The last titular section was the best and where I did laugh out loud. It started off slightly off but picked up steam. I love being in this world and...moreThe last titular section was the best and where I did laugh out loud. It started off slightly off but picked up steam. I love being in this world and getting more of these characters.(less)
As a satiric take-down of racist white society in arphatide South Africa this is a top rate book, but time is merciless and the book is greatly eroded...moreAs a satiric take-down of racist white society in arphatide South Africa this is a top rate book, but time is merciless and the book is greatly eroded by homophobia and rape jokes.
At one time is probably was the height of yuks to have white policemen raping black women turned into flaming gays through shock treatment, but it falls with a resounding thud today. A french lesbian is buggered by an almost mythical creature of chaos and if not turned straight, is almost whistful about the experience. Another female character is raped by cabby, and seems to think it is what she has coming.
Gah! Unfortunately I can see this is totally acceptable for 1971, but almost ruins the book for me, probably does ruin it totally for others. So either I am being too sensitive or not sensitive enough. I always find books written from around the 50s to the 80s particularly hard to forgive what is of their times, precisely because it is (relatively) close to our own (I was born in the late 60s).
If this book was written in the 19th century I'd be far more forgiving or at least able to accept it as a different time. If it was written in the last 20 years I'd have thrown it across the room.
All this obscures a book that I would compare to someone like Terry Pratchett on his top game. But Sharpe is writing against something far more evil and complicated and fraught. In the 70s I'm not sure how many people were writing so bitingly funny and entertainly against apartide. The book should be read for that while castigated for its apalling gender and sexual politics.(less)
A damn good book as long as you are not looking for some long boring argument about why god doesn't exist. If you want a good read, with some damn fun...moreA damn good book as long as you are not looking for some long boring argument about why god doesn't exist. If you want a good read, with some damn funny stories, one really heart breaking passage about Penn's family, and a cock in a hair-dryer, this will be right up your alley. Penn is a self-professed asshole. But his a really entertaining asshole.
Don't agree with everything he says, don't agree with 60% of what he says. And I'm an atheist. But if I did agree with everything it would be a fucking boring book. (Sorry, I've been hanging out in Penn's book and he swears a lot.) He actually got me to think in a couple of sections, which is an accomplishment.
I listened to Penn reading the book, which may have bumped the book up in my estimation. He swears really well and tells amazingly dirty stories. Not a book for the faint of heart.(less)
Another excellent Vimes book, I rather prefer them to the wizard ones. Pratchett populates his books with some extremely nasty characters which makes...moreAnother excellent Vimes book, I rather prefer them to the wizard ones. Pratchett populates his books with some extremely nasty characters which makes them more biting than a lesser writer's evil megalomaniacs who want to rule the world. The human creatures in Pratchett's books as often just want to torture who ever is around them for fun, for a giggle. While it is often a cliche of the crime novel to have a detective who has his dark side, I believe in Vimes' darkness. He's seen many a brutal bastard and what they've done to others and it has affected him. Perhaps the demon was there all along, but as a good copper Vimes manages to keep that demon in check.
As usual for a Pratchett book the structure is sort of rambling, and his endings go on forever. But when he's got the material to sink his teeth into he is enjoyable to read.(less)
A comic tale of a bored earth man, a thirty-one year old adolescent, swapping bodies with a Martian to go on vacation. Things go wrong almost immediat...moreA comic tale of a bored earth man, a thirty-one year old adolescent, swapping bodies with a Martian to go on vacation. Things go wrong almost immediately.
Put me on the side of people who really enjoyed the humour in this book. Sheckley jumps from parody to parody, most pulled off with great verve and skill. It benefits from being written before 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and I would argue it is probably a more timeless book than Adams' work - which seems much more locked in the 80s than Sheckley's 60s work.
Under the humour is the serious intent to investigate how we know anything. At one point the main character Marvin Flynn remembers he is not supposed to judge people by their appearances, unfortunately no one ever told him what he is supposed to the judge them by instead. A comedy of a hapless man careening through the universe - or to put it another way a totally realistic novel about the human condition.
