The story of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the evil One Ring of Sauron, the minion of the great Morgoth. Tolkien's gift is his ability to cre...moreThe story of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the evil One Ring of Sauron, the minion of the great Morgoth. Tolkien's gift is his ability to create a world that is more fully realized than our own. The characters and at times the plot can be archaic and two-dimensional, but he uses words like a poet, describing the landscape and kingdoms fallen into dust with a magic that defies the written word. If you're looking for action you won't necessarily get it--the power is in the world. When reading Tolkien, you are fully aware that a pebble kicked off the path by a character will come to rest in a completely different story, just as complex as the one you are reading. It's an amazing thing, but not for those unwilling to put 110% of their brainpower into the read. (less)
This guy is bar non my favorite hard core science fiction writer. The kind of writer who makes me want to throw down my pen. His vision of humanity's...moreThis guy is bar non my favorite hard core science fiction writer. The kind of writer who makes me want to throw down my pen. His vision of humanity's future is so extensive, so encompassing and committed that you read the damn thing and have to convince yourself that is is in fact fiction and not some actual account that has been handed to you from the future (which, incidentally, this book indicates is possible).
Redemption Ark the second book in a trilogy, the first being Revelation Space and the third being Absolution Gap. There is a stand alone novel in the same universe called Chasm City (which chronologically precedes the trilogy), and a couple of novellas. This book shares in the same strengths and weaknesses as the first, I think. The subject matter it tackles is awesome (and not in the modern-day cowabunga interpretation of the word, but in the true "awe-some" sense). He takes the universal, cosmic question of "are we alone in the universe?" and answers it with a bone chilling reply.
Reynold's strengths are akin to Tolkien's: complete and utter dominance and conviction in the material. I don't understand a lick of quantum physics, or any physics, but I will believe anything this guy writes as gospel, because he writes it with unbelievable confidence. A hard lesson for writers in this genre to learn is how to take command of your material and write with an authority that convinces your reader you know what the hell you're talking about, whether you actually do or not. Reynolds is maybe the best example of success at this I've ever seen. The techno-babble is amazing, if overwhelming, and he has an uncanny insight into the nature of humanity, and how it will converge/diverge once you turn it loose in space. Despite all of the amazing advances in technology, which makes us seem god-like, you can still see and recognize the unchanging human nature that exists right now, today.
He does have weaknesses, though. This is a long book, and there is a lot of exposition. Sometimes it's hard to resist the temptation to skim, since a lot of the text is technobable that is difficult to comprehend in the first place. While a lot of it could be trimmed out without altering the course of the novel, the fact that it's there is forgivable when you consider the zeal that goes into writing it. There are also a lot of characters that fight for screen time and who sometimes suffer in the character development department. Scorpio, Thorn, Antoinette Bax and Xavier Liu are good examples of this, though Scorpio might get his day in the next book. The relationship between Khouri and Thorn felt strange, and more a cultivation of the author than of the characters themselves. Without reading CS, it could be assumed that Reynolds' niche is the plot-driven epic space opera rather than a character driven piece. But CS proves that he is equally capable of rendering the human condition frighteningly well. I would go as far as saying that you will find a much deeper appreciation of this universe if you are introduced to it through CS, which examines existence on a much smaller, more manageable scale before taking you into the huge, mind boggling galaxy-sized concept of this trilogy. At the very least you will certainly understand what the hell H's role in the story is, as his mysterious character is a carryover from CS instantly recognizable by those who have read it.
