This seems to be the overall theme in Sword in the Storm, the third novel I've read by David Gemmell. The first wa...moreAt what point do you condemn a hero?
This seems to be the overall theme in Sword in the Storm, the third novel I've read by David Gemmell. The first was Legend, the other one of the Troy series. In all three, we have legendary warriors, towering men who can stand at the center of a battle and survive through sheer skill and will. Yet of the three main heroes, Sword in the Storm seems to have the most failings, not in just his character, but in the way he is told.
In Legend, we have Druss. He's old, tired, and grumpy. Yet despite that, we see a legendary warrior still mourning his wife. Facing impossible odds, he refuses to give in, and that strength aids the many around him until they triumph. Druss is almost perfect. He's intelligent. He can fight. He acts calm and rational when he needs to, and he can roar and bellow when he needs to.
In Troy, we have Helikaon. Again, skilled fighter, revered by many, superb wealth, handsome, and able to turn an impossible battle. Except we also see him perform incredibly harsh actions. In this, though, he seems almost at peace about them. The world is dark and unafraid, and they will understand only the violence he delivers to them. Sure he gets a little close to crossing the line, but nothing like Connavar. Nothing like Sword in the Storm.
Connavar slaughters innocent women and children. He cheats on his wife. He often swears revenge, easily gives in to hate, and is sorely lacking the self-control of either Helikaon or Druss. But the problem is...he's still a "perfect" David Gemmell hero. It just doesn't feel quite right yet. What do I mean by "perfect" Gemmell hero? He's got the looks, the brains, the charisma, and the fighting skill. Basically, cross Napoleon with Conan the Barbarian. As a child, he struggles to help his parents, he saves a fawn with no thought to the injuries he'll take himself, befriends a cripple solely to be kind to him, and he commits self-less act after self-less act.
The problem is when anything "personal" happens to Connavar. See, when dealing with warfare, politics, diplomacy, it doesn't matter. He'll react perfectly, keep his head, show mercy, etc. However, the second something happens to a friend, he loses it. Completely. He'll storm off with vows of vengeance. He'll give in to red fury and slaughter whole villages. The lack of self-control is astounding. Sure, he acts guilty about it later, but it almost feels like I'm dealing with a schizophrenic. Dealing with foreign leader? Connavar the magnificent: outsmart him, say the right thing, defeat some lackey, and then leave a hero. Dealing with the death of a friend? RAAAWWWWRRRRRRRRRRRR, CONNAVAR SMAAASSHHHHH!
Anyways, I'm getting wordy. Gemmell deals with some wonderfully mature themes, playing one what is right and what is wrong. My favorite example is of a fox eating a hen's chicks. To the hen, the fox is a murderer. To the fox, he just had a meal to sustain his life. He constantly tweaks with perspective. Who is evil, the king who kills four people to take the throne, or the warlord who slays thousands to take the throne back "honorably"? Connavar is clearly supposed to be complex, and he's pictured as a massive bear with chains holding him in check (the chains being honor, duty, etc). More often, he feels like two characters. Cliche or not, repetitive or not, I still LIKE the good Connavar, the stereotypical Gemmell hero. While I certainly understand readers who cannot endure this book because of what bad Connavar does, I also can sympathize to some extent. I can forgive a man who himself is seeking forgiveness. I just expect him to learn eventually.
So far, it doesn't seem like Connavar is learning. After one incident, he swears that he will never be the same again, and always remember that lesson. And then a few chapters down the road, he does something even worse. He mopes, hides, and eventually swears, again, that he will never be the same, and never forget. Except this time, I don't believe him. I want to, but I don't. We'll see if the next Rigante book changes my mind.(less)
First and foremost, I'll say I have not seen the movie. Only thing I knew going in was that the movie is a classic, and HAL turns evil. Needless to sa...moreFirst and foremost, I'll say I have not seen the movie. Only thing I knew going in was that the movie is a classic, and HAL turns evil. Needless to say, I had some surprises waiting for me.
