The Drowning Girl, the Nebula Award nominated novel by Irish-born writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, is arguably the best example of how effective an unreliab...moreThe Drowning Girl, the Nebula Award nominated novel by Irish-born writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, is arguably the best example of how effective an unreliable narrator can be. It isn’t a commonly used storytelling device, but works so perfectly with the style and feel of this story that it’s surprising that it isn’t used more.
The novel is a book within a book, the story of a woman named India Phelps, called Imp by her friends, who struggles with trying to put her history of mental illness onto paper. She tells fantastic stories about mermaids and sirens, often contradicting herself within a single paragraph. What makes the unreliability more interesting is the fact that India actually acknowledges that she’s contradicting herself; she is fully aware that she isn’t completely sane, but swears that every version of the story she tells feels real in her own mind.
[Review originally from Android Dreamer, a website dedicated to mostly indie sci-fi & fantasy.]
Ever since the whole Harry Potter multimedia empire...more[Review originally from Android Dreamer, a website dedicated to mostly indie sci-fi & fantasy.]
Ever since the whole Harry Potter multimedia empire began, stories about young wizards and various other magic-tinged fantasy novels have become a dime a dozen. Whereas previously just about every work of fantasy had been trying really hard to be the next Lord of the Rings, the trend in fantasy now is to try to be the next Harry Potter.
Firebrand, the first in a planned trilogy by R.M. Prioleau, fits comfortably into the mold of these young-boy-becomes-wizard stories. The keyword here is “comfortably,” for better or worse. The story follows a young man and his little brother, who are sent away by their completely unlikable parents to be part of a magic school, where they are trained from a young age by essentially a very angry, bitter Dumbledore/Gandalf-type wizard.
The storyline itself follows typical progression. There is some early struggle, but Kaijin, the protagonist, gets a hang of the power and becomes an above average wizard. Very few stories are told of the wizard whose abilities are just “meh.” Naturally, evil is a foot and there is much fire and undead creatures and general ne’er do-welling.
In Franz Kafka's often-overshadowed novel The Castle the main character is a land surveyor, who spends the entirety of the story trying to gain entry...moreIn Franz Kafka's often-overshadowed novel The Castle the main character is a land surveyor, who spends the entirety of the story trying to gain entry into a big walled castle to do his job. His efforts are basically to no real end, until he is finally told he is going to be allowed in while he is on his death bed. Haruki Murakami is often compared to Kafka, and I would say that Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the first of his novels that I have read in which this influence is on the forefront.
There are two stories being told in the novel. One of them follows an unnamed narrator as he works for a mysterious professor cracking codes, only to suddenly find that government agents and various groups of not-so-nice people want something from in. He basically gets dragged into the middle of an information war that seems to be straight out of a cyberpunk novel. There are moments throughout this arch that had me thinking of the ridiculous bureaucracy and government tomfoolery of Kafka's The Trial.
The other story, and in many ways, the other side of the same coin, has another unnamed narrator who comes to a strange walled city giving away his shadow for the gift of being able to read dreams from animal skulls. The Town in which he resides is completely walled around, and only the birds are able to escape. It calls back to the aforementioned The Castle in that the narrator essentially finds himself in the completely opposite situation.
It took me a long while to get into this novel. Actually, I didn't even realize it was two different stories until about a quarter of the way, so spent the early part confused. It wasn't until a little more than halfway through that everything started to come together in my head, and I started to appreciate the brilliance and, for lack of a better word, how Kafkaesque it really was. Being a fan of Kafka, I appreciate this, and ended up really enjoying the novel as it went on. I was convinced early on that this was going to be my least favorite of Murakami's works, but in the end I was really into it. It's no Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood, but is certainly another mark in Murakami's ever-growing win column. (less)
Headhunters may be the best 25 cents I've ever spent on a book. It isn't deep, life-changing literature by any stretch of the imagination, but you'd b...moreHeadhunters may be the best 25 cents I've ever spent on a book. It isn't deep, life-changing literature by any stretch of the imagination, but you'd be a fool to expect that out of a Shadowrun novel. That being said, I was really surprised at how actually how good it is. The plot is full of action and moves at a breakneck pace as would be expected, but is also very intriguing and kept me wondering about it the whole time I read.
To make things better, the cast of characters are fantastic. There isn't a lot of chance for character development in a book like this, but Odom manages to find time and make the entire group of shadowrunners interesting on different levels. Most tie-ins like this treat characters as meat that is only present to get the plot moving, but these characters seem like real people with real depth. Jack Skater, Quint Duran, Archangel, Elvis, and Cullen Trey are all characters I would love to see again.
