I wasn't sure what to expect when I checked this book out. I knew it was banned and Rushdie threatened by religious zealots. I knew it was pretty wellI wasn't sure what to expect when I checked this book out. I knew it was banned and Rushdie threatened by religious zealots. I knew it was pretty well received, critically.
What I got was a beautiful, thought-provoking mess.
First the good: 1. The language is beautiful. Excellent use of metaphor, allusion, etc. Several motifs are used to good effect. 2. Funny. Lots of amusing parts of this book. 3. Approaches the themes from various angles. 4. Inspired me to learn stuff.
However, it wasn't all good. 1. Disjointed. This book really seemed like it had two major things to say, and didn't always do a good job of making them relate to one another. So, the dream sequences about Islam and the waking narrative of the immigrant often felt completely separate. 2. Pacing. I think this book was too long. 3. Anticlimax. There are parts of the book after the ending of the two main narratives that feel tacked on.
Still, a very enjoyable work. I'll be checking out more Rushdie in the future....more
Ever see a video (or in person) shot of someone who's leading in a competition, and then throws it away at the end my accident or mistake? Celebrate tEver see a video (or in person) shot of someone who's leading in a competition, and then throws it away at the end my accident or mistake? Celebrate too early, racer blows an engine on the last lap, trip before the finish line, whatever.
This book is the literary equivalent of that.
It starts strong and goes on well. The writing in quick paced and witty. The historical setting (New York, 1978) and culture are well researched. The story itself is interesting, creepy and engaging.
The book is a vampire book about vampires, and that's it. There are no important human characters other than the MC's family in the pre-turning flashbacks. Otherwise humans are food - charmed, passive, and ultimately oblivious. The book's conflicts are all about vampire society.
It also deals with some recurring tropes from vampire fiction in ways that are not really common. In particular, the concept of child vampires.
Unfortunately, the story draws to a close that seems pretty contrived, abrupt and saccharine. And then after that, the author indulges in a sort of epilogue where he spells out too much and basically says "hey, look how witty I am."
All in all, it was an enjoyable story - but be prepared to be extremely frustrated by the ending....more
To begin with, it seems like it's going to be a "magical school" book a la Harry Potter and others. BuI enjoyed this book on several different levels.
To begin with, it seems like it's going to be a "magical school" book a la Harry Potter and others. But it isn't. In truth, the siblings' time in their respective training is just the introduction to the greater story.
The world building and magic in this book are tightly entwined and fairly interesting. Though not truly groundbreaking in any particular way, Maxwell has managed to mix and alter tropes into something atypical and entertaining. The story's setting is made up of an empire whose constituent nations (aka Houses) each possess their own unique magic. The different strengths of the houses drive most of the commerce, and act as a deterrent.
When one of the Houses loses its Lexicon, the tome of magic that explains and empowers that nation's lore, things start to come apart. The emperor begins to consolidate power, and the Houses are forced to choose - submit to this new, greater authority or stand against the other Houses?
The antagonists of the story turn out to be refreshingly complicated and human. They are doing what they think is best, sometimes for themselves, sometimes for the world.
The history of these people is sketched in quotes at the beginning of the chapter, which gives a nice sense of what has gone before without a lot of digression or detail for its own sake.
I borrowed this book more or less on a whim. I'm so glad I did. It was phenomenal.
Hawkins weaves a universe that is much larger than the one we see ouI borrowed this book more or less on a whim. I'm so glad I did. It was phenomenal.
Hawkins weaves a universe that is much larger than the one we see outside our front doors, with a vast secret history. He doesn't spend a lot of time dumping information about it, however - we are shown the outline of things through passing mentions, and events that have no rational explanation.
This universe form the backdrop of an intense story. Twelve children, newly-made orphans, are adopted by their neighbor, old Mr. Black. But he's not who he seems, and his methods of child rearing range from the unusual to the horrific. Their home, the Library, is also not what it seems. When the story begins, Mr. Black (or Father as they now call him) has gone missing, and the twelve (now in their 30s) are locked out of the Library. They are working hard to find him, or to find a way in.
It's difficult to know what else to say about the book without spoiling aspects of it. So I'll just skip to the more general descriptions of what I liked about it.
The language is handled deftly. Each point of view character has an accompanying narrative style that identifies them, and helps to immerse you in the story. The story itself is multi-layered, but the various aspects are foreshadowed or briefly exposed well enough to keep one from feeling totally adrift.
The main characters are believable (or, in the case of the 12 librarians, at least consistent and interesting) and rich. Even the most broken of the librarians has aspects that invoke wonder and pity. Even the most interesting and sympathetic sometimes evoke horror. The American characters provoke more prosaic reactions, but are varied and realistic.
The book is, however, extremely violent, in some cases graphically. I would not suggest this to anyone who is feeling sensitive to physical, mental or sexual abuse of people, or violence to animals.
I'll definitely be watching for more Scott Hawkins books in the future....more
This book is riddled with logical inconsistencies and events that seem to happen "just because." The writing is nothing special, either. These two facThis book is riddled with logical inconsistencies and events that seem to happen "just because." The writing is nothing special, either. These two factors together made me put it down....more
If this were a complete story, it would be solidly in the 3-4 star range.
Unfortunately, despite being listed as a novella, it reads like the first epiIf this were a complete story, it would be solidly in the 3-4 star range.
