From my blog on 7/21/09... ------------------------------------------------------ I finished reading The Blade Itself last night. The novel had a lot of...moreFrom my blog on 7/21/09... ------------------------------------------------------ I finished reading The Blade Itself last night. The novel had a lot of hype and acclaim, and so I was expecting great things from it. Fortunately, I was not mislead, and I closed the book with a profound sense of excitement and curiosity.
The Blade Itself is the first book of The First Law trilogy. Written by UK author Joe Abercrombie, the book is a realistic, brutal and bloody look at the fantastic. The book starts with Logen Ninefingers fleeing from a group of Flatheads, and I was hooked from the get-go. Logen gets separated from his travelling group and each assumes the other died. He continues on his own. The next character introduced is Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, a crippled torturer with a dark past. The torture scenes from this book are bloody, but deeply enjoyable. Glokta is charged with getting to the bottom of a conspiracy by any means he sees fit. Enter Bayaz, the First of the Magi. He's a name everyone in the Union knows, but he's a legend, not a real person. Or is he? Finally, Jezal dan Luthar is a Captain in the army, born of high and noble blood, and training for the annual Contest, dreaming of glory and honor.
There are more characters in the novel, making fun and entertaining chapters to read and reflect on. Dogman. Ferro. West. Too many to write on, but they all have a roll to play in the plot. By the end of the novel it almost feels like this book is just an introduction or prologue to what is to come.
Abercrombie hints at magic, but nothing too deep. He writes of the First Law and the Second Law. He talks about the Shanka and the Eaters, never fully describing them, which is unsettling and immensely entertaining.
The writing style reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The use of profanity and vulgar words are frequent, but not over-the-top and do not detract from the story. Keeping the "magic" as a mystery is also like GRRM.
My favorite character is probably Glokta, but I'm equally intrigued by Logen. I can't wait to see where this story is going, especially for these two. Hopefully I'll get my copy of Before They Are Hanged soon. Overall, The Blade Itself is another reminder why the fantasy genre does not have to be boring and cliche. People like Joe Abercrombie, Pat Rothfuss, and Brandon Sanderson are breaking boundaries and re-defining the field. I can recommend this book easily to you, but be warned, it's brutal and will hook you in, kind of like the way a torturer's blade may pull your intestines out and have you screaming for more. (less)
Before They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law trilogy. Picking up on the heels of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged is a fast-pace...moreBefore They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law trilogy. Picking up on the heels of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged is a fast-paced adventure taking place all across the Circle of the World. The book is split into three different factions: Bayaz, Logen, Ferro, Jezal, Longfoot, and Quai are journeying to the Edge of the World to obtain a dangerous relic; Gokta is dispatched south to investigate the disappearance of a Superior in a city filled with folks of questionable loyalties; West is deployed to the North, to fight and engage with Bethod's men; and Dogman, Threetrees, Grim, Dow, and Tul, the North's most bloody men (save, maybe, Ninefingers), are looking for ways to upset Bethod.
Yes, there are a lot of characters, but Abercrombie writes in such a way that you can feel each one's personality leaping off the page. You can feel West's regrets, his confusion. You can understand the animosity behind Ferro, the cock-sure noble attitude inside Jezal, and the compassionate ruthlessness that belongs to Logen.
Other than the breathtaking action scenes, the permeating mystery hanging on every page, and the magnitude of the quest, one of the best parts about Before They Are Hanged is the character development. As the rag-tag group with Bayaz makes their way Westward, Logen sets it in his mind to get everyone on the same side, namely instilling respect in Jezal and trust in Ferro. This process was immensely enjoyable and satisfying.
Like with The Blade Itself, by the end of the book I was left scratching my head, much like Glokta. The answers we get from Before They Are Hanged only lead to more questions. I have no idea where The Last Argument of Kings will take me. I feel like there are loose ends, like there are wrongs that need to be righted, like there is truth that needs to be revealed, but I don't have the slightest idea of how it's going to happen. That's part of the fun of this series. Abercrombie can throw a wrench in his characters, having them do something completely unexpected, and leaving the reader scratching his head from not seeing it coming.
