I'm not sure which actually came first. I'm sure the overall scenario of a massive epidemic and the struggles of survivors to rebuild society was alre...moreI'm not sure which actually came first. I'm sure the overall scenario of a massive epidemic and the struggles of survivors to rebuild society was already common at the time. But this book felt like a cheap, vulgar, childish copy of the classic 1970s BBC post-apocalyptic series "Survivors" (recently, and horribly, remade). Read the whole thing, but didn't enjoy anything about it other than the religious dimension (which WAS surprisingly original). (less)
This is a sci-fi series masquerading as a fantasy series, a post-post-post-apocalyptic masquerading as an epic. This is a series which introduced my b...moreThis is a sci-fi series masquerading as a fantasy series, a post-post-post-apocalyptic masquerading as an epic. This is a series which introduced my brother and me, as boys, to the core concepts of quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. This is a series which meditates on the power hate can grant us, on the power fear holds over us, and on the terrible sacrifices things like love and faith and hope and trust demand. This is also a series about the value of a friendly dog.
This is the final volume, but it is not the end; the Wave is unending and the Wave acts to corrects itself.
(If only the Wave had bothered to correct the bright, colourful, and entirely uncharacteristic covers of this and the preceding volume!)(less)
**spoiler alert** This book contains something too few fantasy books contain: black people! Indeed, the only humans on the planet are black (no fear o...more**spoiler alert** This book contains something too few fantasy books contain: black people! Indeed, the only humans on the planet are black (no fear of a black planet here!), and they live in what appears to be an adapted version of African tribal culture (which, interestingly enough, is described as being similar to that of Patryn culture). Not only that, but this world is described as the BEST of the four worlds created by the Sundering, and the humans, dwarves and elves on it are explicitly stated to be the descendants of those favoured by the Sartan. Think about that for a minute: the human inhabitants of the chosen world are black, and they are there because they were deemed "superior" by their demi-god patrons! And the main human character is specifically described as the most beautiful female Haplo has ever encountered. Again, think about that: the most beautiful woman in the FIVE EXTANT WORLDS is black. What is more, the fact that these humans are black is barely mentioned aside from a few lines at the beginning of the book and individual descriptions of three individual characters -- by the time you reach the half-way point, you simply read the word "human" and imagine a black person. The authors handle it deftly, respectfully and imaginatively. Honestly, I wish more fantasy authors took this approach -- it's refreshing and exciting. (less)
An interesting start to a popular series. I actually found myself trudging through the first 2/3 of it, determined to read further only because I had...moreAn interesting start to a popular series. I actually found myself trudging through the first 2/3 of it, determined to read further only because I had purchased the first three books together on eBay. However the final 1/3 was amazing -- so gripping, in fact, that I had to finish the book that night, and started the second in the series immediately after.
There have been accusations of inconsistent world-building, but I get the feeling that this is explained later in the series (EDIT: Having read the first six, I can safely assure you that it is). Keep in mind that it is a fantasy -- more along the lines of "Tailchaser's Song" than "Watership Down". Don't expect undiluted realism!(less)
**spoiler alert** I will preface my comments by saying that I hate the Governor character and storyline. I hate every single thing about it. It has ne...more**spoiler alert** I will preface my comments by saying that I hate the Governor character and storyline. I hate every single thing about it. It has nearly ruined the series. On top of feeling like something the author introduced so he could shoe-horn more overt drama and action into what had actually become a thoughtful character-driven narrative, it also feels too convenient that there'd be someone like that, in a community like that, so ridiculously close to the prison. Everything about the Governor and his community would've been a better fit for the early issues when Rick & co. were wandering around looking for a place to stay -- it could have prompted a lot of character development and exploration of human nature in that context, since after settling into the prison Rick & co. would be living in constant fear of the Governor or another like-minded individual attacking them. But as it stands it just feels like the sort of thing a Hollywood producer might have demanded be introduced into a film he felt wouldn't reach a wide enough demographic.
That said, this volume does an excellent job of establishing how and why the Governor is still alive and why he was able to rally so many people to attack the prison compound so many times. When he showed up at the end of the previous volume I felt like it was a cop-out, something I might have expected from a Batman or Superman villain, but which didn't fit in the context of "The Walking Dead". Kirkman, however, does an excellent job of establishing his survival, in addition to the timing and motivation for the attack. As much as I hate the Governor and what his character's introduction brought to this series, this volume handles it well.
