I feel a little bad giving this only three stars, seeing how fond many people are of it — but three stars is "liked it", and I can't dredge up the enthusiasm for "really liked it."
There is a certain kind of "funny" that I often don't "get" — or more precisely, I get that it is funny, but I can't overlook flaws that other folks can. For example, I didn't like Seinfeld for the same reason I didn't enjoy Mark Twain'sA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: the humor was too misanthropic. Pratchett and Gaiman'sGood Omens doesn't have that problem, of course, but suffers from what I would call the let's-be-silly! syndrome, in which the joy of silliness crowds out editorial caution. At the nadir, the result is pure idiocy (see Bean or Benny Hill).
In its best forms, such childish silliness can be mixed with strictly adult forms of humor, such as satire and irony, to create the best amalgam. This is what Monty Python achieved when they were at their best. (P.G. Wodehouse was another master.)
To give them credit, Pratchett and Gaiman occasionally get this good. The problem is that in the long form of a novel such heights are well-nigh impossible to sustain, and the effort gets tiresome. Any connoisseur of Monty Python knows that the television show was skit-based for a good reason: the hit-or-miss nature of their objective is very fragile. The miracle of the Monty Python movie The Holy Grail is that it works for so long; and that just as it starts to pall, they recognize the fact and turn their attention to making fun of that.
The introductory pages of Good Omens are among the worst in this regard: the level of absurdity will be grating to those that have learned to distrust this form of writing. But the silliness subsides, and seldom becomes so wearisome again. I think it might be possible to plot the separate sine waves of cleverness and silliness, almost like the novel's biorhythm. There is a third highlight; a note of sweetness mostly at the end that seems a bit off — neither author seems too experienced with innocence and earnestness, so we can be thankful it doesn't last too long.
For people that delight in silliness, the book will be a wonder. For the rest of us, it is still a worthwhile read. Two very clever authors had a bit of synergy going, so the feats of imagination are quite impressive.
I read a little more than half of this book, then abandoned it. I skimmed the rest, and then looked at the detailed plot breakdown over at Wikipedia tI read a little more than half of this book, then abandoned it. I skimmed the rest, and then looked at the detailed plot breakdown over at Wikipedia to confirm my halfway-through judgment, so I’m confident that one star is what I’d give the book if I’d been able to trudge through the rest of it.
The first portion, until the bombs go off, is the best part. It actually does a good job of reminding those who lived through the time how frightening the prospect of nuclear annihilation was. The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union provided a constant threat that civilization could be wiped out within hours, and that most of those that survived would envy the dead.
At the same time, there idea had its attractions to many. The world is a complex and confusing place, and many see pervasive corruption with no real hope of a cure. Hitting the big red “reset” button and starting again can be appealing. It’s related to the tug some people feel towards apocalyptic fundamentalism, such as today’s ISIS.
Even though that was the best part, the amped-up violence and degeneracy portrayed in those early pages was rank manipulation, something that would plague the rest of the book as well. The author used extreme situations to shove readers’ sympathies around throughout the book, although that is only one of the fundamental interrelated flaws.
A more grating one is that every single character in the book is a stereotype. Most of them are identifiably Good or Evil, but even those that lie in some middle ground were recognizable — the Sociopath, the Good Man Who Lacks Conviction — you could look up labels for most of ‘em over at tvtropes.org.
For example, doesn’t it kind of creep you out that the only “gay” character in the book is a morbidly obese pedophile? I was immediately reminded of Baron Harkonnen from Dune — how could you not be? He actually requires two tropes: Depraved Homosexual and Fat Bastard. Even in 1987, this was a crude stereotype.
Second, far too many situations are unlikely and contrived, even to an absurd degree. For example—
(view spoiler)[One of our bands of heroes somehow manages to stumble on a town controlled by the escapees of an asylum for the criminally insane. Oh, geez — how likely is that? And yet not only are they in much better health than the rest of the population, they apparently spend all their time hiding in a supermarket, waiting to trap the occasional traveler. Isn’t it impressive that the criminally insane have so much more discipline than anyone else would in that situation? Oh, and even though they lie in wait like that, they somehow have managed to keep the power on. I’m sure every county has an asylum for the criminally insane, and each one of those has a few super-geniuses just waiting their chance to form a sick and twisted yet completely disciplined army.
