I started reading Leviathan Wakes because I'm a fan of the author's fantasy work under the name Daniel Abraham (though I still haven't read the last o...moreI started reading Leviathan Wakes because I'm a fan of the author's fantasy work under the name Daniel Abraham (though I still haven't read the last of the Long Price series, shame on me.) His fantasies have a simple, yet eloquent style that makes them captivating and intriguing, even when not much is going on in the way of action. I wasn't quite expecting the same here, after reading that the book had to do with space zombies, yet still, If I hadn't already known, I wouldn't have believed this was penned by the same man. Does that mean this book is bad? Not necessarily. But it is very different from what I expected, and I can't say I enjoyed it as much.
(Disclaimer: this review should be at least 95% spoiler free. I will do my best not to reveal any crucial plot points but you may learn more about the book reading this review than you would the jacket cover. You've been warned.)
The book definitely had my attention from the start. I was intrigued by the universe, almost Firefly-esque, being confined to the solar system with the stars just as inaccessible in the future as they are in the present. Like in Hunter's Run, (which the author co-wrote as Daniel Abraham) it is a future without the fancy things like lasers, robots and green men that we've come to expect from Space Opera. Leviathan leans more in the direction of realism (that is, until the space zombies). Space flight is boring, hand guns fire metal projectiles and space is full of the same stinky, flawed humans that our Earth is now. Is there anything wrong with any of this? Not specifically, no. I like a gritty, realistic fiction. It's how I like my fantasy, after all.
Before I go more into the setting, let's talk about the main characters. I'll only bother with the two primary protagonists, Holden and Miller. At first these two are running independent story lines but naturally they merge together. Holden is the Earth born shipman who will do whatever he thinks is right before thinking of the consequences. Miller is a cop at the end of his rope, born in space, having spent his whole life in artificial gravity. He's divorced, delusional and has an inflated sense of his own abilities. They are both flawed, interesting characters and I had no problem reading about them. Holden was perhaps slightly less interesting. While he is flawed, his sense of morals was hard for me to relate with. Miller's chapters, while containing less of the action portions, I found much more intriguing.
As for the story, without giving too much away, there is plenty to make the reader interested from the get-go. We have an intro that alluded to some greater sci-fi mystery later on, a ship that gets blown up in the second chapter, strange police cases and so on. There's nothing really boring going on.
So why the hell didn't I have more fun reading it? I spent a lot of time while reading this book asking myself that question. Holden and his crew are captured, on a ship they believed to be the enemy's when it gets attacked by someone else. Enticing right? Meh. I just couldn't find myself caring. I enjoyed Miller's chapters and his police cases more, but then I realized I was more interested in the environment he lived in, a hallowed out asteroid, than I was him and what he was doing. I did a little dissection of the book (and my own thoughts of it) to determine why this may be the case.
There are two main genres of science fiction: hard sci-fi and space opera. In hard sci-fi I expect the focus to be on the science, at the cost of perhaps a little bit of character development. With space opera I expect the focus to be more on the characters and what they're going through, and the science to be more background noise, because it's less important. To me, space opera should have a sense of wonder. I should be a bit mystified by the whole experience.
Leviathan Wakes is a sci-fi book in need of a sub-genre. It doesn't have the scientific credibility to be hard sci-fi (not that the author tries to pass it off as such, he's said it's working man's sci-fi) and it's just not quite mysterious/ambitious enough for me to make good space opera. It's wide in scope, yes, but for me it's just too cut and dry. The characters spend an arduous amount of time explaining how everything works and when the action comes it's too by-the-numbers. And if the revelation hinted at in the prologue was something other than what it was, I might have enjoyed the story much more. But the space zombies were just too ridiculous to me. Okay, it's weird and mysterious and no one knows where this alien substance originated from, but zombies? Perhaps in the latter books the author goes into the origin of this stuff, but that's not in THIS book. The story just kinda lost whatever hold it had on me up to that point. By this time, Holden and Miller had also turned from subjects of interest into action heroes, with the fate of all of mankind resting on them as they try to stop this plague from spreading. *Yawn.
I can't help but feel that I'm being unfair here, as the book SEEMS to have all the right elements in place but it just doesn't work for me in the long run. It's a well imagined world and well imagined characters but with a hum drum story that I just can't get into. So for the setting, the characters and for the prose, I will give it a 3/5. Maybe I'll read the others, but I'm undecided yet. For now, I'll be sticking with Abraham's fantasy works.(less)
It’s hard to decide how to write a review for a book that I’ve waited five years for. Does anything that is anticipated for so long live up to expecta...moreIt’s hard to decide how to write a review for a book that I’ve waited five years for. Does anything that is anticipated for so long live up to expectations? Perhaps not. But while Republic of Thieves may not have been quite what what I’d prepared for it to be in my mind, it is a very enjoyable book and it shows that Scott Lynch has not lost his flair and the Gentleman Bastards are as bastard...ish as ever they were before. Now, let’s get to the bastardly details shall we? (This review will be as spoiler free as I can possibly make it.)
