A fantasy western that explores gender fluidity, sexuality, and race. I didn't know this was the book I needed until I read it. Also, that ending... IA fantasy western that explores gender fluidity, sexuality, and race. I didn't know this was the book I needed until I read it. Also, that ending... I need the next book ASAP....more
MacDonald has been credited with being the inspiration for other “Christian Mythmakers” such as Tolkien and L’EngRead more reviews @ The Bibliosanctum
MacDonald has been credited with being the inspiration for other “Christian Mythmakers” such as Tolkien and L’Engle. Thid story in particular is seen as some of his best work. Despite the publisher, this is not a book that is about religion (but you can catch some religious themes as with the works with all the authors mentioned). The Day Boy and the Night Girl is a fairy tale of sorts, and I’ve heard that this is quoted in Ann Aguirre’s Enclave. Two women, a beautiful noblewoman named Aurora from the king’s court, and a blind, widowed woman named Vesper, are the unwitting guests of Watho, a witch, who aspires to know everything. She allows Aurora to live in the sunlight and have free range of the castle while she hides away the blind woman in the tombs, believing her to know no difference given her condition. Watho finds both women beautiful. Aurora in her vibrance and Vesper in her tragedy. Aurora soon births a son, Photogen. Immediatey upon his birth, he is spirited away from his mother. She’s told he is dead, and she leaves the mansion in despair. Not too long after, Vesper births a daughter named Nycteris and presumably Vesper died after her birth. Watho begins an experiment with the children. She only allows Photogen to see the sunlight, living as his mother had, and she allows Nycteris to see only the dark, living in the tombs as her mother had. Photogen is schooled in many arts while Nycteris is largely kept ignorant save for learning music. Photogen knows nothing of the night while Nycteris knows nothing of the day.
When Photogen decides that he has the courage to face the night after learning about it, he’s seized with a fear he’s never known, only helped through his fear by Nycteris who is ignorant of the sunlight and finds no fear in the dark. In fact, Nycteris is very much in tune with her surroundings. When Nycteris discovers the sun, she believes she is burning. However, unlike Photogen, she is more open to experience despite her naivety, and quickly comes to realize that, despite her fear of the sun, both the light and the dark live together to form a harmony. This harmony is something that both the boy and the girl find in each other, as they learn to balance this realization that there is more to their lives than the small world Watho has condemned to them for her personal knowledge. This is a beautifully crafted tale that’s aged well. There’s a simplicity to the story that kids can appreciate, but at the same time, there’s a depth that adults can admire. Photogen’s resolve to be brave in the face of the unknown and Nycteris’ quiet wisdom are shown beautifully, simply. They complement each other and navigate a world together that they’d been hidden from. Because this is a children’s story, things do wrap up very neatly for the characters, but there is still something affecting about it. Eggington’s narration was great. It wasn’t too over the top, and it wasn’t too boring. He read it just as you’d expect a fairy tale to be narrated. I will admit the story seems to give more weight to the boy’s story, but this could be to show how naive he truly is and how Nycteris offsets that by being compassionate. It made me think of Digory and Polly from C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, but Nycteris is much milder than Polly....more
First of all, I have to say the cover for this book is gorgeous. With that aside, speculative YA fiction and I have a strange relationship. I’m either unmoved by much of it or I outright hate it. I can’t pinpoint why this happens since I enjoy YA books in every other genre. Exception: I enjoy YA horror more than most sci-fi and fantasy YA. However, if there is one YA genre that I seem to dislike more than the rest in the speculative vein, it’s without a doubt fantasy YA. Because of this, when I find a YA fantasy book that I enjoy, I latch on to it for dear life while reading it because I don’t know when I’ll feel so attached to another book in this genre again. And in true fashion, just like the last fantasy YA book I truly enjoyed (we’re getting to what it was), it ended with me wanting to make dying whale noises. Like who told you it was okay to mess with my feelings like that? Who gave you the right? I so mean that in the nicest way possible because I enjoyed this book:
I’m doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge again, and this book was my “A book based on a fairy tale” choice. This came to me by chance. I like imaginative retellings, and I have a ton on my TBR. As I was searching my list, Goodreads recommended this book to me because I read and enjoyed Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (a Peter Pan retelling from Tiger Lily’s POV). I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a fantasy YA book this much since Tiger Lily, and I read that two years ago. Don’t believe me. Check any fantasy YA review I’ve written since 2013 and you’ll learn. The blurb for it caught my interest: “Seven emotionless princesses. Three ghostly sirens. A beautiful, malicious witch haunted by memories. A handsome, self-mutilating prince.”
Drown is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but don’t think this follows the Disney happily-ever-after version most people have come to know. This is Hans Christian Andersen dark. The Sea King fathers seven daughters each born a year apart. Merfolk live abnormally long lives, dying at exactly 300-years-old, if nothing takes them from life sooner, and they believe this is so because they do not suffer what is called the Great Condition. Merfolk believe that only humans suffer from this condition, which is why their lifespans are so short. When children come of age within the sea kingdom, they are allowed to visit the surface and observe humans from a safe distance in the sea. It’s during this time when the Sea King’s youngest and strangest child visits the surface that she falls in love with an emotional, disturbed prince, and she decides that she will be human and win his love and a soul of her own (because merfolk believe only humans have souls, given to them by God, while merfolk are some false creation) no matter the cost… and the cost is great.
You follow the mermaid as she convinces herself that the prince loves her, that everything he does he does it because of her, for her, while knowing the truth deep in her heart. It’s an emotional journey that explores not just this romance, but the origin of the merfolk and their emotional detachment, the turbulence of new love and the honesty of enduring love, and the emotions that often lead us to make rash decisions, even as we’re warned that emotions, especially love and hate, will often deceive us. The book even starts with this warning: “We are bid to receive the ones that seek us, and grant their heart’s desire. But beware your heart’s desire, for those that seek us hide broken hearts, and broken hearts are divided. They will lie to you, they will deceive you.”
Even though this calls itself a “A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale,” if you know anything about Andersen’s fairy tales, then you know that often these stories are often bittersweet at best, and the original vision is pretty dark in its own right. In fact, this books follow so closely to the original story that it reads like Dalseno is filling out the story while managing to make it feel like a creation of her own. She makes many brilliant, intriguing changes, but if you’re expecting Disney, this isn’t it.
With that being said, this is a touch melodramatic even in its beauty and has portions that can come off silly in a dramatic way. Also, I’m not sure I particularly care for how she handled the prince’s cutting, which seemed more for convenience and to make him seem more tortured and dark. Honestly, I’m not sure I bought into the prince’s “tortured soul” as much as Dalseno wanted, but this book was 90% excellent and I overlooked the fact that I spent a good portion of this book thinking, “Shoo, prince. Get your life together, honey. Just get your life.”
The handling of the self-mutilation can seem kind of insensitive because it comes off as a superfluous device a bit. I’m sure that’s not how she meant it and others might see it differently, but trigger warning. There were other elements of the book that seemed to be in place more for convenience sake and factored into the story little once they’d serve their purpose as well. These are things that kept it from being a 5-star read for me, but it still goes on my favorites list.
In reading this book and thinking about why I enjoyed it much in the same way that I enjoyed Tiger Lily, I realize that I like this complex, lyrical, dark, magical realism style that books like these bring to the table. I enjoy the emotional, visceral journey including most of the melodrama. They’re love stories, but they’re so much more than that. The words and feelings in books like these are haunting, and the exploration of feelings and ideas are poetically moving. These are the kind of books that stay on my mind and I revisit time and time again.
“…or if, on the contrary, he should bite back his tears and continue on his way to where his work awaits him andRead more reviews @ The BiblioSanctum.
