It's like the Hobbit, but about love and memory and trauma and forgiveness, instead of an invisible-making ring, and starring old people instead of hoIt's like the Hobbit, but about love and memory and trauma and forgiveness, instead of an invisible-making ring, and starring old people instead of hobbits. But it is about killing a dragon. Ishiguro seeds several little mysteries into the opening and then sets the reveal to "leisurely", to gratifying effect. Also starring: Sir Gawain, of Green Knight fame, for some reason. The ending made me misty-eyed. ...more
I bounced from this one pretty hard. At first the prose was enchanting and the setup was intriguing. But as it developed I found it tedious, ponderousI bounced from this one pretty hard. At first the prose was enchanting and the setup was intriguing. But as it developed I found it tedious, ponderous, and headed in a ridiculous direction....more
The best, most reliable way to get me to buy a book is to compare it to a John le Carre novel. There are writers I like better, but the sly thrill I gThe best, most reliable way to get me to buy a book is to compare it to a John le Carre novel. There are writers I like better, but the sly thrill I get when the intricate and far-ranging puzzle pieces of a le Carre novel start falling together is rare enough for me to find in novels outside of le Carre's that I reach for it when promised. You think I'd know better by now. For whatever reason the effect of a le Carre novel seems to be impossible to imitate.
So that's how City of Stairs ended up in my hands. Specifically, I heard an interview with the author where he spoke about the influence The Spy Who Came In from the Cold had on his novel, and within the hour I had downloaded it and started to read.
To cut to the chase, this is not a fantasy spy novel. It's actually more of a murder mystery, or police procedural, than it is anything else (moreso almost than even a fantasy novel), where a character who we are told is a spy foregoes the black arts of tradecraft for the gum-shoe trail-following of your average shamus. And as a fantasy procedural it's pretty good, though a little too upbeat and banter-reliant given the case at hand.
The secondary world fantasy setting is intricate and well-developed, if that's your thing (it's less and less my thing), featuring something of a power reversal between a former quasi-Euro-tinged colonial power and a distinctly Indian subcontinental-flavored colonial subject. It also features gods, the fascination with which in fantasy literature I don't for the life of me understand. The fact that it was about gods more than anything sapped my interest from the book more than its unearned le Carrean pedigree (and which I admit is entirely a problem with this particular reader than with the novel).
The one consistent irritation I had with City of Stairs that I'm pretty sure is the fault of the book's rather than with my expectations/tastes are the massively clunky expositional passages. Barely a chapter passes without a relentlessly informative "As you know, Bob" lecture that runs over multiple pages and which characters launch into at the slightest hint of an interrogative. I know it must be difficult to have a complex and elaborately worked-out world while lacking a stylistically suave way of getting it onto the page, but when push comes to shove I vastly prefer the third person, textbook-style infodumps....more
I feel like some of the best, grittiest, most gonzo science fiction you can find these days is in comic books. You've got Brandon Graham's Prophet rebI feel like some of the best, grittiest, most gonzo science fiction you can find these days is in comic books. You've got Brandon Graham's Prophet reboot and Multiple Warheads, Rick Remender's Black Science, Eric Stephenson's Nowhere Men, and now this one. The Manhattan Projects is an alternate history of the Manhattan Project, layered in with post-apocalyptic, conspiracy theory, intergalactic warfare plot threads. So much fun....more