The most Neil Gaiman-y of all Neil Gaiman's novels, where he pours all his skill at re-jiggering folktales into a modern setting with a compelling BigThe most Neil Gaiman-y of all Neil Gaiman's novels, where he pours all his skill at re-jiggering folktales into a modern setting with a compelling Big Idea. In truth he does a decent job "capturing the spirit of immigrant America", especially in a handful of the side-vignettes. (The clever and poignant story of the djinn taxi driver in New York is one that has stuck with me over the years.) From time to time the road-side carny atmosphere betrays a whiff of tourism, a Brit's-eye view of the U.S. that seems overly romantic and exotic. But I think he can be forgiven. Like maybe he had been listening to the "Joshua Tree" a lot while writing it.
Re-reading this a second time I was struck by the smoothness and efficiency of the writing. There's a cool unflappability here that mirrors Shadow's personality. And as always, the plot is finely-crafted, both in the clever misdirection of the overall plot arc, and the way he strings interesting baubles along the path. [First read back in November 2005.]...more
Amazingly, I managed to secure a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from the Arlington Public Library. I was 69th in the queue when I put my name on the waiting list in February but they ordered enough copies so that I got mine on the first day it was available. I love the public library! I read the book in a rush last weekend and have been going through it more slowly a second time.
Adding to the pile of commentary available on the internet, my random thoughts on the book are after the link below. Beware, SPOILERS ahead!
* Overall, I thought the Deathly Hallows was an exciting and satisfying finish to the story and an excellent conclusion to the themes and ideas introduced in the first six books. Was it the best of the 7? Eh. I still lean towards Book 3, the first of the grown-up storylines, and Book 5, which I loved the second time after mildly disliking it at first. However, most of my complaints are pretty minor. * The middle chapters where Harry, Hermione and Ron are on the run from the Death Eaters were hard to read, but very effective. Rowling really makes you feel their fear and hopelessness. They have no idea what they're doing, Harry won't accept help from Lupin or anyone else, his faith in Dumbledore is severely tested, they bicker amongst themselves because they're stressed out of their minds, and then Ron walks out and they're ambushed by Voldemort. Holy crap, this just might be too scary for younger readers (like me). And then when they bottom out Rowling uncorks that beautiful scene with the silver doe, and Ron returns and you're like, ahhhh, I think it's going to be OK. Nicely done. * Snape's death. I loved that sinister Severus Snape turned out to be a heroic spy for the Order motivated by an unrequited love for Harry's mom - indeed, I would have been annoyed if he hadn't. As one character put it: the world isn't divided into nice people and Death Eaters. But, I was a little miffed that he didn't have a larger role in 7 and was offed so perfunctorily by Voldemort. I was hoping his backstory would have been integrated into the plot a little better (like, saving Harry and dying tragically or something), rather than being told in flashback. * The entire ending of the book felt a little rushed, like Rowling realized she had dozens of loose ends to tie together and only 200 pages left to do it. At times there was a little too much tell, not enough show. Like when Harry and Dumbledore have their question-and-answer session after Harry gets avada kedavra'd. I mean, it was nice to have Dumbledore's presence back for one last reassuring conversation and the scene works certainly works dramatically, but it still seemed a little ad hoc. * I wasn't a fan of the whole complicated Elder Wand genealogy that gave Harry his big advantage over Voldemort; in fact the three Deathly Hallows themselves seemed almost like red herrings for all they mattered in the end. But I did enjoy the exciting mano-a-mano showdown. Talk about closure. * Two things that kicked ass: house elves and Mrs. Weasley. It seems like they could have made better use of the house elves throughout. * The epilogue was a little lame, I thought. I mean, I was happy to see Harry and Ginny's and Ron and Hermione's families, but it was a little clunky and all the interesting questions were left unanswered (although Rowling does give a little more information in this interview and she is reportedly writing an encyclopedia of Hogwarts, or something, for those of us wanting more details).
Mieville has so many bizarre and astonishing good ideas and he packs them in, one after another. In particular, his conception of "science" is worth aMieville has so many bizarre and astonishing good ideas and he packs them in, one after another. In particular, his conception of "science" is worth a graduate thesis or two, and the creatures he conjures up--the slake moths, the garuda, the re-made--are wholly original (and often creepy, and gross, and terrifying).
It's also refreshing to have a fantasy writer working in an urban setting with a smart sense of politics. Best, he has a knack for writing strong characters--especially his protagonist, Isaac--a skill which can get you a long way down the road even when the plot starts to fray.
And, over the first 3-400 pages this book had me totally in its thrall - five stars for sure. But then it meandered for the second half and ended with a clunk, so a few points off. Still all-in-all, very much worth a look for anyone interested in unusual and well-done speculative fiction. ...more
A Game of Thrones is high, high fantasy: swords, dragons, ye olde nine yardes. And I have to confess - fantasy geek that I am - that I was a little exA Game of Thrones is high, high fantasy: swords, dragons, ye olde nine yardes. And I have to confess - fantasy geek that I am - that I was a little exhausted by the genre when I started this one.
A good number of fantasy novels have never really left Europe ca. 1200 A.D. and their entire tone reflects this medieval inspiration. When done poorly this can include many aspects that seem pretty odd from a 20th century perspective, including: (1) the constant fetish with bloodlines and lineages, (2) ideas about highborn nobility and the rightness of the feudal economic system that are never quite subverted, (3) physiognomy, (4) racist depictions of "other lands" and broad generalizations about entire groups of people, and (5) the utter lack of a sense of humor. I often wonder why fantasy can't ever quite break out of this ghetto?
Anyway, I picked up AGOT because this series has a reputation for being smarter and better written that your average Tolkien knock-off, but still, the first few chapters had me wondering what I had gotten into. Yes, I get it: people from the "north" are "harder" and more "trustworthy," the "horseriders" are "cruel and bloodthirsty." Geez.
But it becomes evident that Martin is consciously and subtley twisting many of these fantasy cliches. Indeed, it may be because he understands the paradigm so well that he is best equipped to subvert it. Martin's world quickly reveals itself to be more concerned with how individuals interact and deal with social expectations, and he takes obvious pleasure in exposing the prejudices and hypocrisies of many of his characters.
It also helps that he can write circles around most other fantasy authors (cough cough Robert Jordan); his characters are fully realized people rather than symbols and he is quite expert at describing the shifting political realities facing his characters.
Be warned that the book absolutely does *not* wrap up nicely at the end and you *will* be required to move on to the next in the series if you want to know what happens....more
Originally read this in July 2005. Re-reading in Spanish for practice.
An enjoyable entry in the series, although too exposition-y in places. Clearly aOriginally read this in July 2005. Re-reading in Spanish for practice.
An enjoyable entry in the series, although too exposition-y in places. Clearly a setup for the grande finale. Its interesting that the spanish translation changes the title to the bland "the Mystery of the Prince" although they do use the term "el príncipe mestizo" in the text. I suppose the word "mestizo" is much more loaded with modern meaning than the rather archaic english term "half-blood."...more