All that said, this is one of the most brutal installments in the series and certainly one of the most depressing. It is not for the faint of heart, and the loss of SO MANY major characters, including a horrible decapitation and an act of infanticide... Well, the death of the Governor at the end can't make up for that. I may keep reading the series, but it's only because I bought the next two volumes before reading this one. I'm finding it harder and harder to stay emotionally attached to any of the characters -- why bother when Kirkman is just going to contrive newer, more horrific ways for them to die? By the end of this volume, almost everyone who makes the series worth reading is dead, except for the increasingly-uninteresting Rick Grimes & son and the annoying magic-ninja Michonne (anytime she's involved my suspension of disbelief is shattered). Every single character aside from those three is turning into the zombie/rifle-fodder one associates with teen horror films, and when I stop caring about the characters...when i stop feeling the need to keep track of their names and their personalities...well, it may soon be time to stop reading the series all together. I can get the same nonsense from any B-movie about zombies.(less)
**spoiler alert** Better than the previous volumes, but only because it avoided the Human Genome nonsense most of the time. The brewing conflict withi...more**spoiler alert** Better than the previous volumes, but only because it avoided the Human Genome nonsense most of the time. The brewing conflict within the survivors is tiresome, but handled fairly realistically. The sense that each of the survivors, even the children, is becoming warped by their experiences rings fairly true. But it amazed me at the end that Dale, who cost Rick his wife, daughter, friends and home, is blaming their troubles ON Rick.
I may buy the next volume. I may not buy it. At this point I think I need a break, especially after the idiotic Governor storyline and the horrors of this volume. Kirkman will need to do a lot of work to get back to the quality of the first five volumes (magic-ninja Michonne aside).(less)
The fall-out from the previous volume, showcased here, is far more interesting than the previous and subsequent volumes put together. The entire Gover...moreThe fall-out from the previous volume, showcased here, is far more interesting than the previous and subsequent volumes put together. The entire Governer storyline is the worst thing that could happen to a story like this and it feels hamfisted, amateurish and contrived. A definite low-point for the series. That said, this interstitial volume focuses on the prison community itself and their characters...and that makes it worth reading. Shame you have to suffer through the previous and subsequent volumes to understand it.(less)
The "Dark Sun" setting was my favorite setting when I was a kid. It's a bleak, bloody, brutal world - very atypical for D&D - in which magic is fu...moreThe "Dark Sun" setting was my favorite setting when I was a kid. It's a bleak, bloody, brutal world - very atypical for D&D - in which magic is fueled by ripping the life-force out of other living things. Irresponsible use of this power has left the world a blasted desert. Only the strong survive, and this has led many species and races to die out, while others have changed dramatically (for instance, elves are treacherous wasteland scavengers, and halflings are savage, shamanistic cannibals), and still other new creatures have evolved and risen to ascendancy; alien insects and reptiles have filled most of the niches which mammals and birds once occupied. The gods are dead (literally!), and the last few vestiges of civilization are ruled over by a handful of immortal sorcerer-kings/queens, all of whom share a single, secret agenda and all of whom are in direct competition as a result. Life is short and altruism is virtually non-existant. It has a lot in common with Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" books, and could definitely teach Cormac MacCarthy a thing or two about how to do post-apocalyptic literature properly.
So yes, I LOVED this setting. LOVED IT. And I own this book in part because I'd like to see what the new version of D&D does with it. However I also own it because I have a really hard time finishing anything I write or sharing it with anyone because of my perfectionism; I want everything to be JUST right, but my view of "JUST right" shifts from moment to moment. For this reason my series of short stories about early-to-medival Coptic monasticism remain half-written, at best. My brother is in Afghanistan and desperate for things to read, so he has asked me to send him stories I have written and to send them as quickly as I can. By writing something based in this setting, I really only need to worry about the characters and the plot because the world and everything in it are taken care of for me. This makes plotting, pacing and characterization MUCH easier; my passion for the setting also helps. What is more, because this setting is not my creation, I have less of a personal emotional or psychological connection to it and feel less invested in what I write about it. I'll be flipping through this book while I write him a short story, in-between studying for quals, working on the Coptic Encyclopedia, and preparing my dissertation proposal. Fun times!(less)
I've been hearing about this series since I came back from Panama, and I figured it was about time I finally got around to reading it. As far as I kno...moreI've been hearing about this series since I came back from Panama, and I figured it was about time I finally got around to reading it. As far as I know, the series has ended, and that means I don't have to worry about keeping up with it. I went on eBay and purchased the first five volumes as a set for a very reasonable price. In the end, I'm not sure I'll read any more than these five.