Then there’s Macklin, who wants to treat his infected stump in the “healing waters” of the Great Salt Lake, but heads straight to the Fat Man’s camp and then waits until he has the privilege of using that stretch of shore, even though the lake’s shoreline is many hundreds of miles. Yeah, we’re told he wants to become one of the privileged, but why should that delay medical treatment?
And why do the “dirtwarts” starve under the oppression of the Fat Man’s camp anyway, when they could be starving but scavenging elsewhere? After all, Salt Lake City is surrounded by many miles of suburbs and towns. Even if the big city was nuked, there's gonna be a lot more food overlooked in cupboards or hidden in basements than there is in the mud next to the lake. And it'd be warmer, too. Oh, and apparently no one has yet realized there's plenty of water to be tapped in all those suburban hot water heaters.
For that matter, why is the Devil the only one who apparently though to get a bicycle? Seeing people using bicycles to pull a shopping cart should have been pretty common on highways, especially since the Interstate system has a maximum grade of 6% (up to 7% in the mountains). The homeless I see every day in San Francisco have figured it out, but not the denizens of this novel.
And that doomsday “TALONS” system? Um, shifting the planet’s poles? Anyone with an ounce of physics education could tell you that is so silly it qualifies as fantasy. And Dr. Strangelove came out in 1964 — more than twenty years earlier — and had reminded everyone:
There are undoubtedly a few religious fundamentalist sects that want the world to end, but most of them want it to play out according to some eschatological script, although there’s a probably subset that would be enthusiastic about any means to that End. But the idea that the government portrayed at the beginning of the book would build such a device is silly. (hide spoiler)]
I can understand why so many enjoy the book — it is essentially a comic book (Bang! Pow!) written out as a novel (and I mean no disrespect to the often much more subtle variant known as the graphic novel). There’s a fight between clearly identifiable Good and Evil, with melodramatic confrontations that the Good guys win only by earning it with pain and sacrifice. The basic plot is one familiar from Young Adult fiction, but this example was poorly imagined and constructed.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
(I'll avoid any major spoilers, but don't make any promises regarding spoiling developments of mood or the broad plot outlines that can be found in th(I'll avoid any major spoilers, but don't make any promises regarding spoiling developments of mood or the broad plot outlines that can be found in the publisher's blurb. I will say that when the publisher's blurb says "vampires", they're wrong. There is no vampire in this story. There is something worse.)
OK, this is a very strange book.
It starts off mildly strange: it is clearly a hard-ass, tough-as-nails, police procedural (if you don't know the sub-genre, see wikipedia). The protagonist is a cliché -- a big brute, twice divorced, confused about where his life is going, firmly chained to his job while recognizing that it's shoving him towards Dysfunction Junction™. But he really digs the power and stimulation of morally ambiguous situations. Still, not a happy camper.
Then it gets really strange. Some of the cases have paradoxical twists, and he's getting involved in a weird way with a very unusual woman.
Then it gets really, really strange.
The publisher's blurb tells us this is a dark urban vampire story, but it isn't. There's something much stranger here, and it is very well done -- but I can't say anymore without spoiling it. Even at the end it isn't quite clear whether this falls onto the fantasy or scifi side of the shelf, but it definitely doesn't belong with the "normal" books. A lot of the language and mood is similar to James Ellroy, but updated to contemporary society.
But the adult themes here go way beyond urban violence. There's sex, and an important aspect of the book involves some pretty crazy stuff. You're heading towards an intersection of horror, gender-bending sadomasochism, and what would be a psychotic breakdown — except that it is really happening. And all of that is central to the story.
This book is enough of an innovation that I'm tempted to give it the whole five stars. But there are two gotchas:
First, it's hard to tell where the book is going for a long while, and everything seems just a bit less intense than expected, and the plot feels like it is wandering and wavering in its commitment. It turns out that Saknussemm is building towards something, and he is eventually going someplace really radical, and apparently felt it was necessary to really solidify his set before he started to tear it down. And this might have been necessary for such an unusual book, but it still weakens the attraction.
Second, this also feels like a dead end. If this really expands into a new sub-genre, then he'll get kudos retrospectively (and I must admit that this might just be new to me; for all I know this book fits neatly into an established subgenre which I am unaware of). In any case, the market is a pretty narrow one: the gritty contemporary story won't be to the taste of those seeking fantasy kink (à laKushiel's Dart), while the fantasic part is likely to completely bewilder those Ellroy fans.
