I'm normally not a fan of the post-apocalyptic/dystopic genre; I have the same objections to it as I do to most fantasy: a lack of creative imaginatio...moreI'm normally not a fan of the post-apocalyptic/dystopic genre; I have the same objections to it as I do to most fantasy: a lack of creative imagination. One would think that with both genres, since the boundary terms are much broader, less restrictive than in "realistic" literature that the opposite would be true. But too much fantasy is locked into the Tolkien model and most of the post-apocalyptic/dystopic writing contents itself with superficial rendering of one of three or four general concepts, generally faddish and thus dated.
But I am a HUGE fan of Laurie King (aka Leigh Richards). That woman can not write a bad book if she tried--or, to put it another way, if she did set out to write a bad book, it would be the best/worst bad book ever written! So when I came across Califia's Daughters, I decided to give it a try, despite misgivings about the genre.
True to form, Richards/King has written an outstanding book. She has taken a common concept--conflict has released biological, chemical and radioactive toxins that have poisoned large parts of the natural world and caused various plagues. Narrowing down to provide the specific context of her story, King imagines that a gender-specific virus attaches itself to the male chromosome, resulting in the death of 9 out of 10 male babies born. The immediate consequence of this, of course, is that women take over the tasks formerly assumed by males; the surviving males are protected at all costs, given caretakers, not allowed to hunt, provide security, or even chop wood for fear of fatal accidents or death from infection.
This, too, is not an original concept. But King goes far, far beyond treating it as primarily a political situation; while she does look at that, she examines in great depth the social implications, and does so brilliantly. Some passages were deeply moving; one had me in tears. This is not something I expect of what is usually escapist literature.
But she doesn't neglect plot; the main story is exciting enough, with no lack of action and surprises.
Addendum: while King is probably most well known for her Mary Russell series, her stand alone books are superb and not to be missed. I would recommend in particular Folly and my all-time favorite.
I� m not sure why I bought this book. Certainly I� m no fan of fantasy in general: for a genre that supposedly frees the imagination to create alterna...moreI� m not sure why I bought this book. Certainly I� m no fan of fantasy in general: for a genre that supposedly frees the imagination to create alternative realities in whatever form, I find that most fantasy is repetitive, predictable and, the ultimate crime, downright boring. The genre seems overburdened with dumb adolescents of either gender going through predictable rites of passage, dragons, elves (can� t have fantasy post-Tolkien without an elf or two), boring magic, cut-out characters who don� t make it even to one-dimensional, the required massive battle scene with any number of � races� (unimaginatively portrayed) taking part, the whole nine yards. These elements are usually put together in a way guaranteed to get the book to market fast without disturbing anyone� s mental capacities or lunch breaks. The single exception I have found has been George R.R.Martin� s Song of Fire and Ice series which has been such a beautifully crafted tale--an ongoing soap opera, if you will--that it is now the standard by which I judge all fantasy. Martin is an excellent writer and a superb storyteller--with a story worth telling. Yes, he� s obviously used European, most probably English, history as a loose sort of guide, but when choosing a model, use the best, I always say--and he has. So, it was a step out of character for me to buy this book, curious about all the hype over Kay in general and this book in particular. I bought it used, convinced I was probably wasting my money.[return][return]I was wrong. Tiganais wonderful.[return][return]Kay is not the world� s best writer although he is very, very good. There are scenes in the book that would have been better either edited out or rewritten. He doesn� t do his romantic pairings well. Some of his characterizations are clumsy. As usual, I could have been spared the philosophizing which, fortunately, is kept to a minimum.[return][return]But oh, can Kay tell a story! This is a fantastic tale, full of adventure, beautifully created and sustained tension, with surprises and real suspense as to the resolution. He� s done a remarkable job of creating situations in which there are no winners, just what can be the best that can come of real life--where tragedy is the rule and where even the best of choices have grim outcomes. There� s predictable magic in the story, but it doesn� t intrude and doesn� t overwhelm the suspenseful plot. He has even plucked the Central European mythic element of the rusalka (various spellings) and used it sparingly but with great effect.[return][return]In fact, that is one of the hallmarks of the writing in this book. it is anything but heavy-handed. At times it� s subtle, sometimes it� s gentle, always appropriate to the story. There are scenes of remarkably handled insight, other scenes beautifully crafted; the last quarter of the book is filled with them.[return][return]In the end, what I ask above all of genres such as fantasy is good entertainment. It can serve other purposes, but that, in my opinion, is the underlying goal and what I look for. Tigana serves that purpose very well in an incredibly satisfying way.[return][return]Highly recommended.(less)