This is a case of a remarkably intriguing premise betrayed by unremarkable execution. I've heard accusations of sexism, and when I heard descriptions of a "feminzai" biker gang roving post-male America I assumed them to be correct. Well, those "feminazi" bikers ARE in this book, but they're certainly not the lion's share of the female characters. What they are is symptomatic of what may be Vaughan's most daring assertion -- that women and men, while different in certain biological and psychological ways, are fundamentally the same, and a world without men would wind up pretty much like a world WITH men. Vaughan's post-male America is populated by religious extremists (eg: the aforementioned "feminizais"); by strong individuals trying to assert dominance; by charismatic individuals who warp the minds of the weak and the indigent; by politicians who can't seem to set aside their party affiliations in the face of a society-shattering crisis; by people who are looking for someone, anyone to blame; and most of all by people who are just trying to survive from day to day. In a world in which half the population has died horribly and reproduction is no longer a possibility, Vaughan presents women as behaving...well...normally. People are people, humans are humans, and these humans behave pretty much the way one would expect them to if half the population of the world suddenly died in a minutes-long extinction event. I've seen these women in my own life, including the violently anti-male cultists and the high-minded political idealists. Unless things get much, much worse in the rest of the series, I suspect that the majority of the accusations of sexism are actually coming from women who expect a world without men to be more like "Herland" -- a utopian paradise of egalitarianism and automatic sisterhood. The fact that the only living male is portrayed as an irrational, shiftless incompetent with whom none of the surviving women want to copulate seems to have escaped the critics' notice. Frankly, given his jarringly offensive portrayal of Republicans and what one might refer to as "white trash" I think there's far more room for accusations of political partisanship than sexism. I suspect there's some veiled criticism of post-9/11 America snuck in here too.
No, the problem isn't sexism, because the only sexism in these pages is the sexism manifested in the lives/words/actions of the characters (the critics seem to either forget or ignore the fact that the story begins with examples of male chauvinism towards women) or in the minds of certain readers.
The problem, when you get right down to it, is the poor quality of the writing. The pacing is off, the characterizations (of ALL characters, male and female) are at once excessively broad and frustratingly vague, and the dialogue is unmemorable at best. Yorrick is just a guy who whines about missing his girlfriend and cracks wise; 355 is just a tough, tight-lipped secret agent; Dr. Mann is just a scientist. It's all remarkably flat. Vaughan impresses with his ideas and with his amazingly (and controversially) evenhanded portrayal of a world without men, but the overall execution, the specifics and the details upon which world-building truly rests, are just "meh" in the end.
Incidentally, the art is mediocre at best. Great writing can turn mediocre art into a masterpiece of the graphic novel format, but that is not the case here.(less)
The second volume in the series improved a bit on the pacing, and the characters are a bit better defined, but not by much. The character Yorrick keep...moreThe second volume in the series improved a bit on the pacing, and the characters are a bit better defined, but not by much. The character Yorrick keeps making bizarre decisions which seem to come out of nowhere; I'm not sure whether it's just that the author has failed to characterize him enough for me to understand WHY Yorrick is making these choices (which, in the first volume, I tried to rationalize as the result of his traumatic experiences) or whether he's just having Yorrick make them to drive the plot. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.
