I always want to love this series a little more than I do. But I DO really enjoy it and I think Butcher gets better with every book. I like the way eaI always want to love this series a little more than I do. But I DO really enjoy it and I think Butcher gets better with every book. I like the way each novel stands alone (with a complete plot arc) but we're beginning to see the shape of a larger series plot arc as well. Also, the characters remain nicely consistent throughout the series and the humor is great....more
If I were going to review Towers of Midnight - which I'm not - this is what I'd say:
Sanderson continues to do a very good job with the imposing taskIf I were going to review Towers of Midnight - which I'm not - this is what I'd say:
Sanderson continues to do a very good job with the imposing task he was given. It's a good book, a compelling read, a solid installment in the series. It's nice to see the characters finally maturing, accomplishing things, working together, and getting along. However, there's perhaps a bit too much of that. I like it, but it seems a bit too pat to me. Jordan didn't write characters standing around camp fires singing Lean On Me very often. His characters were frequently unreasonable. And these are still his characters . . . still, we had to work toward the ending eventually and this is satisfying. Sanderson is working very quickly and effectively, keeping up with his own projects while making deadlines on The Wheel of Time stuff too. But . . . his prose lacks a little something that Jordan's had. I like the way Sanderson brings pieces together, ties up loose ends, and gets things done. I don't mind an occasional typo. But the split infinitives and unglamorous grammar wore on me in this book, especially when an educated person was speaking in an otherwise rather highbrow fashion. Minor complaint but not insignificant, to me. Finally, I'd rather laugh with Mat than at him, wish the author had dialed that back a bit.
But all that's if I were going to review the book. And I'm not going to do that. ...more
I lived in a town with an independent bookstore. If you needed to own a book, The Book Bag was happy to order it for you. I hadn't yet become accustomI lived in a town with an independent bookstore. If you needed to own a book, The Book Bag was happy to order it for you. I hadn't yet become accustomed to the destination bookstore experience and I well knew the importance of supporting small local businesses over national chain stores. So I'd never visited the new threat in the next town.
But my boyfriend's mother did.
One day she brought home a paperback with a silly cover and dropped it on my lap. "They were giving this away for free as some kind of promotion over at that new Barnes & Noble. I don't read this crap, I told the cashier, but my son's girlfriend reads everything."
More true than untrue. I immediate dove in. "Feh. Blatant Tolkien knock-off," I thought after reading the first few chapters. Well, I liked Tolkien, so I kept reading. And, suddenly, it wasn't a Tolkien knock-off after all. It was something quite new and different and compelling. The giveaway was the first half of Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World and I bought the full book so that I could finish it.
I also bought, borrowed, or begged each of the next books in Jordan's Wheel of Time series until I caught up to the author - then on his sixth series novel - and began anxiously awaiting new titles as they were published. The series has its ups and downs - there are some sagging books in the middle where I feel Jordan has introduced too many characters, has too many balls in the air, and concentrates too hard on keeping them all up and spinning to actually move the plot forward or resolve any of the loose ends.
Then he died.
I was saddened by the author's death, of course. And I also was concerned about the rest of the series. I'd been reading it for more than a decade, since I was in college. Many thousands of pages, some reread several times. I wanted to know how everything turned out.
Several weeks later, I read an announcement: the series would be completed by a young author named Brandon Sanderson. I immediately looked him up, read what he had to say about taking on the challenge of finishing a series started by another author. An author with particularly enthusiastic and demanding fan base. Then I picked up a few of Sanderson's books and started reading.
I enjoyed the books, but Sanderson has a strong style of his own, and it's different from Jordan's.
When the newest Wheel of Time book came out this fall, I immediately bought it in hardback. Then I left it sitting on my nightstand for a couple of months. I was scared to read it, or to read anything about it. I cared too much for the series. "Maybe I should just wait until it's all done (two more books after this one) and read the summary online," I thought. "That way I'll know what happened in the end - Jordan summarized the ending and closed the character arcs before he died - without having someone else's voice change the characters for me."
Then I was chatting with a friend who has very strong opinions and shares them freely. (A little like me, no?) He's also a big Wheel of Time fan. "Have you read the new book?" I asked.
"I got it from the library and I stayed up until 6:00 the next morning reading," he said. "Stuff really happens in this book."
"Really? It's good?"
"It's good," he assured me.
I stopped waited for Christmas vacation and started reading immediately. He was right. The book is good. Stuff happens. The plot advances. Character and story arcs close. Tension builds. Best of all, the style, the characters, the world itself, all of the important stuff still "feels" like Robert Jordan to me.
Very occasionally I could hear Sanderson's voice (he is fond of opening sentences with a "However," construction). But those moments just served to remind me of what a great job he was doing with Jordan's story, telling it as the creator himself might have done.
I've read lots of fan fiction online, and none of it has ever satisfied me. It feels . . . forced when a fan manipulates someone else's characters to do what the fan would like them to do, and the imitation of style is never convincing to me. I have no idea how Sanderson managed to take on this huge challenge and succeed so mightily.
But he did it, and I can't wait for the last two books....more
As I began this book, I thought, "Wow, this would never have been published if Card weren't already such a successful author." The beginning of the noAs I began this book, I thought, "Wow, this would never have been published if Card weren't already such a successful author." The beginning of the novel wallows on and on with various characters' thoughts, mostly about how smart they all are. Meanwhile, nothing's really happening. But it's the Enderverse, so I kept reading. More than halfway, through, I realized that I'd read the book before. So that's really not a good sign. (I didn't find it memorable, alas.)
