the virus before it can spread, only for Deadpool to steal it. Deadpool delivers the virus in a soda bottle (he's not quite sure whether he drank the right liquid), and of course he ends up as the guinea pig. Deadpool temporarily looks like the church members, and seems to believe their ideology. The virus activates a dormant virus in Cable, causing him to sprout grotesque mechanical tendrils, and Deadpool is starting to melt. The Facade virus also suppresses mutant abilities, and even the narration thinks the next part is silly. Deadpool and Cable have to combine by sharing each other's blood in order to be cured. Deadpool does not appreciate being swallowed, though Cable points out that both lives are saved and flies off to the other virus-manufacturing plant in Singapore with an idea to change the world.
Cable wrecks most of the facility and fights the villain Lightmaster (who can transmit himself through any light source), who is affiliated with the One World Church. Cable destroys Lightmaster, causing the virus to spread throughout the world and turning everyone's skin pink (it looks vaguely white/Caucasian in the comic). Deadpool had been left behind and was transformed on a flight to Singapore(Deadpool normally looks like a zombie, for those unfamiliar with the character). Cable publicly cures everyone of the virus and starts to build his utopian city in the sky with remnants of a space station. The X-Men are concerned about this, and the comic ends with Cyclops, Beast, and Emma Frost planning to take him down. As for why the X-Men are after him, Cable had a meeting with Professor Xavier earlier in the story, and had a discussion about how he should change the world with the immense power that he has.
Cable makes an effective straight man to Deadpool. The two of them are enemies, but are forced to save each other's lives and are stuck together since Cable's teleporter considers them one person after their DNA bonded. Deadpool makes his usual irreverent jokes throughout, and has a strange fascination with celebrities like the Olsen Twins (to the point where he has restraining orders in many states). The Facade virus gives many opportunities for jokes about Deadpool's appearance, and the comic delivers. The only complaint is that the events can be a bit confusing for first-time readers, so I reread it before making the review.
Nightwings is an unusual kind of alien invasion story (though then again, Silverberg is known for weirdness). The alien conquerors seem to be benevole...moreNightwings is an unusual kind of alien invasion story (though then again, Silverberg is known for weirdness). The alien conquerors seem to be benevolent and are only conquering Earth because the humans treated them like cattle long ago, and Earth was legally theirs by treaty anyway. The computers are human brains and many groups of genetically engineered people exist, such as the Fliers and the Swimmers.
The narrator (Wuellig/Tomis) is a Watcher, a type of person that uses a mystical artifact to find out when the aliens will return. Of course, even after he warns the people (after an alien spy outright tells him that the invasion is imminent, it turns out to be useless, since the aliens have a far superior military. The invaders kill off most of the ruling class, sparing only a few princes such as Enric of Roum. Enric is no less proud even after being blinded, which hinders his disguise as a supposedly celibate Pilgrim. The next part revolves around the narrator attempting to find a new role, now that Watchers are obsolete. He then decides to study history with the Rememberer guild along with Enric. We then find out much of the backstory. The Americas were lost after significant tampering with the Earth's climate and orbit, and humans treated many alien species with contempt at the height of their power. After the debacle involving the weather machines, the future invaders promised financial aid in exchange for owning the planet. Humans scoffed at this, because the aliens were far behind them in technology at the time. The narrator gives some historical information to the aliens, which he considers a betrayal. Meanwhile, the prince was seducing a Rememberer's wife (Olmayne) instead of studying history.
The husband kills Prince Enric, and Olmayne murders her husband in retaliation. Both Olmayne and the narrator are expelled from the guild, and decide to take a pilgrimage to Jorslem to find redemption and to become young again through surgery. After getting to Jorslem, the narrator is healed via a religious epiphany, though Olmayne could not be redeemed and dies shortly afterwards. A new religion of sorts is founded because the Watchers and Pilgrims combined their experiences and made a new guild. The narrator finds his Flier companion Alvuela and sets off to Agupt to cure the plague there.
The book has a fatalist theme, considering the narrator constantly talks about submitting to the Will, and punishments and blessings are preordained. The other major theme is about how pride leads to failure, as shown in the cases of the weather machine disaster and the blindness and death of Prince Enric (and Olmayne's death too). The prose is often described as lyrical, and I would agree. It has a poetic feel to it, and Silverberg can make even scenes where not much happens look good.
This is longer than the other Paratime short stories, and features an interdimensional slave trading ring that poses as wizards. At least there's a co...moreThis is longer than the other Paratime short stories, and features an interdimensional slave trading ring that poses as wizards. At least there's a computer in this book (albeit one that uses dials) rather than just slide rules! :)
I didn't think there was more than one First Level sector in the Paratime universe. I guess Verkan Vall just lived in a luckier dimension. Why do so many Paratime stories involve India, by the way? I wonder if Piper studied Indian history or something. . .(less)
This is one of Piper's better Paratime stories. I guess Piper came up with the "Missionaria Protectiva" before Dune did! The First Level people are ma...moreThis is one of Piper's better Paratime stories. I guess Piper came up with the "Missionaria Protectiva" before Dune did! The First Level people are manipulating the religion of a primitive timeline where the Aryan Invasions targeted Egypt and Mesopotamia instead of India, and therefore slowed down progress. The Paratime people are mining uranium, and construct a religion to divert the natives. However, a group of Paratime criminals have manipulated a cult of human sacrifice, and after the criminals win a few battles and rabbits start dying off from an imported disease (rabbits are sacred to one of the major religions), the monarchies start converting to the new god. The people in that universe's attitude to faith is strictly "My god can beat up your god"; they just follow whatever religion wins battles.
