I first read this book almost thirty years ago, when it was my gateway to the world of modern fantasy literature. The writing style is extremely engag...moreI first read this book almost thirty years ago, when it was my gateway to the world of modern fantasy literature. The writing style is extremely engaging, retelling the Irish folktales with a more modern style and tone works -- the characters take on a real life of their own and draw you in to their trials and tribulations.
From a purely fantasy standpoint, this book is the beginning of a quest tale: the hero must overcome the challenges of an unjust world while learning the secrets of his past. With the help of his friends and their fantastic powers, can he succeed?(less)
That being said, The Elfin Ship reads a great deal like The Hobbit -- from a protagonist who would rather sleep in his bed at home than on the road, to a roguish magical character of uncertain power. The book reads like a fantastic journey, like a children's fantasy novel that can be appreciated by adults.
This is not a book that reads like a modern fantasy novel. Instead, it has a thoroughly dream-like quality; some of the items make more dream-sense than not. The world is still richly imagined, with little details that give you a feel of actually being there.
James P. Blaylock has written two sequels (The Disappearing Dwarf and The Stone Giant), but I've not read them yet. My understanding is they are less like direct sequels, and more along the lines of "further adventures," which suits me just fine. I read this decades ago, and to try to pick up the thread again after the time would be folly. I enjoyed this thoroughly as a teenager, and am not sure whether my tastes have remained such that I would enjoy the book the same way again.
I will note that, this book suffers the same fate as several books illustrated in the 1980s by Darrell K. Sweet, namely the cover bares only the most superficial resemblance to a scene in the book. It's exactly as if the publisher gave the illustrator a three-sentence brief of the scene's content, and then no-one reviewed the painting to make suggestions for correction, or no one cared how close it hewed to the story. I am certain this is what happened, but it's unfortunately since the scene depicted would, indeed, be the best scene for the cover in the book, but is completely misleading.(less)
This is yet another tense, fast-paced thriller from the pen of Dashiell Hammett. The characters talk fast, drink hard, and everybody's got an angle. I...moreThis is yet another tense, fast-paced thriller from the pen of Dashiell Hammett. The characters talk fast, drink hard, and everybody's got an angle. If you like hard-boiled detectives, but you also like sympathetic characters, then this detective story with a husband-and-wife team will be right up your alley.(less)
Welcome to Gavagan's Bar (rhymes with "pagan") where it's always 1953, the bartender is Irish, and the drinks are never watered down! Where you can ru...moreWelcome to Gavagan's Bar (rhymes with "pagan") where it's always 1953, the bartender is Irish, and the drinks are never watered down! Where you can rub elbows with mad inventors, dark wizards, and ancient gods masquerading as ordinary schlubs.
The Gavagan's Bar stories were written by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt between 1950 and 1956, and were among those stories that pioneered the modern Fantasy-or-Science-Fiction "Tall Tales." The idea was to write a sci-fi or fantasy story as an anecdote told in a bar. The style won't suit everyone -- the authors paint the characters and setting with broad strokes, as opposed to the detailed descriptions popular today. But the sheer creativity and bravado is fantastic, and the stories hearken to the earliest days of the American Science Fiction scene.
The 1950s era is in full evidence in theses stories. In Gavagan's Bar, ladies drink at the tables, not the bar. Gentlemen will be refused service if they start getting too drunk, and the racism and sexism of the era is mild but evident -- in the characters. Refreshingly, the characters' flaws are starkly evident, and the authors pull no punches. None of it was wince-inducing for this reader, but others may find it not to their taste.
The stories cover topics such as ancient gods walking among men and dark sorcerers who make dire pacts, little people and mythological beasts, modern wacky inventions and medieval alchemy. None of the stories is allowed to go too long; they're each just long enough for the gag to work. It reads fast. if you've ever read Dashiell Hammett or Robert E. Howard in the original, you know what I mean; it's a pulpy style of writing, where words flow off the page as fast as you can turn them.
The stories were ended prematurely by Fletcher Pratt's untimely death. L. Sprague de Camp writes a little in the afterword about a story idea that was left undeveloped. I'm left to mourn what might have been. We don't really have anything like this being written today. For analogues in the same vein, you have to go earlier: the "Jorkens" tales of Lord Dunsany, and the "Tales of the White Hart" by Arthur C. Clarke are usually cited as the closest in style, but I've read only a few of the former and none of the latter. In any case, if you're a fan of the tall tale, or the 1950s, and especially if you're a Sci-Fi or Fantasy fan who loves the TV series "Mad Men," you owe it to yourself to check them out.(less)
This was recommended to me when I said I liked the movie The Ninth Gate. While this is the book on which it is based, this book is wildly different in...moreThis was recommended to me when I said I liked the movie The Ninth Gate. While this is the book on which it is based, this book is wildly different in theme and execution. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but batting threw recommendation on the movie is disingenuous. Enjoy the book for its own sake, as a mystery story and literary romp, don't go into our expecting the same occult intrigue. It's there but it is completely different in tone and execution.(less)
When you pick this up, it's important to remember that Jacob Grimm intended to write a collection of moral fables, tales to instruct in proper behavio...moreWhen you pick this up, it's important to remember that Jacob Grimm intended to write a collection of moral fables, tales to instruct in proper behavior. He may have collected his stories from a set of Huguenot families, but he undoubtedly did a lot of editorializing in order to make his stories readable, to make them funny, and to make them morally correct.
This book collects all of the stories published in the original Grimm's Fairy Tales collections. There are repeat characters, and repetitive stories, sometimes with only minor variation. The classic Disney stories are here, but in the original form they are different than expected, sometimes jarringly so. Most of the stories will be new to modern readers.