“…or if, on the contrary, he should bite back his tears and continue on his way to where his work awaits him and fill up what days remain to him, then feel able to ask, Death where is thy victory, knowing, however, that he will receive no reply, because death never replies, not because she doesn’t want to, but because she doesn’t know what to say in the face of the greatest of human sorrows.” – pg. 138
This is the second book by Saramago that I’ve read. The first being Blindness, which was turned into a movie starring Julianne Moore, Danny Glover, and Mark Ruffalo, just to name a few, and surprisingly, it wasn’t a bad take on the story. It explored the crumble of a city and its increasing moral decay due to its residents being afflicted with something called “white blindness.” I loved that book, so to say I had high hopes for this one would be an understatement.
This book starts with a strong proclamation:
The following day, no one died. This fact, being absolutely contrary to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s minds, for we have only to consider that in the entire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplary case, of such a phenomenon ever having occurred, for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vespertine, without one death from an illness, a fatal fall, or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one.
With such a bold statement, you expect the author to deliver something huge to explain the phenomena. This cessation of death affects only one unnamed country, and it only affects the humans. Life and death continue to ebb and flow around the world. At first, this is seen as some fortuitous thing, but many of the dying are in a state of not being quite dead and not being quite alive and continuing to age and decay. Joy eventually gives way to the stark realities of the dead not dying and its consequences on life as they know it, causing many political, religious, medical, and philosophical debate as they try to figure out why death has abandoned them, leading some of its citizens to consider extreme measures to help their ailing loved ones or just simply to get rid of a burden by secretly crossing into countries where the near-dead can still die, which sets a moral precedent that sets off more debates.
Much of this book is spent exploring large ideas as:
Whether we like it or not, the one justification for the existence of all religions is death, they need death as much as we need bread to eat [..] Because philosophy needs death as much as religions do , if we philosophize it’s in order to know that we will die, as monsieur de montaigne said, to philosophize is to learn how to die.
It also asked questions, such as:
Have you ever wondered if death is the same for all living beings, be they animals, human beings included, or plants, from the grass you walk on to the hundred- meter- tall sequoiadendron giganteum, will the death that kills a man who knows he’s going to die be the same as that of a horse who never will […] I never imagined that their death would be the same death I would one day die, Because each of you has his or her own death, you carry it with you in a secret place from the moment you’re born, it belongs to you and you belong to it.
It’s not until midway through the book after reading a story heavy with political and philosophical themes, that death with lowercase d, because claims that Death with a capital D is something entirely different that humans would never be able to conceive should she arrive, that she is the difference of the relative and the absolute, finally reveals herself and proclaims that she’s committed a grave injustice during those eight months and will continue her duties with a few changes, changes she sees as benevolent but the people feel are cruel. Death explains that she was merely conducting an experiment to teach humans a lessons, but that her means may have been extreme. While death is welcomed, her changes are not and soon people are trying to find her by using various scientific means.
Around this time in the story, death becomes infatuated with a mediocre musician who refuses to die despite how many time she decrees it. Suddenly, she is the one analyzing and trying to figure out what right, what power, does he possess to defy death. In the end, she takes human form to confront him and tell him that he will die. Instead, she falls victim to one of the basest of human emotions–love. While this seems such a strange angle to add to the story, it was so superbly done that I could only applaud Saramago’s sagacity with this angle. After spending so much of the story politicking, even death in her own way, a simple human emotion is her undoing.
However, I must be fair and talk about the things that I took issue with. One point of contention came for me in the form of the maphia (pronounced the same as mafia and pretty much in the same business, even if they made an effort to distinguish themselves from the mafia), which is why I took off for the rating some. While initially, their role made sense with manipulating many industries from the ministries to the transporting of the dying, after the reveal midway through the book, their new tactics to scheme and make money seemed somewhat contradictory in a way. However, maybe the translation of death’s intentions for humanity and dying didn’t translate as it should have and I misunderstood and it made total sense. Either way, there was some disconnect for me there.
Another thing, and I probably really shouldn’t complain about this is, is the translation itself. While I’m sure it was a good translation, there was so many big ideas there that I really liked then and they seemed to translate well, as I mentioned, but this could be a little tedious for people just reading the book. There are no quotations or many markers distinguishing between the omnipresent narrator and the characters. I could see that getting really mucky for some people because this book has sprawling paragraphs, and walls of text can be very unfriendly for readers. Just to give you an idea of the wall of text that you typically encounter in this book:
That paragraph doesn’t end there and goes on for about three more pages before we get a paragraph break. Seriously. So, that’s another thing that could’ve been as well–the editing and layout of the book. However, this could’ve been Saramago’s intent to give it a certain feel by eschewing grammatical standards, which can still be a bit of a tough sell even if he was trying to be ingenious. Luckily, in the audiobook, the narrator used different voices, which helps. However, while Paul Baymer was an excellent speaker, he seemed to use mainly the same two voices for speakers with maybe some slight variation on female speakers. I also had a problem with his pitch seeming to change suddenly, his voice getting deeper, or him suddenly sounding like he was in a tin can, despite me listening to the book at a normal speed throughout.
I really loved all the elements presented in this book. The book was such a dichotomy seeming to preach on morality in one turn against certain things happening while sarcastically showing the ridiculousness of many ideas of politicians, theologian, and philosophers alike. It shows how money rules so many things, and that even with something as awe-inspiring as death ceasing, people will find a way to make money off anything. The questions and ideas this presented are really made for people who enjoy thinking about ideas like these on a grander scale. It appealed to that part of me that loves this sort of philosophical debate and even the idea of death falling in love didn’t cheapen the story. Did I like this more than Blindness? Probably not, but even for some of their similarities in themes, I enjoyed this book for its own reasons and found it brilliant even if the format wasn’t the greatest, which means I’m still going to rate it fairly high because of personal bias.
Narrator: Paul Baymer | Length: 7 hrs and 43 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios (December 20, 2011) | Whispersync Ready: Yes...more
Long Review Something has been taken from Loch and secured in one of the mMore reviews @ The Bibliosanctum
3.5 stars. That was so much fun!
Long Review Something has been taken from Loch and secured in one of the most heavily guarded fortresses she’s ever known. She wants it back, and she intends to get it back. First, however, she needs to escape from prison and assemble a team of “experts” to help her achieve her goal. Escaping from prison is the easy part, the harder part is going to be getting to her objective.
Loch picks up an colorful group of partners to help her with her mission. Desidora, a death priestess who carries a talking warhammer. Tern, a tinkerer who cracks safes. Icy, Tern’s acrobatic, pacifist partner who aids her. Kail, Loch’s second who escaped prison with her and often uses “yo momma” jokes to force the hands of others. Ululenia, a shapeshifting unicorn who has a penchant for talking in purple prose and male virgins regardless of race. Hessler, an illusionist they picked up when their first choice wizard didn’t work out. With Hessler, we have Dairy, a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to have any skills of particular use.
A few months back, I read Dragon Age: The Masked Empire which was written by Patrick Weekes, as well. That book marked the first time I’d read anything by Weekes. While I thought the writing was good in that book, the novel annoyed me for various reasons that don’t necessarily reflect on his writing more than how it worked with the game Dragon Age: Inquisition. The Masked Empire is certainly the better written book, but The Palace Job is much more fun. Also, I hesitate to compare the two books too much since The Masked Empire is a serious endeavor where The Palace Job is a madcap caper meant to tickle the reader.
This book was so much fun to read! There’s a side of me that loves stories like these with action, adventure, and a dash of romance with characters that seem too lucky for their own good. It was almost like reading a book about a Syfy fantasy movie in the vein of Sharknado–garish fun that never takes itself too seriously and really pokes fun as some frequently used fantasy tropes.
I appreciated that Weekes took a typical heist story and combined it with a typical fantasy story, mixed in a good dose of humor, and created this book. The fantasy element of the story placed some limitations on the heist part of the story, and it was interesting to see what Weekes did to compensate for that while weaving the fantasy into it. Parts of the story are predictable, but it’s not so much about not knowing what’s going to happen than enjoying the ride to get there. You can see much of this plot coming a mile away, but getting there is the fun part.