Unfortunately, despite being listed as a novella, it reads like the first episode of a serial. 75% or more of the story is set-up, the first hints of the real conflict don't show up until almost the end, and nothing whatsoever is resolved.
That said, the characters are interesting, the future posited in the book is well done, and I'm interested to know what happens next....more
Aidan is floating through life, mostly ignored by the people around him. Then an old friend he doesn't even remember comes back to their school, and AAidan is floating through life, mostly ignored by the people around him. Then an old friend he doesn't even remember comes back to their school, and Aiden's life is turned upside down.
This story weaves a few threads together to form a complex and breathing tapestry. Family and disillusionment with your parents is a major theme. So are interpersonal relationships. Identity and its relationship to memory are another major point. Barzak also paints a well detailed world behind the scenes, where some people can affect the world around them through mystical powers.
The book is well written, and draws you into all these developments. Seeing Aiden learn the truth about himself, his family, his friend, and the life he has led is gripping, most of the time. I think perhaps the author spent a bit too much time rehashing similar points from Aiden's point of view, which bogs the flow down a bit here and there....more
The Thousand Names is a "flintlock fantasy" with a distinctly British Empire in Asia feel to it. The action centers around a regiment of musketeers inThe Thousand Names is a "flintlock fantasy" with a distinctly British Empire in Asia feel to it. The action centers around a regiment of musketeers in an arid region far from home. They are hold up in an ancient fort because a populist religious uprising, the Redemption, has driven them out of the country's city along with the former ruler.
They're waiting for recall home - their enemy outnumbers them 10-to-1. But when their new commander arrives, he comes with relief troops and a mission from their king to retake the capital on behalf of their ally, the Prince.
In addition to the greater plot, the book also deals closely with multiple personal subplots for many of the characters, giving the book real life.
My main worry before starting was that this would turn out to be a thinly veiled rant against or libel of Islam. Other than the setting, however, there was not much parallel. Neither the society nor religion of Khandar ends up paralleling the Mideast. In fact, what real world parallelism there is seems like a distant inspiration by Hinduism.
I thought the writing was very solid, though it did not strike me as particularly beautiful or clever. The attraction in this book was the story itself, and the depth of the main characters.
I'll definitely be continuing The Shadow Campaigns....more
As is my usual practice with Mark Lawrence books, I couldn't leave this one to just the commute. I listened to it pretty much any time I didn't need tAs is my usual practice with Mark Lawrence books, I couldn't leave this one to just the commute. I listened to it pretty much any time I didn't need to be listening to something else.
Lawrence really nailed the conclusion to the Red Queen's War. Prince Jalan continues to be amusing and witty, but the self-absorbed coward of Prince of Fools is almost gone. The Jalan that came out of these adventures is still a hedonist. Still more than a little amoral where his own comforts are concerned. And maybe even still a coward. But he recognizes what needs to be done, and has the spine to do it.
As will be familiar to anyone who has read Lawrence's other work, the story is told in two separate narratives, one present and the other past. We start with Jalan leaving Hel(l) after being pulled into it with Snorri at the end of book 2. He has hidden most of his memories of that journey away, and only duress and magical influence can force him to reluctantly relive it.
The way the story weaves into the events of the Broken Empire series is handled deftly, managing to expand on some of them while not retelling them.
Lawrence's turns of phrase and digressions into philosophy remain intact, and very enjoyable.
The Brass Giant is a nice blend of steampunk sci-fi, mystery and romance that kept me well entertained.
The story of Petra Wade starts on a very familiThe Brass Giant is a nice blend of steampunk sci-fi, mystery and romance that kept me well entertained.
The story of Petra Wade starts on a very familiar note to genre fans. A girl or young lady, barred from persuing her passion by a patriarchal society, disguises herself as a boy to attend/join/server/whatever. It's not a bad story, but it's been done to death.
Thankfully, this idea goes off the rails immediately. Instead, Petra ends up impressing a Guild engineer with her insight and begins working with him on a project in secret.
Along the way, the orphan Petra learns more about her family, herself, and the Guild she wants to join.
The story's strengths are manifold. The characters are drawn quite well, and this alternate Victorian England feels lived in - and a bit greasy. :D Petra's attempts to navigate the minefields of society's expectations, her dreams of being a clockwork engineer, the possibility of romance and her own past are familiar. Other topics touched upon include loyalty, true family, and justice.
Johnson has also clearly familiarized herself with the structures of clockwork, which lends her descriptions a solid veracity.
The story is written in a limited 3rd person, and the author's voice stays out of the way, allowing for deep absorption into the narrative.
The thing preventing this book from reaching 5 stars for me was the ending. It wasn't a bad ending, but I felt it was anticlimactic. After a build-up of tension and stakes, it ends up mostly draining away with little actually resolved.
All in all, though, a very entertaining book. I plan to read the sequels when they appear....more
Another in my long list of Kindle impulse buys. It took me six months to get around to it, but I'm glad I finally did.
The book centers around Dan HendAnother in my long list of Kindle impulse buys. It took me six months to get around to it, but I'm glad I finally did.
The book centers around Dan Hendricks, a freelance intelligence asset. After a long history of working for the CIA, he finds himself at the wrong end of an attempt to clean house. Before long he finds himself with no real options except a long shot.
The story runs along pretty tightly, interspersing investigation, action and personal development. Enough information about the intelligence game is described to keep it interesting, but not enough to make it drag.