2nd in the Inheritance trilogy.[return][return]We continue to follow the adventures of Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, who, after a major battle in bo...more2nd in the Inheritance trilogy.[return][return]We continue to follow the adventures of Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, who, after a major battle in book I, now travel to the land of the Elves so that Eragon can be trained properly in the skills of a Dragon Rider. Meanwhile, back at Carvahall, his cousin Roran leads the villagers in a battle to save the town; although successful, they decide to leave, knowing that the evil King Galbatorix can send far more troops and destroy the village and everyone in it. Led by Roran, they undertake an epic journey to the south so that they may find the rebel kingdom and so be safe.[return][return]Naturally, the book� s climax is a battle.[return][return]I can overlook a lot, particularly in a genre of which I� m not especially fond because I don� t hold it up to the same high standards, but this book is really unimaginative and even dull except to those who exist simply to read fantasy battle scenes. It isn� t totally bad� the journey of the villagers of Carvahall is good� but so much of the section in Ellesm(less)
4th in the series A song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]Keeping true to the reviews on this series, the 4th book is nowhere so fast paced. Partly tha...more4th in the series A song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]Keeping true to the reviews on this series, the 4th book is nowhere so fast paced. Partly that� s due to the structure of the book; while Martin has kept the multiple narrators, each segment is much longer than in the previous 3 books, reducing the sense of cliff-hanging suspense that so dominated the earlier books. There� s more going on now, as the dangers from the north intensify, and the war turns even uglier with guerrilla tactics on the part of a band of partisans loyal to Robert. Martin just needs more time to develop the action.[return][return]But this book is also something of a transition book, as now Martin starts to move his players across the board in order to get them where he needs them for the final confrontation. Certain threads are starting to come together.[return][return]But there is still no end of surprises, twists and turns to the plot. The end of the book leaves the reader in almost as much suspense as in the previous three books.[return][return]While not as good as the first three, the fourth is still outstanding, suffering only in comparison with its siblings. Highly recommended� but be sure to read the other three first.(less)
3rd in the series A Song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]I may have to start believing commercial reviews, most of which I view as self-serving advert...more3rd in the series A Song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]I may have to start believing commercial reviews, most of which I view as self-serving advertisements that have almost no bearing on the book they� re touting. But in this case, again they� re right on--the 3rd in the Song of Fire and Ice series outdoes the other two, and that� s nigh impossible.[return][return]The situation basically is the same, except that one of the contenders for the Iron Throne on which Jeffrey, Robert� s putative son, sits, is dead, murdered in a chilling way as we see more of the fantasy element come into the series. The war intensifies in its savagery. Dragons have re-appeared in the world. Living dead, along with wildlings, threaten to overrun the north.[return][return]All in a monster book over 1100 pages long.[return][return]Martin uses the same structure of multiple narrators in short, fast-paced segments to keep the excitement high. At one point I thought, � This is like some very high-class soap opera!� , and the series does start to have that feel as you whip from one narrator to another, sometimes with no seeming relevance to the story at hand. Familiar characters with whom we have identified disappear, and new ones arise. All are well-drawn, have their own voices, and are believable in their actions, no matter how noble or depraved they may be.[return][return]But it is terrific stuff, the best of its kind I have ever read. Highly recommended.(less)
2nd in the series A Song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]Robert Baratheon is dead, his sadistic 12 year old son is on the iron Throne while his ambiti...more2nd in the series A Song of Fire and Ice.[return][return]Robert Baratheon is dead, his sadistic 12 year old son is on the iron Throne while his ambitious mother schemes for power, and five other kings claim the right to the throne.[return][return]Lots of fun.[return][return]The sequel is every bit a good as the first in the series. The same book structure delivers the same fire power in terms of excitement and suspense. Martin has created a world that is only slightly les believable than the one we inhabit, and his slow introduction of other elements is masterful.[return][return]While most of the same narrators return, new ones appear, in a brilliant stroke to keep the uncertainty high.[return][return]Arrogance, greed, lust, sadism, betrayal� you name it, it� s there. Even decency from time to time, though not often.[return][return]There are any number of threads to the story, some of which seem only distantly related to the main plot. Yet this is a predicted 6-book series, so Martin is taking his time and developing his subplots with a very certain hand. His characters also develop, since he has the luxury of a lengthy series, each installment of which is about 800 pages. Lots of time to do an excellent job, and he does.[return][return]Even better than the first book, although I wouldn� t have thought that possible.[return][return]Highly recommended.(less)