The quality of the stories is somewhat uneven. Grimm obviously spoke to a lot of different storytellers, and so they are all constructed a little differently -- some are surprisingly modern in tone and characterization while others are old-fashioned and trite. Most of the stories are extremely short, taking up only a page or two; others are long and may incorporate elements from shorts stories read only a few pages earlier. In some cases this reinforces standard fairy tale tropes, while in others it seems more like lazy storytelling. The world the characters inhabit contains talking animals (except when it doesn't), evil witches (except when they're good) and wandering princes who acquire fantastic treasures only to lose it all a paragraph later in an unbelievable act of stupidity.
Keeping in mind that, along with Mother Goose's Fairy Tales and The Blue Fairy Book, this forms the foundation of the modern fairy tale tradition, this is definitely a key book to read to your children. And if, while doing so, you modify the stories to fit your audience and change the moral to fir your own personal code, remember that you are following in the tradition established by Jacob Grimm himself.(less)
A nice collection of real-life lawsuits that illustrate the need for tort reform in the United States of America. The Award is named for the woman who...moreA nice collection of real-life lawsuits that illustrate the need for tort reform in the United States of America. The Award is named for the woman who successfully sued McDonalds because she spilled their hot coffee in her lap; although deeper reading of the details of that case does provide food for thought.
Most of the cases are pretty cut-and-dried, although some have follow-ups and results provided (where available). I'd love to find out about cases he reports that have wrapped up since he published this book; maybe it's time for a revised edition?(less)
I started this because I'm a fan of science-fiction and detective fiction, and thought this might be up my alley. In fact, the first book in this omni...moreI started this because I'm a fan of science-fiction and detective fiction, and thought this might be up my alley. In fact, the first book in this omnibus does a good job of delivering. The later books are less classifiable, but nevertheless still deliver on entertainment. I found it interesting how Dan Abnett was able to tie up a lot of loose ends in the final chapters, although I found the future depicted exceptionally grim - I guess if you like that sort of thing, then this is the book for you.(less)
An entertaining fantasy story with a reasonable cast. The story starts out as a bog-standard fantasy about a succession crisis involving two princes a...moreAn entertaining fantasy story with a reasonable cast. The story starts out as a bog-standard fantasy about a succession crisis involving two princes and their "wicked stepmother," and rapidly evolves with advances in technology and significant character development.
One thing that could have been better was pacing. Of the two main characters in the beginning (Wizenbeak and his hired mercenary captain/foreman Genzari) only Wizenbeak gets a full personality; it took a while for Genzari to have his own voice in the narrative. However, eventually everyone has their part to play and the characters develop as expected.
The sensibility of the book is very modern. The characters use modern idioms and think in modern terms. I know this is standard with many novels not specifically set in a fully developed setting, and it's not out of place here, but I thought it worth mentioning for those thinking of reading the book.
I was kind of surprised the book didn't include a map of Guhland. The important locations are described in good enough detail that it isn't vital, but it would have been an aid in following the author's shifting viewpoints.
This sequel to The Time Machine takes place almost immediately after the original book left off. It takes the logical progression of events from the o...moreThis sequel to The Time Machine takes place almost immediately after the original book left off. It takes the logical progression of events from the original set-up: the narrator of Wells' book has just completed telling his story to his party guests and is about to journey back to the future to rejoin the Eloi.
Jeter takes the next logical steps. Assuming the morlocks were as intelligent as implied in the original story, he presumes that they use the Time Machine to launch an invasion the past. This means that the protagonist must foil an plot already underway -- with their newly-acquired mastery of time travel, the morlocks have already (will already?) travel further back than the original Time Traveller in order to set up their espionage operations to conquer the humans of the modern era.
Personally, I enjoyed his book Infernal Devices better, but this was still a fine book. I would rate it at 3 1/2 stars if I could; without this option, I err on the side of thinking it's worth reading.(less)
I read this over vacation. I hesitated over what shelf to file it under. It's definitely science fiction. Is it really cyberpunk? It's not easy to say...moreI read this over vacation. I hesitated over what shelf to file it under. It's definitely science fiction. Is it really cyberpunk? It's not easy to say.
The difficulty lies in the author's extremely dense prose. Stross writes with the cutting edge jargon of the skilled netizen with such finesse and native skill that you're never sure when he's throwing away a reference to something you'll find in your IT department, or when he's made it up out of whole cloth.
Told in multiple viewpoints, the book's title is obviously it's initial draw. And the main character is in charge of something known as the "Rule 34 Squad," police officers charged with monitoring the Internet for destructive memes, such as cannibalism fangroups or similarly dark human foibles. However, in reading, I looked for a meta-reference, something which would indicate that, at a meta-level, the events in the book were the Rule 34 dark-fantasy of one of the characters. It took until the last chapter to find it, but once it comes out I think it's a satisfying and interesting way to do it. Kudos to Mr. Stross!
Basically a police procedural set in a plausible near-future, Stross' second second-person-narrative book takes some getting used to. As mentioned before, he litters his prose with terms familiar (or at least semi-familiar) to the IT-savvy crowd, but probably Greek to everyone else. I recommend judicious Googling throughout if the terminology gives you pause.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book and will have to look for the first one, Halting State; my understanding is that, while both books feature a few similar characters and take place in the same setting, the plots are distinct with no overlap, and they can therefore be enjoyed in any order.(less)
In this story, Kuttner tries to combine several fantasy themes into a science-fantasy whole - werewolves and vampires, Greek myths, and Lovecraftian t...moreIn this story, Kuttner tries to combine several fantasy themes into a science-fantasy whole - werewolves and vampires, Greek myths, and Lovecraftian themes. It is a moderately successful story, though at times it feels rushed (probably because of its origin in the science-fantasy pulps).(less)