The Lies of Locke Lamora was a tremendous book. It also told a complete story, pulling out all the stops to chronicle the rise and fall of the GentlemThe Lies of Locke Lamora was a tremendous book. It also told a complete story, pulling out all the stops to chronicle the rise and fall of the Gentleman Bastards.
Volume 2 picks up where the first left off and has the unenviable task of rebuilding not only the lives of the characters but the world that they inhabit.
The new situation that the main characters (Lock and Jean) find themselves in isn't nearly as rich as the first book, mostly because the events aren't tied in with their origin, or decades of history. To try and fill that gap, the author intersperses flashbacks with the "current" storyline. It's a device that wears thin by the time it's abandoned in the middle of the book. Still, despite the technical challenges, this volume manages to tell an amazingly solid tale of thievery and piracy.
As an author, Lynch has an impressive ability to find a way to move the plot forward when it seems like the characters every option has been cut off.
There's also a lot of clunky storytelling masquerading as clever in this book, and a number of situations seem to provide nothing but a chance to put our heroes into yet another "inescapable" trap so that the author can show off their (and his) cleverness yet again.
Luckily, it never quite gets to the level of exhausting, and the book manages to wrap up what seems like an impossible number of plot threads in a tidy and entertaining manner.
This book isn't the tour de force the first one was, but it's a solid fantasy potboiler with excellent prose, and sometimes that's more than good enough....more
This is my second time reading Berserk from beginning to end. The last time was over a decade ago.
As I was reading the first three volumes I had a naThis is my second time reading Berserk from beginning to end. The last time was over a decade ago.
As I was reading the first three volumes I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something. It was as if I remembered Berserk being better than it was, and I was beginning to think that I was remembering it being better than it was.
It was volume 4 where my expectations began to match reality. The art becomes tighter, the storytelling more impactful. It's still Berserk, which means that it's unapologetically violent, and it loves to wallow in its grim darkness like a Warhammer 40K fan at a heavy metal concert. But it's beautiful, and it feels like it's going somewhere.
As a bonus, the back of the book features some of the most ridiculous copy I've ever seen: "Berserk is not exactly the book for the theater crowd... unless the theater features pit fights!" There's nothing about that scenario that makes any sense, but okay....more
A lot of people love Aaron’s writing, but to be honest, most of what I’ve read by him hadn't resonated with me. But this book was good comics. WritingA lot of people love Aaron’s writing, but to be honest, most of what I’ve read by him hadn't resonated with me. But this book was good comics. Writing thought balloons for a character with a hidden identity isn't easy. Neither is the transfer of the mantle of "Thor" to a woman. All the issues with the sudden change of Thor to a concept from a person are well handled. Overall, this is a book that adds some genuine depth to the Thor mythos. As I catch up to the current stories, I’ll be interested in seeing how this book transitions into a post Secret Wars world....more
There are two basic types of long novel series: those where each book stands as its own story (Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and Jim Butcher's DresdenThere are two basic types of long novel series: those where each book stands as its own story (Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files come to mind), and then there are the series where the reader needs to have read all the previous books to get the full value of every episode. Gaunt's Ghosts is definitely the latter kinds of series. So if you're reading this and you've already read the 13 books that came before, it's highly probable that you're already heavily invested, and you aren't looking to be told why you should like this series.
And if you are all caught up, he only reason to even bother reading this review would be to discover if this is the book that drops the ball
You'll be happy to know that it isn't.
In fact, that now that there's an end in sight for the series (supposedly coming in 2021), Abnett seems to have shaken off the feeling of repetitiveness that was beginning to creep into the series, and while the end isn't really in sight, it's clear that we're moving in that direction.
Yes, in the dark future, there may be only war, but war alone isn't enough, and Abnett brings his usual mix of thrlling storytelling and compelling characters to the demon infested battlefield.
