I really enjoyed the first two books in this series. I was a bit ambivalent about the sudden introduction of oppositional gods introduced at the end o...moreI really enjoyed the first two books in this series. I was a bit ambivalent about the sudden introduction of oppositional gods introduced at the end of book two, but I was willing to see where the author would go, down that path.
I won't say that book three was a bad book, but it was disappointing compared to the first two. There were far too many just-in-time escapes enabled by unlikely plot devices. The constant shifting of character POVs from one chapter to the next didn't work -- I found it distracting and it made it hard to really get engaged with any of the characters, even Vin and Elend, the main protagonists. The only secondary viewpoints I cared about were TenSoon's, because it was interesting to see what Kandra culture was like. Spook's story, on the other hand, bored me, and I got sick of Sazed's whining very quickly. How many pages did Sanderson have to devote to Sazed's angst about faith?
Getting back to Vin and Elend: their relationship really was a bit lacking all through the series. The only time I found their emotions believable and compelling was in book one, really, when Vin actually acted like a sixteen-year-old girl in love. By book three, she's a hardened killing machine (at the age of twenty) and he's gone from bookish, nerdy scholar to heroic warrior-king, and one gets the sense that Sanderson is embarrassed to write any kind of adult romance. I'm not asking for explicit sex scenes, but Vin and Elend seem to idealize one another in an almost platonic fashion. They talk about how much they love and respect and trust one another, but there's almost nothing about physical attraction or companionship or any kind of softer feelings.
The ending was a literal deux ex machina, and while there was enough set-up to make it (almost) believable, it still had the feel of "And then suddenly God made everything all better."
Lastly, I got really annoyed that after making the Lord Ruler a horrible villain in the first two books, suddenly he's almost a hero here. I guess the horrific, brutal, thousand-year oppression of the Skaa was all Ruin's fault? If the Lord Ruler gets credit for all of his preparations to try to save the world from Ruin, I don't think he gets to escape blame for all of the evil things he did by saying it was "because of Ruin's influence."
So, while I would recommend the entire series, and even the final book, I do feel that Sanderson's execution didn't quite come through in the conclusion to this epic.(less)
So glad I didn't spend money on this. I skimmed a bit of it because of all the wank the author caused by harassing people who left negative reviews an...moreSo glad I didn't spend money on this. I skimmed a bit of it because of all the wank the author caused by harassing people who left negative reviews and trying to inflate her review ratings. The writing is awful beyond description, which is not surprising considering this was published by a vanity press. Removing your eyes with a spoon would be more enjoyable than reading this book in its entirety.(less)
I haven't read any of Scalzi's other books, so I don't know the background of the Old Man's War series and thus read this as a stand-alone novel. I en...moreI haven't read any of Scalzi's other books, so I don't know the background of the Old Man's War series and thus read this as a stand-alone novel. I enjoyed it very much as a light SF novel, somewhat reminiscent of Heinlein's juveniles. The voice of the protagonist was engaging and funny and touching and mostly believable (although Scalzi does sometimes give his teen characters dialog that's just a little too clever).
That said, the story required an awful lot of suspension of disbelief. Roanoke never really felt like an alien planet, and for that matter, the aliens were often not alien enough. (Although only a few aliens even get descriptions; one of the important alien characters later in the story could be humanoid or a giant squid for all the description we get.) I could list a whole bunch of other plot holes, large and small, but several reviewers have done this already. This is not a tightly plotted, intricately worked out novel -- it's space opera. It's fun, but it's not a universe I'm really drawn to read more about.(less)
This was a good first novel. I liked Yeine and the situation the author put her in -- a "barbarian" from a backwater kingdom suddenly thrown into impe...moreThis was a good first novel. I liked Yeine and the situation the author put her in -- a "barbarian" from a backwater kingdom suddenly thrown into imperial politics where she's way over her head, but soon finds herself with unlikely allies in the enslaved gods who are the source of the ruling family's power. The gods, also, were well portrayed. They acted like gods... capricious, cruel and kind by turns, sometimes cosmic and unfathomable, sometimes petulant and very human.
I guessed the first major twist pretty early on, and while I wasn't sure exactly what would happen in the finale, I had a general idea and was not really surprised by it.
What keeps me from giving it five stars was the fact that most of the villainous characters were flat and cliched, and there was some rough writing that felt a bit amateurish. (The constant asides from Yeine, as she narrates the story but keeps having internal conversations with herself/someone else, were distracting and didn't really add anything to the story.)(less)
Angelology is rather like a more intellectual and literary Dan Brown novel. (I mean that in a good way, honest.) Unlike Dan Brown, Trussoni is actuall...moreAngelology is rather like a more intellectual and literary Dan Brown novel. (I mean that in a good way, honest.) Unlike Dan Brown, Trussoni is actually a decent writer and does her research, but I still found the story a little too absurd to really cut it as a great fantasy novel. I'd actually give it 3.5 stars, so it gets rounded to 4 'cause I'm nice that way.