I did have an interesting thought this time through, though. I struggle with Card. I am a fan of (some of) his novels, but his politics are so deplorable that I don't like to support his work financially and I have occasionally wondered if he reads his own books. They seem so at odds with his personal politics (which he posts on his website and elsewhere; I now try to avoid them in order to continue enjoying his fiction).
Anyway, I remember Demosthenes and Locke from other Ender books and I enjoyed the way Card played with public opinion using Peter and Valentine. In Ender in Exile I noticed this:
P. 31: "Demosthenes was eloquent, but he always pushed a little too hard. Enough to energize the opposition, inside and outside America. Discrediting his own side if every argument."
Card has repeatedly claimed to be a Democrat (with qualifications). Is it possible, I wonder, that he fancies himself a Demosthenes? I'm thinking specifically about, well, most of what he posts. Race, war, sexuality, etc.
P. 50: "Fifteen-year-old females don't have to have their parents' consent to volunteer to be colonists. We're the ideal age for reproduction ... "
Obviously untrue (that 15 is the ideal age for reproduction) but very much in line with Card's other books glorifying child marriage. His real opinion? Or meant to be provocative?
Unrelated to the above point, but other lines that jumped out at me:
P. 94: "Sexual fantasies are scripts for future behavior." (Interesting idea. I'm still playing with it.)
P. 327, Afterword: "good men and women who have served our country in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other trouble spots where our responsibilities as the only nation with the strength and will to help beleaguered people against tyranny have been fulfilled." (Weird. The only nation to help . . . what about all the other nations who are there, helping?) ...more
I find myself engrossed, as I would with a Dean Koontz novel. It does feel rather odd to read this novel on my new nook, the same way I recently readI find myself engrossed, as I would with a Dean Koontz novel. It does feel rather odd to read this novel on my new nook, the same way I recently read Jane Eyre and several Magic Treehouse novels with my 4-year-old. Wish I were reading right now . . .
I spent much of this book hoping there was some "metaphysical" explanation for why all the main characters kept stopping the action to philosophize abI spent much of this book hoping there was some "metaphysical" explanation for why all the main characters kept stopping the action to philosophize about their personal relationships and the universal differences between men and women. Alas, no such plot point developed. Since when does *Edward* babble on about nothing?
Edward, on the phone from a crime scene: Here's a probing question about your personal relationships? Anita: What are you talking about? Edward: I have no idea.
Reader: OK, now I have no respect for you two scary killers. Can we get back to the hunt, please?
Other notes: 1) Is it now a requirement that we add a new lover with every book in the series? I wish some of them would start dying off. 2) There are better ways to deal with including back story in a series novel. As a reader I find it really annoying when one character says the blatantly obvious to another, e.g.: "What would your mother, Matilda the werepenguin, think of that?" I bet the character knows that his mother is a werepenguin named Matilda. Perhaps that bit of intel could have been shared with the reader as an aside. 3) I learned a lot about what one particular (insignificant) character looked like and wore, and what those features might indicate about her personality. Then we never saw or heard from her again. And I barely "saw" the action during the big climax scene. If I were an editor I'd say that about a third of this novel could have happily remained as author's notes, leaving more room for other bits and speeding up the pace in places. ...more
For next month my book club is reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. And that was my choice. But there's another reader insFor next month my book club is reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. And that was my choice. But there's another reader inside me, too. And that reader likes to read fun books that are quick and consumable and exciting and pulpy and fun. Also, did I mention, fun?
That reader discovered Harry Dresden a few years ago. What's not to love? In Jim Butcher's contemporary urban fantasy series, Chicago looks much as it does today. Except that, in the Yellow Pages, there's a single listing for a "Professional Wizard." That's Harry Dresden, and he's an old-school private investigator who solves problems with little help from modern technology (electronics don't do so well around magic).
The novels might start like classic noir detective stories but soon the missing artifact or other de rigueur case turns out to have an occult twist. To sum up the awesomeness here, so far we have: 1) Funny series novels set in Chicago 2) Classic mystery set-up 3) Magic.
What's not to love? That's harder to put my finger on. But I found that I don't want to read two Dresden novels back-to-back. Butcher's voice grates on me after that and little . . . flaws? stylistic choices? character idiosyncrasies? . . . in the writing begin to call attention to themselves and draw me out of the story.
So I read the books one-at-a-time, with space between, because I really like to enjoy each one. These stories have it all: wizards, magical politics, faeries, goblins, trolls, zombies, vampires, werewolves, angels, priests, fighting, battles, war, romance, you name it and it's probably somewhere in this world. As an added bonus, the main characters are geeks.
Another benefit to the slow-read approach is that I didn't catch up to the author for a long time.
But when I finished Ghost Story (Book 13, naturally) last week, I was stuck. The next novel isn't due until next summer! And only one per year after that! Alas.
If the above description captures your interest, let me underscore that/reassure you in two ways: Butcher's writing improves as the series progresses, and the novels are better than the short-lived Sci Fi Channel series loosely based on the books.
If you've tried just one or two of the novels but haven't gotten hooked, I'd recommend perseverance. I was shocked - shocked! - at what happened in Changes (Book 12). It sent me scrambling for Side Jobs, an anthology of short stories and a novelette set between various novels in the series, as well as a novella set immediately after Changes. Then I rushed right into Ghost Story, which left me hanging deliciously.
I'm looking forward to book 14 - and it's worth noting that the author does have a planned story arc for the entire series, including an ending - but I think the first 11 novels, fun as they were, were worth reading as prelude alone for all the changes in books 12 and 13.