And if, for some reason, you're reading this and you haven't read any of the Gaunt's Ghosts series, what are you waiting for? The First and Only are waiting for you to join their ranks....more
Bill Massa writes thrilling action fiction that's every bit as compelling as anything you'll find on network television, and Occult Assassin is no excBill Massa writes thrilling action fiction that's every bit as compelling as anything you'll find on network television, and Occult Assassin is no exception. You can see his screenwriting background in every scene
Bill has done his homework, and everything in his books from the weapons down to the locations has a nice clear "ring of truth" about them. Sure, there are a few mistakes that only the locals will notice (there are no hills between downtown San Francisco, and the Mission, for example), he creates a compelling world, catching the nuances of the Bay Area tech culture and using them to build an exciting story.
Occult Assassin isn't a book that's going to change your life, but if you're looking for interesting characters, non-stop action, and an "I can't put this book down" story, this is the book for you.
It will keep you turning pages as you follow the trail of Talon as he blazes a bloody path of revenge and discovers that the demons are all too real.
I'm a native New Yorker, although I haven't a lived there since the turn of the century. There's no doubt that the city has fundamentally changed overI'm a native New Yorker, although I haven't a lived there since the turn of the century. There's no doubt that the city has fundamentally changed over the last 30 years. It was once a far dirtier and more dangerous city. New York was a place where you could have a shootout on 42nd street and no one would bat an eyelash—not even the cops.
Although this new New York is safer, not only was the pre-2000 version more genuinely interesting and artistic, it was also a far better place for the kind of hard-boiled neo-noir that Adam Sternbergh is clearly itching to tell.
To that end, he's created a future version of New York that has found its back from the current curated, "clean" city to the dangerous urban jungle of the 70s and 80s. I won't tell you how he gets it there, since those revelations about some of the most entertaining (and best written) parts of the book. Suffice it to say, that this return to a grittier world works (mostly). It's a fun, dangerous, violent reality to rattle around in, and Spademan is a character of (and for) his world.
All that, along with a general love of the kind of broken knights that populate noir fiction, made me want to love this book. Unfortunately, I found the main character "Spademan" tough to like. One of my main issues with him is that he starts out as one noir archetype, and rapidly transforms into another. Unfortunately, we never really get the chance to get to know that dead inside amoral version before his heart of gold begins to shine through. I found the transition jarring.
The other thing that held me back from really loving this book is that the plot is never really as demanding as it should be; the story advances far too often on deus ex machina and dumb luck instead of the characters careful planning, bad breaks, and determined insight.
Sternbergh often seems to chop out key rungs from the story progression just to prove that he can pull it off. If he'd occasionally lean into the tropes instead of making such a spectacle of throwing them away, I think it would have been a better book.
I've heard some people complain about the lack of quotation marks in this book, so it's worth mentioning he doesn't use them. Before I read the book I was guessing that would create a kind of cinematic hyper-immediacy, but in fact it does the opposite. This is a first person novel, and the lack of quotes make it read as is everyone is speaking with the protagonists voice—the literary equivalent of an audio book. Most of the time it works quite well, but occasionally I found myself having to put my brain into reverse in order to pull my head out from the one way street that the prose had accidentally driven me down.
The irony of this book is that it uses all its technical mastery the same way that modern Manhattan far too often uses its vast infrastructure: to create safe and predictable that has only a vague aura of genuine danger. Theme park noir, if you will.
The rides are all there, and they're executed with precision, but Sternbergh just doesn't seem ready to get down and wallow in the dirt and moral ambiguity that make the best noir so deeply thrilling.
All that said, it's a well-executed book, and if it weren't for some surprisingly weak "twists" in the plot, along with some far too safe character choices, this would easily be a four star novel. As it is, if you're curious, it's worth the read, and I'm looking forward to what other dark worlds Adam Sternbergh will bring us to....more
Back in 2007 someone handed me a copy of the first of the Warhammer 40K Horus Heresy books. I expected very little from a war-game tie in (as much asBack in 2007 someone handed me a copy of the first of the Warhammer 40K Horus Heresy books. I expected very little from a war-game tie in (as much as I loved the setting). Instead, I was transported to another world through a fantastic story written by a top-tier author named Dan Abnett. I went on to devour everything he'd written in that universe, and after reading his Eisenhorn trilogy, it was clear to me that Abnett's most impressive skill was taking a one-note (albeit gorgeous) dark universe where "there is only war", and using it as a backdrop for deep and elegant stories that could take readers to places far beyond the battlefield.
