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