This book really heats up the series. Each book so far ends with the story hook for the next, so we know going in that a vampire called Bishop has arrThis book really heats up the series. Each book so far ends with the story hook for the next, so we know going in that a vampire called Bishop has arrived in town and taken the residents of Glass House--and Claire's parents--hostage until he can talk to Amelie (the vampire who founded and runs Morganville). He also claims to be Amelie's father.
This book dispenses with most side plots. Monica is in the book and threatens vengeance for her (self-imposed) hospitalization in book 3, Jason is around and postures around Shane and Eve, Claire goes to classes (and is in danger of failing one, due to a prank by Monica), and so forth, but none of these are ever in the way of the real action: Bishop is a threat to Amelie and Morganville and he's dangerous enough that Oliver (Amelie's political nemesis) is 100% behind Amelie on this.
The not-side plot we do keep following is the vampire Myrnin and his and Claire's investigations into the disease that is destroying the vampires. Claire's moral misgivings about saving the vampires come out in some nice ways and Myrnin's mysterious motives get both more and less confusing.
And through it all, Claire is learning to think like the vampires. She is being taught to play the "long game," to ignore short-term gains and losses except in how the affect ultimate goals and to calculate sacrifices, even of friends and family. Claire isn't sure she wants to think like that, but she has too much intellectual curiosity to resist.
The book is filled with chess metaphors for the game. Amelie plays chess with both Oliver and Myrnin (and rates Oliver's level of play with clear reference to his political maneuvering). Amelie and Claire discuss which people can be "sacrificed." Bishop threatens weak people to force the stronger to move where he wants them. Monica dresses as Marie Antoinette--a queen; and, of course, Bishop is named Bishop. Claire, however, doesn't play in this book. I expect her to in the next (and to lose, probably to Bishop).
The other theme in the book is adulthood. Claire is constantly reminding people that she is "almost seventeen" and "old enough" to do things (including, at one point, going to the bathroom by herself). Claire mentions early in the book that she is learning to show no weakness when she deals with vampires--an implicit theme later in the book--and finds herself being treated with respect, even as an equal. She is learning to act like an adult and even vampires respect what she can become. Even Shane grows up in this book, putting aside his anger and fear to look after Michael and Claire (a parallel to Oliver's willingness to help Amelie save the town from Bishop).
As part of Claire's maturation, the issue of sex between her and Shane reoccurs (several times). She is pushing Shane on the issue and Shane insists that they wait until she is older--at least seventeen (which is a few weeks away). Her parents being in town (and not trusting Shane on this point, which he assures them is a wise decision) makes it harder. For the necessary complication, Claire has to sort out some of her feelings about sex when a female vampire takes a very public interest in Shane (and enjoys his discomfort both at the attention and at his response to it).
Claire's sexual maturation is contrasted against Eve's. Eve and Michael are now actively sexually active, leading to much ribbing from Shane and Claire, but as a consequence, Eve finds herself feeling and acting like a full adult. As long as her and Michael's sex life is going well, she confronts other adults with a self-confidence and grace she never had before. Later, when something interferes with her and Michael, she loses that.
Vampire stories are, at their heart, about seduction and corruption, in varying degrees. This volume brings that more to the front than the earlier, more horror-filled, books. Claire is being seduced by her intellectual curiosity and her pity for Myrnin to help the vampires; she is being seduced by both her own desires and her (erroneous) observation that sex is what defines adulthood. The contrary seductions of the normal life offered by Morganville's compromise and the thrill and power of openly hunting humans seduce Michael, Amelie, and Myrnin. We've come to see the vampires as more human in each book and this is where they cross the line, seducing everyone--including the reader--into sympathizing with them and supporting the Morganville system, despite its horrendous costs to the humans who live there.
So overall, the intellectual theme of the life-or-death struggle in Morganville as a game and the visceral theme of maturation and the role sex plays or doesn't play in it work well next to one another. They aren't really related or contrasted, but they don't really need to be. The setup for the next book promises lots of excitement, but the exact hook--a threat to one character--isn't delivered with as much punch as the three previous endings. I'm sure the overall plot will be interesting (we leave enough things in media res to guarantee that), but I'm worried about the specific threat used as the plot hook.
