The best part of the book is the fact that Lord Magpyr is aware of every single vampire trope—and is determined to be unaffected by any of them. He inThe best part of the book is the fact that Lord Magpyr is aware of every single vampire trope—and is determined to be unaffected by any of them. He intends to be the first of a new breed of vampire: invulnerable to anything. The main hitch in his plan isn’t the witches. It’s his servant Igor, who thinks that the old ways are the best and that his new master is a disgrace to the memory of the old Lord Magpyr.
This book is a humorous send-up for anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Frankenstein movie, a Buffy episode, or Dracula itself....more
I’d describe this as: “the one where Gytha Ogg and Esme Weatherwax go to Ankh-Morpok and meet the Phantom of the Opera.” I quite enjoyed it. PratchettI’d describe this as: “the one where Gytha Ogg and Esme Weatherwax go to Ankh-Morpok and meet the Phantom of the Opera.” I quite enjoyed it. Pratchett had some great humor around the inherently nonsensical nature of opera. And, of course, it’s great fun to see what happens anytime that Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg interact with unsuspecting innocents....more
This book was better than Shadow's Edge, the previous book in the series. The action moved along at a brisk pace and there was plenty of it. Much moThis book was better than Shadow's Edge, the previous book in the series. The action moved along at a brisk pace and there was plenty of it. Much more action than you normally get in a book of epic fantasy.
The action comes at a cost though. This entire series spent much less time on world building than typical epic fantasy novels do. I think that’s a weakness of this action packed approach. Because it’s epic fantasy, Brent Weeks created a large world with multiple different nations, complex politics, varied religions, and multiple different magic systems.
Weeks spent comparatively little time actually describing how everything worked. I spent a lot of time confused, wondering what was going on and what the significance of certain characters or actions was. Things were unexplained enough that I spent parts of the story wondering if I’d missed a previous book that set things up or if parts of this story were missing.
The story was also prone to sudden bouts of info dumping. Often, it would come as characters suddenly paused and “realized” what had been going on for the past 10 chapters and thought threw a whole chain of events. Or characters would suddenly start explaining things in-depth in a way that rarely felt natural. These info dumps served to inform the reader, but in a way that magnified the story’s flawed structure.
Weeks created characters that I liked and magic systems that were interesting, but I didn’t completely enjoy the books that contained the stories. I read Brent Weeks as an experiment. After concluding the experiment, I’m not sure I’ll be reading more of his books....more
I really enjoyed The Way of Shadows, the first book in this series. I thought it was exciting, fast paced, and a real page turner. I did not feel thI really enjoyed The Way of Shadows, the first book in this series. I thought it was exciting, fast paced, and a real page turner. I did not feel the same way about this book.
I wish I’d been taking notes as I read this book. There were several instances where the dialog was downright pedestrian or things were awkwardly phrased. The pacing felt odd in places. There was a lot less action and a lot more moping around and traveling from place to place. This definitely was not a page turner.
I’m hoping this was just a sophomore slump or a middle book muddle. I’ll be disappointed if The Way of Shadows was the highpoint of this series....more
I put this book on my reading list for 2015 because Brandon Sanderson described Weeks' writing as "epic fantasy novels that read with the pacing of a
I put this book on my reading list for 2015 because Brandon Sanderson described Weeks' writing as "epic fantasy novels that read with the pacing of a thriller". After reading this novel, I can confirm that Sanderson wasn't exaggerating. This book is an absolute page turner, even as Weeks paints a world worthy of epic fantasy.
And it's a gritty, dark, painful world. Pain, viciousness, and brutality are everywhere. Don't spend too much time hoping for things to come up roses for our heroes—no one will make it to the end of the story uninjured. Azoth is a 10-year old member of a criminal street guild, barely able to survive. He wants to become a "wetboy" (an assassin with magical Talent) because he's tired of being afraid and powerless; he wants the security that kind of power can give him. His desired mentor and teacher is Durzo Blint, the best wetboy in Cenaria.
This is the story of how Azoth becomes Kylar Stern, the wetboy that he always wanted to be. He has to make painful decisions about whether or not to have friends and how to protect the people that he cares about, in spite of trying not to care.
This isn't a great story. But it's a good story that's written very well. I read it to see if Weeks was an author that I wanted to follow closely. Given that I read a 659 page novel in 3 days, I think I've got my answer. I'm already looking forward to the next novel in the Night Angel series.
Time travel stories are my favorite sub-genre of science fiction. I've always loved the idea of visiting other times. I'd like to experience history d
Time travel stories are my favorite sub-genre of science fiction. I've always loved the idea of visiting other times. I'd like to experience history directly. I'd love to sit in the audience for the first performance of Handel's Messiah or one of Beethoven's symphonies. I'd love to experience Teddy Roosevelt's charisma for myself. What was imperial Rome like, at the height of its power?
