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Swimming in the hot dry wind [Jun. 21st, 2007|12:47 pm]
mojave_wolf
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Book reviews, fiction:

Liked:

Something from the Nightside and Agents of Light and Darkness, Simon Green.
A style both parodying and paying homage to hard-boiled detective narratives is the highlight/lowlight of Nightside, depending on one's point of view (mine changed frequently back and forth during the reading), as the reader goes along a carnival ride through a hard-to-find part of London where it is always night (thus it being called the Nightside, naturally enough) w/John Taylor, self-effacing but full of bravado, half-human and half-something unknown. Brings to mind the beginning of the first Amber novel (and to some extent there are Corwin similarities w/the lead, which is easy to remember since there's an offhand reference to an Amber Prince hanging out in one of the bars). Wonderfully colorful, intentionally and blatantly derivative, and loads of fun. The style is a bit more normal in the second book (there are a bunch of them), or else I was more used to it, and the plot a bit more typical, but for some reason it got more of a wholehearted thumbs up from me. The first one had a bit too much of those hard-boiled detective things in the typical 50's behavior of one of the female leads for me, tho in context of the book it actually made sense. Agents is more a straight up bunch of battles as Angels both fallen and not hunt for the Unholy Grail, and our hero is trying to find it first before they destroy both him and the rest of the nightside. And how can you not love characters w/names like Shotgun Suzie and Eddie the Punk God of the Straight Razor and Jessica Sorrow the Unbeliever? Fun & Addictive. (&thanks to mydocumentsfor the recommendation)

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Not much to say even tho I liked it a lot -- straight up romance between awkward teen just moved to Seattle from Arizona and hot vampire pretending to be in h.s. even tho he's around 100 and who she thinks hates her. Well written, really nice descriptive touches, wonderful job of writing from the girl's point of view. I plan to read the sequel.

Augur's Teacher, by Sherwood Smith. Okay, who'd a thunk I'd like a novel spin-off of a t.v. series I never watched? But I did. Manages to make me wish I'd seen the series far more than the ads for it did. Complex characters who handle an difficult situations arising from an alien invasion in intelligent ways and actually manage to learn from their experiences (for the most part) and who suffer consequences in believable ways; despite it being an off-shoot of a not particularly well-reviewed show, very intelligent and realistic in how it handles things. And given its preference for diplomacy and thinking over blowing things up as a way of solving problems, and its understanding of the difficulties of diplomacy, a very nice tonic to the last six years of the world being run by people who think the real world can be blown up and fixed as easily as fiction.

Doppleganger, by Marie Brennan. A neat story in a world where the birth of a witch always produces a doppleganger, and the doppleganger is always killed at birth. Except when it isn't, and the witch has to go kill it herself as an adult or be killed by her own magic. Except "it" is actually a "she", and this presents problems when the witch acknowledges the personhood of the other and doesn't want to kill her double. Combined w/a medieval detective story, of sorts. Good characterization and writing to go w/the cool concept. I plan on reading the other novels by author before the year's up, should I not keel over first.

Also liked but saved 'till the bottom cause already recently reviewed elsewhere on f-list:

Children of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien -- If you read the Silmarillion, you know the beautiful/awful tragedy. More fleshed out here. Very well done; if Christopher did much rewriting, I can't tell where; if you love the rest of Tolkien I suspect you'll love this.

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare. Someone unfriended me when last I mentioned this, partway through. If anyone else wants to, here's your chance. I thought it was uneven and overly Whedonesque in places, but when the author's "on", I find her style brilliant, and the plot is a well-done reworking of some other tropes that surprised me with the twists it gave some of the twists. Tho someone else I talked to online liked exactly the parts I didn't and disliked exactly the parts I had no issues with, so ymmv more than is the norm w/this one. It's a first novel, and I expect the rest will only get better.

Okay, but don't kill yourself rushing to get a copy:

Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever. James Patterson. Frequently, I find myself w/time to kill waiting on the bus. There's a wal-mart near the stop. The woman stocking the magazines saw me reading something else there and recommended this to me. It was a fun read; I'll probably read the follow-up now that I know and like the characters. Um, to describe? Mutant bird-kids w/wings (plus a talking dog, no wings), on the run. The ultra-short chapters kinda annoyed me.

Didn't Like:

Midnight Tides, Steve Erickson -- ::heavy sigh:: I respect Erickson so much as an author and world-builder and character creator-- he's terrific at all these things. And so much is good about this book. The Letheri are a wonderful metaphor for our society, free-market economics as a religion. The Tiste Edur are worth writing about too--you could make a case for them being a metaphor for any number of things, in particular any sort of fundamentalism or fundamentalism in general (tho, this book is way better than the nonfiction by someone else Jihad vs. McWorld, which had some good points but mostly sucked, what I skimmed of it). The plotting has some things that didn't quite work for me, but w/something this intricate that's not surprising. But if you're gonna inject rape scenes into a book, you have to deal w/it well or lose me. I didn't like the way he dealt with it. About 60 pages or so of events and their follow-ups ruined the remaining 800 or so pages for me. Well, that and the same thematic issues that bothered me about Memories of Ice, which are arguably spoilery so I'll leave them out. Sorry guys. Despite the criticisms, I'll probably read the next and future volumes, as I gave this book a chance despite being pissed off at something or another in nearly all of his previous ones, and Midnight Tides was much better than . . . .