So in conclusion of this very long review, this book is incredible. If you are looking for a really high quality space opera, this is it. If you are looking for something a little less overwhelming, but still cunningly written and hard core science fiction, you will probably prefer CS or the novellas, "Diamond Dogs" and "Turquoise Days". But anyone who claims to be a sci fi geeks has to read this books (all his books) or be stripped of your geekdom. Plain and simple. (less)
This is the conclusion of the three part series, and while I thought it was the weakest of the series, I still get insane pleasure out of this man's w...moreThis is the conclusion of the three part series, and while I thought it was the weakest of the series, I still get insane pleasure out of this man's writing. I think the main problem this book has is that it is missing what would seem to be a very vital sense of urgency concerning the Inhibitors. Now, the nature of this galaxy he has created reminds us that our perception of the passage of time is quite different from the galaxy's perception, but even so, there is a race of machines out there destroying mankind, and there is only one real moment in the book where that threat feels real and immediate. Granted, that one moment is one HELL of a moment, one that I as a writer who knows how much the characters and worlds you create mean to you might not have had the courage or willpower to write, but overall the Inhibitors themselves are surprisingly absent from the book, and when they do appear they just do not seem as terrible and threatening as they should be. I feel the same way about how the author treats the cache weapons, weapons so terrible that they were only made once, and the technology used to make them was then destroyed. They are called hell class weapons, and we are made to fear them utterly in the first book, but in the second and third, while they are used and coveted, we never really see or feel their devastation, which to me is a real missed opportunity.
Characters that I thought were slightly underdeveloped or unnecessary in Absolution Gap tended to be weeded out, which I suppose justified my previous opinion. The author's main fascination seemed to be with the character Scorpio, which I admit is a fascinating character, and Reynolds thoroughly addresses all of the things that make him interesting. We skulk in Scorpio's head more intimately than perhaps any other character in the series, though sometimes I think I am more interested in Reynold's fascination with the character than my own. The problem I think, is that in the second book there was a crucial transformation in Scorpio's character that we were told about but never really saw, and as such when the character reflects on that transformation, I have to take his word for it rather than understand it myself. Show not tell, yo. And on the note of characters, I think there were two HUGE missed opportunities in Grelier and whats-her-name torture lady from the very beginning, who were possibly THE most interesting characters he's ever created, and they end up playing a rather minuscule, undeveloped part, which is disappointing. Oh, and hey, whatever happened to the Mademoiselle? Rarely does Reynolds leave a thread like that unadressed, but the story never came back to that like I thought it would.
This book also ended more vaguely than the other books do, and if there is one thing I can generally count on Reynolds for, it's an ending that lives up to its promise. If I read the ending right, and it was a little hard to sort out, at least for me, it doesn't exactly leave you with warm, squishy thoughts. Which is fine, but it was so vague and out there that I felt a little let down. Those things said, there is no end to the fascinating creativity this man possesses. The nature of Haldora, the Cathedrals, the characters of Quaiche and Aura are all pretty brilliant if you ask me. I've been dwelling on the negative, but there is so, so, so much to like about this book, and Alastair Reynolds on his worst day is far better than most of the sci-fi junk that's out there. Read this. Really. Read everything this guy has written if you're into this genre. (less)
The story of the anti-christ in a way it's never been told before. As my husband put it when we saw a trailer for "The Omen," the other day, "It looks...moreThe story of the anti-christ in a way it's never been told before. As my husband put it when we saw a trailer for "The Omen," the other day, "It looks like Good Omens, only not funny." The wit and satire of two of my favorite authors comes together to form Captain Planet in this one. You have the Nuns of the Chattering Order, the antichrist accidentally switched at birth, a satanic dog who prefers to chase mice, and a demon and angel who prefer to spend their time shooting the shit than defending/destroying the human race. Tell me you can find something better, and I won't believe you. (less)
This book might be the most brilliant piece of work I've ever read. It is comparable in scope to the Bible, detailing the creation story of the Evles...moreThis book might be the most brilliant piece of work I've ever read. It is comparable in scope to the Bible, detailing the creation story of the Evles and the events of the first age (the second and third are glazed over in a much briefer fashion). It is told very much like the Bible, similar language, similar method of storytelling.
This is not for most people, as only fans of Tolkien are likely to be willing to put forth the effort. Much more so than Lord of the Rings, this is a difficult book to read. It is dense, oftentimes depressing, and very confusing. But if you are willing to put the time into it, you will start to realize the magnitude of the scope that went into this work, and how in four lifetimes you probably couldn't even to begin to accomplish part of what Tolkien did. His the fullest realization of a world in the history of fiction, and a very important lesson for any inspiring science fiction writer.(less)
Despite my affinity for the fantastically supernatural, this is actually my first vampire book. I've just never been that interested in them. My indif...moreDespite my affinity for the fantastically supernatural, this is actually my first vampire book. I've just never been that interested in them. My indifference is such that I'm only just now plowing through the many seasons of Buffy. But when both walkawayslowly and Neil Gaiman highly recommended it, I figured, sure? Why not? And I was justly rewarded.