What I enjoy about good science fiction is how the author can make the most fantastical events seem not only possible, but downright plausible. Compared to say, Star Wars, space travel in 2001 is difficult, slow, and impossible when looking at moving beyond the reach of our own sun. This all is shaken when an alien artifact is found on the moon, and is indisputably declared 3 million years old.
Oh, did I mention 3 million years old? Let me back up a moment. The book starts 3 million years ago. Forget the 10,000 years Asimov spans with his Foundation series; here we've got 3 million crossed in the span of a few opening chapters. It's an enjoyable bit, watching as aliens effectively guide the evolution of man, alerting them to the ideas of tools, and therefore inescapably, warfare.
Of course, here I am expecting some sorta space shuttle with a killer AI program, and instead I get cavemen and alien objects on the moon. Loved every second of it, too. I want good science fiction to give me ideas, things to ponder over or wonder about the implications. An alien object waiting for us on the moon, which gives out a signal when dug up? What does it mean? Is it a warning? A guide? Will spaceships arrive to Earth, and if so, in how long? Will they be friendly? Ready for war? Or do the aliens even still exist 3 million years later? What sort of empire could endure for that long, what with us silly humans ready to nuke ourselves into dust within a few years of actually launching into space?
Anyway, the HAL segments actually intrigued me the least. Maybe by now I've just read and seen too many rogue AI stories to be surprised by this one. From what little I know, this segment is much longer in the movie, and given the variety of topics covered in the book, this is probably the strongest and wisest area to expand.
It's after HAL is disconnected that things get really interesting. I'm sure there are plenty who don't like the ending, but I LOVED it.
Gimme big. Gimme epic. Gimme a reprogrammed man with god-like powers arriving at Earth, blowing up the moon, and floating amid the debris trying to decide just what to do with his new home. That image is awesome, the potential stories following incredible.
Was the book perfect? Naah. Slow at times, outdated in others, and its emphasis on difficult, yet tedious and uneventful, space travel had more implications when every shuttle launch was a risk. Myself, having grown up with Star Wars and Star Trek, enjoyed this like a breath of fresh air. This was an adventure in a space filled with mysteries and implications, and I was glad I came along.(less)
I know people who say they like to read books because it takes them places. When you think of, say, Lord of the Rings, there's many awesome battles, b...moreI know people who say they like to read books because it takes them places. When you think of, say, Lord of the Rings, there's many awesome battles, but people also remember the sights themselves, from the quaint peaceful realms of Hobbiton, to the great city of Minas Tirith, to Sauron's tower rising out from a blackened land. Of course, it takes a lot of time to travel between them (and plenty of people are fond of complaining about it, too).
In Amber, characters travel between these majestic locations like you and I might walk from one street block to the next. Zelazny is willing to show you -anything- he can dream up, and his imagination alone is worthy of deeming this collection a classic.
Almost as important is his reach. He's not telling a story of a kingdom surviving the attack of an enemy. Oh no. That isn't big enough. Imagine a million alternate worlds, and then run a black road through them all, spreading destruction as it grows to encompass every world, every city, every creature imaginable. In the center of all these alternate worlds is Amber, sort of like the pillar holding everything together. Should it fall, so does all else. Tolkien wanted to show the battle for one single Middle Earth. Zelazny wants to show a war to save billions.
The main narrator is Corwin (yes, it is first person, but don't worry, the writing is a masterful combination of beauty and down-to-earth jokes and grumblings). He wakes up in a hospital, with no memory of who he is, what happened, but my isn't it peculiar how his broken legs are healed so quickly? From there he encounters his family person by person. They backstab, deal, threaten, switch sides a hundred times, and all can walk through shadows to whatever realm they wish. I loved every second of it.