Harlequin, Laurell K Hamilton. I was reading around l.j. and someone said this was great and made up for all the badness of her last few. So despite intense misgivings (not least from having read previews that contained another tedious argument/sex scene w/Richard, as if anyone reading these books--I'm pretty sure that includes even LKH's most ardent fans--ever wants to read another of those) I read this one standing in the Wal-Mart. Got through it in just a couple of hours. And ya know? Most of it is decent, even pretty good (tho those still reading her only for porn will be disappointed; this is mostly plot, hardly any sex, or maybe I just skimmed that so fast I forget it). But, yes, this too dealt w/rape, except not calling it rape. And pissed me off far more. This bit about an obviously supposed to be sympathetic character -- "his gf's mother called wanting to know what kind of monster our son was. Apparently her daughter was a virgin and he didn't use enough foreplay and he didn't stop when she asked him to because it was hurting her."
Anita, our hero: "Sounds like a case of buyer's remorse to me."
Okay, if that doesn't bother you, you might like the book. But unless at least half a dozen people whose taste I really trust and who know me well assure me that her next book is The Salvation of The Universe, I shall not even be reading LKH whilst waiting for the bus w/nothing else much there. I mean, I haven't yet tried the joys of "kept by a spanish billionaire" (a real title for a real book, scarily enough) . . .

Belladonna, Anne Bishop. I usually love her writing. Hated this. Thought the middle was not a bog but downright incompetent. I mean, I can't ever remember reading something this poorly put together by an experienced, talented author. WTF? Why didn't someone stop her from putting this out the way it is?? WTF??? (and I really do usually love her writing, so if anyone is torn about picking up something else by her, please don't let this review 'suade you from anything other than this one book; I'd say yes to trying her otherwise)

Things in Progress:

Maledicte, Lane Robins-- lovelovelovelovelove, except for one bit involving cats. be warned about that. I have to pretend it didn't happen to keep reading. But otherwise lovelovelovelove. I'm halfway through. More later assuming I don't die. If I do, this comes highly recommended.
Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton -- Jane Austen w/a cast of dragons instead of people. Seriously. Funny as hell, biting as hell. Walton is one of my new favorite writers. I've never seen anyone else call her a satirist but I think she is.
Nightingale's Lament, Simon Green -- 3rd in the nightside series. I told you, it's addictive.

and lastly . . . Recap of previous rave review of Jo Walton's Farthing cause it was at the bottom of a political post and not sure if all of you read that far and I really love this book:

This witty, scary little gem breezily details the world of the Farthing Set, a bunch of upper-crust Brits who successfully negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler, where "Nine years had been enough to test the terms of the Farthing Peace and show that England and the Reich could be good friends."

Alas, one of these wonderful Farthings has been found murdered. Style and tone are part of what separates a servicable idea from a wonderful novel, and to give an example of why I love this book so much and tell you part of the set-up at the same time . . .
"But anyway, when I heard that Sir James Thirkie had been murdered, that's the first thing I thought of, Angela Thirkie being mean to David the afternoon before, and I'm afraid the first thing to go through my mind, although fortunately I managed to catch the train before it got out of the tunnel so I didn't say so, was that it well and truly served her right."

From there, the alternating narrators of Lucy Kahn (you just heard her, originally Eversley, married a Jew, quite the bane of her poor Mummy) and Inspector Carmichael, lead us through the investigation w/a tone of light mockery, almost a novel of manners that recalls Edith Wharton or F Scott Fitzgerald or even a modern-day Jane Austen, but with a lighter touch and more of a biting sense of humor than any of those (except for some of Fitzgerald's short stories, where he had a sense of humor very much like this, but it wasn't so much in evidence in any of his novels or better known works), but where things gradually darken (also not unlike Wharton and Fitzgerald, come to think of it) and by the end, the parallels to America in our own time are glaringly evident. Or, to quote Lucy again, "If I'd never known David I might have carried on thinking all these people were basically good people, with odd little quirks perhaps, but I'd never have understood how foul they were." I love this quote because I go back and forth 'tween these two ways of regarding most people all the time. Tho Lucy wasn't talking in particular about most people, just a particular set who "go around in a world that's like a very thin strip of pretty flower garden surrounded by fields and fields of stinking manure." I like that quote too. =)

Anyway, absolutely brilliantly handles the transition from a sort of "la la the world is fucked up but at least our part of it is tolerable and maybe we can fix it and make things a bit better" to "Uh -- oooh" to "Oh. Fuck." If you're on my friends list you'll love this.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sartorias
2007-06-22 05:18 am (UTC)
Tooth and Claw is actually Anthony Trollope w/ dragons (she mapped it over Framley Parsonage) but I agree with you otherwise, and on Farthing.
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[User Picture]From: mojave_wolf
2007-06-22 06:23 pm (UTC)
Ah; my ignorance is showing. I either never read Trollope (and me were an English major!) or have forgotten him.

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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2007-06-22 06:29 pm (UTC)
Well, if you're ever in the mood for a Victorian novel, give it a whack and then compare it to the Walton. You'll get a nifty palimpsest, there.
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[User Picture]From: mojave_wolf
2007-06-22 06:59 pm (UTC)
Ya know, before this year, I woulda said the odds of me ever again being in the mood for a Victorian novel were approaching flat zero, but between the two Walton books and the court scenes in Crown Duel, I may actually for real give Trollope a try.
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