The strength of this book really comes from the narrator. It’s first person, an approach that can yield good things or unspeakably horrible things, but in this case it’s used well. She’s a strong character, with an unlikely occupation (for a vampire story) in that she bakes cinnamon rolls for a living (which will likely result in an insatiable sweet tooth for the entirety of the read, by the way, as she’s very descriptive of all the baking wonders she’s capable of), and her voice is interesting and engaging, thanks to the diary-style prose and a good sense of humor. Her keenest insights, however, are about the vampires themselves, which is what makes the book really shine (Sunshine…get it? Har.)
Keeping in mind that I haven’t read vampire books, this author nails what it would be like to be in the presence of one of these creatures more effectively than any movie or cliché I’ve ever seen/heard. She describes them through non-descriptions, which oddly enough works amazingly well. I felt for the first time that there were real, definitive, alien differences between humans and vampires other than the no soul, no reflection stuff you see everywhere. This author went further, and I got more out if the story because of that.
A problem I had came at the very beginning. At the start of the book, the author plants you firmly in a world that mirrors normal, conventional reality, which set me up for this kind of story: “I’ve just been bitten by a vampire? Holy crap! VAMPIRES ARE REAL!” But then, a few pages later, you suddenly realize you’re in this story: “Dude. Larry got sucked dry by a vampire last night. Bummer for Larry.” In this book, demons, magic, charms, vampires, werewolves, are part of everyday life, and the transition into that knowledge is very jarring, to the point I was flipping back pages to see if I’d missed something.
I also found myself confused about certain concepts, such as the “tree-self,” although I admit I was not a very careful reader this time around, so it’s entirely possible the confusion is my fault and not the author’s. But I feel I should note it.
Anyway, for a first vampire book, I enjoyed it. You probably will, too. (less)
Can you imagine my excitement over the prospect of more Tolkien material? The story itself appears in a briefer form in the Silmarillion, and here in...moreCan you imagine my excitement over the prospect of more Tolkien material? The story itself appears in a briefer form in the Silmarillion, and here in it's longer form we get to dwell a lot more on what things were like in the First Age, when the Elves screwed everything up so royally it all had to be sunk beneath the sea. Seriously, for a race that is immortal and thus in theory hip to smart decisions vs. horrendous ones, the Elves FAIL miserably to do anything that ultimately turns out to be right or smart. They seem doomed to failure, and everyone can just blame Feanor. Well, and I guess Turin, because after reading this you really wonder why in God's name is Hollywood fighting over movie rights, because watching this movie would likely sink you into a horrible depressive cycle that would last for weeks.
I say this all with love, by the way.
The Children of Hurin is stylistically written much like the Silmarillion, so put your Biblical goggles on. In general, and very much in this book, Tolkien conveys honor, fate, chivalry, sorrow and grief with such amazing beauty and grace that it quite frankly leaves you humbled. I cannot overemphasize the beauty and tragedy of Tolkien's writing. This world of his is made so complex and poignant mostly because of all the tragic things that happen within it. The stories of old told throughout The Lord of the Rings are spoken so lovingly and with such nostalgia, but it's the sadness that even remembered victories contain that make them so moving. When characters get that wistful look in their eye, you very badly want to know everything about what it is their mind sees, and in this story, you get that. In a lot more detail than the Silmarillion. (!!!)