Through some technological tricks involving a radio and a giant idol, the Paratime police cow their rivals into submission and strip the illegal company of their Paratime rights.
This has interesting religious themes, and can make readers a bit paranoid that THEIR religions aren't just Paratime fabrications. Our world is a lowly Fourth Level sector after all! :)(less)
This is a fun and silly adventure. It won't be one of the greatest sci-fi books you'll read, but it's a lot of fun.
The book is from the perspective o...moreThis is a fun and silly adventure. It won't be one of the greatest sci-fi books you'll read, but it's a lot of fun.
The book is from the perspective of a 14th century English friar recounting the story of the conquest of the much more advanced alien empire after they botch a scouting mission. Centuries of success over weaker species have made the Wersgorix soft, and medieval tactics and a lot of bluffing and misunderstanding take the humans far. For example, when aliens question Sir Roger about his station, he says that his ancestor Noah (yes, that one) once commanded "the entire fleet of Earth" or words to that effect.
If you want a book you can read in a couple of days for a quick laugh, check this one out! (less)
Hyperion is essentially the Canterbury Tales in SPACE!
With that out of the way, it's one of the more impressive books I've read in a while. The charac...moreHyperion is essentially the Canterbury Tales in SPACE!
With that out of the way, it's one of the more impressive books I've read in a while. The characters are on their way to see the Shrike, a mysterious killing machine with a major religion centered around it on the backwater world Hyperion. They come for various reasons: to cure a sick child, to inspire poetry, to use the Shrike as a weapon against the AIs of the galaxy, among others.
All of the stories are at least decent, and some are wonderful. My personal favorite is the profane poet/hack writer Martin Silenus, but Sol Weintraub has an excellent story about grieving his daughter, who is slowly losing her memory and life before his eyes.
The world is well-imagined as well. Readers of Dune who are looking for another philosophical science fiction novel won't be disappointed, especially in Father Hoyt's and Sol Weintraub's chapters, who experience serious doubts about their faith in the face of evil and what seems to be God's silence (or absence, if you take Silenus's view).
Fans of Keats might also like this, because Hyperion is loaded with references to him.
Hyperion is not a comedy novel, but it has a few good jokes anyway. The characters sing "We're Off To See The Wizard" near the end, despite no one knowing what the Wizard of Oz is. Silenus is told by his publisher that if he does not submit to the company's demands, then he'll be forced to write trashy romances under the name of "Rosemary Titmouse".
This is a weird story to rate, and part of it depends on the reader's views on religion and morality. The premise is that the Lithians, a society of l...moreThis is a weird story to rate, and part of it depends on the reader's views on religion and morality. The premise is that the Lithians, a society of lizard people, are perfectly rational and moral despite having no concept of God. Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez is a Jesuit who is troubled by this question, and struggles with Catholic doctrine because he thinks Satan created Lithia as a trap for humanity, or that Lithia could be an unusual pre-Fall of Humanity world. Some of the other scientists sent out, especially Cleaver try to exploit Lithia for slave labor and resources.
Atheists and agnostics will probably roll their eyes at the story for good reason, though they could find some value in taking a more negative view of the priest and following the secular interpretation of the ending. Christians, especially Catholics will probably like the book.
The writing is uneven at parts, since some sections seem to be a bit slow in the middle, but overall I liked it, and the book is short enough to the point that pacing problems aren't that much of an issue.
I like that the ending leaves open the question as to whether the exorcism destroyed Lithia, or whether Cleaver's fusion bomb factory had a reaction with the volatile elements in the planet's surface. The religious doubt theme was important to the story, and the only good ending would have an element of uncertainty to it.
This one is hard to review. I really like the Dune series, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit while reading it. However, there are some things that br...moreThis one is hard to review. I really like the Dune series, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit while reading it. However, there are some things that bring it down to a 3.
The main problem is the weird sexual theme to this book. Although one can understand the Honored Matres thing to an extent (a less subtle splinter group of the Bene Gesserit), does it really have to be this distracting? What makes it worse is that Duncan Idaho's "hidden Tleilaxu power" is that he can do hypno-sex too! At least the Bene Gesserit kept it more in the background. I wondered how much of a pervert Frank Herbert was after finishing this. It's almost as though he fantasized about his own fictional characters. . .I liked this book, but this makes me want to stay away from Chapterhouse Dune.
Another thing is that the way Miles Teg gets his powers is a stretch even for this series. A new probe from the Scattering tortures him enough to somehow give him super-speed and the power to see no-ships? I know Dune is big on the superpowers, but at least the Kwisatz Haderach and Bene Gesserit stuff is well-established from the first book. Frank Herbert also never explains why Sheeana can talk to the sandworms, if I remember correctly. Does Leto II just have a special relationship with her?
The book is a bit slow paced, though not to the point where it turned me off completely.
Frank Herbert as usual provides the political intrigue and assassinations that every Dune book needs. There's some more action in this than in God Emperor (never technically completed that one, but that was because I had other things to do at the time. I just remember Leto II monologuing a lot), since Miles Teg and Duncan Idaho get to fight on occasion. Not to mention Arrakis/Rakis is burned to a crisp at the end.
The technology changes to the series shake it up a bit too. No-ships can avoid detection, new hunter-seekers mean that the characters fight with guns instead of sword fighting with the shields, and of course the chairdogs are so weird that they fascinate me.
This is an entertaining book overall, but the bizarre sexual themes can turn many readers off, which is why I couldn't make it a 4 or 5.
A drinking game for this book (pick only one condition):
-Drink every time Muad'Dib is misspelled as Maud'Dib, at least if you're reading the Ace Science Fiction printing (the one with the blue cover). I don't know if other editions have this issue.
-Drink every time the words "powindah" and "whore" appear.