The characters weren’t fleshed out much, but they were such a colorful cast, a real misfit bunch that made me chuckle through most of the book, especially Kail and his one-trick pony–the “yo momma” jokes, which I wouldn’t normally care for in a book. Also, I’m one of those people who loves characters. Give me complex characters that I can spend hours analyzing with friends (just ask Wendy), but while Weekes doesn’t delve much into their pasts and spends more time giving certain characters depth over the others, these were characters I still loved. I enjoyed what they brought to the story in the present situation and how they interacted with one another. I loved their talents, their flaws, and even the parts of the story that made them seem overpowered.
One criticism I have for the book is that Weekes seems to forget that the readers are not inside his head. This may be the result of him working in the gaming industry which is very visual. We get some scenes where we know something is going on, but the writing isn’t descriptive enough to actually tell us what is going on. I’m sure these were grand scenes in his head, but as a reader, they left me scratching my head. Another criticism is that the story felt like it didn’t segue well into the story’s major plot points, and this may relate to my prior observation about the reader not being in Weekes’ head. Things just seem to happen without much transition and build up, but I’m sure they made perfect sense to him.
As far as the narration goes, Justine Eyre reads this book in a voice that I’d called sultry and somewhat breathy, except when she’s doing the characters’ voices. I enjoyed her narration, but I did find myself wondering if she narrated all books in that particular tone. It doesn’t seem like the type of reading voice that would translate well to some other books, but I guess I’ll find out since I have a few more books read by her that I’ll be listening to soon. Despite that, I think she has great range, and she did a wonderful job with accents and the languages in the book.
I know I can be curmudgeonly when it comes to books and my reviews, and this book hits on many aspects that I might complain about in other books. Here’s what it boils down to, though. I don’t mind any book using things that I may not care for.Two things come into play with things like this. First, execution. I can forgive just about anything if it’s executed well. Second, the book itself. An element may work for one because it’s obviously what the author is going for while it may seem out of place in another where the author seems to be going one way, but the writing is going another. Weekes managed to capture things in a way that kept me engaged and listening/reading.
This was a fun, lighthearted read, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading/listening to the story. Do not go into this book thinking you’re going to find anything more profound than, “That’s not what your mother said last night, sir. At least, that’s what it sounded like. Her knees were pressed against my ears the whole time.” However, that is part of what makes this book a fun romp. It felt good to read a book that truly pleased the part of me that just loves a good time....more
An actor’s death while performing the eponymous role in King Lear heralds the end of an age,More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum
An actor’s death while performing the eponymous role in King Lear heralds the end of an age, ushering in a new one with a roar. No one expected the Georgia Flu–romantic in name, but deadly in scope–to sweep the globe as quickly and as brutally as it did.
Twenty years later, society has collapsed completely and now, there are only pockets of communities, families, and survivors inhabiting the world. Amenities such as the internet are considered thrilling tales for children twenty and under who now live during a time when old cars are stripped and turned into horse-led caravans.
However, this isn’t just a story about life post-civilization. This story follows a cast of players all connected by the actor, Arthur Leander, people whose lives he touched in profound ways. Jeevan Chaudhary, a former paparazzo turned EMS, who encountered Arthur during many critical moments in his life as a paparazzi photographer and again as an EMS. Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress who witnessed Arthur’s death and develops a fascination for him in the post-flu world as she roams with a traveling symphony intent on keeping performing art in the world. Clark, his college friend who worked in organizational psychology “fixing” people by making them into the idea employee their companies want them to be but finds a different calling after the Georgia Flu. Finally, there is Miranda, his first wife, an artist who worked in shipping by day, but slowly, secretly penned her magnum opus for many years–a science fiction graphic novel called Station Eleven, which is gifted to Kirsten as a child by Arthur, a book Kirsten still has in her possession twenty years later.
This story travels back and forth in time, revealing the tenuous strings that tie them together, documenting the world for what it once was and what it has now become since 99% of the population has been decimated thanks to the flu. The world is a starker place than before the collapse. There are no countries or states, and the post-flu generation doesn’t even really have a working knowledge of such concepts. Kirsten comments that they’re just now entering “softer” years than when the illness first ravished the world. She remembers people being distrustful and territorial to the point of immediate violence when she first started traveling with the symphony but now, people are starting to slowly trust one another again, or at least give people the opportunity to explain themselves when showing up unannounced.
While one doesn’t tend to think of stories about a world ravaged by illness as lyrical, Mandel’s writing gave this world a strikingly tragic, dreamy feel that juxtaposes beauty and ugliness, sometimes having both characteristics present in the same sequence:
What was lost in the collaspe: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. Twilight in the altered world, a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a parking lot in the mysteriously named town of St. Deborah by the Water, Lake Michigan shining a half mile away. Kirsten as Titania, a crown of flowers on her close-cropped hair, the jagged scar on her cheekbone half-erased by candlelight. The audience is silent. Sayid, circling her in a tuxedo that Kirsten found in a dead man’s closet near the town of East Jordan: “Tarry, rash wanton. Am I not thy lord?”
Miranda’s graphic novel played an essential part in this aside from giving the novel its name. It served as a haunting allegory for feelings, situations, and dreams throughout the story, giving us such moments as these where her story underscores her pent up feelings about being the eccentric wife who never truly belonged in Hollywood (but has dual meaning when put up for comparison to the post-flu world):
The sentiment seems right, but somehow not for this image. A new image to go before this one, a close-up of a note left on Captain Lonagan’s body by an Undersea assassin: “We were not meant for this world. Let us go home.”
In the next image, Dr. Eleven holds the note in his hand as he stands on the outcropping of rock, the little dog by his boots. His thoughts:
The first sentence of the assassin’s note rang true: we were not meant for this world. I returned to my city, to my shattered life and damaged home, to my loneliness, and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.
Too long, also melodramatic. She erases it, and writes in soft pencil: I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.
There was one issue that I felt could’ve been improved upon, mostly because it only kept popping up at convenient times when it felt Mandel needed things to move, but she couldn’t quite figure out how to get them to move. I felt the idea needed to either have been explored more or taken out altogether. It was one of those instances where it kept popping up at points, and I’d forgotten that was even part of the story because it only felt important in that moment. I won’t spoil it since it is important to the plot, but it was just one small complaint. And it’s an issue that other readers have pointed out as well.
Another thing that I don’t know if I think is brilliant or not is the Prophet. You know there is always at least one person who turns into the religious zealot in a post-apocalyptic setting. On one hand, I did like what she eventually did with that angle, even though at first I was thinking, “Please, not this.” On the other hand, I couldn’t fully appreciate it as much as I wanted because the entirety of it seemed to be all crammed in toward the end rather than being slowly revealed like most of the story. You have a good idea where it’s going to go with that angle, but it just seemed a bit more shoehorned in when compared to the rest of the story.
It would be easy to categorize this book as just a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel, but it’s so much more than that. It’s one of those books that defies genre, and I’m sure it’s probably been the source of more than one great genre debate by now. Despite any ambiguity it lends, this novel is poetic, elegiac, and moving. Station Eleven has the quality of a book that could be considered a classic years from now, something that my kids will likely dig up when they decide to go on a classics binge (much like I’m doing right now with various genres). It’s a terrific blend of prose, character, and dialogue....more
Let’s get the science-y portion of the review out the way before I review this novelette, and I’m trying to simplify this as much as I can, so you getLet’s get the science-y portion of the review out the way before I review this novelette, and I’m trying to simplify this as much as I can, so you get a general idea. The basis of this story builds on the idea that Albert Einstein died before he could put forth and advocate his complete theory of relativity. Because of this, in the year 2193, he’s considered a minor thinker who had ideas that stimulated scientific thought, but didn’t challenge thought. Some people even consider Einstein a bit of a crackpot. (Nerd note: Einstein’s teacher, Hermann Minkowski, actually put forth the theory and Einstein built on it.)
