Thoroughly clumsy. It is good to be reminded that even writing mediocre generic urban fantasy takes quite a bit of ability and effort, so I should appThoroughly clumsy. It is good to be reminded that even writing mediocre generic urban fantasy takes quite a bit of ability and effort, so I should appreciate and respect 2.5-3 star authors more than I usually do....more
Sam now collects souls for some unpleasant masters, because he didn't notice the smell of brimstone when he made a certain deal many years ago. Now heSam now collects souls for some unpleasant masters, because he didn't notice the smell of brimstone when he made a certain deal many years ago. Now he's been sent after a soul that isn't ready, so will he disobey his masters and turn out to be a good guy at heart? Oooh, I don't know, what do you think? (/snark off)
This book has a lot of action, thin on characterization and plot, and a lot of action. (Did I mention action?) That's the opposite of the ratio I'm interested in these days, but the book does what it sets out to do....more
Two warring factions of stranded symbiotic aliens have been merging with and manipulating humanity for millennia to recreated the technology to leaveTwo warring factions of stranded symbiotic aliens have been merging with and manipulating humanity for millennia to recreated the technology to leave Earth. A great premise, but the author has three very different ideas and cannot decided which story to actually tell.
What I'm guessing was the original idea (based on the title) is the story of the alien Tao and all the famous people he merged with throughout the ages. This has been relegated to a flavor paragraph at the beginning of each chapter (is there a word for those?) which barely affect the book at all.
The other two stories are (1) a wise alien joins the mind of a bumbling human Roen and teaches him to be a spy and a better person and (2) an unstoppable generic super-spy has an exciting super-spy adventure. Obviously there is a huge contradiction between "bumbling human" and "unstoppable super-spy" so the reader gets to experience narrative whiplash as we are jerked back and forth between these stories. Let me relate one of the incidents in the book (vaguely enough to avoid spoilers). Since he's a bumbler, Roen gets a bunch of fellow agents killed and kidnapped. But since he's a super-spy, he gets to lead the response team. But since he's a bumbler, he gets his team killed and shot multiple times himself. But since he's a super-spy, he defeats a super bad guy one-on-one while seriously injured.
I actually enjoyed the early story that was focused on Roen and how someone living as a total loser might turn his life around given the opportunity. I enjoyed the conflicts between Roen and Tao. I especially enjoyed when Roen questioned if turning your life around involves endless training and risking death and killing other people, was that really better than his formerly slovenly life. I wish the author has stuck with that story.
However, even if the author had chosen to go with a generic but consistent super-spy story I would have given this three stars. Maybe we truly are living in a era of short attention spans where few people care if the whole book fits together, but I believe both the author and editor are responsible for looking at a book and saying "What is the heart of this story? Why does the heart also have a kidney and a liver stuck in it? A heart can't work like that. Let's believe that this heart is strong and artful and worth writing about and not randomly graft other stories onto it."...more
It is nice to see a YA book written with a 28 year old protagonist instead of a 14 year old acting 28. However I have never been so flat-out bored byIt is nice to see a YA book written with a 28 year old protagonist instead of a 14 year old acting 28. However I have never been so flat-out bored by a mystery novel, so I can't recommend it....more
Celeste Ng starts with with the simple foundation of a family dealing with a child's death, but with such a graceful style, nuanced characterization,Celeste Ng starts with with the simple foundation of a family dealing with a child's death, but with such a graceful style, nuanced characterization, and agile plotting turns what could have been a tract home into a Frank Lloyd Wright.
What is extraordinary is the characters are so real. Who they are is built on their past, and they are molded both by the limitations of their lives but also by rebelling against those limitations. Out of this naturally arises their individual and different reactions to the world. The Chinese-American father is fascinated by cowboys as a reaction against his Chinese parents, but when his son becomes fascinated by astronauts (space cowboys) he can't cross that generation gap to related. When the mother accuses the father of kowtowing, she is putting him down for not being assertive but he hears "kowtow" and believes she is putting him down for being Chinese. The complex cycle of how different lives lead to different perceptions of the world which lead back to developing different lives circles throughout the book.
