I'm not sure what I expected from this but I know for certain now that it's really not my thing. I read, if that's the right word, the Android app verI'm not sure what I expected from this but I know for certain now that it's really not my thing. I read, if that's the right word, the Android app version, which includes digital 'dice'.
Roll dice to find out how likely you are to finish the book.
Get so far.
Start all over again.
With so so narration, this is a terrible way for me to experience a book. I remember reading one 'choose your own adventure' style book as a child (I'm not sure if it was in that range or not, only recently becoming aware that it was a range) and I remember re-reading every alternative option. Not, necessarily, because I enjoyed it, but because I wanted to know. In this kind of 'game book', particularly as a digital edition, you don't even have that option.
In fact, you don't have any options. Your passage through the narrative is entirely dice-based and if you get a bad roll, you have to start all over again - without even the reassurance that you can get back to where you were, so there's a lot of re-reading, a lot of skipping and did I mention a lot of dice rolling? Obviously some people think this is a fun experience and that's great. How you feel about this book and others like it will really depend on what you think of the word 'experience' and whether you prefer experiences in the form of luck-based games to be kept separate from your reading matter....more
Between other things in my life and the displacement that the new GoodReads homepage has induced in me, I find myself visiting GoodReads much less. SoBetween other things in my life and the displacement that the new GoodReads homepage has induced in me, I find myself visiting GoodReads much less. So much that this review comes two weeks after I finished the book, so my review is impressionistic.
As the story began, I was left with the impression that Markus Heitz never banked on getting his sequel published. I remember as I finished The Dwarves that I was surprised by its completeness. The worst legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien is born of his publisher's decision to print The Lord of the Rings in three volumes and the subsequent appetite that created among genre publishers for sprawling epics. The sprawling multi-volume series has just about become the norm for fantasy, and especially for high fantasy. The Dwarves is high fantasy, it is a multi-volume series, yet the story in the first book had definitely ended.
As a result, having built his hero up in traditional D&D ways during the first book, the beginning of the second saw the author systematically strip away all that he had earned in the first narrative. This second story was clearly set-up at the end of the first, with ominous signs in the sky, but I had to wonder how much the series had been planned if this was the way that the protagonist was treated: love-interest, weapon, kingdom, friends. All are taken away. Some might say that this is good writing and to an extent it does aid character development. In another, it points to a certain laziness redolent of British tabloid writers - a formulaic 'build 'em up, knock 'em down and build 'em up again' attitude; actually a lack of imagination that smacks of an RPG approach to narrative. That narrative is also progressed through prose that fell a little short of the standards of the first book (and, let's be clear, that book wasn't short-listed for the Booker).
The end, I felt, was also a little Hollywood for my tastes. Despite all that, I enjoyed the romp. Against my better judgement? Perhaps, but sometimes I want to be entertained rather than engaged - to switch off and not think. This is a dumb-action-movie of the literary world and for all that, there is character progression. Don't think these books add anything even to genre fiction but do enjoy them if that's your thing. I am....more
How you feel about that should guide you pretty fairly both as to how much you'd enjoy this book and as to how innovatDwarves!
Sorry, I mean - DWARVES!
How you feel about that should guide you pretty fairly both as to how much you'd enjoy this book and as to how innovative you'd think it is.
The UK has J.R.R. Tolkien, the USA George R.R. Martin, Poland Andrzej Sapkowski and Germany Markus Heitz. Each of these authors have written a series of books that have defied genre expectations by entering the bestseller charts in their respective countries and becoming familiar to non-genre fans. The worlds of each have been licensed for development into film or TV series and adapted into board and video games. Arguably, Heitz remains the least known of these authors in English speaking countries and I was intrigued to find out what the Teutonic fuss was about.