It's a good read and definitely keeps me wanting more time in Morganville. Check out the series. If you've read the first three, keep with it. It has good rewards. ...more
Artemis Fowl minus the character development and the humor. Sky High minus the character development and the humor. War Games minus the character develoArtemis Fowl minus the character development and the humor. Sky High minus the character development and the humor. War Games minus the character development and the humor. ...I'm sensing a trend.
I just gave up. It was an entertaining setup that got repetitive and was clearly too impressed with its own ideas. No plot, no action (rising or otherwise), and no characters I cared enough about to lift the weight of the next page.
Having said all that, the inside of the cover is fabulous. Might be worth buying for that alone. Just don't try to read the rest of the book....more
The Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-lessThe Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-lesson journey of the sort that should be required CEUs for keeping your Adult License.
This one returns to the themes of Hogfather and the recurring Pratchett theme of Life as a Story. Tiffany accidentally injects herself into the annual myth-story of the seasons, this time around equinox celebrations (samhain and beltane), whereas Hogfather was around the mythology of midwinter. The equinoxes are less violent a change than the solstice, but any Pratchett reader knows to expect that the more subtle the change, the greater the danger, both to the world and to the protagonist.
As with all the Tiffany Aching stories, even of all the witch stories, the plot centers around Tiffany learning what the problem is and eventually finding the way that sort of problem is designed to be solved. The model is that a problem always defines its solution. Tiffany steps into the biannual dance between Summer and Winter, interfering with the process and causing Winter to become obsessed with her.
Because she jumped in and danced at the samhain festival, Winter spends his six months pursuing her and becoming sentient; in essence, converting from a force of nature (an elemental) to a god. Tiffany doesn't know what to do about it, and Granny Weatherwax won't tell her.
Everything with witches is a test, and with Granny Weatherwax around it's a test with high stakes. She has clearly marked Tiffany as a special witch (her probably successor as the unstated first among equals with the witches) and she takes the opportunity to test Tiffany against the Wintersmith--a formidable entity in his own right, even disregarding the anger his Summertime counterpart has at Tiffany taking over her role--but also to use Tiffany as a pawn in a bit of political one-upsmanship against the rising witch star Miss Earwig.
Of course, as with all of Granny's machinations, if it works it will leave everyone better off, with only the witches knowing she scored a point and even her detractors admitting she improved life for them, and as always Tiffany breaks the unwritten rule and openly discusses the politics. And, of course, there is a different set of life lessons for Tiffany (and her friends, and Miss Earwig) tied up in the plan.
Unlike some of the other books, Wintersmith doesn't have a lot of plot-oriented action. Tiffany faces the Wintersmith in various guises as he woos her, but much of Tiffany's time is taken up with distractions: the death of her current mentor, Granny's politics, Nanny Ogg's own special brand of instruction (*ahem*), growing adolescent confusion around her friendship with "her young man"), struggles dealing with the "modern" witchcraft of the snobby Ammagramma (Earwig's student), and homesickness for the sheep-farming plains. Fortunately, her way of handling these do not coalesce into one set of skills needed for the major plot at hand; Pratchett is too good of a writer to fall into that lazy trap.
So this is another good Tiffany Aching book. Suitable for the YA crowd (actually quite tame for them) but not in any way condescending for adults, funny (but not as funny-for-funny's-sake as some of the main-line Discworld books), excellent story, and very strong character development.
Absolutely worth a read. If you aren't a Discworld fan yet, try start with the Aching books (Wee Free Men is the first, the Hat Full of Stars), then jump to Witches Abroad and read them from there. (Skip the earlier ones unless you're a completist)....more
Although it's 3 physical books for publishing reasons, His Dark Materials (HDM)is one continuous story (well... see below), so I'm reviewing the wholeAlthough it's 3 physical books for publishing reasons, His Dark Materials (HDM)is one continuous story (well... see below), so I'm reviewing the whole set. It isn't useful to review one part alone.
HDM is a decent read with many great elements. On Orson Scott Card's "MICE" scale--Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event--it's mostly a Milieu story, so expect a tour of the world(s), focusing on the strangeness therein and the history thereof. It's a great setting with many fabulous ideas underlying the various worlds, so enjoy it. Put it in the same space as The Phantom Tollbooth or Gulliver's Travels.