You’re asking: “What’s the point, Tiara?” The point, my friends, is this. Without the theory of relativity, you don’t get space-time continuum. Without space-time continuum, you don’t get the theory that time slows for people as they approach the speed of light. That means, without the theory of relativity, a person wouldn’t be aware that time is progressing much, much slower for them in space than it is on earth because they’re traveling at such an immense speed. For a rough example without any mathematical basis and just to give a general working idea, 8 hours on earth would be only 1 hour for a person moving in space. This is also touched on in the story just not in as much detail as I gave you.
Einstein's theory of relatively hasn't been discovered in this story. When they realize something weird is happening during James space mission. They revisit Einstein’s old theories and figure out that the mission will only take James 5 years, but 41 years will have progressed on earth by that time. They refuse to about mission.
It’s funny to think a story like this one would be so utterly heartbreaking, but it is. James and Kate (the couple in this story) begin this story with Kate trying to reassure herself that 10 years would be no time. However, even in James’ first year away from earth, he managed to miss so much life as seen when Kate updates him on their friends and family. They believe they’d get to live all the life James missed once he returned, but then, science happens. I actually teared up a little bit reading this as James and Kate tried to exchange their last messages to one another on a communication system that had been giving them problems since the beginning of the mission and was rapidly breaking down.
There’s just so much going on emotionally in this little story that hits hard and fast. Kate’s desperate need to “see” James’ words while he reassures her that he’ll always love her no matter what, that he’ll still want to hold her and be with her despite the fact that he’ll only be in his mid-thirties and she’d be nearing her 70s when he returns. The grim explanations from his coworkers on what was happening and how he’d just become a sort of focus point for this “new theory.”
My main problems come from the science part of the story and having a little trouble suspending belief where it’s concerned. While Einstein’s early death certainly presents an interesting conundrum, I don’t know if I can truly believe that no one at all in the scientific community couldn’t have come up with the theory by 2193, especially working on the fact that that theory wasn’t Einstein’s in totality and apparently, there was enough data out there on it for someone to have expounded upon earlier.
Also, it’s a little unclear whether space travel, even short space travel, has happened before this point. I’m going to assume it hasn’t since they still haven’t figured out time-space continuum, and it seems like, if space had been traveled even briefly before this point in the story, they’d have some working idea that something was going on with the time stream before sending James into space.
Despite that, this is one of those stories that will stay on my mind for quite a while as I contemplate James and Kate’s future. Can you even begin to imagine coming home after spending 5 years in space to an earth that has aged 41 years in your absence? ...more
Occult scholar Dr. John Montague rents Hill House for the summer after hearing of the strange occurrences that happened there. No family has been ableOccult scholar Dr. John Montague rents Hill House for the summer after hearing of the strange occurrences that happened there. No family has been able to stay in house for more than a few days at a time. Even though they give a wide range of excuses, Dr. Montague believes they do this simply because it’s unfeasible to a rational person to say that some unknown fear drove them out. The only thing the families agree on is that no one should set foot in Hill House. Hill House is an eighty-year-old mansion built by a man named Hugh Crain, and there has never been a moment’s peace for anyone since it was built. Violent deaths, family squabbles, and suicide taint its brief history.
Dr. Montague invites guests to stay at Hill House with him to help him track any phenomena. These guests are all chosen for their connection to strange events. Only two end up taking him up on his offer. Eleanor Vance, a fragile, socially awkward woman who had an experience with a poltergeist as a young girl, and Theodora (no last name), a free-spirited woman who has exhibited psychic tendencies. The last person to join them is Luke Sanderson, a charming rake who represents the family who owns the property. Despite their different lifestyles and personalities, the four form quick friendships with one another.
The group begins to experience strange occurrences in Hill House with Eleanor being the most receptive to what is happening around them as she increasingly loses grip with reality. There’s some evidence to suggest that the event she witnessed during her childhood might actually have been some supernatural doing of her own that she is unaware of, a doing that may have followed her to Hill House.
I can only vaguely remember watching The Haunting with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor, and I’ve never watched the original one from the 60s. So, I didn’t have much movie lore to taint the book for me other than having images of Taylor as Eleanor Vance, Wilson as Luke Sanderson, and Zeta-Jones as Theodora. Liam Neeson did not fit the image of Dr. Montague, but I think I remember them calling him by another last name in the movie, anyway.
I’ve been a horror book and movie fan for a very long time. For quite a number of years (read: most of my preteen, teenage, and young adult years) horror was about the only thing I would read with the occasional read from other genres. The first horror novel that I can remember leaving an impression with me as a preteen was Stephen King’s It. Sure, I had read other horror books, mostly in the YA vein, during that time. However, even as a preteen, I was a bit numbed to the scary aspects of horror books, and I remember It being the moment when a whole new world of horror opened up for me. However, two subgenres of horror were never really my cuppa--zombie horror and ghost stories.
Even though ghost stories aren’t high on my list that doesn’t stop me from reading them. I just found that most ghost stories never really got any better than your average 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey books. Enjoyable, fun reads, but kind of campy. Sure, there have been exceptions as always, but most of them read like the kind of urban legends you’d whisper to your friend. “Hey, did you hear the story about the cheerleader who died on the football field and now her ghost will chase you if you stand on the 50-yard line at midnight?” Yeah, that. I’ve always been more into the macabre, anyway. So, I went into The Haunting of Hill House expecting it to be kitschy.
This is a ghost story, but it manages to be more than just a story that’s told around the camp fires. Jackson brought a psychological angle that makes the reader question if these things are really happening to this bunch or if it is some unexplainable shared delusion. Maybe Eleanor made the whole thing up entirely. We learn early in the novel that she has a very ripe imagination that threatens to overflow. This imagination may be the consequence of taking care of her ailing mother for years before her death and never having much contact with others. Jackson spends a fair amount of time delving into Eleanor’s thoughts with poetic prose that can sometimes make you forget that you’re reading a horror novel.
At the same time, that same poetic writing can suddenly be twisted by Jackson to capture the eerie, dreadful feel of Hill House. It creates tension and scares that seem to be hidden just out of the corner of your eye. I wouldn’t say this book is necessarily scary, but it creates a fair mount of tension for the characters that they never really shake as the house seeds itself deep in their psyche. Jackson never takes the mystery out of the story, leaving so much of the happenings at Hill House up to the reader, which makes the mind run wild. Add to that the caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who both are depressing, dour people that help feed the groups’ edginess.
I should take some time out here to praise the narrator, Bernadette Dunne. Her raspy reading voice helped to accentuate the creepiness of the story, but she did an excellent job creating voices and personality for the characters through her voice as well. I don’t think this would have been quite as enjoyable without her narration of the story. I loved hearing her Mrs. Dudley, who was probably the most terrifying and the funniest person in the book for me partly because of these lines delivered so well by Ms. Dunne:
“I leave before dark comes […] We live over in the town, six miles away. So there won’t be anyone around if you need help. We couldn’t even hear you, in the night. No one could. No one lives any nearer than the town. No one else will come any nearer than that. In the night,” Mrs. Dudley said, and smiled outright. “In the dark,” she said, and closed the door behind her.
This is part of a much longer mantra that Mrs. Dudley recites repeatedly throughout the novel to the characters. She rarely says much else aside from these same words, and Dunne’s delivery really cuts down to the bone with those words. (Side note: If our small theater ever puts on a production of The Haunting of Hill House, I would so try out for Mrs. Dudley’s part.)
The Haunting of Hill House is a tense story that seems to ask if the house is truly haunted or could these things have happened because the group believed in them. Would they have been faced with this same terror if they hadn’t had certain expectations about what to expect or is the house truly some primordial evil waiting and watching for victims? It’s almost as if the story is asking the reader, “What do you think… in the night… in the dark?”
The story takes place in Portland, Oregon; the year is 2002. Portland, and much of the world, is existing under veryCrossposted at The Bibliosanctum.