As you probably expected, this book picks up immediately after Red Seas. Which is a good thing, since that book ended in a horrible cliff hanger. So never fear, Lynch gets right to it and soon you’ll get to know what becomes of Locke. However, not before a prologue which takes place back in Shade’s Hill with Locke’s first Garrista, The Thief Maker. The prologue finally introduces us to the main reason all of us Gentleman Bastard fans have been eagerly anticipating this book: Sabetha. That’s right, in case you didn’t read anything about this book and didn’t glance at the jacket cover, Sabetha is in this book. In fact, she pretty much IS this book.
In true Lynch fashion, standard linearity is out the window. The book alternates chapter by chapter, back and forth between the present and the past. It is, however, more linear that Red Seas Under Red Skies was. That book was all over the place, but Republic of Thieves reads, for the most part, in two straight lines. In fact, it’s like reading two books at once. One story arc brings us back to the very enjoyable time of Locke's (and the other bastard's) childhood under the tutelage of Chains. This section fills in a lot of gaps during this time that we didn't get to read during book one, namely events involving Sabetha. We also get to read about Calo and Galdo again, which is great and bittersweet at the same time. We see how Locke and Sabetha first met, how they established their places in the gang.
The other story arc, naturally, involves Locke and Jean in the present. I will assume you’ve read the jacket cover and know at least that this plot thread involves the Bondsmagi. I think we all knew that this was the direction the story was heading in, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Locke being stuck with an incurable poison seems to me like a setup for them to head to Karthain. As usual, the two Bastards attract the attention of powers they don’t want, and as usual, what can they do about it? Drawn into a deal they can’t refuse, they soon find themselves becoming tools in a dangerous political game. What’s more, is they find out that their long absent fellow Bastard Sabetha is tied up in this political game as well. So we have Locke and Jean involved in several impossible situations at once. Business as usual right? Well, not quite...
The major difference between book 3 and the first two is that this one really is more of a thinking piece than it is an action piece. That’s not to say that there isn’t any action, but it’s more of a light touch compared to the blood baths that were the first two. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lynch hasn’t gone soft on us. It's not like Crossroads of Twilight (Book 10 of the Wheel of Time) where after each chapter you're thinking, "well I could keep reading, or I could just kill myself... I guess I'll keep reading." It’s still incredibly engrossing and I gobbled it up pretty fast for a man with as little free time as I have, (let’s just say a lot of video game time was sacrificed so I could find out what happens in this book.) Still, engrossed as I was, I found myself thinking numerous times throughout the novel, “okay, here is where it’s going to start getting messy!”, only to have things go a totally different direction than I thought. Also, not a bad thing. Lynch is not a one-trick-pony and he keeps me surprised quite often. But as fair warning for anyone about to read this book, know that the fun lies in the intrigue, the mysteries and the characterization. And the love. As we have a lot of catching up to find out what the hell made Locke so head-over-heals for this woman, a lot of the book really is a love story. In the past, we learn how their love formed, and in the present, we find out if their love can be reconciled. Emotion is the action here.
Speaking of such: Sabetha. Let’s talk a little more about her. Does she live up to the image I had of her in my mind? Well, I knew she was a thief, I knew she was a redhead and I knew that she was the unfettering object of Locke’s desire, and she definitely is all of those things. There was a small hint of disappointment once the veil was lifted and I learned more and more about her, but only because she became less of a mystery. She’s as flesh and bone as Locke and Jean and everyone else, has a back story, has faults, has strengths and yada-yada. One thing I’ll say about her though: she is just as clever conniving, if not more so, than Locke himself. In a sense they are at odds in this book and she’s the only character we’ve seen yet that can outmatch Locke for wits and trickery. So I say yes, she lives up to the hype.
Another great thing that kept me turning pages in this book is the world itself. Lynch has a great way of only lifting the curtain a little at a time when it comes to revealing the mysteries of his world, and in this book that is no different. However, what he does reveal is very intriguing. From some insights on the Bondsmagi and their theories on Eldren magic, to some major happenings in other parts of the world that are going to set the stage for some goings-on later in the series. Oh how I wish I could say more! *evil grin*
How do I rate any of these books with a system of five meager stars? Well it’s hard, but I will do what I must. Overall, this is a great book. It has everything the first two had except the one thing that left me feeling a tad unsatisfied by the end: the action. I wanted some blood, I wanted some death. Alas, the blood-thirsty child inside me will have to wait for the next installment. Overall, this is a setup book, a necessary cog in the wheel of Bastards. But a damned fine setup book at that. By the time the end rolls around and hits us with a couple surprises, we know we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride with the next four books. To Mr Lynch, all I can say is this... Bring on Thorn of Emberlain and please write faster than George R.R. Martin!
