The Alvin that starts this novel, isn't the eponymous Alvin. The novel starts with Alvin Miller – a father moving west with his family. Moving west to...moreThe Alvin that starts this novel, isn't the eponymous Alvin. The novel starts with Alvin Miller – a father moving west with his family. Moving west to start a new life with his family. His wife, Faith, and his (many) sons and daughters. Faith is heavily pregnant with their seventh son – which connects with the clue of the book's title quite nicely. Faith gives birth en-route, to their seventh son – Alvin. In this world seventh sons are special, the seventh son of a seventh son even more so. This world is, of course, Orson Scott Card's fantasy/alternative-history tale set in the American frontier world of the early 19th century.
Better known for his science-fiction stories such as Ender's Game, this is not only a change of genre, but a much more obvious attempt to create a trilogy than the first two Ender series books were. This first one, definitely, reads more like a prequel than a first novel. Instead of anything close to action happening, we are treated to a well-written novel of top-class world-building. Everything is explained – how Alvin Junior is born as the seventh son, the detailed relationships within the Miller family, we are introduced to Knacks (the magic of Card's world), the politics (both across the states, but also the politics between the white man and red), the struggle between Christianity and the superstition of knacks – the dynamic between the family and the Reverend Thrower is especially enjoyable, how the Unmaker is trying to kill Alvin for some reason, and how Alvin somehow keeps escaping these attempts. All very cleverly presented to us both in real-time, and as exposition through the presence of the stranger Taleswapper.
Yet, though nothing really happens, this is Card writing as well as you remember – there are no carbon-cutout characters and while some secrets are kept for the later books, everything that happens in the book makes sense within the world he has crafted. It would have been worth another point though if more had happened. Don't let the rating suggest that this isn't an enjoyable book to read, it's just that when you get to the end, you realise that it was clearly written to set up the action that is (hopefully) coming in the later novels.
I'd read this and Red Prophet back in the early nineties when I was at University, but having ordered the third book, Prentice Alvin recently, I realised that I had pretty much no recollection of the events of the first two books. So, I decided to re-read them both first. I wouldn't say that this story came flooding back to me as I read it, but I had a feeling of familiarity. In a way, I kinda liked it this way; the story didn't feel spoiled for me as I read it again.(less)
It's hard not to like any book when it's read by Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads – and he's read Twilight so I suppose I could put that to the test. Someti...moreIt's hard not to like any book when it's read by Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads – and he's read Twilight so I suppose I could put that to the test. Sometimes chapter by chapter reviews, sometimes YouTube narrations, sometimes a mixture of the two. Flushed from his recent Hugo nomination, he was asked to read the short story, Ponies (a Nebula winner itself), from fellow Hugo nominee Kij Johnson.
Mark manages to get so into any story he's reading, and the dark themes of this one were always going to play with his mind. Barbara has a pony (think My Little Pony but with wings, a horn and they can talk) and the time has come for her 'cutting out' party so she, and her pony, can be accepted by THEOTHERGIRLS. Like any ritual to join a group ruled by peer pressure, there's a strong element of bullying. And that's where the horror starts for both Barbara and Mark as he's as in the dark about the story as we are.
Short though the story is (the YouTube video clocks in at just over 10 minutes, and that includes a lot of Mark's own shock and thought processes), it's an exploration of peer pressure, group bullying, social expectation and the need to join a group that doesn't really want you, and you might not even be comfortable in. Fantastically narrated, as usual, and that might have coloured my view of the story somewhat too...(less)
The conclusion of the Apprentice Adept trilogy. Although that trilogy seems to have grown somewhat since the first time I read the first three. Now it...moreThe conclusion of the Apprentice Adept trilogy. Although that trilogy seems to have grown somewhat since the first time I read the first three. Now it's a seven part series: two trilogies and a finale apparently.
The end of the first trilogy ties up all the loose ends. The ending isn't ever in any doubt – the good guys win, the bad guys lose. The journey is the fun. Now I'm gonna have to find the rest of the series aren't I?(less)
I bought this trilogy while I was at University (a fabulous second hand bookshop where you could return other books to count towards new purchases) an...moreI bought this trilogy while I was at University (a fabulous second hand bookshop where you could return other books to count towards new purchases) and I remembered enjoying them at the time. In the intervening years the trilogy has grown somewhat – Piers Anthony has a tendency to keep extending series beyond his original intent.
A great idea, well constructed. Both a science-fiction universe and a fantasy universe in the same book. They overlap and some people can even move between the two worlds. The trilogy follows the main character of Stile as he discovers the fantasy world and his attempts to manage responsibilities in both worlds.
Not particularly challenging or complex in style, but the ideas are all intriguing and well presented, and the pace remains high and the story is fun and engaging.(less)
Following Stile further as he continues the struggles from Split Infinity. Trying to complete a series of competitions to win his freedom in one worl...moreFollowing Stile further as he continues the struggles from Split Infinity. Trying to complete a series of competitions to win his freedom in one world while trying to understand his new position and powers in the other. All while trying to avoid getting killed and working out who's trying to kill him. Phew!