I mention it because Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy clearly has a solid dose of Abnett's Warhammer universe in its DNA, but rather it's free from those limitations, having been built from the ground up for drama and speed. It also adds elements from the The Hunger Games, and epic roman history (like Spartacus, Rome, 300, and I, Claudius) to create something truly compelling and unique.
The first book (Red Rising) was a tremendous read, and if it had any major flaws it was that the plot was hampered a bit by it's Hunger Games style conceit. Still, Brown extracted every bit of value out of it he could. Now, as the hero enters into the wider world of this engrossing universe that we can begin to see the real complexities and compromises that Darrow must make for the sake of a revolution.
It becomes story that's full of amazing combat and engrossing political subterfuge, as Darrow must balance his position as a Gold against and the secret truth of his origin as a Red. There's also some solid emotional punches that had me tearing up while reading a book for the first time in as long as I can remember. ("Dear publisher: I believe your book may be broken as some of the pages became blurry as I read them.")
Along with all of that the plotting is fabulous. There are elegant revelations, surprising twists, and even a few "obvious" moments that still pay off because of Brown's truly fantastic command of character.
Golden Son isn't for everyone: it's got graphic violence and hardcore military sci-fi battles that I'm guessing will be too much for many folks. It also has a strong revolutionary point of view that will probably rankle anyone who's looking to get their belief system stroked. (Personally, I enjoy debating my beliefs with a good protagonist.)
All that said, there's a rare few books that I can give my whole-hearted 5-star recommendation, especially when the series isn't yet complete, but Golden Son is definitely worth all 5 stars in my book. I can't wait for the big finish next year....more
Back in April of this year (2014) I was at the Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon watching one short film after short film, when the meta-ploBack in April of this year (2014) I was at the Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon watching one short film after short film, when the meta-plot of a "Lovecraft" style story was revealed to me in a flash like a glimpse of a page in the Necronomicon. Like all revealed wisdom, at first it came with a rush of power, then a sense of foreboding as I quickly realized the price I would pay: no longer would I be able to enjoy these tales of cosmic horror with the same innocence and amusement that I have since childhood.
It's pretty clear that Jeff VanderMeer has had at least some the same insights, since Authority follows those points very clearly.
Adhering to the Lovecraftian meta-plot to the degree this book does make it, in parts at least, fairly predictable. But there's also something fascinating about watching an author working entirely inside a well-defined box. Instead of struggling to escape, VanderMeer seems to be attempting to prove that there is still a modern tale worth telling inside of that rigid structure, even if you already know (mostly) how it's going to turn out.
As the middle book in the series, it does suffer from some of the usual issues that middle books do: a lot of the work seems to be in service of creating an ending that will drive the reader toward the final book in the trilogy. But there's some lovely turns in terms of character and narrative that make the book worth the time and effort it takes to get there.
The characters remain the same compelling cast of broken toys that usually populate VanderMeer's books. Their inevitable breakdown reminds me of the ways that electronic gadgets do: a slow degradation of the wiring that lets them slip gracefully, terrifyingly, and sometimes amusingly, from useful tool to fascinating anomaly as they struggle to fulfill the original task they were designed for, and fail more often than not. By the time we meet these damaged heroes most of them are already too broken to be able to complete the work they were created for, and we join them in the horror of discovering just how wrong they've gone.
VenderMeer's books always have an emotional distance to them, and no one really seems that concerned with anyone's fate but their own. That can get a bit wearying at times, and occasionally it pulls me out of the story, making me feel like I'm in a Stoppard play.
But if you can take the occasional shiver in the scenery as the story bumps into the fourth wall from time to time, you'll find Authority and exciting and compelling read....more
I can't say for sure when it was that I've last read a William Gibson novel. I have a vague recollection of starting Idoru back in early 2000's but II can't say for sure when it was that I've last read a William Gibson novel. I have a vague recollection of starting Idoru back in early 2000's but I couldn't tell you for sure.
That's saying a lot considering the life-changing impact that Neuromancer had on me and my writing since I first read it many years ago.
But then, a friend of mine bought me this book for my birthday, and told me that Gibson was back to form. Reading this book and discovering that that I agreed with him has been a very nice present indeed.