The story takes place in Portland, Oregon; the year is 2002. Portland, and much of the world, is existing under very poor conditions. George Orr finds himself on a fantastic journey after being treated for a bad reaction to drugs he obtained illegally. Because his crime is seen as a relatively minor offense, since he obtained the drugs for personal use, George is referred to a type of rehabilitation program—Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment, or VTT for short—that involves him attending mandatory psychiatric evaluations. Even though Le Guin doesn’t go much into the detail of what tests and things George had to be part of, the doctors eventually send him to Dr. Haber, an expert on dreams and hypnosis—a man they send the “tough cases.”
George’s problem is this. He dreams what he calls “effective dreams” and things happen. He manifests new realities in his sleep, and in order to keep this from happening, he takes a drug cocktail to suppress dreaming. However, it’s not as simple as he dreams something and it comes into being much to the delight/horror of others. No, his dreams retroactively manipulate time, history, even science itself to build a continuum that has always been. Therefore, no one but George has ever been aware that time has changed itself.
However, after divulging this information to Dr. Haber, George becomes the doctor’s pet project once he realizes that George is not insane. Dr. Haber begins to feed George ideas while he’s hypnotized to ail the world’s current problems such as overcrowding, racism, and war. In each new reality, Haber becomes increasingly more powerful and fanatical about fixing the world to the horror of George. George knows the doctor means well, but the results are almost never as intended, and George firmly believes in the natural order of things.
To many people George encountered, even Dr. Haber and George’s love interest, Heather LaLache, there’s nothing remarkable about him. In fact, people seem to think that he’s not living more than just existing, describing him as passive, timid, and frail. He appears content to allow life to happen to him rather shaping it. However, George has profound moments that surprise people, showing them that he’s not as fragile and meandering as they believe. George doesn’t show much initiative, but his reasons for his complicity are rooted firmly in response to his ability. He lives his life as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible, but he is nuanced.
On the opposite end of the scale is Dr. Haber, a man who not only is proactive but eventually exhibits a great need to shape himself and his world. Dr. Haber isn’t an evil man, but he lacks the ability to grasp that his vision of a perfect world is hardly feasible without some sort of sacrifice, that there has to be some conflict in the world for balance. George’s dreams confirm this as there is always some point of contention that has to be in play in order to fulfill Haber’s vision.
Dr. Haber can’t fathom that one person cannot take it upon himself to right what he perceives as the world’s flaws. His blindness to this fact is exemplified by his disregard of George’s fears. He feels that George’s ability isn’t something that George should withhold from the world. George’s fears combined with feelings about his trust being abused are not as important as, what Dr. Haber considers, the needs of the many. George and Dr. Haber presented countering arguments to the question of moral obligation/negligence while Heather served as a variable for readers to observe as she changed from scenario to scenario.
Speaking of Heather, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the romance in this book. When it first became obvious that Heather was going to catch George’s interest, I feared that the romance might feel shoehorned into the book and would detract from the main story. Heather served a purpose as someone who’s swept along in Dr. Haber’s game and presents another view of how George’s dream affect those around him. It helped that the romance blossomed around these changes for better or for worse, and for most of the book, it’s just a cautious dance between two people who aren’t sure about their place in the world.
Even though I loved this book, the scenarios seemed to get more and more outrageous a bit as the story progressed. I preferred the subtle shifting from the beginning to the comical and outlandish scenarios George is faced with later in the book. It’s hard to concentrate on how thoughtful the story is when you’re reading a scene that reads like it came right out of a pulpy science fiction magazine. Maybe this was very deliberate on Le Guin’s part to mirror Haber’s increasing fanaticism in being the world’s savior, but that’s only a minor nitpick.
My first experience with Le Guin was during a college literature course where we read and analyzed her short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas which explored some similar ideas on a smaller scale as this book. It was always a story that haunted me throughout the years. To find out Le Guin published a novel that expanded on some of these ideas made it a must read for me.
For the most part, I enjoyed this novel. This book very much questioned moral ideas like “Is it ever okay to play God?” and “Should the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of a few?” It was a story that asked the readers to ponder these questions as we followed George on his journey. It was much more than just a science fiction novel....more
3.5 stars. During an exploration expedition to the planet Saturn, Cirocco “Rocky” Jones–captain of the space vessel, Ringmaster–and her crew encounter3.5 stars. During an exploration expedition to the planet Saturn, Cirocco “Rocky” Jones–captain of the space vessel, Ringmaster–and her crew encounter an anomalous satellite revolving around the planet. The closer they get to the anomaly, the more they begin to realize that it’s actually a habitat of some sort. While trying to report their findings back to NASA, they are pulled into the satellite. The Ringmaster is destroyed, and Cirocco and her crew are rendered unconscious.
After spending some time in darkness, with no idea of how much time has passed for them in that unconscious state, the crew wakens naked, hairless, and separated (at first) in this strange habitat. The descriptions used during their time unconscious and their eventual awakening sort of seems to be some analogy to birth. However, their time in the darkness is terrifying for them, and instead of coming into this new world innocent, they still have much of their personality and memories in tact.
The planet has changed them, though, and some of them learn this faster than others. Many of them learn, they are able to communicate with various intelligent species that live on the planet. Cirocco learns that she’s able to communicate with a centaur-like race called Titanides who speak a music based language. The Titanides are locked in a bitter war with a race of winged creatures called Angels. They don’t know why they fight. They only know that when they’re close to one another they’re compelled to fight.
Cirocco learns about a controlling deity called Gaea from the Titanides. She takes a journey to confront this being.
Gaea is an interesting paradox. She really is something of a goddess to the planet. She is capricious and curious, and she uses her powers to satisfy her whims. She programmed the Titanides and Angels to fight for practice. She has a keen interest in humanity and knows that one day, because it’s in our nature, we will declare war on her. She doesn’t know how to fight, and fears that, even though she is powerful, she still would not withstand an attack from humans. She feels that humans are better prepared and better tacticians than she will ever be.
Because she doesn’t have the knowledge to prepare for war, she hopes that her warring races will be able to create the things–strategy, tools, and knowledge–needed for war through their own struggle.
However, she is facing another obstacle that complicates things. She’s going insane, and her “children” are rebelling. Here we have a being who is essentially a god whose “mind” has started to fracture into parts. She acknowledges that she is losing control of herself. There are other intelligent godlike beings on the habitat, beings that she spawned and calls her children–one of whom she considers her most rebellious and volatile, the one she blames for Cirocco’s crash.
This book wasn’t quite what I expecting. The first pages was all about the sex life of the crew, and I started wondering what I’d gotten myself into. Then, it settled into a more serious tone, but continued to throw me for a loop throughout the story. One minute, they’re having a very technical talk about a subject and the next they’re gawking at seeing their first centaur penis, which I’ll admit had me chuckling like a 12-year-old, but that’s what I liked about this book. While there is plenty of science for the sci-fi lover, Varley also incorporated mythic fantasy and quite a bit of humor into this story. He played around with the idea of gods, their relationship with their creations, and how fickle they can be.
This story challenged gender, race, and sexuality roles. Given the period it was written, when I compare it to some other science fiction books written around the same time and how they handled similar subjects, Varley’s stands out as being a bit more progressive and imaginative than most. I’d complained about another popular science fiction writer from that same period not knowing what to do with the women in his books and the distasteful direction he took with sexuality. So, I was a little afraid that this might be the same.
I really appreciated that Varley was able to write this book and realize that the hang-ups that people had about various social issues at that time probably wouldn’t matter much in the year 2025. He didn’t erase the issues or try to make everyone seem so PC about everything. There are moments when ignorance rears its head, but mostly, these issues are not taboo.
Of course, this book didn’t do everything right. There were times when it felt a bit too childish, campy, and kitschy. I could see where this book might annoy someone who wants a strict hard science/first encounter type story. It may be be a bit too whimsical and fantastic in scope for some science fiction readers. Personally, I didn’t like how one of the character’s eventual sickening and evil actions were explained and sort of pitied, for lack of better word, because it was easier just to blame the planet for his actions.