The series starts to bog down around the third book. The climactic fights, which sometimes feel like a boy grabbed various action figures and started slamming them together (go, go, wolfman army, shoot down those pterodactyls! Oh no, knights in armor, fire fire fire!), grow less frequent. There is a LOT of talking, and while it is usually spaced out well, near the middle there is so much, trying to establish who is friends with who, what happened to what, etc.
By the end of the book, I loved the narrator, adored the city of Amber, felt like I personally knew the various princes and princesses of the city, and sorely wished I had more. I checked the next five books, and was sad to see the narrator was not the same. Oh well. Farewell, Corwin. You gave me one heck of a ride.(less)
'Bedtime Stories' is a wonderful collection of short stories all linked together with an unsettling distrust of the future. Some of the stories, such...more'Bedtime Stories' is a wonderful collection of short stories all linked together with an unsettling distrust of the future. Some of the stories, such as 'Shiners' and 'Mr. Blue', focus on total disruption between mankind's ability to communicate and interact. 'Padre', a story about a man willing to go into the middle of a Mexican sewer in search for a cure for his daughter's cancer, ends on such a disgusting yet oddly hopeful note that I felt baffled. Even the weaker stories ('Branding' comes to mind) are still excellently written.
Any fan of either horror or short stories should be willing to give this collection a shot. Delightfully macabre.(less)
Dark forest in Maine 5 scientists 1 veteran Marine leader 3 tents 1 love interest 1 pound of flesh-eating grubs 1 severed hand 3 zombies...moreIngredients:
Dark forest in Maine 5 scientists 1 veteran Marine leader 3 tents 1 love interest 1 pound of flesh-eating grubs 1 severed hand 3 zombies 2 guns 1 mind-controlling queen 0 bars on cell phone reception 1 sex scene, plus more to taste
Directions: Combine scientists, marine vet, tents, then place into the very center of Dark Forest. Using severed hand, separate military vet, then mix with love interest and sex scenes. When thoroughly warmed, dump entire pound of flesh-eating grubs into mix. Stir well. Top with 0 bars on cell phone.
Serve zombies separate as a side dish, sprinkled with mind-controlling queen. Do not let them mix with the guns.
Serving size: One Novel
Each serving an excellent source of: humor, gross-out bug attacks, B-movie horror monsters, and frantic attempts for survival.
More recipes? Try these recommendations: 33 A.D., Night of the Crabs.(less)
Red Church begins with two boys, Ronnie and Tim, discovering a playboy in the graveyard. This brief beginning of boys will be boys and brotherly squab...moreRed Church begins with two boys, Ronnie and Tim, discovering a playboy in the graveyard. This brief beginning of boys will be boys and brotherly squabble is both fun and real, and I'd recommend enjoying it as much as possible because a scene like that won't appear in the book again. This book isn't just about the Red Church: it is obsessed with it.
The story is clearly in the vein of Stephen King, and saying so is really just stating the obvious. The similarities are sometimes striking. The writing will often switch to interior monologues that ramble on and on in incomplete sentences, carrying more a stream of thought designed to convey the character's horror. Sometimes it is effective, sometimes not. At times it worked, while other times it felt obligatory. "Must be a scary part," I'd mutter to myself. "Another italicized monologue."
But the Stephen King similarities are also in Scott's overlaying of both religion and worldly problems upon his characters amidst the supernatural. Ronnie's parents are struggling, with divorce looming in the distance more frightening to Tim than the monster living in the bell tower. Unlike King, however, these matters seldom trump the actual supernatural. In many of King's stories (say, Pet Sematary for example) how the main character deals with the mundane in his life drives him to the supernatural and decides the strength of its power over him. In this, the obsession with the Red Church reduces that.