Again, I just don't see the sexism, and I've been trained to see it EVERYWHERE. No orgies, no weak women begging to have a crack at the last man, no sexual activity at all. A pleasant surprise from a series about "the last man on earth" which others have claimed is chauvinistic. The religious fanatics behave exactly as religious fanatics are wont to do, but we are also presented with a town full of reformed female prisoners who have established a near-utopia yet harbor no ill-will towards males. Again, the main problem is how flat all the characters feel. Yorrick's romance (?) with the townswoman didn't feel authentic, and while I understand intellectually the dynamic which exists between Victoria and her Amazons (seeing it, as i have, in real-life situations), it still feels nonsensical for Hero to flip from loving her brother to hating him just because Victoria punched her and gave her a little lecture. Yes, we learn that she had a habit of picking bad men before the extinction, and we learn that she and Yorrick each thought their father loved the other more, but so what? We also learn that Hero's boyfriend at the time of the die-off was a great guy, so it would make more sense for Hero to blame the Amazon's "Goddess" for robbing her of that than accept that all men are evil and must be purged. Frankly i couldn't understand why Yorrick didn't point out that the only ones doing any killing or oppressing were WOMEN. None of it makes much sense if I stopped to think about it for even a second, and I suspect it's because the none of the characters feel fully realized. We don't connect with them, and so many of their actions just seem...arbitrary.
Still no sexism. The political partisanship rears its head again at certain points, but nowhere near as egregiously as in the first volume. Still a 2-star series...(less)
Sub-par writing and ho-hum art keep this from rising above an interesting bit of pulp. Also, the author's political agendas keep getting in the way. V...moreSub-par writing and ho-hum art keep this from rising above an interesting bit of pulp. Also, the author's political agendas keep getting in the way. Volume 1: Republicans are crazy, gun-toting fascists; Volume 2: the death penalty and the US prison systems are baaaaad; Volume 3: Israel is evil and militaristic. The attempts to draw parallels to post-9/11 America are no longer subtle, as the Israeli leader's anti-Arab and anti-Muslim actions and words are explicitly depicted as wrong.(less)
The pacing for each individual issue is improving, but it's starting to feel like the author is impatient to get where he's going. One minute they're...moreThe pacing for each individual issue is improving, but it's starting to feel like the author is impatient to get where he's going. One minute they're in Kansas, the next they're in Colorado. One minute they're in Colorado, the next they've abruptly been in San Francisco for weeks. That sort of approach might work for a tv series which has breaks between seasons, or for a series of novels in which one assumes time has passed between entries, but for a regularly-published monthly comic book series? It just feels...off. The last issue attempted to explain why Yorrick was making so many stupid decisions (he wanted to die) but it felt excessively obvious -- i was hoping there was more to it than that. This volume finally explained how Yorrick managed to survive the plague with, I will admit, an interestingly subversive explanation, but the pacing still felt all wrong.
Still not seeing any sexism. Just women behaving like human beings. Though again, the idealized representation of post-male San Francisco felt like more of Vaughan's political ideologies intruding on the narrative.(less)
After two years of hearing that this book is a new classic and that I simply MUST read it, i have finally given it a chance. I even spent a week liste...moreAfter two years of hearing that this book is a new classic and that I simply MUST read it, i have finally given it a chance. I even spent a week listening to a very passionate woman insist that books like the Harry Potter series and "The Giver" and "The Handmaid's Tale" would soon be forgotten as "The Hunger Games" becomes the new standard, not only for Young Adult Literature but for all dystopian literature. Believing such claims invariably leads to disappointment, so I didn't expect to be blown away; i simply expected "The Hunger Games" to be a good piece of fast-paced YA pulp.
Five pages in, I was not merely unimpressed, but legitimately sick of this novel. One of my more moderate friends admitted "Well, the writing isn't great, but the story is good. You have to stick with it." That was always a possibility, so I soldiered on, determined to give Collins a chance, and read all 374 pages. I even gave it a full day to simmer after finishing it. Alas, my initial impression stands, augmented and broadened by having read the other 369 pages: this is not a good book.
The protagonist is, i am given to understand, supposed to be a strong, independent young woman; but as with Vin in the "Mistborn" series, she actually feels flat and lifeless, like a cardboard cut-out of what the author thinks a character is supposed to be. A lot of authors make this mistake when writing what are supposed to be strong female leads, and it is certainly not a "male authors only" problem. So for every Sabriel (Garth Nix) or Aerin (Robin McKinley) or Tiffany Aching (Terry Pratchett) there is also a Vin or a Bella or a Katniss Everdeen. By comparison, the love interest in "Brazil" felt stronger and better developed.
