I expected more from this novel given that I enjoyed the previous books in Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series so much. The book prior to this one ended...moreI expected more from this novel given that I enjoyed the previous books in Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series so much. The book prior to this one ended with Julius Caesar's assassination so I knew that Iggulden would probably expand on the events that followed in this novel. And he did, but he didn't do a lot to give much life to Caesar's avengers: Mark Antony & Octavian (later Emperor Caesar Augustus). Sure, he described the difficulty these two men had in just agreeing to fight on the same side rather than against each other (something Shakespeare didn't do in his "Julius Caesar"), but the rich background stories that Iggulden wove into the previous novels about Caesar (and Marcus Brutus too) were not there. In fact, I think the best written part of this novel was the chapter where Brutus contemplates his actions against his friend, Julius Caesar, and his suicide in the face of Octavian/Antony's approaching forces. I also liked the ebook's extra content, Iggulden's short story "The Fig Tree", which gave us a little insight to Octavian at the end of his life. It, at least, told us he had a wife...something the rest of the novel did not do.(less)
One of my favorite Shakespearean plays is "Romeo & Juliet". David Gray's novel offers a possible alternate ending to the play which exposes the yo...moreOne of my favorite Shakespearean plays is "Romeo & Juliet". David Gray's novel offers a possible alternate ending to the play which exposes the young lover's deathes as yet another ruse to avoid persecution from their feuding families. However, things go awry, and the two find themselves on the run as a corrupt government official sees their escape from Verona as a way to elevate his standing in Verona's political arena. The first half of the novel lacked any real detail about life in Italy (or at least what is now Italy) during the middle of the 16th century. Instead it followed Romeo & Juliet through a number of barely believable cat & mouse scenes with the primary antagonist, Ugo. It really wasn't until the couple reached Venice that the story picked up, in both tone and pace, and I found myself becoming interested in what happened to the two lovers. I also liked how Gray introduced us to many of Shakespeare's other famous characters (Portia, Othello, Shylock) but few of them, except Othello, played any major role in saving Romeo & Juliet from destiny's desired fate. Gray also incorporated many real life artists and politicians from the day, which certainly made the book seem based in reality than fiction, but again, many of those real people did little to propel the story along, and Gray seems to have taken some liberties with the facts about their lives. For example, he says that the painter, Titian, is 92 years old in the book, but the real life artist lived to be no more than 88 years old. Little details like that bother me a bit. I am a bit anal like that. Sorry. A clever way, nonetheless, to continue the story, but I like tragedy, and as far as I am concerned, Romeo & Juliet never left the Capulet's tomb alive. (less)
"To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea." (Rogers)
This was an amazing novel. It blended historical fact with historical fiction an...more"To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea." (Rogers)
This was an amazing novel. It blended historical fact with historical fiction and a touch of horror so well, that one would think it all actually happened. Dan Simmons, the author of this book, must have researched / studied the John Franklin Expedition of the Northwest Passage for years to come up with such a detailed novel. As I read, and questioned some of the things that Mr. Simmons proposed as being possible outcomes of the expedition, I also did a bit of research myself, and was surprised time and time again about how accurate the author's work was. For instance, the sailor's names, families, jobs, ages & history are, historically accurate most of the time. I say "most of the time" as I cannot imagine how Simmons would know how each individual died, but that is, of course, the fiction part of the story. He also expands on what we do know about the fate of the expedition: the two messages, the 3 bodies on Beechey Island, etc, and turns it all into fascinating pieces of the bigger, tragic story. And then there is the "thing on the ice". A creature so devious & intelligent, that Franklin's men never had a chance to escape the great white north. But, it isn't the creature that does the majority of the men in, but rather their own ignorance, desperation, stupidity, selfishness and fear of dying. What kills the majority of them is that they are human and fallible. I personally enjoyed reading some of the later chapters told from the point of view of the men who chose or was forced to accept his own death. One chapter in particular was very difficult, yet enthralling to read: the chapter where a near dead sailor realizes that the others are abandoning him on the ice, and struggles unsuccessfully to get their attention before they disappear into the enveloping fog & snow. Spooky, because it was most likely how things truly ended for some of these explorers. Do not hesitate to read this book, but be prepared to spend hours awake in bed shaking your head at the sad reality of what probably was a torturous end for all of these brave men. (less)
I will open with a quote from Dickens which I think aptly describes Dan Simmons' "Drood":
"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the...moreI will open with a quote from Dickens which I think aptly describes Dan Simmons' "Drood":
"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts."
The shadowy figure on the cover, presumably the evil & twisted "Drood", and the description of this creature which purportedly haunted Charles Dickens after the horrific experiance of barely surviving a train crash in 1865 were the best parts of this book. Instead, Wilkie Collins, a frequent collaborator of Dickens and the novel's narrator tells a story that focusses more on his own life, his drug abuse, and his love/hate relationship with Dickens. In fact, you begin to wonder if Simmons should have called this book "Collins". Sadly, on page 766 of this epic, even the author admits that: "...Reader. You never cared about my part of this memoir [Collins speaking about his own, large role in the novel]. It was always abour Dickens and Drood, or Drood and Dickens, which kept you reading." True enough. And I am still waiting.
The one redeeming quality of this book is Simmons' seemingly accurate, and intense descriptions of mid-19th century London and especially the dismal underbelly of a city where the macabre was normal.(less)