One thing that's clearly changed since the days of the Sprawl, is that cyberpunk is no longer an genuine genre because the world *is* cyberpunk these days. Powerful neo-governmental corporations, fantastic devices in our pockets, cyber war: it's all here, with the possible exception of body-mods, and virtual reality (which I'm sure are on the way).
Gibson gets the modern landscape (which was a little more comprehensible back in '06), and Spook Country strikes me as a particularly adept investigation of just how deep the rabbit hole goes in our modern matrix of data, tech, and money. His vision is expertly told, with the author's exceptional ability to wield language and character is in full effect. Phrases are turned and similes crafted with the precision of a Cupertino iPhone designer.
The only place the book really fell down for me was in the plot; despite plenty of building mystery and intrigue along the way, the ending was decidedly underwhelming.
Despite some brilliant character conflicts—including an ex-rock star that's being used as a pawn in competing conspiracies—their journey seemed to lack genuine impact. I think that's because as the conspiracies were revealed I felt that stakes never seemed to be all that high, Unfortunately the finale was more about a denial of service attack than the something on the level of the Sony hack. I suppose that's more realistic, but it was a bit disappointing, nonetheless.
All that said, I'm interested enough in discovering where Gibson will take these characters next, and I'll be reading the sequel. And that is, I think, ultimately the best recommendation any reader can give to a story....more
Lexicon is a great book. That doesn't make it perfect, but it gets five stars from me.
It's a big-screen story in a lot of ways, with a lot of the set-Lexicon is a great book. That doesn't make it perfect, but it gets five stars from me.
It's a big-screen story in a lot of ways, with a lot of the set-pieces, stunning plot-twists and big reveals that are so common in film and television. But the nature of novels means that the author can broadcast a mental x-ray directly from their character's heads into the reader. That means some tricks incredibly difficult to pull off in prose because they rely on keeping things secret until just the right moment. But somehow Max Barry manages to execute exactly those kind of surprising twists and turns multiple times on a number of different levels while keeping his characters feeling authentic and engaging along the way.
Lexicon weaves its linguistic conspiracy back through history t0 create a plot with elements reaching back thousands of years. It's a neat trick, and when it doesn't feel forced it's almost as if you're really walking around inside the book's alternate reality rather than just being a passenger riding through a sideshow in another world.
But it's the fact that this is a story about weaponized language that makes everything in Lexicon tick. It challenges us to accept that that we don't just hear words, we consume them, process them, and build (and control) our true selves through them.
It posits that our "self" is constructed from and by our perception of language, and that it can be the source of our triumph and our downfall, both as individuals and as a species.
It's a thrilling conceit, although it never gets quite meta enough for my taste. Still, most of the time it works, despite some gigantic coincidences (that could have been easily revealed as fait accompli), along with some fuzziness about the motivations of some of the characters.
Those quibbles aside, Lexicon is a book that does some amazing things and tells a thrilling story at a breakneck pace. In parts it filled me with the same excitement that I feel when I'm watching a compelling television series like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
If you'e looking for something simultaneously smart and escapist, Lexicon is a great story to spend some time with....more
There's a lot to love in this book. Actually, there's way too much.
This is a book so packed with big ideas and that moves at a such a breakneck paceThere's a lot to love in this book. Actually, there's way too much.
This is a book so packed with big ideas and that moves at a such a breakneck pace that Huw, the main character (a hapless hero that reminds me nothing so much as a latter day Heinlein hero in the "Friday" mold), seems to have been fired straight from the barrel of some kind of narrative cannon and rips through breathless escapade to the next at a rate that's often disconcerting when it isn't confusing or annoying.
Meanwhile, the actual character arc trails just slightly behind our protagonist, just about managing to catch up by the story's end.
The world is interesting, but it all ends up feeling like a three day excursion to Paris: you're definitely in the city and you've seen the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but somehow after you've left it doesn't feel like you've really been there.
Nothing in the story ever got room it needs to breathe, and the ending manages to unearned when it actually isn't. It's a neat trick, but not one I'd ever like to use myself.
It's never a bad book, and even though it's exploding with good ideas, it ends up feeling a bit disappointing the whole way through, even though what's inside is exactly what's advertised on the cover....more