But that's who is likely to really enjoy this book: folks that enjoy a very creative contemporary urban kinky fantasy story.
P.S. I think Harlan Ellison would love this story. Definitely a Dangerous Vision.
I am not a fan of sustained silliness. Actually, I'm not a fan of silliness at all unless it has an undertone of something clever, such as satire or irony. Monty Python and Wallace and Grommit are usually — although not always — easily tolerated, while Bean and Benny Hill are execrable.
Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog started out strong, but by the time it ended I was happy to see it go. Anyone who enjoys the nonsense of Terry Pratchett'sDiscworld series or Jasper Fforde'sThursday Next will probably find this story delightful: it has the same unrelenting absurdity that can pass for cleverness if one doesn't look too closely.
The whole anthology is excellent, as they always are, but the story that really stuck in my memory is Michael Swanwick's "The Dead", which is possiblThe whole anthology is excellent, as they always are, but the story that really stuck in my memory is Michael Swanwick's "The Dead", which is possibly one of the best zombie stories ever written.
I was discussing the distinction between zombies and ghouls with a co-worker, and a few days later he loaned me this book with that story bookmarked. It has zombies and technology in a bone-chilling dystopic vision: what more could you want?...more
This is a fun and quick read. But in the days after I finished it, I found that my impression took a bit of a dip as I pondered it, and it lost its foThis is a fun and quick read. But in the days after I finished it, I found that my impression took a bit of a dip as I pondered it, and it lost its four-star rating in the process.
But first, a curiosity: this is the second off-beat mystery novel set in Oakland that I've read recently. The other one, Swing: A Mystery by Rupert Holmes, isn't SciFi at all, but also involves a musical theme which is even more central to the plot.
As the blurb and other reviews have remarked, Gun, with Occasional Music has a fantastic element. Definitely not magical realism: the tone of the novel is pure big-fisted Raymond Chandler noir. But both animals and babies have undergone "forced evolution" which means guns, sneers and snide language are often aimed at our protagonist by sheep, monkeys, kangaroos and toddlers. This does lend a surrealistic feel, but is more like Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (the source material for the 1988 film). And Philip K. Dick is best known for confronting questions of identity and existence, which Lethem never taps into here. (But see postscript, below.)
What we have here is a basic noir detective story set in an uncertain time with some scifi elements. Lethem channels the attitude of Raymond Chandler/Dashiel Hammett well enough, and the amalgam of genres is handled pretty well. In fact, he does the detective story better than Philip K. Dick did in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
But it doesn't take too much thought to realize that Lethem didn't put too much effort into this. He doesn't have to, of course, but without the extra push he doesn't earn the extra stars, either.
This is definitely taking place within a dystopia. The general population is kept numbed with mind-control drugs and heavy censorship. But who is doing the controlling, and why? The only authorities shown are the local cops ("inquisitors"), and they have their own petty political battles and succession crises, and they clearly aren't at the top of the pyramid, but we never get a hint of who or what is in charge of the big picture. What is so feared that so much control is desired?
With evolved animals taking most menial jobs, should there be massive problems with underemployment of humans? Where are all those people, and how do they feel about this? There are hints that the animals are resented, and that killing them isn't considered murder... Something happened before this story took place that re-branded police investigators are "inquisitors", eliminated written journalism, and conditioned the population to feel uncomfortable about asking questions? Not a hint about what took place, and in many ways such traumas have left disturbingly few collateral changes.
The time and place also feel anachronistic. The general technology (cars, no cell phones) recalls the publication date of 1995 and keeps things from feeling too futuristic, but then those animals and "babyheads" (the forced-growth toddlers) are absurdly out of place. And within the first few pages our hero is complaining about bleeding gums and I'm thinking "they've figured out how to turn sheep into sentient beings (albeit still dim-bulb sex toys) but haven't advanced dental care?"
Lethem has given us a minor delight of an adventure story, but things simply aren't thought out well. Put this story in the hands of Ridley Scott and you might get a miracle of a movie, but don't expect too much from the book.
Postscript: amended a month after reading.
I just returned to a reading a bit of Philip K. Dick after an absence of decades, and I can definitely see the similarity to Lethem's book. But it wasn't where I had thought it might be. PKD's signature, in my mind, is in presenting questions of identity and existence, which are absent here. It is the existential mires his protagonists run into that makes him so interesting to movie makers and new audiences so many years after his death.
