Of all the undying books of my childhood — and there were many — few so imprinted on me as His Dark Materials. Devouring the entire trilogy near the eOf all the undying books of my childhood — and there were many — few so imprinted on me as His Dark Materials. Devouring the entire trilogy near the end of middle school, the story has stayed with me ever since. An overflowing abundance of imagination, wonder, and mystery introduced me to worlds of fantasy that I had only begun to discover. I became overwhelmed with Lyra's universe, and, similar to other books I read around then, my naiveté prevented me from fully understanding the controversial and important themes the novel unveils. Who cares if they’re going off to battle God, my thought process went, when you have multiple universes to explore?
When I re-read the trilogy this year, I appreciated it for many reasons, but an almost entirely unique set from my 12-year-old self. This time, it was the tremendous prose and world building that made for such a compelling fantasy universe; the illuminating references and allegories, mostly surrounding the corruption and hypocrisy of organized religion; the strength and charisma of Lyra and the following she inspired. I’m sure I knew none of the authors with epigraphs in book three before; now, their perspectives were valued new pieces that deepened the underlying themes and message. Of course, I also saw places where the story suddenly fell flat — some supporting characters are surprisingly one-dimensional, a few plot holes and inconsistencies are surprisingly obvious to an adult, and deus ex machina is used liberally, to the point of cheapening some plot points. However, the strongest points were obvious on both readings: the imagination, the rich descriptions, the creativity, and the characterizations that brought me so quickly and warmly into these worlds.
I have to admit, there is one other item in the book that made it so remarkable to me at that young age: the depiction of love in the story. This, obviously, was the Lyra/Will situation. I realize now how arbitrary and uncomfortable it is to read, given their ages, not to mention abrupt; the entire romance thread seems an unnecessary tack-on to an otherwise complete epic. But, on my first read, it was shocking and beautiful. To my mid-pubescent self, eager to understand this strange new emotion, it was a perfect form of love. Upon this re-read, I took a minute to shake my head sadly at that earlier interpretation, and moved on. This time, the strongest aspect of love was the sense of love and loyalty and sacrifice that was shared between the main characters — that was a true joy.
Regardless of how I changed in the many years between my readings, it’s clear that this is a story I will always love. I can’t imagine growing up without it, and I would encourage others to include it as a must-read fantasy novel for their own children. Welcoming Lyra into your world is well worth the investment into reading the full trilogy.
(Bonus: This edition includes “lantern slides”, paragraph-long snapshots of omitted scenes in each book. It works wonderfully, exposing a tiny amount more story, just enough to satisfy.)...more
Strong storytelling continues, and still many parallels to the Wool series in structure. However, many of the concepts here are drawn from a variety oStrong storytelling continues, and still many parallels to the Wool series in structure. However, many of the concepts here are drawn from a variety of sources, and VanderMeer does a great job of synthesizing different tropes into a strong story.
I think most of my complaints are generally stylistic, and in some cases add to the immediacy and tone of the story. Surprisingly for a middle novel in a trilogy, the pacing was upbeat. There were also quite a few issues with some parts of the internal consistency of the world, though this isn't unique to book 2.
Awesome short read recommended to me by Jared. Mystery/adventure with plenty of sci-fi/fantasy thrown in. Lots of fun, very fast pace, one of the fewAwesome short read recommended to me by Jared. Mystery/adventure with plenty of sci-fi/fantasy thrown in. Lots of fun, very fast pace, one of the few books this year I've finished on the same day I started.
Reminded very strongly of Lost (though darker), Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Wool (in pacing/tone).
Will definitely be finishing the trilogy, and probably checking out more of VanderMeer's works....more
I believe Martin has a plan for this series, but this is one of those times when it's hard to see it. Characters converge and diverge in equal number;I believe Martin has a plan for this series, but this is one of those times when it's hard to see it. Characters converge and diverge in equal number; plots and viewpoint chapters spin off frequently; we seem to be running in place a lot. There are things happening, but there's a lot of repetition, and little to no closure. It's hard to see anything coming of this with a world that's been mired around 1300 AD for the last three thousand years...
Regardless, with this much time put into it so far, onward to books six and seven once they are released. (Just heard on twitter, book six is now "no earlier than 2015")...more
The quintessential Discworld book -- covers the necessary story beats, has a couple chuckles, tosses in the typical cameos (hey, Archchancellor RidculThe quintessential Discworld book -- covers the necessary story beats, has a couple chuckles, tosses in the typical cameos (hey, Archchancellor Ridcully! hello, Lu-Tze! welcome back, Death!) and has a nice, tidy wrap-up.
Unfortunately, things on Discworld are a bit more repetitive than they used to be. I'm not sure if Sir Terry is running out of stories, or thinks he can make the same points better than he used to, but we've read this story before. Both Thud! and Snuff had very similar plots around conflict and diversity, and every topic has been covered to death by one (or all) of the most recent adult Discworld books. I miss the variety of the earlier books in the series -- where have the Witches gone? Susan Sto Helit? I was desperate for more of the Monks of History, but their appearance was a bit part that left me wanting more.
