I like short stories, but I have trouble to read any collection of it whole. No matter whether it is a themed anthology, or “best of”, or one-author c...moreI like short stories, but I have trouble to read any collection of it whole. No matter whether it is a themed anthology, or “best of”, or one-author collection, I start out excited and run through several stories, and then I my enthusiasm fizzles out and I have to make myself read on, and them there are always some stories that are left unread – not necessarily at the end of a book, since I rarely read them in order. There are exceptions, of course. But all my latest science-fiction and fantasy short stories reading followed the same pattern. And I've decided to make piece with it. Yes, I won't read the whole collection, so what? I'll still read several whole short stories and get my fun. The last attempt is the collection of best short stories by Peter S. Beagle Mirror Kingdoms. I have never actually read anything by Beagle before, so I came with no expectations except that it was supposed to be awesome. And it was – some of what I read, anyway. I started with My Uncle Chaime, My Aunt Rifke and the Blue Angel. And... You have to read this, it's amazing, and possibly beyond amazing. It's a very stark, very simple story and it touches something - our sense of wonder, our hunger for mystery and some deep-seated sadness. It is my favourite type of stories – when in our regular world something wondrous happens. There are other stories in the collection of that type, but none had a similar effect on me. It happens in New York of author's childhood, and the details are so vivid that I can feel everything the boy narrator sees and feels – Beagle's stand-in, his uncle Chaim, the artist, uncle's friend, aunt Rifke, the rabbi, and the city they live. It's an amazing story.
After that – I was not reading in order, but by accident, I had a totally unexpected treat. You see, my parents had a book, a part of science fiction collection, that I loved to read when I was about 10 or 12. It was an anthology of magical short stories by foreign writers (foreign to USSR ) It was mostly translations from English, but I think there was a Japanese story and something else non-English. The thing is, it all being in Russian and me not caring about names as much as about stories I hardly remember whose stories I read and loved. But I remember the stories themselves. (I probably could research it on the Internet, but it was never urgent, just a delicious memory.) Back to the book: I open one page, and I see a story from that book, from my childhood! Very much the same, translation notwithstanding. Come Lady Death.
Then there were other stories – some I liked a lot, some I was kind of meh about. All worthwhile read. And I read El Regalo – which I liked, and realized that I am done with this book. I am leaving it in a very good place and hope to come to it again some day in the future. There are still unread stories there. I might even love them, but not now.(less)
Damn, I was so excited to pick up this book, and wanted so much to fell in love with it, but it never happened, and now I ended up thinking that China...moreDamn, I was so excited to pick up this book, and wanted so much to fell in love with it, but it never happened, and now I ended up thinking that China Miéville is probably awesome, but not for me.
I loved the world, and the characters seemed so fascinating when I started reading, but ultimately their problems, and the book's main conflict bored me to death, so now, several years since I can hardly remember what it was - even as the images of New Crobuzon stay with me as vivid and sharp as at the beginning.(less)
I am reading Wilkie Collins. Again. The Woman in White. And I love it again. I am quite fond of Walter Hartright, and I love, love, Marian Halcombe. S...moreI am reading Wilkie Collins. Again. The Woman in White. And I love it again. I am quite fond of Walter Hartright, and I love, love, Marian Halcombe. She is one of the most interesting female characters I know of. Ever. And what a description, and what a role physical beauty plays here. We meet with her turning back to the Walter – and to the reader. And with Walter we admire her back, her stature, her body, and then she turns, and… her face isn’t up to contemporary beauty standards. Oops.
She mostly isn’t feminine enough in her expressions. Then she starts talking and all ugliness is forgotten. Until, of course, Laura appears, the vision of a perfect beauty, not perfect in its features, but in its influence over a man. I don’t find Laura interesting per ce. I like her, she is a sweetie, but she is always an object – of love, greed, villainy, or nobility. She is like Irene from the Forsyte Saga, slipping through other lives, influencing other lives, but never acting themselves.
Beauty does mean a lot in our first impressions – whether we admit it or not. But the second impressions help us with a touch of reality.
And I loved Walter in the fateful meeting on the road to London with the Woman in White. How sincerely perplexed he is! How he is trying to justify himself in helping the stranger!
I liked it for the atmosphere, and the idea that is at the base of it – that at the edges of our world exist everything else, and you can find it by t...moreI liked it for the atmosphere, and the idea that is at the base of it – that at the edges of our world exist everything else, and you can find it by turning another street, and that ships are sailing into the sky to go to strange places where time and space bleed together. (less)
I liked it a lot, but I expected to like it much more. Unreasonable expectations? May be.
It is strange – reading a book everyone around read long ago...moreI liked it a lot, but I expected to like it much more. Unreasonable expectations? May be.