I guess I should explain what I mean by obsession. We're given the viewpoint of many different characters, and with every one, we gain glimpses to their thoughts. Barring the very beginning, everyone is thinking of the Red Church. They worry about the monster in the bell tower. They worry about the returned son that has taken over the congregation. They discuss the murders. They discuss sacrifice over and over and over. This might not seem a problem, but what this means is that at no point do we see any glimpse of a normal life. Ronnie goes to school, he talks about the bell monster there. When the cop is investigating the case, he's remembering the death of his brother at the Red Church. When we hop into Ronnie's father's head, he's worrying about his wife...but not his relationship to her. Not anything I can relate to: just her involvement with the Red Church.
What precious detours we might get outside this narrow focus tends toward backstory only. So while all this kept the dread of the Red Church omnipresent, it also made it take far, far longer to get a feel for the characters and bond to any of them. Even now, I feel a little fond for Ronnie...and that's it. And maybe Mama Bet, but that's because I'm a little sick in the head (just like Mama Bet).
But despite this (rather shockingly wordy review, my gosh) I haven't touched on the true star of the book, and it ain't the Red Church: it's Archer McFall. The second son, the shapeshifter, master of the bell monster, a messiah of blood and sacrifice so delightfully twisted that if another book were written with him as villain I'd snap it up and vault it to the top of my TBR pile. He's the creature form It, only with a god complex this time. It doesn't matter to me that he swayed people too easily, or that his seeming invulnerability removed a bit of tension from certain scenes. While his true form at the very end may lack grandeur or near as much horror as his earlier renditions, his sweet words remained. For him alone I recommend this book.
Just one complaint: be ready to read the phrase "livers for eyes" about 500 times. It just isn't scary. Nothing at all is scary about the word 'liver' unless the phrase "eat your" is before it. But you'll see it, again and again and again and again, and every time I tried to see it, I saw big gooey human livers glued to a man's face like some goofball let loose in a meat locker playing a practical joke.
Bah. This is long enough as is. If you want psychological horror, where faith matters as much as bullets, where your own mother is tempted to deliver you as a blood sacrifice, and the goals of the Evil are far beyond a few simple killings, then I whole-heartedly recommend Red Church. Or if you like Stephen King. But that should be obvious by now.(less)
There is something about Durzo Blint that is immensely appealing. Other characters came and went. The main character, Kylar Stern, alternated between...moreThere is something about Durzo Blint that is immensely appealing. Other characters came and went. The main character, Kylar Stern, alternated between cold-blooded killer, immature teen, and weepy pacifist. Yet Durzo was always Durzo, a cold-blood assassin (excuse me, *wetboy*) that was better than anyone in the art of killing. That he has a secret past is no surprise, but when the surprise is revealed in book two, it feels both immense and incredibly amusing.
The first book in the series starts off dark. There's child molestation, murder, and an overall feeling of despair and surrender to everything evil inside men's hearts. While some might not be prepared for how far the author goes, the setting is necessary for Kylar's development, as well at he redemptive themes that become far more prevalent in books two and three.
Despite Kylar's random mood swings, he was an overall enjoyable main character. Like Durzo, he is a killer at the top of his game. The special powers he inherits halfway through the first book are both over the top and yet consistently controlled. It may feel like the author is cheating, but at the same time, I know he's not. Don't read The Night Angel Trilogy expecting anything mundane. Mr. Weeks wants to kill gods, destroy cities, and have his characters play with artifacts older than entire civilizations. It gets a little overwhelming having ten different world-destroying creatures, weapons, and artifacts all being swapped, stolen, and revealed, but by the third book things calm down and start making sense.
Speaking of making sense, Mr. Weeks is not the best at introducing characters you don't know. There are plenty of times I'd be reading, start a new chapter, and then wonder if I had skipped a part somewhere along the line. Random people in random locations get thrown out often. Have faith in the author, though; they'll come around in time, and make perfect sense. MR. Weeks might not be subtle, but he's effective at not messing around.
Would I read more by Mr. Weeks? Most certainly. Other than a few odds and ends, this was a series after my own heart. And all because of Durzo. He's the star of the show whenever he makes his entrance, and by the end, you might find yourself wishing for another book dedicated solely to him.(less)