But PKD also used the Chandler/Hammett hard-boiled writing style, which Lethem did replicate quite accurately. Characters are socially isolated, with no friends in which they can place heartfelt trust. Caution, even paranoia, is so pervasive it has become boring. Authority is corrupt and inefficient, using arbitrariness and barbarism to instill fear and fealty. Drug use is casual. Violence is frequent and indifferently meted out, sometimes in the most curiously impersonal way: the fellow standing in front of you with the baseball bat isn't your enemy, just another peon doing his job, and he might chat with you in sympathy before breaking your nose and ribs, then help you up and express concern over whether you'll be able to make it home.
The author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat wThe author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat was a bit too dense to accumulate all at once, but helped clarify contemporary physics somewhat. Featured — and quite intriguing — was the role of Noether's theorem in the exploration of symmetry and the derivation of... er... the laws that are, uh, implied? By that symmetry. Or something. Gauge theories were also mentioned, and we ended up with Higgs and his eponymous field and boson.
If Kurzweil is right and I end up living forever, I swear I'm going to study math until I get this stuff. But Tensor algebra comes first, just because the name sounds so cool.
Meh. Within the first two or three dozen pages I was very strongly tempted to put this down and walk away. NPR had just released their listener-selectMeh. Within the first two or three dozen pages I was very strongly tempted to put this down and walk away. NPR had just released their listener-selected list of the best 100 of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and there's lots there I haven't read yet. Vinge's The Snow Queen isn't on the list.
What dragged me down at the very beginning was the overly lyrical style, unoriginal plot set-up and banal characters of her young protagonists. But I glanced at some Goodreads reviews, realized it had won the Hugo Award, and decided to give it another chance.
Once more mature characters started showing up, it got better.
But... (view spoiler)[Those two central adolescents were still gratingly clueless. I mean, the guy was passive-aggressive and blamed everyone else for both life's disappointments and his own stupid decisions, and then turns into a very evil thug... and we're still supposed to like him? And Moon just moons over this idiot and screws over the rest of the world and her own life to "rescue" him. Does that ever work in real life? Isn't this supposed to be "fantasy" because of the setting, not because it's plot is centered on a pathetic juvenile love story gone wrong?
Most of the other characters are better. The cop, Jerusha, was more interesting, but at least as frustrating. She was maneuvered into an untenable position by political forces far beyond her control, but her stupid arrogance led her to fight this unwinnable fight, to her own detriment as well as those around her. She recognized the trap, walked into it eyes wide open, but neglected to notice her choice had horrible repercussions on everyone around her. (hide spoiler)]
I find it difficult to imagine that Vinge intended so many of her characters to actually be repugnant. After all, it isn't as if life isn't full of people like this — but a good novelist would show us the more likely tragic outcomes of these poor choices, whereas Vinge portrays any form of bull-headedness as if it is "strength of will" and will end up winning the day.
So in the end, this turned out to be a lousy romance novel, in which stupid people make stupid decisions, which they follow up with stupid determination, and the stupid author grants them their stupid wishes.
Huh, that came out harsher then I expected.
So I need to balance this with a few pluses.
Uh... well, Vinge writes well. Mostly.
I'm now realizing I'm more disappointed in this than I thought. I actually can't point to anything here that recommends this book. Way too much melodrama, even in the setting. I mean, the planet's seasons are disturbed because its solar system has been captured by a black hole? Hunting poor innocent seals because their blood is the fountain of youth?
This was the science fiction selection for the Goodreads SciFi and Fantasy Book Club for the month of July 2011. Visit this link to see all of the discussions, group member reviews, etc.
The blurb captures the fundamentals of this book: an alternate-reality United States in which folks are sporadically possessed by “demons”. Not the deThe blurb captures the fundamentals of this book: an alternate-reality United States in which folks are sporadically possessed by “demons”. Not the demons you might associate with the Bible or (more likely) Hollywood horror flicks, but archetypes such as “Truth” or “Captain America”.
I was very surprised to discover after finishing that this was Daryl Gregory’s first novel. His writing is much more polished than I would expect, with fully-fleshed characters and a strong first-person narrative. I especially liked how some of the historical divergences from our reality as only hinted at, such as the Nixon subplot. The story definitely takes some intriguing twists and turns, including a big one (you’ll know it when you get to it) that bumps this up from three to four stars.