But at the same time, these stories are so. so. easy to MST3K, and if you love them dearly like I do, you can do it and not feel bad. For example. One of the issues I have with most of Tolkien's writing is that when it comes to the noble, proud, heroic and yet flawed characters of the First Age, all you read about are the flaws, and the stupid decisions they make as a result of those flaws, without any emphasis on the good qualities that make them so well loved. I can't stand Feanor, and frankly, I cannot find much to like about Turin, the arrogant little prick, despite the fact that out of the Edain, he and Beren are probably the most revered. Yes, their bravery and valor have won them the respect of the elves, but man. If I were an elf and some dinky little man insisted to Orodeth that that no, don't listen to Cirdan's people, we should FIGHT LIKE BANSHEES and not stay hidden and thus avoid certain defeat, and as a result my kingdom was SACKED AND OVERTHROWN BY A DRAGON, I would be pretty damn pissed. But no, they still love the man, no matter how sullen and snotty he gets. And he gets pretty sullen and snotty if you ask me. I still don't understand how a human, who has a couple hundred years less experience than any elf, most especially elves who would be advisers to the king of one of the most powerful elven realms, could offer better military strategy than other fellow elves, but this is a world that after thousands and thousands of years, bows and arrows are still about the most powerful weapons they got.
So, there is a lot about Turin that you have to take everyone's word for, rather than see evidence of yourself. But if you are at all familiar with Tolkien's writing, and love it in the slightest bit, you will be ecstatic about this book, and hopefully equally as horrified as I that they want to make the damn thing a movie (yes! a movie about grief and tragedy and incest and betrayal where nothing good ultimately happens to anyone! whoo!!).(less)
i need to preface this by saying that this was the first stephen king book i ever read. he is my father's favorite author, and i grew up staring at th...morei need to preface this by saying that this was the first stephen king book i ever read. he is my father's favorite author, and i grew up staring at the dozens of hardback books all in a row on the shelves of his office, all with king's name on them. i really wanted to read one, see what it was dad read, and the reason he handed me this one was the same reason king wrote it: so his kids could read something he had written. in other words, it's kid-friendly, and actually written as a children's book (don't be fooled, though. there is plenty of poisonings, death, betrayal, etc, and the villain is flagg, of the stand fame). that said, it could be that my love for this book the second time around as an adult is deeply rooted in that first reading as a kid, meaning it could be that if you read it for the first time as an adult you might not feel the way that i do about it. think reading the hobbit vs. reading lord of the rings, and that's about the comparison to it and normal king fare.
the story itself could almost be considered stock fantasy, but the characters are brought to life with the amazing skill that you come to expect from stephen king. you have the kingdom of delain, ruled by king roland. roland has two sons, peter and thomas. the elder peter is the golden child, with thomas always living in his shadow. roland himself is a weak king, a virtual puppet of his adviser, flagg. with peter poised to take the throne after roland dies, flagg must see to it that somehow thomas, the weaker son who more resembles his father, is the one actually crowned king. this doesn't sound to original, does it? but i doubt you can find a story in which you feel such compassion for the spineless king roland, awe and respect for the venerable prince peter, and sympathy blended with shame for thomas. it's a quick read, engaging, and skillfully told. if you want a fantasy story that will bring you back to your childhood, this is it. (less)
this book. is brutally fantastic. i'm not sure if i've ever used that particular combination of descriptors before, but it fits. this is the same guy...morethis book. is brutally fantastic. i'm not sure if i've ever used that particular combination of descriptors before, but it fits. this is the same guy who wrote the "zombie survival guide," though i will have to rely on the husband to tell me how much of that manual informs this book, as he has been reading that one. both books were his christmas presents, btw, and i had no real mission to read either, but i started idly flipping through world war z out of boredom, and the next thing you know i had finished it. zombies have only recently been part of my life, and unfortunately, if there is a class of experts regarding this particular "virus," i belong in it. this comes from being married to someone who scouts out every place we go, be it wal-mart, the mall, a restaurant, for possible weapons, fortification sites, and plausible escape routes in the event of a zombie invasion. these things invade my dreams, frighten the living hell out of me, but still, this book rocked my socks.
what makes this book interesting is that it takes the form of an honest to god historical account, complete with footnotes. the author chronicles individual accounts of a zombie infestation that sweeps the entire world and puts the human race on the brink of extinction. it takes itself absolutely seriously from cover to cover, which is part of what makes it so successful. it's written for an audience who presumably knows the basic history of the war, which of course, we do not. it does not explain the timeline, it does not define certain events, just refers to them as though you will recognize what the speaker is referring to. you are expected to catch on, read between the lines, fill in the blanks on your own, which fuels your imagination while simultaneously leaving you begging for more. it's just the right amount of information, i think, because even though i would have liked to see a basic chronology of events, have some background information available, i think the writer was right to give me less than what i think i need, because having that information might actually detract in the end.
