Mantel continues to validate my claim that she is one of the best contemporary writers out there. Sharp, precise sentences that massage and elide meanMantel continues to validate my claim that she is one of the best contemporary writers out there. Sharp, precise sentences that massage and elide meanings, descriptions that contain just the right details, and enough humor to balance the crushing reality her stories convey. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough - I look forward to reading more of her work. ...more
It's taken me forever to start this series, but I wasn't disappointed, even after the underwhelming end of Jacen Solo in Legacy of the Force. I am oneIt's taken me forever to start this series, but I wasn't disappointed, even after the underwhelming end of Jacen Solo in Legacy of the Force. I am one of the few people that like the political aspects of Star Wars and looking at the repercussions that might materialized from these galactic events. This book has a lot of that.
My favorite parts of the book were Luke's travels with his son as they investigate what Jacen was doing those years he was away. This is by far the most interesting plotline of the book. My least favorite was the Han/Leia subplot on Kessel. It had little effect on the rest of the plot and couldn't really justify its inclusion.
Through it all, Allston's trademark humor makes even the tedious sections worth reading and I look forward to where the series goes next. ...more
This was the last official "Legends" book, and it is a great one. One of the few books that seems to truly capture New Hope-era Han Solo. I enjoyed itThis was the last official "Legends" book, and it is a great one. One of the few books that seems to truly capture New Hope-era Han Solo. I enjoyed it immensely. It moved quickly, with humorous banter backed up by genuine emotion. Really good Star Wars book. ...more
I've generally liked Reaves (and Bohnhoff). The Last Jedi was better than I thought it would be. However, Shadow Games is very unenjoyable. There areI've generally liked Reaves (and Bohnhoff). The Last Jedi was better than I thought it would be. However, Shadow Games is very unenjoyable. There are constant, silly callbacks to things in the original trilogy (carbon freezing, Leia, Han, etc.) that exist only to refer to the movies and add almost nothing to the book. The climax is drawn out and then it's gone before you realize it. The only character I cared about at all dies halfway through the book. The plot is very complicated and ultimately unimportant.
I was excited about seeing the galaxy through the lens of a holostar entertainer. But, it didn't work and,unfortunately, I just didn't like this book at all. ...more
Brutally realistic depiction of life in a Soviet work camp. Primarily centered around the idea of what is really living and what is not. And the answeBrutally realistic depiction of life in a Soviet work camp. Primarily centered around the idea of what is really living and what is not. And the answer isn't always clear.
An unparalleled view into a full day of something we hear about in generalities, but rarely get deeper than that. This novel goes into each decision that an inmate makes throughout the day and the complicated social and physical ramifications of each. Do you save this 200 grams of bread for later, or give to someone who you need to owe you a favor tomorrow? This, among other things. Truly fascinating. ...more
I've been a fan of Martel for years, and there are many good things about this book. It's well-written, layered and interesting. I like the interplayI've been a fan of Martel for years, and there are many good things about this book. It's well-written, layered and interesting. I like the interplay between the novel itself, the play in question that the lead character is reviewing/reading and other stories and images that are mentioned. I would say it's well worth reading. However, and I will get to it below, I disliked the ending intensely and felt that it undercut the narrative force and what could have been an interesting perspective.
The lead character is Henry, a famous novelist (whose output seems to line up with Martel's own), who is trying to write a fictional book, coupled with an essay, about the Holocaust and is shot down by his editors, who don't understand how a fictional outlook can help discover truths that realistic, historical narrative cannot. After their rejection, Henry gives up writing and moves to an unnamed town with his wife. There, he is contacted by an elderly taxidermist who needs Henry's help to finish a play he's been writing for most of his life. That's basically the plot of the book.
Spoilers in the next paragraph, through to the end:
So, it turns out the play is about the Holocaust, as well (which is incredibly coincidental, but that's not really a big deal), and the taxidermist is a Nazi collaborator who is apparently trying to work through his guilt with the play. However, we never find out if he really is a Nazi because there's no real evidence, only conjecture. Henry realizes it toward the end, tries to leave and is stabbed by the taxidermist. Henry escapes, bleeding, and the taxidermist burns down his shop, killing himself. Then, the novel basically ends in a page or two. To say it comes out of nowhere is putting it mildly. And, I'm not being squeamish; violence in art doesn't bother me. But, the taxidermist's actions make no sense, at least to me. Henry never accuses him of anything, so why would the taxidermist attack him? Why does he kill himself? It seems to exist just for shock-value.
And my big problem with this is it could have been much more interesting. Having to deal with a former Nazi that is working on a piece of art that is, at times, beautiful and moving, could make the reader question their own assumptions about who is a villain and are they always? Does the taxidermist's (supposed, because we don't know for sure he is a Nazi) crimes in his youth mean we have nothing to learn from him in his later years? Maybe we do. I think it's interesting to look at what that kind of guilt, spread over a lifetime, could look like. But, we get nothing like that. The taxidermist becomes a villainous cartoon, attacking Henry for no reason and then offing himself immediately. Henry himself becomes irrational, suddenly hating the man he's been spending time with, when he's been trying to understand the taxidermist and this event for the whole book? Really, based on Henry's writing earlier in the book, about how we need art to understand the Holocaust, to make sense of something so outside of the normal human experience, you'd think he would want to talk to the taxidermist, ask him questions. Here's someone who could maybe give him a glimpse of how "The Horrors" actually happened, and why he went along with it (if he did).
Instead, the novel just barrels to a conclusion, ending with several "games" that just ask you questions in a Holocaust situation. I felt they were manipulative and didn't get below the surface of the event. The point of the "games" seems to be, "Being in the Holocaust would be terrible in every way." But, we already know that; everyone knows that. I thought, for a moment, we would get to something more, use art to understand the event, as mentioned early in the book. But, we don't. And, it's too bad, really, because a lot of this book is very good. But, I definitely consider it a missed opportunity. ...more