Saturday, June 26, 2010

beware the ides of stump

Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time)I just finished my last Robert Jordan novel. I'll keep this short since we're we've had six Jordan specific reviews this year. Or maybe seven; can't remember. But, Knife of Dreams was well worth the send off for one of the great fantasy writers of the last few decades. He didn't get to finish his magnum opus, but left enough notes, chapters, segments, and information to pass the torch to an author that appears to be well enough to be his successor. I'm looking forward to starting the *new* book in The Wheel of Time series, but I'm also a little sad that we've seen the end of Jordan. Thankfully, we have eleven novels and 7000+ pages to always go back to.

With that said, I just have a couple observations, personal or not, for Jordan readers and non-readers:

1. Power through - Get past the first forty pages of book one and you'll enjoy the series into book five or six. Get past books seven through nine, perhaps part of ten, and you'll find that it was worthwhile. Book Eleven made it special. You can actually feel a culmination of story as things come down to the finale.
2. Be excited - only three more books to go!
3. Be proud - this isn't a small task to undertake. Tolkien was 4 novels(possibly 5 movies). You have 11 going on 14 novels with Jordan.
4. Personal - I can't get behind a man with a stump. <- I'm a little unnerved at the plot turn.

Edit: My wife believes that I should have written more about the stump - or handless protagonist - that now wedges its nub comfortably in the WoT storyline. I find that it's one of those plot choices that comes up a little short. Especially, when Balefire can be the best way to cure recently created wounds and death(read the story). Anyhow, while I would give an arm and a leg to hand stumpy his appendage back, I'm sure that it serves a purpose.

Rating: 9 CBs - You'll want to read the last two hundred pages in one sitting. You don't want to sleep during the first 300 and the last 200. It's a great read and made the tedium seem a fleeting moment.


"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If it is going to Spin, could you make it faster?

I guess you live inside a moment for years, move with it and feel it grow, and it sends out roots until it touches everything in sight.
Let the Great World Spin: A NovelAfter reading rave reviews of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, I decided it just might be the book for me.  Drew obliged my fancy by purchasing it for me for my birthday.  I just now (a couple weeks later) got around to reading it.  For those who haven't heard, the story revolves (I use that term loosely) around the high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the funambulist, Phillipe Petit way back in 1974 and the lives of the people of New York.

How I feel about this book is a little complicated (the reaction I think McCann must have been working towards) - it is not a bad book, but it is not a book that I would recommend highly.  It may be a book for you.  It was a section of a book for me.  McCann seemed to hit his writing stride about two-thirds of the way through the book.  Much like Anita Shreeve's The Weight of Water (reviewed here), there are small sections of this book that are perfect.  Other parts of the book have great turns of phrases, some of the time.  Other phrases seem contrived, like he was attempting to be clever, to be deeper than he really is.  Also of annoyance was the extended use of fragments and repetition (At times I felt like I was listening to certain Alanis Morrisette songs on repeat).  The result is  tedium -  a desire to be at the end, to be finished with the multi-layered story.  I finally got there. 

It seems I have read a lot of modern authors lately who prefer to tell their stories in layers.  It is not an altogether bad thing, but it can be a little disjointed.  I find myself comparing the level of writing in each narrative.  Some sections are written better than others; and, by comparison, the rest suffer.  In this book certain characters seem almost unnecessary (i.e. the graffiti obsessed photog., the computer nerds from California); like McCann wrote them, became attached to them, but forgot to attach them to the rest of the story. 

For the characters that do connect with one another, there are many similarities to their stories - linking them, showing them to be part of the human experience.  Each character has a life defined by decisions made.  The decisions can be as distinct as taking priestly vows or taking a stroll (prostitution); or they can be as similar as taking the rap on a hit-and-run or going to prison for a loved one for a robbery.   Thus, each of the characters must live with the choices, some are driven to drink, some to suicidal thoughts,some to death.   There is a sadness that pervades the narrative due, not just to regret, but also to the inevitable consequences of self-determination. 
New York had a way of doing that. Every now and then the city shook is soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief.
The story, told with the hindsight of the events of 9/11, is saturated with what could only be described as references to the events of that day. The above quote speaks to that. Additionally, the sadness of not being able to climb to the heights of the towers that once were is expressed here: "Sometimes you've got to go up to a very high floor to see what the past has done to the present." McCann includes a reference to the lack of a memorial at Ground Zero:

He had said to his wife many times that the past disappeared in the city. It was why there weren't many monuments around...nobody felt a need to lay claim to history. Why bother? You couldn't eat a statue. You couldn't screw a monument. You couldn't wring a million dollars out of a piece of brass.
What is left, and what is the point of the book, is the memory of individuals. The memory of the early morning high-rise walk of a slight man with cops crying out to get him to stop. The memory of the moment choices were made that changed the course of a life. The memory of when everything was just as it should be. Before. And how transitory those moments are. The world spins on but the memories are what endures.

Rating: 4.5 out of 7


NOTE: A friend of mine mentioned she picked this up on audio book.  I might give this a try because it may help with the tedium of the fragments and repetition.  Anybody heard this audio book?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Authors! well... a couple....

I shouldn't be allowed in a bookstore.... Leah may get a ton of books, but there's two people involved there. This time I was able to pick up some books that I had seen before, but didn't grab at the time. Maybe it'll add a little more flavor to my reviews. Maybe not, it's still fantasy type stuff.

Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, Book 5)This one worked out great! It was time for the next Dark Tower book. At Barnes & Nobles they had book six on the clearance section. I'm in need of book five, and figured that I'd just continue on the eBook reads of King. Lo and Behold, they had book five at Borders. They must have heard that I was coming by and decided to throw a couple on the shelves. It ended up being cheaper than picking up the eBook... no brainer! I'm not going to start this one right away. We need some new blood on the blog... keep people interested.

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)Boneshaker has been on my amazon wish list for a while now. I've had so many other books that I've been trying to read through that I didn't follow up. Good for me they had this sitting on the "Buy One Get One 50% Off" shelf. This'll be my first steampunk novel. Rather than explain what Steampunk is please go here. The Bioshock series of video games have given a little more credence to the concept. Look for a review shortly, and I do hope it's good!

The Dragon FactoryLast on the list, The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry. The book is listed as Horror, and I'm not one for horror films. That could mean that I'm going to be disappointed with the story. It's an odd tale about a government agency, some guy, crazy genetics, and a new wave of Nazi's! Sounds incredibly fun! If I'm reading King, and he's considered Horror, then I'll probably be OK with this one. If it's good, then I'll pick up the other novel by the same author: Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel.

So there you have it! I promise that I won't read more than the first hundred pages before finishing the other book that I'm attempting to finish. *sigh*, it is another Robert Jordan book, BUT I'M SO CLOSE TO THE NEWEST BOOK! It's an addiction... I'd apologize, but I wouldn't mean it.