All in all, I can't recommend this enough to someone who likes pulpy cyberpunk. It has everything you could ever want out of a Shadowrun novel, and actually does a great job of going above and beyond. Loved it.(less)
I have never had a harder time figuring out what my final rating would be in a book than I did with The Sixth Discipline. I generally am more picky in...moreI have never had a harder time figuring out what my final rating would be in a book than I did with The Sixth Discipline. I generally am more picky in terms of what I will review and what I won't, and if I'm completely honest with myself, I wouldn't have said yes to this if I had known really what it was. That being said, I have an immense amount of respect for this novel and Buxton's ability as a writer, but as it turns out is not the kind of novel I actually like or would ever seek out.
The Sixth Discipline is a romance novel with touches of science fiction and fantasy thrown in for good measure. I would say that it is basically a Harlequin romance novel for the fantasy/sci-fi crowd, but that would be falsely implying that it is badly written. Although I am not a fan of romance stories in general, and didn't enjoy the novel for what it was, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of writing...
No matter how much good a writer has going for them in terms of writing ability, unfortunately...more(Reviewed for my science fiction blog, Android Dreamer)
No matter how much good a writer has going for them in terms of writing ability, unfortunately sometimes it isn't enough for me to really think a novel stands out. I'll be the first to admit that, when it comes to fantasy especially, I'm super picky. In order for me to be really interested in a fantasy novel, it needs either absolutely brilliant characters, some really interesting new twist on the genre, or a plot that grabs me. Unfortunately, in the case of Element Keepers: Whispers of the Wind, none of these curriculum ended up being met.
The story mostly follows Rhet, a simple man who works as a fish-gutter, who finds himself and a friend stolen away from his village by a group of strangely attractive women. He has no idea why he's been taken, and really no idea where he's going. Unfortunately, "small town boy becomes a wizard" is a far too common storyline in fantasy, and I think that overall the weakest point of the novel is that it relies a bit too heavily on common fantasy tropes.
There is certainly an audience for novels like this; some people just eat up fantasy and love every bit of it, and others just get attachments to novels for no good reason other than that they just like it. This is certainly valid, and there is definitely a group of people who will like this novel a lot. My feelings towards the book are obviously the exception and not the rule, as other reactions to this novel by amateur critics like myself have been pretty overwhelmingly positive.
This book is not without its good points. Marcellin actually writes very well. Her prose is solid, and paints a good picture without ever getting overly flowery or otherwise distracting. Writing that doesn't distract from the story is always a positive, and Marcellin has good prose in spades. It is also refreshing that her dialogue is very good; I never felt in reading this novel that the characters were saying things unrealistically. She clearly has an ear for dialogue that is extraordinarily important in being a writer of any longevity.
Although I found this book to be relatively average, I still think Marcellin is a worthwhile writer because her foundation is so strong. With her prose and dialogue, she is perfectly capable of writing a great novel down the line. It may very well be that her next book grabs me in a way that this one didn't, and I wouldn't be surprised. There are many writers with great ideas who aren't necessarily great writers; Marcellin has the writing down, and maybe the ideas are something that will come along. I can definitely see that some people will love this book, but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. (less)
(This review and many others are cross-posted to my science fiction blog, Android Dreamer.)
Mossflower is the second book in Brian Jacques' beloved Red...more(This review and many others are cross-posted to my science fiction blog, Android Dreamer.)
Mossflower is the second book in Brian Jacques' beloved Redwall series, and the first prequel to the original Jacques wrote. It is set immediately preceding the founding of Redwall, the titular abbey where many of the good creatures of the woods would call home at the time of the novel of the same name. It follows Martin the Warrior, a figure of legend during the events of Redwall, as he teams up with other people of the woods to remove the dictatorial cat Tsarmina from power, in the hopes of giving freedom to all of the people of Mossflower (the name of the region).
The most immediately noticeable aspect of this book is that Jacques' writing quality is significantly better than in his first book. In the earlier work, there were times when the prose was a bit weak, and it was definitely noticeable. This has been fixed in Mossflower, as Jacques' writing quality went from amateurish to actually above average. Whereas Redwall was a more straight forward story that generally only focused on two sides of the same story (Cluny the Scourge, a bilge rat, attacking Redwall, and the creatures of the abbey itself, planning its defense), in Mossflower he weaves many arcs and lines of the overall story to create a much more developed narrative.
With all its improvements, there are still weaker points of the book. It starts out very well, but around the middle starts to get muddled, as if Jacques was trying to juggle too much at a time. There is so much going on in the various aspects of the story that it gets a bit rough to follow. He changes the perspective of story far too often; you may be following one group for only two paragraphs at a time before it switches to another group entirely, and I think the book would have benefited greatly from editing so that each group gets a few pages or a chapter at a time, rather than just a few paragraphs. The first and last thirds of the novel are quite excellent, however, it just suffers from a bit of a second act lull.
In the end, I think Mossflower is better than its predecessor. The maturity of Jacques writing is good to see, and bodes well for the other installments in the series. There are still areas to improve, but Mossflower was just as enjoyable and charming as its predecessor, but even better written.(less)