Fun and interesting. A lot of cool science, some ominous (but not terribly ominous) climate change data, and neat insights into the way the various re...moreFun and interesting. A lot of cool science, some ominous (but not terribly ominous) climate change data, and neat insights into the way the various research stations function socially and economically, both one by one and as a sort of continent-wide, international community. I do think a bit that some of the whimsical humor and quirkiness of the place, which Walker seems to really admire if not downright fangirl, is less some astonishing adaptation mechanism of almost superhuman cameraderie in face of nature, etc, and more that it's a bunch of nerds on a really extreme camping trip, but I guess that was charming in its way too. (less)
Like all the other Kate Griffin books i've read, this one is a fast, entertaining, wonderfully imaginative extravaganza. And it's a bit disappointing....moreLike all the other Kate Griffin books i've read, this one is a fast, entertaining, wonderfully imaginative extravaganza. And it's a bit disappointing. It's almost entirely, really, a sequence of action scenes. They're peppered with intense but tiny moments of characterization and story, glimpsed out of the corner of the narrative eye. I always wish - always expect, actually - that sooner or later the book must turn to them, that these are what it's all about! The problem is, what arrives instead is the end of the book. It gradually becomes doubtful that theres really any there there if we should look there, which makes me sad.
It's all done with such wit and charm and creativity that I can almost overlook it, but not quite, after five books in the series. This is almost a book about community, almost about the city, almost about growing up, almost about sacrifice, almost about loneliness. In other words, it's almost a book about people. Unfortunately, it's mostly a book about things blowing up. (less)
A bit of a paradox of an experience, to my reading priorities. The first half or so was slow, scattered and almost dull. It took me two months to read...moreA bit of a paradox of an experience, to my reading priorities. The first half or so was slow, scattered and almost dull. It took me two months to read those hundred pages in tiny, tiny increments. The next hundred I got through in a single late-night go. Perhaps it was just a question of mood, but the end felt much more focused and attention-holding, offering good solid things for reader interest to latch on to - death, redemption, travelogue, etc.
However...it's also somehow much less interesting. There's a sort of collapse of potentialities from folk tale sensibility of the beginning, with it's bewildering profusion of somewhat illogical characters drifting in and out of a stylized structure. The second half becomes much more obvious and narratively conventional - just a handful of neatly laid out character arcs with clear beginnings, catalyst and catharsis. This is satisfying on one level (redemption, love, overcoming stuff, etc. You can't really go wrong with those) but frustrating on another. Not necessarily as an emotional/intellectual division either. It also becomes much more overtly an SFF work in sensibility rather than folk-magic-realism-whatever.
I usually don't appreciate dull complexity above entertaining simplicity, but in this instance the ending leaves me feeling somehow slightly robbed of a much thornier (and this is not in reference to the happiness of said ending) less easily comprehended story lurking somewhere in there. (less)
Is it an adage that the extraordinary and calamitous is what tends to make it into the historical record? This book, therefore, is somewhat filled wit...moreIs it an adage that the extraordinary and calamitous is what tends to make it into the historical record? This book, therefore, is somewhat filled with collapsing roofs, corrupt abbots, pregnant nuns, criminal monks, hallucinations, suicides, things catching fire and a really extensive collection of unpleasant illnesses. Its a bit of a puzzle to piece together what was actually ordinary daily life, not to mention finding the gap between the rules of what was supposed to go on (nothing leavened by singing) and what actually went on in the regular course of things (shenanigans!)
Particularly striking for me, aside from the amazing love for for drawing blood (who came up with that?!) was how deeply god was in everything to them. Nothing was ever mere chance or plain unrelated, in a way that sounds frankly like wishful thinking pretty often, but maybe illuminates how deeply incomprehensible everything, from the weather to the body, must have been. A world without explanation or coincidence.
Interesting throughout, and with refreshingly straightforward, clear and accessible writing, especially for a fairly academic work. Not sure how thorough it is or where it fits into the scholarship of the subject, but perfect for my needs in fleshing out a praxis for a character in a fantasy book ;-).(less)
This book utterly outwore my patience. Not much plot and lousy characters. And, of course, the politics. That women are people is fine sentiment, but...moreThis book utterly outwore my patience. Not much plot and lousy characters. And, of course, the politics. That women are people is fine sentiment, but I think it would take more than one real character to get that across. The main characters personal-growth-via-embracing-ancient-wisdom-of-natives story is not somehow less annoying and reductionary if they're all women. In turn, it makes women less - the lack of any characters who do something other than tell Marge how wonderful she is makes the society of Jeep too idealized, too sweet, too new age hippy dippy for my taste. Yes, as a woman. I can be a person with men around too. (less)
Yay! Awesome ending. Can't wait for the next one. Its a fairly dark, slow book, and it dragged a bit in the middle, and some aspects of the ending wer...moreYay! Awesome ending. Can't wait for the next one. Its a fairly dark, slow book, and it dragged a bit in the middle, and some aspects of the ending were a bit too neat for my taste, but I still think it takes the series a sort of cumulatively considerably forward. Its not in the slightest what I would have expected from this story and these characters seven books ago, certainly/
(view spoiler)[ Tisamons tragic but thoroughly consistent descent into full blown villain (hide spoiler)] I particularly enjoyed, as Tchaikovsky eviscerates the violent 'warrior ethos' prevalent in a lot of fantasy and strips it bare for the semi-fascist sensibility it is.
