I just don't much like the books she is in. Too many reasons to list. I'm still reading because I'm hoping that I'll enjoy a book thatI adore Flavia.
I just don't much like the books she is in. Too many reasons to list. I'm still reading because I'm hoping that I'll enjoy a book that has Flavia in it, but I'm not sure that the author is quite up to the task of creating a book worthy of the character he's created.
This problem last observed reading Laurie R. King....more
Five pages introducing a crime. Forty pages introducing the stories improbable conceit. Forty pages explaining how the crime was done. The other 230 oFive pages introducing a crime. Forty pages introducing the stories improbable conceit. Forty pages explaining how the crime was done. The other 230 or so pages are devoted to explaining in endless detail how the most improbable conceit is maintained. But all that detail for me just made the conceit all the more improbable, highlighting problems I probably never would have thought about if he'd just asked me to accept the conceit and go with it.
One of the most interesting things about this book for me is that it is almost impossible to classify. It's not realistic fiction. It's not historical fiction. It's some sort of speculative fiction but not easily classified as science fiction, as the situation that it describes involves no intentional aliens nor any futuristic technology. I want to classify the story as fantasy because of its sheer improbability, but it involves no overt magic either and more to the point it's very clear that the author does not want you to see any of the invents as requiring a mystical explanation. It might best be classified with that branch of science fiction that involves alternate history, but the nation and setting is entirely imaginary. Nonetheless, there is something alternative here perhaps best described as an alternative humanity, but then the author clear does not want us to see the inhabitants of The City and The City as being otherwise unusual in any fashion or categorically different than you or I. So perhaps its just best to classify the story as a mystery, because its a mystery to me how the author wants me to see the work.
China Mieville has always struck me as a smart talented young man who is always wasting his and the reader's time. Still, he manages to avoid his worst excesses of pretension, arrogance, and self-indulgence that mark some of his other works in this book, and writes a tidy little short story in just 300 odd pages. It's by far his best work since King Rat and his arc as a maturing writer was ruined by an excess of praise.
Normally, it isn't really important how you classify the story, but here whether it is science fiction or fantasy matters a rather great deal to the intended meaning of the work. It's obvious that Mieville wants to make some commentary on the fiction and myths that make a political system and a political entity exist. The lines we draw on a map that demark say Canada from the United States exist because we invent them and maintain them both as physical entities and as metaphysical entities about the identities that we assign to ourselves and which are assigned to us. All well and good and pretty standard stuff, but exactly what further commentary about the human race does Mieville intend by this most exaggerated example? Are we meant to see the system described as absurd, rendering this a satirical attack on our political pretenses, or are we meant to see this myth making power as an abundantly good, necessary and creative thing and accept it as the characters of the story do?
For my part, while I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge the power of creating identities from pieces of cloth, names, and lines on a map, the story carries this power far beyond what I believe the power of national identities, government, laws, and culture is capable of into a realm that might as well be Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. This ability to make an identity for ourselves that unites us in common purpose is far from unlimited, and is as function of our biology always wholly subordinate to our biology. The reason you don't see societies existing according to the conceits described in the book is that these fictions about belonging to a nation are not infinitely powerful, and smash like glass when they are asked to overrule biology and reality. These fictions have some real power, but they lack the nigh infinite power Mieville allows them to have within the story.
So the most interesting question for me becomes, to what extent does Mieville really believe in the power of the fictions he is exploring. Does he see this story as a work of science fiction or a work of fantasy? Does he believe that if we just told ourselves the right fictions regarding the nation or nations, or stopped telling ourselves the wrong fictions regarding nations, that just as improbable results could be obtained as what are observed in this story? Or does he want us to see any of these fictions as being ridiculous, and this story ought to properly be classified along side satires like Gulliver's Travels? Is the story meant as an attack on the reality of secret police states such as East Germany, or is it meant to subtly justify them? None of the depth I would expect when dealing with such a serious subject is to be found here, nor is there here any of the insight in to what its like to be forced to live a lie found in some writers who actually lived behind the iron curtain or who others who today still live in a real world while being forced to heed to a fictional state created one. Nor can we from the exaggeration of the story draw much insight into the parallels we have living in our own political myths.
I don't entirely feel I wasted my time, but I do wonder what a more mature thinker might have made of this conceit. I keep waiting for China to just grow up a bit. I mean, he's my age, and he still reads like he's 19. He strikes me as the sort of guy that I'd enjoy sharing an RPG table with, and who might be fun to discuss the latest Star Wars movie with, but whose insight into the real world is still filtered entirely through fantasy creations and worse, that he doesn't even realize it. Get married. Have some kids. Try to make a family or a business work, or really anything work. Go actually fight a war if you must. Knock off a bit of that teenage smugness about having all the answers. Your craft will only improve for it....more
It's absurd considering how well written this book is, that it's author is not better known.
