From an architectural standpoint, this book is a work of genius--six layers of stories nested within one another and linked with fine threads of charaFrom an architectural standpoint, this book is a work of genius--six layers of stories nested within one another and linked with fine threads of character or circumstance. The narrative voice and vocabulary of each story reflects the way the novel bounces through different eras and geographical locations, and the revealing of each layer of connection is often so subtle that the reader can still feel proud of themselves for working it out. Technically speaking, it's a marvel of literary construction.
But while it's worth reading to appreciate the elegance of its construction, the way one might admire a bridge or a great edifice, I didn't find Cloud Atlas much warmer than one of those constructs in terms of the story or characters. Only one of the six protagonists was compelling enough for me to become emotionally invested in his story. The others were interesting from an academic perspective--how is this story going to connect with the previous one? Which of these characters have I seen before?--but they weren't exactly enjoyable in that gripping, cathartic, escapist sort of way that I tend to crave in books.
However, what character(s) you identify with is a distinctly personal reaction, so your mileage may vary. You may become immersed in more stories than I did. And if you enjoy reading to explore craft, this title is definitely worth a look for its unusual structure and unique storytelling format....more
As with much of Torchwood EU, I have conflicting feelings about this book. On the one hand, it has some great individual scenes, zippy one-liners, and
As with much of Torchwood EU, I have conflicting feelings about this book. On the one hand, it has some great individual scenes, zippy one-liners, and the return of Idris Hopper (a minor Doctor Who character who was originally slated to fill the position later occupied by Ianto Jones). On the other, the characterizations are uneven (and in the case of Jack, bordering on disturbing), and the plot is confusing. Though parts of the book are enjoyable, it's somehow unsatisfying as a whole.
The plot is convoluted and a bit difficult to follow. Series 1 antagonist Bilis Manger returns--I'll confess, he wasn't my favorite villain--and absconds with members of Torchwood 3, and there is another Big Threat coming from the rift. There's some flashy-but-not-really-relevant drama involving clowns, and some general techno-magic handwaving about the resolution (we did a Science Thing! we don't need to explain how!). This is peppered with interesting character moments throughout, as members of the team see themselves enacting potential future scenarios.
But I can forgive the weak conflict; after all, the TV series was notorious for those, and let's be honest--nobody reads Torchwood for the plot. It's not science fiction; it's a character-driven fantasy series with aliens, and the characters are what we really came for, right?
This brings me to my biggest gripe with this book: What the heck is going on with Jack? In spite of substantial character growth (both in the TV series and in previous novel installments), he has somehow reverted to being the self-absorbed jerk he was early in the series. Even though he and Ianto are supposed to be pursuing a more romantic relationship by this point, Jack taunts Ianto, lies to him, blows him off, and is generally rude. (Contrast this with the previous book in the series, Trace Memory, in which Jack is sensitive to Ianto's hurt feelings when one of Jack's previous lovers shows up, and they end up talking through it and holding hands). When Jack encounters Idris Hopper, it is revealed [very minor spoiler, but tagged for safety] (view spoiler)[that in the past, Jack tried to Retcon Idris and then take him home--which is basically drug-assisted rape at that point. (hide spoiler)] THAT IS NOT OKAY, JACK.
Idris Hopper is one of the high points of this book, though I don't think he was utilized to his full potential. Supposedly, the character was originally meant to return in Torchwood, but was replaced during series development with the character of Ianto Jones. This background knowledge makes for some fun moments when Idris and Ianto are compared by other characters, or when they face off in person (usually being catty over Jack, because that's as deep as this book goes, though I would have loved to see them have a real sass contest). Idris is refreshing because he's one person Jack's charm doesn't work on, and while he's not as snarky as Ianto or (Torchwood Big Finish audio character) Norton Folgate, he has the potential to be another source of dry wit under stress. (Something for the writers of future installments to think about, perhaps?)
In summary, the book has good moments, and some pithy and quotable lines, but overall it's not one of the best plots in the series. It's not a good jumping-on point, but Torchwood fans who are completists will want to check it out. Just realize that you may not like Jack much in this installment.
So... I read this book primarily just to get it out of my house (I was sorting books for a charity sale), and even though the paperback was well underSo... I read this book primarily just to get it out of my house (I was sorting books for a charity sale), and even though the paperback was well under 200 pages, I almost didn't make it through.
I've read a few decent books by this author, but this is certainly not one of them. There is virtually no conflict in the story (despite the best attempts by the blurb to imply that the heroine is in danger of being forced into an unwanted marriage -- spoiler, she really isn't!), and the characters are such cardboard cutouts they make make preteen fanfiction tropes look complex. Additionally, it's probably the preachiest G. L. Hill book I've ever read, complete with long Scripture excerpts and letters in which the lead couple discuss their respective theology. Repeatedly. I'm fairly certain there is more ink devoted to theology than anything approaching romance in this book.