Laying my cards on the table, I have always been a fan of dwarves - even going so far as to practically hero-worship Flint Fireforge from the Dragonlance books when I was about eleven. With that admitted, I can also acknowledge a weakness in the way that Dwarves are usually portrayed in fantasy fiction that child-me couldn't see and that others are quick to criticise - they're often figures of fun. Even Tolkien's Dwarves are often little more than comic side-kicks, used to lighten what might otherwise be tense or dark moments (Gimli, in The Lord of the Rings, is perhaps especially prone to this abuse). Heitz sets out to offer some corrective to this.
If there is any innovation, then, that is the some total of it. His Dwarves are the the tragic heroes as well as the comic side-kicks. They are also as clearly Tolkien-influenced as any fantasy Dwarves since (although, as a side note, I did enjoy his affectionate and beautiful description of the hirsute female Dwarves). The plot, too, belongs to the epic fantasy genre that has aped The Lord of the Rings since it was first published. Reading in translation, it's impossible for me to judge the quality of the writing but I can say that in this translation it's probably no worse than Robert Jordan, often regarded as one of the better Tolkien imitators. I'd even go so far as to say that the translator (Sally-Ann Spencer) was aware of the Tolkien inspiration and worked with that in mind - I can't think of any reasons for using the German 'bögnilim' where 'goblin' might usually be used in epic-fantasy (particularly D&D derived fantasy) other than to avoid confusion for readers who might be used to Tolkien using the word as a synonym for his invented Orcs. Yes, orcs are here too. So are Elves, trolls and wizards. If there are any 'original' creatures/races then that title belongs to the Älfar, or 'not-elves' as I found myself referring to them.
For me, Tolkien remains the greatest fantasy writer. I haven't yet read any of Sapkowski's books but of the others mentioned at the beginning of this short review Heitz is the least original and, in translation, least stylish. That said, even if I'm not eleven any more, this book picks at a weakness for me and I will be reading the others in the series - innovative or not, it's nice to spend time with Dwarves that aren't (always) violent, drunk, axe-wielding clowns....more
This is, quite probably, the best and most enjoyable P.G. Wodehouse book that I've read so far. Psmith is a character I wanted to dislike (I read thisThis is, quite probably, the best and most enjoyable P.G. Wodehouse book that I've read so far. Psmith is a character I wanted to dislike (I read this book due to its position in the Blandings series rather than that other one) but couldn't help warming to, in spite of both his conceit and his conceitedness.
The plot is the Wodehouse stereotype - British farce inspired by American pulp (here quite nakedly) - and probably doesn't need much saying about it.
Three stars? The brevity of my review and my rating owe much to where I find myself in my life. When I started reading this I really felt that it was a four star read - I like it a lot - but it's taken me five months to finish. That's a very long time for a light, short book....more
Henry Kuttner was primarily a sci-fi writer and my ignorance of him can be laid firmly at that door. This book though contains a collection of his swoHenry Kuttner was primarily a sci-fi writer and my ignorance of him can be laid firmly at that door. This book though contains a collection of his sword & sorcery tales which were apparently published to fill a Conan-shaped void in Weird Tales following Robert E. Howard's demise.
Kuttner's chief hero is the titular Elak who, wiry and wielding a rapier, does not conform to that physical shape. Assisted by his boon companion Lycon, the influence on Fritz Leiber is plain - the duo drink, womanise, steal and , most significantly, joke their way through their adventures. I also feel that the tales influenced others in more subtle ways - the slightly built prince in self-exile foreshadows Michael Moorcock's Elric, the integration of Lovecraftian horror would later be carried out by many but none more so than Karl Edward Wagner when he wrote his Kane adventures, and his depiction of Atlantis hints at Pat Mills's Tír nan Óg, where Ukko could be said to be an amped up Lycon, stripped of his bravery and fighting skills.