The best work of original children's fantasy since HarryIt's absurd considering how well written this book is, that it's author is not better known.
The best work of original children's fantasy since Harry Potter. This book is the sort of weird almost surreal but engrossing story China Miéville always wants to but inevitably fails to write, and she manages to do with no intention to shock and no reliance on archaic words. The plot structure is impeccable. Nothing exists in the story but what serves to further the story, and despite the high imagination on display the writing remains as tight as a drum and never indulges itself in flights of fantasy without purpose. Writers of fantasy, take note: this is how you write a story. Whatever age you are aiming at, however serious or leisurely your purpose, write more stories like this.
It's a bit hard to be critical of this story, and on pure enjoyment I can't find much in the way of flaws. It starts off just a little bit slow, but once it gets rolling it stays in motion and gathers speed and new power on practically every page. I wavered on whether to give it the 5th star, and settled on four only because the story seemed to lack high ambition and be content to be just a rollicking good tale. Maybe I missed it in all the fun, but just a touch of the didactic might have given this story a more complex palette. It's evident that the author is of the greatest intellect, imagination, and craftsmanship as a writer, so just a little more often being able to see into that mind would have been fun. I'm going with the 4 stars on a first rating, but before you take that as a slight against this book, check out my 2.9ish average rating for a book which is probably among the lowest on Goodreads. I don't give out even 4 stars profligately. My four is most people's five, and do not doubt that I was seriously impressed by this novel just because its missing its 5th star.
The reason I wavered still is that so many stories with so much more ambition are written by authors that seem to despise that one most essential ambition of being a good storyteller. I'll take a tightly written tale filled with fun and wonder over a novel of the highest intellectual ambition, but not the slightest sense of having a plot and no element of craftsmanship larger than an apt metaphor, a pretty sentence or a snarky self-aware paragraph. If I had my way, I'd award Pulitzer and Noble prizes for literature to authors like Hardinge showing this skill of craftsmanship over self-important deliberately obscurant prose every single time. It takes more skill to write a book like this than any number rambling of 2000 page post-modernist tomes that exist mainly to show off or shock, or for readers to impress on other readers just how serious they are as readers for having clamored through such glutinous prose. Frances Hardinge deserves better accolades than she is receiving.
I like this book well enough, but can't really recommend it. It has numerous flaws that I found myself overlooking simply because it was pushing so maI like this book well enough, but can't really recommend it. It has numerous flaws that I found myself overlooking simply because it was pushing so many geek buttons. To begin with, the novel fails utterly to set the right tone for a horror story, and after page 50 or so its more like a slapstick comedy with an occasional gruesome murder. Also, the book has more techno-babble than an entire season of Star Trek: TNG. It's the worst case I've ever encountered in all of my years reading science fiction. Also, there are numerous references that can only be appreciated by someone with an intimate knowledge of Lovecraft's works, but all too often these references seem to be little more than random name dropping. In some cases, the reference didn't even fit. So, on one hand, if you haven't read the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, then the amount of what will appear to be random techno-babble you have to wade through doubles. And on the other hand, if you have, then you'll be wondering why the cultist invokes the name of his god's most hated enemy when making a metaphor about contacting his god. Also, the more you think about the plot (and, not to give too much away but the meta-plot as well), the less the story makes sense. Ultimately, the twist comes from such far left field and is so poorly executed that it simply seems to be a bad trick by the author on the reader who has been in good faith reading the story. In the best plotted novels, when the twist comes, it makes scenes in the story make more sense and you get the sense you missed things. In this case, it made the story make less sense and muddled more prior scenes than it clarified.
Still, for all that, I found I couldn't help but enjoy a story about a guy whose job is to hack into the mainframes of necromancers with his shoelaces and cast spells of contagious data corruption on thier operating systems....more
This is a somewhat underrated and overlooked science fiction novel, which is told in something of the mystery novel style.
The basic plot concerns a seThis is a somewhat underrated and overlooked science fiction novel, which is told in something of the mystery novel style.
The basic plot concerns a secretive program for breeding geneticly modified and mentally superior children, which after some initially promising successes failed under mysterious circumstances. The children from this program where divided into three groups: the 'A' group with advanced analytical skills, the 'B' group with advanced artistic skills, and the mysterious 'C' group. The protagonist of the story is the illegitimate child of one of the members of the 'A', who is charged by his hitherto unknown father with uncovering certain secrets which very quickly come to seem like they might best remain hidden.
As with any mystery novel, there are a number of interesting twists along the way that keeps the story gripping and the issues underlying the story are thoought provoking....more
I was enjoying this book far more than I wanted to, given the fact that ultimately it was a murder mystery that failed to satisfy in any fashion. FortI was enjoying this book far more than I wanted to, given the fact that ultimately it was a murder mystery that failed to satisfy in any fashion. Fortunately, the story let go of me before I got to the end.