This book has all the virtues and flaws of a "literary" author taking on the fantasy genre: it avoids a lot of the cliches you usually see in contemporary fantasy, so it's a fresh approach to the "secret society fighting a covert war against the supernatural." On the other hand, while the writing is beautiful and the characters are well-drawn (and definitely not your typical heroes and heroines -- most of them are elderly academics and nuns!), there are some gaping plot holes, and at times the action scenes had me saying, "Oh, come on!" Trussoni's sense of timing seems calibrated more for a big-screen treatment than plausibility.
Also, pages and pages of infodumps, and dialogue that is indistinguishable from the main text. Everyone talks exactly the way the author writes.
If you like Dan Brown, this is a cut or two above. If you like supernatural thrillers, books about angels, etc., then give this a try. If you're a contemporary/urban fantasy junkie, then this might be a diverting change of pace, but it may or may not be your cup of tea.(less)
I'd give this 3.5 stars if GR allowed half stars. There were parts of this book that were brilliant, and parts that were intensely annoying. This is t...moreI'd give this 3.5 stars if GR allowed half stars. There were parts of this book that were brilliant, and parts that were intensely annoying. This is the first book I've read by Charles Stross, and I'm frankly unsure whether I'll dive into another Stross novel any time soon. I liked the overall plot and the ideas; human civilization evolving towards a Singularity, and what happens to the posthuman offspring. But the story leaps about erratically, sometimes skipping years or decades and light years at a time. Human civilization is jerked forward, things happen, and then the whole civilization jerks forward again, and each time we have to reorient ourselves and figure out what's going on (and more importantly, why we care -- the continuing characters change between instantiations almost as much as the world does). The writing is dense and full of obscure references, and I'm not a fan of novels written in present tense.
That said, I'd still rate this as a brilliant, original novel worth reading, especially if you are into cyberpunk and transhumanism. However, it's not a quick, easy read, and if you are looking for a sci-fi "adventure" with characters who have easily identifiable goals and motives, this isn't the book for you.(less)
How can you love fantasy and not like dragons? They're kind of like vampires: everybody uses them, everybody who wants to make their mark on the genre...moreHow can you love fantasy and not like dragons? They're kind of like vampires: everybody uses them, everybody who wants to make their mark on the genre tries to come up with a clever new way to use them, and usually they fail, so as a fantasy reader, you're inclined to roll your eyes at any book with a dragon on the cover. And yet, dragons are still pretty damn cool, when they're done right.
The Adamantine Palace is a mediocre effort in the field. It's not awful, like anything with "Dragonlance" in the title, but it's not great, like the first few books in some series that were pretty good until the author descended into hackdom and just started churning them out as reconstituted work-product. (What's McCaffrey's latest, Housecats of Pern?)
The author's description on John Scalzi's "Big Idea" is what sold it to me:
The dragons in these books are monsters. They’re not cute, they’re not cuddly, and the only reason anyone gets to ride around on the back of them is because they are forcibly subdued by alchemical potions that are fed to them from birth. In fact, these dragons are so dangerous that for even one to break free could spell disaster for pretty much the entire civilisation (no prizes for guessing what happens pretty close to page one).
So you can, and probably should, read it as a straight epic fantasy with a cast of shady characters and a rampaging dragon that’s pretty ticked off about having been kept in a drugged stupor. I had no pretensions to anything more than a story about kick-ass dragons that ran on rocket-fuel when I set out to write these books; but sometimes when you sit down and write, you don’t get quite what you asked for.
Well, that sounded pretty cool. The idea of an escaped dragon being kind of like a missing nuclear warhead, except the nuclear warhead is sentient, and pissed off, appeals to me, and I was in the mood for a story that's "rocket-fueled" adventure, with dragons.
Did Deas deliver? A little yes, a little no, but mostly not so much.
The book is pretty fast-paced, as promised. There is a lot of action, there is much carnage and burning and dragons eating people, though it stays pretty limited in scope: no Reign of Fire-level apocalypse...yet.
The dragons were indeed interesting, or at least, the handful who get free of their drug-induced servility were. Yup, any sympathy you might have had for the poor beasts who've been drugged and enslaved as a species and used as riding beasts goes away once it turns out that, freed from their alchemical shackles, they're bloodthirsty predators who will happily burn human civilization to the ground and hunt the survivors like rabbits. (Okay, if you were an escaped dragon just waking up to the fact that you're an intelligent being who's been turned into a riding animal, you might want a little fiery retribution too, but from what we learn in the book, that's how the dragons treated humans before they were enslaved.)
None of the human characters are particularly interesting or likeable. Non-nobles in this world are nothing but spear-carriers. That's how both the nobles and the author treats them. Where the humans come on stage, it's mostly just a bunch of scheming, backstabbing nobles playing their reindeer games, and since they're all equally scheming, backstabbing, and non-sympathetic, and none of them will do anything different from the others if they wind up on the throne, we don't care who wins. The "protagonist" (inasmuch as this book has one), Prince Jehal, is clever, but whenever his cleverness isn't quite enough to make his schemes work, one of his opponents conveniently makes a mistake so that he wins anyway. He's an arrogant bastard, but none of his adversaries are any better, and most of them are worse.
