The prologue of this book is a third person telling of Rat Korga's life. Beginning at age 19 when he arrives as an illiterate delinquent for "Radical...moreThe prologue of this book is a third person telling of Rat Korga's life. Beginning at age 19 when he arrives as an illiterate delinquent for "Radical Anxiety Treatment", basically a sort of lobotomy that turns him into a docile zombie, with full mental capacity, but only able to do exactly as he's told. Perfect for slave labour. Korga has a temporary escape from servitude when a woman buys him as a sex slave, but gives him technology enabling him to read books. He returns to slavery however and not long after that, his planet (Rhyonon) is destroyed.
The rest of the novel is 1st person narrative from Marq Dyeth, who comes from an entirely different planet (Velm) and culture. Marq is an international diplomat, and lives a fairly priveledged life of space travel to exoctic cultures. And comes from a very liberal background, every generation of his family practice adoption rather than procreation, as such he has many sisters and many parents, of both human and evelmi (evelmi being a sentient, 6 limbed, multi-tongued, lizard-like race). The notable thing about Marq's world, (and apparently everyone elses world EXCEPT Korga's), is that although they make distinction between male and female (and neuter aswell for evelmi), everyone is termed 'woman' and refered to as 'she' regardless of sex. The exception being that the pronoun 'he' is used when the speaker has a sexual attraction to the referred person.
There is a tenuous connection to be seen between Marq and Korga, in the fact that many of the books Korga read were by, or relating to Marq's 7 times great grandmother Gylda Dyeth, or the Dictator she worked for - Vondramach Okk. But the greater connection between them isn't announced until at least a third of the way through the book, when one of Marq's aquaintence's happens to be working on the rescue mission for Rhyonon, contacts him to say that Korga has been calculated to be Marq's perfect erotic companion and that they are sending him to Velm.
I found the novel escpecially hard to get into. I began to be interested in the prologue after a while, Rat Korga's story was beginning to be very interesting, although I thought it was a little rushed. I suppose I would have preferred a novel that was entirely about him, the premise of rediscovering everything through technology, despite his altering brain surgery, was really fascinating. Would have certainly made a great story on it's own. But it was rushed through, and then the rest of the novel, I could never really enjoy.
I understand that the 'twist' of referring to all people as 'woman' and 'she' was probably supposed to be quite innovative and eye-opening, but really it just didn't have any impact on me. They clearly did still make distinctions between sexes, as people were termed male and female and neuter, and Marq has a clear expressed preference for males, so it wasn't about a real blurring of gender lines or anything like that. And it just made the language clumsy and awkward. So the society was also completely unbothered by peoples sexual tastes for males/females/aliens etc, but I found this not at all innovative either, it sounds like any other book I might usually read.. But it's more than likely that I simply came to this novel about 3 decades too late.
The only impact that the culture had on me, was probably in regards to their diet. And this isn't just because I'm vegetarian, because in Marq's culture they actually ate cloned human meat, which I found completely hideously wrong and repulsive, but I guess that was the intent? But what is the use of putting that into a novel, without injecting any commentary on it? And that's what the book really lacks, it lacks discussion, and feeling and depth. These strange things just happen, but Marq never really pays much attention to them, it's just things that happen in his every day life. It would have been much better to have Rat Korga's view on everything aswell, but we never do, because he's now in the third person, and doesn't have anything to say for himself.
One of the main difficulties in reading this book was that it dumped you righ in the middle of a foreign technologically advanced culture, and didn't bother to explain terms and concepts until much later. And it's very hard to keep reading when you don't know yet, what you're reading about. Very difficult, very awkward.
There was one grand speech from Marq at the end of the book about the mysteries of sexual attraction, about the unlikelyhood of meeting your perfect mate, and about how the concept of your world is not about the place that you live, but about the way you view things. I think this was the highlight of the entire novel. And yet it didn't have the impact it could have.. because I was never connected to the character.
On the whole, I found the novel mostly disappointing. I waited such a long time for this novel to go somewhere, and by the time I got to the end, I finally figured out this train was never leaving the station. Even if you'd never read a novel about these themes before, I wouldn't even recommend it, because there are better things out there now. (less)
Close Range is Annie Proulx's anthology of 11 ranch/cowboy themed short stories, including Brokeback Mountain.
I have to say, that there were a lot of...moreClose Range is Annie Proulx's anthology of 11 ranch/cowboy themed short stories, including Brokeback Mountain.
I have to say, that there were a lot of good stories in here, not just the last one. I was suprised by the book in a few ways, not least being that I enjoyed every one of them, more than I thought I would. But I was mostly suprised by the dirty gritty realness of the scenes and the writing. I suppose I was expecting a sort of idyllic happy set of cowboy stories (I'm not sure why), but this is totally not it. Don't think even one of them has a happy ending.
The last thing that suprised me was that, all of the of the stories seem to be written in a slightly different way, a different perspective, a twist of stories within stories, or read by a different internal voice; each has something different and special that made me keep checking the front cover to make sure they really were all the same author.
So I'm still not truly a short-story fanatic, and these were not the kind of thing that I would usually choose to read, and I'm still not really excited about cowboys.. and yet I really thought the book was good, really good. So that must say something for Annie Proulx's writing skill.
