Before I even sat down to read the sequel to John Dies At The End, I couldn't get Men In Black out of my head. Not just because I was aware that this...moreBefore I even sat down to read the sequel to John Dies At The End, I couldn't get Men In Black out of my head. Not just because I was aware that this one dealt with the complicity of the Human Authorities in the affairs of a greater outside force, but because I was reminded of how absolutely great Men In Black 1 was, and how universally disappointed we were when MiB 2... happened. MiB had wit, and zing and pace and everybody on screen was clearly delighted with the script and the tone of the whole thing, MiB 2 had all the brio of someone filling in a tax return.
This is nowhere near the plummet in standards that MiB and it's sequel were, it's more like an honest attempt on the part of the author to re-bottle the lightning that made up the first book, but, well, the first book was bottled lightning. It happens once and you walk away happy that you made it. You don't spend the next seven years standing out in the same field holding a jar full of foil.
TBiFoS;SDDTi is just not as good as John Dies At The End. JDATE had a hopelessly episodic structure and was rather amateurish in it's writing, but it had spunk and anger and legitimately felt like a loving tribute to The Evil Dead crossed with a stupid version of Lovecraft. Spiders is a single narrative stretched and padded far past it's welcome with unnecessary pov's, descriptive passages and this stupid insistence on trying to weave in a meta-narrative mythology that nobody cares about.
Also, it feels a great deal less funny that the first book. With the exception of a gag in the epilogue that hits you like a fist. Pretty disappointing all around, to be honest. And better avoided.(less)
I'd heard loads about how this was Dick's best book, so started here. But if this is as good as it gets I can't see much point continuing with him.
It...moreI'd heard loads about how this was Dick's best book, so started here. But if this is as good as it gets I can't see much point continuing with him.
It starts with some entertaining enough (if -understandably- dated) capitalist satire, then it introduces insane book-ruining magical powers and wastes 100 pages to get to a series of deus ex machina and plot... well, wrenches.
Bat-shit, semi-religious and it more just stops than ends. Can't recommend this at all.(less)
Tawdry, sexist and stupid, but hey it's Urbfant about vampires in the modern era. I've really only got myself to blame for reading it and at least thi...moreTawdry, sexist and stupid, but hey it's Urbfant about vampires in the modern era. I've really only got myself to blame for reading it and at least this shonky hodge-podge of other people's ideas was over quickly.(less)
The first book in the Deed of Paksenarrion series (One noun, five sylables, instant red alert).
I have to preface this by saying that I found Lord of t...moreThe first book in the Deed of Paksenarrion series (One noun, five sylables, instant red alert).
I have to preface this by saying that I found Lord of the Ring's unbearably tedious, and that every time I read -or try to- 80's fantasy (Wheel of Time in particular) I am struck by a profound sadness that Tolkien's ludicrous Middle-England populated by gay midgets, gay elves and gay... men became the template rather than Le Guin's Earthsea.
Sheepfarmer's Daughter really is eighties fantasy. A girl with a name longer than her hair (Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter) runs away from home (and an arranged marriage!) to become a Protagonist. In a world of magic swords, elves, dwarves, orcs and all the rest of the gubbins that screams "I played D&D and can recite Fellowship word for word". However, despite the fact that every red flag is raised to skyscraper height, it's really good. In spite of all the nonsense. It may even be good because of all the nonsense.
The novel has been carved from archetype and Dungeons & Dragons source books but because it knows this and plays it so unflinchingly straight -also likely because this is revealed piecemeal alongside a really compelling narrative- I found myself willingly led along. I also really appreciate a book that's brave enough to tell a story from the front line perspective and keep it there. Long stretches of Paks experience involve standing watch, securing horse food and marching places, short stretches involve trying to avoid getting stabbed and tiny flashes involve her witnessing magical and otherworldly activities. Which confuse her as much as they do us.
To be negative for a moment, the characters that aren't Paksenarrion are mostly shoddily drawn up until the last few chapters. This is a real shame as The Halveric's Son Point of View chapter was intensely moving, and if she is able to do that with her characters then why are so many of Paks fellows such ciphers? Also a sizable section (10%) of the book is a very boring odyssey from one fortified position to another, rendered devoid of tension by the poor characterisation.
These foibles aside, though, it's a very competent work with some interesting blurring of the moral spectrum in the last chapter and is piled high all the way through with confident and unhurried foreshadowing.
Really a solid, professional fantasy work all around, and a pleasure to read.(less)
Actually, you know what? I'm doing it. I'm making this five stars.
I love the Peter Grant books, I love that the author is an unfussy old lefty, I love...moreActually, you know what? I'm doing it. I'm making this five stars.
I love the Peter Grant books, I love that the author is an unfussy old lefty, I love that I get a mixed-race protagonist written by a white dude who doesn't wander around Being The Black Guy, I love that while writing about people making were-light with their brains he keeps an eye on where that light comes from and researches Transport for London procedures to keep it all absolutely in our world.
Whispers Underground expands the fabulous fantasy world hovering just underneath London yet further, doling out loads of information while still leaving the mystery and interest completely intact. And it does it with the usual grace, wit and complete lack of ostentation or pretension that I've come to expect from Aaronovitch.
If I had to criticise anything it would be that I don't really care about The Faceless Man as a big antagonist at all. The world is so fascinating and the power of entities like Mother and Father Thames, and the danger already posed by Lady Ty means they really don't need some little-finger-to-corner-of-mouth Eeeevil super wizard out there being a horrible dick seemingly just for the sake of it. Especially when everything else about the characters and setting is so convincingly drawn and utterly grounded in relatable aspirations and behaviours.
Buy these books, read them, mourn each time you finish one because there's one less to read.(less)
If you enjoyed the good Harry Potter books then reading this is a necessity. Don't let the incredibly pretentious prologue put you off, persevere and...moreIf you enjoyed the good Harry Potter books then reading this is a necessity. Don't let the incredibly pretentious prologue put you off, persevere and be rewarded with something special.(less)
Before I review this book I feel it's important that I give it some context:
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
The Farthest Shore (19...moreBefore I review this book I feel it's important that I give it some context:
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
The Farthest Shore (1972)
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (1990) The dates in particular.
The real heartbreak of this book is that it does not need to be a continuation of Ged's story. In fact, it should not. Books 1-3 of the Earthsea cycle are some of the best and most profoundly moving fantasy novels that have ever been written, all three of them together have perhaps half the word-count of The Fellowship of The Ring, yet cover ten times as much plot and have hundreds of times the emotional heft of the former.
The leading lady (Tenar) bounces reactively from one man to the next for menacing/protection as appropriate, while half-heartedly muttering about male dominance in the fantasy world, which would have been... tolerable if Le Guin had not consequently taken a hatchet to Ged's character in order to make some pretty unpleasant and misandrinist remarks about the Nature of Male Character In General. Concurrently to this, the titular character is introduced as a confusing metaphor for the power of women through... dragons, maybe?
As a standalone novel, it would be bad-to-average fantasy. As a coda to the Earthsea Cycle it is a travesty. Please, please read the first three, then never read this one.(less)