Well written, with an interesting concept and characters, but I felt like the book just rushed through it and never managed to give the events any of...moreWell written, with an interesting concept and characters, but I felt like the book just rushed through it and never managed to give the events any of the gravitas they required to pull off the more philosophical points. The most intriguing part was The Company, with its rather subversive, to my experience at least, take on immortality and secret histories, but that remained firmly background, unfortunately. (less)
Well, this is an odd one. Mostly it's a rather good, light, very readable steampunk romp with a likeable heroine with conveniently 21st century sensib...moreWell, this is an odd one. Mostly it's a rather good, light, very readable steampunk romp with a likeable heroine with conveniently 21st century sensibilities. The main flaw in this respect is that while theres a certain lip service paid to the Evils of Colonialism, with lots of suffering downtrodden natives and so on, all the actual non-psuedo-european characters who appear are firmly meesteerious easterners or savage southerners.
But then theres the political subplot. While the main story is lots of feisty Victorian adventuress and her cute love interests quite faithfully racing around the world/recreating a mediocre backpacking blog - lots of waiting for trains, having awkward conversations with people who's language you don't actually know, being leered at by creepy men and seeing things you've already seen in photographs - the war story is brutal, firmly twentieth century and based on some combination of the World Wars.
It's a strangely juxtaposition. I didn't quite know how finely to tune my moral radar - how do I regard the heroine's spending a chapter angsting over sabotaging another racer's carriage in a shocking display of poor sportsmanship, when a few chapters later she witnesses an Einsatzgruppen style mass murder of an entire village? Likewise, the whole steampunk-victoriana aesthetic is wildly jarring against the WW2 backdrop. They simply come in entirely different color palettes.
The individualist focus of the former plot becomes almost tragically absurd with the industrialized mass murder connotations of the latter. In particular the subplot about the development of a new magic weapon, quite clearly standing in for the atomic bomb, is drawn as broad farce, all sex, secret identities and funny sounding food. I might suspect theres a certain commentary there, but it never quite makes it, and the end wraps everything up to easily and exquisitely neatly, never managing to bring together the contradictions.
It's largely a fun, lively read that can't decide what period it's sticking too and, to my eye at least, ends up (probably) unintentionally casting it's idealized Victorianism in a strangely unflattering, almost bizarre light. It's definitely an interesting read though, and perhaps i'm just over-analyzing. Then again, whats the fun otherwise? (less)
This is that book people keep asking for in Fantasy, but secretly wonder if they'd actually want to read: the one about small things happening to comm...moreThis is that book people keep asking for in Fantasy, but secretly wonder if they'd actually want to read: the one about small things happening to common people and not about the high king and the fate of the world.
As it turns out, it's a page turner. I think there must be a kind of temptation, when writing this sort of story, to broaden the scope, give the characters more power, make the story more extraordinary, but Micklem resists and the book stays tightly focused on the psuedo-domestic (as much as possible in a war camp, anyway) sphere despite the epic war brewing in the background.
In some ways, the characterization - of everyone except the first person narrator - feels somewhat thin, but viewed through her perspective, makes sense - the reader is left with the same powerless uncertainty about others - their character, their honesty, their feelings and motivation - that she herself has.
Another really strong point is in the smooth mix of religeon and superstition woven into the worldbuilding in a way that dodges the fantasy tendency to give characters basically modern mindsets.
re-read - yup, even better. Only complaint is that it should have been longer. It's actually amazingly economical - things I remember as bein...moreNot bad.
re-read - yup, even better. Only complaint is that it should have been longer. It's actually amazingly economical - things I remember as being these enormous, detailed stories - Tyrion on the river, Daeneryn in Meereen, Asha in the snow, Theon in Winterfell, Bran under the hill, Arya, Cercei, Griff - are actually only one or two chapters, in most cases. Only Jon on the Wall really gets enough room to breathe. (less)
Excellent. Disquieting and dizzying, maybe the most interesting use of steampunk aesthetics i've yet to run across, and the only book I can recall rea...moreExcellent. Disquieting and dizzying, maybe the most interesting use of steampunk aesthetics i've yet to run across, and the only book I can recall reading that has chapters of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person POV's. (less)
Not as strong as the first book. Too many sub plots and minor characters get introduced but never go anywhere or get extremely short shrift, so theres...moreNot as strong as the first book. Too many sub plots and minor characters get introduced but never go anywhere or get extremely short shrift, so theres never any sense of tension with anything involving them. The main characters seem to have character developed backwards, and are shallower ad less layered than in the Cardinals Blades too. Still a fun adventure read, (Plots! Schemes! Treachery! Swordfights! Rooftop chases!) but feels rather distant and unengaging in terms of plot and character. (less)