And what did I think of Brokeback Mountain in particular? Well I thought it was hands down the best of the bunch, without a doubt. It's like the others, gritty dirty realism, and it's not like I'd usually call a romance, There isn't a lot of space for romance, but there's something there between the lines, that isn't always explicity written, some kind of writer's magic trick. And it did make me cry. I'm certainly going to watch the movie now to see how well they did with it.
So, to sum it up. Not what I'd usually read at all. But the writing was brilliant, and I would reccommend it.(less)
The second in the Kushiel's legacy series, continues on exactly where the first novel left off.
Phedre no Delaunay, now the comtesse de Montreve, comfo...moreThe second in the Kushiel's legacy series, continues on exactly where the first novel left off.
Phedre no Delaunay, now the comtesse de Montreve, comfortably living in her country home with Joscelin and her three chevaliers, and spending most of her time learning Habiru, in the hopes of discovering the key to freeing Hyacinth from the yeshuite curse. But then a parcel comes from Melisande Sharizhai - Phedre's sangoire cloak - and there is only one way to interpret it; Melisande's games of politics and treachery and not yet finished, and she is inviting Phedre back into the game if she dares. And so Phedre goes back to the city, to take up service of Naamah again, to become again a courtesan and a spy. The first and greatest mystery being, who was it that aided Melisande's escape from Troyes le mont, and how far will Phedre need to go to find out.
I have to say, I enjoyed this one just as much, if not more than Kushiel's Dart. Near the end of the previous I was almost lulled into thinking there would be no more adventure for Phedre, that she was settling down with Joscelin, and that would be it. But of course the adventure was far from over. And really what an amazing adventure this time.. So many new lands, cultures and people in this one. Which only makes me wonder how far she'd have to travel in the third book in order to beat it!
As in the previous book there was no mercy for the heart, I believe Carey is one of those writers that will ruthlessly kill off beloved characters if it's important to the plot. She makes me cry so much, but I'm masochistic and I love a good cry, I can't help myself. Not telling who of course, you'll have to read it yourself and suffer the same as I did!
Some of the aspects that interest me most about this series is the mythology and the magic. At times you could almost believe it's a fantasy world without magic, just myths and legends for them, and then - as with the master of the straits in the 1st book - something just jumps out at you to show you that magic can touch Phedre's world. And if magic can happen.. then are Phedre's visions of her deity Kushiel 'real'..? I am still hoping for this mythology to go further. I don't have as much interesting in the Yeshuite mythology, as so far it's a bit of a mimicry of Jewish/christian beliefs, and as just doesn't shine as much as the other more fantasy elements, but it still hasn't bothered me much, and it does create some interesting characters.
If you were one of those, like I was, worried that the 2nd book would not live up to the 1st book.. just don't worry, keep reading, I promise it's great. And now I've proved to myself that it's just as good, (and I've got this review out of the way - my personal rule) I am now so so ready to jump into the 3rd book!!
When Gravity Fails is set in the 22nd century, in a very bad part of town called the budayeen, (in what city I never really worked out). The culture i...moreWhen Gravity Fails is set in the 22nd century, in a very bad part of town called the budayeen, (in what city I never really worked out). The culture is predominantly arab and muslim, although don't expect purity and devoutness! Almost the entire population have implants that enable personality modification (moddies), and data addons such as languages and skills (daddies).
Marid Audran is a rarity in that he doesn't have any implants. He prefers to get his kicks the oldfashioned pills and booze way. Marid is about to get himself a job searching for a russian guys missing nephew, when a guy with a James Bond moddie shoots a hole in his new client. More murders follow, and Marid becomes involved in hunter for the killer. Unfortunately the local crime boss Friedlander Bey, is forcing Marid to do it on his terms, which means Marid has to go against his principles and get the latest experimental intracranial implants..
I thought it was a little unusual to find cyberpunk and muslims mixed in together, with all the drugs, alcohol, body modification and lgbt, it's actualy a very un-muslim backdrop. But I think it's the conflict of all those things that made it such an interesting setting.
The pace of the story was somehwat frustrating, the buildup was very slow, not that I wasn't involved, but it wasn't til around the middle of the book that I felt Marid really getting stuck into the middle of events. And then the plot really careened off at high speed until it hit a very abrupt ending. I'm going to have to check out the next in the series, as it was just the kind of ending that left me thinking 'huh. ...well whats he going to do now?'.(less)
The story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning wit...moreThe story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning with his childhood, (just before WorldWar2), as his mexican mother leaves his american father and takes him with her back to mexico. Harrison writes his journals because he can't help but write, like other people cannot help breathing, he is destined to become an author one day. Harrison's childhood is surreally beautiful, the problems of his chain-smoking, gold digging mother are distant. His journals are all in the 3rd person, nothing ever happens directly to Harrison. It's like looking at everything from underwater.
Harrison gets a job mixing plaster for the famous mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frieda Kahlo. which gradually turns into a job as a cook, and then also a secretary. Then the exiled Lev Trotsky arrives, taken into the houshold of the Riveras, and Harrison can't help but be a part of the revolution, even so he is still always on the outside, an observer, written in the 3rd person.
