Rarely do I ever enjoy short stories. This proved no different.
The writing wasn't good enough to makeIt's a collection of short stories and novellas.
Rarely do I ever enjoy short stories. This proved no different.
The writing wasn't good enough to make me want to seek out the other four volumes. At times I got the impression though that the reason everything seemed so trite was that all this was so original and influential when it first came out that everything since had copied from it....more
I've been trying to branch out in my reading lately, and every time I do, I get reminded why I don't.
The reason I like science fiction and fantasy isI've been trying to branch out in my reading lately, and every time I do, I get reminded why I don't.
The reason I like science fiction and fantasy is that it tends to obey Eleanor Roosevelt's dictum - "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." - and chooses to discuss ideas above all else. 'War of the Rats' ought to at least succeed at the level of discussing an important event and fascinating people, but it doesn't even manage to do that well.
Indeed 'War of the Rats' was surprisingly bad at pretty much every level. As military fiction, I learned nothing about the character or nature of war. None of the things that this novel is praised for felt in evidence anywhere in the text. As historical fiction, I didn't come away feeling like I had some understanding of the Siege of Stalingrad or gained any insight into the real figures that fought there. As fiction, the characters felt flat, almost stereotypes, suitable for a comic book perhaps but nothing else. The female characters were unsurprisingly the worst, and Tania's depiction was annoying at best and misogynist at worst (and I say that as a staunch anti-feminist). As a thriller, the drama never felt intense or exciting, and the finale was an anti-climatic affair which failed to stand up to even its internal logic. The 'villain' character went full Cobra Commander in the end, doing stupid things that made no sense at all even from the character's own reasoning as presented to the reader and which were completely at odds with the superhuman Über sniper presented earlier in the text or even with the character's own description of his plan of action. For example, if Thorvald knew that Zaitsev was accurate to 450 yards, and he was he bragged accurate out to 1000 yards, why did he choose to engage Zaitsev from a static position at a distance of just 250 yards which he scorned as amateur earlier in the book and at which he also knew he'd have no advantage over his enemy? Why did he choose to shoot the fake position first, when he'd already determined where Zaitsev really was? Shouldn't you shoot the real position first, then shoot the fake second to be sure rather than the other way around? Why, having realized he'd been given away, did he not simply duck down and retreat to a better position - preferably one 1km back as he'd set out to do in the first place?
The whole thing was just a mess that felt a waste of my time. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad, but between Japanese Destroyer Captain, Victory into Defeat, The Goblin Emperor, and A Face Like Glass I'd been on a real roll lately and this just felt wholly unworthy. I keep trying to branch out from what I know, but every time I do I just feel burned. Either the writer can't write. Or the writer can't tell a story. Or the writer simply has nothing interesting to say. If only two of the three were true, I still might still be able to recommend the work, but in this case I can only say that Robbins offers up a readable work that fails for me to be even good potato chip fiction....more
In addition to my own reading, I'm now doing service as a story reader for my two daughters.
I think I liked this one more than they did because its aIn addition to my own reading, I'm now doing service as a story reader for my two daughters.
I think I liked this one more than they did because its a story that really requires an adult appreciation of art and history to fully get. The story is grows with its reader.
This is a story of colonial America, and the art mimics the colonial American style of folk art wonderfully. The story of the ox-cart man, his family, thier farm, and thier cyclic seasonal labors is told in simple almost poetic language which has a rhythm that seems to pace the passing days.
I love this stories themes of family, what used to be called the Yankee (or Protestant) work ethic, industry and simplicity. The ox-cart man achieves greatness in small things, and that is a very big thing indeed....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