Man, these just keep getting better and better. This is the second book of the second trilogy of the overarching Second Apocalypse story, the third (aMan, these just keep getting better and better. This is the second book of the second trilogy of the overarching Second Apocalypse story, the third (and last?) being released in 2015, if I'm not mistaken.
The first trilogy - The Prince of Nothing - reads like a fantasy take on the first crusade to Jerusalem, coupled with elements of Dune, the Silmarillion and LoTR. Imagine Aragorn going insane, and becoming a prophet with a mission to unite the whole world under an iron rule, in order to protect it against an unspeakably perverted evil out to kill every single human being.
Having achieved this, the second trilogy - The Aspect Emperor - details the ordeal of actually going out to destroy said evil, and the results of trying to do so by any means necessary, while the newly founded empire is imploding due to the insanity of the imperial family and plotting of alien gods.
I admit these books aren't for everyone. They are grimdark in the very bleakest sense, there is nary the tiniest glimmer of hope found anywhere, and the characters are invariably flawed, making bad decisions and constantly suffering the consequenses. The setting is very dark, a real crapsack world where greed, bloodlust and lechery are the driving forces of most everyone. Hierarchies of power are relentless, and a human life, least of all the lives of the millions of slaves, are worth next to nothing. Above all of this, the gods offer no solace or redemption, only eternal damnation, which incidentally is the driving force and motivation of the antagonists.
Bakker's language is quite dense, with plenty of references to names and places, in a manner that feels rather archaic (partly it reads like the Bible, or like I compared it earlier, to the Silmarillion). It is also partly very poetic. This is even more pronounced in this particular book - The White-Luck Warrior. There is often great beauty to be found in the tragic events that permeate the story. Bakker is a philosopher, which is noticeable for example in the different Schools of Magic, which are based on classic schools of philisophy. So, do not expect a light-hearted fantasy romp, featuring strong-jawed righteous heroes, or wizened wizards wearing pointy hats. Said wizard is more likely bound to be a drunken, cowardly loser, driven by petty revenge, and bound to repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.
Oh, and erect phalluses. There are lots of erect phalluses. Being the distinguising mark of the antagonist (yes, really), there are plenty of erect phalluses, and heinous acts being performed by the bearers of them, mostly on dead or dying people. So, you've been warned.
But, all in all, this series have become perhaps my favorite "modern" fantasy series - in close competition with Joe Abercombie's books (which, funnily I found very bleak when I first read them, but actually feature quite a bit of humor, and one or two glimpses of hope here and there - something that is entirely missing from Bakker's works). I am definitely looking forward to the next, and last, part of the trilogy....more
I'd prefer to call this a "serial novel" rather than a collection of short stories, as only the first one is really stand alone. That being said, I foI'd prefer to call this a "serial novel" rather than a collection of short stories, as only the first one is really stand alone. That being said, I found it competently written, and reasonably exciting. I like the "compactness" of the writing of the first two or three parts, Howey kind of loses some of that for the last two ones, however, which is a shame, because the feeling I get is that it starts out like one type of story and ends up like another, more traditional (and to me, less exciting) one.
Despite a few YA tendencies, the characters feel reasonably faceted and believable, although without much depth. But they do fit into the plot and type of setting. A bit more complexity and nuance would have lifted the whole thing to another level, but as a piece of genre fiction it is well written, and the setting is interesting enough to keep you reading. ...more
I have to say that I have given up reading it twice, to read other books, and mostly I came back because of so many others seemed to think it was so gI have to say that I have given up reading it twice, to read other books, and mostly I came back because of so many others seemed to think it was so great. But to be honest, I believe I mostly finished it because I wanted to know what the fuss was all about, not because I actually enjoyed it. That being said, Nick Harkaway do have a voice of his own (although it does remind me of Desolation Road) , he can write with wit and he has plenty of imagination. But to me it seems like he tries a little bit too hard. That is maybe understandable for a debut novel, but his editor should have been a bit more insistant on him cutting some of the fat. Many of the little meanderings are entertaining, but not all of them, especially around halfway through the story. The plot "twist", or rather reveal, comes at around 65% in, but should really come sooner, and would if the backstory was tightened up a bit. (Desolation Road is 360 pages, which I think is just about right for this kind of story)
Then there are a few details regarding the very conveniant geography of the world (it feels exceptionally small, as nothing is further than a truck ride away), and almost all key characters all having grown up together in this nice little town half a world (but only a short truck ride) away from everywhere else.
All in all, not my cup of tea, but I see how others might like it. ...more