It seems like almost all of my friends have read this already, and I can see why. I really enjoyed it. Sure, none of the concepts in American Gods are...moreIt seems like almost all of my friends have read this already, and I can see why. I really enjoyed it. Sure, none of the concepts in American Gods are really original, but it's well-executed. Even with my barely passable knowledge of various religions and mythologies, it was fun to figure out who might be a god and which god they were.
I've read a decent number of Gaiman's books by now, and this is my favorite so far. It's not exactly fast-paced, but the plot rolled right along like an old Winnebago on Route 66, with enough action sprinkled in to keep my attention. The twists were plentiful and of the best kind --the ones you don't seem coming, but they make perfect sense in retrospect. There were a few slow parts -- the dream sequences, in particular, became a little tedious after a while -- and the connection between some of the "Coming to America" sections and the main storyline wasn't always clear. These faults were really minor, though, and I think the good far outweighed the bad.
If nothing else, American Gods definitely piqued my interest in learning more about mythology. This might be one to re-read in a few years - I think it might be even more enjoyable the second time around.(less)
I watch a lot of cop shows - Law & Order, CSI, NCIS - and in all of these shows, there is invariably an episode or two where the FBI or some other...moreI watch a lot of cop shows - Law & Order, CSI, NCIS - and in all of these shows, there is invariably an episode or two where the FBI or some other entity comes into a case to argue about the jurisdiction. Of course, the mystery then takes 5 times longer to solve because no one can legally do any sleuthing without knowing whose job it actually is. That's what this book kept reminding me of. Jurisdiction, man.
I had read Perdido Street Station a few years ago and loved it, so I was excited to read another of China Miéville's books. This one was slightly disappointing though. The concept is really fantastic - two cities, overlapping and occupying the same physical space, with the invisible borders protected by an enigmatic branch of international law known as Breach. People living in either of the two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, learn to "unsee" landmarks and people in the other city - for instance, swerving to avoid cars in the other city while refusing to acknowledge that they are actually there. In execution, the story just doesn't deliver as much as the concept promises. The first third of the book is extremely confusing, the middle third (taking place in Ul Qoma) is actually pretty good, but then it loses steam again in the last few chapters. The dialogue is also a bit strange and stilted - I think Miéville may have written it that way intentionally, in order to make it sound like a translation, since English is not a commonly spoken language in either of the cities. Again, that's a cool idea, but it just comes off as weird when you're reading it.
In all fairness, this review is more like 3.5 stars, and I might even give it 4 if I were feeling generous, because there were some really cool parts. But overall, this book mostly just left me feeling "meh". I must admit, I love the term "topolganger", though.(less)
Yeah, so this is a bit of a weird one. But that's totally a good thing. It's not really horror, not really science fiction... but it has definite elem...moreYeah, so this is a bit of a weird one. But that's totally a good thing. It's not really horror, not really science fiction... but it has definite elements of those genres, among others. The plot is twisty and turny and doesn't really make sense because hey, everyone is on drugs!
David Wong (another to add to my author-as-character shelf) is one of the most creative unreliable narrators I've read--and I have quite a fondness for them. He goes so far as to invent plot holes and inconsistencies, then go back later and point them out, showing how the nature of reality is constantly shifting in his world. It's a warning not to trust any of your senses, not to believe his story actually happened the way he says it did while recounting the whole tale to a skeptical yet intrigued journalist in a strip-mall Chinese joint in Undisclosed Midwestern America. And yes, there is an actual story here, despite originally being published as a series of random online posts. It's a meandering, absurd, over-the-top plot, but a plot nonetheless. John Dies reminds me a little of The Illuminatus! Trilogy and Crooked Little Vein in ways, with a similar creepiness factor to something like House of Leaves. The tone is loud and brash and unapologetic, and yes, the humor is extremely juvenile. But come on, who doesn't think poop and dick jokes are funny?
I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed that (view spoiler)[John in fact doesn't die at the end. Misdirect! I guess that leaves room for the sequel that is apparently coming. (hide spoiler)]
In any case, they're releasing a movie based on it this year, and the trailer has me pretty damn excited. Check it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I finished this one a little while ago, but I wanted to mull it over a bit before writing a review.
The Lies of Locke Lamora isn't really like anythin...moreI finished this one a little while ago, but I wanted to mull it over a bit before writing a review.
The Lies of Locke Lamora isn't really like anything I've read before. The best way I can think to describe it is as if Neil Gaiman and China Miéville had a lovechild that happened to be a cross between Oliver Twist and Hollywood heist movies and set in a fantasy world that bears a startling resemblance to Renaissance-era Venice, just with a lot more crazy alien glass. Locke Lamora is a young orphan as the book opens, who escapes being sold into slavery by joining the ranks of a Fagin-like character, the Thiefmaker of Camorr. But after a while, Locke turns out to be trouble: he is too clever for his own good and steals from the wrong people, so the Thiefmaker sells him to the Eyeless Priest. And that's when Locke becomes a Gentleman Bastard, one of an elite crew of con-men-in-training.
It's a really enjoyable ride. Scott Lynch is an expert world-builder and is also a master of pacing. The twists are complex and deliberate and the characters are well-developed. He's not afraid to kill them off, either--risk-taking like that is a trait I admire in authors, even though it sometimes upsets me! I can barely believe this is a debut novel.
I did enjoy the first half more than the second, where I feel it slowed down a little. I think that may have been just a question of me devouring the first part so voraciously, though--like crashing a couple hours after chugging a double espresso. It's not like there were any sections I thought should be cut, or ways I think it could have been improved.
