Capsule review: Will, who dreams of being a knight, is instead chosen as an apprentice by the Ranger, Halt. Fun enough, but not really original, and tCapsule review: Will, who dreams of being a knight, is instead chosen as an apprentice by the Ranger, Halt. Fun enough, but not really original, and the conflicts resolve too easily. Decent YA fantasy....more
Capsule review: Bella Swan moves to Forks, WA and becomes infatuated with a vampire, Edward Cullen. Too long by half, unrealistic dialogue, dull plot,Capsule review: Bella Swan moves to Forks, WA and becomes infatuated with a vampire, Edward Cullen. Too long by half, unrealistic dialogue, dull plot, and otherwise generally boring.
This will be a preliminary review. I'll try to organize this into a better review later.
Twilight wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. It's not really any worse than the average fanfic. That said, it does have some problems.
First, it is too long. The story doesn't pick up until halfway through the book, by which time you've read over two hundred pages about the very dull Bella Swan. Now, I don't require constant action, and I'd be fairly happy to read a couple of hundred pages developing the characters and their relationships, but that brings me to the second problem...
The characters are poorly developed. Except for a few very basic things, we just don't know anything about them. Even Bella, who is telling the story, is pretty much a mystery (if I'm being charitable--uncharitably, she's just empty). I'd expect, after reading 500 pages from Bella's point of view, to have a good idea of what she thinks and what she'd do in any given situation. But, except for a few specifics ("Bella, who are your favorite baseball team?" "The Forks Vampires!" "Bella, want to go to a dance?" "Only if I get to dance with a vampire!"), I just don't have a good enough grasp on her to make any predictions.
The first two problems tie together, too. The first half of the book or so is spent developing (poorly) Bella's relationship with her schoolmates and father, and the second half of the book is spent developing (poorly) Bella's relationship with the Cullens. But the Cullens don't really figure into the first half, except for Bella mooning over Edward, and the other residents of Forks don't really figure into the second half. I think that Jessica and the others get mentioned for about one line after page 300, right at the end.
My suggestion to improve the book: spend fifty or seventy pages introducing and developing the characters that matter (pretty much just Bella and the Cullens, with a special guest appearance by Jacob Black, I guess), and then dive into the story from page 300 or so. That way, you get a nice, 250 page novel that you can easily read in a couple of hours, and your time won't be wasted by characters getting abandoned halfway through.
I hate to write a review that focuses only on the negative, so let's look at the positives, too.
Once the Cullens showed up (not in the distance, at the beginning, but later, when Bella is properly introduced to them), the book really did pick up. Not just because of the action, but because Bella started meaningfully interacting with other characters. Pining over Edward and ignoring Jessica isn't meaningful interaction. But Bella becoming friends with Alice is meaningful. There's not nearly enough attention given to it even to call her friendship with Alice a minor subplot, but at least we see that there is more to Bella than just Edward.
The subplot with Billy Black trying to warn her away from the Cullens is somewhat interesting, as he does have the best of intentions, and he's in the know, so he and Bella are maintaining the masquerade during their discussions, including those that occur by proxy.
Really, I think that whenever Bella is paying attention to someone other than Edward, the book improves. The main problem I have with Twilight as a romance is that the relationship between Bella and Edward is just obsession with no basis (unless "you smell so good that I want to kill you" and "you're so pretty that I want you to kill me" counts). Outside of the main couple, though, Meyer spends a (very) little more effort developing things, and the book is better for it.
Well, that turned into a long, rambling review, and even my positives section was filled with negatives, but I wanted to get my thoughts 'on paper' while they were still fresh.
Recommendation for this book: don't bother....more
Born to Run is urban fantasy. The premise is that elves and banshees and various creatures and circumstances of tThis review also appears on my blog.
Born to Run is urban fantasy. The premise is that elves and banshees and various creatures and circumstances of the Irish and Scottish mythology are real. The good elves are relatively well-disposed toward humans, and will generally help people, and the bad ones hate humans and will try to do them harm. The modernization of this basic story is that the good elves, led by Keighvin Silverhair, are building racecars in order to get money to help children, since in the modern world magically-created gold isn't so useful, while the bad elves (and other creatures of the Unseleighe Court) are running a business creating kiddie porn and snuff films, enjoying both the monetary profit and the negative emotions.
The story plays out in the lives of the elves of Elfhame Fairgrove, the human mage Tannim, the retired metallurgist Sam Kelly, and the teenage runaway and prostitute Tania.