In fact, it is a direct descendant of Gulliver. Whereas Swift used Gulliver to compare and lambaste political groups of his day, Pullman uses HDM to address questions of morality, responsibility, and sacrifice. He isn't as successful as Swift, but very few are.
Structurally, HDM is three stories, but they're intertwined from the very beginning. The foreground (and best-known) story is a classic milieu-as-character setup. Our two pre-adolescent protagonists, Lyra and Will, travel across worlds and regions of the worlds meeting different kinds of people (including the requisite cast of disposable, self-sacrificing allies) and facing episodic dangers; it's an adventure tale in the "come back more mature" mold and it works passably. The character development is slight, but the maturation element--Lyra slowly falling in first love with Will--is handled with delicacy and grace.
The adventure story is marred by some very strange author intrusion--one particularly jarring section explaining that Lyra's skill at inventing stories and telling them is lying and therefor unrelated to imagination, which she doesn't have--and a strange and unbelievable detachment from any sense of loss in the children when friends and family are taken from them. Neither character is particularly likable or sympathetic, either.
The second, and more successful, story--the Character story in Card's taxonomy--is off-camera in the first book and comes more and more to the forefront as the story continues. This involves the tension between Lyra's estranged parents, their individual world-shattering goals, and their love (or lack thereof) for Lyra. It's a redemption story and the only real weakness is not showing us any changes in her father until the very end when we learn that they must have happened. This isn't as bad as it seems since her father is extremely taciturn and hides his plans and goals even from his closest allies. If the books had focused on this story entirely, they would have been far more effective but probably far less popular.
The third story is the Idea story and fails almost completely. There are rarely more than three pages in a row of non-narrative explanation of the author's moral and ethical beliefs and they are often couched in the fantasy metaphors of the main stories, at least, but Pullman's judgments of the main characters--unsupported by the events in the story and invalidating the value of the story if true--would disrupt any enjoyment the books had if they weren't so easily dismissed.
The book also sets up a variety of elements it never follows up on: the process of moving from childhood to adulthood is a major question underlying the magic of the story and often discussed but is never actually probed, the nature of the soul is a recurring question that drives all of the characters but is never discussed in interesting real detail, the distinction between soul and spirit is raised--even referencing Aquinas by name--but its relation to the story is dropped immediately, and the relationship between free will and sin (including a threat to free will itself) underlies the character story but that either dissolves into a question of sentience or disappears altogether.
Major plot holes, lost plot elements, and gracelessly dropped storylines also mar the books. The single item driving the "ticking clock" of the adventure story is every faction's belief that Lyra has a crucial choice to make that will determine the fate of the multiverse. If she ever makes that choice, it is completely unclear. A prophesy of Lyra committing a "great betrayal" that will "hurt her greatly" is tossed away on a small sacrifice that is not clearly a betrayal, does not hurt her any more than her companions (who make the same sacrifice), and leads to greater power and freedom for her and her dearest friend. The highest tension plot thread--an assassin tailing Lyra across multiple worlds, coming closer and following her friends to reach her, is resolved with--literally--a deus ex machina producing a small redemption plot element but leaving the assassin story--if you'll pardon the pun--bloodless.
On the plus side, the cast of characters is fabulous. The mother's daemon (her soul in an externalized form, much like a familiar--every human character from Lyra's world has one) is truly terrifying, and her mother and father are close behind. The random allies she meets--such a talking polar bear, a Texan aeronaut, a "gyptian" (sort of a gypsy) king(1) and the seer/scholar who attends him, and a pair of gay angels--are well-drawn and lovable characters with flaws and motives of their own, although a few--the queen of a witch clan and a scientist from our world--are less effective.
The villains are deliciously evil, dripping in cold, fascist malice or driven by a hot and frightening hatred. The use of the daemons to show a person's character and mood is an excellent device. When a snake slithers out of one man's sleeve we know instantly that he is hiding things and is cold-blooded. The jackrabbit daemon of the Texan tells us that he is always aware and able to move instantly, despite his slow drawl and easy nature. And her father's regal snow leopard shows us his strength, his confidence, and his brutality. Not that we need the leopard to see that....