First in A Song of Fire and Ice series.[return][return]Promoted as a fantasy series, this first book in the series reads far more like historical fict...moreFirst in A Song of Fire and Ice series.[return][return]Promoted as a fantasy series, this first book in the series reads far more like historical fiction out of, say, 12 century Europe. Yes, there� s a hint of fantasy� a tinge� but for the most part, its� an account of the age-old power game, that of king-making and breaking.[return][return]The land of Westeros is split up into a number of fiefdoms, ruled by powerful, ancient families, under a High King. At the start of the story, the High King, Robert Baratheon, is a weak, ineffectual ruler who prefers drinking and chasing women to governing. Baratheon is a usurper; 17 years before the story opens, he led an army that defeated the last king of a dynasty that had ruled for 300 years. The survivors� children� fled.[return][return]That� s the background.[return][return]Another major player in the game is the climate of Westeros. It� s a land where summers� and winters� can last 10 years or more. The north is cold and rugged; the Stark family has dominion there. This family will be important players in the game of thrones that is about to open.[return][return]You can� t really talk too much more about the plot without writing a booklet. The book is truly excellent in that it treats lust for power for exactly what it is. It also is extremely realistic� reminds me of the outbreak of World War I� in that a relatively small incident ignites the whole kingdom and sets off a war.[return][return]The structure of the book is greatly responsible for generating the tension and cliff-hanging suspense that is the hallmark of he series. The story is told from many points of view (all of whom are aristocrats) , all of whom have an important� if sometimes inadvertent-- role to play. [return][return]The writing is superb. War is brutal, there is nothing chivalrous about killing, and the story spares nothing in its descriptions. Yet I did not feel that the violence was gratuitous� just to jack up sales. It� s part and parcel of what war really is, and was necessary to carry the story on.[return][return]The book is a big one--over 800 pages--but was such a page-turner that I finished it in 2 days. I couldn't bear to put it down.[return][return]A Game of Thrones is one of those rare books that exceeds its advertising hype. It was much better than I expected, and I expected a lot, given the rave reviews. Frankly, I feel that the reviews do not do the book justice! [return][return]Highly recommended.(less)
Mythic imagos--mythagos--deeply imbedded in racial consciousness are somehow brought to life in Ryhope Wood by interactions with the forces in the woo...moreMythic imagos--mythagos--deeply imbedded in racial consciousness are somehow brought to life in Ryhope Wood by interactions with the forces in the wood. The wood itself, however, resists penetration by outsiders. Somehow, time and space are distorted within the wood; the deeper into the wood, the more pronounced the effect. George Huxley basically lost his life to his obsessive attempts to penetrate and explore the wood.[return][return]George's son Steven returns from World War II to find his brother Christian now equally obsessed with the wood--but because he wants to find Guiwenneth, a female mythago created by his father and taken from Christian--killed--by other mythagos. Christian, who fell in love with Guiwenneth, believes that he can find another genesis of her in the wood--and disappears into it.[return][return]Steven waits with increasing restlessness and alarm at Oak Lodge, the family home on the edge of the wood. He finds himself interacting with the wood, creating mythagos. Then, one day, Guiwenneth appears--but this genesis is Steven's. The two fall in love and spend an idyllic several months at Oak Lodge and in the outer fringes of the wood.[return][return]Suddenly a warlord and his entourage appear from the wood--an aged, hardened, brutal Christian. He nearly kills Steven and abducts Guiwenneth.[return][return]Determined to rescue Guiwenneth, Steven and a companion, Harry Keeton, pursue Christian, finding a way to circumvent the forces that guard the wood and penetrate ever deeper. Together they embark on a strange journey through time and myth, creating their own place in racial myth as they do so.[return][return]Mythago Wood is an incredibly creative use of mythology as a basis for fantasy fiction. The writing itself is quite formal in tone, which lends an eeriness to the story and prevents the writign from seeming dated. The "real" characters are fleshed out just enough to carry the story; the ones who are really developed are the mythagos.[return][return]Holdstock evidently drew upon Celtic mythology as the basis for his use of myth. But he also makes a very fine use of the classic father-son "myth" to add depth to the story.[return][return]Highly recommended.(less)
It's been said repeatedly--a wonderful end to a terrific series. I couldn't agree more. I think that this book isn't quite as well written as some of...moreIt's been said repeatedly--a wonderful end to a terrific series. I couldn't agree more. I think that this book isn't quite as well written as some of the others; there is a great deal of exposition in Deathly Hallows. But that, in my opinion, pales beside the excellent plotting, the torrid pace, and the handling of the teenagers. I know there were reviewers and readers who were impatient with what seemed like a slowing of the book when Harry, Hermione and Ron are dodging capture, but I thought it was exceptionally well done and vital to Harry's growth.[return] I'll confess it--I cried that the series was at an end. But I'll read the book over and over again, as I already have with the first 6, enjoying a morality tale well told.(less)