The author's decision to write it in the first-person present-tense disconnects me from both the character and the narrative because the way she goes about it is so clumsy and irritatingly contrived. I actually believe i could excuse the terrible metaphors and the awful framing and the unnecessary sentence fragments if this were written in the past-tense as a sort of memoir; then all the errors and absurd word-choices and poor syntax could be written off as a product of the narrator herself. The choice of present tense eliminates that possibility however. Instead it seems to be a bizarre combination of inner-monologue and epistle, directed at someone outside of the author who requires explanations about things she or a resident of their world should already know, yet narrated as though it is a blow-by-blow account of what is happening to her right now.
2) If she's from a poor, backwoods region with a single, largely-absentee parent and has suffered poor hygiene and repeated starvation...why aren't her teeth rotten? It may seem like a silly little quibble, but we're supposed to understand that her family can't even afford the most basic supplies and is reliant on her hunting and selling in the blackmarket, and yet she's kept her teeth healthy and shiny enough that her stylists in the Capitol have nothing to say about them during the extended makeover scene?
3) Why are there apparently SO MANY predatory animals and so few prey animals? She speaks repeatedly about how dangerous it is to go beyond the fence due to the wild predators, but also talks about how time-consuming and arduous it is trying to find a prey animal -- prey animals, by the way, that have evidently rarely-if-ever seen a human. That's not how it works! But apparently in the world of this book, you have to search all day to even kill a squirrel, while wolves and bears and cougars are all thriving...despite being squashed between a chemical-ravaged wasteland and human settlements.
4) Does this world follow Harry Potter/My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic rules by having people's fates defined by the names they're given at birth? Why else would the baker boy be named "Peeta" and the girl who becomes an archer be named after the Sagittaria flower and the woman in charge of athletic training be named "Atala" and the guy in charge of the (fire-related!) makeover be named "Cinna" and the majority of the people in the Capitol be named after Roman aristocrats? I am reminded of one of my favorite sequences on The Simpsons:
CLETUS: We always figured someday Mary would marry. That's why we called her "Mary." We name all our kids after what we think's gonna happen to 'em. Ain't that right, Stabbed-In-Jail?
STABBED-IN-JAIL: [whittling a spear] We'll see who stabs who!
5) If the story had focused on the minor character "Rue" it would have been a far more interesting and compelling book. She was the only character that actually elicited anything resembling an emotional reaction from me.
6) The first 100 pages of the book were immensely uneven, plodding inexplicably as though through molasses at points, then breezing past parts where more information would have been appreciated.
7) Was the fey male stylist character REALLY necessary?
8) Apparently the arena is some sort of domed, man-made ecosystem a la "The Truman Show" and the people running it have an almost god-like level of environmental control which they only exercise at convenient moments in the narrative, and the people of the Capitol now only use their amazing indistinguishable-from-magic command of genetic engineering to create mutations for the games. There are probably plausible explanations (rationalizations) for all of that, but it just felt entirely too convenient that these things were only mentioned or deployed at specific points in the narrative -- as though Collins had written herself into a corner or thought "Ooh, this would be neat!" and just threw in a hasty bit of exposition in an attempt to hand-wave it all away.
9) Despite living in what amounts to the "ghetto" of an oppressive totalitarian state, and despite having no sources for history other than her state-mandated schooling, the protagonist somehow knows that the state is lying and covering up the true history of the very rebellion that led to her region being a "ghetto"? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...
Overall, the pace is uneven, the characters lack both depth and emotional resonance (especially the protagonist/narrator), the obligatory adolescent love-triangle feels forced and ham-fisted, and I get the feeling that the author has very little understanding of the natural world. Elements are mentioned, then forgotten or ignored (for instance, there are apparently numerous predatory animals in the "arena" but none of the combatants ever face them -- except for mutated ones at the end which are unleashed specifically for the climax -- and the normal predators are only ever seen in the scene with the fire). I'm told by reliable sources that the series gets better with later books, but I don't think that's a risk I'm willing to take after this one. The first book should suck you in -- this one spat me out.