I like this modernization of the mythology. It serves as a great basis for the story, and it's an interesting enough setting to hold the reader's attention.
Unfortunately, the writing wasn't so good. It was very heavy-handed. I'd even call it amateurish, in many ways. The foreshadowing is obvious enough that they might as well have just said "check back in a hundred pages when this plot thread ties into the others".
(view spoiler)[In particular, it was totally obvious from the beginning that Ross would be helping out in the climax ("You need me, you call."), that Tania would be rescued by Tannim ("She had vague memories of a dream, where Tannim was some kind of warrior, in leather and blue jeans, and he fought monsters to protect her. . . ."), that the bad guys who make kiddie porn would use Tania in their plot against the good guys... and so on. It would have been far more surprising if those things hadn't happened. Even the character of Skippy-Rob was pretty obviously set up as someone we should miss when he died--someone to die to show us how serious things are. (hide spoiler)]
Besides the plot-related issues, the book feels very like reading fanfiction--regular references to popular culture and scifi/fantasy literature. As for the former, being published in 1992, it's very firmly set in a late-eighties/early-nineties cultural milieu, which is probably a little more jarring now than it was twenty years ago. As for the latter, the only other book I can think of that made quite so many scifi references was Inferno by Niven and Pournelle, but it had a pretty good reason for it. Born to Run also ignores the Law of Conservation of Detail at odd moments, devoting, for example, two large paragraphs to describing Tannim's bed. Those kinds of things can add character to a work, when done well, but they just felt out of place here.
The heavy-handedness I mentioned comes through not just in the foreshadowing, but in the moralizing the book engages in. The most substantial theme of the book is that there are children in very bad circumstances, forced to live as no child should, and that this is a real problem. True and important. But they try too hard, I think, to convince us. A relevant quotation:
Sam nodded, but he had reservations. Not that he hadn’t heard about all the supposed abused kids, on everything from Oprah to prime-time TV dramas, but he wasn’t sure he believed the stories. Kids made things up, when they thought they were in for deserved punishment. Hell, one of the young guys at work had shown up with a story about his kid getting into something he was told to leave alone in a store, breaking it, then launching into screams of “don’t beat me, Mommy!” when the mother descended like a fury. Embarrassed the blazes out of her, especially since the worst she’d ever delivered in the kid’s life was a couple of smacks on the bottom. Turned out the brat had seen a dramatized crime-recreation show the night before, with an abused-kid episode. Sam was beginning to think that a lot of those “beaten kids” had seen similar shows, then had been coached by attorneys, “child advocates,” or the “non-abusing spouse.” Wasn’t that how the Salem witch-trials had happened, anyway? A bunch of kids getting back at the adults they didn’t like?
Sam, being one of the good guys, comes around pretty quickly (he decides that elves are probably pretty hard to trick). I recognize that the authors are intentionally trying to head off the kinds of arguments people make in the real world, by having them countered in the story, but it still feels clumsy. And it's far from the only time in the novel when there's a scene that is almost certainly only present to counter some misconception that the readers may have.
I've said a lot of bad things about this book, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. I'll probably read the others in the series, some time, and I'd even recommend the book--if you think it sounds interesting, you'll probably not be disappointed if you read it. Just don't expect a masterpiece. The plot is engaging enough, and it's not hard to care about what happens to the characters, particularly in Tania's segments.
I enjoyed Lackey's Valdemar series much more, but this book is a pretty solid 3/5, in my opinion. It used to be in the Baen Free Library, but it doesn't seem to be, anymore, so if you'd like to read it, you'll have to pick up a copy elsewhere.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
(I read this for Coursera's SF&F class, taught by Prof. Eric S. Rabkin.)
These were pretty interesting, in general. Some of the stories were dull,(I read this for Coursera's SF&F class, taught by Prof. Eric S. Rabkin.)
These were pretty interesting, in general. Some of the stories were dull, some were fun, some were odd, some were familiar, and some were new to me--quite a mixed bag. I'm glad I read them, though.
I enjoyed most stories like "Six Soldiers of Fortune" and "The Gallant Tailor", where the protagonist wins his fortune through cleverness and guile. It was fun, too, to read stories I was already familiar with, in these versions, such as the aforementioned "The Gallant Tailor", or "Aschenputtel", or "Little Red Cap".
We were to write an essay on this for the class, and I wrote about gender roles in the stories--in particular, that ambition is rewarded in men but punished in women.
In all, I think this was a great way to start a class on science fiction and fantasy, and well worth reading for anyone interested in fairy tales....more