I really loved reading an Eastern European/Russian fantasy series, a little removed from the extremely British Tolkien influence that permeates SO MUCI really loved reading an Eastern European/Russian fantasy series, a little removed from the extremely British Tolkien influence that permeates SO MUCH fantasy, and I loved the idea, but I didn't end up loving this book. It was fine. The dialogue was stilted, and the last section where we finally meet Yennefer was too much for me. I ended up stopping about 50 pages from the end because I just couldn't keep going.
I'll try one of the next books in the series, in case I just didn't love the short story/vignette format, because I really WANT to be into this series....more
It was fine. Nothing groundbreaking or surprising, but some interesting thoughts about the benefits and costs of our increasingly interconnected onlinIt was fine. Nothing groundbreaking or surprising, but some interesting thoughts about the benefits and costs of our increasingly interconnected online world. I think I might've liked it more if it had been by another author, actually, because it lacked Dave Eggers' usual humanity, which is my favorite thing about his writing. I missed the best and worst parts of Dave Eggers' Dave Eggers-iness, if you will. Anyone could've written this book....more
This book was straight up bad. I will say a couple of positive things about it first, though.
1) It moves at a steady clip.
2) Pretty much all the looseThis book was straight up bad. I will say a couple of positive things about it first, though.
1) It moves at a steady clip.
2) Pretty much all the loose ends get tied up.
Okay, onto what was bad about it.
Either Terry Hayes is the most convincing writer alive, taking on the personality of a racist, sexist, self-indulgent man baby to make a comment about the toxicity of traditional masculinity and how that gets acted out to scary degrees on larger and larger scales, or Terry Hayes is a racist, sexist hack. Either way, it is an interesting examination of what one man thinks is The Coolest Dude Alive.
There are no female characters whose sexuality or sexual desirability aren't mentioned immediately, and at length. Terry is clearly a boob man, but thinks women with big boobs are stupid. Terry seems to have a really reductionist view of women - they're either sexy untrustworthy temptresses, or beautiful virginal dutiful, wives or basically useless because they're fat. He hates fat people, and the two main fat characters in the book have their weight referred to constantly, as if they have no other discernible traits. Terry also seems to have issues with people from the Middle East, portraying all of them as either corrupt, villainous, or comic relief. Finally, he's incredibly condescending about people with disabilities. (His tone reminds me of Matt Dillon pretending to care about disabled people in There's Something About Mary. If you don't get the reference, that's fine, but if you do, you know exactly what I mean.)
Maybe it's the misandry talking but I have limited tolerance these days for fantasy fulfillment super guy main characters written by loafy white dude authors, and there are zero surprises here, except for how racist and sexist the author is, as channeled through the boring main character's boring inner monologue. Wow, the character is handsome, strong, sensitive, patriotic, rich, the literal best in the world at his bad ass job, but also has a tortured past???? W O W sounds fascinating, like some uncharted territory!!!! JKs whooooooo caaaaaaaares?????
The story didn't really get interesting until he started writing as the Bad Guy, who was significantly more interesting that the main guy. The book opens w/a perfect crime committed by a woman but we of course don't get to spend any time with HER because God forbid a female character be given agency and a back story. Instead we spend the whole time with either White Power Jug Man Spy or Swarthy Zealot Villain, both of whom are pretty on-the-nose, and don't stray far from their well-trodden character development paths. I know this type of character is common in this genre, but for a book with so many good reviews, I expected more. There was absolutely nothing groundbreaking or even interesting about any of the choices made here. You've read this book before, only it was probably better that earlier time
The book ends w/the main dude facing his "demons" but who cares? Not me. I would've stopped reading it within the first 50 pages, but I bought it and didn't want to waste the money and needed to learn a lesson about doing more research before I buy books. Otherwise THIS happens.
**spoiler alert** I love Neal Stephenson books so much, so it pained me to feel such apathy for this book. It was fine, which is not what I want from**spoiler alert** I love Neal Stephenson books so much, so it pained me to feel such apathy for this book. It was fine, which is not what I want from him. His brain's labor deserves superlatives, but this book was honestly kind of a mess.
Neal has never been great at creating three dimensional characters. His tone is always too glib, and he's too Neal Stephenson-y to really let you get down inside his characters' brains, which makes it hard to feel the stakes of their circumstances easily. It's all fun side tangents, hi jinks, and quips. Which is fine! Except this book is about the end of the world, so being able to connect with the characters he's chosen to take us through the apocalypse feels extra important! To his credit, he did a better job of it in this book than in any other book of his I've read (which is most of them). I cried! That's something!
But this just felt like it was rushed. Like he ran out of time. There's so many tangents, then there'll be a quick and dirty description of some plot event that moves the story forward and where, like, a major character dies, and then he moves on. I dunno. The pacing was weird and disjointed.
Then we get to the last section and his post-apocalypse world is interesting enough that I cannot fathom why he blew his load on a dry run and left us with such a mess on our hands. (If you will.) Why are you wasting this cool world with a really lame mini-adventure that's super rushed and doesn't allow us to get to know any of the characters at all? Why not end the book at the Council of Eves ( or whatever it was called) and save this stuff for another book, where you can Neal Stephenson out and maybe create some more fully developed characters? WHY????? This seems so obvious a solution to such an obvious problem that I assume there's a reason why he didn't but I can't really *get* it.