So these are a fun enough read. Ignore the philosophizing; it doesn't go anywhere and it doesn't actually impact the other stories in the ways it seems like it should. In the end, none of the characters are as driven by faith, fear, or belief as they claim. Enjoy the adventurous tour of the multiverse with Lyra and her discovery of her burgeoning adolescence (really, that is very well handled). Watch the parents for their slow, secret changes and the real motivations behind their grandiose schemes; marvel at their audacity and confidence as well. Lament the dead, cheer in the bravery, and remember that this is a children's book above all; it should be larger-than-life and show decisions and consequences more clearly than they truly are.
Fun read. Worth the time if you have it. But don't put down something else to read it first.
The movie makes some interesting changes, btw, some of which are more successful that then book. See it for Sam Elliot, if nothing else.
(1) Yes, we get the proverbial "King of the Gypsies." Only he's not lying about it. ...more
This is the start of a fun fantasy/horror series from the author of the Weather Warden books. In fact, I'm enjoying these even more.
Our protag, 16-yeaThis is the start of a fun fantasy/horror series from the author of the Weather Warden books. In fact, I'm enjoying these even more.
Our protag, 16-year-old early-graduate Claire, moves to Morganville, Tx for college at a small liberal arts school because her parents want her closer to home. She clashes with the entitlement-and-snobbery of the local in crowd led by the mayor's daughter. When things escalate to physical attacks she looks for off-campus housing.
So she moves into the Glass House, home of Michael Glass, local boy of mystery, Shane, troublemaker trying to reform, and Eve, goth barrista. From them she discovers the big secret about Morganville: the town is run by vampires.
As a vampire town (possibly the only vampire town), all locals donate blood once a month and they sign on with a vampire for protection. Hunting visitors, like the students at the college, is controlled to keep suspicion from forming, but everyone has their memories altered before they leave anyway. And once you're truly "in the know," like Claire is, the vampires won't ever let you leave.
The residents of Glass House are outcasts, in a way. They have chosen not to take a vampire patron, allowing them freedom from a patron's rules but leaving them fair game if someone decides to attack them. Her housemates look after her as best as they can, but Claire has to decide how she's going to deal with the Morganville rules.
The story in the first book involves Claire learning the secret, meeting the powerful vampires and coming too much to their attention, and dealing with the bullying of Monica, the teenage queen bee of the community.
It's a decent book with the promise of a good series to follow. Having read the next two volumes, I think it's worth a look.
Also, there is a short story in Many Bloody Returns that tells how Eve came to live in Glass House. It also gives more background on an interesting supporting character. Not at all essential reading to follow the series, but worth seeking out if you like the book....more
Summary: comfortably predictable storyline with some huge plot holes, but more than fun enough to read. Just make sure it doesn't put off Weetzie BatSummary: comfortably predictable storyline with some huge plot holes, but more than fun enough to read. Just make sure it doesn't put off Weetzie Bat or other masterpieces of the YA genre.
This book is marred by one major flaw that doesn't affect most of the YA set: bad things happen--both on- and off-stage--to sympathetic characters around our protagonist and no one cares. Several "best friend" character die, the two mothers are left bereft of their children, a small child is abandoned to the faeries, and the nearby world is beset by death and destruction, but it doesn't affect the main, teen-aged protagonist and we only follow her pursuit of a dangerous older man who doesn't want to use her naivety no matter how much she tries to make him. His self-recriminations--even while he's killing innocents--for making out with her while she was drunk make for a great character.
In addition, the important and interesting family drama with her wanna-be rocker mom and her controlling and narrow-minded grandmother is left not only unresolved, but probably unresolvable.
Fortunately, the faerie plotline is well handled, if 100% comfort-food, even for the YA crowd. Our protagonist is asked to play the role of the sacrifice victim in a faerie sacrifice taken straight from Tam Lin, with the promise that her good faerie friends will save her at the end and reveal thats the bad faeries had broken the rules. Of course, "good" and "bad" will intermingle and swap around throughout the course of the story (as is appropriate in a faerie tale) and she has to look after herself and mis-trust her lifelong faerie friends.
She does a passable job of wising up, if not growing up, and the action-y scenes are quite fun as her wanna-be beau fights off orders to kill her, she tries to rescue her almost-friend from a dangerous lover, and both the supposedly good and definitely bad faeries line up to use her for their political ends even if it means killing her.
So it's a fun read, but don't expect any of the usual YA moral or character growth. Pure entertaining fluff. ...more