There are a few different categories I tend to file new books away in these days. There are the ones I enjoy when I read, and will gladly chat about oThere are a few different categories I tend to file new books away in these days. There are the ones I enjoy when I read, and will gladly chat about over drinks for hours at a time. They're delightful tales that get filed away on a shelf and will start to fade pleasantly in memory. Years later, I might pick them up again, and feel that moment of recognition when you hear a voice or see a face you remember, but can't place where you recognize it from. This story is not one of those.
There are stories that burn brightly when read, and then fade over time. They strike hard in the moment, but a little time and separation highlights the cracks and seams running through it. The story had its moment, but they're remembered more for the way they forced you to think on them and come to a different conclusion. Those books get their own shelves, harder to find but saved to be shared with a person in need of that kind of impulse. This story is not one of those.
There are stories that reach in and tear out a piece of you. The ones that may not always be enjoyable but grab you by the throat and toss you around. Stories that don't leave you wanting more, or with a pleasant glow, but with a lingering ache like they punched you square in the diaphragm. Those books get a special, high shelf. A place of respect and visibility where they will have to draw their own readers, and I will pass them on reverently with a word of warning and a few more of encouragement. But this story is not one of those.
This story is one that has its own life to it. Stories that worm their way into me and demand to be revisited. They don't live on shelves, but on end tables, desks, and in backpacks. They're stories I will gladly give others to read, and more often will press into their hands whether they ask for them or not. Stories that I want to remember when I'm old and can spend my days telling stories to people I love without the need to keep my eyes in the book. American Gods is that kind of story.
There are plenty of reasons to like this book. A good strong female lead character would be enough to make interested. A good blending of Shinto mythoThere are plenty of reasons to like this book. A good strong female lead character would be enough to make interested. A good blending of Shinto mythology, Japanese tattoo, and a dieselpunk-y world would have been enough (Yes, I know it's referred to as Japanese steampunk in a lot of places, but this has a lot more of an early 20th-century feel to me, I think). Turns out though that the whole book is even better than just a few cool conceits and components, though. It was a really solid story, if easy enough to guess the outcome, but well executed nevertheless. It was a really enjoyable read, and while I won't rush out to buy the second book in hardcover, I'll definitely pick it up in paperback....more
It was about noon yesterday when I first opened my copy of Patrick Rothfuss's newest book, and now at about 12:30 in the morning I just finis36 hours.
It was about noon yesterday when I first opened my copy of Patrick Rothfuss's newest book, and now at about 12:30 in the morning I just finished the last page. 36 hours is how long it took me to read it, yes, but it's more than that. 36 hours is how long this book was able to hold me in thrall. No, to say the book accomplished it is wrong. It was the story.
There's a world of difference between brilliant writing and brilliant storytelling. The first is the stuff that English Literature classes assign. Masterful collections of words that sometimes make reading feel like trying to break down a brick wall with naughty but the steady application of your forehead. But a master storyteller weaves the threads so tightly around your mind that you can't help but follow them to the end. A truly beautiful story grips you softly but firmly, and you don't even think of breaking free until you've reached the back cover.
Pat Rothfuss is a brilliant writer. He chooses his words carefully, and rarely if ever do they feel indulgent or opulent. Instead they all carry weight and meaning, and gleam brighter for their careful choosing. But good writing is not good storytelling, and the words on the page do not add up to the whole of the tale.
A truly great story seeps into your mind and your bones. It leeches into your dreams while you read it; it echoes in your thoughts when you set the book down to rest your eyes. And the truly great ones ring of truth, like the sound of a grandparent's voice from when you were younger. Reading The Wise Man's Fear doesn't really feel like reading; it feels like having a storyteller whisper lines in your head.
If you read this and think I sound a bit full of myself, I wouldn't hold it against you. I don't claim to have the skill to give proper shrift to this book. All I can do is try to assure you that there is no hyperbole here, just a sorry attempt to show appreciation for something wonderful. This is a book I will keep for years, and a story I want to see passed on. It's a thing of beauty, and worth more than the time it takes to read. It only took 36 hours to read this one, but it will stay with me for a great deal longer than that....more
The System of the World is the third volume of the Baroque Cycle, and in fact a collection of the final three individual books Stephenson wrote for thThe System of the World is the third volume of the Baroque Cycle, and in fact a collection of the final three individual books Stephenson wrote for this particular series. Yet, it seems somewhat unfair to judge the piece as either three separate books, or even as a separate volume. This series hangs together in a way that, at an equivalent page count, most series have begun to lose a bit of their luster.
