As “One-Eyed Dragon” is a short-ish story, I don’t want to say too much about it.
It takes place in an unnamed Japanese village at an indefinite pointAs “One-Eyed Dragon” is a short-ish story, I don’t want to say too much about it.
It takes place in an unnamed Japanese village at an indefinite point in the past. We follow a tattoo artist who has lived there a short time, and is all but shunned by the villagers for reasons only ever hinted at. A small, mysterious lady comes into his shop and asks for an unusual tattoo. And that’s about all I can say without detracting from the delight that this story offers.
Sanderson’s writing is quiet, and she sets up all the elements of her story with perfect subtlety, all but effortlessly (to the eye of the reader, that is), so well that it makes this particular writer just a little jealous.
The other point that stood out for me is how well she evokes historical Japan. It’s not overt, just implied through detail and character interaction, but it is very effective and came off believably, though I’m not an expert in Japanese history. The only possible quibble is a reference to an artist with an obviously Chinese name (a real historical figure, as it happens, though Sanderson has distanced her story just a tiny bit by altering the spelling of the name), yet no mention is made by the character mentioning him that he is Chinese rather than Japanese. That an educated Japanese man would know about Chinese art does not a surprise, but that he would not make a distinction between the two cultures felt wrong to me. But again, I’m not an expert in Japanese culture or history, and the quibble is excruciatingly minor.
Even including that, I can’t recommend this story highly enough. It is lovely, just lovely.
Not a review, but a clarification of my rating. This book is NOT inferior to the first two books in the series. It might even be better. However, I diNot a review, but a clarification of my rating. This book is NOT inferior to the first two books in the series. It might even be better. However, I did not enjoy it as much, both because it is less clean in plot, especially the resolution (by intent and design, that's part of the thematic point of the book), and because it brings Vlad low enough that his charm is overwhelmed by his ruthlessness, and he permits the reader to seem him about to do something utterly abhorrent without any wit or charm to put a spin on it. This, again, was clearly the author's design, and a thing necessary to the series. But it meant that I didn't have nearly as much fun with this book as with the others....more
A meeting takes place of some unnamed individuals, barely described, and hinted to be a meeting of socialists. After two leave the meeting, one lamentA meeting takes place of some unnamed individuals, barely described, and hinted to be a meeting of socialists. After two leave the meeting, one laments to the other that if he could just see a glimpse of the future they are working toward, it would make his life much easier.
He goes home, falls asleep, and wakes up somewhere between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and fifty years later. (The book is vague and occasionally contradictory on timeframe. At any rate, events seem to be post-AD 2000.)
The entirety of the book, absent the opening chapter, is then this character's Utopian Tour, seeing just how gosh-darn nifty socialist anarchism will be in post-2000 Great Britain, and being reminded over and over (and over and over and over and over) that people in Tha Future! do not use "money".
In the end, he meets a pretty girl who figures out when he is from, seems to fall in love a bit, then vanishes back into the past.
I started this book blind, because I wanted to jump into the 1898 Top 100 Project, and I didn't want to prejudice myself against a book I'd never heard of.
Didn't make a difference. Though reasonably well-written, News from Nowhere is stupid.
The first chapter is written in a difficult style, to no obvious purpose.
Our friend says that from that sleep he awoke once more, and afterwards went through such surprising adventures that he thinks that they should be told to our comrades, and indeed the public in general, and therefore proposes to tell them now. But, says he, I think it would be better if I told them in the first person, as if it were myself who had gone through them; which, indeed, will be the easier and more natural to me, since I understand the feelings and desires of the comrade of whom I am telling better than any one else in the world does.
The viewpoint shenanigans serve no obvious purpose.
Thankfully, the rest of the book is narrated in straight first-person, and the prose is reasonably readable and clear (considering that it's a Victorian novel, I find it quite remarkable).
However, that is (almost) all that can be kindly said about the book. There are no characters, merely the author's various mouthpieces explaining why socialist anarchy is the way to go, and sooooo much better than any other system, plus the narrator, who forgets new information so quickly and so frequently that the reader cannot help but wonder if he is meant to be a moron.
The Message is never, ever subtle.
In order to throw off suspicions about his origins, the narrator (briefly making a big deal about adopting the name "William Guest", then basically dropping the idea for most of the rest of the book) lets his hosts believe that he has been abroad for a long time. They have no trouble believing this, because he is middle aged and wrinkled and gray, and so must have lived in "the unhappy lands". That is, lands where socialist anarchy is not yet in place.
He spends chapters and chapters and chapters discussing "history" with one character who specializes in it. One chapter is even written in the style of a Socratic dialogue. I couldn't work out whether this was the author attempting to show off, or simply that he got tired of writing out quotation marks for a chapter.
And the economics of it. Oy. I don't even know where to start. Factories in the 1800s, you are told repeatedly, made things that nobody wanted, on top of destroying workers' lives and polluting the nation. How were they able to stay in business, making things that nobody paid for? Don't bother to ask, it's never answered.
The ideal life for people, the author holds out, is to live an agrarian life, get transported by horses and carriages or rowboats (trains have been abolished because they were stinky and ugly), and work on whatever you want whenever you want, and otherwise not. Few people read, because that puts ideas into people's heads and makes them unhappy. And so on and so on.
The entire society isn't even remotely workable, even in some flight of fantasy way.
(It was unfair of me, because the author could not know what the twentieth century would hold, nor how communism would be put into practice in fact, but I could not read quickly, because I kept imagining all the mass graves the characters must be walking over or past or sitting on top of or near.)
And yet, this was the book that was just five books below Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment on that 1898 top 100 novels list.
This project might be far more painful than I had anticipated.
As I was reading this book (which is interesting in view of Koontz's larger career, as it goes against something I had previously believed about his eAs I was reading this book (which is interesting in view of Koontz's larger career, as it goes against something I had previously believed about his evolution as a writer), something clicked for me. I finally realized why I can only take Koontz in small doses.
He has many flaws, most of which I already knew. He's not nearly as funny as he thinks he is. He's nowhere near as deep and insightful as he seems to believe. He is incapable of subtlety, yet seems convinced that he is uncommonly subtle. He will never, ever give you two words where two hundred will do.
And that last flaw is actually key to what I find so aggravating about him (more so in some books than in others).
He's patronizing. Worse, he's patronizing toward both his readers and his characters. He goes on and on not because he has logorrhea, but because he clearly thinks that he's waaaay smarter than you, and has to make sure you know it.
The clearest example in Darkfall is this:
To the water, he added a number of substances and items that he had brought upstairs from his shop: dried rose petals; three bunches of parsley; seven vine leaves; one ounce of orgeat, which is a syrup made from almonds, sugar, and orange blossoms; powdered orchid petals; seven drops of perfume; seven polished stones in seven colors, each from the shore of a different body of water in Africa; three coins; seven ounces of seawater taken from within the territorial limits of Haiti; a pinch of gunpowder; a spoonful of salt; lemon oil; and several other materials.
See? He stops in the middle of the list to tell you what one of the items is made of, because he knows and is sure you do not. Patronizing.
The book in itself is not terribly interesting, except as a marker in his larger career. It is an early instance of a straight-out supernatural tale, where nearly all of his early works that I've read strive mightily (if clumsily, and often not at all believably) to keep some kind of natural explanation for everything that occurs. I had thought that mysticism only began to come into his work in the late '90s or so, but this is a clear counterexample to that.