The action-packed parts of the book are a decent read, but the worldbuilding is weak. Like so many epic fantasy novels, The Adamantine Palace starts with charts showing the genealogies of all the various royal families, with lofty names like "The Queen of Sand and Stone," but all this means is that Queen Shezira lives in a desert. There are a bunch of royal families with rival kingdoms, making up an essentially indistinguishable mob of kings, queens, princes, and princesses, all of whom have dragons and dragon-knights and castles. The one foreign element is the Teitaykei, a bunch of vaguely Oriental traders who come from across the sea, and whom I assume will probably show up again in the next two books of the trilogy, but in this book, they existed solely to hand Prince Jehal a magical plot device.
The double- and triple-crossing is entertaining enough, but I would have liked more dragon action. Also, Deas uses an amateurish multiple-POV writing style throughout the book, shifting from one character to another in each chapter, and focusing on none of them. Some of the POV characters end up dying unceremoniously without ever having contributed much to the plot.
This is a book that people who still think AD&D novels are cool will probably like. Anyone else who really likes dragons will probably find it worth reading, but the Great Dragon Novel it is not.(less)
It's hard to describe this book -- it starts out as a fantasy, and ends up more science fiction. There is a lot of magic and wonder, but it gets very,...moreIt's hard to describe this book -- it starts out as a fantasy, and ends up more science fiction. There is a lot of magic and wonder, but it gets very, very dark. Not a light-hearted read, but then, none of Tepper's books are very cheery.(less)
I read this a long time ago and loved it then. (I actually read it after Steve Jackson raved about it and printed an excerpt in an issue of Pyramid ma...moreI read this a long time ago and loved it then. (I actually read it after Steve Jackson raved about it and printed an excerpt in an issue of Pyramid magazine.) But if I were to reread it, I suspect I'd find it hadn't aged well.
Hiro Protagonist, "black samurai hacker pizza delivery guy," was kind of cool, in a geeky hanging-a-lampshade-on-the-ridiculous-protagonist kind of way, as was the teenage girl and her bad boy lover who's carting a portable nuclear warhead around with him. But I honestly can't say I remember much about the plot.
Probably a good book to read for anyone interested in cyberpunk, and it did get me started as a Neal Stephenson fan.(less)
This is a collection of 15 short stories from non-US/UK writers. While several stories fall into the traditional SF category, some are straight fantas...moreThis is a collection of 15 short stories from non-US/UK writers. While several stories fall into the traditional SF category, some are straight fantasy/horror, and a couple are hard to describe. Reading this collection is sort of like sampling from a buffet of foreign dishes you've never tried before: some of the offerings are familiar, some are unfamiliar but delicious, and a few are just odd and unappealing. There are a couple that probably read much better in the language from which they were translated. Below is a quick summary of each:
The Bird Catcher: Set in Thailand, about a serial killer.
Transcendence Express: A teacher introduces biological quantum computers to African school children. (There's a bit of the "white savior" cliche here; white Europeans bring high tech enlightenment to poor, grateful Africans.)
The Levantine Experiments: Very weird story about a child used as a scientific experiment. Not really horrific, but strange.
The Wheel of Samsara: Another strange story that's hard to describe. A scientist studies a prayer wheel in a remote Tibetan monastery.
Ghost Jail: Journalist seeks out corruption in Fiji, discovers literal corruption in the form of ghosts.
Wizard World: I think this Chinese story suffered most in translation. A denizen of an online world vs. hackers.
L'Aquilone du Estrellas: This is more of a fairy tale, about a girl who goes on a lifelong quest to win the attention of the man she is in love with, accompanied by a boy who is in love with her.
Cinderers: An arsonist with psychoses; hard to describe further without spoilers.
The Allah Stairs: One of my least favorite stories in the collection. A couple of childhood friends discover that a classmate's fantastic stories weren't so fantastic.
The Biggest Baddest Bomoh: Not so original, but well written: a Malaysian clerk seeks out a shaman to help him win the heart of a woman he's in love with.
The Lost Xuyan Bride: One of my favorites. A PI takes on a job to find a missing girl, set in an alternate history where the Chinese colonized western North America and the Aztecs still occupy southern Mexico.
Excerpt from a Letter by a Social-Realist Aswang: Very short but amusing letter from a Filipino Marxist vampire, with some meta-commentary on the sci-fi genre.
An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, with Lydia on my Mind: A futuristic pornographer films the wrong subject.
Into the Night: An elderly, traditional Tamil man has trouble adjusting to his daughter's world of science and virtual reality.
Elegy: A woman's children go missing; you have to draw your own conclusion as to whether she's right about who the culprit is, or if she's simply gone mad with grief.(less)
Frankly, this is where Heinlein started to lose it. While Friday is an interesting character, she's all that holds this novel together, as the society...moreFrankly, this is where Heinlein started to lose it. While Friday is an interesting character, she's all that holds this novel together, as the society and world-building is rather half-assed, and there are some parts that will make you want to throw the book across the room. I still liked it better than his later stuff, though.(less)