If you like science fiction stories that heavily blend science and fantasy, this book is worth checking out....more
First, I should say if you want a sweet, innocent Peter Pan story, this story isn't for you. This is nowhere near as dark as Brom's The Child Thief, bFirst, I should say if you want a sweet, innocent Peter Pan story, this story isn't for you. This is nowhere near as dark as Brom's The Child Thief, but while Brom's book focuses on presenting Neverland as a very gray place where all sides do their evil in the name of some "greater good," this is a story about first loves, betrayal, yearning, and heartache mixed in with a bit of action. I think this book and The Child Thief are the only two Peter Pan retellings that have elicited such a strong emotional response from me. I wouldn't even try to write this review before I could stop tearing up about this story.
This story toes the thin line between magic and magic realism. While there are magical things in the stories like mermaids and fairies, many other "magical elements" have more practical reasoning behind them. One example being the belief that the lost boys fly being attributed to an elaborate rope system they've made in the treetops.
Neverland turns out to be an island nestled away in the Atlantic, protected by a treacherous sea that sinks many of the ships that dare to tread too close to Neverland, reminding me a little of the Tristanian Islanders. However, a few stragglers make it to shore from time to time. Most of them die of exposure or by some terror that lives in the forest. Other Englishmen that make it to shore are often cut down by Captain Hook and his ragtag group of pirates who hate their fellow countrymen. But even though most of the inhabitants there have a peaceful existence together on that island (however, peace between the pirates and natives is tenuous at best), they all fear the lost boys who most people never see. They only whisper about their evil deeds, but Tiger Lily learns better.
It is true that people on Neverland didn't age, but it seems that it seems mostly something that happens to the native people and beings on Neverland. It was never fully explained why it happened, but the people on the island aged until a monumental event happened in their life and caused their bodies to stop aging beyond that point and they never moved beyond that physically and perhaps even a bit mentally if we're to judge by Tiger Lily's actions even some 80 years after the events that changed her. And sometimes that meant children out-aged their parents and grandparents. It seemed like the island granted this "gift" to the natives, but not to the outsiders such as Captain Hook. The natives fear catching the "aging disease" from them. However, this could be indicative that nothing of extreme importance has happened to them or if it has, it happened in their lives before Neverland.
I'll be honest, while I did like the idea of a life changing event causing people to stop aging in response, as if this exact moment was the moment they were to remember forever, I don't know if I think it was well executed in the story. It came off a little dubious at best to me. Fortunately, it wasn't something that was talked about much in the story after the initial explanation. There was also bits of the storytelling that seemed a little out of place, and there were a few other places where something should've been explored a little more or explained a little better. But that didn't detract from the story for me.
The story is told through Tink's eyes. Fairies have evolved to be mute, but they learn to observe and listen to the feelings of others, giving them the uncanny ability to be able to look inside others and see all their innermost workings. Unlike her incarntations in other works, Tink is seldom acknowledged by humans, but still she clings to Tiger Lily, hitching rides in her hair or on her clothes as she watches a bittersweet love story unfold between Peter and Tiger Lily, a story that is set into motion when Tiger Lily begins to care for a shipwrecked Englishman who made it to their shores, an event that not only changes her, but her whole village. Tink falls in love with Peter herself, but knowing he can never be hers, she roots for Tiger Lily's love to flourish with Peter because she cares about them both.
Their love does and it doesn't flourish like most first loves. Lack of understanding what the other needs, the newness of a new love, works for and against Tiger Lily and Peter. Tiger Lily, who is an outsider in her own tribe rather than a princess (but still someone of status since the shaman is her adoptive father), has a hard time showing strong emotion even if she feels it intensely. She feels that she has to be as good as Peter, as fast as Peter, as strong as Peter, or he'll outrun her grasp and leave her because she's not his equal. Peter is a swell of emotions and inconsistencies who needs reassurance, who needs to know that she can love all of him, assurances Tiger Lily is unable to give due to not understanding the new feelings she's having, assurances that are given easily by Wendy when she arrives on the island.
As the story wears on it seems as if some of the magic begins to fade. More and more, wondrous creatures and things begin to retreat to safety. The mermaids swim deep within the ocean where they can't be found. Tink's own people move deep in the swamps where men fear to tread. Even people's perception of Tink, and even her perception of herself starts to relegate her to nothing more than a mere bug. All these things are responses to a changing world that magic no longer plays a part in. The world has been conquered, all except Neverland.
Tink warns in the beginning that the tale would not end happily ever after, so I expected something completely heartbreaking. However, I think the story ended in a way that was best for both Peter and Tiger Lily. What happened between Peter and Tiger Lily is painful yes, but what their lives become after that shows they both needed something different as much as they needed each other. Peter's decision also seemed to be a mix of sacrifice as well. He loved the lost boys. He worried about them, even though Tiger Lily was the only person to ever know that. He made a point earlier in the story that he wasn't a good role model, but that he tried to shield them by being carefree. So, I do believe part of his decision was for them to have something better as well. Despite it all, it doesn't mean that Tiger Lily and Peter stopped loving each other. They see each other in everything and will love each other forever, but every love is different. Every love fulfills a person in different ways. Love makes you do things you'd never expect. ...more
First, I should say that if you enjoy a fantasy story full of action, then, this may not be the story for you. There's more talk of battle and war thaFirst, I should say that if you enjoy a fantasy story full of action, then, this may not be the story for you. There's more talk of battle and war than actual battle. This book relies more on political intrigue, dark family histories, and betrayals. And these are things I enjoyed about the story, especially toward the end of this book.
Something spoilerish this way comes.
I think I appreciated the characters before I really started getting into the story itself. I didn't think story was bad, but it seemed to move along slowly at first. I blame those feelings on my recent GRRM bender where there is something always happening page after page. You can’t start his books without someone dying or someone planning to kill someone. However, I really loved the characters Bujold gave us in this story. Many of them captured my attention the moment they were introduced.
From the beginning, Cazaril proved his strength was in his wits, even before he became somewhat physically frail (in some ways) due to his time in captivity. He has many physical ailments from his abuse, such as his crooked hands, but his true strength had sharpened to be a fine edged sword. Even though we do get to see Caz fight a few times, he’d rather mince words, and he’s very good at it. He doesn’t see any cowardice in using words to start and end a battle. He can formulate plans on the spot and passes on valuable advice to others, often questioning their thought process so they could back up the claims they made.
Iselle and Beatriz, I loved those two separately, together, and as a cunning trio with Caz. Iselle is young, but shrewd. Same goes for her friend and lady, Beatriz. Though, Betriz is a little bit older than Iselle. Both flourish under Caz’s tutelage who manages to help them temper their rashness and learn to observe a situation, to see the small nuances that hide under “courtly behavior, ” and to use these things to their advantage. There was a bit of romance in the story, but it wasn’t a big theme of the story. It was simple, understated, and very sweet in my opinion. I was glad that Iselle wasn’t the object of Caz’s quiet affection, but Beatriz--an affection that she obviously was returning, but he was oblivious, thinking himself too old, too poor, too broken, for someone like her. I thought the simplicity in that was very well done.
I cared about some of the characters who weren't main characters, but provide something to the story that makes it rich. Ista (Iselle and Teidez's mother) is the first one. We're given a brief history of her and of things that happened in her life before the story. Caz remembers her from a time when he served as a page for her father and mother and recalls her being beautiful and taken with the romanticisms of the court. So, he's a bit surprised to see what she's become. Crazy is what they call her, and Caz is willing to believe that until he talks to her and realizes that she is very, very sane. And then her story at the end... I already wanted to know more about her and what happened. I think one of these books is about her, if I’m not mistaken, and I’m dying to know more about her.