That said, there is still a lot to like here. Fans on Moist von Lipwig will rejoice, as will anyone hoping Drumknott loosens up a little, or is hoping to explore more of the diversity of the Watch. The characters are fun, the chaos familiar, and the landscape unforgettable.
Sadly, it's all a little too predictable. Can we visit Lancre soon? Pretty please?...more
I'm still not sure what drew me into this book -- that's always the fun, right, those random books you just feel like you MUST read, for no reason atI'm still not sure what drew me into this book -- that's always the fun, right, those random books you just feel like you MUST read, for no reason at all? That was American Elsewhere. I had never heard of it until a chance encounter on a bookshelf in a San Jose library.
Figuring it wouldn't hurt to open it up, the storyline pulled me in from the beginning. There was something surreal there, but not lacking in heart, or in plot. The story becomes a wonderfully rich portrayal of a unique community, one that is both evocative and chilling. Robert Jackson Bennett did a great job in creating a terrific atmosphere, and matching it with a thrilling and multi-faceted story that kept me interested throughout.
While the book was heavy, it was not a heavy read; instead, it was pleasant and fun throughout. There's no one genre that can contain this book -- the shelvings range from Horror to Fantasy to Sci-Fi to Mystery, and there are elements of each. Recommended to anyone who likes their genres in a blender....more
For a long time, people have always been surprised that I've read none of Neil Gaiman's works. My excuses, "I haven't had time!", or "There's always sFor a long time, people have always been surprised that I've read none of Neil Gaiman's works. My excuses, "I haven't had time!", or "There's always something else on my shelf to read" have been admittedly flimsy. But no longer! Stuck looking for a last-minute audiobook available for a trip, Stardust was available for checkout. Not my first choice for an introduction to Neil Gaiman, but I figured it would work as well as anything.
Stardust is such a wonderful story, full of fantasy and wonder and the magic of Victorian youth. (Oh, to be a storybook Victorian youth, where nothing but the supernatural, with or without love, ever occurs!) There was a great deal of long monologues, unnecessary apologies, and stale bread, such that it qualified for an old-fashioned fantasy tale. Gaiman's tone and careful attention to detail made the tale memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (It only was docked a star due to an over-reliance on many fantasy clichés and stereotypes; there was little that made this story stand out so many other period fairy tales.)
Recommended for fans of fantasy, and for anyone wanting a good fairy tale. Now, off to read more Neil Gaiman... but not until I finish a few other things on my shelf... ...more
Classic Murakami. After the somewhat disappointing 1Q84, it was nice to return to a vintage full-length Murakami work. There were a few variations froClassic Murakami. After the somewhat disappointing 1Q84, it was nice to return to a vintage full-length Murakami work. There were a few variations from the usual surrealism -- it seemed much better explained than his other works -- but it carried through so much of the familiar patterns and tone. It's amazing, the tone just sucks me in, every time. There are also the great characters, which are vivid yet dull, intricately ordinary plotting, and crystal clear settings (the only Murakami book I've ever seen to contain a map!)
The themes here are nothing new for Murakami -- loneliness, fitting in to society, finding a purpose in one's life -- and that's a little disappointing. The novel looks at them in a unqiue structure, but there's nothing new about the topic matter. Though, it would probably be grounds for alarm if Murakami wrote something that wasn't about those themes. It was still enjoyable, in any case.
This book does many things well -- most of the Fillory sequences were great, and there was plenty of the inventiveness that characterized the first enThis book does many things well -- most of the Fillory sequences were great, and there was plenty of the inventiveness that characterized the first entry in the series. However, the parts of the first book I liked the most were harder to find here. At times, I got a hint of Terry Pratchett, occasionally a hint of Douglas Adams (bumming around between island/planets with the leader of the universe/world), but that was only ever for too-brief flashes.
(view spoiler)[Quentin's emotional state seemed more stuck -- and less interesting -- than before. The whole Julia storyline, a huge portion of the book, seemed both too intense and too separated from the other story to be as meaningful as the author intended. The character remained so distant that I'm not sure she had any value in the story at all. The other characters were actually often more interesting than those two, and the tiny flashes of Benedict screamed for far more backstory. What we got could have happened on Earth. (hide spoiler)]
It seemed like this sequel was not meant to be written; that it was artificially adding to an already complete story. We really didn't need to know what happened after that story ended. In any case, I wonder if I'll feel the same way about the next entry in the series (well, there will probably be one, right?) I still feel like there's so much potential here, we're just not seeing it. It was enjoyable, but not what it could have been.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
My 2005 was largely occupied with the reading of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. While it weakened near the end, the series is still one of my favorMy 2005 was largely occupied with the reading of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. While it weakened near the end, the series is still one of my favorite fantasy epics. It stands out as being one of the most original and creative fantasy works I've ever read.