This last title of the Night Angel trilogy left me dissapointed and partially conflicted. I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the first one q...moreThis last title of the Night Angel trilogy left me dissapointed and partially conflicted. I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the first one quite a bit and was hoping the final chapter would be back on track to what I liked about it. The second book was good, but deterred a lot from what I thought made the first one great. Shadow's Edge seemed to lose focus and jump around too much, but second books in trilogies often do that. Unfortunately, I found Beyond the Shadows to be more of the same and the worst in the trilogy.
It's hard to judge a series as a whole when some parts I like and some I do no not. I didn't want to review books one and two because I wanted to wait until I was done with the third and review the trilogy as a whole. But now that almost seems unfair. It's as if a different author wrote the first book and partially into writing the next, got bored with the whole thing and passed it onto someone else who had a whole new idea for how the story should go. If I say I dislike the whole trilogy, it'd be unfair to the first book. But enough about telling you that I was dissapointed, I'll explain why.
Book one hooked me instantly as all truly good fantasy novels do. A compelling world, a sympathetic main character, lots of plot twists, no clear line between good and evil. These, along with some fun violence and gritty storyline are the things I love about fantasy, at least "dark fantasy" or "gritty fantasy" as it were. Now even with book one I wouldn't say Brent Weeks compares to the likes of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch, but it's better than a lot of fantasy I've read. What I loved about it was Kylar's story and the focus being almost solely on him. I know it's not a first person novel, but to me it read like one. It was like a grittier version of Assassin's Apprentice. I wanted to know what happened to Kylar next and it's what kept me reading.
With book 2 and continuing in this one, the story just explodes and goes all over the place. Is this a bad thing? Some might not think so. They might consider the second two books more exciting for this, but for me it just made me lose interest. I found the more the author expanded the storylines and started throwing more and more character viewpoints in, the less interesting it became, like a radio signal attenuating as it grows and expands farther out. The story was less about Kylar and more about all of the events in the world, all of the different factions and their goings on. I just don't think the world here was quite rich or interesting enough to keep me excited on its own. It was the characters that drew me in.
Without giving too much away for those who haven't read the trilogy (although if you haven't read the first two, you shouldn't be reading too many reviews on book three anyways), another reason I started losing interest with book three was the main plotline itself, or the lack thereof. The largest focus of the trilogy was resolved at the end of book two, and I would've been much more satisfied if the author had found a way to just end it there. Beyond the Shadows seems to be more about everyone picking up the pieces in the aftermath of Shadow's Edge than anything else. The new villains and worries in this last book just couldn't hold my interest.
Another thing that grated on me was the occasional cheesy moments of humor that didn't seem to fit the style at all, an element I didn't notice until after book one. One notable example was the black ka'kari. Not only was it a sentient being but it often gives Kylar advice and makes bad jokes, such as forming a smiley face on Kylar's skin and winking at him when it was being sarcastic. Moments like that were way too out of place and really kill the mood of the story for me.
As you can see, I still gave the book 3 stars. Brent Weeks is not a bad writer. While his prose may not be especially sophisticated, it has a nice flow to it and is very easily readable. And even with the characters becoming less and less interesting, I still found myself caring about them (well, some of them.) Logan Gyre, while predictably noble, has some interesting sides to him. Vi is the best female character in the trilogy and one of my favorite female characters in fantasy. Dorian comes to his own in this book and his storyline is particularly brutal. The Wolf: mysterious and very interesting, one of the sole reasons I decided to read keep on reading and finish book three. Kylar is still an okay character but unfortunately becomes more of a god than the assassin boy I liked in book one and loses empathy from me.
So would I recommend this trilogy to others based on my opinion of this book? It's hard to say and that's where I find myself conflicted. It's hard to tell someone to just stop at book one or two when there will be still so many stories and plotlined unresolved. So I won't recommend either way. Just read what I have to say and form your own opinion about it. I will say that this book hasn't deterred me from Weeks altogether and I might be picking up his new book when it's out in paperback. But if you want an author who's a bit more focused and never loses track of his characters, (even if they are all murderers, mercenaries and scoundrels) read Joe Abercrombie. I'm almost done with Best Served Cold. Now that is some truly amazing gritty fantasy.