Royesse (or am I supposed to call her Royina) Sara was another that piqued my interest. You know something is wrong there with her, and she seems frail, disconnected, broken. She doesn't show much interest in anything, but does betray some fondness for music and is said to employ the best musicians. After Dondo's death when Iselle confides in Caz that Dondo mentioned that he and his brother did horrible things with the royina with Orico's permission (telling her this in an attempt to scare Iselle into not protesting their impending marriage), Sara dresses dazzlingly in quiet defiance of mourning the man she hated with the rest of the kingdom. And she even finds her courage to tell Iselle of the family curse, which Caz had been avoiding.
Umegat was another. I don’t know think he’s as secondary as Sara or Ista since he plays a much bigger part in the story, but I liked that he was from a land that often warred with the people of Chalion, a land who worshipped the gods “strangely.” For some reason, his people made me think of the dothraki because they were described as fierce warriors. Caz had been enslaved by Umegat’s people, and while he has a healthy level of distrust for them, Umegat became one of Caz’s trusted confidants and sounding board. And Umegat was a victim of how fickle the gods could be, or was he? I felt what happened to him a bit unfair when he’d been nothing but faithful. However, maybe I’ll see him again in later books and the opinion will change if there's some lesson to be taken from this.
I thought the dy Jironal brothers were fitting antagonists, but I felt the pretense of how they betrayed Cazaril prior to the events in this book a little shallow. I appreciate and understand that even the slightest thing would set off an ambitious person like Dondo, but it never really scratched below the surface for me. I didn't encounter Dondo enough to truly loathe him as I should. Most of his misdeeds with the exception of his failed attempt at bribing Cazaril and his thwarted rape attempt (of Betriz) and public shaming stemming from that incident were all secondhand or hinted at through murderous stares. I thought Dondo was a disgusting man, but Dondo more than his brother felt like plot fodder just to keep the story going. There was no real depth of character there for me other than the fact they were not good people and someone had to take the villain’s fall.
The story started getting really interested to me once Caz left Valenda for Chalion. Outside the safety of Valenda, that’s where the real intrigue began. Bujold crafted a very engaging tale that wasn’t heavy handed on the fantasy, which is something I prefer in fantasy books I read. I really love how she explored “sainthood” in this story, making it both an honor and a curse, which is often what it seemed like for people who claimed to hear the gods/God in history. The saints truly are the vessels of the gods, and while their strength of character certainly make them good candidates, it's their willingness to submit in total supplication to the gods' wills, even at the risk of their own livelihood, that cause them to be god-touched. They will allow the gods to work through them in whatever ways the gods deemed worthy. It was like a little exploration of what a life like that might be like.
Also, I did feel that parts of the story, important parts of the story in my opinion, were glossed over or important events were tied up too neatly and without much fuss or consequence. I have nothing against Danni, the young boy that Cazaril helped during his captivity, being the Ibran heir that Iselle so desperately needs to help her thwart dy Jironal’s plans for her, but it was just so obviously convenient rather than subtly convenient. Even if Iselle hadn't hit it off with the royse, how likely was it that the boy who Caz had helped in captivity, a boy he protected from being raped, a boy who (he later found out) he died for and was granted mercy by the goddess who restored his life for that act, would deny Caz? Even if he hadn't accepted the marriage, he would've pledged his support since it would've been to his advantage.
And there were many instances like that in the story. But at the same time, it did cause me to ask myself how much of this course was laid out for Cazaril and the Chalion family by the gods and how much was happenstance. That was actually a question that asked in the story as well since free will is supposed to play a large part in things. Umegat made the best case for that when he surmised that maybe many men are set loosely on the same path, but their choices and circumstances ultimately led them away from their destination, that maybe Caz (and himself) were the only ones who made the right set of choices to fulfill the god's will for their particular goals. Umegat seemed to believe that if they failed at the tasks the gods gave them, there would be others the gods would employ to see it through.
Despite the little things, I enjoyed this story more I thought I would when I first started reading it. I was so happy to see a male protagonist who wasn't brandishing his sword everywhere and bedding all the women. I'd definitely recommend this for people who want more intrigue than outright violence in their fantasy story....more
5 stars. Totally accurate portrayal of my reaction when I finished. This book. Aw yeah! HigMore reviews can be read @ The Bibliosanctum
TL; DR Review:
5 stars. Totally accurate portrayal of my reaction when I finished. This book. Aw yeah! Highly recommended for people looking for something different in the fantasy genre, especially as far as the characters themselves are concerned.
The Cloud Roads introduces us to Moon, an orphaned shapeshifter who has spent years living among the groundlings (more traditionally humanoid looking races) disguised as one of them. Moon has long given up on finding his real people, and he doesn’t even know the name of his race at the beginning of this book. Instead he’s focused on living in different locales with various races, moving on when they became suspicious of him, forging some semblance of a life as best as he can. Despite Moon’s somewhat detached nature due to his self-reliance, cynicism, and general distrust–learned habits from having to keep on the move–Moon is not a solitary creature by nature and finds comfort living among others, even if he isn’t free to be himself. That all changes one day when he meets another shapeshifter like himself, and Moon begins a life changing journey that may finally provide the answers he feared he’d never find.
Moon presents an interesting conundrum in Raksuran society. He has difficulty with the mores of the society, and while Moon tries to keep his outward feelings neutral, even as he worries he may doing the wrong things, Moon’s survival tactics never quite leave him. Given how he’s lived much of his life wandering, he always looks for weaknesses and escape routes when introduced into unfamiliar situations. I appreciated he didn’t immediately find personal peace or a feeling of belonging among the Raksura, He didn’t find himself suddenly eager to sing the songs of his people. No, having Moon work through issues and learn how he factors into this new society gave his journey substance. Moon also showed that, even though he’s wary by nature, he is a very dedicated, caring, and trustworthy individual, often feeling his own happiness isn’t more important than doing what’s right.
What made me enjoy this book as much as I did was Moon and how he slowly comes to learn about his culture including the complicated court politics of his people. Because neither Moon or the reader know anything about the Raksura, this allows a level of world building that feels almost like we’re taking this journey with Moon. We’re experiencing this strange new place with him, and it gives Wells such freedom of expression with the culture and people. She’s allowed to dwell on her world building, presenting Moon and the readers with this beautifully crafted landscape and culture. She weaves this new information into the story without having to resort to info dumping.
With the world building, Wells did a terrific job of fleshing out her characters and races, making most of them feel like more than just humans with odd colored skin tones and some structural appearances. Some races outside the Raksura can feel fairly typical for the fantasy setting, but the author still manages to give them cultural differences to make them memorable. The Raksura culture is treated with ingenuity and craftiness by Wells. There’s something that feels familiar and human about them, making the reader empathize with them while giving them this unique culture and mannerisms that sets them apart from typical humans or even the groundlings in the story.
The Raksuran culture is largely matriarchal and plays with gender roles in clever ways. However, gender doesn’t play out in such obvious ways to make the characters feel inferior or in ways that makes it seem like a gender war is happening. The genders largely on equal footing with defined roles that are important to their society as a whole. Gender differences aren’t treated as a slight. A female may be stronger than her male counterpart in some cases and it doesn’t cause an inferiority complex due to gender. It’s just treated as part of the culture and makes a interesting, subtle commentary on gender without feeling like it’s crept over into the territory of being angry and preachy. In this same vein, the sexual nature and customs of this world are varied and include various sexual orientations and customs without demonizing them in any way.
Chris Kipiniak was an excellent choice in the reading the series. I especially loved the gravelly voice he used for Stone, which made the character actually sound like his name. I was a little unimpressed with his female voices, but I’m particular about narrators voicing characters opposite their gender in general. He didn’t do a terrible job with their voices, though. I just wasn’t moved by them. Despite that, he was an engaging narrator and added a nice flair to much of the dialogue. I enjoyed his characterization of Moon best and thought he did a superb job with capturing the wry nature of Moon’s personality and Moon’s conflicted nature that knew he should practice selfish self-preservation but ultimately always did what was right.