unlike the traditional zombie movies (the exception that comes to mind being the latest romero flick, land of the dead), this looks beyond the immediate desperation for simple survival, and explores the effects on economy, military, government, commerce, trade, etc. things you might not normally consider (if you spend time considering the fallout of a zombie infestation), such as what refugee patterns would emerge and how that would jeopardize different nations, the fortune that would suddenly be made in human trafficking, the impact on our oceans and atmosphere, which nations are tumbled to the ground and which ones rise from the ashes to gain prosperity and power, the desperate yet woefully ineffectual efforts made by civilians to survive (when they do not have survival skills), the spread of the virus through infected organ transplants, the zombie threat underwater, the fortunes made by pharmeceutical companies off of fake cures, and a LOT more. aside from these unique and fascinating perspectives, brooks writes a painfully honest account of the human factor. the danger facing humanity was not just from zombies: it was humanity itself. the psychological damage incurred by soldiers, witnesses, survivors...he paints a clear picture of how merely avoiding a zombie bite was not enough to keep you alive.
it's brilliantly imaginative, utterly fascinating on all levels, and so worth the read even if you have no interest in the living dead. though, if you are sensitive to nightmares, be on your guard. i've been dreaming about this stuff like crazy. the past couple of nights.(less)
The story of Martin the Warrior, and how he freed the woodlanders from the tyrannical rule of Queen Tsarmina. This was my favorite book growing up, an...moreThe story of Martin the Warrior, and how he freed the woodlanders from the tyrannical rule of Queen Tsarmina. This was my favorite book growing up, and I still get a great deal of joy from reading it. It's the prequel to Jacque's more famous Redwall, and I think the best of the lot. This author's strength is in his ability to write dialect. Each woodland species has such distinct speech and mannerisms, that he almost doesn't need tags on his dialog. You can tell who is speaking without being told. He also writes about food better than anyone I've ever read. You will SALIVATE over the feasting in this book. He clearly takes his cues from Tolkien, and I credit him as having the most influence over my writing style. This is the most dog-eared book I own. (less)
The story of a Jesuit priest and the crew of misfits that make up the first envoy to Rakkhat, a planet near Alpha Centauri that two alien races call h...moreThe story of a Jesuit priest and the crew of misfits that make up the first envoy to Rakkhat, a planet near Alpha Centauri that two alien races call home. The story is horribly tragic, in that you know from the first chapter that only Sandoz survives the experience, but putting the pieces together and discovering how even the best of intentions can have such horrible, disastrous consequences is awesome. While there are shortcomings with melodramatic writing and some characterization issues (which really become a problem in the second book), the ethical and moral questions it asks more than make up for it. This one got recommended to me by walkawayslowly, and I am eternally grateful. (less)
This book was not at all what I expected. I was anticipating the typical "Cocky-ass student tried to overthrow the wise master and as a result does st...moreThis book was not at all what I expected. I was anticipating the typical "Cocky-ass student tried to overthrow the wise master and as a result does stupid shit and is generally evil", a la Darth Vader and good ol' Obi-wan. That is not what this is. The writing style is curious, like reading an annotated historical account written in the 19th century with a 20th (or 21st?) century consciousness. The advantage is that there is a lot of subtle wit in the prose that could not necessarily be achieved with a different approach, but the disadvantage was that it held the reader at a distance, and you never get to know the main characters on a very intimate level. This is part of what makes it a slow (but good) read. It also seems very slow in coming together, and a lot of the time characters seem to appear and disappear, and at times you can get frustrated in seeing what their point is in the first place.