For what it's worth though, it looks like they've made a genuinely compelling film out of this mediocre book!(less)
Okay. It was never easy for Stony Mayhall. He was born a poor zombie child. He remembered the days, sittin' in the basement with his family, diggin' a...moreOkay. It was never easy for Stony Mayhall. He was born a poor zombie child. He remembered the days, sittin' in the basement with his family, diggin' and readin' over in Iowa...
(Apologies to Steve Martin)
Seriously though, this is an incredible bildungsroman about a boy born dead named John "Stony" Mayhall who grows up in an alternate version of America in which John Romero's 1968 film was actually a documentary. For unknown reasons, the dead rise in the Eastern US, hungering for human flesh and spreading their infection by bite. The military finally puts down the living dead, but a single mother named Wanda discovers the frozen corpse of a girl in a snowstorm; the girl died clutching her dead newborn...her living dead newborn. Wanda decides to secretly raise the child alongside her three daughters, trying to keep him from learning the truth about his "people". What follows is quite possibly the finest zombie novel I've ever read. (less)
Overall, I found this book surprisingly enjoyable! It captured the feel of the Dark Sun setting (a brutal post-apocalyptic fantasy world in which unch...moreOverall, I found this book surprisingly enjoyable! It captured the feel of the Dark Sun setting (a brutal post-apocalyptic fantasy world in which unchecked magic has left most of the alient planet Athas a barren wasteland and sorceror god-kings rule the few remnants of cilization with an iron fist) admirably, the plot was legitimately interesting, and the writing was unobtrusive (ie: I noticed the story and characters more than the author trying to impress his readers).
I especially liked the way Denning approaches the complex moral issue of magic-use. In the Dark Sun world all magic is fueled by ripping the life-energy out of a nearby living thing, usually plants; this is why the planet is a wasteland, as reckless sorcerors kept using the planet's life to fuel their conquests and internecine squabbles. There's a middle ground, using only enough magic to fuel the desired effect, but leaving the living things enough energy to recover and flourish; this middle ground is less powerful however and magic-use in general is highly addictive (sort of like potato chips or peanuts). It seems as though the middle ground would be the "good" option, but Denning puts the characters in several situations in which their lives are spared by complete indulgence in unchecked sorcery and others in which the weakness of the middle ground imperils the characters. The three approaches to magic (non-use, reckless use, and guarded use) are presented as little more than amoral approaches to a natural phenomenon, their morality ultimately mediated by the morality of the individual using them.
However the author's style and characterization are also incredibly uneven.
There were several points at which it felt like he was so desperate to move the plot along that he skipped important narrative points and I found myself flipping back through to see if I'd missed a chapter; the escape from UnderTyr and the journey to the Forest Ridge are effectively ignored, mentioned only in dismissive references. This is unfortunate as the first 2/3 of the book moved along at a much healthier pace, and i suspect either Denning was in a hurry to get to the parts he "liked" or he was under pressure to make the book shorter/write it faster.
The prologue involving the templar Tithian and sorceror-king Kalak was gripping, introducing us to the bloody, slave-driven theocracy of the city-state of Tyr and characters who are at once compelling and contemptible; these characters are fascinating and well-written throughout, especially Tithian. Denning does an excellent job of juxtaposing Kalak's seeming frailty and age with his terrible power and cunning, but Tithian is one of the most well-drawn characters i've encountered in literature. He's a priest to a god-king, not because he truly believes in Kalak's divinity but because, lacking the discipline and drive to pursue the ascetic path of psionics, he found that the ranks of the templars promised easier access to power, wealth and influence; once a member of the sorceror-king's theocracy he comes to realize how truly powerful and truly vicious his "god" is, and ultimately regrets the favor he finds in Kalak's eyes. He is loyal to his old friend, Agis, but only insofar as it does not inconvenience or imperil himself -- he himself admits freely that he always does what he believes to be in his own best interests. Agis by contrast is a naive idealist, a man who possessed the discipline and strength of will to pursue asceiticism but who lacks the savvy and understanding of human nature which his childhood friend Tithian posseses; Agis truly believes that he can effect change in a theocracy through senatorial votes, and truly believes that by treating his slaves well he is doing better by them than he would be if he were to free them. Indeed, his failure to understand the value of freedom to a slave costs him dearly. He fancied himself a champion of slaves and the downtrodden, but it is only after he finally becomes affiliated with an anti-slavery, anti-government terrorist cell called "the Veiled Alliance" that he realizes how hypocritical and naive he has really been. The slaves-gladiators Rikus and Neeva and their friends are written with attention to their different life experiences (when compared to the nobility and templar's lives) and the fact that they have been raised to kill or be killed. Oh, and the gaj. THE GAJ! One of the best and most interestingly alien characters I have ever encountered; it lacks all humanity, yet learns to communicate like a human, and there is something delicious about the way in which, when caught in a lie, it responds by simply stating that deception is useful.