I'd also like to experience the planet as it existed in the past. I'd love to see what it would be like to walk through the forests that used to sit where Buffalo now stands. What would it be like to hear Niagara Falls from a distance and walk up to it through the trees? What did the Great American Plains really look like, during the pioneer days?
In this collection, Robert Silverberg provides three time travel stories that touch on these elements. I've read a lot of time travel stories and these three are all worthy of a place in my personal top ten list.
Hawksbill Station is the perfect prison for political dissidents. Instead of spending money to guard them or courting political dissent by executing them, just exile them to the past instead. In this case, the late Cambrian era. The only form of life is trilobites; everything else is rock and water. There are no trees, no grasses, no ferns, no birds, no fish, no mammals, nothing. There's nowhere for the prisoners to escape to and no way they can interfere with history, to change the world of their past.
When I first read this story, I fell in love with Silverberg's description of the bleakness of the late Cambrian era. It's haunting, in the best possible way, and makes me excited about that part of the Milwaukee Public Museum's pre-history exhibit in a way that probably mystifies everyone else.
But the setting is almost the least important part of this story. "Hawksbill Station" is really a character study of Jimmy Barrett, the King of Hawksbill Station. He was a reluctant revolutionary long before he was a political prisoner. Silverberg invites us into his life, both at the beginning and end. It's a moving story where the time travel, as fascinating as it is, is the least important part of the story.
Up the Line
This is a more comic story. Judson Daniel Elliot III is a bored young man, who allows himself to be talked into a job as a Time Courier, a tour guide of the past, because of his love for historic Byzantium. A job as a Time Courier gives him the opportunity to criss-cross Byzantium's history, seeing all of the great events, people, and places.
Don't picture the Time Couriers as lantern jawed heroes, in love with the past and devoted to their duty. You should picture them more like a group of clock punchers, more dedicated to having fun on the job than to the job itself. And, well, with all of history to play around in, hijinks will ensue. Things will go wrong, and the police (the Time Police) may get called.
As is typical with Silverberg, the story revolves more around the characters than around the gizmos. It's a human story, but also a bit of a farce as we get to witness how human nature mixed with time travel can be a recipe for trouble.
Two identical twins: Eric and Sean Gabrielson are the subjects of the very first human experiment in time travel. They'll start their journeys through time together, from the same platform. They'll both move through time, like a pendulum that's gradually increasing its swing. First Eric will move five minutes back while Sean moves 5 minutes forward. Then Eric will move 50 minutes forward (from the fixed reference point), while Sean moves 50 minutes backwards. They'll continue alternating swings through time, each swing taking them an order of magnitude further into the past and future.
That's the hook. Silverberg uses it to paint one vignette after another of both humanity's past and humanity's future. With the twins, we see an inauguration parade for President Harding, have an encounter with neanderthals, and get to experience the majestic grandeur of California's redwood forests, centuries before they were overrun by development and tourism.
This is another story, like "Hawksbill Station", that I'll love just for its beautiful descriptions of lost worlds. I'll never be able to see them in person, but Silverberg has a genius for helping me to see them in my imagination.
I like hard science fiction, but I don’t like it for the stories. Most of the hard SF stories that I’ve read are a little bit thin in the plot departmI like hard science fiction, but I don’t like it for the stories. Most of the hard SF stories that I’ve read are a little bit thin in the plot department. Mostly I don’t care, because I’m not reading them for the plot or the characters. I’m reading them for the ideas. It’s a more enjoyable way to learn about science than actually reading journal articles.
This story isn’t an exception to that generality. There wasn’t a lot of plot and the characters weren’t very deep. But the science was interesting. It had a lot of elements that I enjoy. There’s a company called “Bootstrap” that exists to, well, bootstrap humanity into space, mining the incredible wealth in the asteroids.
Bootstrap uses cheap, disposable rockets and its initial flight is piloted by an intelligent squid. The flight is to an asteroid called Cruithne, which appears to orbit the earth in a very odd pattern. The launch date is sparked due to the Carter catastrophe.
The characters also use something called a Feynman radio, to pick up signals from the future. As things progress, we see a vision of a possible far, far future where humanity’s distant descendants mine the stars themselves, and blackholes, for energy. The characters also witness a succession of universes, showing that our universe is but one of an evolutionary tree, with universes evolving from each other. It turns out that blackholes could be the means by which daughter universes are spawned.
All of these science elements are either real or quite plausible and Baxter gives a list of references, at the end of the book. Don’t read this for the plot, but do read it for the ideas and the exploration of what could, quite possibly, be....more