In this first book, Wells has introduced us to a wildly imaginative world with these fully fleshed out characters and traditions that take the reader on quite a journey. This is one of the more innovative books I’ve read in any genre. There haven’t been many books that make me feel like I’m reading something that’s truly fresh and special, but Wells has managed to make me feel like I’ve stepped into a whole new world with the Raksura while keeping elements that make it feel familiar....more
I am so pressed right now. Just take my tears, Jemisin. I don't know what the hell to feel right now. Too many different emotions... I'm going to haveI am so pressed right now. Just take my tears, Jemisin. I don't know what the hell to feel right now. Too many different emotions... I'm going to have to find something else to do or read to calm myself now....more
Spoilerish. Hm. Where do I start with this? I really enjoyed this book. I would be lying if I said that part of the reason I picked up this book wasn’Spoilerish. Hm. Where do I start with this? I really enjoyed this book. I would be lying if I said that part of the reason I picked up this book wasn’t because the writer is a woman of color. It’s so rare to see people of color writing and representing ourselves in high fantasy stories. I’m starting to see more urban fantasy novels featuring, and being written by, PoC, but high fantasy still sometimes seems a little taboo for PoC. And maybe I’m wrong, and I just haven’t been pointed in the direction of the plethora of fantasy novels written by PoC because they’re hidden away in the AA sections and rarely mentioned if ever mentioned.
I found out about this book through Tumblr when people were posting fanart for the series, and the little information that I was able to glean about series piqued my interest. Once I started this book, I couldn’t stop reading. Yeine was a great narrator, not one of those narrators who spends too much time turning over every single detail they’re taking in and making a story feel convoluted with unnecessary information. I also liked that she wasn’t perfect. So many heroes spend a bulk of their story saying why they’re not perfect while being basically perfect with such irrelevant flaws that are really more like strengths. Yeine doesn’t have to remind readers she’s not perfect, you see it in her actions, her choices, and her responses. She's a woman doing the best she can in a precarious situation and it shows.
I also liked this world that Jemisin created that seems to be a blend of so many cultures and religions. I found the history of the gods fascinating. Their perception and understanding of things differ so much from how a human experiences these things, and I think Jemisin captured their dichotomy between them and humans, even between each other, so well. I loved the “oh-so-human-yet-not” angle she played with the gods. They often remarked that humanity’s flaws were their flaws because they created everything.
I couldn’t help loving Sieh, Nahadoth, Zhakka, and even Kurue and Itempas. While I squealed all over Naha, Sieh, and Zhakka, Tempa (Itempas) was so fascinating to me, even though he didn’t make a real appearance until the end of the book. Just the nature of how humans and other gods spoke about him made him feel omnipresent and powerful--and even a bit terrifying. Because while Naha outwardly showed his danger, Tempa came off as cool, calm fury. When we finally “met” him, I wished we’d had more time to get to know him.
What I really liked about Jemisin’s book sort of falls in the same vein as how I feel about G.R.R.M.’s books in his A Song of Fire and Ice series. While these stories are set in fantasy settings where magic is present, there’s something real and visceral in how they portray characters. They manage to capture a lot of human nature in their characters and make it something more than just a fantasy novel. These stories really know how to make you relate to the characters and ruminate on their machinations.
Now, Jemisin works with the high fantasy and magic way more than G.R.R.M does, in my opinion, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that these are people--and gods--making mistakes, acting on emotions, and not just a “magic made ‘im do it!” scenario, which I highly appreciate.
There are characters I would’ve loved to explore in more depth like Scimina, Dekarth, and Relad. I felt like some of the revelations we came to about Dekarth and Viraine happened a little too quickly at the end there like it would’ve been better if more of this unfolded throughout the story instead of everything getting the big reveal near the end of the book, even if you pretty much suspect that’s how it will end. And I really wish we'd learned more about Darr. These are a couple of reasons that I didn’t give this a full 5 stars, but more like 4.5 stars.
Helluva story overall. I started the next book almost immediately, though I haven’t gotten in very far. Usually when I realize that the next part of a series won’t necessarily follow the characters that I’ve come to love, I feel a little apprehensive, but Yeine’s story mostly felt complete. (And I’m sure the gang will still factor in.) Did I feel Jemisin could’ve dragged this story on for a couple of books? Maybe, but only if she’d stretched out the story told in this book. But I’m actually excited to read about another character’s adventures in this world. ...more
Very refreshing and insightful read. This gave me much to think about. I thought I would go through this slowly, but I found myself completely in loveVery refreshing and insightful read. This gave me much to think about. I thought I would go through this slowly, but I found myself completely in love with this book after reading on the first few pages. My favorite passage:
"Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come;things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever."
I will admit that it can be somewhat repetitive. I don’t know if that’s because of this particular translation or if Lao Tzu really was being repetitive. It’s not a bad thing, though. It’s sort of like saying, “This is what you need to remember.” Repetition is a learning method—after all.
A couple of things to note. Some people I talked to about this while I was reading said this translation is “dry,” but after finding some of the other translations online, I believe this one speaks to me the most. Also, this is a modern interpretation of this, so Mitchell uses modern things that would make sense to the modern reader.
Note: This is actually an old review I wrote some years ago. I reread this last night. It's a very quick read....more
Never have I respected Superman as much as I did after reading this comic. Superman and I have a rocky relationship. I have never been a big fan of hiNever have I respected Superman as much as I did after reading this comic. Superman and I have a rocky relationship. I have never been a big fan of his because he’s just too perfect. And I have a hard time caring for perfect characters. I won’t go into that rant again. This isn’t about that.
This is set in an AU (alternate universe). Superman has retreated to solitude after a hero named Magog is acquitted of killing Joker—who went on a killing spree in Metropolis, a bender that resulted in Lois’ death. When humanity expresses that Magog is where superheroism should go, Superman leaves them to that, seeming to lose quite a bit of faith in people.
Shortly thereafter, humanity learns that heroes left unchecked terrorize the just and the unjust alike and aren’t too different from the “villains.” They only care about fighting and destroying what they personally perceive as threats to the people (such as one “hero” attacking immigrants), much of which is personal prejudices and biases.
Then, Wonder Woman appeals to Superman to come back after a devastating battle between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys leaves Kansas in ruins and millions dead. Reluctantly, Superman returns, but things don’t go as smoothly as hoped when he’s faced with opposition from this new school of heroes, enemies, and even old allies, namely Batman.
This seemed to be a commentary on old school superhero comics versus today’s ultra-violent, grim “heroes” who seem more intent on destroying half the city than saving human lives with Superman representing how heroes used to be and Magog representing these new “heroes.”
I thought it was interesting (and superb storytelling) that the story isn’t told from any of the heroes’ point of views. Instead, the story is told by Norman McCay, a minister and a friend of Sandman who has “inherited” Sandman’s powers after his death. McCay is struggling with his faith and, like Superman, has lost some faith in humanity. Before his death, Wesley Dodds (Sandman) had apocalyptic visions that most people thought were the result of senility. He passed these visions on to McCay.
A being known as Spectre uses McCay to bear witness to the madness unfolding between the heroes and tells him that he must ultimately pass judgment on them, to decide who is right and who is wrong, a decision that proves difficult because both sides start making rash decisions in this “war.”
And while logically, readers know that Magog is wrong (and even that plays interestingly into the story), you can’t say the old school heroes are completely “right” either. Some of them, such as Wonder Woman, have their own reasons behind that fight as well, causing them to be as brutal and decisive as the new heroes. And you can even somewhat see the new heroes reasoning for their actions.
Superman is presented very human here, making it hard for me to hold a grudge against him. He’s a man who has lost a lot, and even though he won’t admit it, he’s living in some kind of bubble that filters out the rest of the world. He reluctantly comes out of retirement and makes tough decisions, while questioning if this is really what it’s come to.
And the ending, wow. I actually got a little misty-eyed there, and I’m not even that familiar with Shazam or his exploits. And the art really was able to pull out a lot of emotion in this story. It was breathtaking, enhancing an already well-written tale. Overall, this was a great read. Definitely goes on my favorites list. ...more