Complete summary of book, which I'm not going to spoiler tag because that would imply there's something to spoil: Perfect Mary Sue is sad because her mother has died and she's broke. Her old school chum Gary Stu, who is both wealthy and God-fearing, meets her by chance (and randomly kisses her). She thinks he's nice, but she is on her way to visit estranged relatives. Said relatives are miserable, greedy, godless people who want her to marry a creepy neighbor who owes them money. She says no. She then visits her other relatives, who are all fellow perfect Mary Sues (and appropriately God-fearing), and writes a lot of letters to Gary Stu about the Bible. Gary Stu shows up and they get married, and the evil relatives are so moved by her perfect Mary Sue ways that they all decide to read the Bible, too. THE END.
I wish I were making that up, but sadly, that's the story -- but with a lot more crystalline tears and trembling fingers and perfect Mary Sue-ness. :P The best thing about this book was that the edition I had (a 1970s-vintage paperback) tried so desperately to make it sound interesting that they actually fabricated a FAKE EXCERPT for inside the front cover, in which the heroine was faced with a terrible choice and had to make a snap decision about marrying for love or money. Pretty gutsy of the publisher, since nothing even remotely like that happened in the book....more
The Torchwood novels, released in progressive sets of three throughout the show's run, follow the chronology of the TV series in terms of character deThe Torchwood novels, released in progressive sets of three throughout the show's run, follow the chronology of the TV series in terms of character development and major events. This first book is set somewhere around the second or third episode of Series 1, with the corresponding early versions of the characters: Jack is tough and mysterious and shows little warmth; Gwen still thinks like a beat cop, and is frequently appalled by Jack's lack of humanity; Owen is a petulant creep who chafes at Jack's orders; Toshiko gushes techno-babble while having little defined personality; and Ianto is still solidly in his one-dimensional butler role, though there are refreshing moments when informed readers know he's slipping off to the basement to check on Lisa. (Amusingly, he deflects whenever Jack tries to flirt with him. Definitely early days...)
There are some fans who liked the original characterizations from series 1, but I am not among them. That made elements of this story less appealing to me (why should I care about Owen's love life when I really just want him to be hit by a bus?), but in the book's defense, overall, the writing is very true to the voice of the characters at that point in the series. There are even moments that foreshadow some of the developments to come, which is nice, and there are occasional nods to Jack's mysterious past -- or future, whichever way you view it.
That said, there were a few moments that felt off in terms of characterization -- Owen's digital avatar and game of choice was not at all what I would have expected for someone of his personality type, nor was his supposed lack of technical knowledge believable. (For that matter, the entire MMO description felt very much like someone trying to relate something they had never personally experienced. Perhaps the author didn't know any gamers?) And Toshiko, who had the least "screen time" in this book, was surprisingly standoffish and caustic toward Owen, even threatening bodily harm, which seems out of character for her.
In terms of plot, it's a bit more complicated than the usual episode adventures, with several avenues of investigation going on at once, but that's not an unwelcome change for a series that characteristically suffered from too many one-dimensional crises. There's a bit of Rift-related hand-waving and super-convenient technology -- again, typical Torchwood fare -- and the last third of the book or so is entirely predictable, but it's not handled badly. (To be fair, this book has a more complete storytelling structure than most of the Torchwood episodes did...)
In short, if you liked Series 1, this installment is worth reading. But be warned -- there's a lot of pre-redemption Owen in it....more
This wartime caper, while a bit darker than the average Saint adventure, nevertheless fails to be one of his more memorable escapades. Perhaps this isThis wartime caper, while a bit darker than the average Saint adventure, nevertheless fails to be one of his more memorable escapades. Perhaps this is due to the scrim of patriotic fervor that weighs down Simon's usual devil-may-care spirit; or perhaps it's simply difficult to reconcile a story that opens with a man being gruesomely burned alive with the lighthearted banter that typifies the Saint's chronicles.
[minor spoiler warning] This tale also has Simon working as agent for a nameless top-secret government intelligence outfit to hunt down a ring of Nazi saboteurs, which is a dramatic shift from the opportunistic adventures or Robin Hood-type rescues that Simon usually engages in.
Still, in spite of the heavy wartime message, a slightly deus-ex-narrator resolution, and an over-the-top femme fatale who could have been played by Garbo, Charteris' writing is in form, with plenty of quirky descriptions and fun one-liners. Long-time fans of The Saint will want to read this installment, if only for the head-shaking image of Simon as a secret agent. But readers who have never enjoyed a Saint tale should probably begin with one of his earlier adventures....more
A quick and entertaining read that gives a knowing wink to fantasy tropes and draws as many laughs as you'd expect from a story about a rotting animatA quick and entertaining read that gives a knowing wink to fantasy tropes and draws as many laughs as you'd expect from a story about a rotting animate corpse trying to make it to the afterlife. If you're looking for Tolkien-esque high fantasy, you've got the wrong book -- but there's plenty of snarky humor and genre parody, and it's a fun way to pass a couple of hours.