While it doesn't really stand alone as a book, it's a good continuation of the series and keeps the intrigue and revelations coming.(less)
I've really only got myself to blame. Like Piers Anthony himself, I really struggle to let a series go. Unicorn Point is the sixth book of seven, in w...moreI've really only got myself to blame. Like Piers Anthony himself, I really struggle to let a series go. Unicorn Point is the sixth book of seven, in what was supposed to be a trilogy. I'm not necessarily expecting to love these anymore, but I am determined to finish the series. As the previous novels have dealt with Stile and Blue, then their sons Mach and Bane. This one switches to the grandchildren: Flach and Nepe. Their parents (who we remember have promised to work for the bad citizens and adepts because their parents wouldn't bless their unions with a jelly-like alien and a unicorn) believe them to be borderline retarded as they aren't developing as expected.
However, at the ripe old age of four, they are actually convinced by their grandparents (Stile and Blue) to go into hiding so that their powers (oh yes, they have secret powers, they can communicate with each other across the two realms whenever they want – nobody else has noticed though) can develop without being used by the bad citizens and adepts. At the age of four! At that tender age they are able to form complex political opinions, keep secrets from their own parents about their abilities, are smart enough to have always done so without getting noticed up until then, and to top it all are able to create and action their own, totally self-sufficient, escape plans and stay undetected for a number of years.
As is the style these days (1989?) the chapters rotate through a number of PoV characters. Each taking turns to narrate the story. This would be fine if Anthony could just shake this habit of having each character reminisce extensively about the events of the previous chapters and books. It's massively annoying and he needs to stop it. This book could easily have been about half the size if Anthony just cut out all the repetition. And the weirdly creepy bestiality and rape obsessions.
Finally, the book just stops. It doesn't really end. Although one side has technically won, (view spoiler)[the baddies (hide spoiler)], it's not clear what that means for any of the characters. We don't know how the balance of power is affected between the good guys and bad guys in each realm, or how the balance between the two realms is affected. I can only assume that this is Anthony putting something aside for the final novel...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In the introduction Card suggests that the short story that led to the creation of this series is contained within this novel. Something about a golde...moreIn the introduction Card suggests that the short story that led to the creation of this series is contained within this novel. Something about a golden plough, which will all make sense to you when you read the novel. And that kinda shows. This book feels more developed than the previous two, more thorough, more thought through and better paced. Having read that introduction, and this novel, the previous two books start to feel a bit like a really long prequel. But, a prequel that Card really wants you to read in order to get this book.
Alvin finally gets to the apprenticeship, that his father agreed before book two got in the way, as well as developing and coming to terms with his powers, in this continuing alternate history frontier land fantasy series. More than before the characters feel nuanced, they aren't all as black and white as Card tends to make them. The smith is a good, fair man – although with financially mean tendencies – yet Alvin seems to bring out the worst in him. It's not really directly addressed, but there seems to be a push that even the characters who don't obviously react against Alvin also seem to have their personalities amplified somehow by him. Makepeace Smith becomes meaner around him; the Guesters become better people through the contact.
Still though, Card can't escape his need to use that annoying narrator voice who likes to keep smugly letting us know that each of the bad characters are going to get their comeuppance – "oh, if only he knew, etc." Which becomes very annoying very quickly – pretty much half way through the first time. But, it's getting better. Still not quite that extra star, but it's getting there...(less)
It's a strange thing, but I've owned a copy of this book since my university days, and I'd obviously assumed that I'd read the book having previously...moreIt's a strange thing, but I've owned a copy of this book since my university days, and I'd obviously assumed that I'd read the book having previously rated it. However, once I came to read it again I realised that I'd not read it before at all. Quite why I'd managed to own an entire trilogy for nearly twenty years without reading beyond the first one is a mystery.
Red Prophet is the second in the original Alvin Maker trilogy – like Piers Anthony it seems that Card struggles to put a lid on a good series once he starts one. This story acts as a counterpoint to the first novel. While Seventh Son tells the tale of Alvin's birth and early life – including the vision of the Shining Man. This sequel covers much of the same time period, but following the tales of the 'Reds': the one-eyed drunk Lolla-Wossiky (view spoiler)[who of course turns out to be both the Shining Man, and the prophet of the book's title (hide spoiler)] and the moody and silent Ta-Kumsaw. About half-way through, we catch up with the end of Seventh Son and Alvin meets up with our two Reds.
As other reviewers have noted this is fictional history rather than historical fiction. Heavy on the fiction, very light on the history. Card continues, though, to build his world; it just happens to overlay, very loosely, on the east side of the US. As we learnt about the 'knacks' and hexes of the white folk in the first book, this time we learn about the 'land sense' of the red man. This is where the book starts to stray into an awkward sort of racism in its style: the red man is the noble savage: a mystical, pagan, form of magic in touch with the land but a slave to his anger and vengeance; the white man is both the civilised creator of order and structure, and the selfish, greedy, destructor of the red man's land sense. The red man must separate from the white man in order to maintain his connection to the land.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
An interesting approach to the vampire mythos - at least none of them sparkle. Attempting to address a lot of the darker themes around vampirism and w...moreAn interesting approach to the vampire mythos - at least none of them sparkle. Attempting to address a lot of the darker themes around vampirism and with strong themes around paedophilia - how else does a 200+ year old vampire trapped in a 12 year old's body get looked after on their own? The story centres around two young children and their developing friendship/dependency. One a 200+ year old vampire, the other a young boy who is being systematically bullied at school and starting to develop almost psychotic fantasies as a result.
While I found the book gripping, a lot of the characterisation seemed almost clinical. I'm not sure if this is a result of the translation into English or more just the style of the Author. I found the Stieg Larsson translations quite similar. Strangely there are also a number of secondary characters who seem to get a lot of attention - whole sections describing their point of view - yet seem to have very little involvement in actually driving the story forward.(less)