It is strange – reading a book everyone around read long ago and loves. Well, it is never every one really, but enough to pick up the general attitude.
War for the Oaks is a wonderful book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, plus it is the urban fantasy, which at this point is my favorite subgenre.
But there were “buts”. ;)
The heroine is a great fun. It is hard not to like Eddie – but this is the problem, too. Why is she so lovable, where are her shortcomings? She doesn’t leave an impression of a Mary Sue, but she doesn’t feel to me like a real person. She is just a little bit unbelievably cool. Or am I too critical?
The plot itself seems rather predictable – or every plot after certain amount of books read seems so? I can’t say what will happen, but I can guess what kind of event will happen and how it all will work with great certainty. It is not always a bad thing – I absolutely loved the whole development of love between Eddie and the phouka, and even though I could guess, it didn’t spoil the fun.
Oh, and the phouka is beyond adorable. ;)
On the other hand, I quite loved Willy as well – he possess two qualities that I value: desire to learn and curiosity and the ability to change. That’s why I was didn’t like that he died – he just started to change – and I would love to see the progress.
His death brought me thoughts about the characters’ death in general. The death in fiction is always happens by the author’s design, even if the author is following the story and its demands. How the death in fiction may be written (filmed) so it wouldn’t feel contrived? Sometimes it happens – death doesn’t necessarily feels natural, but I don’t think about author, I think about characters, and sometimes I keep thinking about the author, and what the authors means by it – which create the impression of the death for the sake of plot, not the natural part of the story.
For the positive example I can refer to The Sandman – there we enjoy Death’s company ;)
The clothes are described with amazing precision, and the eighties’ clothes sound so funny!
The music is confusing, too. I wish I could hear it – the music on paper is too complicated, it is something I cannot quite imagine, and for the most of the book I felt the characters are speaking a strange language that I should have understood but cannot. (less)
It is a very pleasant book, but I seem to have no luck with Robin McKinley's books, no matter how many times they are recommended to me. I want to lov...moreIt is a very pleasant book, but I seem to have no luck with Robin McKinley's books, no matter how many times they are recommended to me. I want to love them, I try to love them, but I cannot get more than a lukewarm like. They are beautiful, masterful stories with interesting characters - why can't I love them? Should I try harder? (less)
I was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like the...moreI was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like the characters (this incarnations of them) and the writing, they seem to be behind a glass wall that I couldn't break, and didn’t want to. I cannot start to care – and this feels to be of crucial importance in fiction for me lately. I don’t have to like everybody and everything in a book, but at least something must pull me into – even if it is a description of a sea, or beautiful style, or fancy ideas. Here it was nothing of the sort, and the only thing that elicit emotions was the marginalia on a page splattered with something brownish: “It is blood. Don’t lick it”.
I thought that may be the case is in the legend itself? That I grew disenchanted with Robin Hood and his merry band? I used to love the story and its heroes and heroines. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was always sure about the continuous existence of Robin Hood, Marion, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Gizborne and others in the Sherwood forest and around. They add something to the world, some important tiny bit.
Why not to read a novel about them? I cannot say that the interpretation is too contrary to what I imagine – or any other interpretation, because I just don’t really imagine them at all. I have a vague picture that changes when I change or when my mood change. Robin can be young or grown man, blond or black-haired, bearded or not, asshole or sweetie or both, of gentle birth or of common, just a robber or an idealist – none of it ever sits in stone. Same with Marion (though I like her more when she is not a damsel in distress) and everyone else. I probably have a more definite image of Friar Tuck – he is short and round, good with his staff, optimistic, and the only monastic vow he takes seriously is the one of poverty.
But maybe that was the reason – I prefer my vague image to the detailed and rooted in the time and place version. Plus I always get annoyed when Richard the Lionheart came and resolved the matter. Because he would never do that. But I got even more annoyed when he took all the band with him to Holy Land – even though that's what he would definitely do. But Robin Hood cannot be outside of England! There mere idea of it destroys the Universe as we know it. (less)
It got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionary...moreIt got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionary underground, mystery and intrigue, Engels (actually as a character in the action), more Hegel with Kant and Hume, and the lovely XIX-century epistolary style.
The genre is impossible to define - it is not fantasy, not really a historical fiction or a philosophy textbook... But then, probably all really good book defy the strict genre definitions.
Reading about Engels - as the regular character - seems kind of strange. They (I rarely can think of him in singular, without Marx attached as a Siamese brain-twin, even though I read each of them separately) feel like an older relative - that you know were young and did what all humans do, but never think about it. they are way too memorial. And this is one of reasons I enjoy seeing Engels there so much.
The main characters (Susan, Kitty, James and Richard) are delightful, and I savor every moment with them, too. They are far from perfect - they have their quirks and vices and secrets, and they can be difficult, but they are never annoying and flat. (less)