It's hard to be objective, because this is one of my favourite books of all time. After seven volumes, we're now so deeply into the mind of FitzChival...moreIt's hard to be objective, because this is one of my favourite books of all time. After seven volumes, we're now so deeply into the mind of FitzChivalry Farseer that it feels like a second home, and while some may complain that nothing whatsoever happens in this book (they'd be wrong - a lot happens in this book, there just isn't really a plot), I rejoiced in being given the time and space to see more of Fitz dealing with ordinary life. Hobb's great stylistic strength might be the way that she takes often quite cliche and uninteresting fantasy tropes and revitalises them, by showing what they mean for real people - what motivates the tropes, and what their consequences are.
This is also that very rare thing, a grown-up fantasy novel, by grown-ups, about grown-ups, and to a larger extent for grown-ups, as the middle-aged Fitz looks on upon the foolish actions of younger characters (and it's great to see parental concern, one of life's greatest motivating forces, take centre stage in a fantasy novel, rather than romantic love, or adventure, or glory), and looks back upon his own youthful follies. But just as the young Fitz made a lot of mistakes, so too perhaps do the two middle-aged Fitzes (both the Fitz who is a character in the novel and the later Fitz who acts as the narrator) - but this flawed narrator is nothing more than an extension of the flawing, the humanity, of all the characters.
I'm not going to go on at too much length. I suppose to sum it up, I would say: this is a great fantasy novel about relationships and psychology and growing older; it also has a surprising amount of dramatic tension, not only around the relationship developments but also around the inchoate heroic plotline that will take over in the final volume of the trilogy; it is, however, rather formless, with a lot of parallel plot strands but no overall arc, and consequently the emotional pacing is lacking and there is no fulfilling climax (or there is, or are, but it or they are long before the end); it definitely benefits from the reader having read The Liveship Traders as well as The Farseer Trilogy; if you don't like Fitz, you won't like this book; if you love Fitz, hopefully you'll love this book.
The concluding part of The Liveship Traders, and probably the best, as the excitement and emotion are ramped up into an explosive conclusion, as multi...moreThe concluding part of The Liveship Traders, and probably the best, as the excitement and emotion are ramped up into an explosive conclusion, as multiple plotlines collide. More than an enjoyable read, it is a thought-provoking novel enlivened by perhaps the greatest character in fantasy. I found the various problems (the wrapping-up could have been a bit better; some characters and plotlines feel barged out of the way by the main climax entering) relatively minor; however, many reader may continue to find it relatively slow and distant, despite the engaging characters. Then again, if you've made it through the first two volumes that presumably isn't a problem for you.
A fast-paced SF slightly-comedic mystery thriller - that starts out a very, very good slightly-comedic SF mystery thriller, and then suddenly and repe...moreA fast-paced SF slightly-comedic mystery thriller - that starts out a very, very good slightly-comedic SF mystery thriller, and then suddenly and repeatedly morphs into unexpected shapes.
Maybe not the book for you if what you want is a slow build-up of character and setting, or if you want everything to make sense. Definitely for you if you want fast-paced funny and... unusual... SF.
It's a very popular book. I'm not entirely sure why. I didn't get it. I'm not convinced there's anything that I'm not getting.
Mitchell is clearly a ta...moreIt's a very popular book. I'm not entirely sure why. I didn't get it. I'm not convinced there's anything that I'm not getting.
Mitchell is clearly a talented writer, and I have to applaud the way he's able to write six totally different stories each with in very different style. Along the way he's funny, interesting, and, particularly in the second half (where the structure of the book gives us six finales in a row) exciting.
So why aren't I fawning over it? Because I think that being funny, interesting and exciting is par for the course for a good book, and for a really notable book I want more. And this book falls down in its lack of cohesion, its self-important grasping at a profundity and meaning that its actual content does not merit (there are too many parts where the audience seems intended to go 'oooh, this is deep, man!', but where there is no depth beyond what you'd find on a calendar or greetings card), and above all its monotonous lack of imagination. Each of the six stories is a familiar story told in a familiar style. I kept waiting for something new, and couldn't find it. Nor did I experience much emotional engagement with the characters - partly because they felt like characters rather than people, and partly just because we don't spend enough time with any of them.
So my views on this are mixed. If it were presented to me as a moderately fun, light read that was also a little bit clever, I would have been very happy with it. But it seems to be being held up as what it pretends to be but isn't - something deep and something new. And that I can't recommend it as.
Because of those expectations, I have to sound negative about it, because frankly this isn't all that. On the other hand, if you put those expectations aside and set your bar for enjoyment low, this is probably worth reading.
God's War reads much like a Shadowrun novel set on another planet, with more decapitation, and without the corporations: cynicism, grim dark 'grittine...moreGod's War reads much like a Shadowrun novel set on another planet, with more decapitation, and without the corporations: cynicism, grim dark 'grittiness', morally ambiguous if not outright unlikeable characters, violence, more violence, and a paranoid plot with competing shadowy enemies with mysterious motivations. At times - particularly in its ultra-cynical, noir-in-broad-daylight narrative voice, it almost verges on self-parody.
Given that, it's a surprisingly good book. It's mostly (barring the ending) a satisfyingly high-octane action novel, in an intriguing setting with surprisingly rounded and well-painted (if still not particularly likeable) characters. Unfortunately, it all feels very familiar to me, despite the superficial weirdness of the setting. I think there are also structural issues.
I feel that calling it 'Good' may be giving it the benefit of the doubt (perhaps because so many people seem to love it - also probably why it's taken me so long to put this review up), but I also think it's a book I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt to, since it's interesting and bold and confident. So 'Good' it is - with reservations, but also with some optimism for the sequels.
If you'd like to know more about my thoughts regarding it, my fuller review is over HERE.