Sadira however...every time Sadira and her mentor appeared or the focus shifted to them, it felt like I was reading a different book by a different author. Those pages were HORENDOUSLY cliched and full of needless, flavorless exposition. Indeed, once Sadira and the other characters start traveling together, the book's overall quality dips drastically. It's clearly not that he can't write female characters -- there are at least three other, better-written, far more interesting female characters. It almost seems like he felt he HAD to include her, or saved her portions of the book for last and then just hurried through them without an editor or feedback. Arguably the only interesting thing about her is Sadira's approach to sex/romance; she trained from a young age to use sex against men and, for the sake of espionage, she was not allowed to develop her monogamous instincts. As such she annoys and offends and dismays many characters with her polyandrous desires. But even that is only mentioned a few times. It really does feel like Denning forgot to develop the character and just stuck with a vague outline he'd created.
This book could have been one, two, or three hundred pages longer and would likely have benefited from it. I understand that there are four more books in the series, but the second half of this volume suffers dramatically for the rushed pace and the temporal skips. I enjoyed it, but I hope the rest of the series will be more even and that the author will better develop many of the elements he unfortunately neglects in this one. (less)
It took me less than a week to finish the first book in the series, reading only in my very limited free time while preparing for my qualifying exams...moreIt took me less than a week to finish the first book in the series, reading only in my very limited free time while preparing for my qualifying exams and writing my dissertation proposal. This book, the second in the series, has taken over seven times that and I am still not finished with it. That should tell you all you need to know right there, but I'll expand on it a bit.
This book benefits from the general absence of the paper-thin character Sadira (who reads less like an actual literary character and more like an embarassing junior high fan-fic) and the Larry-Stu-esque Agis (who has his moments, but is overall too unbelievably altruistic and naive for this setting). However the book also suffers from a surfeit of Rikus (an excellent secondary character but far too simple in his desires and motivations to be a compelling protagonist) and a dearth of the cunning and amoral Tithian. The principal antagonist of this novel, Maetan of House Lubar, feels whiny and dull -- certainly no substitute for the first novel's brutal King Kalak.
As other reviewers have noted, the first book in the series covered enough material to fill an entire trilogy and was the weaker for its hurried pace; Denning seems to have reversed course with the second book, stretching what could have been two chapters of material into an entire novel. The reader is told that matters are urgent, told that things need to happen quickly, but there is no feeling of that urgency in the text itself. Even the battles feel sluggish. The issue of the traitor was tiresome and I spent no time trying to suss out his-or-her actual identity. Denning overall spent entirely too much time telling and entirely too time little showing.
There are interesting elements: the dwarven community's absolute stubbornness is fun, as is the dwarven necropolis; the introduction of the Thri-kreen character was much needed; the wraiths and Rikus's possession were neat. But it's just not enough to raise this book over the "mediocre" level -- I'm only sticking with it because i want to be read up for the next book, which i hope will be an improvement on both previous novels (even if it does apparently focus on Sadira).
On a personal note, i've always found Hamanu and Urik to be the most fascinating aspect of the Dark Sun setting -- Denning manages to turn them into boring, stock plot devices. (less)
Well, colour me surprised. The first novel was only okay, the second was actually tedious, but this third one? The one that focused almost exclusively...moreWell, colour me surprised. The first novel was only okay, the second was actually tedious, but this third one? The one that focused almost exclusively on the worst-written, Mary-Sue-iest character I've ever encountered? It was good. Really good. 4-stars good. So good I want to immediately pick up the next volume in the series, despite the fact that more than a year elapsed for me between reading books 2 and 3. Nicely done, Troy Denning.(less)