The "magical animal companions" sub-genre of fantasy seems to primarily serve a female audience with a romantic view of both animals and people. As suThe "magical animal companions" sub-genre of fantasy seems to primarily serve a female audience with a romantic view of both animals and people. As such, besides a brief interest in Pern some 15 years ago, I've largely avoided it. But I'd heard good things about the Temeraire series, and I was direly low on reading material, so I gave it a shot.
His Majesty's Dragon is very readable, keeping me up late several nights in a row. It moves fast and the characters are engaging, if not particularly deep. The world is well-realized, if deeply weird, and I appreciated the author's translation of age of sail military traditions onto her living air-force.
But I kept being brought up short by genre conventions. The protagonist's headlong dive into a deep emotional relationship with his dragon was poorly justified and out of tone with the rest of his character and the described world, particularly given his initial skepticism about the job. At times, their relationship pushed close to the boundary of "squicky," for me. And, similarly, the protagonist's willingness to shed his cultural mores towards, for example, the role of women seemed abrupt: I could see the hand of the author.
I could also do without a fantasy story in which the characters are "special" due to their birth: the third-act revelation about the dragon smacks of gilding the lily, and I think that the story would have been stronger if the dual protagonists could have saved the day through nothing more than quick thinking, bravery, and skill, instead of the new revelations that come with a healthy dose of power-ups. It would also have been nice to see some real flaws in either the protagonist or his dragon: they seem like the character version of one of those resumes that says that your major flaw is "sometimes, I try too hard."
But, I think that most of my objections come from not appreciating this sub-genre very much. If you're basically comfortable with magical-animal-fantasy, my suspicion is that you'd find this a 4 or 5 star book....more
Richard K. Morgan turns from tales of violent masculinity in sci-fi settings to... bland fantasy. The Steel Remains was a let-down.
Remains follows theRichard K. Morgan turns from tales of violent masculinity in sci-fi settings to... bland fantasy. The Steel Remains was a let-down.
Remains follows the stories of three heroes of a past war, now each finding themselves uncomfortable in civilian life, as they discover a new threat to their shared society. I got the impression that the book was designed to shock what it presumed to be the fragile sensibilities of fantasy fans by presenting queer protagonists who are not accepted for what they are, an intolerant and slave-holding society, and a lot of aggressively modern language and cursing. But somehow, it seemed to lack the relevance of similar themes in Morgan's sci-fi work, and largely served as a gloss on a basically tired story.
There are some high points: Morgan's fight scenes are typically exciting and brutal. His characters feel relatively three dimensional, with internal conflicts and facets aplenty. But what they're doing ultimately fails to excite. The book appears to serve largely as a prologue, and perhaps the next book will deliver something a little less conventional and overdone, but using a whole book as a prologue is sin enough....more
Somewhere perched between Tim Powers and Haruki Murakami, The Raw Shark Texts is most memorable for its cosmology of conceptual fish and underspace. TSomewhere perched between Tim Powers and Haruki Murakami, The Raw Shark Texts is most memorable for its cosmology of conceptual fish and underspace. The few characters are well-written and likable, enough so that I didn't mind a somewhat wimpy resolution to one's arc (trying to avoid spoilers here).
I'd like to call special attention to the way that the protagonist acts with his love interest, which does a great job of communicating love in a somewhat original voice.
There are some flaws: I thought the ending was more than a bit predictable (partially because it tracks a certain well-known film closely, albeit for reasons which make sense), and the textual pictures and such were rather gimmicky. The secondary antagonist is so barely present in the story that anything affecting him lacks urgency. But all in all, very enjoyable....more
This was my introduction to Christopher Moore, and it's a great example of his style. Funny, not afraid to be silly, with great rhetorical flourishes.This was my introduction to Christopher Moore, and it's a great example of his style. Funny, not afraid to be silly, with great rhetorical flourishes. The line that sums up the book for me:
"Then, not for the first time, and not the last, either, the Prince of Peace took a swing at me."...more
Who really needs a review of Stranger in a Strange Land? But anyhow, my teenage impressions were that this was an excellent book when it's about the bWho really needs a review of Stranger in a Strange Land? But anyhow, my teenage impressions were that this was an excellent book when it's about the boy raised by martians and his introduction to human culture, and a boring book when it's about Michael Valentine, Modern Jesus. So, split the difference and call it okay.
I might change my mind if I reread it as an adult....more
Tim Powers tackles pirates and voodoo in the Carribbean of the early 18th Century. Not quite as polished as some of Powers' later fare, none the lessTim Powers tackles pirates and voodoo in the Carribbean of the early 18th Century. Not quite as polished as some of Powers' later fare, none the less this book serves up everything I love about Powers. His blending of history and fantasy is compelling, his descriptions are evocative, his cosmology imaginative. A real gem if you can find it....more
The concept is that magic is real and Lovecrafting horrors are real. Magic is understandable and can be technologized and weaponized. The joke is thatThe concept is that magic is real and Lovecrafting horrors are real. Magic is understandable and can be technologized and weaponized. The joke is that the characters are geeks instead of Bondian action heroes. All in all, it's a well-traveled concept and a thin joke. Not actively painful, but not worth the time, either....more