Before They Are Hanged is filled with battles, bloodshed, treachery, and magic, with more than enough mystery to keep you reading well into the night. Hopefully with the end of the series more will be revealed and loyalties will be shown.
I can highly recommend this series if you want to read something with realistic characters that have realistic expectations, set in a world where there is more than a hint of supernatural activity and intrigue. Of course you wouldn't want to start with this book, as it is Book Two. Overall, Before They Are Hanged was a great and fun read, leaving me eager to see where things are headed and how it's all going to end with the characters that I've grown quite fond of.
And now, two of my favorite quotes from the book. (Don't worry, they're not revealing.)
"What? You got a crowd of friends back in the Badlands, all asking after you? Where did Ferro get to? The laughs all dried up since she went away."--Logen, to Ferro
"No one enjoys an elbow in the face while they sleep."(less)
Last Argument of Kings is the concluding volume of Joe Abercrombie’s breathtaking debut trilogy, The First Law. There’s not a whole lot of things that...moreLast Argument of Kings is the concluding volume of Joe Abercrombie’s breathtaking debut trilogy, The First Law. There’s not a whole lot of things that I can say in this review if I wish to remain truly spoiler-free, but I shall do my best, but I make no promises. You have to be realistic about these things.
It’s been two months since I read book two, Before They Are Hanged, and picking this book up felt like a meeting between old familiar friends. All those characters that I had grown to love were returned. Split between wars on both sides, the Union looks to be in quite a mess. Scores are settled amazingly. Loose ends are all tied up neatly. When the smoke clears and the dust settles and you finally finish the book, you’ll be left as speechless as I was. (Actually, I busted out laughing in disbelief, which led to “huh.”, which led to “wow".”)
Like with the previous novels, Last Argument of Kings is a novel about characters. You feel as if you’re inside the head of Logen Ninefingers as he contemplates what to do about a dire situation. You hurt with Jezal as he struggles with his day-to-day existence. You feel your neck crack and your eye leak with Glokta and wonder with him why he does it. The plot is chiefly character driven and the experience is perfect.
If you’ve read the first two books then you know that there is a lot going on in the Circle of the World. A lot of stuff you don’t understand, but you suspect Bayaz knows more than he’s telling. A lot of mystery and lies, and sorting the truth from fiction is a thrilling activity.
Over all, and to keep my mouth shut to remain spoiler-free, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The entire series was an absolute joy to read. The ruthlessness and brutality is reminiscent of GRRM, but at the same time different and unique. Everything reads realistic, and it’s easy to relate to most of the characters. I strongly urge you to pick up these books and read them. Enjoy them. Bask in their wonder. And when you finish, you’ll know that you’ve read something like you’ve never read before. The conclusion of Last Argument of Kings was a perfect fit to the series and I strongly recommend you try this series out.
And now, like with my review of Before They Are Hanged, I give you some of my favorite quotes.
"That's what war is. A lot of folk getting killed that don't deserve it." Dogman "No, it ain't ever that simple. We all got our reasons. Good men and bad men. It's all a matter of where you stand."--Logen Why do I do this?—Glokta(less)
Some folks say that The Stand is Stephen King’s greatest work. The book has been on my TBR for many years, pretty much from my starting of The Gunslin...moreSome folks say that The Stand is Stephen King’s greatest work. The book has been on my TBR for many years, pretty much from my starting of The Gunslinger during my college years. I vaguely knew what the book was about, but I definitely knew that it had a monstrous page count. Other than that, my expectations were moderately high.
In 1990, a superflu swept across the globe. Its mortality rate was greater than 99%. The survivors of this superflu were therefore few. The Stand opens with the outbreak, and it doesn’t take too many pages before people begin dying. King tells this tale through several different points of view (too many for this particular story), from an up-and-coming Rock-and-Roll star to a deaf mute, from a pregnant coed to an insane pyromaniac. All of these survivors each must come to terms with their circumstances, but they also must come to terms with the reasons behind their survival, a reasoning that is possibly more than what seems.
The Stand is gripping… at first. The spread of the superflu and its devastation was an absolute thrill to read, especially considering that my allergies kicked in right as I was starting. But as the pages turned and the survivors rose above their circumstances, it didn’t take long for fatigue to set in. Part of the issue was the enormous cast of characters. King spends time building up each one of them, which makes some sense, but not enough to justify their purpose. I mean, I understand why they were in the story, but I don’t understand why King wanted to give so much mundane detail on so many different people.