In the second half of the novel, back in America, Harrison finally begins to use the personal pronoun, I. No longer talking about himself in the 3rd person, he finally owns his own words, and talks directly about himself. Yet somehow he is grown distant, like letters from a child hood friend that you grew apart from. I find it harder to connect with Harrison now, which is ironic. But it leaves space to be covered over with by the political upheaval in America. Harrison's personal life seems to happen far in the background, while in front of us the FBI and the Un-American commitee are hunting down communist sympathisers. I feel bad now for every silly joking utterance of 'bloody commies', because I never meant it, and I never realised how real it once was. I feel like I've never paid attention in history class.
"Whenever I hear thing kind of thing," he said, "a person speaking about constitutional rights, free speech, and so forth, I think, 'how can he be such a sap? Now I can be sure that man is a Red.' A word to the wise, Mr. Shepherd. We just do not hear a real American speaking in that Manner."
Theres a horribly real feeling of suffocation in this second half of the novel, neighbours turning against him, his readers turning against him, no matter how much they loved his first 2 books, now they believe any lies printed in the newspapers. The same happening to hundreds of US citizens, once they're labeled as communists, they're done for, no matter who they really are or what they really said. But it could easily be happening today. Replace the word 'communist' with the word 'terrorist', and this could be America today. It could be britain and any non mainstream political party - the British national party for instance, once the papers label you as a BNP supporter, you're demonised.
Violet Brown reminds us, when we're already well over 100 pages into the novel, that these are the private journals of a dead man who never wanted them published. And that we should stop reading if we want to respect his wishes. I almost stopped reading. It was hard to remember that the book is fiction. In fact that should be hard to remember, it should be, because in truth, in the end, it wasn't fiction. This is the most important thing about it. Harrison Shepherd and Violet Brown may never have existed, but these events too place, these things happened to someone. These things still happen to other people now, under other names and guises. It's not fiction. And that is the scariest thing about it.
Noticed this has been shelved several times as 'Romance' and even as 'erotica', but I think its important to note that there is a difference between b...moreNoticed this has been shelved several times as 'Romance' and even as 'erotica', but I think its important to note that there is a difference between books which are actually Romance, but contain fantasy elements; and books which are Fantasy but contain some romance. I'd say this book definately falls into the latter category. Certainly some parts are somewhat graphic on the bdsm parts, but thats where it's important for plot and character, a lot of 'encounters' were suprisingly of the tasteful fade-to-black sort.
Phedre is a girl, born and raised among courtesans. Unfortunately Phedre is considered flawed, a single red mote in one eye spoils her appearance, and leaves her unwanted. This is until Anafiel Delaunay sees her and recognises the mote for what it is - Kushiel's dart - a rare mark bestowed by one of their patron angels, both a blessing and a curse. Delaunay takes Phedre into his household, and gives her an education beyond that of any other courtesan. At first it's confusing to Phedre, who doesn't understand what need she'd have of languages and history etc, but Delaunay insist she also learn the more useful skills of observation and deduction.. skills more appropriate for a spy than a courtesan. Delaunay can do his best to keep Phedre safe, but ultimately they must use all resources as the political plots go ever deeper.. murder, treason, war..
The story takes a fair while to get truly started; the novel follows Phedre's story from birth and through her childhood. But despite the long set up, it was never boring, in fact, it's a good method for world building. As Phedre speaks about the various night courts, and learns the myths and histories of her home country, we learn too, and the world has quite a fascinating background.
The Author has chosen to base her mythology on jewish and christian beliefs, the brief story is that at the crucifiction of J-sus, His blood mixed with the magdalenes tears, and out of the earth sprang Elua, who was a sort of mortal deity. He had a minor disagreement with the jewish/christian G-d and departed amicably taking several angels with him. They then founded a civilisation in a place called Terre D'Ange (geographically it seems to be france!). From a christian point of view, I actually found it an interestinc concept, to see a fantasy mythology based on something which I consider to be fact.. this made me think more seriously about all the times I've read fantasy stories based on norse or greek mythology! I have no criticism of the way it was done, there seems no disrespect in it from the author's point of view, and it makes for a new and innovative fantasy setting.
One of the most unusual things about the setting is the fact that their culture respects and revere prostitutes, in fact to be a courtesan is this society is an act of devotion to one of their patron angels. Theres also a high amount of acceptance for gay relationships, and their one tenet of faith is the phrase 'love as thou wilt'.
Overall I thought the book was absolutely brilliant, it's been a long time since I came across a fantasy series to rival my all time favourites but I could happily shelve this alongside my beloved George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan and Elizabeth Haydon. The background was epic, the description was inspiring, and the characterisation was practically flawless. Just the right amount of sympathy for the heros/heroines and just the right amount of love and hate for the 'villains'. I really hope the rest of the series live up to the same standard!
I'd probably recommend it for anyone who like most kinds of fantasy, although.. it's hard to compare to other types of fantasy, but I'd say out of my own limited experience it's closer to Elizabeth Haydon than anything else.