"Hmm, should I write a whole book set in this cool world for which I devoted hundreds of pages to laying the groundwork? Should I allow my amazing imagination to run free to create a whole giant novel about this world, creating characters that will give us a sense of the mindset of the people that inhabit this new cool world?? Nah! I'll just cram a super rushed and half-baked space D&D campaign in there and tie it all up with some super predictable resolutions. Boom. Problem solved."
Last gripe, which belongs on Audible but STILL: I listened to the audiobook and W O W it is Not Good. The woman who reads the first two sections does great at all the American voices and the Neal Stephenson-y tangents, but girl can't do accents for crap, which is a real issue when there are SO many characters from other countries. Everyone from Russia or Eastern Europe sounds like The Count from Sesame Street, her Italian character sounds like Chef Boyardee, and she just straight up can't do a British accent, which is Doing Accents 101. It's a real downer. Why hire a reader who can't do accents for an unusually accent intensive audiobook? It's not like there's a shortage of readers in the world. Such a strange choice.
Then it switches to another reader for the last section in the future and that guy's reading style was so flat and lacking humor or inflection that it was hard to follow the story.
I'm sorry, Neal. I love you. We all have off days/novels. I believe in you....more
I liked the first Harry Dresden book, but didn't love it. It was fine! This second one was way better, I thought. I was initially pretty meh about th
I liked the first Harry Dresden book, but didn't love it. It was fine! This second one was way better, I thought. I was initially pretty meh about the werewolves idea but ended up thoroughly enjoying the book, enough so that my natural meh feelings were overridden! ...more
***Spoilers in here, so be careful if you haven't read it yet.***
There are moments of such transcendent beauty in Justin Cronin's books that it makes***Spoilers in here, so be careful if you haven't read it yet.***
There are moments of such transcendent beauty in Justin Cronin's books that it makes the thin characters feel EXTRA thin. They're like paper dolls, where you know the shape and what they look like, but they don't feel real and their emotional processes are almost entirely opaque, to me. I don't GET any of the characters. Or, I understand what he tells us but he doesn't give us enough to really fill in the spaces. That is my biggest and most sustained criticism of these books.
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. Dipping back to tell stories about what was happening in other places as the outbreak happened was interesting, and even having a new world Evil Empire was kind of cool, but it all felt so...flat. Just kind of there.
I feel like squandering all the Twelve, without spending any time getting to know them, was kind of a waste. Maybe because the Big Bad in the first book was a single member of the Twelve, to then have them ALL dispatched at once, when we never get a chance to invest in them as bad guys, seemed like a missed opportunity for more books. He touches on the different types of virals - how the dopeys are all Carter's - and that was such a cool idea, but it never gets expanded. Exploring how the group mind link works would've been so cool! But no. He just plops that down and never comes back to it.
I think possibly my biggest criticism is the credulity straining reunions. I don't know why that bothered me so much but it really, really did. To establish a world where human life is so fragile and worth so little, but then have all the loved ones of the main characters magically be alive? Silly, and, to me, shows an over sentimentality in Justin Cronin, that he can't stomach having really bad things happen to his main characters. He's fine killing off the vast majority of faceless Americans, but can't stomach having HIS characters really suffer. (I know, there's plenty of rape and life in Homeland sucks the worst for Sara. But the reunions. THE REUNIONS.) I guess I feel like if you're going to create a terrible post-apocalyptic world, you need to be ready to follow that through to it being awful and soul-deadening for everyone, even the characters you love so much. You can't slip A BUNCH of characters we thought were dead out of your back pocket. That undercuts my investment in the stakes of your world.
Amy's transformation made zero sense to me. I fully admit I am a literal person so I don't pick up on subtleties all the time, so maybe it was super obvious to other people, but I, personally, didn't get it. Her hooking up with Carter was nice, and Amy's relationship with Wolgast, and the longing that the virals feel for thier lost lives, is by far the most meaningful part of the stories to me. That is beautiful. Cronin is at his best when he is tackling that anguished longing, and even the peace of Greer's spiritual awakening. Those parts were beautiful enough to bring tears to me eyes.
I guess I have a lot of negative stuff to say about the book and not a ton of positive stuff. I'll definitely read the last book because I want to know what happens with Fanning, but I've adjusted my expectations. ...more
I had incredibly low expectations of this book (fantasy plus detective noir? WE SHALL SEE) but it was really fun. It was entertaining, surprisingly f
I had incredibly low expectations of this book (fantasy plus detective noir? WE SHALL SEE) but it was really fun. It was entertaining, surprisingly funny, and snuck up on you with the depth of emotion and creep out elements.
I have no doubt that a committed reader could completely decimate this book. It's not Shakespeare. It's not even George R. R. Martin. But it's FUN. Okay? Sometimes you want to read a book that's fun and isn't so terrible it makes you embarrassed to be reading it.
One of the most difficult things about fantasy series is creating a world that feels real enough to buy into. I kind of admire Alex Bledsoe for not really trying to plumb the depths to blow our minds with his world. The town and country names are half-assed, he's not trying to be super consistent with technology or the development of society in his world, his characters are all named hilariously banal normal names (King Phil! And his sister, Janet! Hahaha! Yes!).
He doesn't give a care about those fantasy series fripperies, which was strangely refreshing. Who cares? Just tell me a fun story. Sure, mash together to weird genres and see if that works! Rad. It works! It's fun. Is it gonna win a Pulitzer? No. But is it silly and funny and weird and surprising? It decidedly is. And I will absolutely be reading the other books in the series now....more