This was a really solid effort and a total page turner. I'll definitely be grabbing the next installment sometime soon.(less)
After recently enjoying Beukes' other novel, Moxyland, I decided to pick this one up. Wow. It's very different, but just as wonderful, maybe even more...moreAfter recently enjoying Beukes' other novel, Moxyland, I decided to pick this one up. Wow. It's very different, but just as wonderful, maybe even more so.
Set in a dystopian-fantasy version of South Africa where traditional African culture and magic mingle with modern technology, the story follows Zinzi December, ex-con turned small-time private eye. You see, part of what makes this world different is in addition to jail time, violent criminals are "animalled" -- a physical manifestion of their guilt becomes their companion, along with some type of magical power. Pretty fair trade off, I think, though it kind of sucks that having an animal is a pretty obvious stigma and "zoos" are seriously disadvantaged in society. Zinzi's animal is a sloth, and her power is the ability to find lost things, tracing intangible threads from their owners. Unfortunately, finding the occasional set of keys for old ladies isn't enough to pay off her massive drug debt (oh yeah, she also used to be a junkie), so she's been roped into writing 419 scams for some shady folks. Until she gets roped into solving a missing persons case for some even shadier folks.
At its core, this is really a pretty simple mystery story - urban fantasy with some noir elements - but it's executed brilliantly. There are tons of quotable passages and lots of clever quips from Zinzi, who is a totally kick-ass heroine. I wish Beukes had elaborated on some parts, though, especially Zinzi's backstory: I wanted to hear more about how she got her brother killed (this isn't really a spoiler, it's mentioned quite early in the book), her Former Life as a journalist, and her time in jail. I would have also liked some clarification on Hell's Undertow. Maybe this is a book that actually needs a sequel?
Anyway, I hear it's been optioned for a film, so if you're one of those people that likes to read the book first, get on it.
Note on the Kindle version: This had some formatting issues, mostly random line breaks and the occasional lack of space between two words. It didn't affect readability or my enjoyment of the book, but did jar me from the text a few times. YMMV.(less)
Don't mess with time travel, guys. You WILL fuck it up and change history, and then you'll try to fix the damage and just end up preventing yourself f...moreDon't mess with time travel, guys. You WILL fuck it up and change history, and then you'll try to fix the damage and just end up preventing yourself from being born. Trust me on this one.
I probably never would have heard of this book if it weren't for GoodReads, but I'm so glad I did. It seems like every other novel these days is some new version of half-assed steampunk, but this one is actually good. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is a whole lotta book: history, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, humor... it is nothing if not genre-bending.
It starts off with quite a unique concept: famous explorer and linguist Sir Richard Francis Burton and his friend, the extremely eccentric poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, are enlisted by the King of England to investigate some strange events occurring in London. They're basically early secret agents, and the writing has a bit of a Sherlock Holmes flavor to it. But wait! There are also an abundance of paranormal elements, creative anachronistic technology, well-thought out time travel, and an actual plausible explanation for an alternate history.
Absolutely stunning for a first novel. I was gripped from the very beginning and devoured the whole thing in just a couple days despite being extremely busy that week. (That's always the mark of a good book, in my opinion.) The amount of painstaking research that went into this is readily apparent and Hodder's world-building is fantastic. I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the series.(less)
I was in the mood for something light and fun and this was available from the library as an ebook, so I thought I'd check in with Alexia Tarabotti in...moreI was in the mood for something light and fun and this was available from the library as an ebook, so I thought I'd check in with Alexia Tarabotti in this second installment of The Parasol Protectorate series. Actually, she's Lady Alexia Maccon of Woolsey now, having married werewolf Alpha Conall Maccon at the end of book one. There is less romance in this one, and almost no awful sex scenes, so I may even have enjoyed it a little more than the first book. We also get introduced to a great new character in the enigmatic, Victorian-butch inventor and milliner Madame Genevieve Lefoux. Not high literature, certainly, but it was good escape reading for a busy subway commute. Judging by the semi-cliffhanger ending, the next one should prove interesting as well.
One question though: (view spoiler)[Where the hell were Ivy and Felicity during the final dinner scene when Lord Maccon bites and turns his great-granddaughter? I find it impossible to believe that they were at dinner and didn't do/say anything - seriously, Alexia of all people faints, but the two of them are fine? But I also don't remember any explanation about why they aren't at dinner, and just not showing up to dinner when you're a guest in someone's home does not seem like proper Victorian etiquette to me. (hide spoiler)] I smell a plothole.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
All in all, this is a pretty excellent follow-up to The Lies of Locke Lamora. It's got confidence games, knock-down drag-out alley fights, and witty b...moreAll in all, this is a pretty excellent follow-up to The Lies of Locke Lamora. It's got confidence games, knock-down drag-out alley fights, and witty banter just like the first book, but this time there are also pirates. Fucking pirates, man. And Locke and Jean have no idea what the fuck they're doing, but damned if they're not going to keep trying to be richer and cleverer than anyone else. Even if it means being used as assassins and double agents while trying to pull off a near impossible heist.
There are some great new characters in this one, which is good since Lynch basically killed everyone off in the last book. I appreciated that both the pirate captain and her first mate were women -- awesome, badass pirate bitches. But when in the hell do we get to meet Sabetha? Is this just going to be a long-running gag, with characters mentioning her in every book but the readers never getting to see her or even find out why the hell Locke is so obsessed? Please no. I fully expect her to make an appearance in the next book, okay Mr. Lynch?(less)
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first two in the series. It wasn't as funny and endearing as the previous installments -- or maybe the charm...moreI didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first two in the series. It wasn't as funny and endearing as the previous installments -- or maybe the charm has just worn off, since these novels are a bit formulaic. Still, it was a refreshing change of pace from the heavier stuff I've been reading lately. Cute, but meh!(less)