The reason I was enjoying this book so much is that I'm a sucker for history, and even such well picked over carrion as the final days of the Roman Republic managed to be pretty gripping and interesting for me in the author's hand.
But at the same time, one of my pet peeves in historical fiction is a story which would not be particularly gripping or be deemed particularly well told were it not for the luminous names that the author liberally sprinkles the tale with. In this case, those names are Cicero, Marc Anthony, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and the like - a cast of characters that have already lent themselves to every sort of story good or bad like stock character actors always vying for the best supporting role.
In some cases in this story, the name dropping was particularly bad. I won't actually say which characters were mere name dropping, because I'm striving to give a spoiler free review, but a couple struck me as written into the story for no reason at all. There is to me a certain basic dishonesty in this which is only justifiable if the story is good enough as a story on its own and doesn't lean too heavily on its pretensions of historicity.
The basic problem I had with the story is that it was a murder mystery without a compelling mystery, compelling detective, or compelling villain. The few small twists introduced by the author were entirely predictable and well foreseen, and I was forced to endure following along the trail of sleuth who seems to be of rather less than average cleverness. I find this pretty much unforgivable in a mystery novel.
Still, Saylor is good historian that manages to make his history come alive while resorting to comparitively few anachronisms. So, even though its not that great of a story, I must in honesty confess my weakness and bump my rating up from 'It's ok' to 'I liked it'....more
This is one of many books for which I wish there was some greater degree of granularity by which I could rate them. Some comprimise position would beThis is one of many books for which I wish there was some greater degree of granularity by which I could rate them. Some comprimise position would be welcome.
I spent the better part of this book thinking that I would give it two stars, and a portion nearer the end it sank nearly to one star in my estimation. But Hambly is a clever writer, and she avoided all the worst flaws a mystery can have and gave something of a satisfying ending, so I have to say that I liked it with some qualifications.
The setting of the story is New Orleans, circa 1833. Naturally then, most of the book is about the setting, and one feels dragged along to various vista like a tourist in a tour group. Hambly lives in New Orleans part of the year, and she's done her research - though its hard to be convincing when relating out of the ordinary situations. The pacing of the history tour is leisurely, almost sleepy, like tea colored bayou, a summer afternoon, or molasses in January. After a while, I found this tended to put me to sleep (literally, hense the long time reading a short book) and the situation wasn't helped by the great cavalcade of names that steam by. But my biggest worry through this portion, was that the author's somewhat understandable desire to portray the worst of the times was going to subvert the story. For the long time, the only hint of a twist was a wholly unwelcome one, and I found myself thinking, "Please no. Anything would be better than that. A 'Scooby Doo' ending would be better than that."
I was rather much relieved. Granted, the peices of the puzzle fell into place in a most unconvincing manner, one particular twist was simply outrageous, and nothing that the protagonist did and struggled to do really served to solve the mystery until the right theory fell into his lap, but all in all it was fairly satisfying with a sufficient number of clues to leave you thinking, 'Yes, I should have seen that.' Ben January is likable, as broadly talented as one could want and then some, but ultimately hardly the master slueth that earns our admiration.
So, yes, I enjoyed the novel, but with all the qualifications unless I get a recommendation that the series gets better once the setting and character exposition is out of the way, I probably won't pursue it further....more
'Fool Moon' is the third Harry Dresden book I've read.
I can't really decide if I want to like The Dresden Files more than I do, or if I want to not l'Fool Moon' is the third Harry Dresden book I've read.
I can't really decide if I want to like The Dresden Files more than I do, or if I want to not like them more than I do.
I like them page by page more than I like them book by book. While they make good page turners, there is still something which is on the net very unsatisfying about them.
The more I encounter Harry, the more annoying, whiney, and immature he seems. Despite seeming at times to be directly inspired by role playing games, the action of the story greatly suffers by the fact that the protagonist seems to have the power of plot. The whole book is one long Rocky movie, sans the training scenes. Harry is always completely tapped out, exhausted, beaten half to death, and always manages to dig up phenomenal cosmic power for one more big show down. He's then completely tapped out and exhausted again, only to repeat the performance as needed ad infinitum.
The action scenes are often stirring nonetheless, but they read often like the still panels from a comic boook. Harry's enemies are always described as supernaturally fast and strong, but always move in bursts of motion followed by long pauses to allow the hero to do his thing. It's a turn based world.
Anyway, maybe because I'm getting used to the author's style, 'Fool Moon' was the first book where I figured out ahead of time the 'twists' in the whodoneit part of the story. Since The Dresden Files are written in the gumshoe detective style, it is somewhat annoying to find yourself more on top of things than the protagonist. I always prefer in my detective fiction, that the protagonist is always smarter than I am and that even when I think that they don't know, it turns out later that they do.
In short, this was another fun little read but my interest in the series is definately waning....more