Whilst Kuttner was writing the Elak stories for Weird Tales, he also wrote his two Prince Raynor pieces for Strange Stories. I had to look that up. I really thought that these were two earlier pieces when I was reading them. The Elak adventures can sometimes appear rushed. It's perhaps a problem of the pulp format, rather than of the writer's, that can sometimes force too many events into too few words. The best writers overcome this though and Kuttner comes close to doing so in his Elak pieces. He fails miserably with Prince Raynor though and I'm forced to wonder why - did he just care less? About his character? Or about the publication venue?
Prince Raynor is physically similar to Elak but more priggish and less rounded. The stories clunk along with little regard for narrative development and, most uncomfortably for this 21st century reader, there's an undeniable racist component. Like Elak, Prince Raynor has a companion. Rather than a drinking buddy though, this character (whose name I can't remember, twelve hours after finishing the book, itself a damning fact) is a servant, described as a big ugly Nubian, who constantly says 'Thankyou Master' whenever Raynor saves him (curiously, this courtesy is never returned - the thanks, not the act) and is referred to at least once by another character when talking to Raynor as 'your black'. There are other examples, not related to that character, which (like his name) I've now forgotten.
Overall, the Elak stories, at least, are something that fans of swords and sorcery and of pulp fiction will probably still enjoy - eighty years after publication!...more
Look. Stop. Breathe. Stop. Read. Stop. I'd heard of William King. He's the author of Gotrek & Felix. This is his first book that I've read. It staLook. Stop. Breathe. Stop. Read. Stop. I'd heard of William King. He's the author of Gotrek & Felix. This is his first book that I've read. It starts with very short sentences. It's jarring. It's at odds with the content.
Short sentences are an effective device for increasing tension. Overused they're just irritating. Using them for exposition is a terrible decision.
Authors are often accused of overwriting and told to keep it simple; what's less often acknowledged is that it's possible to go too far the other way and King does here. To be fair to him his prose improves marginally from the second or third chapter but by that point I was already annoyed. What makes it even worse is that the exposition was minimal and world-building almost completely absent. There didn't need to be any more than there was but why pretend otherwise?
As far as the world goes, I wonder if this was actually a pitch to Games Workshop for their Warhammer Fantasy world (which includes the aforementioned Gotrek & Felix). This world's almost indistinguishable from that one - warring principalities, hints of a large human empire with organised religion, undead, powerful Dwarven runes and orcs... If it was offered then it's possible they passed on it due to the Age of Sigmar change but it's equally possible that they just weren't interested or that it was never offered. If the latter then it's a shame that given free rein to write for himself King didn't show a little more ambition or imagination.
Overall, I thought this was an averagely written book with zero plot, an unoriginal concept and poor characterisation. I suggested earlier this year that there may be good sword and sorcery writers lurking around the franchised fiction, and particularly Warhammer, catalogues and although the only Gotrek and Felix I'd read was by another author I was aware of King's reputation - as I made clear at the beginning of this review. I'm sadly disappointed....more
I'm increasingly coming round to the the view that Terry Pratchett might actually have been a better comic writer than P.G. Wodehouse. Of course, thatI'm increasingly coming round to the the view that Terry Pratchett might actually have been a better comic writer than P.G. Wodehouse. Of course, that might partly depend upon your sense of humour - a more objective analysis would simply be to say that Pratchett was the more ambitious writer (and how odd it feels to write that in the past tense).
What Wodehouse does, he does well and that's to lovingly send up an Edwardian class system, transferred to the inter-war years. It's affectionate in the extreme (Wodehouse quite obviously wishes to have been born into the moneyed classes) and notable that we are always led to sympathise with the characters it would be all too easy to hate as parasites. It is, in other words, the epitome of the self-deprecating style of British humour and discourse that has never quite been understood by so many outsiders.
As in so many of his other books, it's outsiders that are the focus here - the fairly standard Wodehouse fare of contrasting British and American stereotypes. It's also outsiders as the focus in the more literal sense - the protagonists are very much outsiders to both upstairs and downstairs society, something which may surprise new readers expecting something more directly like the recent BBC Blandings adaptations....more