Stephen King is a gifted storyteller, that is true. I think it’s also fair to assert that Stephen King is a gifted deliverer of lackluster (or maybe I mean disappointing) conclusions. The Stand gets no reprieve. I felt that after spending 1152 pages with these people that I deserved something more than what I got. Surely King was telling a grand story here. Surely his message and theme deserved climax. Sadly, I felt greatly underwhelmed with the resolutions and the ultimate fates/decisions of the characters.
What did I like? I liked the opening part of the story, right when the superflu was spreading and people were dying. I liked how King dealt with the humanity mindset in that time of catastrophe. I liked the survivor’s initial guilt and ponderings on why they survived. I liked the stirrings in their minds as they felt the urge to pick up life again and journey across the nation. But, as I’ve said, after this elongated exposition, my entertainment waned.
I don’t like sounding so negative. I wonder if part of my problem is with the genre itself. King’s post-apocalyptic romp was probably unique back in 1978 when the first edition of the book came out. This is no longer the case, obviously, and post-apocalyptic stories are run of the mill now. I’m sure part of the initial success with the book is attributed to when it was published (which can be said about any book, truly).
The Stand is much more than a book about a decimating (uh, centi-mating?) epidemic. It’s a book about Good versus Evil, sort of. It’s a book about what it means to be human and be a manipulator or one that’s manipulated. It’s a book about choice and consequences. It’s a book about anger and sex and violence and fear and love. It’s a looooooong book and a trifle boring, but never bad enough to abandon. The Stand is vulgar, as is King’s proclivity, but not as bad as could be expected. Ultimately, The Stand is an unsatisfying novel with a brilliant start-up but an inability to pull through. Any fan of King will likely enjoy the novel—and indeed I did enjoy the novel—but to a Reader familiar with contemporary trends the novel will very likely feel flat. I truly did love the first few hundred pages, but that wasn’t enough to overcome to over-long book. Read at your own discretion.(less)
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is one of those books that I found out about in college. It was a humanities class with an emphasis on cultur...moreThe Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is one of those books that I found out about in college. It was a humanities class with an emphasis on cultural diversity and whatnot. We had to read several excerpts from all sorts of literature, and the excerpt (and idea) from The Things They Carried made enough of an impact with me that I decided that I’d like to read the entire book. The excerpt talked about the things that Vietnam soldiers carried with them, like drugs, letters, photographs, ammunition, lucky charms, and sundries. The exact weights and how this bore on the soldiers as they made their way across foreign lands.
Now, five years later, I’ve finally read it.
It was a whim. I was in the midst of five other books, kind of a lull, honestly, and I found myself in my den looking over my bookshelf. So many things on that shelf that I need to get to. Not sure why, but I pulled out the 250-page paperback and flipped through it. Why not?
That night, as I was rocking Callum to tentative sleep, I started reading O’Brien’s novel/memoir. I was immediately pulled in, and a day or two later I was finished with the thing. I kept telling Keisha that I needed to look up some stuff afterwards, to see what was Real and what wasn’t. I kept re-reading the Title Page: The Things They Carried, a work of fiction by Tim O’Brien.
That’s part of the beauty of The Things They Carried. O’Brien is writing this as a memoir, but it’s much more than that, too. The book is essentially a collection of war stories (lies? narrative essays?) about Vietnam. The lines between fiction and truth are blurry. This is intentional. O’Brien is blatant about this, giving the Reader an odd sort of feeling as to just how reliable the narrator is.
O’Brien is concerned with Story. The book offers several asides on what defines a story, seamless and meta and over-the-top but perfect.
“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” (Page 38)
Anyone concerned with telling a story, let alone putting fingertips to keyboards and translating it, would do to read O’Brien’s book.
Overall, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried was a wonderful, unexpected book. Out of my normal distribution of genre/non-fic, I could barely put the thing down. I still find myself thinking about some of the stories O’Brien told. If you’ve never read this book, I definitely can recommend it to anyone. The topic is war, which may be offputting, but then again it’s not really about the war, either. Highly recommended.(less)