Thank God for the Game of Thrones TV series that finally dragged me back into these books. Volume 2 keeps it ticking along nicely, wasting no time div...moreThank God for the Game of Thrones TV series that finally dragged me back into these books. Volume 2 keeps it ticking along nicely, wasting no time diving into the continent-spanning civil war that was set up in the previous volume. GRRM's interesting choice here, in my opinion, is to tell the story mostly from the point of view of children - Arya, Sansa, Bran, Jon Snow, and Daenarys (all of whom, I now realize, are years younger in the books than on HBO). There are interesting new characters, such as Stannis (boo, hiss), his pet witch Melisandre (who does an act of magic that is so wrong I can't even describe it), and his cool henchman Davos the Onion Knight.
Of course, this book is -owned- by Tyrion Lannister, the sly, scheming dwarf who didn't have much to do in the first book except be awesome. In this book he's here to take charge and get shit done - taking Dead Ned's job as Hand of the King and pretty much doing right everything that his predecessor got wrong. Since the Lannisters are the most overt villains of the series, the reader would normally like to see them lose and be punished for their crimes - except that we also want to see Tyrion kick ass, which creates a very interesting narrative tension.
So why not five stars? Well, Clash of Kings is missing two things to make it a perfect fantasy novel: a beginning and an end. It's all middle, and I suspect that will be a problem with the following volumes as well. Each chapter is just the next episode in the never ending soap opera, but it's damn fine soap opera and I'm not going to bitch.(less)
Probably the fastest 1,100 page book I’ve ever read. Even so, I’m tempted to give it as terse a review as possible, just for the sake of snark.
Storm o...moreProbably the fastest 1,100 page book I’ve ever read. Even so, I’m tempted to give it as terse a review as possible, just for the sake of snark.
Storm of Swords has a much greater sense of forward progress than Clash of Kings, despite the fact that when the book begins the War of Five Kings is pretty much over except for the backstabbing. There is a much stronger sense in this volume of important characters growing, changing, and following through complete arcs, whereas in the previous book there were a lot of wheels spinning in place. Because there are so many characters, of course, Martin spends the first quarter of the book just reintroducing everyone and reminding the reader where all of his game pieces are. But then the game pieces start moving around, and by the end of Swords everyone you care about has either significantly changed, been killed, or shown in a new light that alters any perspective you had from before.
Can’t say anything about the plot without being spoilerific, but if you’ve got this far in the story you a) know what to expect by now, and b) wont’ see most of this coming, and that’s the great frisson Martin’s created that keeps us coming back for these doorstoppers the size of Bibles.(less)
Just what I needed after a seemingly endless string of fantasy and paranormal books - an old school, Analog style, hard-SF adventure with some great B...moreJust what I needed after a seemingly endless string of fantasy and paranormal books - an old school, Analog style, hard-SF adventure with some great Big Science concepts. The centerpiece are the titular dragons, life forms discovered in the accretion disk of SS Cygni, and the expedition/safari to bag one and bring it back. Along the way there's an interesting approach to wormhole-powered slower-than-light travel, and AI based on the personality of Ernest Hemingway, and an Earth future totally transformed by biotechnology.
As for the biotech, I don't quite buy that one aspect of Brotherton's world building. I'm sure there's a revolution of some sort coming down the road, and that given the option people would start modifying their own bodies in new and shocking ways, but some of the applications used in the book seem a little "jet-packy," if that makes sense. (Living creatures being used as beds and chairs, for instance.)
What makes the book kind of a slog through the middle section, though, are the dysfunctional characters. Flawed characters are always good for drama (and only extreme personalities would willingly volunteer for a 500-year mission) but Star Dragon's cast is so deeply messed up as to be completely unsympathetic for a big chunk of the book, and Brotherton seems to spend a lot of time writing from the point of view of the most detestable, least likable characters in the cast. The finale is suitably rousing, however, and most of the characters achieve some measure of redemption by the end.(less)