Lydia reads her mother's cookbook:
She sounded out the words. What mother doesn't love to cook with her little girl? Beneath that: And what little girl doesn't love learning with Mom? Little bumps pocked the page all over, as if it had been out in the rain, and Lydia stroked them like Braille with her fingertip. She did not understand what they were until a tear splashed against the page. When she wiped it away, a tiny goose bump remained. Another formed, then another. Her mother must have cried over this page, too.
That is nice enough by itself, but by this point the reader will understand more than Lydia and will know that Lydia's mom would never cry over the cookbook, will know that it was Lydia's grandmother crying and that Lydia's mom will likely never notice these old tears or make that connection with her own mother's sadness.
I wonder if this book may be too subtle for some. I notice some reviewers think there is too much racism depicted in the book, but it isn't simple. There is overt racism, there is high sensitivity to minor racism, there is rejection for social awkwardness interpreted as rejection for racism, and there are ambiguous interactions. The sum total of those seems true to me.
I could run on like this for several more paragraphs but enough. I think it is beautiful, and I think a really wide range of readers will love it as well....more
I cannot believe I am giving a Sheri Tepper book a one star review, but this book is a horrid mess.
Plot: sequel to Water Rising...the entire Earth isI cannot believe I am giving a Sheri Tepper book a one star review, but this book is a horrid mess.
Plot: sequel to Water Rising...the entire Earth is flooding, the good guys have a plan to basically turn people into mermaids, the bad guys have some other plan to do something else maybe sort of....blech.
You see, the book doesn't even really have good guys and bad guys and a plot. Not in a good way, like people are ambiguous and might be good or bad, oh no, there's no nuance here.
It doesn't really have good guys. The book has a ton of characters but they are mostly just milling around, waiting for a scene to have a childish didactic discussion about how selfish people are evil, stupid people are evil, foolish people are evil, anti-science people are evil, and then go back to milling about some more. And when I say childish discussion I don't merely mean unsubtle, I mean suddenly the book sounds like it is written for an 8 year old.
It doesn't really have bad guys. Since there has to be some conflict, occasionally cardboard cutouts of bad guys are set up so the protagonists can knock them down again. There is nothing to these characters. Calling them cardboard is giving them more depth and texture than they actually have. Every single one of them is the same: selfish, violent, ignorant, misogynistic. Period.
It doesn't really have a plot. That is a slight overstatement, but really the plot comes down to "people mill around until a near omnipotent alien named Fixit visits and sorts out everything." This isn't even a surprise deus ex machina ending. The reader is told early in the book that an alien name Fixit is aware of the problems on Earth and going to be coming.
Then there are the outright errors. In what might be a major printing mistake, several pages of the prologue are repeated in chapter 2. On multiple occasions characters forget information they already knew when they encounter it a second time. There are times one character is ascribed to dialogue from someone else.
I am a big fan of Tepper's work pre-1995, unexcited by the last 10 years, and saddened by this book. Occasionally some of Tepper's distinctive creativity style comes through, but I can't stand this book and I hate that some will read this first and be turned off of Tepper completely.
Recommendations: The very earliest Tepper has only a minimal amount of the politics that underlies her later writing. The True Game series starts as a fairly standard fantasy that grows more and more unique as the series progresses.