You could argue that instead of a failed novelist Sheckley suffers (in some reader's eyes) from being too ambitious, almost experimental. In the final half of the novel Marvin suffers from 'metaphoric deformation' and so does the novel. I enjoy how everything spins off madly - and that in the end Sheckley refuses to tamp everything back down into a safe cognitive box for the reader. No, he gives us his joker's smile and bids us adieu.(less)
Ninjette moves in while recovering from the abduction/attack of the last volume. To my joy she ends up in bed with Emp and Thugboy. The elephant trump...moreNinjette moves in while recovering from the abduction/attack of the last volume. To my joy she ends up in bed with Emp and Thugboy. The elephant trumpets. Awesomely trashy and sexily rendered.(less)
Scalzi proves that he is good, right out of the box. While there are plenty of funny bits in the book, what's most memorable for me is Scalzi's soulfu...moreScalzi proves that he is good, right out of the box. While there are plenty of funny bits in the book, what's most memorable for me is Scalzi's soulful tone (even more pronounced in Old Man's War). While Agent is a purposely goofy book (aliens who communicate through farts), I like how the *ehem spoilerish* disposition of Tom's client isn't a forgone conclusion, like I was expecting, but becomes the center of a real ethical debate -- the other characters considering her as a real person, not just a joke. Much more streamlined that Android's Dream which suffered from an excess of plot. And hey, there is a talking dog, which rocks.(less)
Girlie Bones!! Two of Tarot's past lovers, Boo Cat (the werecat) and Licorice Dust(the vampire) come to Salem. "We don't choose with our heads, we cho...moreGirlie Bones!! Two of Tarot's past lovers, Boo Cat (the werecat) and Licorice Dust(the vampire) come to Salem. "We don't choose with our heads, we choose them with our hearts... They may even come in many forms male, female, cat or bat."
Vampire cheerleaders. Naked Tarot pinned and gagged by demonic dolls. A giant Queen Troll going twang, twang, twang! on Jon's thang! And her nipple handcuffs! Just a sample of the fun from Jim Balent and his partner in crime colorist/letter Holly Golightly. Goofy adult fun with a ro-busty imagination.(less)
Ilna, one of the four young protagonists, thinks how when weaving you need to have the pattern in mind before you start or else you'd be a poor crafts...moreIlna, one of the four young protagonists, thinks how when weaving you need to have the pattern in mind before you start or else you'd be a poor craftsman. It's a nod to the reader than Drake has carefully planned out his story and has got the pattern straight before he has begun. And indeed the broad outline of this first book in a nine book series is a familiar pattern of characters raised in humble circumstances rising to heroic nobility. The problem with the book is not the familiar archetypical patterns, it is how David Drake improvises within them.
Now, Drake does action really well. He knows the mechanics, the feel and the energy of people fighting, and he makes these scenes sing. It's not surprising he's known for his military fiction if the action in LotI is any indication.
While I grew to like his 'good' characters (this is traditional fantasy with a heavy demarcation between good and evil, at first I only could really distinguish Nonnus, the warrior turned hermit, and Tenoctris, the old wizard woman, but eventually the four younger characters emerged, mirroring inexperienced youths slowly accumulating knowledge and experience. It was a slow emerging though, and probably listening to the story rather than reading it helped me get through the rather blank character spots at the beginning.
So Drake does good good, but unfortunately his treatment of evil undermines his heroes. To put it bluntly: Drake's forces of evil are all unremitting arses. If you are evil in this book you are an asshole, not only are you an asshole, which I could accept with an evil dude, you're also a complete idiot. In books like this the good characters get to shine when they have a worthy villain to go against, in this book the evil dudes seem to be continually offing themselves, leaving the hero to just stand around and watch. This starts right off the bat with the Hooded One, or one of his incarnations, literally wiping himself and an entire island off the map. (Drake does pause in all this mayhem to make sure a tax collector gets especially killed. I have the feeling he might have issues with the IRS.)
A part of the problem is how Drake uses magic in the book. Except for Tecnotris, who is the goodie, nobody seems to know how to use magic. The evil guys use magic all over the place, indiscriminately and they're always getting blow up cause they don't use it wisely. I mean, why are there any evil wizards in this world? They should have killed themselves in the first five minutes. While in a book like The Wizard of Earthsea the young hero is taught the rules, it feels like the characters in this world are playing with the nets down. It is no fun, frustrating and makes for an anti-climactic ending. Drake would do much better if he followed the examples of LeGuin or even leaned more towards the ethos of someone like George R.R. Martin, who's said that magic should be used very lightly, like a strong spice, not as the main ingredient. If this book is representative, Drake doesn't do magic very well.
So after all those words of wisdom, let me add my special category of guilty pleasures. She's four inches tall, nude and likes to hug her male companion's neck at lot: Milly the sprite. There is one scene where she is lying on Cashel's knee while he is polishing his staff -- I kid you not. This is terrible sexist male fantasy stuff, and admittedly I probably supplied most of the dirty stuff myself, that scene of staff polishing is as racy as it gets. Completely terrible, awful. Really. I should be ashamed.(less)