The hardest part of the Baroque Cycle for me to stay invested in was the arc-long description of the birth and solidification of a new kind of economic system. It's a topic I tend to loathe listening to at any length, and at times made the middle of the story seem sluggish (to me, at least). But I never got bored to the point of skipping (which was part stubbornness) or simply putting the book down and giving up on it (though I did take a hiatus to read another book, but that's neither here nor there).
But the pluses to the story are so much more than the relatively small minuses. The simple fact that we can track the life stories (almost in their entirety!) of three separate main characters without feeling contrived, trite, or boring is a major accomplishment in and of itself. It is exceedingly difficult to write interesting characters; even more so to have them go through any significant evolution; and harder still to make it all seem organic. Yet all of those things are accomplished here not just with the main characters, but with several of its ancillary characters as well.
The Baroque Cycle will make you put in plenty of time and effort, but it is well worth every moment....more
I seem to keep getting book recommendations from dudes who write comics online (first Patrick Rothfuss from the Penny Arcade folks, now China MiévilleI seem to keep getting book recommendations from dudes who write comics online (first Patrick Rothfuss from the Penny Arcade folks, now China Miéville from Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content), and I'm pleased with the results thus far. I really dug the aesthetic of Perdido Street Station, and it's nice to read something that feels pretty genuinely new and different. Very cool book, and will keep digging through the man's work now.
It's been a while since I've felt any particular affection towards British literature. I found myself easily bored with most of the canonical works thIt's been a while since I've felt any particular affection towards British literature. I found myself easily bored with most of the canonical works that I was subjected to as an English Lit. Major (though with exceptions, naturally). But on the whole the very tone of most 19th century British fiction was something I would quickly eschew in favor of more modern or foreign texts. So, with that learned prejudice in mind, I was initially skeptical about a novel that took a historical-fiction approach to the early 19th century conflicts of Napoleon, even though there were dragons involved.
Luckily, Novik proved quite skilled in her work, and I'm ready to head back to the bookstore for the second installment in her Temeraire series as soon as I've finished this review. Her style of writing affects the era and locale of her story well, and Laurence in particular is styled as an authentic third-son of an upper-class family. What makes the story special, of course, is not just the characterization of the human players involved but the depth to which the dragons are developed both as characters and as machines of war.
Rather than delve into the particular successes Novik has in crafting a style of battle between dragons and dragon-crews, suffice it to say that her action sequences are superb in their execution, and read extremely well. They are not overused as a crutch to support a weaker narrative (as is unfortunately sometimes the case in fantasy novels), but rather serve their part in the greater narrative.
This book was a real pleasure to read, and those readers not turned off by a story with dragons in it will be rewarded for giving this book (and series, for that matter) a chance....more
Daemon was a book I saw advertised in Wired magazine, and since I learned about Neal Stephenson from Wired too, I figured it was worth a shot. DaemonDaemon was a book I saw advertised in Wired magazine, and since I learned about Neal Stephenson from Wired too, I figured it was worth a shot. Daemon is a very cool little mystery/thriller novel for the hacker set. This book is well-paced and has some very cool conceits and action sequences, and is definitely a fun read that has enough depth to keep from being relegated to (the soon to be enjoyed again!) beach-read status.
Best way I can describe it is if you like reading a novel paced like a Dan Brown formulaic thriller, and enjoy some of the more tech-heavy sci-fi stuff (plausible but not do-able right now as far as we know) then you'll like Daemon....more
I've tried to write this review a few times, and every time I wind up babbling and just writing too damn much (cursed English Literature degree trainiI've tried to write this review a few times, and every time I wind up babbling and just writing too damn much (cursed English Literature degree training..). Patrick Rothfuss is a phenomenal writer. This book has vaulted to the top of my shelves, and Rothfuss himself is now on my rather short list of must-read authors (Namely; Rothfuss & Neal Stephenson). When Day 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles comes out, you can guarantee I'll snatch it up and disappear for my lunch hour to read it, and come out of my fugue-state only when it's finished and it's time to start hungering for Day 3.
If you enjoy fantasy settings, and love good storytelling, you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading this book. Seriously, go get it now. Or I'll lend you mine....more