I have almost no familiarity with Stephen King, so understand it is a fairly ignorant opinion when I say I think his shorter and non-horror works (sucI have almost no familiarity with Stephen King, so understand it is a fairly ignorant opinion when I say I think his shorter and non-horror works (such as this one) avoid the excesses of his typical work and better display his ability as a writer. Here we have two old newsmen chatting with their intern describing a mystifying crime where no element of the incident makes sense. (This was the loose inspiration for the TV show Haven.) The two newsmen are wonderful affable characters with years of history between them, each taking up telling a story when the other pauses but also falling into silence to avoid rehashing years old disagreements. The crime itself is not so much a mystery as the philosophical question how do you fit an inexplicable event into your worldview. Sherlock Holmes said "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left must be true", but in this story after the impossible is eliminating there appears to be nothing left. ...more
This books opening ends with Logen Ninefingers hanging off a cliff edge with a ravenous orc chomping through his calf, and he desperately pushes himseThis books opening ends with Logen Ninefingers hanging off a cliff edge with a ravenous orc chomping through his calf, and he desperately pushes himself off the cliff hoping to hit the river rather than the ground below. When next we see him the ruined calf and massive fall don't appear to be a problem, but he is going to starve to death. And then when we later see him the whole starvation thing doesn't seem to affect his ability to carry another man forty miles on his back.
This is my major problem with the book - again and again descriptions of what is currently happening seem disconnected or outright contradictory to previous characterization and action. There were at least 5 scenes where people had such inexplicable reactions that I wondered if their companions were magicians casting a spell to control their minds. And despite there being absolutely no evidence of this by the end of the book, it still seems like the only plausible explanation (other than incredibly poor writing).
This feeling is accentuated by the author's choice to be extremely parsimonious with information about the world. In another review I noted our views into written worlds often seem limited to the 500 meters around the protagonists. By comparison here we get to see about 10 meters around the protagonists. There are seemingly major characters who only have brief cameos, and seemingly major characters who don't appear at all. By the end of the novel we have several people assembled for a quest, except we don't know what the quest is or why any of those characters have been chosen. The exception that proves the rule is one companion who is chosen for being color blind, but we don't know why that is important or why they had to search thousands of miles away to find a color blind person. In a book called "The First Law #1", we only get maybe four enigmatic references to the First Law. This book is a lot like the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, if you removed 90% of the lore and removed the One Ring.
Yet on the small scale the prose is solid, better than most fantasy novels. I can see if someone were intrigued by the characters (and willing to overlook the wild inconsistencies) that this extremely slow drip feed of information leaves a lot of questions open to pull a reader into the next book. However my response at the end of this book is that it isn't even the first book in a trilogy, it is a prologue of over 500 pages that doesn't even manage a conclusion....more
Melinda Soto is murdered, and her killer commits suicide not too long after. This is the story of the grieving process of the people most closely connMelinda Soto is murdered, and her killer commits suicide not too long after. This is the story of the grieving process of the people most closely connected to them. It is told as long chapters covering the bereaved as the deaths receded into the past, with shorter interlude chapters describing a metaphorical comic book about the struggle between order and chaos.
The prose is stylistically minimalistic, which initially put me off as I found the characters to very shallow emotionally. I came to realize that was a mistake on my part. The immediate 1-second emotionally responses are indeed simple, however the book is portraying the grieving process over a time span of months where these instantaneous emotions are only a single stitch of a single thread in the broad tapestry of a person's life. The simple prose helps keep the focus away from the individual sentences and opens the reader to seeing a larger picture.
The comic book interludes are far weaker. The "order vs chaos" stories provide a rather heavy handed philosophical backdrop to the deaths. Some might be intrigued but they did nothing for me. On the other hand, the interludes are a much needed let up from the grief process, and I much appreciate them for that break....more
Magic fights in alternate L.A. Good pacing overcomes lots of inconsistent minor details. Builds to a specific climax, then author backs away from pullMagic fights in alternate L.A. Good pacing overcomes lots of inconsistent minor details. Builds to a specific climax, then author backs away from pulling the trigger and goes schmaltzy instead....more
Typical mixed goulash for the series. When the book ranks paperwork, cigar smoking, and tentacle rape as equally revolting I don't know how to respondTypical mixed goulash for the series. When the book ranks paperwork, cigar smoking, and tentacle rape as equally revolting I don't know how to respond. Joking that massively falls flat, or serious but completely tone deaf writing, or what?...more