I only have three gripes, although only the first two are really about this book. First, there’s this gun. (view spoiler)[It plays a threatening role through much of the story, but the author never established a reason why Del would feel the need to possess it, much less take it to the conference. Given his awareness of his lack of stability, it would seem more likely that he’d be paranoid of letting himself anywhere near weapons. Sure, there might be something akin to a subconscious motive, but the guy seems like he’d realize he’s asking for trouble and spend some time asking some introspective questions. (hide spoiler)]
Second, (view spoiler)[I thought the resolution was a bit weak. A single eccentric child managed to trigger much of this? Okay, so Valis asserts that there was a weakness between dimensions or somesuch gobbledygook, but I think the book would have been stronger without that denouement — the Big Twist was strong enough to hold the stage by itself at the end. (hide spoiler)]
The final problem is that I was very aware that this could have been a much more intriguing book. The point is made that those that are truly possessed occasionally become famous or infamous as a result, and some folks pretend to have been possessed to get attention and maybe fame. It didn’t take long before I was alert for the possibility that Gregory was alluding to our own celebrity-obsessed culture, and perhaps might be commenting in some way on the Faustian bargain celebrities make.
But as far as I could tell, there was no symbolic or allegorical content. Too bad — seemed like a great opportunity wasted. Yeah, maybe I’m a bit peculiar that way, but I like that kind of stuff.
Anyway, I can recommend this to anyone how might be into somewhat off-the-beaten-track... er... fiction? I’m not quite sure what subgenre this falls into. I’ll call it science-fiction/fantasy, since that’s a safe catch-all and the other labels have problematic implications. Horror? Nah. Dunno where that came from. Paranormal? Well, yes, but as David points out, there are no vampires, much less ghosts or werewolves, and that’s a good thing. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Excellent. A very well-written paranormal-scifi-fantasy. No vampires.
The blurb is an adequate overview; what it cannot convey is the author's engrossiExcellent. A very well-written paranormal-scifi-fantasy. No vampires.
The blurb is an adequate overview; what it cannot convey is the author's engrossing prose and lifelike characters. There is a well thought-out conflict for the protagonist to navigate, with a mix of cliched and innovative twists. Bonus points for a black protagonist and several strong female characters.
It is hard to call this science fiction, even though Reilly is really big on technology. The only problem is... his technology has far too much "magicIt is hard to call this science fiction, even though Reilly is really big on technology. The only problem is... his technology has far too much "magic" in it, and really pushes his stories -- all four of those I've read -- into a really weird fantasy genre where pseudo-technology fills the role of magic.
In order to avoid spoilers -- and thus losing the chance to warn folks about how they might be disappointed by this book -- it will have to be sufficient to say that Reilly relies at numerous points on technology as a deus ex machina plot mechanism.
If you either care or know absurdly little about physics, probability, or just about anything -- well, then you might be entertained by the non-stop action and cliff-hanger twists and turns in Reilly's plots.
The first of his books, and the first I read, was Contest, and earned three stars for its over-the-top hyperactive attitude. But the others are all more unrealistic, more reliant on absurd technology and impossible physics, without plots that compensate....more
The superpowers idea behind this is now somewhat cliched, but it appears this might have started the trend, since this was written back in the mid-80sThe superpowers idea behind this is now somewhat cliched, but it appears this might have started the trend, since this was written back in the mid-80s. Dunno; not going to do the research. Also of some interest is that the many, many, many volumes in the series are built up out of contributions from many authors (this was designed as a "shared universe"), most notably G.R.R. Martin, who edited this volume and went on to much greater fame.
Something crazy happens in the world and unleashes superpowers for a small number of folks. In this case, it's an alien virus. The idea of an alien infectious agent is only one of the myriad abnegations of received science, but we will let that pass. Just call it scifi-fantasy.
If you want a fast page-turner that is often clever, occasionally very clever, and even thoughtful once in a great while, this might qualify for four stars. If you easily get tired of repetitions of a central theme, then it could easily drop to two stars. Of course, it was probably much better, relatively, when it came out almost thirty years ago.
It didn't take long to get, through, so I'm giving it three stars, although I have to admit it's mostly because Roger Zelazny was one of the contributors to this first book that it gets that bump. I don't plan on reading any of the others in the series.
The wikipedia page is enlightening. Most interesting is that Gaiman's Sandman was originally pitched to run in this universe, but Martin declined the offer, apparently because Gaiman was a relative unknown at the time....more
This is an enormous fan fic version of the beginning the the Harry Potter story, rewritten portraying Harry as a hyperrationalist.