Still, there is something about it that is very enticing. Mr Norrell is such a strange character, again nothing like you would expect, and while he is very interesting from a writer's perspective, for others I can see where he would become irritating. Thankfully, the book does not rely on him to carry it for anywhere close to the full thousand plus pages. I actually thought about Tale of Two Cities when I read this, a book that seemed to wander around until the last 100 pages, when all the sudden it became gripping. This book was never a huge page turner until the last 150 pages, which demands a lot of faith from the reader to be willing to go through around 900 pages to get to that point. But I do think it was worth it, and the ending was far more pleasing than I would have expected. It was also not what I expected, which isn't a huge shock, I suppose, because I never felt like the book was moving in a predictable way. Also? The resolution of Drawlight's character (it is Drawlight, and not Lascalles, right? I could never keep those two straight, which I did take issue with) is particularly wonderful, and probably made the biggest impact on me.
Anyway, there are people out there who should definitely read this, others who I would not recommend it to. I do see it listed on IMDB, which almost concerns me. This book is largely unfilmable as it is written, and it's way too damn long. So much would have to be cut, which I think is possible, but the biggest problem is that a lot of the nuances and subtleties that make this book enjoyable would be lost on the big screen. I have no idea how Mr Norrell could retain the slightest sympathy of the audience if his character was taken off the page. Most of what kept him in my good graces as a good character were elements of the prose that would not translate to film. We shall see. (less)
Warning: Spoilery review. Short version: Hurry up and read this.
Holy crap. Someone should have warned me about reading this book at work. I have been...moreWarning: Spoilery review. Short version: Hurry up and read this.
Holy crap. Someone should have warned me about reading this book at work. I have been sitting here bawling my eyes out, tears streaming madly down my cheeks, flooding my eyes until the words swim into fields of glistening black lines. This book is so beautiful and anguishing to read I can't even be objective about it, because it was one of those stories that just burrowed a lot closer to home than you could ever feel comfortable with. Really, though, even objectively I have little to offer in the way of criticism. What was probably a nightmare of a book to write was woven together seamlessly, so beautifully constructed it seems more like a living, organic thing than an idea born inside someone's head.
I liked the foreshadowing, I liked the intricacy, I liked that we never really know what Alba chooses in the future, whether she embraces the time travel or tries to stop it. I loved the poignant pain that begins to trickle across the pages as the pieces begin falling into place. I am curious to see how Clare and Alba's relationship developed once Henry was gone, but I was happy it was not in the story. That there are plenty of things for my imagination to fill in makes me happy. I also really liked the approach the author took to the paradox of time travel. It seemed the most plausible, unarguable position I've ever heard (and I have taken a class on it), though I have not allowed myself to think about it too hard as I have no wish, at least within the context of this book, to unravel how much sense it makes.
What really hit me in the gut (seriously, I did not even cry this hard when I read "Where the Red Fern Grows" for the first time, and I got red-faced, puffy-eyed and ugly over that one), was the horrible feeling that I could see myself as Clare and know exactly how she felt about Henry, and could fill the unwritten pages of her future with grief that I would know and understand. I cannot imagine losing my husband. I cannot imagine ever having to face a day knowing that he was not there, and never would be again. No matter how much I would want to think that for his sake I would be strong, go on, live out my life with joy and accomplishment as he would have wanted, the truth is I would probably wind up just like Henry's father, a wasted, squandered creature who does not know how to exist alone without the sound of his laughter, the warmth of his arms around my body, the feel of his head resting against my chest, the drowsy murmur of "I love you" against my ear as we drift off to sleep, the domestic intimacy and companionship that accompanies the hiss of bacon frying in the skillet as he and I stand side by side fixing breakfast on Sunday mornings. I do not know who I would be without those things, but I would be someone unrecognizable from who I am now.
This book is also listed on IMDB, which really excites me, as I think it could be a beautiful movie. Everything it needs to be good is right here in the book, and because of the manner of Henry's death, it even lacks the melodramatic twist that most dramas rely on, such as a car accident, an act of God, or something else outside of the character's control. No, there is culpability here, and that is an incredibly powerful thing. While it was not the purpose of this book to examine how Claire dealt with her father and brother after Henry's death, or how they dealt with themselves, it would have been so interesting to see. There's too much to like about this book, and something so real and raw and powerful about the sadness and grief it portrays. Incredible. (less)