This latest volume of the series, essentially a pair of stories from that world, told by Roland to his group at a point between books 4 and 5, captures much of the magic of the world that King created, and gives it new life. Books 3-5 were, to me, King's strongest, as he blends the thematic threads and settings to best serve his incredibly developed world. This book fits right in with those surrounding stories, as it emphasizes the backstory and mythology that had been developed. The stories told were excellent in tone and pacing, and fit in so well, that it was like I had discovered another book in the original series.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the original series, especially the strong middle books. It doesn't necessarily do much to advance the main line of the story, but there are still lots of strengths here, and still lots to enjoy. ...more
Great fantasy/horror tale set in a fictional California town where great power is unleashed. A fun and eventful ride, rapidly paced and full of twistsGreat fantasy/horror tale set in a fictional California town where great power is unleashed. A fun and eventful ride, rapidly paced and full of twists and turns. I'm getting to be a pretty big fan of Clive Barker, even though I prefer his Abarat series that is a little more toned-down (but still as creative!)
The NY Times quote on the back of this edition still bothers me... no, this is not a mix of "Lord of the Rings" and "Gravity's Rainbow"...more
I enjoyed this, but I'm still waiting for the real story to begin.
Like I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, I am, for whatever reI enjoyed this, but I'm still waiting for the real story to begin.
Like I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, I am, for whatever reason, much more invested in the framing story than the story that the main character is telling. So, the book itself earned sort of a "meh". It was a good epic fantasy, certainly, and I have no problem with that. There were just times when I felt like there was just a lot of plot for no real reason.
That said, the story never dragged, and I very much enjoyed reading it, mostly due to the author's writing style. It's one of the most engrossing books I have read recently, because it just sucks me in and keeps me there. I don't wonder "why are we still in this part of the story?" until I stop reading, realize another hundred pages have passed, and we're still off on some side quest....more
I was pretty hesitant going into The Magicians; the main selling point. "It's a grittier Harry Potter!" falls flat with me. That premise alone was theI was pretty hesitant going into The Magicians; the main selling point. "It's a grittier Harry Potter!" falls flat with me. That premise alone was the source of much of its popularity, and that worried me. Sadly, the first part of the book never did more than live up to the sales pitch. A secret school, classmates, a perfunctory mention of Quidditch, just a wink and a nod, and that's it.
The later parts, however, redeem the storytelling, and the book starts to stand on its own. This is especially apparent when it starts to explore the nature of depression and the poignant sadness of living in a world where the extraordinary only happens in the books you read. (view spoiler)[For much of the story, Quentin is given everything he could want, just for him to take and discard. Nothing ever is quite enough. The narrative doesn't provide resolution for Quentin's condition -- certainly doesn't put Quentin through the therapy that everyone acknowledges would help -- but leaves us with a lot of questions. (hide spoiler)]
Since we are stuck with Quentin's attitude and depression, at least the questions around it are raised, acknowledged, and discussed. Here is where the book is truly at its heart, and it also exposes a not-yet-tired metaphor for the post-college doldrums that have recently become such a popular topic. What do you do when the world can't match your expectations? What if college really was as good as it was going to get? How do you reclaim the happiness that's always been just out of reach?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I often worry about the health of my favorite authors. If Douglas Adams hadn't died at the age of 49, just think of what he could have done! Of livingI often worry about the health of my favorite authors. If Douglas Adams hadn't died at the age of 49, just think of what he could have done! Of living authors, Terry Pratchett perhaps concerns me the most, with his posterior cortical atrophy (related to Alzheimer's). It's upsetting to think about what will happen when he can no longer produce a new book once a year, right on schedule, for infinity. A sad day for comedic and fantasy literature, and really for book fans everywhere.
In any case, the reason we care so much is just because of how good the work is that he turns out. Perhaps "good" isn't the right word here, since it's more like a homecoming. The familiar stories, with their familiar characters, themes, style, and humor make every Discworld book a pleasure to read, like a favorite armchair or wine.
This installment is perhaps a bit more tired than others -- the story follows many similar themes, and has quite a few callbacks, to the previous Vimes book, Thud! -- but in the end, the story is more localized, more character-driven, and is less unfollowable than the ending of Thud!
So, yes, much familiar ground, almost all familiar characters, and a complete lack of stalwart Pratchett favorites such as Death, but still a great book. With an inevitably-dwindling number of Discword novels left, it's always fun to spend some more time with the City Watch....more
I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun escape that provided a great atmosphere and an enjoyable story to tell.
Like a few other books I've read recenI really enjoyed this book. It was a fun escape that provided a great atmosphere and an enjoyable story to tell.
Like a few other books I've read recently, I think I liked this much more because I listened to it instead of read it. When listening to a book, it's a very different experience. The listener is much more passive than the reader, and the story washes over you without effort. Almost like a [very long] movie in terms of effort, but also in terms of immersion (depending on what else you do while you listen)
That said, I may have been more critical of it had I been reading. There were a number of unexplained details and cliched moments, but it's a lot easier to accept those when the story rushes on regardless.
There was nothing in the story that was enough to jolt me out of it; sure, there were unexplained mysteries, but in a story where mystery is a central element, I can let that slide. Sometimes knowing answers does not make anything better (see: Lost)