Not worth five starsThis is an enormous fan fic version of the beginning the the Harry Potter story, rewritten portraying Harry as a hyperrationalist.
Not worth five stars as a work of fiction per se, but fascinating enough to get bumped up to amazing because of several other factors:
• Folks with mildly compulsive rationalist and/or scientific leanings often have trouble with the nonsensical goings on of magical worlds. Occasionally Yudkowsky nails this so well that I was laughing convulsively. That the author sometimes over-indulged in this, and very often got too preachy about aspects of the world that aren't perfectly is probably the biggest flaw here as a work of fiction. Sadly, folks that already know what the fundamental attribution error is, or disdain television news because they understand the availability cascade, and can discuss Kahnemann's System 1 and System 2 at length — well, the choir can get tired of the preaching. And the folks that don't already know that stuff are unlikely to suddenly find the lectures worthwhile, because they really interfere with the flow of the novel. If you enjoyed Rowling's original series, and have at least a passing familiarity with some of that nonsense I just listed, you should take a gander at this.
• Dark, dark, dark. Rowling's book is targeted at young adults — or younger, actually. Yudkowsky's Harry thinks Ron Weasley is too dumb to waste time from day one, so we quickly learn that Harry doesn't tolerate fools. The author seriously engages the question of whether Rowling's bad guys actually have sensible grievances, but are perhaps simply more realistic about moral complexity, as Harry sometimes (but not always) is. Thus, Draco Malfoy becomes a very major character. One of my biggest peeves with most fantasy is the characters go through life-threatening situations yet seldom suffer. Yes, Rowling killed some secondary characters, and kinda killed one major character, but too little too late, really. "What part of suicide mission didn't you understand?" is a line I keep hoping to hear, and I'm happy to say Yudkowsky seems inclined to address that — although you might not enjoy some of the consequences.
• Startlingly good characterizations. Harry becomes in many ways a more complex and layered persona than in the original, and Yudkowsky's Draco is far, far more interesting than one would expect. The adults benefit a little from examining their reactions to the more nuanced Harry, but suffer by being confronted by a child with the mind and experiences that no child could reasonably have attained. The exaggeration of this here actually illuminates a trope that is too common: by privileging a character with knowledge and skills far beyond what a reasonable person could anticipate, those others can too easily be portrayed as idiots. But this is itself unreasonable — expecting children to be merely children is rational for humans, with their limited cognitive capacity. Kahenem's Subconcious System 1 thinking is an evolutionary adaptation that lets us think more efficiently, albeit frequently at the expense of accuracy. Anyone constantly trying to use System 2 ratiocination to overcome the cognitive traps evolution which has planted in our brains will suffer persistent ego depletion, and won't be able to function.
• There are some plot developments here that are much more intriguing that what I remember from the canonical series. Probably the best is the long-term project that Harry convinces Draco to address with respect to House Slytherin, which swaps out Rawling's simplistic social world and puts in a much more nuanced and realistic one.
This is like an insightful cover version of a great song (like William Shatner's punked up version of Pulp's "Common People"); it adds something new without detracting from the original. If you are interested in seeing how the Harry Potter series can be subverted, converted, diverted and perverted into something delightfully new, assuming you hit the target audience criteria, then check it out.
Oh — this isn't in print or published; it is effectively an on-line ebook. Aim your ebook reader or web browser at http://hpmor.com...more
Take a large measure of Jules Verne, for his late nineteenth century steampunk milieu and wild, individualistic adventuring, and mix in a heap of ChinTake a large measure of Jules Verne, for his late nineteenth century steampunk milieu and wild, individualistic adventuring, and mix in a heap of China Miéville, to add the fantastic fabulation that he does in that weird-fiction world. Stir in the spice of militant anarchism (remember, those ante bellum years were the heyday of anarchism!) and place the resulting dish on a bed of ice, to represent the arctic locale for the story.
Now, throw the whole thing away and read Valtat's Aurorarama. After all, he almost certainly writes better than you anyway, and why try to re-create what he has done so marvelously? Because he also has some wonderfully memorable characters, both at the center and the edges of his story. And he's done the research to be able to weave in those crazy decades of arctic exploration and Inuit culture.
This isn't quite at the heights of strange-fiction storytelling, like Miéville's The City and the City, but it's still an exciting yarn and a darn good read....more